Not About The Franchises: Nintendo’s Best Original Games
If there’s one thing that we know about Nintendo, it’s that it really appreciates its [...]
If there's one thing that we know about Nintendo, it's that it really appreciates its franchises. Every console generation, the company delivers with new experiences in the Mario and Zelda series, and also revisits other franchises that have become popular over the years, such as Kirby, Yoshi, Metroid and Super Smash Bros. And the Nintendo Switch is no exception to the rule, as we'll be seeing a number of these titles in the years ahead, along with many more.
That said, some people may be disillusioned by the idea that Nintendo is all about their franchises – and, really, that's not the case. Over the years, the company has presented some of the best original titles on the market, games that came out of left field without any sort of tie-ins to popular franchises. And they managed to become gold as a result, either from big sales on the market or becoming cult classics that people remember fondly.
So let's brush aside the brilliant Mario and Zelda games for a moment and look at some of the best original games that Nintendo has pumped out over the years. There's no question they're worth checking out, even if you're used to the company's more recognizable offerings. Hey, sometimes it pays to go off the beaten path.
ARMS (Nintendo Switch)
First, let's turn to Nintendo's more recent success on the market, the bizarre yet thoroughly entertaining ARMS. Punch-Out!! it's not, as you instead use extendable arms to deliver a number of effects on your opponent, while also partaking in a number of unique modes, including ones that revolve wonderfully around sports like basketball (slam dunk your opponent!) and volleyball. While this game seems ripe for guest appearances from Nintendo and third-party characters alike (tell me that Street Fighter's Dhalsim wouldn't fit right in to this game), Nintendo's instead been keeping it original with its entries – and it's paid off immensely. Here's hoping that ARMS continues to come out swining with great new content in the year ahead.prevnext
Eternal Darkness (Nintendo GameCube)
Wait. Nintendo made a mature-rated game? For that matter, Nintendo made an outstanding mature-rated game? The company that's usually known for its E for Everyone and T for Teen affairs came out of left field on the GameCube, with a game developed by the team at Silicon Knights (Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain) – and what a whopper it was. Eternal Darkness delivered on its chills by going a different path than most horror games. It brought its jolts psychologically, making you wonder what was reality for your characters and what wasn't. The game is still brilliantly presented to this day, and still manages to jolt players left and right. Tell me you didn't panic the first time the game told you it was deleting your memory card saves…prevnext
Splatoon (Wii U)
There was a time when competitive shooting games had to be all about bloodshed and "fragging" your opponents. And yet, Nintendo found a way to keep the thrill of this sort of game, while taking away the incessant violence. Impossible, you say? Not with a paint-related game. Splatoon managed to capture the best of both worlds – it's a highly competitive game that's a lot of fun to play in a team fashion, and it's also a game that was built for all ages in mind, with plenty of paint-splatting action for younger players and deep strategies for more experienced ones. No doubt this series will continue that momentum with Splatoon 2 arriving later this month.prevnext
At the time of the Super Nintendo console's release, Nintendo was looking for games that would exploit its Mode 7 technology. Super Mario World did it to a light extent, but racing games like Super Mario Kart and F-Zero used it even more. But then came PilotWings, an entertaining game made up of various outdoor activities, including hang gliding, parachuting and other aerial challenges. It was different from the usual Nintendo aesthetic, but it did things so well that we didn't mind whatsoever. The series would later go on to see more elaborate follow-ups for Nintendo 64 and 3DS, but, really, the original still has that charm that can't be resisted.prevnext
The Wonderful 101 (Nintendo GameCube)
"What if you could control a superhero…?" But what about "What if you could control various superheroes in a weird and wild fashion?" You'd probably go, "Well, how weird and wild?" And then they mention "Platinum Games" and the rest is history. This provocative and wildly original Wii U adventure hits the spot, with some great team aspects (like the Unite Morph system) and a goofy nature that's often missing in more superhero game releases. Plus, its theme song is quite catchy. This is definitely one of the sleeper hits in the Wii U library, and well worth checking out.prevnext
Balloon Fight (NES)
Nintendo experimented with a lot of ideas in the Nintendo Entertainment System era, including the likes of Gyromite and several sports games, such as Ice Hockey and Golf. But it's with Balloon Fight that it found a surprising niche. The game plays like a slower version of Joust, but feels a bit deeper than that, thanks to the inclusion of a platforming style Balloon Trip mode, as well as the ability to play along with a friend, either competitively or cooperative. For an early release in the Nintendo lexicon, Balloon Fight still has quite a bit of levity.prevnext
Sin & Punishment (Nintendo 64)
At a time when Nintendo wasn't really about the "hardcore" gaming community (though it did please its fans of its routine franchises), the company surprised everyone when it teamed up with Treasure, the developers of Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga, to produce a strangely compelling third-person shooting adventure called Sin and Punishment. This game is still a lot of fun, with a variety of boss battles and unusual (but likable) gameplay mechanics that still can't be beat. This game never came out in the U.S. for the N64 platform, but Nintendo made good on it with digital releases, including one for the Wii U.prevnext
Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64)
"Banzaiiiiii!" Nintendo really capitalized on the success of the Nintendo 64, mainly with games that it knew players would appreciate. Of course, Super Mario 64 did enough in its own right to win them over. But Wave Race 64 was quite magical as well, recreating the thrill of jet ski racing, but with fully realized mechanics that made it truly fun to play. On top of that, the game has some great multiplayer, and also a variety of courses that will keep you on your toes as you wonder, "Should I try to execute a back flip here? Let's go for it!" *head goes into water*prevnext
Blast Corps (Nintendo 64)
Another fun and original title that perked up the N64 library was made in conjunction with the team at Rare. It basically gave you the opportunity to destroy everything in your wake, but in the name of good. Blast Corps requires you to clear the field for a slowly moving explosive truck (with no brakes, apparently) by using a variety of vehicles to destroy everything in its path. It's a novel concept, and reminds us of the good ol' days of playing with toys and watching them mercilessly bash into each other. But here, you can obliterate everything and not have to worry about your mother replacing it. Whew.prevnext
Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS)
Last – but certainly not least – Nintendo decided to enter the music/rhythm in 2005 with Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, a weird yet truly delightful game where you followed along to the beats of many songs. But the theme just didn't quite fit in with the U.S. market, so Nintendo reconfigured it with Elite Beat Agents. Fortunately, the effect was about the same, with a number of hilarious segments to dance your way through, and plenty of challenges as you pushed up the difficulty level. We haven't seen the Agents resurface since that time, but there's always hope for a Nintendo Switch version.prev