Nintendo: Five Dormant Franchises They Could Revive To Excite Fans in Holiday 2020
Nintendo have a very light Christmas line-up this year. We look at five dormant franchises they could revive to make holiday 2020 a success.
2020 has been a strange year for Nintendo. They’ve had some major success with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and we got the surprise announcement of a new Paper Mario game. Other than those two games though, there’s not been a huge range of first-party titles to get excited about.
They also seem to have forgone the usual format for Nintendo Directs. We have had a couple of “Nintendo Direct Mini’” presentations and a handful of franchise-specific directs, including Pokemon and Animal Crossing, but other than a few shadow dropped videos like Paper Mario, nothing. That’s left the second half of the year looking strangely bare for the company.
Now we do have a New Pokemon Snap that was announced last month and the rumoured Super Mario 35th anniversary collection, but neither of those are confirmed yet to be dropping in 2020. That leaves the holiday season completely empty.
What Nintendo does have however is a plethora of franchises in their back catalogue that lay completely dormant. With that being said, I’ll take a look at five of these franchises that–should Nintendo choose to revive before the end of the year–would change their holiday landscape.
Now, don’t get me wrong: a new Pikmin is very likely coming, it’s just a case of “when.” Back in 2015, in an interview with Eurogamer, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that not only was a new Pikmin game coming, but that it was also close to completion. While in that specific instance the game likely turned out to be Hey! Pikmin on the 3DS, Miyamoto has since confirmed that a new Pikmin game is “progressing.”
Aside from the 3DS spinoff, the last mainline Pikmin game we got was Pikmin 3 for the Wii U back in 2013. While the franchise has never been one of Nintendo’s best-selling, it offers something wholly unique from the company. Real-time strategy, or strategy as a whole, is something Nintendo rarely tackle, and the Pikmin series is known for doing it incredibly well, in a very unique style, all while loaded with that typical Nintendo charm.
The problem with Pikmin 3, like a lot of other of Nintendo’s best games, is that it launched on the massively unsuccessful Wii U. This undoubtedly hurt its numbers, as estimates put worldwide sales of the game well below one million units and potentially raised questions in Camp Nintendo about the viability of the franchise.
The simple answer though is for Nintendo to do what they’ve done with many other games over the last few years; release a Pikmin 3 port to the Switch. It was rumoured only a couple of months ago and could easily solve a multitude of problems. It gets the game into the hands of those who didn’t have a Wii U, scratches that Pikmin itch for the big fans of the franchise, fills a hole in Nintendo’s holiday line up, and would allow Nintendo the opportunity to see just what the demand for a new Pikmin game is, which I’m willing to bet is pretty high.
2) Advance Wars
Speaking of Nintendo’s limited foray into the strategy genre, a new Advance Wars title is near the top of many people’s list, including mine. The handheld franchise has been absent for 12 years now since Days of Ruin on the Nintendo DS, and it’s high time it makes a comeback.
Last year we were treated to Wargroove, Chucklefish’s spiritual successor to Advance Wars. The game played incredibly similarly and looked just like what you’d expect from an Advance Wars game, however it just wasn’t quite Advance Wars. The setting was slightly more fantastical when compared to the military theme of Advance Wars and it was thematically less dark. Now, this isn’t trying to detract from Wargroove–in fact, it did some things better–but Nintendo struck gold with their strategy franchise and it would be incredibly hard for anybody to replicate just how good it really was.
Advance Wars was designed for handheld and the Switch’s functionality makes it more suitable for a release now than on perhaps any of their other home consoles. There would no doubt be palpable hype around the announcement/release of a new Advance Wars title, and it’s a franchise that would be right at home on the console.
Nintendo have a rich history of great racing games on their consoles. Mario Kart is the gold standard when it comes to kart racers, Diddy Kong Racing was fantastic, and Wave Race was another N64 classic. But a franchise that’s been absent since the GameCube and simply needs to come back is F-Zero.
Starting out on the SNES, F-Zero is known for being a high-octane, futuristic racing series that offers something different from a typical racing game. The races contain up to 30 different competitors (including yourself) and are played at a blistering pace. The neon-futuristic aesthetic is full of well-designed courses that are accompanied by some of the coolest music in Nintendo’s catalogue.
We’ve not had a brand new Nintendo racer since Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, and while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has performed incredibly well on the Switch, ultimately it’s a port of a now six-year-old game. Given the advancements in technology since the GameCube, the potential for online races (no matter how sketchy it might be given Nintendo’s infrastructure) and the offer of something completely different, it’s hard to imagine an F-Zero game that would be anything less than amazing.
