When the Nintendo Wii was released in 2006, it took the unsuspecting gaming population by storm, splashing onto the scene as one of the company’s most profitable and popular game systems. While many fans were hesitant to adopt its motion controls, the Wii picked up significant steam by 2009, becoming Nintendo’s best-selling home console. Several years later, Nintendo released the Wii Mini, the third and final iteration before manufacturing ceased. Small, portable, but lacking some important features, the Wii Mini was mostly an afterthought, with many Nintendo fans completely passing it up.
Today, I’ll be using the game-changing powers of system mods to revitalize the Wii Mini and bring it up to its full potential. If you want to kick back and enjoy some soothing hardware hacks, I recommend checking out my full Nintendo Wii Mini mod video and following along as I perform the entire modding process.
"Overall, while the installation process might be taxing, modding the Wii Mini unlocks its true potential while retaining its beloved form factor."
The Wild World of Wii Mini Modding
To make the console more affordable and cut down on the size, Nintendo removed several features from the Wii Mini, including Wi-Fi support, an SD card reader, and backwards compatibility for the GameCube. For this project, I’ll be resurrecting a handful of these lost features, including Wi-Fi and the SD card reader, while also adding a reset button.
While you might balk at the idea of going through a complex mod installation instead of simply buying a standard Wii, there are plenty of reasons to consider it. For starters, the Wii Mini has a much more retro style look, with its top-loading disc reader and boxy design. Additionally, modding consoles is a blast, with the process being just as enjoyable as the final result. While the allure of nice new features is more than enough to kickstart a modding hobby, sometimes it’s simply fun to see the possibilities that modding affords.
Modding a Wii Mini to Resurrect Its Missing Features
To get the Wii Mini connected to the internet and reading SD cards, I’ll be using two kits created by WebHDX, the same software developer who created the PicoBoot modchip for Nintendo GameCube. While you can pick up both the SDRST mod kit and the Wi-Fi kit from WebHDX’s Tindie store, the project is completely open source, so you can also create them yourself. Before beginning the mod process, I also needed to install the Homebrew channel on my Wii Mini using the BlueBomb exploit, so keep this in mind if you’re interested in replicating this mod yourself.
Interestingly enough, it seems that at some point during development, Nintendo may have considered putting Wi-Fi capabilities in the Wii Mini. There are bare sections on the motherboard specifically made for a Wi-Fi chip, as well as gaps in the RF shield to accommodate one. That said, installing the Wi-Fi chip requires a significant amount of soldering experience, as you’ll need to make extremely precise connections with little room for error. Once again, if you’re thinking of performing these mods yourself, I highly recommend using my Wii Mini modding tutorial video for visual aid.
Luckily, the SD card reader and reset button are a bit easier to install, thanks to drill guides included in the kit and a custom PCB that is simple to solder. After some precise drilling and filing near the open button, I was able to carve out a perfect slot for both the reset button and SD card slot. With the soldering completed and the SD card reader installed, the Wii Mini can be reassembled, but there’s still a bit of work to be done on the software end of things. Depending on what mods you’ve installed, you’ll definitely need the NUS Downloader, a copy of NUS IOS backup script, and the Wii Mod Lite application for the Homebrew channel. These programs and scripts must be placed on a FAT32 formatted SD card in a very specific way, so please refer to my tutorial video for more information. After plugging that SD card into your Wii Mini and downloading a few programs on the Homebrew channel, the installation is complete!
The Pros and Cons of Modding a Wii Mini
There are tons of advantages to modding a Wii Mini in this way, but let’s get the negatives out of the way first. More so than anything else, the installation process (especially for the Wi-Fi kit) is exceptionally tough, even with advanced soldering skills. Additionally, the SD card reader is not a no-cut solution, so you will need to permanently modify the console cover to make way for the SD card slot and reset button. However, these negatives are greatly outweighed by the benefits.
With Wi-Fi enabled, an SD card available, and a reset button, the Wii Mini is transformed into a bonafide homebrew beast. You can now download preexisting homebrew applications that require internet access, including programs that let you boot backed-up GameCube games. By holding down the reset button immediately after powering on the system, you’ll also gain access to the preloader screen, which serves as protection in case your Wii Mini is bricked while tinkering with software mods. Overall, while the installation process might be taxing, modding the Wii Mini unlocks its true potential while retaining its beloved form factor.