Why Nintendo Makes the Same Video Games Every Year and We Still Love Them

Nintendo Direct 3-3-16

Without question I consider myself a Nintendo fan. Compared to any other developer, I spend most of my time playing and/or getting excited for what I will soon be playing on my Nintendo Wii U or 3DS. Some experiences can only be on PS4 and what not like last year’s Fallout 4, but with Nintendo I have always felt they’ve done something special with their games… they’ve remained fun! Throughout the years and even during the short time I’ve been on this blog I’ve seen a handful of Marios, Zeldas, Pokemons, and many other Nintendo greats come and go. They’ve consistently been what I expect and then some, but nothing has been wholly “new” (with the exception of last year’s Splatoon.). After seeing Thursday’s Nintendo Direct, I’m excited for what the future holds: more of the same great faces Nintendo has always offered. But is that enough? Should Nintendo be focusing on something new rather than giving the fans more of the same? Hmm…

If you haven’t seen the most recent Nintendo Direct you can do so here.

This Nintendo Direct gave us a lot of information for soon-to-be-released games on both the Wii U and 3DS. Many of them we knew were coming, and only a few we first heard of here. In case you’re wondering, here’s a list and release dates for the games:

Star Fox Zero w/Star Fox: Guard (Wii U) – April 22nd, 2016
Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U & 3DS) – June 24, 2016 and March 18th, 2016 Respectively
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U) – June 24th, 2016
Lost Reavers (Wii U) – April 28th, 2016
Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U) – Sometime in 2016
Pokken Tournament (Wii U) – March 18th, 2016
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) – March 4th, 2016
Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge (Wii U & 3DS) – April 28th, 2016
Pocket Card Jockey (3DS) – May 2016
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (3DS) – Summer 2016
Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation (3DS) – March 10th, 2016
Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS) – March 25th, 2016
Disney Art Academy (3DS) – May 13th, 2016
Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS) – April 15th, 2016
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (3DS) – Sometime in 2016
Monster Hunter Generations (3DS) – Summer 2016
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS) – Spring 2016
Rhythm Heaven Megamix (3DS) – Sometime in 2016
Kirby: Planet Robobot (3DS) – June 10th, 2016

If we include the updates given to games already out like Super Mario Maker and Splatoon, then there are just over 20 games included or mentioned in the Nintendo Direct. Of those 20 games 16 I knew of already, meaning just 4 were brand new games announced in this Direct. Of those games, just two are new IPs and not sequels: Lost Reavers and Pocket Card Jockey.

Pocket Card Jockey Art

Whenever Nintendo releases a new game from one of their old franchises, two things happen: people complain that it’s just the same ol’ game all over again, and people clamor that it’s the best game they’ve played in the fabled franchise’s history. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds doesn’t do much different from other Zelda games aside from letting you choose which weapons you want at the beginning of the game, and people called it one of the greatest, most thoughtful changes the series has seen. If Naughty Dog did that with Uncharted 4, essentially released the same game but a slightly different story set in the same world with the same powerups just in different locations, they’d be berated by fans for copping out and making a subpar game. Why can Nintendo get away with this?

The answer is video game pedigree.

Nintendo has it’s history going for it. We’ve grown up playing Mario and Metroid, so when we see a new game we don’t want much change. Despite this, Nintendo always gives us a bit of change with each new game, and we gobble it up like we’re eight years old on a snow day weekend all over again! We expect a certain familiarity with Nintendo games that other companies can’t do. Take Sega for example: they’ve been pumping out poorly received Sonic games since the turn of the century, and fans have hated them for it, beckoning a return to form for the blue blur. Not so with Mario. The biggest offender to this is Pokemon. Aside from the random side games here and there, the core games just celebrated their 20th anniversary a few weeks back, and with each new game being largely identical to the previous one you’d think fans would have noticed they’re shelling out $40 every year to do the same stuff.

Kirby Planet Robobot art

Why would we Nintendo fans want anything else? Take Kirby: Planet Robobot, which was announced during the Nintendo Direct. It looks to be largely the same game as 2014’s Kirby: Triple Deluxe but now with a giant mech for Kirby to ride! So why am I excited for it? Because I know it’s going to have a wonderful art style, lots of fun powerups to play with, and just enough new content to make me want to dive back into the world I’ve otherwise already conquered multiple times. Who needs a new IP when you can rely on the old stalwarts to deliver quality time and time again? That’s the pedigree Nintendo has created and that’s why the Big N can not take risks and still put out quality games.

I’ve had to ask myself again and again why I’m alright with Nintendo doing this with its franchises. How can they just stick with a few core games and characters and still have me engrossed in their consoles? Partly it’s because it’s more than just Mario. When I actually thought about it, Nintendo has an IP in just about every genre out there (sometimes even multiple franchises in the same genre). We all know the familiar ones like Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Kirby, Metroid, and Star Fox, but what about their oft-forgotten franchises we haven’t seen in awhile? Racing games? Not just Mario Kart, let’s think about F-Zero and Wave Race, which haven’t seen releases in the better part of a decade. Survival Horror? Yeah, remember Eternal Darkness? Nintendo recently renewed their trademark on that series. Let’s not forget about anything containing Kid Icarus, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Excitebike, Starfy, Ice Climbers, Animal Crossing, Earthbound, or Golden Sun, and all of the spinoffs those series’ have. Hell, they recently got their shooter IP with last year’s Splatoon! Long story short, no matter what type of game you like, Nintendo’s got you covered!

Paper Mario Color Splash Art

Splatoon is the kicker for me. It was such a breath of fresh air in the shooter genre, and on the Wii U, that it begs the question whether Nintendo should rest on their laurels or start focusing on new IPs. If they could pump out something as fresh as Splatoon, then what could Shigeru Miyamoto or Eiji Aounuma have done if they were given more freedom to create new stuff instead of Mario and Zelda games? Maybe something totally different, with brand new characters that we would love just as much as the Mushroom Kingdom denizens.

But if we did that we may never have gotten Super Mario Galaxy. Maybe that sweet looking Zelda for Wii U wouldn’t be a thing. Maybe Star Fox Zero would have come out already, who knows! With this mindset it’s simple for Nintendo: take few risks and guarantee profits and (more importantly?) happy fans! I’ve read previously Nintendo has their younger engineers and designers working in tandem with their senior leads to create new content, such as Splatoon, and if every game turns out as polished as the third person shooter then Nintendo fans should be looking forward to more and more new content interspersed with old favorites!

I would be happy either way.

When the games aren’t as well received come out, like last year’s Tri Force Heroes for example, they’re still better than many other games to have come out. That’s the final sticking point with Nintendo and why we play their games. We like them even when they’re not as good as the prior model. They’re still good games, but their just not as good. And that makes us clamor back to that older game, holding it even higher than it was before, and frothing at the mouth when the next one is announced. As is the case over 10 times in this past Nintendo Direct. And that’s perfect.

That was a tangent I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and it was only exacerbated by this Nintendo Direct. In case it wasn’t clear, I’m very excited for most of the games announced, especially the new Paper Mario and Pokken Tournament! Laura was all giggles when Pocket Card Jockey came on screen, and we’re both looking forward to more Splatoon updates!

What are you most excited for from this Nintendo Direct? Let me know, and maybe we’ll be able to play online together sometime!


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– Jason J

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