As one of the biggest software developers in the video game industry, Nintendo has no shortage of exclusive IPs. Due to crossover games like Super Smash Bros. even some of the company’s smallest series get their time to shine. However, a Smash Bros. cameo is not preferable to actual, worthwhile releases where characters get to star on their own.
Nintendo’s big names like Mario and Kirby have received plenty of main series games, but also a lot of fun, respectable spin-offs as well. However, just as some Nintendo games can’t seem to stick the landing with their core games, some can’t seem to manage an impressive spin-off library either.
7 Animal Crossing
Now considered one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, Animal Crossing is a wholesome series of games that focus on town building mechanics. The series’ slower release schedule, however, means that fans are often starved of new content for many years at a time. This is time that could be filled with quality spin-off titles, but the series seems to consistently have trouble on that front.
The 7-year wait between AC New Leaf and New Horizons saw the release of Amiibo Festival, Happy Home Designer, and Pocket Camp. While the latter two were decent attempts to scale down some of the series’ signature features, Amiibo Festival was a bizarre attempt at a party game, which was far too reliant on Amiibo to justify its own existence.
6 Art Academy
Art Academy is a limited series of titles that could honestly be considered apps instead of games. As the name implies, they provide a way to use Nintendo’s various touch-controlled consoles to learn and practice drawing and painting.
As a result of their relatively niche use case, the only spin-offs the series has to speak of are Pokémon and Disney variations, which focus the art tips and tools on producing fan art of the two massive IPs. While these are two of the most popular properties around, with no shortage of people looking to make fan art of the beloved characters, these games are pretty lackluster spin-offs.
Back in the Gamecube era, Pikmin was able to come out with two whole games in quick succession, partly due to its success in showing off the Gamecube’s ability to have many independent models on screen at once. Since then, however, releases have staggered, with Pikmin 4 seeming more like a fantasy every day.
The two attempts to shake up the series formula so far have been Hey! Pikmin on the 3DS, and Pikmin Bloom on mobile. The former floundered in its attempt to adapt Pikmin gameplay into the platforming genre, while the latter released to little fanfare, coming off like a misguided attempt to capitalize on the success of Pokemon GO.
The Yoshi series itself is a spin-off from the Mario series of games. Everyone’s favorite green dinosaur was first seen as Mario’s disposable steed in Super Mario World, but went on to earn himself a whole slew of titles. Games like Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Wooly World are fun platformers, but the series’ spin-offs have been very lackluster so far.
For some bizarre reason, most Yoshi spin-offs are puzzle games, like Yoshi’s Cookie and Tetris Attack, with Yoshi’s Safari being a SNES super scope shooter instead. While the Yoshi puzzle games aren’t terrible by any means, they’re very underwhelming spin-offs, as they don’t really shake up the main series’ gameplay in any fun or interesting ways.
Like Yoshi, Wario is also a character who originally appeared as an understudy to Mario, before getting his own series of games. While the Wario Land platformers were where the series got its start, most fans know it best for the Warioware games, which have become iconic in their own right for their unique ‘micro-games.’
Also like Yoshi, the Wario series has strangely only received puzzle and peripheral based spin-offs. Most these days don’t count Warioware as a spin-off. This means that the series’ only small entries are the Wario Woods games, which are decent puzzle games, and Mario & Wario, a Japan-only game that relied on the very niche SNES mouse.
2 Star Fox
Star Fox is one of the Nintendo franchises with the most unfortunate history. While it was once a big enough series for Fox McCloud to be a starting character in the original Super Smash Bros, nowadays, the series has been left to nostalgia, with its latest entry Star Fox Zero being ultimately forgettable.
Aside from a game watch released via Cornflakes cereal, the only spin-off the series has had is Star Fox Guard, a tower defense game released in tandem with Star Fox Zero. While a decent idea, Guard is held back by a player’s patience for the WiiU’s multiscreen control scheme. What’s more, by releasing with Zero, comes off like an attempt to bolster the former’s already troubled quality, and lacks an identity of its own.
1 Fatal Frame
Fatal Frame isn’t anywhere near Nintendo’s heavy hitters, but the series has made a respectable name for itself. Getting an assist trophy in Smash Bros. requires at least some level of notoriety after all.
Due to its niche nature and small number of entries, however, it’s no surprise that Fatal Frame lacks any quality spin-offs. The only one it has is Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, a 3DS entry which relies on the system’s AR camera to place ghosts within their real world surroundings. While some uses of AR in 3DS games are quite fun, the clunkiness of moving the whole 3DS around like a VR headset can be a pain, and overall changes the series’ core gameplay for the worse.
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