Monday, August 3, 2020

Nintendo's Major Franchises: Tracking the Years Since New Entries

Nintendo has amassed what is inarguably the most storied collection of video game franchises. Staple series like Mario and Zelda have kept fans invested in the Nintendo ecosystem for decades, while the company's hardware innovations and more recent series like Splatoon continue to attract new fans. Its catalogue is vast and its characters beloved, which comes with an inevitable downside: certain franchises get left behind, leaving passionate fan bases waiting (often begging) for new releases. To gain a better understanding of Nintendo's first-party output, we've created the list below, which shows how long it's been since Nintendo has released an original, mainline entry in 34 of its biggest franchises. (This list measures the time between original, mainline releases only — if a spinoff or remake was released more recently, it's noted with an asterisk (*). Time elapsed figures are based on U.S. release dates, except where noted, and are recorded as of August 2020. The list begins with Nintendo's most recent releases and is broken up into three generation-based groups.) [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=nintendos-major-franchise-output&captions=true"]

0-3 Years (Switch/3DS)

Paper Mario – 1 month Latest release: Paper Mario: The Origami King (July 2020) Animal Crossing – 4 months Latest release: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (March 2020) Brain Age – 7 months Latest release: Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch (December 2019 (JP)) The latest from Nintendo's Brain Age series is not available in North America, despite being released in Japan, Europe, and Australia. The series' latest North American release, Brain Age: Concentration Training, came in 2013. Pokemon – 9 months* Latest release: Pokemon Sword and Shield (November 2019) *A free-to-start spinoff, Pokemon Café Mix, is the franchise's most recent release (June 2020). Two additional spinoffs, Pokemon Unite and New Pokemon Snap, have been announced, though Nintendo has yet reveal a release date for either. Nintendo is taking a new direction with its latest mainline releases by supporting Sword and Shield through two expansions. The first, Isle of Armor, was released in June; the second, Crown Tundra, is scheduled for later this year. Future mainline entries are all but a certainty considering the importance of the franchise to Nintendo and the overwhelming success of Sword and Shield, which have combined to sell over 17 million copies. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=new-pokemon-snap-30-screenshots-and-trailer-images&captions=true"] Mario Sports – 9 months Latest release: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (November 2019) The Mario Sports umbrella encompasses the Mario & Sonic franchise, Mario Tennis (latest release: Aces in 2018), Mario Golf (World Tour in 2014), Mario Baseball (Sluggers in 2008), and Mario Strikers (Charged in 2007). Luigi's Mansion – 10 months Latest release: Luigi’s Mansion 3 (October 2019) Ring / Wii Fit – 10 months Latest release: Ring Fit Adventure (October 2019) [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=ring-fit-adventure&captions=true"] Fire Emblem – 1 year, 1 month Latest release: Fire Emblem: Three Houses (July 2019) Fire Emblem: Three Houses received a new side story, Cindered Shadows, as part of its expansion pass in February. Nintendo Labo – 1 year, 4 months Latest release: Nintendo Labo VR Kit (April 2019) Yoshi – 1 year, 5 months Latest release: Yoshi's Crafted World (March 2019) Super Smash Bros. – 1 year, 8 months Latest release: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (December 2018) Coming up on the two-year anniversary of Smash Ultimate, Nintendo continues to support its prize fighter through Challenger Packs, DLC that adds a new fighter, stage, and music. The latest pack introduced Min Min from Arms in late June. Nintendo's support of Smash Ultimate will continue for the foreseeable future with five additional fighters coming by the end of 2021. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=even-more-characters-we-want-in-super-smash-bros-ultimate-pt-1&captions=true"] Mario Party – 1 year, 10 months Latest release: Super Mario Party (October 2018) Xenoblade – 1 year, 11 months* Latest release: Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country (September 2018) *Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, a remastered version of the original Xenoblade, was released for Switch in late May. Wario – 2 years, 1 month Latest release: WarioWare Gold (July 2018) Kirby – 2 years, 5 months* Latest Release: Kirby: Star Allies (March 2018) *A free-to-start mobile spinoff, Super Kirby Clash, was released more recently in September 2019. Super Mario – 2 years, 10 months* Latest release: Super Mario Odyssey *Super Mario Maker 2, the creation-based spinoff, was released just over a year ago. Nintendo is also reportedly planning to release multiple Super Mario remasters this year to commemorate the series' 35th anniversary. Splatoon – 3 years, 1 month Latest release: Splatoon 2 The Octo Expansion for Splatoon 2 added 80 single-player challenges to Nintendo's colorful shooter in June 2018. Three years after its release, Splatoon 2 is still supported with semi-regular multiplayer updates — Nintendo most recently released two updates in June to address bugs. The Legend of Zelda – 3 years, 5 months* Latest release: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild *A remake of Link's Awakening for Switch was released 10 months ago. A Breath of the Wild sequel is currently in development at Nintendo, though there's no word on when it will be released. [ignvideo url=""]

