Promo image from Nintendo Switch Sports

Nintendo Switch Sports Resurrects the Spirit of Wii Sports

Can an old favorite bear the weight of new excitement, or will a revamped franchise be destined for 'game over'?
May 20, 2022
15 mins read

Close your eyes: It’s sometime in the mid-2000s, and your best friend is coming over to hang out. What are you going to do together? If your first response was to play on the Wii, then chances are you’ve experienced the height of Nintendo game glory. Challenging friends to Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros., on a gaming console that looked like the most futuristic brick of ‘06, was a surefire way to put a smile on everybody’s faces. But no matter how young or old, one game was a staple for Wii fans: Everyone who was anyone loved to play Wii Sports. While time-traveling back to those early aughts is an impossible feat, there are other, fresh ways to satisfy that Wii Sports craving. The newest addition to the Wii Sports lineup, Nintendo Switch Sports, has entered the ring, and is prepared to deliver a knockout hit. But where exactly did all this hype for a virtual sports game begin?

In 2006, Nintendo revolutionized gaming for the entire family with its release of Wii Sports. Outfitted as a companion for any budding Wii console owner, Wii Sports was a perfect segue into the “gaming” world. The reciprocal nature between console and game inextricably grew the Nintendo name into a household staple, and the numbers show it. During the height of the Wii console’s popularity, over 82 million copies of the Wii Sports game were sold globally. The Wii and Wii sports game fit together in harmony and “the pair elevated each other into the rarified air of pop culture phenomena.” A childhood staple for some, a momentary hit for others, Wii Sports garnered fans from all over the world. The simple concept of choosing a character, and virtually “competing” in sports such as bowling, tennis, and even golf, made it easy to pick up by all. Whether you were six or 60, Wii Sports was an accessible pastime or a party game full of friendly competition.

However, with the sunset of the Wii console, Wii Sports also faded from view. Today’s Wii Sports lovers could be found basking in those nostalgic afternoons and reminiscing over how good it felt to play those games. What was previously reserved for Throwback Thursday now gets a chance back in the spotlight; the Wii Sports game fans have come to know and love has resurfaced for a second, grander act. Instead of strapping on the Wii Remote, fans are making the switch to the Nintendo Switch. Latching onto a console that has sold a mind-boggling 103 million units since its release, the Nintendo Switch Sports game is set up for raging success.

Nintendo publicly released the announcement for Nintendo Switch Sports in February 2022. Said to be “a new iteration of the Wii Sports series,” a trailer for the game left fans equally excited and nervous. On one hand, this “stylish update to the Wii Sports games” would grant players the opportunity to play familiar and brand-new sports, all with characters that are uber-customizable to every personality. But there was also additional hesitation about resurrecting a new version of Wii Sports for the virtually universal audience of the virtual game. Because Wii Sports had become a childhood and cultural phenomenon for generations of players, it was hard to imagine if this shiny new version would live up to the hype.

Leading up to the release, Nintendo treated fans to a five-minute “Overview Trailer” of all that was to come. From newcomer sports like badminton and soccer, adding to the roster of old favorites like bowling and tennis, the short video invited fans into their new favorite gaming arena. With all the new bells and whistles anticipated for the release — or, rather, the new sports and graphics — keen followers of Nintendo were more excited for other reasons. Even if the opportunity to try chambara fighting is enticing, many fans were just happy to have their favorite, nostalgic game back in their lives. The comments below the “Overview Trailer” flooded with enthusiasm for the return of a longtime favorite: One comment shouted to the void, “Man I’m hype for this! I played so much wii sports as a kid!”

The nostalgia that comes with revived excitement for something lost to time is such a rarity, even in an age where movies and media are constantly re-vamped. Fortunately, the Nintendo Switch Sports story is different from the rest: The game’s release calls back to old fans for the sake of making new memories, instead of trying to revisit the game’s 2006 peak. As another commenter suggested in the month before the game’s release, “It’s crazy how this is my most-anticipated game right now. I always wanted a more fleshed-out version of Wii Sports and this looks to be it.” Again, it’s not often that one gets to find something new in a past joy — but Nintendo excels at this reinvigoration process.

As of April 2022, the Nintendo Switch Sports game has been available for Switch players to download and strap into a new sporting adventure. According to the Nintendo site, Nintendo Switch Sports will appeal to new and long-time fans, as it will “bring the thrill of your favorite sports to life!” Set in the whimsical and competitive Spocco Square, the “sprawling complex” provides the perfect background to brawl with brothers, sisters, family and friends alike. Exchanging the Wii remote for the snazzy Switch joy-con is all it takes to unlock a whole new arena of activities to choose from.

