Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn is an amazing game. It’s a very polished first attempt at an open world, which is why it’s hard to believe Guerrilla Games had never done anything of this scale in their history. Horizon Zero Dawn was a feel good story about a massive success from a team that had been pigeonholed into making nothing but the Sony exclusive FPS, Killzone. There were even some favorable comparisons to Witcher 3: Guerrilla Games had created a cutting edge open world that could stand with the best of them.
For all of three days.
I’m not trying to undermine Guerrilla Games’ magnum opus, they deserve praise for going from FPS games to the upper echelons of open world RPGs in their first attempt, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has redefined what an interactive. open world should be. Next to the latest Zelda game, Horizon Zero Dawn, or any other game besides possibly MGSV, feels like a plastic doll house where virtually all of the player’s freedom disappears: Can’t cut that beautiful grass, can’t climb that highly detailed wall, can’t knock down this tree and launch it at the enemy as a massive projectile, and you sure as hell can’t manually create a makeshift catapult to launch Aloy into the air for the purpose of raining arrows and high powered explosives onto her enemies.
Open world games are massive, complex creations that have been refined over time. They aren’t your daddy’s Mario games, so one may be excused for thinking Nintendo would release an open world Zelda, and everyone would think to themselves “Good work Nintendo, you’ve finally caught up to the rest of the big boys.” Except that’s not the case at all: Nintendo blew past everyone
We shouldn’t have been surprised though. Nintendo gets a bum rap for relying on “more of the same,” but many fail to realize that Nintendo has a long standing history of killing it with their first attempts, be it pioneering new mechanics or entering new genres. It really seems that no genre or style of game is beyond Nintendo’s reach, or safe from their crazy magic.
Super Mario has always been a trend setter, and every 3D game to use a third person perspective can thank Super Mario 64 for nailing 3D movement and the camera, without tank controls. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of time changed combat in video games as we know it with the introduction of the Z-targeting system, allowing for levels of complexity theretofore unseen. Of course, defining 3D game design is something you can only do once. Others probably would have come along with similar ideas eventually, and plenty of games have improved on SM64 and OoT’s mechanics over the years, but we know Nintendo doesn’t have to be the first to make a big impression.
Street Fighter 1 was a terrible game.
Everybody knows Street Fighter. The franchise, not the first entry of said franchise. Almost nobody has ever heard of Street Fighter 1. It sucked, and the most iconic fighting game series in the world wasn’t even good until the second entry, the one every gamer alive during the 90’s played at least once. Street Fighter 2 set the groundwork for fighting games as a whole, which is why almost every great fighting game since shares the same basic skeleton and is simply fleshed out with its own twists.
In fact, the nature of fighting games is so firmly tied to the skeleton that Street Fighter 2 created, it has crystallized into core tenets that are starting to impede new gamers from joining the genre. Since each fighting game’s DNA is so similar, understanding or mastering one game leads to a fairly advanced understanding of them all, more so than any other genre. Coincidentally, this leads to newbies getting bodied harder in fighting games than any other genre. Most of the appeal of fighting games comes from playing against others, this massive wall built of opponent experience, execution barriers, and the shame of becoming a punching bag for strangers is why fighting games aren’t as popular as shooters or MOBAs.
Super Smash Bros. burst onto the fighting game scene as a party game everyone could enjoy. It’s a very atypical fighter. For starters, up to four players could play at once. There were no health bars, the only way to defeat opponents was to send them flying from the stage, and instead of multiple rounds, players competed with stocks of lives. Stages had uneven footing and raised platforms, many stages had hazards, such as the tornado at Hyrule Castle, and players could use items that randomly fell onto the battlefield. Essentially, Super Smash Bros. was the complete opposite of how a fighting game should function. Smash is now the most popular fighting game franchise in the world, and will soon eclipse Tekken as the largest in terms of sales.
An even bigger example of Nintendo’s universal genre competence is the shooter. For years, people ridiculed the idea of a Nintendo developed shooter. There was Metroid Prime, but I’d consider that more of a first-person, atmospheric adventure-platformer game than a shooter, and it was developed by Western studio Retro instead of core Nintendo, so it doesn’t count for the sake of this topic. Modern team-based shooters seemed out of Nintendo’s wheelhouse.
