A New Life, Switch Style
Nintendo is widely known for its deep, eclectic well of beloved franchises; from The Legend of Zelda to Wrecking Crew, there’s no library in gaming as rich in history or as popular among fans. 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year for Nintendo, with representatives from Mario, Fire Emblem, Zelda, and Pokémon all gracing the Switch platform before the year’s end. At the same time, there are still plenty of Nintendo franchises that lie dormant this generation, in desperate need of the “Switch treatment.”
While there are plenty of legendary series worthy of a revival, here are six Nintendo franchises in particular I would absolutely kill to see on Switch in the near future.
I’ve been replaying the original Punch-Out!! by way of the Switch Online NES catalog, and man, it still holds up. The franchise has a simple premise, inspired by the likes of Rocky and Hajime no Ippo, but offers gameplay that is surprisingly deep. More of a puzzle/rhythm game than a straight boxer, Punch-Out!! presents a wide range of enemies to fight, each with its own unique personality and set of attack patterns. The constant barrage of new obstacles to overcome keeps the action feeling both addictive and fresh.
While Punch-Out!! got a fresh coat of paint on the Wii only to skip the Wii U era entirely, imagine if the series were to get new life on Switch. Enough technical advancements have occurred between 2009 and now to allow Nintendo absolute free range with the formula when it comes to designing gameplay and creating visuals. And with recent pressure to reinvent the wheel for many of its core franchises — Breath of the Wild and the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield being chief examples — it wouldn’t surprise me to see a new Punch-Out!! go bigger and bolder than ever before.
Picture a full career mode, in which players control Little Mac in a Persona-esque open world. By going on runs and training at the gym, players build up stats to improve their odds at qualifying for (and ultimately winning) upcoming fights. Lose enough fights, and live through the actual consequences of failure — no game over screens here. And, thanks to the Joy-Con, gyroscope controls could make a return, complete with additional Joy-Con features — such as the infrared sensor and HD rumble — to add extra immersion to training segments and fights.
Is it a bit of a pipe dream? Perhaps. Would it be cool? Undoubtedly.
The Mother franchise just can’t seem to catch a break. Though Earthbound and Mother 3 protagonists Ness and Lucas — popular mainstays of the Super Smash Bros. series — are practically Nintendo royalty, the same can hardly be said for the Mother games they represent. Despite the long-standing desire among fans for an official English localization of Mother 3 (as punctuated by countless press interviews over the years), Nintendo has been far from committal when it comes to bringing the series back to Western shores.
But I’m not here to lament the lack of movement on the Mother 3 issue; I’m here to beg and stomp for a new entry in the beloved JRPG series. Having played through a huge chunk of Earthbound for the very first time in celebration of the title’s 25th anniversary, I can wholeheartedly say that the Mother series offers a level of humor and heart found in very few games today. Forget the flashy combat found in Final Fantasy, or the ambitious storytelling of the Persona series: Mother has enough wit and charm to compete with the big boys, even now.
Now envision a Mother game with modern visuals and cutting-edge technology. One that retains the warm, intimate tone of the previous three games while simultaneously showcasing the best of modern role-playing games — real-time combat, massive towns and cities, fearsome enemies… you name it. Combine all that with a sweeping orchestral suite of Mother tunes, both old and new, and you have a recipe for one of the greatest comebacks in RPG history.
3) Paper Mario
Another RPG franchise that Nintendo has seemingly cast aside? How about Paper Mario — a series that has provided some of the very best experiences found on a Nintendo platform. Regardless of whether or not you consider Super Mario RPG a member of the lineage, the fact remains that Paper Mario and its sleeker sequel, The Thousand-Year Door, are both cherished by fans the world over. Even Super Paper Mario, with its transition away from turn-based combat to platforming-based action, managed to surprise with its unique 2D-to-3D (and vice-versa) world-shifting shtick.