Among the Nintendo Switch Sports catalog — at least for version 1.0 — new sports like volleyball get to compete for the player’s attention, but it’s the in-game features that make it a better fit for 2022 than its Wii Sports predecessor. With “more meaningful” movements needed to play the game, Nintendo Switch Sports raises the stakes of a simple, sports-game pastime. New online play features also allow players to make friends around the globe, and even join a “Pro League” for gamers who are serious about their competition.

But the new and improved Nintendo Switch Sports also hits the nostalgia button on the nose: The official Nintendo site slipped in the remark, “You can even use your Mii character!” when playing the game. For longtime fans of Nintendo, the customizable Mii character is a blast from the past. To build a bobble-head-esque character in your likeness was a staple — maybe even a rite of passage — for entering the Wii universe. While there is nothing super remarkable about their face-hair-clothes changeability, it’s the Mii’s ties to the older Wii Sports that make its resurgence that much more surprising. One game reviewer on Polygon picked up the controls of the new game “believing I’d already had my fill of baseball, boxing, and bowling as a Mii more than a decade ago.” But it was the connections between the old, easy games and the charmingly plain characters that made playing the new installment dually exciting and familiar.

Another Polygon writer even went as far as to say that “if any franchise deserved prioritization, this was it.” The Wii Sports game, in itself, was a cultural phenomenon that restructured what “family time” looks like in homes around the globe. There was a universality embedded in the Wii Sport’s simplicity that made it attractive to easy-going gamers and die-hard fans alike. Every virtual bowling game and tennis match provided something that “everyone and their grandma” could play, either together or by one’s lonesome. Turning “the video game-avoidant into hardcore players” became a key mantra in the Wii Sports agenda, as everyone who didn’t “think” they played games flocked to their televisions. No matter what your stance on either sports or video games was, everyone seemed to cave into the colorful, childlike presentation of Wii Sports. And, for the benefit of Nintendo, that model for the initial, ‘06 game cashed in for a second time with Nintendo Switch Sports.

Now that the game is here, fans are vocal about their appreciation for it. Falling in love with the various ways to kick, swing and hit their way to the top of leaderboards, there’s something in the games for longtime fans and newcomers alike. From playing by oneself to playing against an AI, or even taking a chance and playing with participants around the world, the Nintendo Switch Sports offers something for everyone. At a time when nostalgia reigns supreme, the Nintendo Switch Sports is on its way to becoming a household staple once more, complete with flaws and all.

It’s also a great comfort to know that with the revival of the old game, “The ominous specter of smashed TV screens” could not escape Nintendo Switch Sports either. Remembering to kiddie-proof the Wii remote with the safety strap has come back to haunt in hordes: Passionate gamers who immerse themselves a little too deep into the gameplay continue to accidentally launch their Switch Joy-Cons into the television. These little details just signal that “for all the change in the world of games, hucking an imaginary ball at imaginary bowling pins is and always will be awesome.

However, some are disappointed with the lack of content and options in the game’s current version. Comments on content that’s not even a month old somewhat speaks to a greedy dissatisfaction with a game that’s been a long time coming. For the time being, it seems easier to take the “wins” of this new game altogether, rather than bash it down as “unsuccessful” by its lightweight version 1.0. This kind of judgment can also jump the gun too early: As seen with the success of Animal Crossing New Horizons, new updates can be unexpectedly full and frequent around the corner. To have some patience for a game to level up with time might serve for the better, rather than brushing aside this first copy as underwhelming or empty. Yet those responses are what help improve the game for the future, and just might leave the initial critic with everything that they desire.

There’s no denying that the wonderful world of the Wii console inevitably consoled the bored people of the early 2000s. So, one can argue that Nintendo might be exploiting their former successes to make another sale; yet the thriving Nintendo Switch Sports game hoped to share a different side to the story. Instead, it’s almost a “redemption arc” for a beloved game that sought out another life in another generation. With the pseudo-renaissance of Nintendo through the Switch console as well, these games of the past were also treated to a refresh. Packaging old favorites in new ways becomes saying “hello again” to a dear friend, one we’d never thought would come back into our lives again. And, in some ways, that’s how the best relationships are formed: viewing nostalgic love through a new perspective fosters a better appreciation for why something became one’s favorite to begin with. In a rapidly changing world where new games can pop up at any moment, those rare moments of revisiting long-lost favorites must be taken advantage of, before they disappear for good. But for Nintendo Switch Sports, it looks like there’s no sign of “game over” anytime soon.

Joy Young, Chapman University

Writer Profile

Joy Young

Chapman University
English Literature

Constantly searching for new inspiration, Joy strives to stay curious and expressive. Fueled by coffee and creation, she’s passionate about finding ways to write it down and share it around.

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