The Big N had developed a squeaky clean image that would make Walt Disney look like Larry Flynn, and while shooters had mostly moved on from the cartoony hyper-violence of DOOM and Wolfenstein, they became even less family friendly due to their ever more realistic depictions of graphic violence. If you can’t shoot people, then you can’t make a popular online shooter, meaning Nintendo is locked out of the genre, right?
Splatoon took the world by storm. Nintendo made a family friendly, team-based shooter on a dead console, the Wii U, and it went on to sell almost 5 million copies worldwide, 1.5 million of which were sold in Japan. I don’t know how much the rest of you know about Japanese video game sales (I’m an expert) but for a good while now they’ve been on the decline when it comes to home consoles. Japan is dominated by mobile and handheld gaming, and they often don’t take well to Western favorites like shooters. A home console bound third person shooter becoming Japan’s best selling new IP since Wii Sports is a herculean feat.
Answering the riddle of the non-violent shooter was simple: Put the focus on shooting the environment, not other players. The ink concept is arguably the most revolutionary mechanic to ever grace shooters. The ink has a dynamic effect on stage traversal, allowing players to move faster, climb obstacles, slow opponents, use stealth, etc. On top of that, players who aren’t as fast or as skilled at shooting can still be major contributors to a team’s success. It’s not impossible to see players have a 0/7 K/D and still be the MVP of the winning team. Anyone that has basic competency with moving and aiming can feel like a hero in close matches.
Splatoon laid the foundation for Nintendo to challenge EA, Activision, Microsoft, and others in the realm of shooters. That may sound silly, but considering the mind blowing success of the first game, how can anyone sleep on the sequel? The target audience for Splatoon is wider than any other shooter, the Nintendo Switch is on pace to be a massive success, and Splatoon 2 will be the world’s first “console quality,” online shooter on a mobile/handheld platform. Anyone can tether the handheld Switch to their smartphone and enjoy online play. Splatoon 2 will likely have the benefit of being on a system that sells at least as much as the PS3, with some saying the Switch may be the next Wii, which means the game could easily reach CoD (single-platform) levels of sales.
Nintendo dominates the platformer, adventure, racing, and fighting game genres in critical reception and sales. Splatoon is shaping up to be the next Halo, and is quite frankly the most innovative shooter out there. The Xenoblade franchise has suffered from its every release being on a dying Nintendo platform, not to mention Nintendo’s baffling stupidity in the handling of RPGs, but the franchise is critically acclaimed and mechanically amazing. Now that Nintendo is embracing the franchise on a successful system, the Nintendo Switch, it might just become the next big Nintendo franchise, making them a major force in the world of RPGs that don’t play out on a grid.
How do they do it?
The new face of Nintendo, and an underrated genius.
The stable culture of Nintendo and the company’s eye for talent are what make this broad range of success possible. Shigeru Miyamoto and crew have been a major fixture in the industry for several decades, and their methods have been passed on for generations. When they finally move on, the next generation they’ve cultivated will take their place. The same can’t be said in the West, where EA and Activision have spent decades buying up any studio with promise, gutting them, and discarding the lifeless husks.
Just look at Miyamoto’s protege Yoshiaki Koizumi. After two decades of working with Miyamoto at Nintendo, with major credits for games in the Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart, Smash, and Donkey Kong franchises, Koizumi was finally made producer on his first new game. The result? Super Mario Galaxy 2, which was followed by the Super Mario 3D games, and now the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey. After the official Nintendo Switch presentation, where he was put front in center, many believed Koizumi to be the new face of Nintendo, something that was further established when he was made the face of the recent international Nintendo Direct.
Speaking of new faces, Splatoon was made by one of the youngest teams at Nintendo. For the most part they were allowed to make the product they wanted, but Miyamoto would provide some light guidance and fill a role that big names like Hideo Kojima and Tetsuya Nomura are lacking: Someone that would tell them to stop and unclutter their mess, to make it more appealing. Judging by the new franchise’s massive success, I think it’s safe to say the kids are alright.
