Where Should Nintendo Take Their Smartphone Games

When Nintendo announced that they were going to begin making games for smartphones and tablets, I was shocked. Over the years, Nintendo had been a company that lived for doing things their way. Their consoles have never been the most powerful on the market, but they’ve always provided unique experiences.

After the announcement, many thought they would try a strategy like Sega’s. When Sega entered the smartphone game, they ported a lot of their classics over. They also made a handful of original games starring their most famous characters. They recently doubled down on the port idea, launching a service called Sega Forever.

This wasn’t Nintendo’s strategy.

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Nintendo announced that they wouldn’t be porting their most iconic games to mobile platforms. Instead, the company announced that they would be doing what they’ve always done: creating wholly unique gaming experiences.

So what has Nintendo done with their mobile game up to this point? More importantly, where should they go from here? Let’s dive into it.

Miitomo

Nintendo’s first smartphone game really threw me for a curveball. Developed in partnership with DeNA, the game wasn’t really a game at all. Some compared it to Tomadachi Life, albeit stripped down, while others saw it as more of a restricted social networking platform.

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Whatever it is, I stop in and play the “game” from time to time, though mostly to take pictures with my Mii and earn a few silver coins when I can. I don’t want to say that Miitomo is bad, but it wasn’t the strongest opening to Nintendo’s first foray into app stores.

Super Mario Run

This game is my favorite of Nintendo’s smartphone offerings up to this point.

Super Mario Run was met with a bit of controversy when it was released, due to one conscience decision that Nintendo made. Nintendo didn’t make this a free to play game. They sold it as a premium game. 

I won’t lie or try and bash Nintendo here. I’ll be completely honest when I say that, for the most part, their first party titles hold their values very well over time. As such, the company believes that their mascot, Mario, commands a fair price in all his uses. The game was launched at a price of $9.99. While the attach rate wasn’t as high as the company ad initially projected, they’ve stated that this is still the business model they prefer.

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Let’s be honest with ourselves: we don’t love free-to-play games. Between the timers and the constant harassment to spend real world money on in-game items, free-to-play games can get tiring quickly. Being able to pay once for a game and play without the fear of the game harassing you at every turn is a nice change of pace. I’ll even admit I bought the game twice. The first was on my iPhone and the second was when I switched to Android and needed the game on my new platform of choice. Luckily it was on sale that time.

If I’d give Nintendo one piece of advice for the premium games model in the future, it’d be to lower the price a bit. Five dollars instead of ten could be very lucrative for the company as a whole.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Out of the proper games that Nintendo has released on smartphones, this is the one I’ve played the least. I haven’t had a lot of experience with the Fire Emblem franchise over the years, though playing this game has made me want to dig into that.

Still, while this game seems like a nice introduction to the franchise, I don’t have the deep love of these characters that long time fans do, making it a bit harder for me to get deeply invested in the characters or story.

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Even with my limited knowledge of the Fire Emblem games, I’ll say that for a free-to-play strategy game, Fire Emblem makes a great base.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Pocket Camp is Nintendo’s latest mobile game that just launched earlier this week and it’s already one of my favorites. While the test of time will determine if this free-to-start game has the same longevity in my life as Super Mario Run, this game does a lot of things right.

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First and foremost, the game captures both the spirit and gameplay of the base game perfectly. All of the mechanics exist, albeit in scaled down form, from fishing and bug catching to shopping and exploring friends “homes”. The game features a handful of microtransactions, but I haven’t hit a wall where I’ve been forced to pay to continue, yet.

That being said, if you’re an Animal Crossing fan, I highly recommend this one.

Where Do We Go From Here

Nintendo is now in an interesting position for fans: the unknown. When Nintendo announced their slate of mobile games, they promised Mario, Fire Emblem, and Animal Crossing. Nintendo needs to pick its next move now, as all of its promises have been fulfilled. 

That hasn’t stopped me from thinking about what I’d like to see Nintendo do in the future on iOS and Android, however. The company has a wide variety of characters and franchises and there’s ways to fit almost all of them into the mobile ecosystem.

Here’s just a few of the games I’d love to see Nintendo pull the trigger on.

Mario Kart Mobile

Take a look on any of the smartphone app stores out there, and you’ll notice there’s quite a few racing games on the market already. Racing games are nice for smartphones because they scale relatively well and can boast simple controls.

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A mobile installment in the Mario Kart franchise could have an interface similar to any of the other racing games on the market, with the simple addition of an item button to mess with your opponents.

Nintendo could even pivot this into whatever business model they prefer. The pay once and play model would support this game just fine, although so would character packs and microtransactions. 

If Nintendo would actually do this is another question entirely, if only because they may see it as direct competition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. I for one think it would be great to have a Mario Kart game in my pocket for days when I don’t have my Switch immediately on hand.

The Legend of Zelda

The next franchise I would almost be willing to peg for a Nintendo mobile game would have to be The Legend of Zelda. While games like Oceanhorn do a darn good job of paying tribute to Legend of Zelda, Nintendo would have to do something a bit more unique.

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One thing I love about games on my smartphone is when they’re pick up and play titles. Smartphones are far from the most comfortable devices to game on so I can be picky at times. A Zelda mobile game would be no exception to the rule.

If Nintendo did try to bring the land of Hyrule to iOS and Android devices, there should be a heavy emphasis on dungeons. That’s right, my dream Legend of Zelda smartphone game would essentially be an 8-bit dungeon crawler, with procedurally generated dungeons, of course. 

Donkey Kong Country Run

While we’re on the subject of key franchises, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorites: Donkey Kong Country. One of the reasons Super Mario Run worked so well, in my opinion, is that the game felt like a 3D, side scrolling Mario game. Instead of trying to one day create a Super Mario Run 2, a move I wouldn’t put past Nintendo, they should instead return to another one of their classic franchises.

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The Donkey Kong Country series dates back to the Super Nintendo and the games feature enough unique playable characters and mechanics that a mobile version would be a lot of fun. This game could be more fun than a barrel of monkeys even. No pun intended, of course. 

Endless Possibilities

The truth is, when it comes to Nintendo and mobile games, they have limitless possibilities for what they can do. Over the years, the company has created great franchises like Star Fox, Kirby, Metroid, and more. Nintendo can tap any of these franchises for their next smartphone offering. 

Nintendo’s next move is really anyone’s guess. I can only hope they decide to create more great mobile games featuring the characters we know and love.

What do you think of Nintendo’s mobile games so far? What franchises would you like to see get the smartphone treatment? Let us know in the comments below!

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