The Best Wii Exercise Games
So, you’ve decided to use your Wii for a good workout. With all the Wii games out there, which are the ones which will get your heart pumping and the calories burning? We pick out the very best Wii Exercise Games and review them here.
From the days of Pong and Space Invaders, our society has been addicted to video games. This is where the genius of using the Wii for exercise lies. They say that you achieve weight loss and healthy heart with 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise three times a week.For those of you who can’t stay 5 minutes on a treadmill without getting bored to tears, you may be surprised that with some of these games, that half hour will speed by quickly, and your heart will be pumping and you’ll be perspiring just as much as if you’d stayed on the treadmill.
Below, I’ve listed the best Wii games for exercise. I’ve given them two ratings: the first rating is workout intensity (focusing mainly on aerobic exercise). The second rating is “fun”. Note that the second rating is just as important as the first, because the more fun the game is, the more you’ll play it and the less you’ll remember that you’re actually exercising.
Also, check out the Best of the Rest List, our list of Wii Fitness Games To Avoid, and our list of Upcoming Wii Fitness Games, which will be updated to include Wii U games.
Do you know of another Wii game that fits on the list? Or, do you want to share the story of how you use the Wii as your workout? Add your comments below!
The Top Fitness Games for Wii
1. Just Dance 2014
Just Dance 2014 is the sequel to Just Dance 1, 2, 3, and 4, and takes its place as a perennial favorite on the best of the best list.
The control inaccuracy that plagued the first volume is all but gone now, now that Ubisoft is supporting Wii MotionPlus controllers. This, plus a large number of great new modern songs with variations of new and fun choreography, make Just Dance 2014 as fun as ever. Plus, with the same improved “Just Sweat” mode introduced in the previous version, you can get running stats on your workout and receive lot of incentives to keep coming back for more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the best kind of fitness game is one that’s so fun that you don’t realize you’re exercising. Just Dance once again falls in this category.
2. EA Sports Active 2 and NFL Training Camp
EA Sports Active 2 had been #1 on this since it was introduced last year. It’s still the one to beat if you’re looking for a “pure exercise game” for the Wii. And unlike last year when a lot of us paid upwards of $90 for it, nowadays you can easily find it for around $25, which is a steal considering that you don’t just get the game but all the accessories as well. Even though EA seems to have given up on the franchise, it’s still a great workout. With specially designed wireless transmitters that you strap on to your leg, you can say goodbye those nunchuk wires that kept tripping you up with the first generation. A new wireless heart rate monitor lets you see your heart rate as you progress through the exercises, and there are a lot of new activities that are much more interactive (and fun) than the previous version. Polish it off with an improved resistance band and access to a new online portal where you can chart progress and interact with other exercisers, and you’ll see that EA Sports didn’t rest on their laurels, but moved the platform ahead. You can read my full review of EA Sports Active here. I’m a little surprised that EA Sports never put out EA Sports Active 3 this year, but hopefully they’re working on it.
I’m putting EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp together with EA Sports Active 2 because it is, more or less, an NFL-flavored version of a very similar game. It features actual football drills and conditioning workouts as conducted in actual NFL training camps, with over 70 drills and strength, power, and conditioning challenges. Like Sports Active 2, it also has interactive games that make exercise a ton of fun and help you build reaction skills, agility, and first step quickness. Developed in conjunction with the NFL and making full use of graphical assets that EA Sports has with their licensing relationship for NFL Madden, this is another winner in the EA Sports series and a must-have if you have a football fan in the house who could shed a couple pounds. Read my original review of EA Sports Active 2 here.
ExerBeat isn’t necessarily the most strenuous workout available nor the most “professional”. On the other hand, the video gaming elements keep you motivated to start up the game again day after day until your on-screen character has “travelled the world”doing all kinds of exercises .
There are a good selection of different kinds of exercises, ranging from aerobics to boxing to yoga, not to mention a few fun games. A full review of Exerbeat can be found here.
