I think I speak for many when I say that few things shaped my childhood as dramatically as Wii Sports.
Whether played by eight-year-olds in a family room or 80-year-olds in a retirement home, it was an international phenomenon that, unlike Fortnite or Minecraft or whatever the kids are playing these days, could be enjoyed by the masses. As the first-ever game for the revolutionary Wii console, it completely transformed what a video game could be and who it could be enjoyed by.
Any movement as widespread and addicting as Wii Sports is bound to create debate and disagreement, and today, 12 years, two months since it was released, I intend to settle one of the great debates of our time: Which Wii ‘sport’ was the best?
If you wanted a workout by playing a video game, boxing was undoubtedly the correct choice. You’d play it for about 10 seconds and already be drenched in sweat and completely winded. It was also the only sport in the game which utilized the Nunchuk and therefore was played with two hands, adding to both the realism and the burned calorie count.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the list of positives ends. It was easily the least responsive of the five sports, meaning you’d never be quite sure if your movements would be picked up. The process of getting back up after being knocked down was repetitive and annoying. While there was certainly some strategy in how it was meant to be played—when to dodge, where to swing—matches would mostly just turn into punching your remotes in a frenzy without much purpose.
Most of all, Wii Sports, like all great Nintendo games, was intended to be played and enjoyed with other people. At its release, it was probably the best party game ever created. You could play competitively against friends in the same room, while still talking and hanging out. Boxing throws all of that out the window because you’d have to be a superhuman to carry out a normal conversation while throwing hooks left and right, and it probably ruined some friendships in the process.
Look, I love baseball. I wanted Wii Sports baseball to be good. But while it’s certainly not bad, it’s just not very good either.
The worst part about Wii Sports baseball is the lack of control. One player controls the pitcher, the other controls the batter and the rest is done for you. You can’t run the bases, and worse, you have absolutely no effect on the fielders. I mean, when there’s a groundball to the shortstop, they don’t even throw it to first, they just stand there and proudly hold their glove up. Nintendo has done some great things, but changing the fundamental rules of baseball is not one of them.
The games are also only three innings (with no option to make it longer), can only be played with a max of two players (a no-no for larger parties) and there’s a dumb mercy rule so you can’t absolutely humiliate your friends.
On the bright side, the batting mechanics are pretty good, and can be actually helpful for learning how to hit in real life; swinging early to hit it to left, taking an outside pitch the opposite way. I especially enjoyed the target practice mini-game, which encourages spraying hits across the diamond, something many major leaguers could use.
Ah, bowling, the staple of retirement homes across the country. But in all seriousness, it’s a legitimate positive as well. The beauty of Wii Sports bowling was that it was simple enough, and minimally physically demanding, that it could be enjoyed by a wide range of players.
It’s probably the easiest of the five sports, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to play. Although the basic mechanics were very simple, there was still plenty of room for skill as well by adding speed, spin and direction. There was also nothing better than accidentally (or intentionally, you sadist) flinging the ball backwards into the crowd.
Many people may put golf at the one-spot, and there’s certainly a case to be made for that. Unlike boxing, golf was perfect for chilling and playing at the same time, while still being ultra-competitive. It has the highest skill gap in the game, from selecting which club to use to adjusting for wind and terrain to swinging with just the right amount of power.
That combination of skill and strategy makes for a way more rewarding—and at times, frustrating—experience than any of the bottom three sports. Putting in particular can be enraging but also immensely satisfying when executed well. Overall, Wii Sports golf, minus the slight responsiveness issues when swinging lightly, is near perfection. But it’s not the best.
Wii Sports tennis is what changed everything. It was extremely fun to play as a mix of both physical activity (unlike golf) and simulation, without being overly demanding like boxing. Unlike baseball, it had every aspect of tennis (minus the running), from serving to forehands and backhands to volleying at the net. Perhaps best of all, it’s the only sport that could be played by four people simultaneously, making it unparalleled for sleepovers.
Ok, so it doesn’t have the depth or strategy of golf. But there is certainly skill to it, such as hitting a perfect serve or swinging late/early on groundstrokes to affect the ball’s path.
Most of all, tennis was just fun. Golf, baseball and bowling ran the risk of putting you to sleep, boxing put you at risk for cardiac arrest. Tennis perfectly made use of what made the Wii so great; combing real-life movement with video games, and bringing people together in an enjoyable yet potentially ultra-competitive experience. And that’s why tennis was undoubtedly the best sport of Wii Sports.
Andrew Morrison is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @asmor24