Five amazing Nintendo 64 games

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers are present for some of the entries on this list.

Nintendo recently launched the so-called Switch online “expansion pack” – representing incredibly poor value, but that’s beside the point. Included with the subscription are a handful of Nintendo 64 titles which the Switch can emulate. It just got me thinking about one of my favourite consoles and some of the amazing games I enjoyed back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I upgraded from a Super Nintendo (or SNES) to a Nintendo 64 at Christmas 1997, and the console was my primary gaming machine for about three years until I picked up a Dreamcast shortly after the turn of the millennium. Though I had a PC as well at the time, it was underpowered compared to the console and couldn’t come close to matching it. Though we often think of PC gaming in 2021 as being the gold standard that consoles have to try to measure up to, it wasn’t that long ago where even an expensive PC would struggle in gaming performance next to a dedicated games console – and the Nintendo 64/PlayStation generation was certainly part of that era!

A transparent blue Nintendo 64 console – and its controller.

The Nintendo 64 was my first experience with proper 3D graphics. I’d played PC games with 3D environments before, and other games with 3D sprites, but it was only when I sat down to play Super Mario 64 that I got to fully experience a 3D virtual world. It felt like the future back then – and considering that the Nintendo 64 pioneered a number of features that are still part of gaming today, I guess I was right about that!

Aesthetically, I love the design of the Nintendo 64 and its controller. The chunky three-armed device was intimidating at first; “I don’t have three hands,” I remember thinking, “so how am I supposed to hold it?!” But having an analogue stick was a neat feature, one that felt like a massive upgrade from the wobbly joysticks or D-pads of past consoles I’d been able to play on. Navigating the new 3D environments needed a controller suited to that purpose, and the Nintendo 64’s analogue stick delivered – even if it seems a little primitive when compared to the controllers we enjoy today! Having a “trigger” also made shooting games feel all the more immersive.

A Nintendo 64 controller. What a weird design!

The Nintendo 64 had a stellar lineup of games – several of which I only got to play years later as they were unaffordable to me when I was younger and broke! Now I’m old and still broke – but at least there’s emulation! Actually, the Nintendo 64 was the console that got me into the emulation scene back in the early 2000s. After upgrading to a more powerful PC I found that I could emulate the console quite well, and had a blast re-playing a few favourites as well as playing titles I missed out on first time around. I can’t condone emulation – it’s a legal minefield and you should be careful – but if you have a decent computer and know what you’re doing you’ll have a far better (and cheaper) time than you would if you paid for a Switch online “expansion pack!”

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I’d say that the games of this era represent a transitional stage for the video games industry as a whole. Most Nintendo 64 titles feel like a half-step between the rather basic, toy-like games of earlier generations and the bigger, more in-depth and cinematic titles that we’d enjoy a few short years later. The move from 2D to 3D didn’t immediately lead to masterpieces like Shenmue or Knights of the Old Republic, but the rapid pace of technological change meant that those kinds of games were finally possible. The Nintendo 64 has some games that tried very hard to tell more adult-oriented stories, and it was around this time that I felt video games as a whole had a heck of a lot of potential to be something more.

This was an era of transition for video games.

So on this occasion – twenty-five years on from the Nintendo 64’s 1996 debut – I thought it would be fun to look at five of my favourite titles. These are just a few of the games that, for me anyway, made the Nintendo 64 great. My usual caveat applies: I’m not saying these five games are “objectively the best” Nintendo 64 games out there. If you hate all of them or don’t see your favourite on the list, that’s okay! There are plenty of Nintendo 64 games out there, and we all have our personal favourites. These are just a few of mine!

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the list – which is in no particular order.

Number 1: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

The Battle of Hoth.

A few years before Knights of the Old Republic would come along and absolutely blow me away, Shadows of the Empire took me on an outstanding Star Wars-themed adventure. A third-person action-adventure game with nary a Jedi nor the Force in sight, players take control of the Han Solo-inspired Dash Rendar for a wild romp across the galaxy – set during and just after the events of The Empire Strikes Back!

What I adored about Shadows of the Empire was the diversity of gameplay on display. Not only could Dash run and gun in a 3D world that looked so much better and felt way more immersive than any 2D Star Wars game I’d played previously, but he could also pilot several different vehicles – a Snowspeeder taking on AT-AT walkers on Hoth, his own spaceship, swoop bikes, and more.

Shadows of the Empire came at a time when the old Expanded Universe was really ramping up, and along with a novel and comic was technically considered canon until Disney expunged the Expanded Universe in 2013. However, being an official project with a high degree of involvement from Lucasfilm meant that the game slotted in well to the Star Wars universe, feeling genuinely connected to the events and characters of the films.

Number 2: Super Mario 64

Wheeeeeee!

Of course we’re going to talk about Super Mario 64! This was the only Nintendo 64 game I had at first, and I played it for hours and hours! Though I’d played some games on the PC – like Doom – which used pseudo-3D environments, and others which used 3D sprites for 2D gameplay, Super Mario 64 was the first truly 3D game that I played. The difference in how immersive and realistic the game felt, and how it conveyed a sense of scale that really made me feel part of its world are feelings I have never forgotten even a quarter of a century later!

Booting up Super Mario 64 for the first time was a wild experience, one that has stuck with me ever since. But the game itself was fantastic, too, with Mario on a quest to save Princess Peach by battling Bowser and his minions inside painting worlds. The unique premise allowed Super Mario 64 to show off a range of different levels and different environments, and new gameplay mechanics – some of which were inspired by past Super Mario titles – allowed a far greater degree of environmental interaction than ever before.

One level in Super Mario 64 that stands out is Wet-Dry World. Players could change the amount of water in the level, raising and lowering it both by jumping into the painting at different heights and within the level itself by touching special items. The idea that Mario could change the environment in real-time, and then use that gameplay mechanic to solve puzzles, was absolutely genius! And the game is full of other examples of this kind of radical, utterly transformative gameplay.

Number 3: GoldenEye 007

Pew! Pew!

GoldenEye took the first-person shooter concept and honed it, making excellent use of the Nintendo 64’s control pad and analogue stick. Without GoldenEye it’s hard to see how other first-person shooters on console – like the Halo series, which arrived a few years later – would have been possible. It was a pioneering title, and surely one of the best film adaptations of all time!

The Nintendo 64 upped the number of control pads and thus the number of players from two on the SNES to four – meaning four-way deathmatches were possible! Split-screen was the order of the day, of course – this was long before online gaming was commonplace – and among my friend group four-player matches were relatively rare. But when we could get a few friends together, playing GoldenEye was a blast! It had fun, fast-paced shooting, well-designed levels with plenty of variety – from maze-like corridors and small rooms to expansive larger environments – and 3D graphics that put you right in the action.

GoldenEye didn’t create the first-person shooter genre. But it took full advantage of the Nintendo 64’s impressive hardware to feel streets ahead of earlier titles – and even many games that were released around the same time. Fully 3D environments and characters instead of 2D “billboard” sprites and a plot that vaguely followed the events of the film made for a fantastic all-around title. Rare would further hone many of the techniques on display when they created Perfect Dark a few years later.

Number 4: F-Zero X

Try not to crash!

You might’ve expected me to put the venerable Mario Kart 64 on this list – especially considering how many times I’ve talked about that game here on the website! But F-Zero X doesn’t get the love it deserves, so on this occasion we can put Mario Kart 64 to one side and look at a different Nintendo 64 racer. F-Zero X is a futuristic-themed racing game, with players in spaceship-like hovercars – and they go really fast!

F-Zero X is an incredibly fast-paced racing game, meaning you often need lightning-fast reflexes! It was a blast, and the unique futuristic aesthetic set it apart from practically every other racing game on the market at the time.

Maybe F-Zero X didn’t have the best graphics. It certainly didn’t push the Nintendo 64 to its 3D limits in the way some other titles did. But despite that, it was an incredibly fun racing game, and were it not for Mario Kart 64 I might be tempted to call it my favourite racer of the era! There’s an odd charm to F-Zero X that I can’t quite put into words; it’s a genuinely different game, and that alone made it a ton of fun.

Number 5: Jet Force Gemini

Rescuing a Tribal in Jet Force Gemini!

Had it been made today, Jet Force Gemini would surely have kicked off a whole franchise! As it is, this Rare-developed title remains a one-off, but it’s an incredibly fun and exciting sci-fi adventure. Jet Force Gemini is one game I would absolutely pick to bring back for a full remake, because it seems such a shame to me that it’s all but forgotten, abandoned in the Nintendo 64 era.

An action-adventure title set in a unique sci-fi world, Jet Force Gemini had a fun and engaging story. It also had smooth shooting and a trio of fun main characters who each got a turn in the spotlight. The game had beautifully-designed levels, with some being pretty big and expansive offering different paths to get to the end.

Rescuing the Tribals – cute teddy bear-like critters – was an additional gameplay element that added a lot to each level, though the game’s insistence on finding every single one could feel like padding sometimes! But the Nintendo 64 era saw games trying out new gameplay mechanics, and the idea of having hidden collectibles would be honed and refined in future titles. Overall, Jet Force Gemini was a lot of fun – and I’d love to see its world and characters return one day.

So that’s it! Five amazing Nintendo 64 games.

The familiar Nintendo 64 logo.

There were loads more titles I could’ve chosen, so stay tuned! This is a topic I may revisit in future. The Nintendo 64 was a great console with some fantastic games. Though it does represent a half-step between older, more basic games and the immersive, cinematic experiences that were soon to come, it’s also a console that pioneered or refined many of the concepts upon which newer games – and even games today – rely.

The Nintendo 64 also had plenty of amazing games in its own right, and while it is an interesting machine from an interesting era in video game history, it’s also a console that I had a lot of fun with in the late 1990s. Back then it didn’t feel like a half-step – it felt cutting-edge, bringing 3D worlds to life and showing off far more realistic graphics than I ever thought possible! It isn’t just the nostalgia talking – the Nintendo 64 was a fantastic machine.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of Nintendo and/or their respective developer, publisher, owner, etc. Some images courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons finally gets an update… and paid DLC

Shortly after Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched in March last year, here’s what I had to say about the game in my review: “When I compare New Horizons to New Leaf, a game that I played way more and for way longer, I feel at least a little disappointed. New Leaf seemed to offer more to do when the shine of playing a new game wore off, and it certainly offered significantly more in terms of playing with friends…”

Many of the criticisms I made of the game – most notably the lack of a significant multiplayer offering and mini-games to play with friends – still hadn’t been addressed, and as 2021 wore on the “updates” that were released for the game were incredibly threadbare. Nintendo, in their infinite wisdom, chose to make last year’s holiday-themed updates only valid for one year, meaning much of 2021 was actually spent re-adding holiday events like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas that had already been added in 2020.

Re-adding last year’s holiday events has taken up most of 2021 for New Horizons.

