Seriously Nintendo…Where Are the Games?

Harsh title? Harsher reality. The Wii U has been available for consumers to purchase since November of 2012. That means it’s been out on the market for a period of 16 months. I still can’t think of one ‘killer app’ game for the console.

It might be worth revisiting what Nintendo has accomplished with their previous consoles in their first 16 months. Let’s start with the Wii. I could consider The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess a Wii game, but it is more of a Gamecube (GCN) game at heart. But even excluding Zelda, Nintendo had Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros out on the Wii the same time 6 years ago. These were good ‘killer app’ titles and the system also boasted other decently well-received first party titles such as Super Paper Mario and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. The system also received what was considered the best version of Resident Evil 4 from Capcom. The system was off to a pretty good start.

Now let’s look at the library of GCN games in its first 16 months. It’s somewhat similar to the Wii, with Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Other acclaimed games include Star Fox Adventures, Pikmin, Animal Crossing and the cult classic Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. This is also not forgetting Nintendo’s best pre-order bonus ever-The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time with upgraded resolutions and a ‘hard mode’ via the Master Quest game. While other gamers were beginning their ‘hardcore’ lifestyles with the Xbox or PS2, I was pretty content with what Nintendo had to offer on the GCN, even less than 2 years after launch.

The N64 also saw quite a few good games in its first 16 months. While the best of the N64 was to come in 1998, the N64 was graced with the two killer apps of Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye 007. Other acclaimed games include Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Pilotwings 64 and Mario Kart 64. Looking at the N64’s initial library provides a basis for us to consider how the Wii U is doing now. The fact is that the N64’s library didn’t have an amazing first 16 months, despite games like Star Fox 64 and Mario Kart 64 supporting the already good Super Mario 64.

The N64 needed another year to really grow in its amazingness. But that’s all it needed. 1998 gave the N64 some incredible games that are still widely remembered (and played) today. The biggest one, Ocarina of Time, was just one of the great games released that year. Banjo-Kazooie also saw the light of day and gave the incredible Super Mario 64 a run for its money. F-Zero X and other games helped the console along as well. The next year, we saw Nintendo release Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Kong 64, along with Mario Golf, Mario Party and Pokemon Snap. In 2000, the games kept rolling out, with Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie and Majora’s Mask. Pokemon Stadium and Mario Tennis also saw the light of day.

I could continue with third-party games and also the N64’s final year, which was still pretty good. We saw that the N64 enjoyed a decent first 16 months and a few years after that. So is it harsh to say that the Wii U is so lacking? Maybe it just needs another year? Perhaps it does. But let’s look at the Wii U’s first 16 months. I personally don’t think there is one killer app. Super Mario 3D World comes pretty close to that. In fact, after I get my hands on it for the first time, I may like it even more. If I owned a Wii U, there are certainly games that I would buy. That makes the system somewhat attractive. The fact is I would probably buy Mass Effect 3, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed and even the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (see newer blog post on that topic here). But the biggest problem with my current list of games is that they can be played on other consoles. The first three I listed are available on other consoles and the Wind Waker, while featuring better graphics and widescreen support on the Wii U is actually an 11-year old game (somehow). An exception would be Pikmin 3, which I would buy even if it wasn’t as critically acclaimed as it is.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with older or ported games. Some of the Wii games I own are just upgraded ports (Pikmin 2, Resident Evil 4, etc.) That’s why I said that I would buy all of those games if I owned a Wii U. So the fact is that I would get something out of the console. But what do you do when a developer/publisher bails like EA has? That’s a heavy blow. But as one YouTube video has pointed out, why would a developer invest more money in making a game with Gamepad support when it can just release the game and have it utilize ‘normal’ controllers and potentially better graphics? They wouldn’t-especially since the Wii U hasn’t proven itself in sales. I think 5 million is a good amount of consoles, but apparently EA doesn’t.

I think Nintendo is close. I think they have a lot of franchises and ideas. I think they could consider making a Star Fox game or a Metroid game or an F-Zero game. Except for Metroid, it has been around a decade since we’ve seen console versions of those other two franchises. Nintendo has completed its line of Mario games, with Mario Kart on the horizon. Nintendo also has Super Smash Bros coming this year (I was close to typing “next year”, as it feels as it could be delayed more). If it announced a title from any of those three franchises (Star Fox, F-Zero or Metroid), they would be in much better shape.

I can suggest to Nintendo what to do, but they have to be the ones to do it. Retro Studios has got to be working on something for next year-why not tell us what’s going on, Nintendo? How about that new Zelda game that’s been rumored for a while? I shan’t ignore Pikmin 3 which I am still looking forward to playing, but I think Nintendo is so close to making its Wii U look really good. This is why I think Nintendo is so close to failing, as well. Let’s see if they can hold up this year.