4. Zumba Fitness World Party
Zumba Fitness World Party is the next evoluion in the Zumba Fitness for Wii series. They improve on Zumba Fitness Core by adding real-life video instructors, as well as a new “adventure mode” that has you travelling the world and dancing in exotic locales to that locale’s music.. There are also very good options for running traditional Zumba classes in your home (20, 40 or 60 minutes, just like at the gym), for getting good tutorials on the basic steps, and for charting your progress. Zumba is admittedly not for everybody, but if it’s for you you’re going to love this one. Read the full review here.
5. Dance Dance Revolution II
Dance Dance Revolution II is finally the “reboot” to the DDR series we’ve been waiting for since Hottest Party 2 was released in 2008. It adds “Double mode”, which allows a single person use of TWO dance pads, added a whole bunch of new licensed songs that’ll appeal to teens and tweens, and perhaps most importantly, got rid of awful gimmicks like trying to force use of the Wii remote or balance board in game play. Their workout mode is truly intense and many steps (no pun intended) above step aerobics or dance aerobics. In many ways, they’ve brought back the magic that made DDR such an institution to begin with. Visit the blog for a full review of Dance Dance Revolution II.
6. The Biggest Loser Challenge
The Biggest Loser Challenge is a lot like its predecessor. You’re a guest at
The Biggest Loser Ranch, with familiar scenes like the Pool to the Gym to Jillian’s Boxing Ring. It lets you set up a regular schedule of exercises (anywhere from 2 to 6 days a week) over a course of 4, 8, or 12 weeks. You can choose from preset exercises for different goals (slimming, super weight loss, etc.), or you can have the system create a personalized workout program for you. You can adjust the intensity of the exercises, the number of days a week, and the number of minutes per day.
The program is definitely much more comprehensive than the first version. You get a huge number of new exercises (I counted 117 in all) ranging from Yoga to Core to Boxing to Cardio and Calisthenics. Unlike the previous encarnation of this game, you can choose Bob, Jillian, or both of them to be your virtual trainer. One of the neat new features is that you can design your on-screen to look like you. He/she will have your body shape when you begin the program, and as you slim down, so will it. You also have the ability to add a resistance band or an exercise ball to your workout.
They’ve also added new challenge games, based on the TV show: Slipstream, Boom or Bust, Light Cycles, Sprint and Slide, and Punch Clock. As in the first game, you’re not actually doing the actual movements of your on-screen character, but you’re doing an exercise routine, following a small image of Bob or Jillian. The more accurately you do the exercise, the better your on-screen character will perform in the activity. Like the TV show, you go through rounds of competition. It’s a fun way to add a little variety to your exercises. There’s also a “Health and Lifestyle” option which lets you view recipes, get tips and advice from trainers and former contestants (these are also randomly displayed for you throughout the game), and calculate your Biggest Loser Know Your Number “KYN” HeathScore.
If you’re a fan of the show and don’t want to shell out the money for EA Sports, this is definitely the choice for you. It provides a very solid and complete exercise routine which you can use to lose weight. Visit my original review of this game.
7. Active Life Explorer
Active Life Outdoor Adventure by Namco Bandai has enjoyed a long stay on this list. While their follow-up title Active Life Extreme Challenge was a little bit of a disappointment, they have come back strong with Active Life Explorer, launched in October 2010 in time for the 2010 holiday shopping season . This title contains 24 games in which you (and up to three other players) play the role of an Indiana Jones-like adventurer, going through different challenges to collect fabulous treasures. Unlike other Wii games that pack a lot of mini-games into one title, practically all the games are excellent.
They all use the special Active Life plastic mat, which you plug into the top of your Wii. The games are extremely well produced: you really do feel like you’re inside an Indiana Jones movie as you try to do things like stop a runaway train or you escape from a dungeon with your arms full of treasure and mummies chasing you. Even though the moves for the games are all similar to each other (all tend to use a combination of running in place, jumping, and using your feet to match patterns), the storylines and application of those moves are so creatively done that no two games feel the same. Where this game shines is when you race against another opponent, each sharing a half of the mat.
Overall, I’d say this is a great game you can play over and over again for exercise, either by yourself or with your family. See the blog for a full review of Active Life Explorer, including videos and detailed descriptions of all the minigames.