The Animal Crossing: New Horizons Nintendo Direct, which premiered yesterday, had the difficult task of making amends with a fanbase that has become disenchanted with the game over the past year or so. Many of New Horizons’ biggest fans hadn’t held back from criticising the game and Nintendo for the lack of proper updates and the lack of communication in 2021, and while the game remains one of the Switch’s best-selling titles, there has been a sense for some time that a lot of folks were simply burnt out and no longer enjoying the experience.

Games have a natural lifespan, so under normal circumstances I’d say that’s just to be expected! But the Animal Crossing series has always been an outlier in that regard; the games challenge players to play long-term, even just for a few minutes a day, but the repetitiveness of the activities and dialogue, combined with no significant updates or new additions, meant New Horizons’ welcome wore out far more quickly than any previous entry in the series.

Brewster and the coffee shop are returning from past games in the Animal Crossing series.

Right off the bat, yesterday’s Nintendo Direct offered a lot of new content, and it’s coming soon – in just under three weeks’ time. The addition of a coffee shop, new islands to visit by boat, a parade of shops (on a separate island), the return of classic characters, more customisation options, more DIY options (including cooking), and an expansion of other aspects of island life, with new items, more storage space, and the like are all incredibly welcome additions. The new update will give players a lot to sink their teeth into – and will probably convince me to either pick up the island I haven’t touched in months or restart the game for a new experience.

However, I do have a few points of criticism. The first is that these updates feel, for the most part, like features that could and should have been part of the game when it arrived in 2020. New Horizons wasn’t exactly threadbare when it launched, but it was missing a number of important features that were part of older games in the series that hampered its longevity. As I’ve said on more than one occasion, New Horizons is basically a “release now, fix later” title.

Kapp’n is another returning character from past games in the series.

The second concern I have, and perhaps the most significant one, is that I don’t see these updates improving the game’s long-term prospects in any meaningful way. They’re going to be a ton of fun… at first. Players who’ve stuck with New Horizons since launch will be thrilled at finally having new things to do, and new players will discover a game that feels much more feature-rich. But when it comes to long-term playing, things like new island tours by boat or a first-person camera are going to lose their shine pretty quickly – just like terraforming and other features did when the original version of the game launched last year.

These new features paper over the cracks and don’t do anything to address New Horizons’ longstanding issues. There was no mention in the Nintendo Direct broadcast of new villager dialogue, for example, which is something the game desperately needs. Anyone who’s sunk a significant amount of time into New Horizons can tell you that villagers simply don’t have much to say after a while, and what they do say is incredibly repetitive. This also extends to Isabelle’s utterly useless “announcements” at the beginning of each day – she usually has nothing of consequence to say, has only a handful of different lines of dialogue, and ignores many goings-on around the island.

No, Isabelle… it really f**king doesn’t.

New Horizons wants to offer players a home-away-from-home on a fantastical island, and the neighbours players will have and befriend are a vital part of that experience. But because the villagers have so little to say, with some common in-game occurrences literally having only one line of dialogue, it makes playing the game feel incredibly repetitive to the point of becoming off-putting. Add into the mix that there are only eight villager “personality types” yet ten villager slots, and you’re always going to have at least two villagers who have identical dialogue even under the best possible conditions.

This was a prime candidate for an overhaul. Unlike adding new gameplay features, new dialogue requires far less development time and far fewer resources. The game’s modest file size could easily handle double the current amount of dialogue – if not more. While the addition of new features like the coffee shop will give villagers a few new things to say, at the end of the day they’re still going to largely be saying the same things that they always have. Once the novelty of some of these new features has worn off, players will be back where they started.

Failing to improve and expand villager dialogue feels like a wasted opportunity – one which seriously hampers New Horizons’ long-term prospects.

Also missing from the update were multiplayer mini-games. This is a feature I’ve argued needs to be part of New Horizons on several occasions now, and while it’s possible it will come in future as paid DLC, I don’t think that’s good enough. New Horizons currently offers incredibly bad value for players who want to play with friends – Switch Online isn’t free, after all – as there really isn’t anything substantial to do in multiplayer. Nothing in this update will change that, because players will be stuck with the same things to do as before: tour their friend’s island, talk to villagers, and that’s it.

Even some of the features that this update has added feel less than they could’ve been. The coffee shop and parade of shops are in fixed locations – in the museum or on a different island. Yet with a small amount of extra effort, surely Nintendo could’ve given players the option to place new shops and new buildings around their islands? As things sit at the moment, players have one shop, one tailor’s shop, and the museum as buildings that can be placed. Islands are decently-sized, so there was scope to add at least two or three new buildings. Giving players the option to create their own parade of shops would have been fun, and it feels like a missed opportunity that the update has added no new buildings at all.

Couldn’t some of these shops have been optional additions to a player’s island?

I’ve heard some fans argue that they’ve finished designing their island now, so they wouldn’t know where to place a new building. But that’s why something like the coffee shop could have been an option: either included as part of the museum or as a separate building like it was in New Leaf.

The main shop itself has also been ignored by the new update. New Leaf offered players five levels of shop expansion, but New Horizons only has one – and it seems like that’s all there will ever be. The shop doesn’t carry a huge amount of stock: six items at the most (if seasonal items are available). There was scope to expand the shop in the same way as the museum has been expanded, growing it to make it more useful – and to give players something to aim for and work towards.

The shop is staying in its current form.

The aforementioned parade of shops, which will be present on a separate island, could have been part of a shop expansion as well. Gardening items, different wallpapers and rugs, and other such things could have been given their own section within the shop if adding more new buildings to the island was off the table – or as an alternative option.

Kapp’n doesn’t feel like he has a lot to offer based on what we saw in the broadcast. Players have already been able to visit random islands via the airport, and adding a second way to visit a second set of random islands feels like something that will have limited use and, at least based on the way I play the game, is likely not to be used very often. Even if there are multiple new plants, shrubs, and trees, once these have been found and collected I don’t really see what else Kapp’n is going to be useful for – and this really comes back to what I was saying about the update’s longevity.

Players could already visit random islands via the airport… Kapp’n doesn’t seem to offer much that’s different.

Gyroids were never my thing in past Animal Crossing games, but they were always a part of the series so it’s nice to see them return. Brewster, the character who runs the coffee shop, was a big fan of Gyroids, so it makes sense that they’d be part of the update that brought him back. The addition of new items, new furniture, wallpapers, and the like is good, and the ability to hang items from the ceiling is likewise an extra dimension to customisation. None of that will be earth-shattering, but I love a game with customisation options, so adding more ways to customise and to make the island and player’s home feel unique is certainly a good thing.

The addition of town ordinances, which were present in New Leaf, will change things up a little and improve the quality-of-life for some players. Being able to shift the island’s activity to earlier or later in the day should allow some players with tight schedules the ability to play more at a more convenient time, and that’s a positive thing. Again, though, I feel like this should really have been part of the game from the beginning – it was part of New Leaf in 2013, so it can hardly be called a “new” feature.

Ordinances return from New Leaf.

Perhaps the one addition that interested me the most was the DIY expansion, particularly cooking. The addition of new vegetables and new crops seems to have opened up a range of new DIY recipes for food – and this looks like something that has the potential to be a lot of fun. New Horizons does have a number of food items already, but adding new ones and different ones that can be created is certainly something I find interesting.

DIY has been a double-edged sword in New Horizons sometimes, though. Item durability – a feature copied from the likes of Minecraft – is almost never handled well in any game, and it doesn’t work well in New Horizons. Having to constantly replace broken tools rapidly stops being fun – if it was ever fun – and the fact that DIY doesn’t work particularly well or especially intuitively has hampered the experience. For example, being able to craft more than one item at a time – particularly for one-time use items like fish bait – would massively improve the experience, as would the ability to craft tools in one step instead of two. Neither of these quality-of-life improvements has been added to New Horizons.

Being able to cook different dishes seems like a fun feature – and something actually new!

The addition of a first-person photo mode looks like fun, but the kind of gimmicky fun that I might use a few times at the most. New hairstyles might be fun for some people – and being able to represent different types of hair in a game is no bad thing. More K.K. Slider songs might be your thing… but it’s definitely not mine!

Being able to set up ladders at particular cliffs is something I can see being useful, even as the number of available inclines is slightly expanded. Also allowing players to navigate smaller gaps in between furniture is likewise something that will be useful in certain circumstances. I wouldn’t say that either are groundbreaking, but smaller quality-of-life improvements like these were definitely needed.

The ability to permanently set up ladders is a small addition, but a decent one.

So let’s talk about money. Everything we’ve discussed so far will be added for free, and that’s no bad thing. New Horizons did promise free updates when it launched. But this update will be the last free one for New Horizons, and the first paid DLC has already been announced.

Considering that there are still missing features, and that some quality-of-life additions, like new dialogue and improvements to crafting, haven’t been made, I can’t be the only one who feels it’s rather bold of Nintendo to begin demanding $25 for an expansion to the game – especially considering the expansion is based on 3DS title Happy Home Designer, and thus is hardly something we can call “new.”

New Horizons is getting its first paid DLC.

It also means that multiplayer mini-games – if they ever come to New Horizons, and it would be such a shame if they didn’t – will now almost certainly be paid DLC as well. The Happy Home Paradise DLC seems like it could be the first of many, and next year could see at least one or two more paid DLC packs as well – which would greatly increase the cost of playing New Horizons in full.

Happy Home Paradise looks like an updated riff on the Happy Home Designer concept. It does add new things, like partition walls, countertops, and so on, some of which can be brought to a player’s main island home as well. I’m not going to argue that Happy Home Paradise should’ve been free – though it absolutely could have been if Nintendo was a more customer-friendly company – but I’m not sure the timing is right considering that the base game will still be missing key features even after this latest – and final – update.

One of the features present in the DLC pack is the ability to build partition walls.

Version 2.0, which will be the final free update for New Horizons, still doesn’t get it over the line. The game is still going to be missing important features that previous entries in the series had. Some of these features – like multiplayer mini-games – gave the Animal Crossing series much of its long-term value, and without them it’s hard to see New Horizons being a game that will live up to the legacy of its predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, practically all of the additions and updates look like fun… but they look like short-term fun at best.

In addition, the game’s final update will do nothing to address player criticisms and complaints about a number of quality-of-life issues, some of which are pretty major. The lack of expanded dialogue for villagers, the lack of fixes for basic DIY issues, and a number of other points have all been ignored by Nintendo in their rush to blitz through New Horizons’ free updates so they could begin selling paid DLC. As a result, New Horizons in its base form is still not good enough for the kind of game it wants to be – and even the addition of this first paid expansion pack won’t address these concerns.

Adding a coffee shop doesn’t fix what’s fundamentally missing from New Horizons.

There are things to look forward to on the fifth of November, and I’m debating whether to jump back into the game or even start a new file in the run-up to the update going live. However, I’m already predicting that many of the new features added into the game will have a relatively short shelf-life, and while they may very well carry New Horizons into the beginning of 2022, the game’s longer-term prospects are still pretty poor.

