I can still vividly remember the first summer after the Nintendo Wii was released. My relatives were visiting, and everyone was gathered in the living room with their eyes fixed on the TV screen. My grandma drew her arm back, with a Wiimote in hand, and threw a virtual bowling ball in one fluid motion. When she succeeded to knock every last pin over and bag a strike, we all erupted from our seats with a cheer. As a young teen, it was such a joy to see family members that had never really played games before – or even had much interest in doing so – enthusiastically taking part. Such was the magic of Wii Sports, a game that had the power to bring people of all ages together for a spot of active, competitive fun.
Now, all these years later, the series is finally making a proper return with the upcoming release of Nintendo Switch Sports on April 29, 2022. When Nintendo announced the new iteration during the February Direct showcase, I couldn’t help but think about how great it is to see a new version of a game that used to bring my family together on so many occasions. Switch Sports is coming at a time when we need it most, especially in light of the challenges we’ve all faced in the past few years as a result of the pandemic. In what could very well be an important 2022 release, Switch Sports has every chance of carrying on the legacy of Wii Sports by bringing people together once again.
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Part of what made Wii Sports so successful and widely played is the approachable motion controls that are easy to pick up. When the game launched in 2006, it was a fantastic vehicle for showcasing the inbuilt motion controls that were the biggest selling point of the Wii console – especially since the title was often bundled with the machine. Wii Sports became the way many first experienced using the controllers, but it also had a universal appeal. After all, almost everyone could recognize the five sports that made up the package – baseball, bowling, boxing, golf, and tennis. And even if you’d never played any of them before in real life, the mechanics of play were simple enough to replicate that anybody who could wield a Wiimote could get involved.
Unlike other video games and controllers, which can take some getting used to if you’re not already familiar with how to use dual analog sticks and the like, you could get stuck into Wii Sports right away and quickly understand that you use the controller in the same way as throwing a bowling ball or swinging a bat. The motion controllers served to replicate what it’s like to play sports and gamified it in a novel way that made it downright fun. Even as someone who doesn’t actually like many sports in real life, I absolutely loved getting stuck into the Wii’s virtual spin.
Switch Sports will offer up a similar variety of different sports games that can all be played using motion controls. The Switch Joy-Cons have similar (albeit advanced) functionality to that of the Wiimote, so it’s easy to see how well the Wii Sports experience will translate onto Nintendo’s latest hardware. As well as bringing back some old favorites like bowling and tennis, Switch Sports is also introducing some game additions that will give the experience a little refresh.
With six games in total, the sword-fighting Chambara and Volleyball will give returning players a chance to tuck into something new. Badminton and soccer complete the lineup, with the latter adding a shoot-out mode where you can use a Joy-Con leg strap to play with kicking motions. Every game in the new iteration can be played locally with others on one Switch console or online against players around the world. In much the same way as the Wii version, I can already see Switch Sports becoming a go-to title when it comes to family gatherings and friendly meetups. The online aspect also means that you can still get stuck in and play with others even if you’re on your own.
Wii Sports was a perfect launch game for the Wii, it epitomized the ethos at the core of the console – broad appeal and approachability. It became a true cultural phenomenon, selling multiple generations of would-be players on the promise of home gaming and the potential of motion controls. The Nintendo Wii went on to sell over 101 million units, and you have to wonder how much of that success is owed to Wii Sports.
Wii Sports’ widespread popularity sets an interesting stage for Switch Sports. The Nintendo Switch has already surpassed the lifetime sales for the Nintendo Wii, 103.54 million units in a little over four years. It means Switch Sports’ job isn’t to sell consoles or to sell players on the idea of playing sports with the swing and sway of a controller. Instead, it’ll be tasked with reminding casual and core players that we can all play, and that we can all play together.
The world is a different place today than it was in 2006, but we can all still pick up a game-pad and play a few games of bowling from the comfort of our homes. That’s what Nintendo Switch Sports can, and should do: remind the 83 million people who bought a copy of Wii Sports (opens in new tab) (although the number of people who actually played it is impossible to count) that games have the power to bring people together, and can do it again on Switch.
I still have so many fond memories of playing Wii Sports, and I know I’m far from alone in that. By actively engaging you in different games in a way that was approachable and enjoyable, it was such a great experience that succeeded at bringing people together time and again. And I’m sure it will always hold a special place in so many players’ hearts because of it. It’s exciting to think that in 2022, we’ll see it make a comeback with a shiny updated iteration that serves up some competitive fun that families and friends can discover all over again, or for the first time.
For more exciting releases to look out for this year, be sure to check out our roundup of all of the upcoming Switch games.