Nintendo also made a genius move in acquiring Monolith Soft, whose talent was being stifled and utterly squandered by Bandai Namco. Nintendo bought the studio and eventually turned them loose with little restriction. The result? Xenoblade Chronicles. Turns out, Monolith can create the best worlds in all of video games when given the freedom and tools necessary, a fact Nintendo took advantage of by having the team help on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
When it comes down to it, Nintendo has keen eyes and marches to its own beat, something made plain by the company’s hardware choices. Some gamers and developers will hate them forever for their choices, but this attitude of “We’ll just do what Nintendo does” is why we have racing games with homing turtle shells, Mario shooting Pikachu with laser guns, squid kids playing next level paintball, and a world that consists of an endless ocean where the only land for terrestrial life forms to inhabit comes in the form of two continent-sized beings that fell in mortal combat several millennia ago. Disregard for the established rules of genres, and an almost single minded dedication to making games that are fun at their very core, is why Nintendo finds success in any genre.
If you enjoyed this article and want to show some support for me and my future endeavors, feel free to check out this shill section. If you click on the following links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. While shilling stuff makes me feel like a greasy used car salesman, it could help pay the bills, and it shouldn’t be too intrusive if I add it at the end of articles, with this massive disclaimer that comes before the links themselves.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Arguably the greatest game ever made. I personally picked up a physical copy because the Switch has terrible storage capability without investing in an appropriatly sized Micro SD card.
Splatoon 2 – With the original being a breakaway success, and the Nintendo Switch shaping up to be the new Wii, I honestly believe this game will become the new must have console console shooter.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – The Xenoblade franchise gets its first release on a living console. Monolith Games has created the best worlds in gaming, and I don’t expect this game to be any different.
Horizon Zero Dawn – I may have buried this game above, but it’s still an awesome game about fighting robot dinosaurs as a crazy ginger girl that talks to herself.
26 thoughts on “No matter the genre, Nintendo is top of the line”
Amazing stuff. My only counterpoint is that Splatoon 2 needs a way of doing in-game chat that isn’t tied to our smartphones.
Yeah. My biggest complaint about the app isn’t that it needs a phone, but that using earbuds/headphones with the phone will interfere with hearing the in game sound. Though that could be fixed if it streams the game sound through the app as well. On the bright side, Splatoon 2’s online ran incredibly well while tethered to a phone, and it only used 150mb of data for an hour of play time to boot. Online anywhere I go is a great
You appear to understand Nintendo more than most. For this, I am thankful. Good stuff here.
Sure buddy, whatever makes you sleep at night. Lmao 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
Not sure what you’re getting at? Nintendo has the sales and popularity to back up my claims.
“No matter the genre”
Hack n Slash?
Point n Click?
Interactive drama? (think Heavy Rain)
You’re reading it wrong. I’m saying every genre they attempt to make, they excel at, which is something I hammer away at throughout the article. Listing a bunch of genres they’ve yet to attempt is pointless.
So in 30+ years, Ninty hasn’t attempted to make any of the genres i listed. That’s super sad 😦
So tell me, what company has made more games in different genres than Nintendo? It’s super sad that your favorite company hasn’t attempted to make games in as many genres as Nintendo 😦
1. Probably no other company, but I don’t care who has more games in a specific genre. *I don’t play RTS games, so i don’t care who has more RTS games.
2. As i sit and look at my 32gb Wii U & PS4. I’m trying to figure out who my favorite company is. Since you know. Care to share?
3. Ninty is the oldest out of the big 3, but they don’t dabble in the genres i’m interested in. Again, i don’t care about more genres.
4. IMO, the title of the article should read. ‘When Nintendo tries. No matter the genre’………
Let’s say Ninty ISN’T my favorite. That must mean my favorite is doing something Ninty isn’t. Ninty could have 100 games in a genre i love, but if my favorite company only has 1 game in a genre i love, 1 > 100.
If the Wii had MGS4 exclusive for example. I would have bought a Wii over a PS3. I don’t care who has more. I care who has what i want.
