History of Nintendo: Part 2 – Nintendo’s Biggest Game Franchises
Nintendo has a track record for slow releases, sometimes disappointing launches, and the occasional flop. You don’t need to be a fan of Nintendo to know they’ve made some incredibly successful game franchises, though.
There’s nothing like the feeling of playing the next game in your favourite series, and Nintendo knows that. There’s everything from classics like Donkey Kong to newer entries like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. With four decades worth of games to jump into, it isn’t as easy as you might think to narrow down the game franchises that have been Nintendo’s greatest.
To judge which franchises should make it into this list we took in factors like overall sales figures and average player ratings. You may or may not be surprised by which series have made it onto the list of Nintendo’s biggest franchise successes.
How could we start this list off with anything but Donkey Kong? This is the game that turned into one of Nintendo’s OG franchises. Back when the original game was released, it gave Nintendo the cash injection it needed to keep developing more games and more consoles. Travel back in time just a little way and Donkey Kong was a firm favourite almost worldwide, with a slew of spinoffs and copycats trying to achieve the success that Donkey Kong did.
Since its first foray into the hands of gamers, the likes of Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, Donkey Kong 64 on the Nintendo 64, and Donkey Konga more recently have joined the ranks.
This game series has frequently been considered as the peak of 3D fun, with an unbeatable mechanic and iconic characters. To date, this series remains one of Nintendo’s biggest achievements because of what it did for the company early on. Even if Donkey Kong is often overshadowed by the more modern entries now.
The cutest adventure, platform, puzzle, strategy you’ve ever seen from Nintendo. Pikmin is a real ‘Pik’ n mix of all the genres you think of when you want some adventuring, casual fun. Without feeling messy, this game series manages to bring together all of the elements of a collect-a-thon puzzle game into the format of a platform adventure.
If that wasn’t enough, fans have become deeply emotionally attached to the characters and their stories, including the tiny Captain Olimar. While the Pikmin series isn’t a big one, it’s well-loved. Surprisingly it only has four games in its franchise, but its third was relaunched for the Switch, which is a clear sign of its subtle popularity.
Rumours are circulating currently that Nintendo has a fourth console entry in secret development. This rumour first surfaced in 2015, so that gives you an idea that Nintendo isn’t rushing this sequel if it really is coming.
Since 2003 WarioWare has led Nintendo’s creativity, testing out character designs, functional game mechanics, and the ways players interact with the virtual world. As a franchise, WarioWare has been a consistent success, with the characters and game usually being the first used to showcase Nintendo’s latest console – until the Wii U.
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Technological and creative pioneering aside, WarioWare is funny. Fans love the franchise’s willingness to be silly and make jokes about its characters. From farts to witty remarks and snarky companions, Wario sets the standard for using humour to bring a game to life. Players are familiar with grand cinematic games, but a casually funny game is hard to come by. The newest game in the series, WarioWare: Get It Together! came to the Switch in September 2021, so you can experience plenty more classic Wario shenanigans.
The phenomenon of Metroid can’t go unmentioned when it comes to Nintendo’s biggest game franchises. Normally, players do not expect anything too moody, dark or sci-fi from Nintendo. Metroid is the exception to that general rule with its tense atmosphere and high stakes theme.
Samus Aran, a galactic bounty hunter, is dedicated to destroying the monsters, space pirates, and terrestrial threats. In the recent Metroid Dread game, Nintendo continues to deliver a fast-paced but accessible platform adventure with an engaging puzzle-solving edge. The Metroid franchise is at the top of most diehard Nintendo fans’ list of favourites, so it’s no surprise that the company appears to have ongoing plans for the series for years to come.
Ah, the cosy, slow-paced life of Animal Crossing just can’t be matched. The phenomenon of Animal Crossing: New Horizons almost single-handedly propelled the Switch through 2019 and 2020 to Nintendo’s second best-selling console. Players were able to play together in such an intimate and gentle way with the Switch and the newest AC game; it was an incredible remedy for loneliness during the time of the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of lockdown, 32 million copies of New Horizons were bringing relaxation to players worldwide.
Before that, the slow-living island simulator was already breaking ground.
Rival to The Sims, Animal Crossing breathed new life into the Nintendo DS console too. It made use of the internal clock with seasonal changes and date-based events, and let players engage with animal villagers in a rustic, sweet setting.
Pika Pika! It’s Pokemon, of course! This franchise is a juggernaut of success, not only in gaming but in marketing, merchandising and expanding. The phenomenon of the TV series, trading cards, and video games is imprinted into the minds of millions of people across the globe. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard of Pokemon.
Pokemon became the giant franchise it is by building on one simple aspect – the caring relationship between an animal and a human. While the games are nowhere close to a ‘pet sim’, the cuteness is undeniable. The creatures are creative, detailed, and each tells their own stories. Players take the role of brave and skilled Pokemon catchers/trainers.
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Once you’ve identified and connected with one of the Pokemon from the franchise, you’ll never go back. Decades of people have been equally captured by this game series, and no doubt Nintendo will continue to deliver with more entries in the franchise.
The Mario games are each their own unique series. In fact, Mario and his associated characters feature in so many of Nintendo’s game series that it’s hard to narrow down which Mario franchise should get the credit as being the most successful.
Mario Kart is a mixture of competitive fun, absurdity, and fine-tuned mechanics. An odd entry to the genre of racing games, Mario Kart has it all. If ever people have looked for a way to simultaneously laugh themselves to tears while being infuriated, Mario Kart has been there.
More recently, the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game broke new ground for Nintendo by being one of the best online multiplayer games. It’s easy to get into even if you have no experience or knowledge of the Mario characters or storyline, and has proven to be enormous fun for so many.
The Legend of Zelda
What is Nintendo without Link and Zelda? The Legend of Zelda is one of the staple franchises that have led Nintendo out of the woods many times over the years.
The Zelda games are tales of adventure that make the player feel fully invested and totally engaged. These games can range from cinematic to silly, which has hit differently for fans with each installation in the series. All in all, Zelda is one of the most loved and longstanding franchises in the world. Every installation has featured Nintendo’s latest attempts at advancing their game technology, and the company seems to learn so much from fan feedback after every release.
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With the series recently taking on a new life as an open-world explorer in Breath of the Wild, Zelda looks set to become an even bigger gaming sensation.
From Pokemon and Mario to Zelda and Wario, Nintendo’s biggest franchises cover the adventure, puzzle, and platformer genres collectively. Which game franchises do you feel deserve to be called Nintendo’s most successful?