Goodbye Wii Shop Channel

Allow me to get nostalgic – and a wee bit weepy – as Nintendo has officially shut down the Wii Shop Channel, after over twelve years of service.

Now, I’m going to say something that’s bizarrely unpopular, and say that the Wii remains one of my all-time favorite video game consoles. And yes, I liked it better than the N64 and GameCube. One of the (many) reasons the Wii was so great was the Wii Shop Channel.

As Nintendo’s original online store for downloading games, the Wii Shop Channel opened the door for WiiWare – where players could download original titles – and the Virtual Console service, a treasure trove of classic gaming. Sadly, a number of WiiWare games that weren’t released by other means have now entered the nether (and could tragically remain in limbo, lest their developers find a means to code them elsewhere). And although the Wii Virtual Console has long-since been succeeded by the Nintendo Eshop on Wii U, 3DS and Nintendo Switch, the Eshop has never quite matched up to the library of classics the Virtual Console brought to the Wii.

WiiWare introduced the gaming world to titles such as World of Goo, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King (and it’s sequel, My Life as a Dark Lord), and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, among many others. And while retro gaming had been a thing for collectors for quite some time, the Wii’s Virtual Console service helped popularized retro gaming for the mainstream, allowing easy accessibility for new generations of gamers to discover beloved classics from the NES, SNES, N64, and non-Nintendo consoles like the Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafX-16, Commodore 64, and even Arcade titles!

Yes, the Nintendo Eshop has continued the Virtual Console’s legacy on subsequent Nintendo hardware, but not quite to the same degree. 3DS added GameBoy titles, and Wii U gained the GameBoy Advance (admittedly a HUGE get), but they lost nearly all of the non-Nintendo content, and even ended up with considerably less games from Nintendo’s history. And even though the Switch can easily claim to be one of Nintendo’s best consoles, the fact that its legacy content is still currently limited to a small handful of NES titles is a baffling step backwards. Sure, many complained that the Wii’s Virtual Console could be slow in getting content (getting one to three games every Thursday in the US), when all was said and done, it had such an array of classics that it was more than likely the best collection of retro titles you could hope to find. Combined with the great original games on the Wii, along with the system’s backwards compatibility with the GameCube, and the Wii – believe it or not – may have boasted the most classics of any console. Yes, I said that, and I don’t regret it. Fight me.

Yes, the Xbox 360, PS3, and current generation consoles have thankfully kept easy access to gaming’s yesteryear alive and well. But – perhaps simply because the Wii was the first to have such an extensive library of gaming history – they’ve never quite captured that same magic as when the Virtual Console brought another classic to the Wii.

As someone who, sadly, didn’t always take the best care of their games as a kid (and someone who, strangely, only occasionally played older games as time went on in my younger days), having easy access to so many classics all on one console was a godsend. And perhaps I was just at the right age when it began to really hit me how quickly gaming advances and how older consoles fall out of the spotlight, but there was something great knowing that things like the Wii Virtual Console service essentially helped kickstart the preservation of classic gaming (after all, once a movie left theaters, they’d end up on home video formats. But once games became older, they became collectors items. Frankly, I think they always deserved better).

Yeah, I realize I’m talking a lot more about the Virtual Console side of the Wii Shop Channel than WiiWare. WiiWare was great as well, of course. But I feel like the Virtual Console really helped make retro gaming a more mainstream thing, and ‘old school’ gaming was no longer relegated to those who happened to grow up at the time (and I was someone who did grow up at the time. But the idea of younger gamers – and older gamers just getting introduced to the medium – not having played certain classics broke my heart… I am a weird person). Plus, I just have a lot more personal memories of the Virtual Console.

Playing Super Mario 64 again in preparation for Super Mario Galaxy? Lovely. Playing the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games on a Nintendo console? Beautiful. Discovering Secret of Mana? Sexy.

Again, it’s tremendous that subsequent consoles have continued to keep retro gaming alive, but now whenever a classic makes its way to a modern console, it feels like an inevitability. But in the Wii’s day, there was something, for lack of a better word, ‘magical’ whenever a beloved favorite found its way to the Virtual Console. But there are two examples in particular that stand out in my memory.

The first was Donkey Kong Country 2. Although I always enjoyed the game as a kid, I never could get over the fact that you didn’t play as Donkey Kong (little kid logic), so I never got very far during my childhood. On at least two different vacations over the years when I couldn’t find my old copy (again, careless kid), I rented DKC2 at hotels, and beat the first world before I ran out of time on the second. These served like teasers for how much I would eventually fall in love with the game, which happened when, you guessed it, DKC2 made its way to the Virtual Console.

During 2007 when DKC2 made its way to the Wii, I finally played through the whole thing, and damn, had I been missing out all those years. I always liked the original Donkey Kong Country, but it really doesn’t compare with its sequel. The level design is among the best of any platformer, and the more I delved into the game on my Wii, the more I fell in love with its (quite unique) sense of atmosphere, and its incomparable musical score, which played a part in the indelible influence the game has had on my own creativity.

So yeah, it may have taken me 12 years, but I finally discovered my full appreciation for a game that was originally released in 1995 thanks to the Virtual Console.

The other big memory I have is (as you may have guessed if you keep up with my blog) Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Now, unlike DKC2, I had always loved Super Mario RPG, and even beat it twice back in the day. But I hadn’t played it in years, and it was around the time of the Wii (again, thanks to the Virtual Console) that I began to realize that not every game from my childhood stood the test of time. I craved Super Mario RPG, but admittedly had a little concern that maybe my memories of it wouldn’t reflect the game itself.

“This was basically me when I beat Super Mario RPG on the Virtual Console.”

