This is the fourth installation of my “Making the Grade” series, a temperature-check all of Nintendo’s major franchises and where they stand in the overall scheme of existence. The idea was always that I’d go back and update this list whenever there was some sort of major shift or big event. This time around, we’ve had two occurrences: the first is a recent Nintendo Direct with some good-sized announcements. The second? The Nintendo Switch this month celebrated its first year on the market, and what a year it has been.
A couple of things have moved around the list as a result of the news that’s been revealed over the past few months. As always, 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.
Grade A: Fire Emblem, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Metroid, Pokemon, Splatoon, Super Mario, Super Smash Bros.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages… nothing’s changed here. I mean, I can’t very well move Smash Bros. UP a grade, can I? Up to Grade S? Should I make a Grade S?
No, I shouldn’t do that.
Pressing Question: Is Fire Emblem truly an A-tier franchise? Or is it a B? Let me know in the comments.
Grade B: Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong, Kirby, (+) Luigi’s Mansion, Mario & Luigi, (+) Mario spin-offs, Paper Mario, Xenoblade, Yoshi
A couple of new entries to Grade B, and one franchise exit. The original GameCube Luigi’s Mansion is getting a surprise remake for Nintendo 3DS in the Dark Moon graphical style. It’s a franchise I’m bullish on, so Luigi & his Poltergust move up two grades instead of just one. Mario spin-off games also get a bump thanks to the very positive impression Mario Tennis Aces made during the most recent Nintendo Direct. Additionally, Kirby’s first Switch adventure just launched to positive reviews, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is scheduled to make its way to Switch from Wii U, another Mario & Luigi remake is on its way to 3DS, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was largely well received, Animal Crossing‘s mobile game is popular, and Yoshi is still set to debut on Switch sometime in 2018. No new news on Paper Mario, but I expect we’ll hear something from that franchise sometime this year.
Pressing Question: Is Animal Crossing a B-tier franchise? Or does it deserve a bump to tier A? Let me know in the comments.
Grade C: ARMS, (-) Pikmin, Pokemon spin-offs, (+) Wario games
I know: I treat Pikmin like a yo-yo. But Hey! Pikmin for 3DS failed to move the needle much. I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it: Nintendo wants us to like Pikmin way more than we’re ever going to like Pikmin. The announcement for WarioWare Gold has been received warmly, though I’d probably move WarioWare up to a Grade B if it was launching on the platform where it truly belongs: mobile.
Grade D: (-) BoxBoy, Kid Icarus, Star Fox
Yes, BoxBoy just landed on this list the last time out. Yes, BoxBoy has already been downgraded. Yes, I suspect BoxBoy as a franchise is over. Expect a bump if it turns out BoxBoy is joining the roster for Smash Bros.
Grade E: Advance Wars, (+) Dillon, F-Zero, Mother, (-) Mii Games, Punch-Out!!, Pushmo, Puzzle League, Rhythm Heaven, NintenDogs, Pilotwings
It just goes to show: never count a Nintendo franchise out. The Dillon franchise (yes, that’s a thing, apparently) is getting a new game, and the only surprise bigger than that is that Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers actually looks pretty good. It would look even BETTER if it was on Switch as opposed to Nintendo 3DS, but it’s amazing enough that it even exists. The Mii franchise, however, really does seem to be on its last legs. Not only has Nintendo ended the Mii-centric social networking app Miitomo, but the casual mini-game collections that were the Mii bread-and-butter are nowhere to be found, replaced by the likes of 1, 2, Switch and now Labo. Even Mii Tennis has been shunned in favor of a motion-control mode in Mario Tennis Aces. I’d almost anticipate the Mii brand dropping down into Grade F by the time E3 rolls around.
Grade F: Brain Age, Codename S.T.E.A.M., Chibi-Robo, Custom Robo, Excite, Golden Sun, The Legendary Starfy, (-) Remix series, Sin & Punishment, StarTropics, Wave Race.
The Remix series of games hits rock bottom, as the no-brainer sequel SNES Remix never did materialize. Who here will be the next Dillon’s Rolling Western and get an unexpected franchise revival? Probably not Codename S.T.E.A.M., and that makes me sad.