Japanese publisher Nintendo is renowned for some of the most cherished video game franchises. After all, they have a history in the industry spanning over 40 years (even though the company itself is much older). As such, they have amassed a variety of names under their belt that remain popular to this day.
Everyone has heard of Mario and Pokemon, but Nintendo also has a number of interesting first-party IPs that should receive more attention. This article will take a look at some of Nintendo's bread-and-butter franchises and the reasons behind their mainstream appeal. Conversely, it will also list franchises that are frankly underrated.
5 Nintendo franchises that rake in all the fame and money
1) Super Mario
The beloved, mustached ex-plumber continues to bring a smile to fans of all ages, from youngsters to adults. The vibrant, family-friendly aesthetics draw in youngsters while the addictive platforming keeps even hardcore gamers hooked.
The Mario series has also been consistently polished and expertly designed, so it’s no surprise it stands the test of time. Its mass appeal has allowed many equally popular spin-offs to flourish, like Mario Kart and Mario Party. Notable main entries include Super Mario Bros (NES), Super Mario 64 (N64), and Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch).
The iconic monster taming series emerged from creator Satoshi Tajiri's bug-catching adventures in the early 90s Japan. Starting with Pokemon Red and Blue on Game Boy, the series has since gone on to become the most successful media franchise to ever exist.
The adorable and cool critters feature in a manga, a TV series, and several movies, apart from the competitive Pokemon battling scene. All of this has made it the media giant that it is today. Some of the most popular entries include Pokemon Crystal (GBC), Pokemon Emerald (GBA), and Pokemon X/Y (3DS).
3) Wii Sports
Nintendo took a gamble with the Wii, and it paid off. A motion-controlled system that appeals to non-gamers and casual audiences is something many other console makers would not dream of. Yet the Big N succeeded, with the Wii going on to outsell the PS3 and Xbox 360.
A large portion of its popularity was due to the bundled software, Wii Sports. Acting as a tech demo, it presented a variety of sports minigames like badminton, bowling, and golf that are easy enough for everyone to pick up. It didn't just usher in a new audience to the wonders of gaming, but it was the ultimate party game - at least for a considerable span of time. It has also seen a recent revival with Nintendo Switch Sports.
4) The Legend of Zelda
Nintendo's green-clad hero has been a part of the family for over 30 years now. His adventures continue to evolve through the years despite new additions being made to the series. The Zelda saga is known for its masterfully designed dungeons, a simple but charming plotline, and a thirst for exploration.
The series is a textbook example of action-adventure games and has influenced many iconic multiplatform franchises, like Dark Souls and Darksiders. From the original NES Zelda title to the innovative Ocarina of Time (N64) and even the genre-defining Breath of the Wild (Wii U/Nintendo Switch), the series will be cherished for years to come.
5) Animal Crossing
Given Big N's focus on more laid-back games, Animal Crossing has to be at the top. The serene life simulation series emerged on the Nintendo 64, with the latest entry being New Horizons for Nintendo Switch.
Players command a human who must raise a community by mingling with anthropomorphic neighbors and designing their living quarters. There's no rush to do anything. Players can play the game at their own pace and won't face any threats (for the most part, at least). In fact, the pandemic era of 2020 saw a rise in the series' popularity due to its ability to offer players a virtual escape.
5 Nintendo franchises that don't get enough of the spotlight
1) Astral Chain
One of the newest Nintendo IPs is the sci-fi action RPG Astral Chain from Platinum Games. As part of the Neuron police force, players must protect citizens from the hostile Chimera.
Combat is the highlight, and the player must maneuver two characters at once in fluid hack and slash combat. The game is supposed to be part one of a trilogy, so players can expect sequels in the near future. Hopefully, the franchise will get more attention the next time around.
2) Xenoblade Chronicles
The iconic JRPG franchise began on the Wii and has since seen decent support from Nintendo, including four installments. Each revolves around exploring massive open worlds with larger-than-life monsters, complex combat, engaging stories, and charismatic characters.
However, the sci-fi/fantasy hybrid series still seems stuck between niche appeal and semi-popularity for whatever reason. Xenoblade 2, for example, has only sold a little over two million copies, though the Switch itself sits at over 100 million units sold.
A lot of fans have been clamoring for a new F-Zero game, but the Big N has been giving them the cold shoulder every time. The last entry was on the GameCube with F-Zero GX.
The series is known for adrenaline-pumping sci-fi races and an equally bombastic soundtrack. However, producer Miyamoto-san has described a lack of innovation that is keeping the company from making new installments. It could easily sit next to modern racers from the publisher, like Mario Kart. But for that to happen, they must give F-Zero another chance.
The cult-classic JRPG series known as Mother in Japan originated on the NES. While it has seen relatively low popularity, the situation surrounding Mother 3 has seen fans all around the world demand a localized version of the GBA entry.
The series follows a group of kids in a modern setting who engage in turn-based battles against weird foes. Given the rising popularity of Nintendo RPGs like Fire Emblem, Earthbound is due for a return. Perhaps then it will see the success it deserves.
5) Rhythm Heaven
The underrated rhythm game series has mostly been tied to handhelds and has seen a small but dedicated audience. These games feature rhythm-based minigames, often engaging in odd scenarios like clipping hair off an onion face. It is this whacky charm that makes these games special.
However, that also ensures that it will never achieve mainstream appeal, especially because the rhythm game genre itself is quite niche. However, the game series is also too good to fade into obscurity.