4) Star Fox
While the Star Fox series may not have been away as long as the rest of the games on this list, it’s certainly a series that would benefit from an overhaul and Switch release. The last Star Fox game, Star Fox Zero, was released back in 2016 towards the end of the Wii U’s life cycle, and it’s safe to say it was unsuccessful. The result of being released so close to the end of the Wii U’s catastrophic life was some extremely subpar sales numbers (with estimates putting it at less than 500k units sold) despite the game reviewing pretty well.
Star Fox arguably peaked back in 1997 with Star Fox 64, with its on-rails sci-fi shooter gameplay exciting fans. However, since then Nintendo has pivoted backwards and forwards on what they want the franchise to be. The N64 game was followed by Star Fox Adventures on the GameCube, which was a complete departure from what the series had tried so far by turning to Zelda-style gameplay. Star Fox: Assault followed Adventures, trying a combination of spacecraft and on-foot elements. After that we got Star Fox Command on DS which mixed in some turn-based strategy elements, and then 10 years later saw Star Fox Zero. Every iteration of the Star Fox franchise has adapted the gameplay in some way by trying to carve out a niche, without ever really setting the world on fire.
Alongside Pikmin, Star Fox is a franchise that Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto has always been fond of, saying back in 2016 that he “always wanted Fox McCloud to be a bit more popular than he was.” So despite the failures of the series’ recent entries, there’s definitely hope for a reboot, and what better time to do it than when there’s little else coming out on the Switch to compete with.
While not a game for the “hardcore” audience out there – Nintendogs certainly shifted units. The game was released a few months after the original DS launched and was nothing short of a phenomenon. Across the lifecycle of the DS, the original Nintendogs fell only a few thousand units shy of selling 24 million. Despite only having two games (Nintendogs and Nintendogs + Cats) the series has outsold a string of other huge franchises including Metroid, Luigi’s Mansion, and Fire Emblem.
Like many of the games on this list, Nintendogs did something different; Nintendo spotted a gap in the “pet simulation” market and they took it. The simple gameplay loop of caring for a dog, feeding it, walking it, and generally just looking after it resonated with the masses, and the release of multiple different versions with different breeds helped further the game’s success.
Last year, developers Imagineer released Little Friends: Dogs & Cats as a spiritual successor to Nintendogs, however the game paled in comparison when contrasting the two. Several critics, including our own Cameron Hawkins, were quick to point out that “it is very limited on what you can do, especially for the game’s asking price.”
Like most of these dormant franchises, Nintendogs would benefit greatly from the advances in technology since we last saw it. A reboot of the franchise would be a great way for Nintendo to capitalize on the more casual market this holiday season, especially after the success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons earlier this year. While Animal Crossing certainly has more depth, the two games would likely have some overlapping appeal. Releasing a “New Nintendogs” would hit the nostalgic sweet spot for many, and would no doubt help sell both Switch hardware and software units.
Honorable Mentions –
Kid Icarus – Kid Icarus Uprising is the only non-Smash Bros. title from Masahiro Sakurai since 2005, and it was a very solid game; it offered a compelling gameplay loop and came out to some very strong reviews. While not having the pulling power of the other names on this list, a new Kid Icarus would be very much welcome, especially with Pit being a much more familiar character to Nintendo fans now.
Golden Sun – The Camelot-developed/Nintendo-published Golden Sun series was a stellar range of handheld JRPGs that ended most recently with Golden Sun: Dark Dawn on the DS. Octopath Traveler has shown that there’s a demand for high-quality RPGs on the Nintendo Switch, and what better way to fill that demand than with a new entry in the beloved franchise.
Mario Sports titles – Mario Tennis Aces released on the Switch in 2018, but that’s the only Mario Sports game on the system so far. Mario has dipped his toes into golf, football and basketball in the past, and any of these games (especially a new Mario Golf) would make an impact on the Switch.
WarioWare – WarioWare Gold was another relative commercial failure in 2018 with many asking the question–with the Switch being so well established by that point–why release a WarioWare game on the 3DS? This Christmas would be a perfect time for Nintendo to right those wrongs and release a new entry in the party-game series on the Switch. Another Wario Land game wouldn’t go amiss, either.
Wave Race – Revered for its realistic water, Wave Race is a fantastic racing series set on, you guessed it, the waves. Like F-Zero, Wave Race offered something different in the racing genre and would be another popular pick to resurface this holiday season.
So while it’s looking quiet for Nintendo towards the back end of this year, there’s an undoubted amount of potential for something special. If they can drop a trailer for Paper Mario: The Origami King and have it release a month later, there’s hope for all of the franchises on this list that (hopefully) some of them are already in the works. Which one of these games would top your Christmas List this year? Let us know in the comments below.