That’s great and all, you do you, but what does that have to do with what I’ve written? The article is clearly about how Nintendo can excel at any genre they attempt because of the company’s unique traits, and lists several examples of how they’ve always entered new genres to universal near acclaim. Bringing up genres they haven’t attempted yet niether proves nor disproves anything in the article, and is making you look like the naysayers I spoke about.
Wii Sports, the best selling sports game ever created. Checkmate.
Hi there! Thank you for this read. I did not want this article to end. Allow me to self-indulgently explain why. I play across many platforms but Nintendo remains my perennial favorite. I grew up with the NES and SNES. I’m enjoying the Switch and most everything in between. I remember picking sides when Sega picked a fight in the 90’s. I remember taking to PlayStation when the first one was released but Nintendo will always be my first love. Lately, it seems that I’ve painted myself into the corner of having to explain myself and defend Nintendo, when I don’t necessarily want to. I think that when we love something enough that we can only then reasonably criticize it. I’m always willing to point out when Nintendo has made stupid and bizarre business moves. I think of the Wii U, the only Nintendo console I’ve never owned, was rubbish and put them far behind. The Wii started big but couldn’t shake gimmicky motion controls and a kiddie image. Now everyone considers Nintendo them to be an underdog or worse an anachronism. That’s why I enjoyed your post so much: researched, reasonable information on Nintendo being an industry leader despite not playing by anyone else’s rules. I’m inspired to dig deeper and write something like this for my audience. Thank you for your service to humanity, writer I’ve never met.
Hello again, I recently shared your article with a Sony friend of mine and he wrote some counter-points. I’m wondering what your responses would be? His comments were as follows:
“Next to the latest Zelda game, Horizon Zero Dawn, or any other game besides possibly MGSV, feels like a plastic doll house where virtually all of the player’s freedom disappears”
Wow. I’ve heard enough about Zelda from you, my coworker, a little experience, and videos and compared to HZD… I’m sorry but I cannot agree with his statement in the slightest. I’m tempted to go off on why HZD is superior but I won’t. While I agree with his claim about Zelda being very free, it doesn’t dwarf other open world games like he states. Good game I’m sure but I would venture to say that for every aspect of the game there’s another game that does it better. I’ve played a lot of open world games and there are some real good ones out there.
“An even bigger example of Nintendo’s universal genre competence is the shooter.” Let’s just let that sink in…moving on.
“The ink concept is arguably the most revolutionary mechanic to ever grace shooters.” Once again, it’s a good concept for a family friendly “shooter” (kinda hard to put it in the same category personally) but the most revolutionary mechanic to ever grace shooters? I’m just going to move on to the next thing.
Actually one more thing on that. “Splatoon laid the foundation for Nintendo to challenge EA, Activision, Microsoft, and others in the realm of shooters. That may sound silly…” Why yes it does. Just to put it in perspective, while Splatoon sold 5 million copies (and that is very respectable for a kid friendly shooter) a typical military shooter sells 20 to 30 million copies easily. Same goes for another family friendly shooter, Overwatch, which hit over 30 million players.
“Nintendo dominates the platformer, adventure, racing, and fighting game genres in critical reception and sales.” Sorry, I’m going to argue this statement is false. They may have been one game in a couple of those categories 30 years ago that sold outrageously but to settle for that is more of a loss than a win in my book.
“The stable culture of Nintendo and the company’s eye for talent are what make this broad range of success possible.” Stable? Eye for talent? Not words I would use to describe them, in fact quite the opposite. They go from raging success to horrific disappointment then back to raging success. Stable is out the window. So what talent can you name that they’ve eyed and acquired over the past 15 or so years? A die hard fan can probably scrounge up a couple names but that’s not exactly the threshold I’d use to qualify having an eye for talent. I’m not saying they don’t have talented people, it’s just not a point I’d rest my case on compared to other companies in the industry.
“but Miyamoto would provide some light guidance and fill a role that big names like Hideo Kojima and Tetsuya Nomura are lacking: Someone that would tell them to stop and unclutter their mess, to make it more appealing.” Fully agree with this, lol.
“Turns out, Monolith can create the best worlds in all of video games when given the freedom and tools necessary”. More hyperbole. I’m sure they did great but best?
