Just a few months back I did a breakdown of where I thought all of Nintendo’s major franchises currently stood in terms of their overall strength, appeal, value, what-you-will… grouping like-valued franchises under common letter grades. The idea was always that I’d go back and update that list whenever there was some sort of major shift or big event, such as an E3 Digital Showcase… or last night’s Switch reveal presentation.
There’s a few strong takeaways coming out of last night. I’ve highlighted the franchises that have switched tiers, with a (+) for those that have been upgraded, and a (-) for the downgrades. As always, feel free to disagree.
Edit: Miiverse is officially dead. This changes some things.
Grade A: (+) Fire Emblem, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Pokemon, Splatoon, Super Mario, Super Smash Bros.
There have been mixed reactions to the reveal of the Switch launch line-up, but consider this: Nintendo is representing four of their Grade A franchises on the Switch in the console’s first year of existence, and that’s big news. 2017 will see Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey. My placement of Splatoon in the Grade A tier last time around feels validated now; the franchise is not just getting a simple remaster of the original game, but instead a full-blow sequel is coming only two years after the first game launched. Not only that, but the Inklings are set to arrive in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with their own karts and battle arena. Also easily overlooked: this was another major conference where Nintendo made sure that Fire Emblem had a presence, this time in the form of a teaser for Fire Emblem Warriors. Some told me earlier that Fire Emblem belonged in the top tier of Nintendo franchises. After last night, I agree.
Grade B: Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Mario & Luigi, Paper Mario, (+) Xenoblade, Yoshi
Fire Emblem graduates up one tier, and taking its place is Xenoblade, jumping up two grade levels from D to B. Xenoblade Chronicles X was generally well-received but didn’t exactly blow anyone’s doors off. Still, Nintendo gave its purest RPG franchise a full-throated endorsement with last night’s unveiling of a gorgeous trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The art style looks stronger, IMO, than either of the past Xenoblade Chronicles games, and while the first two never really piqued my interest this one looks at first glance like it will be something special. A move to Grade B is a no-brainer.
Grade C: Pikmin, Tomodachi Life, Pokemon spin-offs.
The truth is, a lot of Nintendo franchises went unmentioned last night, the result being that there’s a lot of placed on my scale that didn’t see much movement at all. No franchises graduated into Grade C (although Xenoblade skipped right over C on its way to DB. I’m expecting to see more mobility in Grade C after this year’s E3. Stay tuned.
Grade D: (+) F-Zero, Kid Icarus, (-) Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Party, Mario Sports, Mario vs. Donkey Kong/Mini Mario, Punch-Out!!, Picross, Pushmo, Puzzle League, Rhythm Heaven, Wario brand games
What Nintendo DIDN’T want, though, was downward movement of any of its brands post-event, but that’s what they got. Again, most of Grade D is the same as before, but I’ve downgraded Luigi’s Mansion. The truth is that, as much as I loved Dark Moon, I may have been a little overly bullish on the series when I first made my grades. Combine that with the rumored Switch game failing to materialize and you have a series that lost a little juice last night, IMO. On the plus side, though, earlier in the day N64’s F-Zero X was released on the Wii U Virtual Console. I’m playing a hunch here, but I think the F-Zero brand is going to see a revival on the Switch. Time will tell.
Grade E: Advance Wars, (-) Metroid, Mother, Remix series, Nintendogs, Pilotwings, Star Fox
Again last night, Metroid was nowhere to be seen at a major Nintendo event. I don’t expect the franchise to drop any lower than Grade E no matter HOW much longer we have to wait for a new game, but at this point it’s clear: Nintendo has very little faith in Metroid as a brand, and while I understand that when I look at the overall franchise sales figures, it still makes me very, very sad.
Grade F: Brain Age, Codename S.T.E.A.M., Chibi-Robo, Custom Robo, Dillon’s Rolling Western, Dr. Mario, Excite, Golden Sun, The Legendary Starfy, Sin & Punishment, StarTropics, Wave Race, Wii series.
Nowhere to go but up for these guys. Instead of relaunching any of these franchises, Nintendo is pushing Arms and 1, 2, Switch, two new IPs designed to show off the Switch console hardware. Sorry, Wave Race. Maybe at E3.