8. Get Fit with Mel B
In many ways, Get Fit with Mel B feels like the rightful successor to the original My Fitness Coach game (which most people agree was one of the best Wii exercise games of its time). It features Mel B (otherwise known as Scary Spice) serving as a “personal trainer” walking you through a variety of fitness and aerobics exercises. Unlike other similar games, the video image of Mel B is very clear as she demonstrates different exercises to you, and the detail of her voice instructions is excellent. You can choose from different “environments” to work out in, and these are also excellent. Overall, if you’re looking for a “virtual trainer” to supplement or replace one that you pay for at the gym, this title comes closest to anything before it to matching the experience. You can read the full review of Get Fit with Mel B for Wii here.
9. Wii Fit Plus
As Wii fitness games improve, Wii Fit Plus is starting to show a bit of its age. It was a pioneer in its day for its introduction of the Wii balance board and whole body motion gaming. There are a lot of very fun activities in the game, and there are good options that can to give you a serious workout, but it seems that there are very few that do both. Still if you’re the type who hates exercising and needs a really, really fun time to incent you to work out, Wii Fit Plus is clearly still up there with the best. And the game is getting for the balance board alone, because as much as people talk about Playstation Move and Kinect, at the moment either of those systems can calculate your weight for you like the Wii can.
You can read a full review of Wii Fit Plus on the blog. Here are some of the highlights:
The first thing to note is that Wii Fit Plus is not a “sequel” to the original Wii Fit, but rather it contains all the content of the original Wii Fit and adds a number of improvements (for a write-up of the original Wii Fit, see the “Best of the Rest” list). In other words, if you don’t have Wii Fit already, you can skip it, buy Wii Fit Plus with the Balance Board. If you already have Wii Fit, you can buy the Wii Fit Plus game only.
The first improvement, clearly influenced by EA Sports Active, is that instead of choosing individual strength and yoga exercises ad-hoc, you can choose from a number of pre-configured workout routines, or create your own routine from the list of activities. The activities are still broken out by category: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance Games. All of these are identical to the old Wii Fit, except that there there are a 6 new Yoga and Strength training exercises which add some more variety and challenge to those categories.
The biggest improvement in Wii Fit Plus is the addition of 15 “Training Plus” activities. Here are the best of the best new ones:
Rhythm Kung-Fu (Workout intensity: 3 of 5, Fun 5 of 5): This is the first game that put a huge smile on my face. Using your Wiimote, the Nunchuk, and the Balance Board, you have to strike different “kung fu” poses in rhythm to delightfully cheesy kung-fu movie music. It’s essentially a game of “Simon Says”, where you mimic the moves of a groups of Miis standing behind you (and if you have family or friend Miis on your system, you’ll see some familiar faces). Another game that perhaps doesn’t provide the most strenuous workout at first, but one you’ll be playing over and over again to try to beat your high score (you’re judged based on your timing).
Bird’s-Eye Bull’s-Eye, a.k.a. Flying Chicken (Workout intensity: 5 of 5, Fun 5 of 5): This is the one you probably heard about, and it (along with Obstacle Course) is the winner. Your Mii dons a chicken outfit and has to fly from target to target. How do you fly? By flapping your arms. Seriously. You can either flap your arms with your hands extended, or do a “chicken dance” type movement by bending your elbows. Either way, the Balance Board will amazingly detect how strongly, quickly, or slowly you’re flapping. Like a real bird, you flap faster to get better control, and you flap slower to soar great distances. You control where you’re moving by leaning on the Balance Board. It is, I kid you not, the closest you will ever come to flying like a bird. It’s a great upper body workout that you’ll do again and again.
Obstacle Course (Workout intensity: 5 of 5, Fun 5 of 5): This is the game I was most looking forward too, and I was not disappointed. The way it’s been described is that it’s like Super Mario Bros, only you are playing the part of Mario running through a 3-D obstacle course. You run in place on the Balance Board to make your character move forward and you straighten your knees to make him jump. In the process, you’ll be navigating around huge swinging wrecking balls, moving sidewalks, and falling logs. Something important to remember is that to jump, you need to bend and straighten your legs. The game will reset if it detects you actually jumping on the board, a measure Nintendo put in place to prevent damage to your board.