However, many would argue that the franchise has lost its way in recent years. Between Sticker Star on the 3DS and Color Splash on the Wii U, Paper Mario has gradually phased out the core gameplay elements that once captivated fans in favor of more “RPG-lite” mechanics. Simplified world design here, a more streamlined combat system there… by the end of the Wii U’s lifecycle, Paper Mario hardly seemed like the franchise it once was.
Paper Mario on Switch is an opportunity for Nintendo to bridge the gap between hardcore series enthusiasts and more casual newcomers. The capability for both handheld and docked play should provide a happy medium for a series that has struggled in the past to make a portable-friendly RPG that doesn’t compromise on console-level quality. Meanwhile, the lukewarm reception — both critical and commercial — to Sticker Star and Color Splash, combined with the unmitigated success of meaty Switch games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Octopath Traveler, will hopefully remind Nintendo that, yes, there is still demand for core RPG titles.
That isn’t to say that I’m in favor of seeing lighter experiences like Sticker Star and Color Splash banished from the Nintendo lexicon. On the contrary, I think a pair of Switch ports of the aforementioned games would be a healthy way to introduce new players to the franchise — much like how last year’s Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! served as an introductory course to the world of Pokémon. As with the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield, though, it’s time for Paper Mario to evolve with its next entry, and the Nintendo Switch would be the perfect catalyst.
4) Advance Wars
I was never much of an Advance Wars fan. For all the strategic gameplay and frenetic action the series provided, the games’ brutally tough scenarios and steep learning curve were simply too much for me and my Nintendo handhelds.
Times have changed since the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS eras, though. Difficult games are a commodity, as illustrated by the fervent following for FromSoftware’s “Soulsborne” experiences. Meanwhile, fellow tactics games Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates ended up scaling down their difficulty levels in order to cater to a wider player base. In their wake, indies like Into the Breach and Wargroove have emulated the old-school feel of games like Advance Wars, featuring tense combat, difficult gameplay decisions, and challenging difficulty.
What better series, then, to make its grand return on Switch than Advance Wars? Given that the series was birthed on the Game Boy Advance as a purely portable experience, the Switch would be the perfect piece of hardware for a revival. Added horsepower would allow for a jump in visuals akin to that of the upcoming Fire Emblem: Three Houses (if anything, the upgrade would be even starker for Advanced Wars, since we haven’t had a new entry since 2008), and advancements in online infrastructure could allow for a multiplayer suite unheard of a decade ago.
Now, to be fair, Nintendo still has a lot of ground to cover before its online capabilities catch up to those offered by Sony and Microsoft. Still, I’d reckon that the possibility of a modern Advance Wars campaign alone would have strategy fans chomping at the bit.
There’s also a much larger elephant in the room, however, and that’s the fact that both Advance Wars and Fire Emblem share the same development team: Intelligent Systems. At first glance, it might appear as if the recent success of Fire Emblem in the West has all but closed the lid on Advance Wars’ coffin. However, with no formal confirmation from Nintendo that the series is “dead,” and since Fire Emblem is running a real risk of franchise fatigue, Advance Wars could very well be next in line to receive its due. Let’s make it happen, Nintendo!
5) Golden Sun
Ah, Golden Sun. While I haven’t had the chance to play through the quirky handheld RPG series, Golden Sun nevertheless played an important role in my Nintendo upbringing. Several of my friends have sworn by the series’ greatness, and as a big JRPG guy myself, I’ve found plenty of Golden Sun music in my YouTube playlists over the years. Heck, when there were rumblings of series protagonist Isaac joining the roster of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I even went so far as to hope for his inclusion (alas, it was not meant to be).
The point is, Golden Sun means a lot to many — even those who might not be familiar with the individual games themselves. Which makes it such a shame that the series has essentially been relegated to the JRPG history books; three titles, two for Game Boy Advance and one for Nintendo DS, with releases in 2001, 2002, and 2010.
