Nintendo is such a celebrated and storied developer that there’s very little in its back catalogue that lies undisturbed. The company is adept at recycling their vintage IP and adapting it with new mechanics and a fresh lick of paint, and even long-forgotten peripherals turn up in Smash or make surprise appearances in WarioWare games.
As such, there aren’t really many ‘niche’ Nintendo titles anymore – not for fans with an active interest. When games like Famicom Disk System title The Mysterious Murasame Castle get localised and released in the west nearly 30 years after they launched in Japan, it's clear that the number of little-known curios in the annals of Nintendo gaming are few and far between. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Captain Rainbow get a western release one day.
There are, however, certain beloved franchises that have been neglected and we feel deserve an outing on Switch. With the console selling incredibly well, Nintendo has some leeway to supplement the stalwart and familiar first-party offerings with games from the support cast. None of the series below have historically been system sellers, but together they form a wonderful collection of second tier games to bolster the Marios and Zeldas of the world. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen some of them, and with Switch doing so well, now’s the time to make hay with new iterations.
Below are a selection of Nintendo developed or published properties we'd like to see return. Some are obvious, others perhaps less so, but each would be gratefully received if a handheld HD update/remake/sequel were to materialise on Switch and make use of the hybrid console's unique features. With E3 just around the corner, now is the time for dreams to, perhaps, come true. Apart from Mother 3, of course - that will never happen.*
Let's relax by taking a look at a bunch of game series we'd love to see return on Switch...
*And now we’ve said it, there’s that bit of our brain hoping we’ve tempted fate and it’ll now be announced. We're geniuses!
Last seen: Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, 2003 (GBA)
Built on the foundation of Kirby's Pinball Land from HAL Laboratories, the original Pokémon Pinball on Game Boy Color released back in 1999 and combined the fundamentals of pinball with the Pocket Monsters' mantra Gotta Catch 'em All. Developed by Jupiter (the talented team pumping out Picross after Picross these days), it featured two tables (Red and Blue) and charged you with not only scoring big points, but also capturing the 151 Kanto region Pokémon as you did so. A sequel used the same idea with the Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire to similarly great effect. Despite the games' popularity (and the continued success of the wider franchise), that was the last time we flipped Pokéballs. With Switch's HD rumble and the potential for DLC tables and Generation packs, online leaderboards and all that gubbins, it sounds like a perfect candidate to follow Tetris 99's lead to us.
F-Zero / 1080° Snowboarding / Excitebike / Wave Race
For the sake of brevity, we’re going to bunch all these painfully obvious ones together. They actually form a nice pack of sorts, something this writer likes to call ‘precision arcade racers’. They’re all easy to pick up and play, but with a depth and subtlety in their mechanics and controls that make mastering them hugely challenging (and mightily satisfying). How many weeks of practise did it take to pull off that first 1080°, for example? How did it feel to catch the crest of an undulating wave, really stick a tough landing in Excitebike 64 or finesse the analogue stick just so to nail the apex of a tight 90° turn in F-Zero X?
Long-time readers of this site will be aware of our proclivity for the F-Zero series; fans have been calling for an update for years, and that goes for all the above. With the exception of Excitebike (we saw the 'Excite' series on Wii with the underrated Excite Truck and Excitebots: Trick Racing), we haven’t seen an entry in any of these franchises since the GameCube three console generations ago.
We could talk about how the Switch could bring some new spin to these games but, frankly, we don’t care – just get a decent version of these games on the console! Unique features are all well and good, but a quality HD entry would be enough.
Last seen: Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, 2010 (Wii)
Co-developed by Nintendo and Treasure, the company behind such classics as Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun, this arcade-style rail shooter for Wii was the surprise sequel to the N64 original that got a belated localisation and release in the west on Virtual Console years after its Japanese release. The pedigree of the developer shines through in both entries, with tense gunplay and epic boss battles that we'd jump at the chance to experience again on Switch; a focus on high scores, a variety of control options and the benefit of handheld play would make a new entry in the series a good fit for the system.
Failing this, we wouldn't mind a new Solar Striker, either. Our recent celebration of the Game Boy's 30th anniversary had us delving into its catalogue and Solar Striker is a solid little first-party shmup that deserves an update on a system that's become a haven of shmup enthusiasts. Yes please, Nintendo.