Rhythm Parade (Workout intensity: 4 of 5, Fun 5 of 5): This was another one to put a huge smile on my face. You’re basically a drum major, marching in place to the sound of a beat. Like rhythm games like Helix and Samba Di Amigo, you move your Wii-mote and Nunchuk to match on-screen cues. The better you match, the bigger your marching band becomes (and again, you’ll see familiar faces join in the band if you have custom Miis). Like other Wii rhythm games of this ilk, I’m not sure how accurate the Wii and Nunchuk are (there are times I’m sure I move it on time but it doesn’t register on the screen), but the game is pretty forgiving.
Once great improvement of Wii Fit Plus is that it uses METs (which stands for Metabolic EquivalenTs) to tell you how many calories you’re burning, a vast improvement over the meaningless “Fit Credits” of the old Wii Fit. Another big improvement is with the Balance Board: with the old Wii Fit, each time you started a new routine, you’d need to wait for the Balance Board to calibrate. Wii Fit Plus is a bit more intelligent, in that it’ll sense whether the weight has changed and give the option to recalibrate only if it has.
There is also the ability to measure a child or pet. This is a gimmick, of course, but a totally fun one if you have the aforementioned child or pet to measure.
It’s a fun and creative title that overall still stands the test of time. Highly recommended.
10. Walk It Out
67 million Americans walk regularly for exercise, whether walking on a treadmill, taking step classes at a gym, or just walking outside. While all the other game companies are tripping over themselves trying to putting out yet another aerobic game or boxing game, Konami did something clever and decided to focus on this audience.
The result was Walk It Out. It’s a game where you just walk, and walk, and walk around a very rich and in-depth virtual environment where you walk around and explore, unlocking different parts of the world as you go. The virtual world is stunningly beautiful, with parks, beaches, ocean views, buildings, cow pastures, mountains, apartment complexes, hotels and trees. The time in the virtual world matches the real world time: during the day you can admire the vast blue skies with beautiful cloud formations; at night, you can walk under a starry sky.
You step on either your Wii Balance Board or a Dance Dance Revolution dance pad (you can also use a Wii remote and nunchuk to exercise your arms instead of your legs) to a countinuous musical soundtrack consisting of some familiar songs, some generic songs, all of which are energetic and peppy. Your goal is to step on the beat, and if you do so you earn a “credit” which can be used to unlock parts of your virtual world, from scenery to new music to new routes on the map.There are so many things to unlock that it’d take months to unlock everything. But the thrill of “earning” your points and then spending them to create your own little world really does make the time go by quicker and more enjoyable than if you were just walking on a treadmill staring into space.
Konami did a good job of taking “addictive” elements from video games (collecting points, cashing them in, building your interactive world) and applying them to exercise. I rated this workout as “intensive” not because it’ll make you pant and sweat, but because it’s so fun and addictive that you’ll be on it for hours at a time without even realizing it.
It’s always better to step out of the house and get some fresh air, of course, but in those cold winter nights or late at night when it’s dark outside and you feel like taking a walk, Walk It Out’s world is not a bad place to visit from time to time either! Visit the original review here.
The following games deserve honorable mention because of what they did to help pioneer the concept of exergaming.
Wii Sports is the granddaddy of Wii games, the ones which came bundled with every new Wii system. It was the game that made everyone sit up and notice that this video games system was going to usher in a new generation of gamers that looked less like couch potatoes and more like svelte shoestring fries.
Wii Sports lets you simulate five sports: tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing. There are a ton of mini-games you can play for both fun and to help train you on how to use your Wiimote and Nunchuk to control the games.
There’s also an option called “Wii Fitness”, which leads you through a number of the mini-games. To be honest, it’s not that much of a workout, my guess is that it was more of a gimmick when the Wii first came out to let people be aware that the Wii could be used for exercise. Wii Fitness will give you a “Wii Fitness Age” which doesn’t mean much (unlike the Wii Fit age I mentioned above).
For workout purposes, boxing definitely ranks at the top of the list. Ironically, the less experienced you are, the more practice you’ll get, as you’ll be flailing your arms to try to land punches. As you get better at the game, you’ll learn to dodge and duck and time your opponent’s punches, which will get your higher scores but less aerobic exercise.
