Though the Nintendo Switch is not Nintendo’s first success or even it’s biggest success, the console has a knack for redefining and reinvigorating decades-old franchises, bringing them to hitherto unforeseen heights. Part of it is due to sheer numbers; so many people own a Switch that when a new game is released it has a greater chance of succeeding. Part of it, however, is due to the fact that the developer seems to be focused on bringing something new to each franchise it revisits, elevating it and bringing some of that good old fashioned Nintendo magic to each release. Nintendo just did this with the critically and commercially successful Metroid Dread, and that’s just one success story for the hybrid console. Where will Nintendo bring it’s magic next? In order to speculate, we have to look back first.
In 1999, Nintendo released what was, at the time, a pretty odd duck of a game called Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64. Designed to make use of the fact that the N64 had the capabilities for 4-player couch co-op, the fighting game took characters from the pillars of Nintendo’s franchises and pitted them against each other in a fight to the finish. In an age before DLC was a thing, the roster was set from the second the cartridge shipped, and if you take a look at the 12 characters Nintendo included, you get a glimpse of which characters and franchises they think resonate the most with people who play video games.
If you consider each of the franchises the 12 characters came from, these franchises are the most important to Nintendo in terms of popularity, longevity, and financial success. Several of the original characters went on to have some of the best individual games ever created, while others languished in obscurity, seemingly untouched and unwanted by Nintendo in the years since. Let’s take a look at each franchise represented by the game’s original roster, and how they have performed on the latest Nintendo system to see if we can determine what is next for the House that Mario Built. First, let’s look at the franchises that have already seen success on the Switch:
Mario (Super Mario Series): You can’t have a flagship Nintendo game without Mario. He was the obvious first choice for a fighting game based on video game mascots, and has gone on to astronomical heights in the years since. The latest original Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, took the formula established in Super Mario 64 and perfected in the two Super Mario Galaxy games, and opened everything up. You no longer need different power-ups to gain new abilities, you now have one, Cappy, and can use it to possess the bodies of any enemy and use their skills to platform and solve puzzles. There weren’t any picture frame worlds to jump into and back out of once a power star was found—finding the power moons in this game didn’t interrupt gameplay at all and was one long continuous quest from beginning to end. Though not as revolutionary as other Mario games, Super Mario Odyssey took everything the series is known for and made it the absolute best it could be. Where can the series go next? Only Nintendo knows, but whether it is a sequel to Odyssey or something entirely original, we know it will be an absolute banger of a game.
Luigi (Super Mario Series; Luigi’s Mansion Series): There are no Mario Bros. without the second brother, right? The historically ignored taller and more timid brother, Luigi, fills the second spot of the Super Smash Bros. roster. His history on Nintendo consoles is considerably smaller than his more famous brother’s, but it is no less important. When Super Mario Sunshine wasn’t ready for the launch of the Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo relied on Luigi to launch the system with the excellent and up until recently slept on Luigi’s Mansion. The game gave more character to Luigi and showed that he had fun things to do without Mario and gang weighing him down. The series would see two more entries, one on the Nintendo 3DS and the other on the Switch. It’s Luigi’s Mansion 3, for the Nintendo Switch, that perfected the series formula and really put the franchise on the map. Will Nintendo have another ghost-busting outing for Luigi on the Switch? Time will tell, but my guess is no, that will probably wait for the Super Switch (or whatever it ends up being called).
Link (The Legend of Zelda series): A sword fighter is an obvious choice for a fighting game, and The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most celebrated series in the world. Every time a game is released in the series, it gets near universal praise (with a few rare exceptions). Ocarina of Time completely revolutionized the series by bringing it into the 3-D space, and every game since then has been perfecting, or trying to perfect, the gameplay elements from the original 3-D classic. But then… The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game did everything Ocarina of Time did for the series, but even more and better. You could go anywhere. You could do anything. There was no hand holding. Hyrule was a real, living, breathing world. The formula was completely rewritten for this game, but it still carried that classic Zelda DNA throughout the entire adventure. Breath of the Wild is an absolute masterpiece, elevating a series to heights that we didn’t even know it needed to be elevated to. It’s not a perfect game, but with a sequel coming out next year, I’m hopeful it will take the formula that worked so well in the first game and make improvements that fans have been asking for in the years since.
Samus (Metroid series): I am so excited to be able to add Samus and Metroid to the section of this article that is talking about franchises that have seen success on the Nintendo Switch. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably heard me talking about this non-stop since Metroid Dread’s release, but I’ve tried for so many years to like the Metroid series. Every time a new game came out and I played it, I would stop playing soon after starting, thinking, “This just isn’t for me.” That all changed when Metroid Dread came out. I absolutely love that game, and I’m not alone in loving it—it has set the world on fire critically and commercially. To say this is a huge win for fans of the series would be an understatement. Yes, Metroid has its dedicated fans, but the fan base has never been big enough to warrant frequent new installments. The often-forgotten and ignored Nintendo franchise would regularly go years without a new game, because the sales just didn’t justify Nintendo’s attention. Hopefully, this trend will change due to the success of Metroid Dread. And with Metroid Prime 4 seemingly still in development, we may finally be in the Metroid renaissance fans have been waiting for for decades.
