Nintendo played a vital role in averting the demise of video games in the 1980's. They traded barbs with Sega in the 90's, pushing competition to grow the industry. Sony and Microsoft took notice and entered the gaming fray, now competing with each other in a relentless power struggle. And while Nintendo’s demise after the Wii U’s struggles seemed averted with the surging success of the Switch, one thing has remained constant over the decades. Nintendo knows how to leave its personal stamp on any genre it tries. And while not all ventures into unknown waters yield profitable booty, Nintendo has never been afraid to innovate and continues to do so now.
Of course, we all know Mario (with a nudge at the start from Donkey Kong) brought the platformer genre to the forefront of gaming, both in 2D and 3D perspectives. Nintendo has honed its skill in this field, nearly perfecting the genre, and early impressions of Super Mario Odyssey seem to be continuing that trend. They created a whole new subgenre of the racing genre with Mario Kart and doesn’t seem to be letting up on the gas in that particular race. Fighting games were all 1v1 bloody matches of muscled men and curvy girls until Super Smash Bros. came along, creating a whole new way to knock people out.
Minigames have been an inclusion in many titles, but Mario Party took those ideas, merged them with a digital board game, and made them into a party night mainstay. Heck, Wario Ware shrunk the concept even further by creating microgames, 5-second blitzes of insanity. Though the minigame genre has grown stale, I think the Switch is due for Wario to make a microgame return.
Then there’s The Legend of Zelda franchise, a series that has remained one of Nintendo’s most popular brands since the very first game. When Breath of the Wild released, the freedom of exploration and creative approach to problem solving with very loose game physics turned the open-world format on its head. Now, going forward, every developer in this field will likely look to its success for inspiration.
Fire Emblem has always delivered high-quality tactical gameplay, pioneering features that are used in most turn-based strategic RPGs today. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, though developed by Ubisoft, has classed Mario with the highly popular XCOM franchise, putting the Nintendo label on yet another genre.
First-person shooters are a dime a dozen nowadays, but the Metroid Prime series always seemed to be the odd one out in the genre. It merged puzzle solving and exploration into the formula, rather than simply telling people to go here, shoot this, and move on. I have a hunch Metroid Prime 4 is going to bring something new to the FPS table, and like Breath of the Wild, flip the script for the genre forever after.
So where should Nintendo travel next? Which genre could use a little Nintendo flair and pizzazz? Well, the first idea that jumps out to me is an MMO, a battlefield Nintendo has yet to enter. I could easily see Game Freak having tremendous success with a Pokémon MMO. Raids to catch Legendary Pokémon, huge zones of tall grass to explore with others, PvP gym battles, and clans (or teams to keep things proper) could be implemented. All the pieces seem to fit. Plus, Pokémon Go has proven that the social component works for the series. However, there is already a new Pokémon game in the works for the Switch, though this is expected to be a traditional RPG, which is not a bad thing at all.
Another interesting possibility is an Animal Crossing survival game. The game runs in real-time and has the lure to keep you checking on your town, so why not make that lure a necessity? Granted, Nintendo probably wouldn’t require you to keep your character fed or they’d die, but perhaps Tom Nook hands you a laundry list of must-do’s or he’ll toss you out of your mansion and into a tent. Maybe your neighbors' residency is dependent on the amount of gifts you shower them with. It would require some innovation to make it an original survival game, but I think Nintendo could pull it off.
What genre do you think Nintendo should tackle, and how do you think they put their signature stamp on it? Let us know in the comments below.