Nintendo boasts one of the most robust rosters of intellectual properties and franchises in all of gaming. No doubt, this is helped by the company’s long history (the big N celebrates is 125th birthday this September, but entered the gaming scene in the 1970s). But for every Mario or Pokémon, franchises that see a new release at least once every couple of years, and even more frequently if spin-offs are counted, there are the series that have had decades-long gaps in entries. Below are ten such franchises that need more love. Seeing as this is only ten, there are some omissions that are just as neglected as these, but they tend to be fairly obvious (in particular, much has already been said about the Mother series) so I won’t get into those in this post. Maybe in the future!
1. Kid Icarus
The poster-child for neglected franchises, Kid Icarus’ presence on this list might have some of you scratching your heads. After all, the series just got a new entry in 2012’s Kid Icarus: Uprising for 3DS. Uprising made up for a good deal of why Pit and friends are here: a 21-year-long gap between games for Western gamers, and a 25-year-long gap for Japanese gamers. The second game, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters for GameBoy was never released for Japan, and few over here remember it anyway. Three games in 25 years is pretty sparse, even when the third game is so recent. But what really puts Kid Icarus here is the possibility of it fading back into obscurity again. The Super Smash Bros. series provides a great buffer against that, but at present, nobody seems to be interested in making another Kid Icarus game. Masahiro Sakurai, Uprising’s developer has gone on the record as saying that he has no interest in doing another one. Of course, it’s not like Sakurai has to do it for another Kid Icarus game to happen, but his distinctive charm is a large part of what made Uprising work. Maybe this is where Retro Games could shine. I want to see a new series out of them as much as the next guy, but so far, they’ve shown that taking on existing franchises is their strong suit. After reinvigorating Metroid and Donkey Kong, maybe Kid Icarus is just what they need.
Like Kid Icarus, the StarTropics series consists of a handful of games, both of which were released on the NES in the early ‘90s. Unfortunately, the sequel wasn’t all that warmly received, but the first game is the wellspring of many fond memories for those lucky enough to have played it. StarTropics is a quirky little blend of genres, also much like the original Kid Icarus. It’s structured like an RPG, but most of the action takes on an overhead platformer perspective. Nintendo could certainly continue this in a new game, or it could take a leaf out of Kid Icarus’ book and shake the genre up a little bit. Perhaps making it a full-blown dungeon crawler would be a good way to realize the series in 3D?
F-Zero hasn’t had a game in over ten years. The former racing mainstay is quickly approaching the neglect level of the other games on this list. With no word of a Wii U release (yet), it’s beginning to look like F-Zero may go two whole console generations with only Super Smash Bros. to get discussion about it going. Mario Kart 8 ironically also might seem to be a bad sign, as its anti-gravity mechanic has been an F-Zero staple since F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64. But as anyone who’s played both games can tell you, Mario Kart 8 does plenty to distinguish itself from F-Zero. In fact, playing Mario Kart 8, satisfying as it is, has made me miss the high-octane futuristic thrills of racing the Blue Falcon through Mute City.
4. Star Fox
Like F-Zero, Star Fox was conspicuously absent during the Wii era outside of Super Smash Bros. and WarioWare cameos. Fans got a tantalizing appetizer with a 3DS remake of Star Fox 64, but now we want more! The Wii U GamePad could be the perfect tool for commanding an Arwing with the option for gyroscopic controls, or using the touch screen to strategically launch Smart Bomb strikes. Or Nintendo could make up for the missed opportunity of using the Wii Remote to steer the Arwing! There’s that issue of the wonky canon in the wake of Star Fox Command, but the series has been retconned before, and it could happen again. In fact, it might be better off if it was. Who can say for sure? Not us, because we don’t have a new Star Fox game! Get on it, Nintendo!
