Every couple of months, a great wave of excitement floods the hearts of many Nintendo fans. A Smash Bros update comes out of its hole, and there is a glint of hope that a beloved, obscure franchise is finally getting its due respect from Nintendo. Unfortunately, that momentary glimpse is shattered with another Fire Emblem character reveal and, like clockwork, these fans go through their own five stages of grief.
Denial: “They already have eight Fire Emblem characters; there’s no way they add another!”
Anger: “Fallout hasn’t even been on a Nintendo console!”
Depression: “They picked Arms? The Tron of Nintendo franchises?”
Bargaining: “Maybe we’ll get a new assist trophy out of this?”
Acceptance: “I mean, at least it isn’t a Marth clone.”
What about these long-forgotten franchises, though? Nintendo is nothing but impeccable when it comes to franchise building, so why let these beloved series go without a title for multiple consoles? Let’s take a look at some Nintendo series that have fallen to the wayside, why they’re important, and what are the chances we’ll see a sequel (if ever).
Last Release: 2004
Chance of being revived: Currently stuck in park.
First released in 1990, F-Zero is a fast-twitch racer known for pushing technological limitations, its breakneck speeds, and its overall glam-rock stylings. Even in its heyday, the series was never a top-tier Nintendo franchise, but did offer a more challenging and adult-oriented experience compared to its more family-friendly counterpart, Mario Kart.
Sadly, the last mainline console release was F-Zero GX, a rare collaboration between Nintendo, Sega, and Namco. Seen as the zenith of the series, its sales, unfortunately, didn’t match its excellence, and we’ve awaited a true successor for almost 17 years. While rumors of Criterion (Burnout series) and Shin’en Multimedia developing a sequel have occasionally surfaced, nothing has materialized.
Nintendo largely doesn’t feel the need to continue a series if they can’t find a new form of gameplay or perspective to build upon. F-Zero’s largely iterative nature (fast future cars go zoom) hasn’t changed since its initial 1990 release. Here’s to hoping an outsider can breathe new life into the series and build on its breakneck speed.
Alternative series to give a shot: Redout, Fast RMX
Latest Release: 2015 localization, otherwise 2006 Japan-only release
Chance of being revived: You’re more likely to find your old macaroni-encrusted Mother’s Day card.
It feels a little contrived to have this on the list, but EarthBound has long been the mayor of Nintendo’s land of misfit toys. Created from the Japanese celebrity Shigesato Itoi, Mother (EarthBound outside of Japan) is a quirky RPG series that was a stark parody of the hero’s quest in games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Think wielding baseball bats and fighting hippies with toothbrushes instead of white mages and fire summons.
From its initial NES release through to its SNES release, EarthBound never really gained traction in western markets. Sadly, this limited market appeal largely cut down on the series allure to Nintendo. Combine this under-performance with a cancelled N64 release and a Game Boy Advance sequel only released in Japan and you have largely solidified the series as a relic of yesteryear.
With that being said, there’s still a strong community out there (Starmen.net) offering fan translations and an active community. A new generation of game developers have also made their own homages, creating several RPGs infused with the EarthBound spirit.
Alternative series to give a shot: Lisa: The Painful RPG, Undertale
Latest Release: 2009
Chance of being revived: Puncher’s chance.
Punch-Out!! has led an odd existence. Born as almost a two-screen tech experiment, the original arcade release of Punch-Out!! started as more proof of concept than anything else. With its impressive (for the time) pixel scaling and addictive memory-focused gameplay, it soon warranted an NES release. Mash in a lucrative celebrity sponsorship and, voilà, you have Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, which is by far the pop culture and gameplay zenith of the series.
From here there was a strong Mike Tyson-less follow up on the SNES, followed by a sizable lull before Punch-Out!! for the Wii was released. The franchise largely stuck to its core tenets of rote memorization and rhythm-like response. While the Wii version added to the gameplay with motion controls and a multiplayer mode, it largely stayed true to its roots.
Sadly, this is another series where its iterative nature might have cast its demise. Its last release on the Wii was warmly received, but there wasn’t anything particularly Nintendo-like in its ability to build upon its previous gameplay experience. Combine this lack of evolution with its history of problematic stereotyping and, well, it’s a series that’s more likely to be cleaning spit buckets than going another round in the ring.
Alternative series to give a shot: Power Punch 2, Super KO Boxing
Latest Release: 2010
Chance of being revived: The sun will come out, tomorrow?
In a time where RPGs were just starting to come back to Nintendo consoles, Golden Sun was a prime example of what Nintendo fans were sorely missing. The game centers on a group of psyenergy exerting adepts who try to save the world through alchemy-based attacks and puzzle solving. In its purest form, the series was a solid classic JRPG competitor to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy that had been missing from the Nintendo landscape for so long.
The momentum of the series came to a halt with the third release. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn polarized the fanbase through an unbalanced system paired with a story that largely diminished the advances of its predecessors. Ultimately, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn bombed financially, and the series slowly drifted out of Nintendo’s mainstream consciousness.
There were some rumors of Nintendo Japan registering a trademark for the series back in 2018, but seemingly nothing has come of it. The series largely fulfilled the need for JRPG’s on the Game Boy Advance, but with improved third-party support, Nintendo doesn’t really need to backfill their lack of JRPGs with an in-house option.
Alternative series to give a shot: Octopath Traveller, Bravely Default
Latest Release: 2001
Chance of being revived: Beached
As far as arcade racers go, Waverace has always held darkhorse status among Nintendo’s franchises. Its initial entry on the Game Boy in 1992 was solid, if not unspectacular, but its N64 release was way beyond anything that any console player had seen before. The sheer fact that the water in the game somewhat acted like real water was enough to rattle a young adolescent’s brain with possibilities. The ability to trick and race your way on a jetski through a variety of tracks had some solid replayability.
Eventually, a GameCube sequel was released, but it didn’t seem to capture the hype of its N64 predecessor. The series has suffered in relative obscurity ever since, which is odd considering it never really dropped off sales-wise.
Some vague rumors of a series rebirth popped up in 2018, but nothing has materialized as of yet. Waverace has always seemed to be a series that Nintendo used to max out technical capabilities, so a series rebirth may be possible on the Switch’s successor?
Alternative series to give a shot: Jet Moto, Riptide GP