I judge New Horizons based on how much I enjoyed its predecessor, New Leaf. I played that game on and off for more than seven years because it just had so much to offer and so much going on to convince me to keep coming back. I got bored of New Horizons within a couple of months, and while two months and 100+ hours is definitely a lot of time when compared to many other games, by Animal Crossing standards that’s nothing. Unfortunately everything I’ve seen from this update, and its paid DLC companion, tells me that New Horizons is going to get a short-term fix that will tide fans over for a little while but ultimately does nothing to address the game’s real longevity.

Maybe I’m the one who’s wrong – maybe New Horizons was never meant to be the kind of long-term project that its predecessors were. Perhaps gaming has just changed too much in the past decade or so such that a long-term experience was never something that most players were interested in. If that’s the case then I’m judging New Horizons unfairly. Maybe it was just never meant to be the long-term experience that I expected.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now for Nintendo Switch. Version 2.0 will launch on the 5th of November 2021 as a free update, and Happy Home Paradise will launch also on the 5th of November 2021 as paid DLC. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons needs a BIG update this summer

In the July episode of the DenPod (my new unscripted podcast) I talked about how some of the biggest fans of Animal Crossing: New Horizons are beginning to sour on the game, having come to realise something I commented on last year: the game feels incomplete, as though it were released before it was ready. At time of writing it has been basically three months since the game was last updated (version 1.10 came out on the 28th of April) and that update hardly added anything of consequence to the game.

New Horizons was released along with the promise of a plethora of updates, with many publications picking up the same figure: updates would continue to roll out for the game for at least three years. Less than half of that time has elapsed, yet many fans are questioning whether the next update will be the last, such has been the lack of care and lack of communication from Nintendo.

Nintendo has not done a good job at updating New Horizons, nor at keeping players informed about what’s coming next for the game.

Nintendo seems content to roll around in the money it’s made from sales of the game, no longer caring that the players who paid £55 or $60 are becoming increasingly dissatisfied. The company’s attitude seems to be “we’ve already got your money, so piss off.” After such a long time with no news and no updates, in order to win back the support of the folks who should be the game’s biggest fans Nintendo has to go all-in with the next update and bring something big to the table.

There are many, many things wrong with New Horizons in mid-2021 that make the game so much less than it could be, and a poor relation in many respects to its predecessor: 2013 Nintendo 3DS title Animal Crossing: New Leaf. As I said recently, New Horizons effectively offers players nothing to do in multiplayer, and is not worth paying for a Switch Online subscription. There simply isn’t anything to do aside from visit a friend’s island, because when you get there and you’ve had a look around, that’s it. There are no mini-games to play, there’s nothing different to collect, and compared to New Leaf – a game with such a fun multiplayer mode that I was still dabbling in it with friends more than seven years after the game’s release – New Horizons is absolutely boring.

Multiplayer mini-games on the tropical island were a huge part of New Leaf and are wholly absent in New Horizons.

The addition of multiplayer mini-games would be transformative for New Horizons as an online social experience, even if a dedicated level or area to play them wasn’t included. Simply being able to play a selection of mini-games on your island or a friend’s would give players a reason to return to the game and play together; such an incentive is sorely lacking in the current version of the game. It doesn’t seem like something that would be too difficult to implement, either, especially if it were done from the town square on a player’s island with no new characters or areas needing to be added to the game.

The next thing New Horizons needs is something it shouldn’t need… last year’s holiday events. For some inexplicable yet typically stupid Nintendo reason, 2020’s updates only added holiday-themed events (Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) for the calendar year 2020. That means that the holidays are not present for 2021 and onward, and since New Horizons has an in-game calendar and strongly encourages players to play in real-time, this makes no sense. Why were the holidays even removed for 2021? Which incompetent moron thought that made sense?

Why were holiday events (like Toy Day, pictured above) not added for years other than 2020? That makes no sense at all.

Re-adding the holidays means Nintendo has created more work for its developers at a time when coronavirus is still having an impact on the games industry, disproportionately so in Japan. This has arguably slowed the pace of development on updates for the game, as the need to go back and re-do last year’s content is going to take time away from other aspects of development. It shouldn’t have happened to begin with, but at the very least the holiday events need to be re-added as soon as possible – and not just for 2021, either.

There are myriad quality-of-life improvements that the game is crying out for, too. Villager dialogue is perhaps the biggest, because to call the things villagers say “repetitive” would be unnecessarily kind. I’m by no means the world’s biggest New Horizons player (I sunk a little over 120 hours into the game in 2020) yet I’m completely burned out on talking to any of the villagers on my island. Even returning to the game after an absence of several months quickly became dull and boring because most of the villagers have only a handful of things to say in any given situation.

Villager dialogue is incredibly bland and repetitive.

For example, when walking into a villager’s home and finding them crafting an item, each villager “type” (of which there are only eight) has literally only got one line of dialogue that they repeat every single time. There are only eight villager types, yet there are potentially ten villager spots on a player’s island, which means a minimum of three characters will always have identical things to say. This compounded the lack of dialogue variety for me, especially when I found myself with three or four of the same villager type.

While we’re on the subject of dialogue, Isabelle’s daily announcements should either be changed to actually tell players what’s going on or else scrapped altogether. Isabelle was a popular character in New Leaf, but with Tom Nook assuming a larger role in the Resident Services building in New Horizons she takes on a much smaller role, and the daily announcements were clearly intended to expand that. But as with the villagers, Isabelle has only a handful of things to say, and these get incredibly repetitive.

No, Isabelle. No it does not.

Her daily announcements would be a great way to communicate to players things that might be taking place on the island: visiting special characters, for example. Yet Isabelle never mentions any of these, instead repeating the same uninspired line about what she supposedly watched on television. It’s just boring.

New Horizons doesn’t need voice actors to come in and record new lines for hours and hours. All of this is text-based, so writing a few more lines – or a few thousand more, even – wouldn’t be beyond Nintendo’s capabilities, and would scarcely even pad out the game’s modest file size when compared to some of the other things fans have been requesting, such as bringing back absent characters and items.

The game is in dire need of more updates and more things to do.

Speaking of which, there are several characters who could make an overdue return to the game. One of the most-requested absent characters is Brewster, a pigeon who ran a coffee shop in past games. The coffee shop could return too, either as an addition to an existing building or better yet, by being a brand-new building for players to place on their islands. Timmy and Tommy’s shop could also be expanded further, allowing it to sell more than the half a dozen or so items it currently offers each day. There’s also scope to bring in a dedicated shoe shop, gardening shop, fortune teller’s shop, or Gracie’s ultra-luxurious item shop. Whether any of these shops, which were present in New Leaf and City Folk, will make it is anyone’s guess, but many fans are asking for more shops and places to visit on their islands.

Tortimer and Kapp’n, who were present in New Leaf and earlier entries in the series, could also make a return, perhaps appearing in the town square to oversee mini-games. Though of course it would be great to get a new location for the mini-games à la New Leaf, in order to simplify things I’m sure players would be more than happy to see them visit their island like other special characters do.

The Roost – another missing feature from past games in the series.
Picture Credit: Animal Crossing Wiki

As I said when I spoke about this on the podcast, games do have a natural lifespan, and for folks who’ve sunk hundreds or even thousands of hours into New Horizons, perhaps they were always eventually going to hit the wall and arrive at the end of the road. But considering that, for me at least, the previous entry in the series managed to give me seven years’ worth of casual enjoyment, for New Horizons to have lasted less than eighteen months before even its biggest fans have become bored and burned out is poor. I think we were all expecting better from Nintendo.

A big update this summer would go a long way to making up for it, and would bring back many lapsed players – like myself, as I haven’t checked in with my island in months at this point! The addition of new buildings, like the coffee shop, would be fantastic, but what the game desperately needs is mini-games and a compelling multiplayer offering, and that really ought to be Nintendo’s focus. As I said last time, New Horizons doesn’t have a multiplayer mode in its current form. It pretends to, but when you actually try it out you find very quickly that there just isn’t anything to do. Folks who bought Switch Online to play this game surely feel they got swindled.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf can feel rather empty or even boring.

New dialogue for existing characters and villagers would also spice things up and give players a reason to actually play the game once again. A game that aims to be a gentle, slow-paced “life simulator” loses so much when the villagers on your island who are supposedly your friends feel like one-dimensional, incredibly repetitive video game characters instead of making a basic effort to make them seem like more than that. Considering all of the in-game dialogue is text, I don’t see why New Horizons can’t simply add more. It would be incredibly easy to do and wouldn’t compromise the game in any way, nor even make it significantly larger on disc.

So there we go. New Horizons needs to do something big in fairly short order to pacify its remaining playerbase and to convince folks that this once-celebrated game isn’t just a one-trick pony. Well over a year on from its release it still offers less than New Leaf did at launch in 2013, and for a game that had such promise I think that’s a real shame. I ended my original review of the game last year by saying this: “I was still playing New Leaf earlier this year, seven years on from its release. Will I still be playing New Horizons after such a long time? If I’m still alive and kicking in 2027, remind me to come back and tell you.”

Unless the game gets a significant update – and soon – there’s not even a question of playing New Horizons in 2027. I won’t even be playing it in the second half of 2021.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now for Nintendo Switch. The Animal Crossing series – including New Leaf, New Horizons, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Nintendo. Some promotional screenshots courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The OLED Nintendo Switch disappoints fans… good.

Just to clarify: I don’t want to revel in someone’s disappointment. There are valid reasons to look forward to a brand-new Nintendo console and all of the improvements that such a device could bring to upcoming games. But I was very pleased to see that the rumours about an impending “Nintendo Switch Pro” have come to naught on this occasion.

There’s a moral to this story, one which we all need to be aware of in the age of the internet: don’t believe everything you read! Not long ago I talked about how a single Twitter post sent the online Star Trek fandom into a spiral of clickbaity articles promising the return of a major character, and in this case it seems that unspecified, unsourced, anonymous “rumours” led many Nintendo fans and commentators to expect the imminent announcement of a brand-new console.

The Switch OLED version has led some fans to feel disappointed – they were hoping for something more.

It’s incredibly easy to start a rumour. Sign up for an account on a popular forum, post your bullshit, claim to have “sources” close to the company or production concerned, and Bob’s your uncle. Rumour started. Watch with glee as the internet goes wild for whatever nonsense you’ve decided to peddle. I can’t count the number of articles I’ve seen that were kicked off by these so-called “leaks,” including about major games like Grand Theft Auto 6, huge films like Star Wars Episode VIII, and many more besides. Practically all of them turned out to be completely wrong, and those few that got something right seem to have done so more by chance than because of anything legitimate.

In short, don’t believe rumours that you read on the internet, especially those which concern the games industry. Even if you read something in the mainstream games press, on a usually-reliable website, or even see something on a YouTube channel with multiple millions of subscribers, it could all be based on nonsense. Check the sources of whatever publication or outlet is reporting these rumours. Where did they get it from? If it’s an “anonymous leak” or the publication refuses to say where the rumour comes from, it should be dismissed out of hand. I’ve said on more than one occasion here on the website that I’d rather not discuss a story that turns out to be true instead of jump in and comment on every non-event sparked by one of these ridiculous anonymous posts.

