Checking the Score: WarioWare Series

While many point to how lifelike the next blockbuster action title is or how gorgeous an artistic indie darling is when it comes to evaluating a game, these visuals would lose their impact without a stirring soundtrack to score them. From the chip-tunes of Super Mario Bros to the Gregorian chants of Halo, video game music brings players closer to immersion and fantasy. Much like how a movie’s soundtrack sets the tone for dramatic scenes, game music also helps players connect emotionally with the story.

Checking the Score is a monthly feature devoted to these crucial compositions which are literally the soundtrack to our gaming lives. Delving into what makes them impactful, the process of composing them and the intricacies of each score, our aim is to put a spotlight on the aural backbone of gaming.

WarioWare came out of nowhere when WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! launched on Game Boy Advance in 2003. Sure, Wario had been the star of games before (see Wario Land) but never quite like this. For the uninitiated, WarioWare is not a game so much as it is a collection of many super-short minigames. We’re talking seconds long! At the beginning of each microgame, a simple one or two word command appears on screen. That’s all players have for instructions for the game. It works well and becomes a test of the player’s skill and ability to master each game.

Although this series is not focused on rhythm gameplay such as Rhythm Heaven (also a minigame collection), it clearly shares similarities. It also features a wonderfully chaotic soundtrack with a distinct “Wario” vibe. While the music is all catchy, it doesn’t feel the same as Mario game music. To give the appropriate theme that this is an offbeat game, lots of unique instrumentation is included in the main themes and soundtrack. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! was so well received that it was followed up by new releases on Nintendo platforms throughout the years, such as the port on GameCube known as WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Games!

Next up was a twist on the WarioWare formula with WarioWare: Twisted! also on Game Boy Advance in 2004. This game shook up the formula by adding a gyro sensor into the cart. As a result, when you twisted the system left or right, that was captured in gameplay. Some may be familiar with similar gyro controls that were found in Kirby Tilt ’n’ Tumble. This was a fun new aspect to the already enjoyable microgame formula and laid the groundwork for more unexpected innovation in the WarioWare series which was still to come. After all, Nintendo loves unique control schemes as everyone saw clearly with the release of the Nintendo DS.

The next game in the series was WarioWare: Touched! for DS. There were two big differences between this and past WarioWare games. One was the inclusion of touch control via a stylus. The next was that there were now two screens to display the game across. The vast majority of included minigames in this set ditched button prompts and instead opted for touch control, which makes sense. There were also a few games which used microphone control as the DS also included a single microphone. All in all, it continued the theme of being fun and frantic without ever becoming too complicated.

How important was WarioWare as a franchise? It was enough of a big deal for WarioWare: Smooth Moves to become one of the launch titles for the Nintendo Wii alongside The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Again, controls were switched up due to a new platform with a different control scheme than Nintendo’s handhelds. Players had to motion the controller however each microgame commanded in order to succeed. Sometimes the Nunchuck controller was also utilized, which added a bit (but not too much) complexity to the basic WarioWare formula. One fun thing about Wario’s console debut is that WarioWare: Smooth Moves reprised classic songs, such as the original game’s title theme. It felt like a real celebration of the still relatively new franchise.

One of the least well-known games in the entire WarioWare canon is none other than WarioWare: Snapped! available through Nintendo DSiWare. As you might expect as a downloadable title, it wasn’t particularly long. The game is in many ways comparable to titles in the EyeToy line for PS2. Players use the DS’s camera to make silhouettes which are then used in gameplay. While a fun concept, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as past entries in the series. The soundtrack for this game also didn’t follow the trend of the WarioWare series, weirdly enough. If you never owned a copy of the game, then unfortunately it cannot be purchased any longer as the DSiWare Shop has since closed.

Another unexpected release came in the form of WarioWare D.I.Y. — more of a game-maker than yet another microgame collection. While there were some minigames included, the whole intent was for players to build their own microgames. In some ways it feels like a proto Mario Maker, although it actually had more logic-based programming options. Back before it shut down, players could even share their games with others via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection and also access via WarioWare: D.I.Y. Showcase on WiiWare. A lot of tracks in this game felt right at home with Nintendo’s catchiest tunes, as filtered through Wii menu music — which is a great thing.

Game and Wario is an odd release in an already odd series. Aside from dropping the “WarioWare” moniker temporarily, it clearly had different inspirations. The name evokes Nintendo’s classic Game & Watch series for good reason — that’s what this game is based around. Some disliked Game and Wario because it wasn’t another title exactly like all the WarioWare goodness that came before. Still, it was a title that captured the basic frenzy of WarioWare and made good use of the Wii U’s GamePad. It also included unique songs that were both out of the usual for the franchise and yet fit perfectly.

With so many great WarioWare games over the years, Nintendo decided to create a huge compilation. This compilation came in the form of WarioWare Gold on Nintendo 3DS. While the series didn’t originate on DS/3DS, it felt at home on the platform. There were over 300 microgames packed in that made this a real smorgasbord for fans to feast on. As always, it kept players laughing and engaged despite not bringing anything new to the table. Most of the soundtrack came from previous games as well, which was yet another trip down memory lane.

That takes us to today. The fascination with WarioWare still hasn’t died down and now WarioWare: Get It Together! is right around the corner. This will be the first time a game in the series has arrived on Switch, as no previous entries are available via the Nintendo Shop. While only announced during E3 2021, it’s set to release this year as well. Expect to get your hands on WarioWare: Get It Together! on September 10.