The boxing mini-games are the best for ensuring you get a nice aerobic workout. Working the Bag lets you shadow box against punching bags, which you can satisfyingly-if-not-realistically make them fly off. Dodging is a game where you can improve your reflexes; your trainer will throw balls which you need to duck out of the way of. Admittedly, I get so frustrated sometimes by getting pummeled by my trainer that I take it out on him in the next game, Throwing Punches. In that game, you’re supposed to aim your punches at the trainer’s gloves, but after getting nailed by him with so many balls, I usually just throw the score to the wind and try to punch him as much as I can
Believe it or not, some researchers at Cleveland State University actually found that 30 minutes of continuous Wii Boxing burns nearly the same amount of energy as a half hour boxing session at the local gym. As for the other Wii Sports games, I’d say that they may be useful for aerobic exercise, but in order to “boost” the workout, you’ll want to move around. For example, when playing Wii Tennis, jog in place as you’re hitting the balls. Or, you can use video game addiction to your benefit. I must have tried 100 times to get a perfect 10 out of 10 in the Home Run Derby. By the time I had done it (see video to the right), my arms were very, very sore.
This was a game suggested by Adam from Nevada in the site’s comments (thanks Adam!) It’s a downloadable WiiWare title (meaning you can’t buy it in stores, but you can buy a Wii Points Card and use some of your points to download it online).
The game is brilliant in its simplicity. As Adam said in his comment, you can consider it as “DDR for your arms”, or a hi-tech game of Simon Says. As heart-pounding techno music plays, you need to mimic the actions of the on-screen figure to the beat.
There have been other rhythm games, including some I reviewed here, like Samba Di Amigo, Dancing with the Stars, and High School Musical 3. They’re all great games, especially for the fans of their respective franchises or musical genres, but Helix is the one which stands out for response and overall workout quality. Looking back, the formula that they came up with here really paved the path for later blockbuster games like Just Dance.
My Fitness Coach
This was the granddaddy of all exergaming titles, having had its debut as Yourself!Fitness on the original Xbox and PS2 and proving that video game consoles could be used as exercise machines.
This title is less like a video game and more along the lines of an exercise video or DVD. Of course, it uses the Wii to personalize your experience so unlike watching a video, you’ll get a custom workout tailored specifically to you. If you have equipment like hand weights, a fitness ball, or a fitness step, those can be incorporated into the workout. It’s like having a personal trainer in your home.
The computerized trainer "Maya" will literally give you a fitness test, which is quite a workout in itself. She starts by asking you for a bunch of personal information, like your birthday (to calculate your age), your weight, and even the size of your biceps, chest, waist, and thighs (since she’s not real, it’s a whole lot easier to give this information to her). Then, you do a bunch of physical tests. She starts you out by doing 2 minutes jumping jacks and ask you to count your resting heartrate and your elevated heartrate. She repeats similar tests with lunges, push-ups, and crunches, basically seeing what the extent of your body’s condition is.
Based on your results she will recommend a detailed program for you, which will be a weight loss goal, or general health and wellness goals like improving cardio, upper and lower body strength, or flexibility. She’ll set up a daily calendar for you, and each day she’ll bring you through a custom series of exercises–this is where it resembles an exercise DVD–she’ll run you through the program, calling out the moves you’re making along to music and you can see on the bottom of the screen a countdown timer of how long to spend on each exercise.
You can choose different kinds of music (all generic, license-free type music), and this is my favorite part, you can also choose a location to work out in. My favorite is the relaxing Garden, but you can also choose a Japanese-style training center or even an office building. Locations are unlocked as you progress through exercises.
Note that this is not your typical Wii game. Not only does it not support the balance board (in all honesty, it doesn’t need to, as it would just get in the way), but it also doesn’t use the Wii-mote nor the nunchuck controllers. All you do is follow the exercises onscreen and enjoy an "old school" workout.
Cyberbike was a valiant attempt to sell a full-sized exercise bike as a peripheral device. At the end of the day the bike was decidedly too flimsy for serious prolonged use, and when the Wii and Wii U did away with Gamecube connector sockets that all but spelled the demise of the future of the bike. But it was a gutsy product timed just at the tail end of the peak of the exergaming craze, and for those of us who got one it still transforms old Wii and Gamecube titles into great exercise games.