Any idiot with an internet connection can start a rumour.

Obviously the reason we’re talking about all of this is because Nintendo has finally revealed to the world the latest iteration of their Nintendo Switch console, and after months of rumours that a brand-new machine was in the offing, a lot of Nintendo superfans are feeling disappointed.

The Nintendo Switch is barely four years old, having been launched in March 2017. Though early console generations could be relatively short, for the past several generations we’ve seen double that – there were eight years between the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 5, for example. It’s not good business sense for Nintendo to launch a completely new console this soon after the Switch’s launch; doing so would leave the millions of players who’ve only just bought one feeling like they made a mistake, and would sour Nintendo’s carefully-constructed brand.

The rumoured Switch Pro was alleged to be a machine which would have had its own exclusive games; titles which wouldn’t work on the original 2017 Switch or the Switch Lite, and this horrible naming confusion would have made the Xbox Series X and Wii U debacles look positively genius by comparison.

The rumoured “Switch Pro” has failed to materialise.

So I’m glad that the Switch OLED has turned out to be a bag of nothing; a minor upgrade with a shiny new screen, better stand, and not a lot else to offer. When one of the biggest features Nintendo can brag about in the new device’s marketing is that the dock is a different colour, you know there’s not much worth talking about!

The Switch still has years’ worth of life left in it. It’s not impossible to think it could pass the decade mark and run alongside the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X for the entirety of this generation. Its limited internal hardware will mean that ports of brand-new games will become difficult to impossible, but as game streaming rises to become a big deal in the industry, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to see a “Switch Streaming” app sometime soon that would allow players to stream games to their console that otherwise wouldn’t work. Developing something like that seems like a far better use of Nintendo’s time than making a Switch Pro.

The Switch is barely four years old – there’s plenty of life left in it yet!

Nintendo is uniquely positioned in the video game marketplace. Not only does the Switch offer Nintendo’s own, generally high-quality titles from Animal Crossing: New Horizons to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it also allows players to take all kinds of games with them on the go. The unique selling point of the console has proven to be wildly popular with gamers of all stripes, and ditching it or mothballing it in favour of a new project would be a wasted opportunity. The Switch has already sold over 85 million units in just four years – and is already hot on the heels of the Wii, which sold just over 100 million. It’s not a stretch to think that the Switch could literally become the best-selling console ever, stealing the crown currently held by the PlayStation 2.

So it’s absolutely appropriate for Nintendo to continue to invest in the Switch. This latest iteration is just that: an iteration. A minor adjustment of the Switch to appeal to new fans and perhaps to convince some folks to upgrade to get the shinier screen. The Switch’s future success will be built on games, though, and I’m sure Nintendo has plenty of ideas in the pipeline there as well.

A sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming soon.

It’s also worth mentioning the very rocky launch that both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have endured, with shortages of key components leading to far fewer consoles being available. Even now, eight months later, tracking down a console at its recommended retail price is still difficult, and in some parts of the world is completely impossible. Any new Nintendo console would face similar issues, and with the shortage of components not looking like it’s going to ease up any time soon, such a device would have had a rough launch.

I’m sorry if you feel disappointed that there isn’t going to be a new Nintendo console this year, but in my opinion it’s for the best. There are some great positive reasons to stick with the Switch family of systems instead of trying to pre-emptively create something new, and there are plenty of negative reasons that should tell any wannabe-manufacturer that now is not a great time to consider launching new hardware. As I said at the beginning, rumours and leaks don’t mean anything. In 2021, with so much junk flying around online, unless something is outright confirmed by an official source it should always be looked at with a healthy degree of scepticism.

So I think this was the right call by Nintendo, and I hope they plan on sticking with the Switch beyond 2021 as well. There are some great Switch games out already, and I have no doubt that there are many more to come.

The Nintendo Switch and all other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten racetrack theme ideas for Mario Kart 9

With Nintendo planning a digital presentation for next month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo – more commonly known as E3 – rumours abound as to what they could talk about. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2? A new 3D Mario game? A new Donkey Kong title? Those are all contenders, and I would posit that Nintendo would be unlikely to put out a major E3 broadcast unless they had something big to say! But there’s still the prospect of a new Mario Kart game – something I’ve discussed on a couple of occasions already.

Super Mario Kart was released for the SNES in 1992, which means that next year will be the Mario Kart series’ 30th anniversary. In recent years we’ve seen a number of anniversary-themed events from Nintendo, and I can’t help but feel that they’ll do something to acknowledge Mario Kart. E3 would be the ideal time to announce Mario Kart 9, then, in time for the title to be released in the first half of next year!

Super Mario Kart turns 30 next year!

Maybe I’m wrong about that, though – and as I always like to say, I have no “insider information!” But regardless, it’s always fun to talk about the Mario Kart series and the prospects for a new title. Having already talked about a number of older racetracks I’d like to see come back, a roster of Nintendo characters who could be drivers, and even a handful of non-Nintendo characters who could join the fun, this time I want to talk about the possibilities for new racetracks – specifically, what theming Nintendo could use.

Past Mario Kart games had a number of Nintendo-themed tracks – such as Royal Raceway, based around Princess Peach’s castle, DK Mountain, which obviously pays homage to the jungle home of Donkey Kong, and of course the Bowser Castle tracks. But many Mario Kart titles also had more generic or non-Nintendo tracks too – things like Vanilla Lake, Choco Island, Sweet Sweet Canyon, and even Rainbow Road are all based less on specific Nintendo properties than just generic theming. My list will include a mix of both kinds of racetrack!

So let’s take a look, shall we?

Number 1: The museum from Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The upgraded museum as it appears in New Horizons.

A racetrack based around Animal Crossing: New Horizons seems like a given considering how popular the game has been since it launched! But rather than a generic island – or perhaps as well as one – I think a racetrack themed around New Horizons’ museum could be neat. I do still check in with my New Horizons island from time to time, partly because I still haven’t collected every last bug, fish, fossil and work of art! The museum is one of the game’s most interesting locations, and would make a fun setting for a racetrack.

Starting in the lobby, players would race through four areas: the bug room, fossil exhibit, art gallery, and aquarium. The aquarium offers the potential for underwater racing – if that feature is coming back in Mario Kart 9 – so there’d be at least two terrains as well as a variety of scenery! The higher levels of the museum would also offer space for jumps and tricks. But above all, it would be a different take on the expected “Animal Crossing island” track that I think would take a lot of folks by surprise.

Number 2: The Last Resort hotel from Luigi’s Mansion 3

The Last Resort hotel is the setting for Luigi’s Mansion 3.

I know, I know. My playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion 3, which I commenced in the run-up to last Halloween, still needs to be finished. And I will get around to it eventually! But for now, let’s consider how The Last Resort hotel could make for an amazing racetrack! The Mario Kart series has never shied away from spooky, ghostly racetracks, and given the popularity of Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Switch, incorporating it into Mario Kart 9 makes a lot of sense.

Players could start in the basement garage and race to the top in a one-way route broken into three segments. That would put a twist on several of the similar one-way downhill tracks in Mario Kart 8! Ghostly apparitions could make for interesting moving obstacles, and above all, the track would have the potential to be a lot of fun. There could certainly be jumps or aerial sections, though I’m not sure about racing underwater.

Number 3: A track based on the world of Minecraft

Promo screenshot for Minecraft.

This kind of ties into my idea of having Minecraft Steve as a playable racer! Minecraft has been popular on the Nintendo Switch – just as it has been on practically every other console – and considering that Nintendo and Microsoft have happily worked together to bring Minecraft Steve into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, why not go one step further and have a Minecraft-themed racetrack?

The open worlds of Minecraft have a multitude of biomes and terrains, and there’s scope for anti-gravity racing up cliffs or down deep caverns, underwater sections through seas and rivers, aerial sections jumping off mountains or into the sky – and that’s before we even get to the Nether or the End! There could even be a Minecraft cup with four racetracks based around this game – though maybe that’s a bit much!

Number 4: Bubblaine from Super Mario Odyssey

Remember when the internet went wild for Mario’s nipples? We live in strange times…

There’s bound to be at least one racetrack based on a location from Super Mario Odyssey in the next Mario Kart title, so I’d like to propose Bubblaine! The Mario Kart series has previously featured a number of beach-themed tracks, but this would be the first to be based on an actual level from a mainline game. There’s even the possibility for a track based on Bubblaine – or the other water level from Odyssey, Lake Lamode – to be fully underwater, with no above-water sections at all. That could make for an interesting twist!

I like beach-themed racetracks in Mario Kart. They’re relaxing and often have great music, and though Bubblaine wouldn’t necessarily be unique in the Mario Kart series, it could pick up the baton for beach racetracks.

Number 5: New Donk City from Super Mario Odyssey

New Donk City is home to Mayor Pauline!

New Donk City played a big role in the marketing campaign for Odyssey, and it seems at least possible that Nintendo would want to capitalise on the name and imagery for Mario Kart 9 as well. There have been urban racetracks in the Mario Kart series before but none quite like New Donk City.

Just like how street circuits like Monaco or Singapore are popular in Formula 1, the closed-in nature of New Donk City’s network of roads could make for a fun racetrack. With tall buildings to potentially jump from, and Mayor Pauline’s iconic song forming the basis for the soundtrack, this one has a lot of potential to be a fun – if slightly tricky – racetrack!

Number 6: The Galar Region from Pokémon Sword & Shield

A promo screenshot of a city in the Galar Region.

I’ve never played a Pokémon game. Make of that what you will! But Pokémon Sword & Shield have been successful on the Nintendo Switch – despite the so-called “Dexit” controversy the games generated! Although Pokémon has always been a franchise strongly associated with Nintendo, no Pokémon characters or locales have appeared in the Mario Kart series – at least, not yet.

I don’t know too much about the Galar Region other than it’s based on my native United Kingdom, but that in itself could make for a fun concept for British Nintendo fans! There have been some Pokémon characters included in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so it’s not impossible to think that a crossover between two of Nintendo’s biggest exclusive properties is on the cards.

Number 7: The city of Kyoto, Japan

A dark street in the city of Kyoto.

Now we’re leaving the realm of video games behind to look at some racetrack themes from the real world. Kyoto – which was the capital city of Japan for more than 1,000 years before it moved to Tokyo – is where Nintendo is headquartered. Many of the company’s developers live and work in the city, and know it intimately. It could be a lot of fun for them – and for us as players – to bring the city to life as the basis of a racetrack.

A Japanese-themed racetrack is a win-win for any Mario Kart title in many ways. The game’s Japanese audience would be pleased to see a representation of their home, and there are many in the west who love all things Japanese and would be equally thrilled. Kyoto makes a lot of sense because of its connection to Nintendo, and we could see recreations of famous landmarks like the Imperial Palace, To-Ji Temple, Kyoto Tower, and Teramachi Street.