“When it comes down to it, Nintendo has keen eyes and marches to its own beat, something made plain by the company’s hardware choices.” Not sure about keen eye but they definitely have their own beat.
When linking games to buy:
“Horizon Zero Dawn – I may have buried this game above, but it’s still an awesome game about fighting robot dinosaurs as a crazy ginger girl that talks to herself.” Oh how generous… So buried beneath the mountain of hyperbole there are some valid observations but I think the it’s a little too far buried to call this article anything but fanboyism. I’m a little surprised he didn’t mention one of Nintendo’s largest focuses right now which is their foray into the mobile space. It’s actually a major part of their strategy and another great success story for them.
I’ll keep this brief, sorry if it’s not very well written off the cuff. I don’t normally do this, but I’ll address your friend and his points.
1) If you’re going to claim that BotW isn’t objectively the most interactive video game world ever created, then it should be easy to debunk the claim. Name something that does it better, don’t trail off with a half limp response about there being a lot of good games out there.
2) Nintendo making a wildly popular shooter, the one genre everyone in the world thought was beyond them, is a great example of said universal competence. Let that sing in…moving on.
3) Yes the ink is the most revolutionary gameplay mechanic in a shooter, that’s why you dodged the point without providing a counterpoint.
4) Splatoon does lay the groundwork for Nintendo in the shooter genre. It’s first entry was roughly as popular as the original Halo and Gears of War, console exclusive shooters. It has one of the highest attach rates for a shooter, selling ~5M on a console that sold ~13M. Those military shooters are long running franchises that span multiple consoles. It’s easier to sell 30M copies to 150M users than it is to sell 5M to 13M users, especially considering other factors. Also, Overwatch is no family friendly, it’s just less violent than usual.
5) Platformer genre: Mario is the bbest selling video game franchise ever. Universal acclaim. In the last decade alone Mario sold ~100M platformer games.
Adventure: Zelda is the best selling adventure game franchise. Universal acclaim. Two games in the franchise are heralded as the greatest games ever created by critics. BotW has already surpassed 4M
Racing: Mario Kart is the best selling racing franchise. Universal acclaim. On Nintendo’s worst selling console MK8 sold 7M copies, more than Gran Turismo 6 and any Forza.
Fighting: Super Smash Bros is bigger than Street Fighter and will soon eclipse Tekken as the largest fighing game series. It has consistently outsold every mainline fighter since the 6th generation.
So the most recent entry of each of those franchises has blown away the competition, and over the past decade there hasn’t been anyone remotely competitive with Nintendo in any of these genres. That’s the definition of dominance.
6) Stability is not the same as success. Success can fluctuate, stability doesn’t. Even when Nintendo was in its worst shape ever, it cut virtually no one. Nintendo’s teams stay at Nintendo. The company doesn’t gobble up smaller companies left and right, and their employees don’t look like a revolving door of sadness like they do at say Rockstar. Yoshiaki Koizumi is the perfect example of this talent and stability working in synergy. He’s been around for decades, and was groomed into Miyamoto’s successor, a role he’s now clearly stepped into with great success. Find me anyone like that from EA/Activision/Ubisoft.
7) We agreed.
8) Yes best. The only two reasons to have open worlds are freedom and scale, something Mira and especially BotW’s Hyrule have in spades.
9) We’ll call this an agreement.
10) Your friend is entitled to an opinion, even if I think it’s dumb. No one here cares about mobile because this is a site for real gaming, not glorified Skinner boxes that profit by instilling addiction in those that are susceptible to it.
Appreciate it! Not my intention to start anything but I appreciate the additional information.
2) Nintendo making a wildly popular shooter, the one genre everyone in the world thought was beyond them, is a great example of said universal competence. Good game I’m sure but I would venture to say that for every aspect of the game there’s another game that does it better.
There’s no game that does the ink mechanic better, the Squid Jump, nonviolence, and Splatfests are also pretty unique in execution too.
“The stable culture of Nintendo and the company’s eye for talent are what make this broad range of success possible. Good game I’m sure but I would venture to say that for every aspect of the game there’s another game that does it better.