I could just write that Mario has appeared in over 170 video games and let you decide the answer. But that wouldn’t be much fun would it. What about if I told you that Nintendos last new franchise character was the Pikmin? A game released in 2001. Every hardware cycle we get a new Zelda, a new Mario and if we are lucky a new F-Zero or Pilot Wings. You can almost tell the pattern of Nintendos releases, new Mario for near launch, new Zelda a few years down the line, Mario Kart a year after launch, a random Pokemon game and in between the other major Nintendo franchises unless they have skipped a generation.
Nintendo are not the only company to rely on franchises, Sony used to have the Crash Bandicoot games along with Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil. Microsoft on the other hand had Halo and errm more Halo. Yet these companies bring out new IPs all of the time from Gears of War to Resistance whilst Nintendo is still trotting out the same 20 year old characters without bringing anything new to the table.
Nintendos characters are probably more recognisable than the name Nintendo itself, its actually smart business sense to bring out these brands every few years but its been so long since Nintendo gave us some new characters and franchise. Even Wii Sports whilst a new franchise was just a few mini games put under a simple name. Wuhu island being Nintendos latest ‘character’, its not even a character! Its just a way to save money by using the same island in all sorts of different games.
As I mentioned, Mario has been in over 170 games in his 25 year history. Even Link is appearing in more Zelda games. When Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 on the N64, Link had only appeared in a handful of titles, since then 11 more titles have been released, almost 1 a year. Zelda at one time was a game people spent years looking forward to the new adventure as new information was drip fed to the media. Now you can’t help but trip over a new Zelda title with 3 being released in 2011 in the space of a couple of weeks alone.
Nintendo are clever in that they let some titles rest. We can’t wait for a new Wave Race, 1080 or Luigis Mansion but Nintendos key franchises get churned out almost every year and in the case of Mario every few months. There was once a time when a single Mario platform game was all you got for a few years but we’ve had at least 3 over the past couple of years along with various Mario Karts, Mario Parties, Mario playing tennis, golf, monopoly, Role Playing, Olympics and various other sports.
We’d love for Nintendo to come up with some new characters and franchises. Luigis Mansion and Pikmin were so fresh at the time when other games like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider were getting a bit long in the tooth. We don’t want epic games, in fact during the Gamecube launch, Nintendo set about making smaller, quicker games which they sadly dropped after giving us classics like the already mentioned millions of times Pikmin.
So come on Nintendo, its been over ten years since your last original idea. Instead of churning out Mario Party 67 or Mario backwards world, give us a new character and a new franchise to enjoy.