What happened, Nintendo? Second-party studio Camelot Software Planning, which is also responsible for the Mario Tennis and Mario Golf games, has seemingly dropped the role-playing series to go all-in on Nintendo’s sporting franchises. Despite the pedigree of Golden Sun during its short-lived run, it seems like a series revival isn’t in the cards just yet.
But man, what if! Golden Sun was a franchise full of untapped potential. Fantastic protagonist, great music, solid puzzles and combat mechanics… It’s true that JRPGs are already having a bit of a mini-Renaissance — Final Fantasy, Persona, Kingdom Hearts, Xenoblade, and Dragon Quest have all had major series entries within the past four years — but Golden Sun would make for an exciting addition to a genre that is otherwise padded with sequels in long-running, well-established franchises.
Oh, and add the fact that, much like Advance Wars, the series would be right at home on Switch due to its handheld roots? Only more reason why now is the time for more Golden Sun; not later.
6) Hotel Dusk
Whereas each of the five previous entries has enough of a loyal fan base to ensure that there will always be clamor for a new game in “X” franchise, I hope you will allow me to indulge in one series for which demand is admittedly limited. I’m talking, namely, about Hotel Dusk: the hardboiled visual novel series published by Nintendo and developed by now-defunct studio Cing.
Released in 2007 for Nintendo DS, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was an incredible foray into storytelling on a gaming handheld. By holding the DS sideways, players experienced the game as they would read a book. On one screen, players navigated a map of a dusty hotel; on the other, players explored a 3D model of the hotel, in all its muddy, low-resolution glory.
I kid in good conscious, of course. While Hotel Dusk was hardly a tour de force in the technical department, the series was second-to-none when it came to crafting compelling characters and telling a gripping narrative. From the feisty housekeeper with a nose for trouble, to the sleazy janitor with a background of past felonies, to various other quirky denizens, everyone in Hotel Dusk had stories to share… as well as information to hide.
Hotel Dusk brought these characters and their inner troubles to light in a way that still manages to give me goosebumps, over a decade later. The game’s clever use of rotoscope animation provided a fascinating juxtaposition between the muted colors and lifeless backdrop of the Dusk and the lively personalities of those who have come to inhabit the hotel. At the same time, sharp writing and a superb localization effort made for a story unlike no other, with enough twists, turns, and emotional beats to make the game’s rougher edges — frustrating puzzles and sluggish pacing being the biggest two — feel minuscule in comparison.
Plus, the music was just plain boss.
While Hotel Dusk would receive an equally strong follow-up in the form of 2010’s Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, the sequel was tragically dead on arrival. First, Nintendo of America made the decision not to localize Last Window, leaving importing the EU or JP version the only option for passionate fans of the first game. Then, a few months later, Cing filed for bankruptcy, putting both the story of protagonist Kyle Hyde and the fate of the franchise in limbo.
While former members of Cing have attempted to recreate the magic of Hotel Dusk — 2016’s experimental Chase: Cold Case Investigations – Distant Memories a chief example — there simply hasn’t been enough financial backing or fan support to make a real spiritual successor happen. That is, unless Nintendo were to greenlight an official sequel (despite Cing going belly up, Nintendo has retained the rights to the Hotel Dusk IP).
Could Hotel Dusk see a revival on Switch? Odds say no, but then again, I’ve never been one to care much about probability. Though it may be a case of “too little, too late” for a franchise waning in general public interest, a Hotel Dusk entry on Switch has the potential to grow the fan base in a way that Cing could have only dreamed of on Nintendo DS. And with Kyle Hyde being included as a spirit in the recent Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it’s not like Nintendo has necessarily forgotten about the franchise or its moody protagonist.
As with the other five entries, time will tell. But hey, in a generation where we’ve already been blessed with announcements like Metroid Prime 4, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and even Banjo-Kazooie coming to Smash Bros., what’s one more long shot?
And there you have it! Have your own ideas of Nintendo franchises that would be perfect for Switch? Sound off in the comments below!