4-9 Years (Wii U/3DS)

Star Fox – 4 years, 4 months* Latest release: Star Fox Zero (April 2016) *Star Fox 2, the once-cancelled sequel developed in the '90s, was released more recently than Star Fox Zero as part of 2017's SNES Classic Edition. Fox McCloud was also prominently featured in Ubisoft's 2018 toys-to-life game, Starlink: Battle for Atlas. It's not uncommon for Nintendo to take four or five years between Star Fox releases. However, the series' sales have continuously declined, as charted by analyst Daniel Ahmad on Twitter, and Nintendo has made no announcement regarding the future of the franchise. Mario Kart – 6 years, 3 months* Latest release: Mario Kart 8 (May 2014) *The latest Mario Kart game, Mario Kart Tour, is a mobile spinoff released in September 2019. This is the longest Nintendo has ever gone between mainline entries in the Mario Kart franchise. However, in 2017, it released Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an upgraded version of MK8 for Switch. MK8 Deluxe remains Nintendo's best-selling game on Switch and continues to sell well three years later — it was June's ninth-best-selling game in the U.S. — which offers a possible explanation for Nintendo's recent restraint with the franchise. Donkey Kong – 6 years, 6 months* Latest release: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (February 2014) *A Switch version of Tropical Freeze was released a little over two years ago in May 2018. Nintendo's long history with the series, going back to the 1981 arcade original, has resulted in a diverse collection of Donkey Kong games. On console alone, the Kong family has been the subject of an educational game, two racers, several platformers, and a series of rhythm games. Nintendo hasn't announced any future DK games, and with recent Donkey Kong Country developer Retro Studios working on Metroid Prime 4, it's unclear which direction Nintendo will take with the series' next installment. [widget path="global/article/imagegallery" parameters="albumSlug=11-best-nintendo-switch-ports&captions=true"] Pikmin – 7 years, 1 month* Latest release: Pikmin 3 (July 2013) *A 3DS spinoff, Hey! Pikmin, was released more recently, in July 2017. A fourth mainline entry was announced back in 2014. Last we heard development was "progressing," though that update came three years ago at E3 2017. A release window has not yet been announced. Kid Icarus – 8 years, 5 months Latest release: Kid Icarus: Uprising (March 2012) Just months after the release of Uprising, developer Project Sora shuttered. Prior to the studio's closure, Nintendo's Masahiro Sakurai told IGN the company had no plans for a sequel. "We pushed a lot into the game in order to let people have this short yet deep experience, but the novelty of that would likely grow thin in the next game," he said. "For now, my thought is that perhaps we'll see someone else besides me make another Kid Icarus in another 25 years." For now, the dormant franchise lives on through Smash Ultimate, which features Pit, Dark Pit, and Palutena as playable characters. PilotWings – 9 years, 5 months Latest release: PilotWings Resort (March 2011) Nintendogs – 9 years, 6 months Latest release: Nintendogs + Cats (February 2011) The nine and a half years since the last Nintendogs is perhaps the most surprising figure on this list, considering how well the DS entries sold — just shy of 24 million copies, good for second on Nintendo's list of best-selling DS games — and how well-suited the franchise is for a home-handheld hybrid like Switch. A spiritual successor of sorts, Little Friends: Dogs & Cats, came to Switch in 2019, though it holds an unfavorable Metacritic score of 53. Metroid - 10 years* Latest release: Metroid: Other M (August 2010) *Since Other M, Nintendo has released both a spinoff (Metroid Prime: Federation Force in August 2016) and a remake (Metroid: Samus Returns in September 2017). The long-awaited Metroid Prime 4 is currently in development at Retro Studios. Development on the sequel restarted in January 2019, and as of this February, the studio was seemingly still hiring for key roles. There's currently no timeline for its release. [ignvideo url=""] Excite – 10 years, 9 months Latest release: Excitebike World Rally (November 2009) It's been over a decade since Nintendo released a new Excite game, yet the racing franchise hasn't completely been ignored; the series is honored in Mario Kart 8 with a DLC track based on the original NES game, and versions of that original were released in 2016 and 2018 on the NES Classic and Switch eShop, respectively. Punch-Out!! – 11 years, 3 months* Latest release: Punch-Out!! Wii (May 2009) *A spinoff called Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!! was released a bit more recently in October 2009, exclusively for Club Nintendo members. Developer Next Level Games, the studio behind Wii's Punch-Out!!, continues to work with Nintendo, most recently developing Luigi's Mansion 3. However, neither company has hinted at a future entry for the boxing series. Advance Wars – 12 years, 7 months Latest release: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (January 2008) Nintendo hasn't returned to Advanced Wars in over a dozen years, and regular series developer Intelligent Systems has found success in its other turn-based strategy franchise, Fire Emblem. In 2017, Nintendo's Hitoshi Yamagami said he'd "love to do Advance Wars, but since it's harder to create relationships between its characters compared to Fire Emblem, I don't have a clear idea of what kind of setting it could have." Fans of the tactics series may find their fix in 2019's Wargroove, which our review called "the Advance Wars successor its long-neglected fans have been waiting for." EarthBound/Mother – 14 years, 4 months Latest release: Mother 3 (April 2006, Japan only) Outside of the Japan-exclusive Mother 3, Nintendo hasn't released an original game in the series since Mother 2/EarthBound 25 years ago. Despite the time gap, the franchise remains part of the conversation around Nintendo and its major franchises, in large part due to the appearance of protagonist Ness in each of the five Smash Bros. games. Outside of Smash, Nintendo's recent activity with the series includes the western release of Earthbound Beginnings (Mother 1) in 2015 and the inclusion of Earthbound (Mother 2) in the 2017 SNES Classic. There have long been rumors of Mother 3 coming west, though an official English version has yet to materialize. In a 2018 interview with IGN, former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said the company is "aware" of the franchise's fan base, but in regard to a new entry, was quick to note he was making "no promises, no commitments one way or the other." [ignvideo url=""] F-Zero – 15 years, 10 months Latest release: F-Zero Climax (October 2004, Japan only) The last F-Zero to be released outside of Japan, GP Legend, came to North America and Europe shortly before the release of Climax in 2004. F-Zero fans were given hope for some sort of series revival in 2012's Nintendo Land, the Wii U pack-in game that featured Captain Falcon's Twister Race as one of its 12 attractions. There's been no word on a new entry since, though the series lives on through Smash, in which Captain Falcon is a regular fighter, and Mario Kart 8, which features two F-Zero-inspired tracks and a kart. Hope was briefly rekindled earlier this year when a new F-Zero Twitter account was seemingly linked to Nintendo, according to VGC. Unfortunately, that hope was extinguished when the account posted a risqué video that was definitively not from Nintendo. 1080 Snowboarding – 16 years, 9 months Latest release: 1080: Avalanche (November 2003) Alongside Sony's Cool Boarders, Microsoft's Amped, and EA's SSX, 1080 helped popularize snowboarding games during the subgenre's boom in the late '90s and early 2000s. However, that boom has since faded, and Nintendo isn't alone in recognizing its decline; Sony, Microsoft, and EA have also shelved their once-popular snowboarding series. Wave Race – 18 years, 9 months Latest release: Wave Race: Blue Storm (November 2001) In 2018 series producer Shinya Takahashi teased a possible return of Wave Race on Switch. "We have been trying to make many games and that may be one of them," he said. "I personally love Wave Race!" However, in the two years since there's been no indication Nintendo is working on another Wave Race. Detective Club – 23 years, 5 months Latest release: BS Detective Club: Lost Memories in the Snow (February 1997, Japan only) A remake of the first two games is expected to be released in Japan this year, according to Nintendo. There's no word on a western release, which isn't a surprise given the previous three games' Japanese exclusivity. [poilib element="accentDivider"] What do you think of Nintendo's first-party output? What series on this list surprised you most? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to vote in the poll below! And stay tuned to IGN in the coming weeks as we explore how Microsoft and Sony have managed the output of their biggest franchises. [poilib element="poll" parameters="id=0737f419-7289-41e4-9d75-c54044555574"] [poilib element="accentDivider"] Jordan is a freelance writer for IGN. Additional reporting by Peer Schneider.


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