Nintendo likes to mix things up with their franchises. Call it a willingness to experiment or call it shameless cashing in on popular properties — I’m not here to judge. I’m just here to let you know which Nintendo franchises have branched out the most. Some, like Animal Crossing, F-Zero, and Pikmin are basically the same every time. But then there’s these franchises that saw Nintendo experiment with different genres…
Genres: 2D action/platformer, third person shooter
Kid Icarus is one of Nintendo’s most neglected franchises. There was a time in the late ’80s and early ’90s when Kid Icarus was mentioned in the same breath as Mario and Zelda. Then Nintendo ignored it for over two decades, only to come back with something they called Kid Icarus but that was basically unrecognizable. I’m not saying Kid Icarus: Uprising is bad — I played it for five minutes in a GameStop once and had a pretty good time — but it was a radical departure from the Kid I grew up with. Kid Icarus characters are all over Smash 4 though, so hopefully this means we’ll get another game soon.
Genres: Rail shooter, 3D action/adventure, third person shooter, tower defense
Most of Star Fox: Command and parts of Star Fox 64 and Star Fox Zero let you fly wherever you want, but the other games in the series keep you on a rail. Then there’s Star Fox Assault, which mixes up aerial shooting with on-land third-person shooter segments, and Star Fox Adventures, which is a whole other Zelda-like ball of wax. Oh yeah, and now there’s a Star Fox tower defense game, (Star Fox Guard). Whether Star Fox’s various experiments were successful is up to you (I personally prefer the good ol’-fashioned shootin’), but at least give Nintendo credit for trying.
Genres: 2D action/platformer, first person action/adventure, first person shooter, pinball, we don’t speak of Other M
Metroid’s one of those few franchises that has dramatically different but equally awesome 2D and 3D installments. The Prime trilogy took what was great about 2D Metroid and stuck it in a 3D, first-person shell, without ever making it feel too much like a first-person shooter. Then Metroid Prime: Hunters came along, and it was more or less that first-person shooter. And now Metroid Prime: Federation Force is upon us, and it’s a first-person shooter without Samus that also features what looks like a Rocket League clone. What the hell? There is also a pinball game and NO OTHER METROID GAMES.
Genres: 2D platformer, puzzle, golf, pinball, arcade action, racing
Poor Kirby. Video game nerds sh*t all over this lil’ guy because his games are cute and fun and easy. Well I say THE HELL WITH YOU, NERDS! Kids gotta learn how to play video games somewhere, and there’s arguably no better place to start than the Kirby franchise. Every main series entry in the Kirby franchise is a traditional 2D platformer, but the spinoffs are nothing to scoff at. There’s Kirby’s Avalanche and Kirby’s Star Stacker, both decent puzzle games; Kirby’s Dream Course, about as good as isometric golf ever got; Kirby’s Pinball Land, which, well, was pinball; Kirby’s Block Ball, a really good Breakout clone; and stone-cold classic racer Kirby Air Ride. Give Kirby a chance, haters.
The Legend of Zelda
Genres: Isometric action/adventure, 2D action/platformer, 3D action/adventure, light gun shooter, hack and slash, adventure
It’s actually kind of amazing how consistent Zelda has been gameplay-wise. You’d think a series this successful would have inspired more spin-offs and experiments, but nope. In the main series, there’s isometric Zelda, 3D Zelda, and Zelda 2 — and that’s it. You could say that all three types of Zelda games are in the same genre, but since they all look so different and require different skills, I’ll give them extra genre credit. Zelda has branched out more in recent years, with the light gun shooter Link’s Crossbow Training, the hack-and-slasher Hyrule Warriors, and the super weird Tingle adventure games, but there hasn’t been a dramatic change to the main series formula since Ocarina of Time. Let’s see just how different the Wii U installment will be (if it ever comes out).
Genres: 2D platformer, 3D platformer, racing, rhythm, arcade action, puzzle, edutainment
I was kinda surprised to see how many genres good ol’ DK has gotten himself into. I mostly remember the Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Land series of 2D platformers, but there were also three rhythm games (four if you count Jungle Beat), two racing games, two puzzlers, the original arcade action series, 3D platformer DK 64, and Donkey Kong Jr. Math. That’s not even counting the six Mario Vs. Donkey Kong games, which are platformers, puzzle/platformers, or straight-up puzzle games, depending on who you ask. Hear that, Donkey Kong? I underestimated you!
Genres: RPG, puzzle, roguelike, pinball, card, action/RPG, rail shooter, virtual pet, racing, fighting, strategy, action, action/adventure, typing, strategy/RPG, adventure, art, augmented reality
I looked up every single Pokémon game on Wikipedia to bring you this list of genres. ARE YOU HAPPY?!?!?! The Pokémon universe is so extensive that it’s gotta be impossible to keep up with it all. I’m sure there’s one dude in Japan who has every Pokémon game ever made, but that guy’s crazier than a bag of rats on a hot summer day.
The Pokémon franchise is big enough to contain several mini-franchises — there’s the Mystery Dungeon roguelike series, the Ranger action/RPGs, the PokePark action/adventure games, and the Stadium strategy series. Oh yeah, plus seven puzzle games, three virtual pet games, two pinball games, and one-offs like Snap, Conquest, Great Detective Pikachu, Pokémon Art Academy, Pokémon Dash, Pokémon Typing Adventure, and the upcoming Pokémon GO.
Take how exhausted you are just reading that list and then imagine actually playing all these f*cking things the next time you’re having trouble falling asleep. See? I helped!
Genres: No way am I looking up all of these
Mario is in all, and is all, and shall be all forevermore. There is nothing that is not Mario. Mario experiments more than your mom did in college.
What’s your favorite Nintendo franchise? Are you furious I left off Wario and Yoshi? They were included in Mario, settle down!