The nights are so long these days (sorry, nights) that you could dress them up in angry forum posts and call them the delay between major Wii releases. Of the 12 Games of Christmas features we've done so far, this line-up saw by far the most chins stroked and calls placed in search of suitable candidates.
Surprisingly, the result is a sturdy list of interesting and diverse games, including at least one we expect to see yahooing and okey-dokeying its way up the highest reaches of our annual Top 50 Games list in just over a month's time. We didn't even have to delve into Dan's weekly Virtual Console Roundups for festive filler (although you could do worse than play The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past once you're done with these and the Queen's stopped talking).
As ever, it's a mixture of games on the shelves already and a few more lurking on release schedules waiting for Santa's elves to whisk them off to duplication on a river of mulled wine with a hop, a skip and a Great Escape repeat to poke them on their relentlessly clichéd way. Anyway, enough preamble. Play these when you're done toking along to whichever Connery Bond they broadcast opposite the endless videotaped church services no one cares about.
Super Mario Galaxy
- Release date: 16th November
Who else to lead our list? It's been so long in the coming that a worthy successor to Super Mario 64 still has us pinching ourselves, if not garrotting ourselves desperately with freshly dusted Nunchuk cables. Set out in much the same way, it sees you exploring the galaxy from a spaceship hub, hopping and double-jumping excitedly from theme to theme, constantly surprised and delighted by its audacity and almost complete refusal to flop lazily into existing archetypes.
Legend has it that Nintendo declined to show us its "next generation" Mario sequel at E3 a few years ago - in the days before we even knew about the Wiimote - because it was worried that people might steal its ideas. Well, they won't necessarily do that now, but that's largely because it's hard to imagine how you would copy Mario Galaxy without failing to live up to it. But enough hyperbole. It's out in just over a week, and it's the best thing on the Wii, so turn off the Weather Channel and buy some new batteries: it's a-time!
Eeeeeee! Mario and his evil counterpart Wario both feature in a recent three-part South Park story arc, where they can be seen fighting on opposing sides of a war for control of Imagination Land, in which (spoiler!) Kurt Russell gets raped to death by Christmas critters. Merry good.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
- Out now!
Not one that your humble Chrismaspondent has had time to absorb yet, but in Kristan's view probably the best thing released for the Wii this year that doesn't have an incongruous flying space-plumber in it. It's not too far off that though - except you're a curvy flying space bounty hunter called Samus, who seems to be on a similar path to the one she followed in the first two, excellent GameCube Metroid Prime titles - either of which would make a perfectly good Christmas present in and of themselves, while we're on the subject.
This one promotes the adventure elements that took a back seat to puzzling and shooting in Primes 1 and 2, but the controls are worth the most plaudits - mapping concepts that worked before to the Wii's fancy new control system with such efficiency that it is, in Dear Leader's words, "far and away the most intuitive, satisfying system anyone's come up with on a console". Is it that good? "It's that good." Good.
Prime rib: Last time I was home I was having dinner with my Mum and she asked me what was that Irish game she'd seen me playing. What Irish game, I asked? "The one with the spaceship and the plants." Still none the wiser, I asked her to try and remember a defining detail. "I remember," she slurred, "it's the one about Seamus Ryan."
Super Paper Mario
- Out now!
John struggled to decide whether this was a must-have on release, but if you ask me it's an oasis of woohoo in a desert of boohoo. Let us list, once again, some of your friends the Pixls: Carrie is a hoverboard for you to ride on. Thoreau can pick things up and throw them. Given that most games are written by soupy pillars of gibbered banality, it's nice to play at least one a year that makes you laugh for all the right reasons.
It's got a few problems. Level-knack being the main one, as it softens into a mush of under-developed 2D/3D ideas that pack a lot of punch to begin with and then bruise their knuckles and resort to repetition while they go off to find an ice pack. You're hardly going to stop playing it on account of these things though, because it's dominated by brilliant jokes that make up the difference. Which is sort of what we said in paragraph one, except this time with a caveat. This is obviously a subtle encapsulation of the game's latter-stage decline rather than the desperate flailings of an exhausted writer way past his deadline. Well, nine minutes anyway. That's a long time in the fast-moving world of Internet lists.
Who's line is it: Nintendo has palled around with Intelligent Designs and Alphadream in composing a few Mario & Luigi RPGs and Paper Mario games, but arguably the precursor to these self-deprecating adventures is actually a game for which Square was largely responsible: Super Mario RPG, released in the US and Japan for Super Nintendo, was jolly funny too, including some excellent hiding behind curtains.