WarioWare Gold: A fine example of Nintendo’s weird “end of life” history

Enlarge / It’s-a-he, Wario.

Nintendo’s WarioWare Gold launches this week, and if we’re judging the game within a vacuum, it’s pretty good. We’ve been micro-gaming with the WarioWare series for just a hair over 15 years (a squiggly, Wario mustache hair, for sure), and Gold lands as a “best-of” compilation—one that finally brings the franchise to the 3DS, no less.

But WWG is difficult to judge within a vacuum. The game’s release date puts it in a rarified air among first-party Nintendo games: it arrives within a system’s end-of-life window. In case you haven’t noticed, the 3DS side of Nintendo has been tumbleweed city these days.

Corporate promises of continued support and new, limited-edition 3DS systems don’t obscure what’s left for the beloved handheld: a Luigi’s Mansion port and Yokai Watch sequel by year’s end, then a Mario & Luigi RPG port in 2019. Them’s slim pickins. WWG is arguably the most interesting game left in that “farewell tour” selection.

Thus, let’s fondly remember the fun WWG still offers—and the historical context it shares with other Nintendo “flatliners.”

Going for the Gold

The WarioWare franchise began when WarioWare: Mega Microgame$ launched in 2003 as a Game Boy Advance exclusive with a wild sales pitch: one cartridge would include hundreds of games… but each lasts no more than five seconds.

This quality has persisted in subsequent WarioWare games, and it applies to WWG as a series compilation, too. Each WWG mini-game starts with a one- or two-word instruction shout—”Dodge,” “Squash,” “Don’t Move,” etc.—and an expectation that you’ll figure the mini-game out before its timer expires. Fail too many mini-game challenges in a given run, and that’s game over. This inevitably happens, since each mini-game’s timer speeds up dramatically the longer you play.

WarioWare games have appeared across a few platforms over the years: two on the GBA, two on the original DS, one exclusively for the DSi, one on the Wii, and a series spin-off on the Wii U. Each release since Microgame$ has emphasized its unique hardware in one way or another, whether by exposing a console’s built-in tricks or, in the case of the GBA’s WarioWare Twisted, utilizing a gyrometer and rumble feature built into a cartridge. As a result, an encyclopedic WarioWare anthology would require a few things: a touchscreen, a gyroscope attached to a screen, an accelerometer attached to a remote, a camera, and support for user-created content.