More than I year ago, I published a piece over at my old blog about a list of five Nintendo IPs that were dormant – franchises that haven’t had any games released for them for quite some time now. We’ve had several Nintendo Direct presentations and two E3 events since that time, and we still haven’t seen any announcements for these franchises from Nintendo so I think this is a topic that’s worth revisiting.
That’s right – Nintendo isn’t all just about Mario and Zelda and Pokemon. They have franchises aside from Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, and Pikmin that they could be releasing games for but simply aren’t. One would think that Nintendo would start looking into these brands especially since most of their other franchises have already been represented. The Nintendo 3DS is nearing the twilight of its lifespan and the Nintendo Wii U is all but dead, so it’s understandable not to see any games from these IPs on the current consoles. But the Nintendo Switch is coming out next year, which should give Nintendo the opportunity to bring more of their franchises into the public eye once again. Of all their dormant franchises, here are the ones that I’d like to highlight:
Honorable Mention: Eternal Darkness
Last Game Released: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GameCube, 2002)
Eternal Darkness was such a promising “first party” brand for Nintendo. Developed by Silicon Knights, a studio which had an exclusivity contract with the big N from 2000-2004, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was one of the few Mature rated titles to be published by Nintendo and their only high profile horror-themed game. And it was positively received too, getting high scores from various reviewers. I was lucky enough to own a copy and finish a playthrough, and in my opinion Eternal Darkness had the potential to rival Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise. It brought a lot of interesting concepts to the table: different protagonists, a storyline that spans across different eras, and great use of fourth-wall breaking effects to make the player uneasy.
Had there been more games released under the Eternal Darkness franchise, Nintendo would have had an IP that was specifically for hardcore gamers who wanted more mature games and it would have helped shake the perception that Nintendo was primarily for “kids”. But I’m putting Eternal Darkness as an honorable mention because it’s currently unclear as to who owns the IP – Nintendo owns the copyrights to the Eternal Darkness brand but the creators behind it have been working on a spiritual successor known as Shadows of the Eternals. I’m not sure if Nintendo has plans for the brand and how they’ll work things out with the original creators, but I think it’s unlikely for us to see another Eternal Darkness game to come from Nintendo.
Last Game Released: F-Zero Climax (Game Boy Advance, 2004, Japan-only)
Mario Kart is Nintendo’s premier racing game franchise, but back in the day people had another brand to turn to to scratch that racing itch: F-Zero. I like Mario Kart games, but one of the problems that I have with them is the element of randomness that makes winning less skill-based than how I’d like it to be. F-Zero games are much harder and have more emphasis on speed and skill – you’ll need quick reflexes and a lot of track memorization in order to win races in an F-Zero game.
I’m not sure why Nintendo stopped making F-Zero games. It could be because of sales (the last console F-Zero sold under 400,000 copies worldwide) or because they didn’t see a technological reason for it – F-Zero games used to be Nintendo’s way of pushing their hardware to its limits. Maybe it’s because the racing game crowd prefers games that are closer to reality (e.g. Need For Speed, Forza, and Gran Turismo all use real cars). But F-Zero is different enough from Mario Kart and an F-Zero game could be a great way to show the technical capabilities of the Nintendo Switch. One thing’s for sure – there’s a good number of Captain Falcon fans who would want to play him in an F-Zero game again as a racer rather than a Smash Bros. fighter.
Last Game Released: Punch-Out!! (Nintendo Wii, 2009)
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was one of the more popular NES/Famicom games back in the 8-bit generation, but I understand why we rarely see Punch-Out!! games. After the release of a 16-bit version, the Punch-Out!! brand largely remained dormant simply because there wasn’t a lot of room for innovation for the series. Which is why we saw a Punch-Out!! game for the Nintendo Wii – a boxing game was a great fit for the Wii’s motion controls.
But a new Punch-Out!! game for the Nintendo Switch would make sense. The game mechanics would largely remain the same as the older versions, but I think a Punch-Out!! game with a splitscreen two player mode would work. Having quick reflexes is a skill that video games continue to require to this day, and Punch-Out!! revolves around this. A two player boxing game that can be played on the go with the Joy-Cons of the Switch would be awesome.