Last seen: Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, 2015 (3DS)
Aww, we love the little guy - we couldn't resist his brilliant amiibo, but the game it released alongside wasn't particularly great. The original GameCube 3D platformer was a lovely introduction developed by Skip Ltd. with Nintendo lending a hand, even if it wasn't the most mechanically impressive game. Still, an abundance of charm made up for its shortcomings and Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol was a nice little DS entry for the series, but we'd still love to see him return in a game worthy of our adoration. With his scale in the real world being part of his charm, perhaps there's potential for some sort of Chibi-Labo crossover...
Last seen: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, 2010 (DS)
If we’re honest, Switch isn’t lacking for quality JRPGs, but we would still love to see this gem return. This GBA classic was published by Nintendo but actually developed by Camelot Software, originally a Sega software team responsible for the Shining Force series. The company provided the RPG trappings of the Game Boy Color’s brilliant Mario Golf and tends to stick to Mario sports games these days – the last Golden Sun, Dark Dawn, appeared on DS in 2010. The original came to Wii U Virtual console but seeing the series again on Switch would let an entirely new audience discover its charms. The Link’s Awakening remake has us dreaming…
Last seen: Kid Icarus: Uprising, 2012 (3DS)
It's been seven years since Masahiro Sakurai, Smash Bros. overseer/guru and father of Kirby, exacted revenge on us all by making the controls for Kid Icarus: Uprising cripplingly uncomfortable. He hoped, no doubt, to put a generation of gamers out of commission and give himself some blessed time off from Smash's neverending, punishing development cycle. It seems that didn't work out as planned, and it only succeeded in limiting the appeal of Pit's third outing. Although we've seen the winged one grace our screens on Switch in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we'd like to see him in another game of his own. With more control options than the 3DS, hopefully a Switch entry could solve those issues and let the tight shooter gameplay shine on another handheld.
Last seen: Punch-Out!!, 2009 (Wii)
Punch-Out!!'s simple controls and addictive timing-based boxing would be a perfect fit for a side-flipped Joy-Con on Switch. The 2009 version from Next Level Games was a brilliant reimagining of the original, updating the cast with a beautifully cel shaded style that took the edge off the stereotypes that would otherwise be tough to justify in the 21st century. You can arguably see some of Punch-Out!!'s DNA in ARMS, but if he's not going to put in an appearance there, we'd welcome a return for Little Mac in a game of his own on Switch - it would be a great game to play on-the-go.
Speaking of timing-based gameplay...
Last seen: Elite Beat Agents, 2006/7 (DS)
The spiritual western 'sequel' to Japan-only Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents has achieved something approaching cult status. We've had some fantastic rhythm games on Nintendo consoles over the years, with the Rhythm Heaven series in particular still going strong, but there's something about the combination of the barmy story and the tap-slide gameplay that sets EBA apart from the pack. The game was so good we never really cared that it used cover versions for all the songs. Switch's touchscreen could be put to great use if the agents were to return, and there's even scope for same-console multiplayer in handheld mode with two players using opposite ends of the screen.
While we're on the subject of rhythm games, we'd love the opportunity to use our bongos again with a new version of Donkey Konga, too - it's not just GameCube pads which plug into those adaptors, you know!
Last seen: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, 2002 (GC)
The first thing that springs to mind when you mention Eternal Darkness is the incredible sanity 'effects' that broke the fourth wall and tried to unnerve the player by having the game's madness spill out into the real world. Developer Silicon Knights would have an onscreen volume control appear and lower the game's audio, or the screen would go entirely blank, causing you to think they were sitting on the remote or the TV was broken. It would tell you it was deleting your save file or your character's head would suddenly explode or a message would flash up telling you to reconnect your controller as enemies tore you limb from limb. All great stuff.
What you might not recall is the brilliant, Resident Evil-style gameplay, the multiple playable characters, the era-hopping narrative, the deep Magick system, the haunting audio and the myriad touches that made this game stand out on GameCube. We'd love to see those elements return in some form, and with Nintendo continually updating its ownership of the trademark, there are always whispers that it'll be back. Don't pay attention - they're probably just sanity effects, and Silicon Knight disbanded long ago. There's nothing stopping Nintendo putting a fresh team on the job though. Chattur’gha - Narokath - Santak - Pargon - Pargon...
Last seen: Brain Age: Concentration Training, 2013 (3DS)
Perhaps not the most obvious choice, but variety is one of the best things about Switch's bulging software library and it's been a while since Dr. Kawashima evaluated our grey matter. Actually, that's a bit of a lie - in PAL regions Concentration Training (or Dr. Kawashima's Devilish Brain Training: Can You Stay Focused?, as it's known here) was release in 2017, five years after the Japanese version. Coming so late in the 3DS' life, most of us didn't pick it up, but it would be a nice change to see Dr. Kawashima's disembodied, polygonal noggin bouncing around our handheld screens once more on Switch - we could use a little mental workout.
