When one thinks of Nintendo, the mind tends to gravitate towards their A-list games. Titles that have either garnered a level of success and critical acclaim that puts them at the head of the pack. Mainline Super Mario games easily clear this bar. So do the mainline Zelda games. While it’s one of the newest franchises, the massive success of Splatoon would put it up on that pedestal as well. Where you and I draw the line may vary here and there, but I think we can generally agree on which Nintendo games are at the top and which ones aren’t on that same level.
It’s not necessarily because these games are worse. Maybe they just haven’t found their footing. In spite of being great since the start, it took Fire Emblem decades of time and like a dozen releases before finding a wider audience. Some franchises sell well enough to still get multiple sequels, such as WarioWare or BoxBoy. Others are meant to be niche products, such as Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball. Though Nintendo probably would like for all of their games to sell in the 10+ million range, I get the sense that they’re willing to make and publish B-tier games so long as they make enough of a profit to justify their creation.
In any case, not every game and franchise in Nintendo’s ecosystem is on the same stratosphere. But with a bit more love, maybe some of them could be. Here are a few of my picks for B-tier Nintendo games and franchises that deserve another shot.
Can’t talk about Fire Emblem without talking about its modern warfare sibling. Advance Wars was actually most of the world’s introduction to Nintendo’s strategy offerings, but it wasn’t the one that survived. Reaching a creative dead-end after a few entries, Nintendo’s attempt at a refreshing the series with a darker tone fell on deaf ears while also alienating existing fans of the franchise.
Unlike Fire Emblem, where players fought with heroes who had names, stories, and developed with experience, battles in Advance Wars were waged with disposable units. Without the humanity supporting its gameplay, you could only iterate on it so many times before it became electronic Chess.
Realistically, as long as Fire Emblem keeps hitting the way it has, Advance Wars will never come back. However, titles like Wargroove might have shown a way to shore up the biggest weakness in Advance Wars. Despite my issues with the game’s default difficulty, it cleverly incorporated fully-defined hero units into the mix. Adding that wrinkle to Nintendo’s military strategy game could be just the kick it needs to get back on track.
I may take every opportunity to slander Kid Icarus on the NES. However, I also take every opportunity to praise Kid Icarus: Uprising to the heavens. Pit’s 3DS adventure is a remarkable action game unlike anything I’d played before.
It’s only real weakness was that it was a game designed for play with dual-analog controls that was shoehorned onto the Nintendo 3DS. You were guaranteed to suffer from severe hand cramping almost every time you tried to play this game. On the Switch though? Heck, on any platform with a traditional controller? A successor to Kid Icarus: Uprising would absolutely perform better.
Debuting on the GameCube, Pikmin would get two more mainline entries and a spin-off on the 3DS. I’ve only played Pikmin 3 on the Wii U, but I’m still madly in love with it. Combining elements of a real-time strategy game and a character action game, Pikmin is such a rewarding experience for anyone willing to give this odd mix a try.
Last we heard, a proper sequel was in development as early as 2015. However, Nintendo has been mum on the subject ever since Miyamoto randomly blurted out its existence. I’m not sure what it would take to make the franchise more palatable to a wider audience, but I really think many are missing out on this wonderful series.
Known as Panel de Pon in Japan, its international release was rebranded as Tetris Attack. While the game may have gotten more attention by having the Tetris name attached to it, this move might have prevented the series from standing on its own two feet. It was later repackaged as Pokemon Puzzle League, then Planet Puzzle League before finally appearing as a mini game in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. But how much more could have Nintendo done to support this incredible puzzle game had it released with an original name from the start?
Puzzle League is a brilliant competitive puzzle game. Working like a mix of the match 3 mechanic of Bejeweled with the block threshold of Tetris, it was a puzzle game that actively pressed you to create as many combos as fast as humanly possible. Against a similarly-skilled opponent, it becomes an insane battle of speed and skill.
Not sure if Nintendo would do this, but I think they already laid the groundwork for Puzzle League working in modern times. If you take the massive multiplayer elements of Tetris 99 and place them on Puzzle League, you have the next killer app for Nintendo’s crummy online service.
A Racing Game Not Called Mario Kart
Oh, you didn’t know Nintendo made other racing games besides Mario Kart? I don’t blame you for forgetting. During the Wii U era, Nintendo pretty much cut everything that wasn’t Mario Kart 8 out of their racing portfolio. Considering how well it’s sold, maybe it was the right decision all along.
Attempting to make a Mario Kart killer would be foolish at this point. However, they have a number of great racing franchises to draw from that could possibly succeed as smaller-scale digital downloads. Fast RMX is essentially a proof-of-concept for how good a polished F-Zero game from Nintendo could be. Riptide GP: Renegade was rough around the edges, but it at least showed that a Wave Race would be a blast on the Switch. The Excitebike series has been long dead, but that Nintendo 64 game was so slept on and a modern take on it at a smaller scale could be a great digital download.
What B-tier Nintendo games would you like to see get another shot at stardom? Do you take issue with me labeling any of these as B-tier franchises? Let’s discuss in the comments!
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