Number 8: A food-themed racetrack

Looks yummy!

Choco Island and Choco Mountain, which appeared in Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 respectively, kicked off a trend of Nintendo including at least one racetrack with a food theme in most mainline Mario Kart games. In addition to chocolate we’ve had the likes of Cheese Land and Sweet Sweet Canyon. It would be great to keep this trend going with another foody track, perhaps one based around Japanese cuisine?

A restaurant could make for a fun setting, and would allow shrunk-down racers to drive through the kitchen, into the dining room, across tabletops, past plates of food, and so on. Mario Kart has always been a series which is happy to set logic aside when it comes to theming, so why not?

Number 9: Ice or a glacier

Ice and snow have appeared a lot in Mario Kart.

There have been plenty of snow- and ice-themed tracks in past Mario Kart games, and I’m sure the next entry in the series will bring at least one to the table. There’s scope for a track set on a glacier to have an environmental theme, especially if the glacier were melting! Perhaps each lap could see more and more of the glacier melt away, until the final lap has players racing through a track that’s more water than ice.

Regardless, snow and ice are tricky surfaces to race on, and can be made to feel extra slippery under the wheels of players’ karts. This alone makes them fun and challenging in equal measure, and I hope there’ll be at least one track with this kind of icy, wintry theme in Mario Kart 9.

Number 10: An alpine or mountain stage

A picture-perfect Alpine village and lake.

The famous cycling races Tour de France and Giro d’Italia both run stages through the Alps, and it’s something along those lines that I’m thinking of here. Mountainous racetracks in Mario Kart tend to either be snowy or have some other theming, but I quite like the idea of racing along past a mountain village, pine trees, and the like, in a track with an alpine setting.

The Alps border several countries, including France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria, so elements from those cultures could be incorporated into the theming of the track. This could also be a one-way track divided into segments instead of a loop to run laps around.

So that’s it. Ten theme ideas for Mario Kart 9 racetracks!

Still the best version of Rainbow Road… change my mind!

Because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of a Wii U game, there hasn’t been an original Mario Kart title released for the Nintendo Switch yet. I know that’s kind of splitting hairs, but it provides a small amount of hope that we’ll see another title in the fun kart racing series before this generation is over. The Switch should still have several years’ of life left, so if we don’t get Mario Kart 9 this generation it could be a while before we see it.

I’m hopeful, then, of a new Mario Kart game sometime soon. Whether it will be announced at E3, or whether it will be connected to the 30th anniversary of the series are just guesses on my part – but I think both are educated guesses. It makes sense to me, at any rate!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now on Nintendo Switch. All other titles and properties mentioned above are copyright of Nintendo or their respective studio, developer, publisher, and/or owner. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of the Mario Wiki. Some stock images courtesy of Pixabay. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten non-Nintendo characters who (probably won’t) appear in Mario Kart 9!

A few days ago I had a lot of fun putting together a short list of (mostly) Nintendo characters who I think should appear in Mario Kart 9 – whenever that game may come! As a follow-up, I thought it could be interesting to consider a few characters from outside of Nintendo’s walled garden who could also join the fun. If you’d like to check out the original list, you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Mario Kart 8 and later Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pushed the boat out as far as the roster of drivers is concerned, including characters from outside of the Super Mario series for the first time, including Link from The Legend of Zelda series, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and two characters from the Splatoon games. However, it would be a first for the series to include non-Nintendo characters!

Isabelle, from the Animal Crossing series, is a driver in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Although the Mario Kart games haven’t done so yet, Nintendo has proved itself willing to open up to other companies’ franchises and characters in recent years. We’ve seen Minecraft Steve, for example, as well as characters from the Castlevania, Persona, and Dragon Quest series appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, so I think that demonstrates a willingness on Nintendo’s part to think outside the box when it comes to characters in popular titles.

Whether it will happen, though, is completely unknown! And to reiterate what I always say: this is pure guesswork and a wishlist from a fan, nothing more. I’m not claiming to know for a fact that any characters listed below will appear in Mario Kart 9 – or even if such a game is currently in development. With the 30th anniversary of the Mario Kart series coming up in 2022 I think it’s possible that we might see a new game, but even that’s just a guess on my part!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega)

Sonic as he appears in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games: Tokyo 2020.

Of all the characters on this list, Sonic is arguably the most likely to crop up in Mario Kart 9. Not only is he a character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but there have been a number of Nintendo games over the last decade or more in which he’s been prominently featured. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games in 2007 marked his debut alongside Mario, and since then the duo have appeared together in five more Olympic-themed titles.

It would’ve seemed unthinkable in the ’90s for Mario and Sonic to appear together; they were the mascots of competing companies! It was only when Sega retired from manufacturing their own consoles shortly after the millennium that Sonic appearing on Nintendo hardware was even a possibility, but he’s since become a mainstay. He’d make for a fantastic character, and having already featured in his own kart racer, he definitely knows a thing or two about driving!

Number 2: Pac-Man (Bandai Namco)

A 3D rendering of Pac-Man from 1999’s Pac-Man World.

Another character who appeared in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Pac-Man is a gaming icon from the medium’s early days. Originally an arcade game created in 1980, Pac-Man spawned a whole host of titles in a series that continues to this day. Though the games have no real story or plot, Pac-Man was arguably one of the first video game characters, and was, for a time, symbolic of the games industry as a whole. His simple design became iconic, and even today Pac-Man is instantly recognisable.

As with Sonic above, even a few years ago the idea of a collaboration between Nintendo and Pac-Man (short of licensing one of the games to their consoles) wouldn’t have seemed possible. But as companies continue to pool their resources and work together, it could make a lot of sense for both Nintendo and Bandai Namco (or should that be Bando Namcai?) to bring Pac-Man to Mario Kart 9.

Number 3: Fall Guy (Epic Games/Mediatonic)

Three Fall Guys seen in a recent Nintendo Direct.

If I’d been in charge of the development of cute obstacle course/battle royale title Fall Guys, I would have prioritised a Nintendo Switch release. Regardless, the title is finally going to be released on Nintendo’s console, months after it’s PC and PlayStation 4 debut. The Fall Guys themselves are adorable little jelly bean characters with a huge variety of costumes, and their cartoon aesthetic would fit perfectly with Nintendo’s long-running kart racing series.

The recent Epic Games buyout may complicate matters, but with Fall Guys coming to Switch I really feel it has a shot at being successful on that platform – especially if Mediatonic can get cross-platform play up and running. If the game is a hit, bringing a Fall Guy to Mario Kart 9 would be fantastic, and something Nintendo could absolutely consider doing. It would arguably benefit Fall Guys more, with the character’s inclusion serving almost as advertising, but that should just be an incentive for Epic Games to allow this crossover to go ahead!

Number 4: Master Chief (Microsoft)

The Master Chief in Halo: The Master Chief Collection concept art.

The inclusion of Minecraft Steve in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate shows that Microsoft is quite happy to work with Nintendo, and a number of their recent moves – like their partnership with EA – have opened up the possibility of further collaborations and crossovers with big games companies. With that in mind, could the Halo series’ iconic protagonist end up as a racer?

Halo games, as first-person shooters, are quite violent, so perhaps Nintendo would opt not to include such characters for the sake of keeping the game family-friendly. But Master Chief’s design isn’t aggressive or scary, and I think he could be made to fit. It would be a fun collaboration between two of modern gaming’s big powerhouses.

Number 5: Doom Guy (Bethesda/Microsoft)

Doom Eternal promotional artwork featuring the character known as Doom Guy.

Though visually similar in some respects to the Master Chief, Doom Guy has a surprising history with Nintendo. Not only was Doom 64 a Nintendo 64 exclusive in 1997, but last year saw a bizarre yet strangely wholesome internet-inspired team-up with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In short, Doom Eternal shared a release date with New Horizons, and because of the polar opposite nature of the games, fans began ironically pairing up Doom Guy with Animal Crossing characters – notably Isabelle.

Nintendo could take advantage of the memes and jokes by bringing Doom Guy into Mario Kart 9. On the surface, maybe he isn’t a great fit for the series. But there’s nothing offensive about his character design, and if last year’s fan art showed us one thing, it’s that Doom Guy can be made to look adorable and cartoonified!

Number 6: Two Point Hospital Doctor or Nurse (Sega)

Two doctors and a nurse.

Two Point Hospital is a spiritual successor to 1997’s Theme Hospital, a classic of the “tycoon” genre. It was ported to the Nintendo Switch last year after releasing for PC in 2018, and has gone on to be a surprising success on the platform. As with many tycoon games there isn’t really one principal character to pick out, but a generic doctor and/or nurse could be a fun addition to Mario Kart 9.

One of the great things about Two Point Hospital is its cartoon aesthetic; a deliberate choice that mimics the title’s origins in tycoon games of the 1990s. That look just happens to be perfect for the Mario Kart series, which means a Two Point Hospital character would be a natural fit.

Number 7: A Palico (Capcom)

A Palico as seen in the trailer for Monster Hunter Rise.

I’ll let you in on a secret: the Monster Hunter series has never seemed like my thing. The latest title in the series, Monster Hunter Rise, is available for Nintendo Switch, but despite loving the visual style, the core gameplay of hunting and killing so-called “monsters” – which seem to be docile animals living their own lives not troubling anybody – holds absolutely no appeal to me!

Regardless, the latest title is a big hit on Switch, and Palicoes are cute little felines or cat-like characters that accompany the player character during the game. It seems like this kind of cute critter would be a perfect fit for Mario Kart 9 – even if I don’t personally care for the game they originate from!

Number 8: Zagreus (Supergiant Games)

Promotional art for Hades featuring Zagreus.

Hades has to be one of the best indie games I’ve played in recent years, and was recently featured in a Nintendo Direct presentation as the game is getting a full physical release (i.e. on a game cartridge) for Switch. It’s an absolute blast, and if you haven’t tried it I can’t recommend it enough – if you’re okay with a game in which you die over and over again!

Zagreus, son of Hades, is the game’s protagonist, adapted from the character present in Ancient Greek mythology. His anime-inspired style is… well let’s just say I’m not an anime fan. But as a character he’s interesting and fun to root for in Hades, and with some minor adaptations I’m sure he could fit in with the rest of the racers!

Number 9: Ori and Sein (Microsoft/Moon Studios)

Ori and Sein in Ori and the Blind Forest.

I’d almost forgotten that both Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps had been ported to the Nintendo Switch, but both games were a good fit for Nintendo’s platform and seem to have sold reasonably well. This entry is technically two characters, but they could be rolled into a single racer as Sein’s design might not lend itself to being an independent driver!

The Ori games are surprisingly sweet but also challenging in places, and Ori would certainly fit right in with the Mario Kart series from an aesthetic point of view. It would be great to see the Ori series, which already has a Switch presence, join up with Nintendo for an additional collaboration!

Number 10: Geralt of Rivia (CD Projekt Red)

Geralt as he appears on the box art of The Witcher 3.

