It's Past Time for Nintendo to Get Weird
Nintendo’s latest financials were recently released, and surprise! The Switch is selling very, very well. It’s on track to surpass the Wii this year, but unlike that massively successful platform, people are actually buying games for the Switch too, and not just the same three. Wii had a small handful of absurdly successful hits on it, but for the most part, software sales on the Wii were dismal. No so on Switch!
Look at Pikmin. Pikmin 3: Deluxe is officially the best selling game in the franchise. That’s quite a feat, especially considering Pikmin 3 isn’t exactly a new game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe wasn’t a new game either though, so there is precedent. OR how about the Blaster Master series? It hasn’t seen anything even remotely resembling a hit in decades, and yet its shiny new reboot on Switch did well enough to get itself a sequel (and maybe even more in the future). I know Blaster Master isn’t a Nintendo property, but it illustrates the point. People want to play games on Switch from new and old franchises. All kinds of games regardless of genre seem to be capable of finding a home as long as they’re quality products.
New stuff like Ring Fit Adventure and Labo are fantastic, and it’s great to see stuff like Donkey Kong Country and Splatoon thrive the way they deserve, but as has been said many, MANY times, nobody has the back catalog of characters and franchises that Nintendo does.
So now’s the time for Nintendo to hit us with everything they’ve got. Actually, last year was the time, but either way, if Nintendo were to put more of their franchises front and center, I have little doubt that they’d all sell better than they ever have before.
Catch the Rhythm!
Nintendo isn’t just sitting on the big obvious names, they have an amazing back catalog of weirdness that they could easily dive into. Rhythm Heaven and Elite Beat Agents, for example. Here are a couple of extremely well loved franchises that have been languishing in obscurity for years. I’ll grant that Elite Beat Agents might be more of a challenge with the lack of touch screen controls (in TV mode anyway) but I don’t think it’s impossible. Gitaroo Man worked on PS2, didn’t it?
And as for Rhythm Heaven, Megamix on 3DS proved that the game works way better without touch screen controls anyway. Unfortunately, that wonderful game was relegated to a digital only release on 3DS eShop in the US, which was effectively a death sentence at the time.
Both of these franchises could easily find an audience on Switch and it will never not baffle me as to why they haven't been given the opportunity to at this stage in the game.
BoxBoy had a fun new release on Switch not that long ago, so what about its puzzly cousin Pushmo? There was a whole Pushmo game made already for Wii U that I’m sure maybe 10 people actually played. Maybe even something as simple as a Pushmo collection would suffice?
Or even better, where’s Dr. Mario? That series has seen a brutal decline in quality on Nintendo platforms in years, but Dr. Mario World on mobile for all its faults, is full of features and excellent production values. A definitive Dr. Mario console game hasn’t even been attempted since Dr. Mario 64.
And what of Panel de Pon AKA Puzzle League? With games like Puyo Puyo Tetris and Tetris 99 positively lighting up the Switch, there’s clearly a market for these kinds of games. Heck, I’d take a Wario’s Woods sequel, or even a new Wrecking Crew!
Strategy for Success
Or how about the Dillon franchise? That guy is a flipping assist trophy in Smash Ultimate, and those games feature some fantastic character designs. They’ve only ever been released as digital only 3DS games, and they seem to me like they’ve always been sitting mere inches away from blowing up.
Speaking of something strategy related, remember when Fire Emblem was a C-tier Nintendo franchise at best? It certainly isn’t one now, and Fire Emblem fans have been treated to an avalanche of quality releases in recent years. Now it’s time to bring back Advance Wars “from the creators of Fire Emblem.” No way that doesn’t sell like hotcakes.
Thinking Outside the Controller
Perhaps a proper WarioWare title would provide a platform to really show off how much you can do with those JoyCons? Seriously, this might be some of the most versatile hardware Nintendo’s ever created and I’d absolutely love to see what the WarioWare team could come up with using JoyCons. Heck, how about a new Wario Land style platformer while you’re at it?
Chibi-Robo didn’t exactly strike gold with any of its releases, but they’ve all also been released in strange ways. Perhaps instead of an all new installment, they could test the waters with an HD remaster of the original game? How have we not seen a followup to the incredible Punch-Out!! on Wii? Just port Excitebots! Nobody played that game and it’s great! StarTropics? Pilot Wings? Mole Mania?
The Big Guns
Or what if we go a little more mainstream? Take F-Zero for example. The franchise hit a proper stride after the release of F-Zero X for Nintendo 64, never going more than 2 years without some sort of new installment. Then in 2003, there was the combo of F-Zero GX and AX, and a pair of Game Boy Advance games based on a somewhat popular F-Zero anime series, and then… nothing. There was an attraction in Nintendo Land, some DLC courses in Mario Kart 8 (one of Nintendo’s best selling games of all time) and nary a word about a proper new installment in the franchise. The Switch isn’t exactly overflowing with futuristic racing games as-is, and the timing of a new release in the franchise couldn’t possibly be better. And yet, nothing.
Similarly we have Star Fox, a franchise that couldn’t be more simple to keep alive. The most beloved entries in the series are the original SNES game and Star Fox 64. Both of those are on-rails shooters, and that’s literally all anyone has ever wanted out of the franchise since. New, visually exciting adventures of the Star Fox team in their Arwings blowing stuff up. Instead we got strategy elements, on foot missions, a Zelda-style adventure game, and a Wii U game with completely insane controls. A storyline followup to Star Fox 64 that does exciting stuff on rails would be so refreshing. It’s not like anybody’s out there making awesome 3D rail shooters these days.
Then we have Kid Icarus. This was once on the same trajectory as Metroid as one of Nintendo’s second tier franchises, but then it just kind of stopped. That is, until Sakurai and his team made the brilliant Kid Icarus: Uprising for 3DS. The game was a pretty solid success, and honestly felt more modern than a lot of what Nintendo makes even today. A proper followup to that game would be really extraordinary, but honestly even just porting Uprising to Switch would likely result in catapulting Pit to proper star status. There were a lot of people who avoided the 3DS game because of its bonkers control scheme, which wouldn’t be a problem on Switch seeing as it has dual analog sticks. Yes, it would take some work to redo the game’s controls, but considering how much effort and production value went into the original, I can’t see it not being worth the effort.
And don't get me started on Metroid.
I could seriously go on all day and never run out of excellent options. Nintendo isn’t exactly hurting these days, and they've been so successful because they’re hitting us with some of their finest. Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Splatoon 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Luigi’s Mansion 3, these are their franchises being presented in some of the best ways they ever have before. They’ve had a few misses like Kirby: Star Allies, Mario Tennis Aces, and Super Mario Party, but even those games are still pretty good, and in the case of the Mario games better than their franchises have churned out in years. But the proof is there. It’s more than possible to elevate their current C and D-tier franchises to the levels of legitimate success. Elevating those C and D tier franchises is not only possible, it’s a terrific strategy that will ensure future generations of Nintendo fans.
Will we see any more of their back catalog revisited on Switch? Time will tell, but the Switch isn’t going to last forever. Nintendo is going to have to introduce a next generation game console eventually, and when they do, having a considerable cache of active franchises, not just a mountain of beloved characters that gamers constantly beg for them to dust off, will be clutch in repeating the Switch’s success.