Four characters in, and we’ve reached the end of those who have gotten a successful solo game on the Nintendo Switch. Now let’s look at the remaining eight characters, and speculate what’s to come in the future.
Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong series): Donkey Kong has seen some success in recent years, with Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze seeing a return to form for the side-scrolling arm of the Donkey Kong franchise. Both games were critical and commercial successes, with Tropical Freeze often being referred to as one of the greatest 2-D side-scrolling platformers of all time. While Tropical Freeze did see a re-release on the Nintendo Switch, Donkey Kong hasn’t seen a new, original game on the system yet. The Donkey Kong series has always been known to please; even when it isn’t the best game it still finds a core fan base. There have been no announcements about an upcoming game in the series, but there are always rumors of a third Country game or even a true sequel to the 3-D N64 game Donkey Kong 64. Whichever way Nintendo goes, I’m hopeful it takes the successes of previous games and introduces new elements, shaking up the formula enough in ways that Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey for Link and Mario respectively.
Yoshi (Yoshi series; Super Mario Bros. series): Yoshi is a pretty constant and reliable source of kid-friendly games for Nintendo. In recent years, Nintendo has had a knack of turning their more family-friendly franchises into experiments in graphics rather than experiments in gameplay. Turning Yoshi into yarn in Yoshi’s Crafted World or Yoshi’s Wooly World, for example. But neither of those games set the world on fire. I’d love to see Nintendo release a game that is playable for younger gamers, but also fun and challenging for video game pros. The Yoshi series is one that is ripe for reimagining, and the Switch, with it’s golden touch, is the perfect platform upon which to bring Yoshi to new heights.
Kirby (Kirby series): This one is going to have to be more of a wait-and-see situation. During Nintendo’s latest Nintendo Direct presentation, they announced an upcoming 3-D platformer called Kirby and the Forgotten Land. It looks to be Kirby’s first true outing in a 3-D space, and from the trailer alone it looks like it might be the series Breath of the Wild or Odyssey. Though Kirby is another one of those kid-friendly, super easy franchises, maybe Nintendo will finally shake up the formula enough next year. Time will tell.
Fox McCloud (Star Fox series): The Star Fox series is the perfect series to receive a breath of fresh air from Nintendo on the Switch. The series has grown stale, and it is clear that Nintendo just doesn’t know what to do with it. Star Fox successfully made the same jump from 2-D to 3-D that both Link and Mario made on the Nintendo 64, but the innovation and success stopped there. Nintendo tried to reinvigorate the franchise with the GameCube’s Star Fox Adventures, but that game, which started its life as a non-Star Fox game, didn’t sit well with critics or audiences. It deviated too far from what made the first games in the series so enjoyable: flying through space blasting bad guys to smithereens. There is so much potential for a truly fantastic Star Fox game, and I think the Nintendo Switch is the perfect platform to bring it to life.
Jigglypuff & Pikachu (Pokemon series): The Pokemon series is one that will see success on every single Nintendo platform, no matter what Nintendo does or doesn’t do to shake up the formula. And yes, there has already been a release on the system with Sword and Shield, but neither of those games truly changed and revolutionized the series like the other games on this list. However, the upcoming Pokemon Legends: Arceus looks like it could be the type of game I’ve been talking about. One that brings the core elements that has made the series so popular, but opens it up in new and exciting ways. A true action RPG, this could be the game that opens up the series to those who, like me, have tried to like previous Pokemon games and just couldn’t get into them. We’ll see when the game releases early next year.
Ness (Earthbound/Mother series): Ness comes from another game I have tried to play and just couldn’t get into: Earthbound. Man, do people love this game. Part of me thinks that people love it so much because it is really hard to get, and nostalgia plays a huge role in people’s memory of the game. For such a beloved game, however, there have only been three entries in the series. Could Nintendo find a way to revolutionize the series on the Nintendo Switch? This seems like such a niche game that I would think it would be a long stretch, but then again Nintendo just released a decades-old sequel in Metroid Dread and look how that went. Nintendo could pull out another surprise with this series.
Captain Falcon (F-Zero series): The F-Zero series is another franchise that I feel is ripe for Nintendo to renew on the Switch, but I’m conflicted about this one. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is such a massive success for the Nintendo Switch that I couldn’t really see them release another racer, however different F-Zero might be. Then again, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been out since the launch of the Switch back in 2017. Though it is a great game, there is a racing void on the Switch, one that Nintendo could capitalize on. And with the processing power and graphical capabilities of the Switch, it could be the perfect platform to bring the blazing speed the F-Zero franchise is known for to HD life.
There you have it. Twelve characters that Nintendo at one point considered important enough to headline their mascot fighting game. Which dormant franchises do you want to see the Switch bring to life? Let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Discord!
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3-D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
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