Though I still haven’t played The Witcher 3 – or the prior two entries in the series, come to that – it’s held up as one of the best games of the last ten years, and protagonist Geralt of Rivia has since cropped up in a couple of unexpected places! Perhaps his next adventure could be joining Mario and friends for a go-kart race?

The Witcher 3 was one of the most ambitious titles to bring to the Nintendo Switch, considering the size and complexity of the game, but by all accounts it’s a solid port. A lot of folks have been enjoying taking Geralt with them to play on the go, and his recent appearance in Soul Calibur VI shows that CD Projekt Red are clearly amenable to collaborating with other companies. He would be a strange choice, perhaps, but a lot of fun nevertheless!

Bonus: Battle-Cars (Epic Games)

Promotional art for Rocket League showing two Battle-Cars.

One of the most surprising things in Mario Kart 8 was the inclusion of Mercedes-Benz car parts, as part of a deal Nintendo struck with the famous car manufacturer! We could absolutely consider other manufacturers or vehicles that would be cute to see in the next Mario Kart game, but for now I thought it could be fun if Nintendo could team up with one of the other top car games out there – Rocket League!

I’m atrocious at Rocket League and have been since the first time I played, but the game is a lot of fun. A buyout by Epic Games saw the title move to a free-to-play model, which has been good in some ways. There are a number of different vehicle styles, and any could be adapted to make a fun kart in Mario Kart 9. Perhaps three or four different styles would be enough so as not to overwhelm the title!

So that’s it. Ten characters – and one bonus set of vehicles – that Mario Kart 9 should – but most likely won’t – include!

Is a new Mario Kart title in the works?

If I’m right that Nintendo plans to do something next year to mark the series’ 30th anniversary, a new game would be top of the list. And in the spirit of celebration, bringing a whole roster of characters from across gaming to join one big Mario Kart party would be a great thing for Nintendo to do. Some characters that Nintendo has worked with in the past, like Sonic the Hedgehog, seem far more likely than others, but it would benefit practically every company involved in the games industry to allow Nintendo to license one or two of their characters. After all, it’s a fantastic advertisement for the game they’re originally from!

I’ve been a huge Mario Kart fan since I first sat down to play Super Mario Kart in 1993 or 1994, back when I owned a SNES. That title only had eight racers to choose from, and the series has come a long way since then – while managing to retain the fun. As games got better and I played the likes of Shenmue and Knights of the Old Republic I began to favour titles with a strong focus on story; there are few titles I considered fun for their gameplay alone. The Mario Kart series has always been one of them! Whatever happens next year, and whenever Mario Kart 9 may come, I hope Nintendo try to bring in some new and different faces.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out now for Nintendo Switch, and is the copyright of Nintendo. All characters mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo art courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is still missing an incredibly basic feature

It’s been just over a year since the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons for Nintendo Switch, the latest entry in a series that has been running since the GameCube era. And New Horizons has been incredibly popular, rising rapidly to become the Switch’s second best-selling game, behind only Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Considering Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a glorified Wii U port (as are many Switch games, but that’s a battle for another day), I’d say that makes New Horizons the best-selling game that was made from the ground up for the new console! Am I splitting hairs? Well, maybe.

I spent a lot of time with New Horizons in the weeks after its launch. With over 120 hours played it became one of my most-played games of 2020, and I gave it the “best casual game” award as the year drew to a close. But shortly after publishing my review of the game – which you can find by clicking or tapping here, by the way – I put it down for almost six months. When I picked it up again, although there were a handful of updates which added different features, I was surprised to see that New Horizons is still missing something incredibly basic, a feature that would make the game infinitely more fun and increase its longevity substantially. I’m talking about mini-games.

New Horizons is missing something important.

New Horizons has a shit multiplayer mode. In fact, its multiplayer mode is so utterly threadbare that it isn’t a stretch to say that there’s literally nothing to do when playing with friends. You can exchange gifts if you have an in-game item your friend desperately wants, and you can check out the designs and scenery on their island, but that’s it. There isn’t anything to do together at all – and especially for players who paid extra for Nintendo’s Switch Online service only to be able to play New Horizons, that’s incredibly disappointing.

I wouldn’t have picked up Switch Online but for New Horizons. I certainly wasn’t going to pay to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online after Nintendo gated off what had previously been a free online mode behind their new paywall, and I was content to skip Switch Online altogether. But New Horizons – and a couple of friends of mine who play – convinced me to sign up, and were it not for the fact that I’ve played a couple of other titles online (and will hopefully pick up Fall Guys when it arrives later in the year) I’d feel I 100% wasted my money.

Do not buy a Switch Online subscription just to play New Horizons… it isn’t worth it.

To understand why, and why I’m so sour about this, we need to step back one iteration in the Animal Crossing series, back to 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf. New Leaf introduced a number of new features when it debuted on the Nintendo 3DS, and unlike New Horizons, felt like a game that was actually complete when it launched. One of the most fun features, and the main reason I was still playing New Leaf seven years after its release, was an area outside of the main map called the “tropical island.” This area is absent from New Horizons – as are a number of other Animal Crossing staples, despite the game having a full year’s worth of updates under its belt.

The tropical island in New Leaf was more than just a different area to visit with different fruit trees and bugs to catch. It offered mini-games to play, and these could be played with friends – for free, by the way – via either of the Nintendo 3DS’ two multiplayer options (local or online). These mini-games were so much fun, especially when playing with a friend, and gave New Leaf a whole extra lease of life that, frankly, the main game did not have. New Horizons does not have this, and thus a key component of the Animal Crossing experience is lacking.

An example of a tropical island mini-game.

The mini-games New Leaf offered were incredibly varied. Some would put a timer on everyday Animal Crossing activities – like fishing or popping balloons. Others were entirely new for the tropical island, such as using a soft mallet to hit an out-of-control robot. For me – and practically everyone else I knew who played New Leaf – these mini-games were an incredibly important part of the fun, and a mainstay of multiplayer sessions.

The mini-games aren’t the only feature New Horizons is missing. There are many others we could point to, like the coffee shop, the ability to set town ordinances, additional expansions of the shop, the fortune-tellers, the shoe-shop, the gardening shop, and so on. Holidays were also missing at launch, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These were patched in later… but that’s no good for players who don’t have their Switch connected to the internet, or for whom data caps apply. Many kids play New Horizons, and I’m sure not all of them are allowed to connect their consoles to the internet.

“Toy Day” – a.k.a. Christmas – should not have been an update, it should’ve been part of the game at launch.

As I said once before, it’s hard to escape the feeling that New Horizons was released in an incomplete state. Although no major bugs or glitches are present, the game itself is missing key features, and can feel rather threadbare. New features, like terraforming, don’t make up for the lack of things like mini-games, not least because terraforming is a single-player-only activity!

I plan to do a full update of my review at some point soon, so I won’t dive too deeply into all of the missing or removed features here. But I would certainly make the case that these “free updates” are a lot less generous than they appear to be on the surface. All Nintendo is really doing is adding into the game features that should have already been present – features that were part of previous Animal Crossing titles that were removed, or not ready, when New Horizons launched.

At least we can still listen to K.K. Slider’s songs…

If I were in charge of the project, getting mini-games back into New Horizons in some form would be a priority. Nintendo spent much of 2020 adding holiday-themed events, including the aforementioned Halloween and Christmas, so perhaps now is the time to switch focus and make a big push to get mini-games back. Even if the tropical island itself doesn’t return as its own entire area of the map, the ability to play mini-games with villagers in single-player and with friends in multiplayer would quite literally transform the game and make it so much more enjoyable.

Right now, New Horizons doesn’t feel worthwhile to play with friends. After collecting all of the five different fruits (previous games even had more types of fruit!) and seeing their island, there’s really nothing to do. You can “make your own fun,” is what some super-fans and defenders of the game will say. But what fun can you make, exactly? Hide-and-seek works fine, I guess, with other players. But there’s no timed events, no special events like popping the most balloons or matching the right fossils; these things used to be part of Animal Crossing, and Nintendo opted to remove them. By doing so, New Horizons’ multiplayer is incredibly weak, and far, far worse than New Leaf offered eight years ago on much less impressive hardware. That shouldn’t have happened, and we shouldn’t let Nintendo get away with it.

2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf had a superior multiplayer experience.

I’ve already called out New Horizons for the incredibly poor way it handles save files; only allowing one island per console is a cheap trick to force players – and especially parents – to buy more Switch consoles. But the lack of in-game content, especially for multiplayer, deserves criticism too. Considering the game invites players to pay extra for Switch Online, the very least Nintendo could do is ensure that there was something for us to do.

I held off writing this piece for a long time, hoping that the next update or the next one after that would add in mini-games, the tropical island, or both. But after more than a year, New Horizons’ multiplayer remains in a useless state. There’s very little fun to be had playing with friends, and that situation shouldn’t go unnoticed. I’ll happily recommend New Horizons to players looking for a fun single-player experience – albeit with the caveat that it will probably be better and have more to offer in another year or two’s time. But as a multiplayer game, and especially as a reason to buy a Switch Online subscription? 0/10. Impossible to recommend New Horizons in its current state.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now for Nintendo Switch, and is the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is the Mario anniversary game I should’ve bought!

Nintendo showed off two big projects last year to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario franchise: Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Perhaps pushed by the awful forced scarcity of Super Mario 3D All-Stars – which was removed from sale arbitrarily last month – but also excited at the prospect of replaying Super Mario 64, that was the game I picked up on release day. And it was an underwhelming experience; £50 not particularly well-spent.

Don’t get me wrong, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is okay, and for someone who’s never played any of the games included I could recommend it under some circumstances. All three games work, and there have been some very minor improvements to the way Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy look. But that’s all you got for £50 – three games, the newest of which is from 2007, slightly tweaked. Super Mario 64, one of my favourite games of all time and the title I was most excited to replay, looks pretty crappy in the 3D All-Stars collection, with a strange frame resolution that leaves black bars around all four sides of the screen. They couldn’t even get it to fit the screen top to bottom! Even an emulator can manage that!

The pretty crappy way Super Mario 64 looks in the 3D All-Stars collection is disappointing and a little offputting.

So I was unimpressed with the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection, and it’s the one game in the last couple of years that I genuinely regret purchasing. I broke my own rule about day-one purchases, and picked it up without waiting to see any reviews or gameplay assuming that Super Mario 64 alone would make it worthwhile. Given that the version of Super Mario 64 is itself underwhelming, the entire collection felt disappointing and was certainly very overpriced.

The other Mario game announced for the 35th anniversary was Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. 3D World had been a Wii U title, so this is a port, but Bowser’s Fury is entirely new. Even though it’s been out for a couple of months now I avoided picking it up. I don’t have an unlimited budget for video games – or anything else, come to that – and after my recent disappointing experience with Super Mario 3D All-Stars I was not overly keen on spending more money on another Mario title. But earlier this week I got a reasonable deal on a second-hand copy and decided to give it a shot.

Cat Mario is just too cute!

