You can make the argument that the actual national pastime these days is mining Netflix and other streaming services for old movies and TV shows that you missed the first time around. It’s called binge-watching, and it makes a lot of sense. There’s so much good stuff out there that nobody can keep up with everything on first release.
Well, the same holds true for video games. Another hallowed pastime, for gamers, is rifling through the bargain bin racks either online or in person at your local retail store. Get into this habit and you can find excellent older games for $5 to $10 – games that originally retailed for $50 to $60.
In this edition of the bargain bin chronicles, we’ll focus on the original Nintendo Wii, which brought a lot of families and casual gamers into the world of console games. If you’ve got an old Wii lying around, consider hunting around for one of these older bargain titles.
Mario Super Sluggers
Never miss a local story.
Speaking of national pastimes, baseball season in upon us once again. One of the most durable baseball titles, in terms of replayability, “Mario Super Sluggers” is a delightfully strange variation on the sports game theme. You assemble your team from the usual rogue’s gallery of Nintendo stars – Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong – and play ball in a series of odd stadiums, including a cruise ship and an ice rink.
The venues supply tricky obstacles, like roving ice monsters, and you can further distract your opponent by flinging objects onto the field. Banana peels, say. The controls are dead simple and leverage the Wii’s unique motion tracking capabilities: Mime a throw to pitch, swing the controller to hit. Play ball!
Hot Wheels: Beat That
If you grew up with a collection of Hot Wheels cars – who didn’t? – then you’ll appreciate this digital approximation of childhood playtime. “Beat That” is the best of a series of Hot Wheels games that have been released over the years, and it plays like a typical cart racer.
The fun is in the various racing environments, in which those red plastic tracks are threaded throughout various familiar locations. Race through the bedroom course, and you’ll be dodging piles of laundry or zipping under beds. Later levels introduce tracks set up at the bowling alley or putt-putt course. “Beat That” is also available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
One of the earliest and best puzzle games for the Wii, “Boom Blox” was a relatively big deal when it was first released in 2008. Film director Steven Spielberg collaborated on the design.
A cross between Jenga, Tetris and mobile match-three games, “Blox” uses a dedicated physics engine to present various spatial and problem-solving puzzles. By way of the Wii motion controller, you fling objects at stacks of blocks that tumble and collapse with mathematical precision. It’s all quite satisfying, somehow.
Movie tie-in games are usually a dubious investment, but Disney’s “Tangled” is a solid single-player adventure with a nice mix of puzzles, racing and mini-games.
Feisty heroine Rapunzel leads the charge and the story should appeal to younger girl gamers in particular. It’s safe for all ages, and much of the film’s gentle humor is preserved. Voices are provided by the original movie cast.
Excitebots: Trick Racing
Maybe my personal favorite among all classic games for the Wii, “Excitebots” came out of nowhere in 2009 to upend the racing genre. Well, actually it came out of Japan and gradually became a cult sensation as word-of-mouth spread.
It’s all about the design: “Excitebots” features robotic racers with weird animal designs competing in even weirder environments including exotic locales Egypt, Guatemala and the highlands of Scotland. Basically another variation on the kart racer, the game plays like a dream. Controls are tight and responsive, with each course branching out into multiple paths. As obscure Wii games go, it’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.