5. Mole Mania
One of Shigeru Miyamoto’s overlooked Game Boy gems, Mole Mania would have a perfect home as an eShop game on either 3DS or Wii U. Using one screen to view the map underground, and the other to view the action above would make the gameplay flow much better, although it would make the mechanic of sticking your nose above ground unnecessary. But in the face of such a great new mechanic, I don’t think it would be that great a loss. Nintendo has had a lot of success with eShop puzzle games like the Pushmo series, and the regular reissues of Dr. Mario. So why not Mole Mania?
6. Eternal Darkness
Confession time, I haven’t actually played this one. I’m waiting for Nintendo to unveil GameCube games for Virtual Console, but then that would probably be followed by a wait for confirmation that Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is coming to it. If it takes too long, I’m hitting up the internet, because this game is such an unusual step for Nintendo. It’s one of their only M-rated games, and certainly their only game to fully embrace the horror genre without parodying it like Luigi’s Mansion does, or combining it with another genre like the less impressive Geist. In an age where Nintendo is criticized for using the same three ideas for a Mario game over and over, this is exactly what Nintendo needs. There is actually hope for this franchise, as not too long ago, Nintendo renewed the trademark of the Eternal Darkness name. So there’s definitely interest there, right? RIGHT?!?!?!?!
Another series that has had a new game recently, Punch-Out!! is admittedly less neglected than Kid Icarus and StarTropics, but still one of the most famous absences in Nintendo’s history. Fifteen years spanned Super Punch-Out!! for the SNES and Punch-Out!! for Wii. In the interim, Little Mac was relegated to cameos in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Captain Rainbow, where he went to seed only to snap out of it and get back into the game. The Wii version of the game was more a throwback to the NES titles, but included opponents from Super, so ultimately, some people felt it was a little too familiar. Nintendo could branch out and make Little Mac’s next foray into the ring closer to the SNES and arcade experience, with the focus less on strict pattern and reaction, and more on aggressively taking shots, blocking, and building up the Power Meter. Of course, if they could implement both the Power Meter and the Star Punch, I’d be thrilled. Punch-Out!! remains one of Nintendo’s most fun franchises; it’d be a shame to see Little Mac get out of shape again.
8. Robot Series
In many ways, Nintendo owes its current existence to R.O.B. The Trojan Horse that got the NES into toy stores across America, the Robotic Operating Buddy wasn’t much to write home about, nor were the games he worked with: Gyromite and Stack-Up. But R.O.B. himself has charm (enough to make it as a Smash Bros. fighter and Mario Kart racer at least), and with the increasingly unconventional hardware Nintendo has been manufacturing in recent years like the Wii Remote and Wii U GamePad, it seems the time is ripe for R.O.B. to make a return in spirit. In particular, the asymmetrical gameplay offered by the GamePad is a perfect fit for Gyromite, with a player using a Wii Remote to control Professor Hector as he moves about a level, and a player using the GamePad to assume the role of R.O.B. and manipulate the environment, similar to what we’ve seen in New Super Mario Bros. U.
9. Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents
This is a bit of an interesting case. The Ouendan series, as it’s known in Japan, has had a handful of games, but its Western counterpart, Elite Beat Agents, has only a single DS game to its name, and that’s a shame. The concept is appropriately funky; the protagonists are part of secret organizations that help people in need—by dancing to pop hits and encouraging the ones in need. Needless to say, it actually works. This is Nintendo we’re talking about after all. So why haven’t we seen more over here?
10. Sin & Punishment
Our final entry on this list is another game with a recent game. 2010 (or 2009 in Japan) saw Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for Wii pick up years after Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Earth. Star Successor basically only happened because the originally Japan-only N64 game did well enough on the Virtual Console to warrant it. The sequel however, sold only 400,000 units according to VGCharts. So somewhere along the way, interest was lost, and I don’t really understand why, because the games are brilliant shooters. They have plots that make Studio Gainax look sane, but that’s beside the point. In fact, the plot leaves me with questions in the right ways. It makes me want to know more about this world, of which so little has been revealed.