Nintendo Wii Mini review: Mini in all the wrong ways

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Ecosystem: 5.0
  • Features: 3.0
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Value: 5.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Wii Mini is compact and very affordable, and the bundle's price is only a few dollars more than some of its components would cost if purchased separately.

The Bad No online functionality means you won't be able to play downloadable retro Wii games or watch Netflix; it can't connect to HDMI ports, and can't display HD video; original Wii can be found for just a bit more, or even less if purchased used.

The Bottom Line The bare-bones Wii Mini gets rid of many Wii features to just focus on playing disc games, but the stripped-down experience isn't worth the savings.

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Never has $100 felt so much like too much for too little as it does with the Wii Mini. Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo...why do you make things so difficult?

Let me explain.

The Nintendo Wii is seven years old. Its successor, the Wii U , has been out for a year. The Wii U is expensive -- although, at $300 with a game or two included, it's more affordable than the PS4 or the Xbox One . And, unlike those new consoles, at least the Wii U plays all the old Wii games and uses its controllers, too.

Where does this leave the original Wii? It's a retro system now, but one with quite a few excellent games in its library. Nintendo doesn't seem to be planning on making any new original Wii games in the future, though: this is an end-of-the-road platform.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Enter the Wii Mini, which has been available in places like Canada since last year, but is officially on sale in US stores now. If you see one, note its color scheme: red and black, and decidedly more NES-like than the glossy white or black (or red) Wii. The Wii Mini costs just $99.99, and comes with a Wii Remote Plus and nunchuck, plus Mario Kart Wii. You also get that same IR sensor bar -- still a requisite.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That sounds like a great bundle. It is, sort of: Mario Kart, that Wii Remote Plus, and the nunchuck cost nearly $90 if bought separately right now at retailers like Target and Best Buy (I checked), which means the console itself is practically being thrown in for free. Amazing deal, you say! In that sense, it is. But hang on: the Wii Mini can't go online.

Mario Kart...offline. Sarah Tew/CNET

That's right: the Wii Mini has no Wi-Fi or Ethernet support. So, that Mario Kart game, which is oddly included as the pack-in, and happens to be Nintendo's best online game, can't be used to play anyone online -- you'd better find some more Wii remotes and get a few friends over instead. You can't access Nintendo's online apps, or use Netflix. And you can't download any of the fun and very affordable games on Nintendo's online-only Wii Shop. Retro Virtual Console NES, SNES and N64 games, cheap indie experiences...kiss those goodbye.

Of course, as with the original Wii, you can't play DVDs or Blu-rays, either. The Wii Mini is strictly a one-trick pony, designed only to play disc-based Wii games. (The original Wii could also play GameCube titles, but that feature is also gone from the Wii Mini -- Nintendo pulled GameCube compatibility from Wii models sold after November 2011, too.)

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