Following the remarkably warm critical and audience reception to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Nintendo has shown that allowing other publishers a crack at their most beloved franchises can produce exciting results. Now Ubisoft have had a go at making a Mario game, let's have a think about which other publishers might be able to take classic Nintendo characters and breath new life into them.
Blizzard — Pokémon
After over a decade of development, World of Warcraft is now a giant sprawling world with a complex story, lots of distinctive enemies to fight in a 3D environment, and a heavy focus on fighting huge mythical god like beasts. It's no Pokémon though, eh? If given the reigns to Pokémon Blizzard could conceivably bring the world to a standstill, producing the MMOG many fans have dreamed of.
But would it turn out as a nightmare? Forget fainting, your Pokémon will die and need resurrecting. Forget taking on a legendary solo, you'll need a raid party to stand a hope of surviving. Player on player battles? They could happen at literally any moment; at least that's cool and kind of trainer-y. BUt the more I think about it, hmmm. Maybe they'd just make a card game instead. Azeroth already sounds like a Pokémon name, at least, so at least we can end on a high.
Yacht Club Games — Kirby
Following the monumental success of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games should totally be given control of the Kirby franchise. Adorable character designs, challenging boss fights, tight platforming controls, and a host of unique abilities to make use of. Hold your breath Kirby, transform into your shovel form, and dig your way to core gamer success.
Firaxis — Fire Emblem
The team behind the Civilisation series are masters of a couple of things, tactical battle across huge land masses and using battles to inform world state changes. I'd love to see Firaxis take the characters we know and love from Fire Emblem, drop them into a map with realistic topography, and force them to fight it out overland while deciding if it's a good idea to demolish innocent villagers for profit. Scale up the battlefield, let our tiny anime heroes find love across the globe, and achieve the ultimate cultural victory.
From Software — Zelda
Perhaps an obvious suggestion, but Nintendo handing Link off to the Dark Souls studio could make for a really interesting experiment. We've seen Capcom's takes on the Zelda formula, which lean more heavily towards puzzles, and a From Software Zelda would almost certainly go the other way. I'd be fascinated to see a Zelda that's almost nothing but boss fights and lore, with any puzzles along the way supplemental rather than focal. It's the extreme we've never seen explored for the character, who seems to either mix combat and puzzles, or lean on puzzles at the expense of combat.
You could argue that the Souls series, in a sense, already ate Zelda's lunch — which must have been one of the driving factors behind Breath of the Wild's brave and radical reinvention. But there's a lot of latent tragedy in Zelda's universe and, if any studio is good at building an amazing world around that kind of stuff, it's Fromsoft. Also, we all know boss fights are secretly the coolest part of any Zelda game. Let's lean into that.
Ninja Theory — Metroid
Work with me here. Ninja Theory's expertise falls squarely into making narrative heavy, gorgeous, well written character studies. As much as I love the character of Samas Aran, giving the similarly named Team Ninja the first crack at layering plot onto our favourite bounty hunter didn't exactly go to plan, with many aspects of the mechanics undermining the story being told.
Yes yes I know she's a cosmic bounty hunter that blasts space jellies, but I'd love to see a mature take on telling a story about Samus as a person. Imagine the gorgeously bleak spaceships and planets Ninja Theory could rustle up, and the combat system they'd produce. It'll never happen, but NT would produce a genuinely stunning Metroid.
EA — Mario Golf
EA's sports games as of late have taken on a more fleshed-out and serious tone, telling the stories of athletes as they take the journey from amateur to professional, newbie to star sportsman. With the recent confirmation that Mario is no longer employed as a plumber, the time is ripe to see him rebuilding his career in the modern era.
I want Wario as the ex-player turned stern coach who wants to see Mario succeed where he failed, Bowser as the rival up for the same big signing bonus, and Luigi as the tag-along brother trying to mooch off Mario's success for more coins. Speaking of which, this an EA Sports game, so get ready for Mario Ultimate Team. Its-a me, microtransactions!
Capcom — Smash Bros.
I make no apologies for the photoshop; it's hard to accommodate so much awesome in a single image. Capcom has a strong history at the top level of competitive fighting games with both Street Fighter and the Marvel Vs Capcom series. It's the latter of the two which makes me think Capcom should get to make a Smash Bros. game, because they've shown they're able to blend multiple character styles into a single game pretty seamlessly, and they're one of the few studios that could add enough of their own fighters to make it a true slamfest.
Smash Bros. has always been designed with fun as the priority, something its competitive scene rails against, so I'd love to see a top end tournament-focused Nintendo fighter, just so we can see Mario with some more serious fighting game mechanics.
And there you have it, the publishers and studios who should be given a chance with Nintendo franchises in a fantasy land. I was half tempted to throw a wild card in the mix and give Harmonic the Donkey Konga license, but we really don't need to encourage more plastic peripheral music rhythm games.