Last seen: Balloon Kid, 1990/1 (GB)
Essentially Nintendo's take on Joust, you can already get Balloon Fight on Switch if you're a subscriber to Nintendo Switch Online, but there's something about the game which we think could make a reimagined version a real winner. How about a 4-player co-op game where you have to 'pass the baton' or transport something from one side of the screen to another? How about relay races, or putting together multiple Switches on the table to create a course similar to Toad's Rec Room in Super Mario Party, with one player having to stay on one screen as the other grabs the 'bottom' Switch and puts it above to form a route to proceed? We got a taste of an updated Balloon Fight in Nintendo Land for Wii U and its Balloon Trip Breeze minigame, but we think there's great potential for some sort of party game on Switch.
And that's only in 2D. If we open up the third dimension there's another whole world of possibilities, although it starts to look a bit like the next game on our list...
Last seen: Pilotwings Resort, 2011 (3DS)
Pilotwings was an odd omission from the Super Nintendo Classic Mini and the series has been missing in action for eight years now. The original game and the Nintendo 64 iteration in particular were relaxing, light-hearted flight sims that eased players into the 3D space, gently testing you with missions to complete as you enjoyed gliding around. It's been a while, but with Switch's laser focus on co-op fun and local multiplayer there seems to be room for a more sedate, relaxing solo experience and we think Pilotwings is the series to bring it. Throw in a little HD rumble and job done.
Perhaps we're just getting old. Of course, there's plenty of scope for all sorts of co-op and online multiplayer shenanigans. Imagine if Pilotwings was Nintendo's first step into persistent online worlds, a relaxing hub where you can glide around a huge Breath of the Wild-style map with your pals...
Last seen: Baten Kaitos Origins, 2006 (GC)
Co-developed by tri-Crescendo and Monolith Soft, the latter responsible for the Xenoblade Chonicles games and helping out on the next Zelda game, Baten Kaitos was an RPG which fused turn-, action- and card-based mechanics into a unique battle system. Playing as an overseeing guardian, the player interacts directly with the characters rather that ‘controlling’ them, giving it a unique flavour apart from other games in the genre. Japan and North America got a prequel that us Europeans never saw, and a DS iteration was cancelled. That was the last we saw of the series. As we said, the Switch is blessed with a great many RPGs but we’d jump at the chance to see a fresh spin on traditional mechanics, and Baten Kaitos fits the bill.
The only potential spanner in the works is that Bandai Namco owns the IP (Namco originally owned Monolith until Nintendo bought the dev, you see). It’s not a huge hurdle – Nintendo has a great relationship with the company – but when Monolith already have their hands full with Xenoblade and Zelda, it might make this an unlikely candidate to return.
Last seen: Custom Robo Arena, 2006/7 (DS)
No relation to Chibi-Robo, the Custom Robo series has five games to its name, the first appearing on N64 in Japan in 1999. An action RPG developed by Noise, you pilot little customisable robots that battle each other in an arena called the Holosseum. The first game to make it outside Japan was the GameCube iteration in 2004 which, although receiving mixed reviews on release, has come to be warmly regarded by many. A Switch version with some NFC functionality – perhaps with custom parts available on cards – would seem like a good fit, with the console’s portability opening up all sorts of opportunities to meet up and pit your robo against a friend’s. Simple, colourful, fun; seems like Custom Robo would suit Switch to a T.
Last seen: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, 2008 (DS)
Yes, it's been eleven years since the last Advance Wars game on a Nintendo handheld. We've had plenty of Fire Emblem to satisfy our pangs for turn-based combat in the meantime, but anybody wanting to blow up the opposition using artillery and cute little tanks has been out of luck. We've seen other developers take up the mantle, with the excellent Wargroove aping the Advance Wars style beautifully, but if anything it only intensified our desire for the genuine article. Local or online competitive play would be obvious features for a Switch port and, again, imagine putting two or more Switches down and laying out a battleground across them in a Toad's Rec Room-type way. The possibilities!
There are plenty of things that could be brought out of cryosleep for another outing on Switch, as you can see. Think we've missed something? Share your thoughts and your favourite dormant Nintendo franchises in the comments below.