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is unquestionably the title I should’ve picked up instead of Super Mario 3D All-Stars. It’s superior in practically every respect. The Wii U gameplay has been perfectly ported to the Switch, and while it perhaps doesn’t look quite as shiny as Super Mario Odyssey, it’s a perfectly acceptable 3D platformer with a cute Mario aesthetic that matches the rest of the franchise. And the cat costumes are just so adorable – I’m a cat owner (I have four) and I love practically anything cat-themed!

Bowser’s Fury is a brand-new mode made for the Switch. To call it a “mode” is a bit uncharitable, as Bowser’s Fury could just as easily be a standalone game in its own right. Perhaps not a full-priced one, as it’s relatively short, but it easily stands up against other Switch titles in terms of how much fun it is to play. The new addition adds a lot to Super Mario 3D World, elevating the experience of the original Wii U title. And it’s fair to say that, without Bowser’s Fury, Super Mario 3D World on its own would be a harder sell – especially for someone like me who’s already played it.

Bowser doesn’t look happy…

Gameplay-wise, Nintendo’s expected high quality is present, with no major bugs, glitches, or crashes getting in the way. And I’m having fun playing Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, which I really haven’t been able to say about the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.

Nintendo have had some great successes since the Switch launched in 2017. It seems clear to me, though, that the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario franchise was originally supposed to be bigger. Bowser’s Fury is really the only new game that’s been part of the celebration, and while we know that Nintendo suffered a lot of production delays due to the pandemic, that doesn’t account for all of it. Super Mario 3D All-Stars felt rushed; a collection cobbled together at the last minute perhaps because Bowser’s Fury wasn’t ready.

Promo screenshot for Bowser’s Fury.

Unfortunately, talk of a new or updated “Switch Pro” is hanging over Nintendo at the moment. Having ported over the main Mario games present on the Wii U, now could have been the time for the company to build on the successes of Super Mario Odyssey and now Bowser’s Fury, launching new titles in the franchise. With the 30th anniversary of Mario Kart coming next year, perhaps a new title in that series could be in the offing. But this rumour of a potential new console needs to be cleared up as soon as possible – fans need to know what they can expect from Nintendo in the short-to-medium term.

Bowser’s Fury takes advantage of the Switch’s hardware to do things that Super Mario 3D World couldn’t have managed on the Wii U. And that offers a pathway forward; an opportunity to build on its successes and develop new titles in the series for the current console. With the number of units sold rapidly approaching the numbers Nintendo saw with the Wii, shifting focus to new hardware now seems positively stupid. The Switch easily has four or five years’ of life left in it at the very least, and there should be many more games in the vein of Bowser’s Fury to come. I hope this talk of a new console or a variant which will have exclusive titles can be put to bed ASAP so Nintendo fans can focus on enjoying the current system to its fullest.

Cat Peach, Toad, Mario, and Cat Luigi.

For my money, Bowser’s Fury makes Super Mario 3D World worth the buy. If you weren’t one of the nine people besides me who owned a Wii U a few years ago, the base game is also great and will be new to you as well. On its own, Super Mario 3D World isn’t as good as Super Mario Odyssey, but it’s a solid title in its own right. The cat suits which are the game’s big new feature are more than just a visual gimmick, as the power-up they offer does change the way Mario (and the other characters) interact with the game world.

I don’t have any friends to sit down with on the couch and play Super Mario 3D World with. Wait, that sounds sad! What I mean is that the game offers a multiplayer mode for up to four players, and while I haven’t been able to take advantage of that for myself, if you have people to play with, you’ll get a classic-feeling Super Mario experience that can be enjoyed together.

I was left disappointed last year with Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Nintendo’s anniversary of the Super Mario series. But it turns out that I just bought the wrong game. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is an appropriate celebration of Nintendo’s mascot and his 35th birthday, and I’m glad to have picked it up.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury was developed and published by Nintendo and is out now for Nintendo Switch. The Super Mario franchise – including all titles mentioned above – is the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fifteen Nintendo characters who NEED to be part of Mario Kart 9

A while ago I took a look at some racetracks from past Mario Kart games that I’d love to see return in Mario Kart 9 – whether that game ends up coming to the Nintendo Switch or whether it’s not made until a new console is out. This time I want to look at some characters from other Nintendo games (and a couple of non-Nintendo games) who would be amazing to add to the roster of drivers in Mario Kart 9. There are so many fun characters that have been created over the years, and with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe expanding the list, why not go all-in and add these ones too?

For the purposes of this list I’m assuming that all of the characters from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be returning. After all, why wouldn’t they? So I’m not including anyone on my list who was part of the most recent entry in the series! Instead I want to focus on characters who’ve never been playable in Mario Kart.

Mario Kart 64′s Rainbow Road is one of my all-time favourite tracks!

In 1993 or 1994 I first played Super Mario Kart on the SNES. From almost the first moment I was hooked, and had great fun with the cute, silly kart racer. It even prompted me to try go-karting for myself, which was a fun experience! I’ve been fortunate enough to play every Mario Kart game to date – some more than others – on their original hardware, and while it would be unprecedented for Nintendo to launch a second Mario Kart game on the same console, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of the Wii U title. Maybe that means Mario Kart 9 is closer than we think!

Next year will be the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Kart’s 1992 release, and thus the 30th anniversary of the entire Mario Kart series. Given Nintendo’s love (bordering on a fetish, really!) of anniversaries and anniversary events, perhaps some kind of celebration is on the cards. Maybe they’re even working on releasing Mario Kart 9 in time for the 30th anniversary!

Nintendo recently launched the (underwhelming) Super Mario 3D All-Stars for Mario’s 35th anniversary. Might a new game be planned for Mario Kart’s 30th?

Who’s your favourite Mario Kart racer? Ever since their first appearance in Mario Kart Wii, mine has been Dry Bones – the skeleton koopa troopa. He’s just so cute! I even have a figure and a plush toy of him somewhere in my collection! But there are many wonderful characters in the various Mario Kart games, and several different versions of some of the big ones. Mario, for example, has a baby version, a metal version, a gold version, and even a tanooki version! While there are some great characters to play with already, I can still think of more!

My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I don’t know if or when Mario Kart 9 will be released, whether it will come out on the Switch, or which characters may or may not be included. This is simply a wishlist from a fan of the series – nothing more!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: Tom Nook

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is second only to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the all-time bestseller list for the Switch, and with the huge popularity of the game, it makes a lot of sense to include more Animal Crossing critters in Mario Kart 9. Isabelle and a generic Villager are already present, but it would be amazing to see Animal Crossing mainstay – and everyone’s tanooki best friend – Tom Nook join the lineup.

As with all Animal Crossing characters, Tom Nook has a unique, cartoonish look that’s perfect for Mario Kart. No changes would be needed to the way he looks, and it would be possible to have several different outfits for him, including seasonal variants and even holiday-themed ones, based on his different outfits in New Horizons.

Number 2: K.K. Slider

Sticking with Animal Crossing, while there are plenty of characters who could join Tom Nook, few are more emblematic of the series than musician K.K. Slider. A regular visitor to players’ islands in New Horizons, the laid-back dog could take a break from jammin’ and join a kart race! I didn’t know this until recently, because I always felt K.K. Slider’s “songs” were a bit of a joke, but he has a real-world following. People actually enjoy listening to his music. Funny old world, eh?

There’s scope to add other Animal Crossing critters too, but most of the remaining mainstays – Timmy and Tommy, Sable and Mabel, etc. – come as part of a set, and it would be hard to include one but not others.

Number 3: Fox McCloud (a.k.a. Star Fox)

Back in the SNES days I adored Star Fox, Nintendo’s animal-themed space shooter! It was one of the first games I picked up for the console, drawn in simply by the box art as I was a huge fan of anything to do with space and sci-fi. Fox has recently appeared alongside Mario in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but has never made an appearance in Mario Kart. As a pilot, surely he’d be a good driver!

The Star Fox franchise has felt underappreciated by Nintendo, with no new entry since 2016’s Star Fox Zero. Bringing back the series’ protagonist in a sure-fire hit like Mario Kart 9 could lead to a resurgence in popularity, with perhaps a new Star Fox game in the offing.

Number 4: A Goomba

The Mario Kart games have included many of Mario’s iconic adversaries as playable characters, going all the way back to the inclusion of Bowser and Koopa Troopa in Super Mario Kart. But Goombas have only ever appeared as obstacles on racetracks, never as a playable character. That wrong needs to be righted, and players should be able to finally give Goombas a break!

With so many other iconic Mario villains having had a turn in the spotlight, it would be really sweet to see a Goomba in the driver’s seat for once.

Number 5: Samus Aran

The only Metroid game I’ve ever played was Super Metroid on the SNES – though I did briefly toy with Metroid Prime on a friend’s GameCube. But there’s no denying that Samus, the series’ protagonist, is an iconic Nintendo character in her own right. Samus was actually one of the first female playable characters in all of gaming, with the reveal at the end of the first Metroid game in 1986 being a truly stunning moment for players!

Samus has been a regular fighter alongside Mario in the Super Smash Bros. games, but has yet to appear in Mario Kart. With characters beaming in from other franchises already, perhaps it’s time to fix that!

Number 6: The Animal Friends

This is a total cheat since it’s really a few separate characters, but I love them all so I couldn’t just choose one! Beginning in 1993’s Donkey Kong Country, DK has been able to call on various animals to aid him in his quest. Among my favourites are Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, and of course the iconic Rambi the Rhino!

Obviously the Mario Kart series would have a hard time including all of them, but it would be great to see at least a couple of these fan-favourites join the roster of drivers. Plus I think we’d all like to see how a swordfish could possibly drive a go-kart, and I think it’s worth doing for that reason alone!

Number 7: Chunky Kong

Sticking with the Donkey Kong series, DK’s cousin Chunky was introduced in Donkey Kong 64 but has only made minor cameo appearances since. He would obviously be one of the heavyweight drivers, alongside his cousin and the likes of Bowser, and that could be neat. Despite its lesser status among Nintendo titles, I really enjoyed what Donkey Kong 64 brought to the table, and it would be great to welcome back a character who hasn’t been seen since.

Chunky, despite his stature, had a very timid, almost cowardly personality, and that could be incorporated into his persona in Mario Kart 9 as well.

Number 8: A Thwomp

Another iconic Mario villain that has only appeared in Mario Kart as an obstacle, it would be really fun to see one of these sentient boulders get a turn behind the wheel! Thwomps have been part of Mario Kart going back to the SNES, and they make for difficult obstacles, especially for new players.

In recent years we’ve seen Thwomps included in many Mario titles, and they’ve become emblematic of the kind of opponents Mario faces on his adventures, along with Bowser, Koopas, and Goombas.

Number 9: Professor E. Gadd

Later in the year I hope to get back to writing up my playthrough of Luigi’s Mansion 3 – something I aimed to do last Halloween but never finished! Professor E. Gadd is Luigi’s ally in the Luigi’s Mansion games, setting up players with ghost-busting equipment and helping out as Luigi battles spooky spirits.