Last Game Released: Golden sun: Dark Dawn (Nintendo DS, 2010)
Golden Sun used to be a really popular franchise – the first two games in the series are usually considered to be one of the best titles to come out on Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance. In addition to the usual turn-based role playing mechanics, Golden Sun brought an interesting new universe that revolved around the concept of Psynergy, alchemy, and Djinns.
The first two Golden Sun games continue to stand out in my memory for two reasons, the first of which is their Psynergy mechanic. Usually, magic spells and skills in RPGs are only usable during combat but in Golden Sun, you actually need to use Psynergy in order to solve the different puzzles that you encounter when exploring dungeons. I can also remember how awesome the way the first Golden Sun was connected to it’s sequel, with a story that continues right at the ending of the first game and a password system that allows you to bring the stats of your characters in the first game to the second game. I didn’t have the chance to play the third and final game in the series, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, but basing it off of reviews it looks like the franchise took a hit because Dark Dawn was too easy.
But I think that Golden Sun can still fulfill a role for Nintendo. In terms of role playing games, Nintendo currently relies on two brands: the Mario and Luigi games and the Paper Mario games, but both franchises have been veering away from RPG mechanics with each subsequent release. Golden Sun can be Nintendo’s RPG franchise, a genre that remains to be popular today.
In terms of innovation, Golden Sun would be a great title for the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is rumored to have touchscreen functionalities as a handheld device and motion controls as a home console. Both control schemes could be used for controlling the different Psynergy effects of Golden Sun and bring a kind of puzzle solving mechanics that no other RPG has.
Last Game Released: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (Nintendo DS, 2008)
I’m honestly surprised that we haven’t seen another Advance Wars game since 2008, especially given the recent success of the Fire Emblem franchise. A part of the Wars franchise, Advance Wars became really popular during the days of the Game Boy Advance thanks to solid real time strategy mechanics.
What differentiates Advance Wars from Fire Emblem and justifies its existence alongside the now-popular brand is it’s use of generic units as opposed to the named Fire Emblem characters, which makes Advance Wars games feel closer to popular RTS games like Command and Conquer or StarCraft. In Advance Wars, you have to include unit production and resource management as part of your strategy. The CO (Commanding Officer) mechanic further distances this brand from Fire Emblem – your army gets specific strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities based on the CO that you’ve chosen to play (or is assigned to you on a mission).
Advance Wars would be another good multiplayer experience for the Nintendo Switch. Just imagine a two on two Advance Wars battle similar to what we saw in the Nintendo Switch preview – both teams would be able to hide their moves from each other via the use of two Switch devices. It has the potential to provide a local RTS experience that only PCs can provide.
Last Game Released: Metroid: Other M (Nintendo Wii, 2010)
Metroid is the biggest title on this list and probably deserves to be revived the most. And I can probably write an entire article just on why we need another Metroid game too because there’s a lot of things to say on that topic. Metroid is such a classic and the fan backlash against the spin-off Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a good indicator of how badly fans want another core Metroid game.
And Nintendo has two options for another Metroid game. They can revive the long dead 2D Metroid which, together with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, an entire sub-genre of platforming games was named after (Metroidvania). Or they can do a follow up to the Metroid Prime series which was one of the first ever FPS games on a home console. With the Switch in mind, I’m leaning more towards the latter – a powerful console can give us an advanced Metroid Prime game that can use the rumored motion controls of the Switch (FPS games are one of the few genres that fit well with the Wii’s motion controls) but a 2.5D version of Metroid as one of the last games for the 3DS will also work. Samus Aran is one of Nintendo’s most recognizable characters and one of the most recognizable female heroines in video games period; she deserves to be in the limelight once again.
And there you have it – five Nintendo franchises that I think should be revisited by the Big N. When people think Nintendo, they think of Mario, Pokemon, or the Legend of Zelda, but Nintendo is more than just those three franchises and they need to remind us that there’s more to them than these three. Hopefully, the introduction of a new console will make them reconsider the dormant franchises on this list.