For gamers, the highlight of this week’s iPhone 7 launch was when Apple CEO Tim Cook brought out legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto – architect of both the Mario and Zelda series – to announce the first ever Mario title for the iPhone: Super Mario Run.
It was probably the Apple event’s only truly surprising moment and reminded us once again that Nintendo has promised to bring its iconic franchises, for so long restricted to the company’s own console hardware, to mobile devices.
Nintendo on your phone. It’s an exciting prospect – even if the first effort, bizarre social app Miitomo, didn’t really feel like a title worthy of the brand (or your time) – and while we only know about a handful of upcoming titles, we’ve been racking our brains to come up with the ways in which Nintendo could translate other beloved series into a compelling mobile experience.
Super Mario Run (December 2016)
The only Nintendo mobile title we’ve actually seen in action, Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling endless runner – think Canabalt, Subway Surfers or Alto’s Adventure – in which just one input is required: tap the screen to make Mario jump (or hold it for a higher leap). Mario will run automatically, and jumping will allow players to grab coins, avoid or defeat enemies and reach higher platforms.
In other words, it’s playable with one hand, and a simplified version of the gameplay you’d find in a classic Mario game. That looks set to be the theme with Nintendo’s mobile efforts: each one looks likely to be a distillation of the original rather than an attempt at recreating it. The idea, of course, being that mobile gamers will be entertained for short periods, but also encouraged to play the original fully-formed games on Nintendo’s consoles.
While it’s only been seen on iOS so far, Nintendo will be bringing Super Mario Run to Android as well.
Fire Emblem (end of March 2017)
One of the other titles that Nintendo has confirmed it’s bringing to phones, Fire Emblem is a long-running (15 entries so far), highly popular series of tactical roleplaying games in which players take part in turn- and team-based strategic battles, positioning their units, choosing their attacks and so on.
The company has revealed very little about the upcoming mobile version, saying only that it will be a “more accessible” version of the base game. So what can we glean from that? Will we still get a compelling story, told mostly in anime-style cut-scenes, and large-scale strategic battles? It seems more likely that Nintendo will instead pull focus on the latter, perhaps trimming down the usual massive cast of characters and reducing the size of the tile-based maps in order to focus on smaller team-based fights.
Again, expect the mobile game to provide a tempting taster of traditional Fire Emblem gameplay, in order to drive you into the arms of Nintendo’s console versions.
Animal Crossing (end of March 2017)
Another confirmed title for release in early 2017, the mobile version of Animal Crossing will apparently take a slightly different approach to the above games in that, in Nintendo’s words, it’ll connect with “the world of Animal Crossing” on Nintendo’s other hardware rather than offer a standalone experience.
Animal Crossing games are gentle, sedate and open-ended experiences that simulate communities inhabited by cute anthropomorphic creatures. They rely heavily on the passage of real-time, with the in-game world reflecting the time of day and season of the real world, and we see the mobile game as perhaps giving players the opportunity to interact with their “real console” version of the game while they’re away from home. Working as a companion app to the main game, the mobile version could let you perform limited tasks, as well as manage items and engage in customisation of your in-game home.
From its original super-fast, dizzying and extremely flat SNES incarnation to more modern rollercoaster fare, F-Zero was once king of futuristic racers. Sure, Wipeout has its oh-so-cool soundtrack and funky icons, but F-Zero pioneered the genre, bringing a level of insanity and breakneck speed that rivals rarely came close to matching. In short, it was a bit more bonkers – and we loved it for that.
We want the series back and on mobile – and we already know this kind of game can work wonderfully on touchscreens. Zorg’s AG Drive plays straighter than Nintendo’s but is gorgeous and proves tilt and tap controls are capable of nursing a tiny craft around deranged looping tracks.
Words: Craig Grannell
Rhythm action games aren’t uncommon on touchscreens – witness Guitar Hero, the oddball Planet Quest, and superb platform/stealth/rhythm mash-up Beat Sneak Bandit. But Nintendo’s quirky Rhythm Heaven series has a combination of barely contained chaos, breakneck pace, inventiveness and head-bobbing rhythms we’ve yet to see on Android or iOS.
The sequels are great, but we’d give our back teeth to get an English translation of the original GBA Japanese-only Rhythm Tengoku, complete with chunky visuals. Hell, we’d happily pay three quid just to play the adorable and furiously addictive Bunny Hop on a smartphone.
Words: Craig Grannell
WarioWare’s collection of motion-based mini games is, on the surface, ideal for mobile. With today’s smartphones boasting incredibly accurate sensor suites, they can be tilted, spun and flicked in much the same way as Wii Remote controllers – albeit limited to ways that still allow the user to view the screen, of course.
We see a WarioWare mobile game as a straightforward affair: a bunch of irreverent, fun mini-games controlled in various touch- and tilt-based ways. Before each activity, an infographic would appear to clue you in on controls. There probably wouldn’t be a huge supply of mini-games here – at least without Nintendo exacting an in-app fee for additional activities – but again, all we need is enough to keep us occupied on dull commutes or during toilet breaks.
We’re not sure what happened to racing games. In the 1980s, titles like OutRun were all about blue skies and insane speed. Then everything went grim, gritty and ‘realistic’. Well, except Super Mario Kart. Ever since arriving on the SNES, the manic go-kart racer series has delighted with its mix of colourful courses, tight controls, and cartoonish power-ups.
Although tilt-and-tap racers work nicely on smartphones, notable kart racers are surprisingly few and far between. Angry Birds GO! is pretty but somehow manages to make kart racing dull; Sega’s Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed at least evokes the spirit of Mario Kart, with vibrant courses and frenetic gameplay. There’s still more than enough space on the starting grid for Nintendo, though.
Words: Craig Grannell
The Legend of Zelda
After Mario, Zelda is arguably Nintendo’s most beloved, treasured property – so it seems unlikely that Link’s adventures won’t be taking a turn on mobile at some point in the not-too-distant future. But in what form?
Sadly, it’s unthinkable that Nintendo would produce a full-on action-adventure Legend of Zelda for smartphones, but we could see Link starring in some kind of themed, simplified mini-game. Where Super Mario becomes an endless runner, Zelda could become a Monument Valley-esque puzzler, combining gorgeous visuals with simple but mind-bending platform puzzles. Without the need for precise timings and combat, touch controls would suit it just fine.