Thankfully, when it was released in September (my birth month, no less) of 2008 on the Wii Virtual Console and I jumped right back into Super Mario RPG, it quickly became apparent that it was a fine wine of gaming. It had only gotten better with age. It lived up to my memories and solidified itself as one of my all-time favorites. It was magical.

Come to think of it, the Wii helped solidify most of my favorite games it seems. It all goes back to the “rediscovering of retro games” thing I keep bringing up (as well as the fact that the Wii brought Super Mario Galaxy to the world). I mean, as has become a recurring joke here at my site, the current console generation has really made me flip-flop a lot in regards to my favorites. But when it comes to the titles I can safely say have a secure spot on my list, the Wii really played a helping hand in that.

I guess what I’m getting at is that the Wii marked the time when my enthusiasm for games wasn’t restricted to the moment (or the occasional revisit of a classic), but I really began to think more about video games on a deeper level. And yes, a large reason for that was the Wii Shop Channel.

Now, we have to say goodbye to the Wii Shop Channel. It’s legacy may live on through the Nintendo Eshop, but the Wii Shop Channel itself holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers, myself obviously included. Now, ironically enough, Nintendo’s little download service that helped preserve gaming’s past has now become a nostalgic memory itself.

Thanks for the memories, Wii Shop Channel!

Oh yeah, and we can’t forget what is perhaps the biggest contribution the Wii Shop Channel made to the world of gaming: This delightful music!

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Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

14 thoughts on “Goodbye Wii Shop Channel”

  1. The Wii was a legendary console. I didn’t own one during its heyday, but almost all of my friends did. I would always get them to download Ocarina of Time so I could play it, hehe. Wii Shop Channel had a good run; I just wish Nintendo was not so stingy with their VC support on the Switch. wHeRe’S GaMcUbE SuPpoRt RegGie?
    On a seperate note, I too remember the DKC2 hotel rental. Never was allowed to rent it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wii was fantastic. It felt so fresh and new. I don’t know why Nintendo has relegated the Switch Virtual Console to a handful of NES games. It’s baffling. They have the largest library of classics, and are barely scratching the surface of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, right? Anyway, thanks for the inevitable news about the Wii shop. Indeed, it’s unfortunate for the Wii shop. I just wish that Nintendo would make it possible for Switch’s e-shop to have the Wii Shop music. I had a blast with the Wiiware game called Eco Shooter: Plant 530. It might be only a rumor, but I’m also looking forward to Konami’s ReBirth series for Switch.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I wasn’t personally a fan of the Wii, as I just hated the motion controls, but the virtual console was pretty huge. You’re right, there was something magical about launching those old favourites on a modern console when that just hadn’t been a thing before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I have to disagree on that (I loved the motion controls), but the Virtual Console was something special indeed. It’s great that resurrecting retro titles is now the norm, but – as I said – it is now inevitable and derivative. The Wii’s Virtual Console felt trailblazing, and it’s a baffling mystery how each subsequent Nintendo retro library keeps getting smaller and smaller.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The handling of retro titles on Switch is an embarassment, especially compared to the Wii Shop channel (although I’d say NES and SNES games were slightly overpriced for my liking, moreso the former given how archaic that era was).
    It was one of the better aspects of the system, it’s a shame the memory limitations of the thing was so bad, Nintendo has yet to make a system with a decent hard drive to hold stuff, moreso with how heavy games are getting nowadays.
    I’ve mixed feelings towards the Wii to say whether I like it more than the N64 or GC with their fairly underwhelming library of games, I’d have to check which system had more games that I enjoyed someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The retro title situation on Switch is dumbfounding. And what’s up with Nintendo’s preference of re-releasing only NES games? I get that it was their first home console, but every time they only re-release one console, it’s always NES. Even though consensus is in favor of SNES. It’s weird.

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  4. A sad day but like other similar services if it’s costing more to host then makes financial sense for the company to pull the plug. One of those business practises that reinforces the need for physical copies of media. Remember OoT being one of the first virtual games I brought when the N64 library was added

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really liked the Virtual Console service, so seeing its original incarnation abandoned is truly the end of an era. I remember seeing this post and realizing I had neglected to download all my purchases on that system. Fortunately, I arrived just in time to get them all back, which is good because I don’t believe the Wii U Virtual Console has TurboGrafx-16 games.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One thing few mention about the Wii Shop Channel are the number of imports you could buy ROMs legitimately for. I was able to play Sin & Punishment, Cho Aniki, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, and other games you would have had to have spent a lot of money to have in your collection otherwise. Some of these have gotten expensive in the aftermarket, and even ones that haven’t still have the shipping costs to factor in. On that note, there were some expensive domestic games on there too. If you wanted to play these through legitimate means the only other way could be cost prohibitive. Super Turrican, The Last Ninja 2, Sonic The Hedgehog (Master System), or Air Zonk weren’t, and aren’t cheap.

    And there were the original games like the Konami Rebirth games, and Muscle March. Stuff if you didn’t move to an SD card, and then backup again in case that card becomes corrupted, you lose forever.

    But as sad as it is to see it go it was expected. Everyone should have known at some point that the company would move on, and shut down these store servers. It’s a reality of the situation going forward. A business wants people to get on the next big thing. Supporting a store for a defunct platform isn’t going to remain profitable forever. While some will deride that as a reason to never buy stuff digitally, one needs to realize even the physical games will cease to work at some point. A capacitor bursts, and corrodes the game. Or the console it ran on has a motherboard failure. While not a perfect solution, buying digital releases is a means to legally have these classics once again should that happen. There will always be a debate over digital distribution, but the fall of the shop channel is an example of the good, and the bad about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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