Despite the popularity of Luigi’s Mansion 3, we’ve only ever seen a couple of minor cameos outside of the main series. Bringing the professor into Mario Kart 9 would finally give him a major role!

Number 10: Hellen Gravely

Sticking with Luigi’s Mansion 3, bringing in the character who I assume is one of the game’s big bosses would be fantastic as well! Hellen Gravely worked with King Boo to kidnap Mario along with Luigi’s other friends at the start of Luigi’s Mansion 3, and she would make for an interesting racer! There aren’t that many female drivers in the Mario Kart series, and someone like Hellen Gravely would be a contrast to the likes of Princess Peach and Rosalina.

Just don’t tell me how Luigi’s Mansion 3 ends… I still need to finish it!

Number 11: Dorrie (a.k.a. the “Swimming Beast”)

Dorrie first appeared in Super Mario 64 as a friendly “Loch Ness Monster” type of critter, and has recently been seen in Super Mario Odyssey as well. Though Dorrie is far larger than the other racers, perhaps they could be scaled down to fit in a standard kart! Ever since Mario 64 I’ve liked the cute, Nessie-inspired design, and bringing Dorrie into Mario Kart 9 could be a ton of fun.

If racers with no hands like King Boo or Wiggler can drive karts, who says Dorrie can’t?

Number 12: Minecraft Steve

I know, I know. Minecraft isn’t strictly a Nintendo game (it’s owned by Microsoft) but it’s one of the most popular titles on the Switch, and retains a huge playerbase even as it approaches its tenth anniversary. Steve – the game’s silent protagonist – has appeared in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so clearly Microsoft are happy to collaborate with Nintendo in these cases!

Bringing an “outsider” like Minecraft Steve into Mario Kart 9 would really expand what the game is all about, and if it’s going to be connected to the 30th anniversary, that kind of celebration vibe could be perfect.

Number 13: Among Us Crewmate

Another non-Nintendo character from a hugely popular title, if Mario Kart 9 pushes the boat out and brings in a lot of drivers from different franchises, taking advantage of the current popularity of Among Us could be worthwhile. An Among Us costume is available in Fall Guys – which is itself coming to Switch this summer – so publisher InnerSloth are clearly willing to collaborate!

Among Us has proven itself to have staying power; it wasn’t just a fad that burned out quickly. If Mario Kart 9 is coming up any time in the next couple of years, it stands to reason Among Us will still be around, so a collaboration could make a lot of sense.

Number 14: Mayor Pauline

In the run-up to the launch of the Switch and Super Mario Odyssey, Pauline’s song Jump Up Superstar! was a huge part of Nintendo’s marketing push. Pauline also appears in the game itself as the mayor of New Donk City, one of the worlds Mario traverses. Pauline is based on the original “damsel in distress” seen in 1981’s Donkey Kong.

Pauline has recently been a playable character in Mario Tennis Aces, so clearly Nintendo have her in mind as a character to use in future. Bringing her into Mario Kart 9 just feels like a natural fit!

Number 15: Cappy

Speaking of Super Mario Odyssey, how could we possibly exclude Cappy? Mario’s ally – and hat – in Odyssey is a perfect character to include in Mario Kart 9! Most Mario Kart titles have drawn on the latest Super Mario games for inspiration, and including Cappy feels like an absolute no-brainer.

Cappy was a new character created for Odyssey, and thus hasn’t had an opportunity to make any major appearances outside of that game… at least, not yet!

So that’s it. Fifteen characters I’d love to see included in Mario Kart 9.

Mario Kart 7 was a huge hit on the Nintendo 3DS.

Even with the 30th anniversary coming up next year, Mario Kart 9 could still be a long way off – we simply don’t know at this stage what Nintendo’s plans are for the next few years. There have been rumours of a wholly new console, despite the Switch being barely four years old at this point, and while I think that would be a mistake, it’s possible Nintendo plans to go down that route.

The Switch has been Nintendo’s roaring comeback after the failure of the Wii U, and that’s been great to see. Even though their paid online model is pretty crappy, and cut off a previously-free online mode for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Switch overall has been a resounding success. Mario Kart 9 would just be the icing on the cake.

The Mario Kart series – including all games mentioned above, as well as all individual racetracks, characters, and other properties – is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of the Super Mario Wiki. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Fifteen games worthy of a second look in Spring 2021

Spoiler Warning: Though there are no major spoilers, minor spoilers may still be present for a few of the titles on this list.

Anthem is gone, Cyberpunk 2077 is still a stinking mess, and there are delays aplenty across the games industry as the pandemic rolls on. What’s a gamer to do? Well, I might have the answer for you! Tomorrow will be the first day of March, and to me March has always meant the beginning of Spring. There are small snowdrops beginning to bloom in my garden, and the nights are getting shorter. A few times this past week I’ve even managed without the heating on in my house – much to the dismay of the cats!

There are still plenty of great games that – all being well – will be released this year. If you missed it, I put together a list just after New Year of ten of the most interesting titles! But considering the delays and that this time of year is typically fairly quiet in terms of releases, I thought it would be a great moment to consider a few games that deserve a second look. I’ve limited the list to titles that are readily available to buy on current-gen platforms and PC, so no out-of-print games this time.

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the list, which is in no particular order.

Number 1: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

Nintendo’s most recent karting game is a ton of fun. It’s the kind of arcade racer that has a very low bar for entry – anyone can pick up and play this fun title. But mastering Mario Kart 8 – especially if you choose to head online – is no small task, and there’s a surprising amount of skill involved to be truly competitive with the best players! I’ve adored the Mario Kart series since its inception on the SNES, and this version is the definitive Mario Kart experience… at least until they make Mario Kart 9!

Number 2: Fall Guys (PC and PlayStation 4, 2020, coming to Xbox and Nintendo Switch this summer)

Among Us gained a lot of attention not long after Fall Guys was released last summer and stole at least some of the cute game’s attention! The fact that Fall Guys isn’t on mobile probably counts against it as far as finding a broader audience goes, but despite what some have claimed, the game is by no means dead. Season 4 – which promises to bring a new set of futuristic rounds – is being released soon, and for less than £15 (at least on PC) I honestly can’t fault Fall Guys. It’s an adorable, wholly unique experience in which your cute little jelly bean character runs a series of obstacle courses in a video game homage to the likes of Total Wipeout. Each round lasts only a couple of minutes, and it really is way more fun than words can do justice to! I’ve recently got back into playing after taking a break, and there’s plenty of fun still to be had.

Number 3: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC and Xbox, 2002)

You can find Morrowind on PC, and despite being an older title it’s compatible with Windows 10. There has been an active modding scene for almost twenty years at this point, so even if you’ve already played the base game it may still be worth going back for more. In my subjective opinion, Morrowind is the high-water mark of the Elder Scrolls series. It certainly offers players more to do than its predecessors or sequels – more NPCs to interact with, more factions to join, more types of weapons to wield and spells to cast, and so on. Especially if you hit Morrowind with some of the visual/graphics mods that are available, it can feel almost like a new game!

Number 4: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, 2002)

Another older title that you can find on PC, as well as on iOS and Android, Vice City was one of three Grand Theft Auto titles released between 2001 and 2005. Remember when Rockstar was able to put out more than one game per decade?! If you’ve had your fill of Grand Theft Auto V by now – and it’s been out for eight years, so I wouldn’t blame you if you were ready to play something else – maybe going back to one of the older games will be a nostalgic blast. Many fans of the series consider Vice City to be the best entry, and while I don’t think I’d go quite that far, I had a ton of fun with it back on the original Xbox.

Number 5: Banished (PC, 2014)

There are some great city-builders out there, but one of my favourites from the last few years is Banished. The game was built entirely by one person, which never fails to amaze me! It would still be a fantastic title if it had been made by a full studio, but the fact that the game and all its complex systems were programmed by a single developer is an astonishing achievement. Banished isn’t easy, even on lower difficulty settings, and it will take a little time to get into the swing of how to plan your town and manage your resources. But if you’re up for a challenge it’s a wonderful way to lose track of time!

Number 6: Skully (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One, 2020)

Skully is a game that I’ve been meaning to write a proper review of since I picked it up last year, but it keeps slipping down my writing pile. From the moment I saw the trailer and heard the game’s premise – a 3D platformer in which you play as a disembodied skull – I was in love, and the game did not disappoint! The environments are beautiful and the game is plenty of fun. It manages to feel at points like an old-school 3D platformer of the Nintendo 64 era, and at others like a wholly modern experience. It’s also an indie title, and it’s great to be able to support indie developers wherever we can!

Number 7: Jade Empire (PC and Xbox, 2005)

If the demise of Anthem has got you missing the “golden age” of BioWare’s role-playing games, make sure you didn’t skip Jade Empire. The Xbox exclusive was overlooked by players in the mid-2000s, and while other BioWare games from that decade, like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age Origins are all held in high esteem, the Chinese-inspired Jade Empire is all but forgotten. When Steam has it on sale you can pick up Jade Empire for less than the price of a coffee, and for that you’ll get what is honestly one of the best and most interesting role-playing games of all time.

Number 8: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (PC, 1997)

Starfleet Academy is unique among Star Trek games because it features the cast of The Original Series in video clips recorded especially for the game. These aren’t scenes from films or episodes of the show; you literally will not see them anywhere else. Starfleet Academy is a starship simulator, and while its visuals obviously don’t look as good in 2021 when compared to other titles, the overall experience is fantastic. You won’t find another game quite like it – especially because ViacomCBS has all but given up on making Star Trek games since the release of Star Trek Online!

Number 9: Forza Horizon 4 (PC and Xbox One, 2018)

I signed up for Game Pass in order to be able to play racing game Forza Horizon 4 – and it was totally worth it! The Forza Horizon series attempts to find a middle ground between true racing sims and arcade-style titles, and generally manages to do so quite well. Forza Horizon 4 has a map which represents parts of Great Britain, and that’s something unusual! I didn’t see my house, but it’s always nice when a game uses a familiar setting. There are plenty of fun cars to race in, and different kinds of races too, including going off-road.

Number 10: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Multiplatform, 2013)

Is it just me, or has every subsequent game in the Assassin’s Creed series struggled to hit the highs of Black Flag? Origins and Odyssey were decent, but even in 2021, I think that Black Flag is the definitive title in the franchise! There’s something about its pirate setting and the wonderful crop of NPCs that make Black Flag a truly enjoyable experience from start to finish. For a game that’s approaching its eighth birthday it still looks fantastic, too!

Number 11: The Last Of Us (PlayStation 3, 2013)

Despite its severely disappointing sequel, The Last Of Us is fantastic. If you’re looking for a game with amazing characters and a deep, engaging story, it simply can’t be bettered. I put The Last Of Us on my list of games of the decade as the 2010s drew to a close, and for good reason. Joel and Ellie’s trek across a hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic United States was absolutely one of the gaming highlights of the last few years. The characters are so well-crafted that they feel real, and every twist and turn in the intense storyline carries emotional weight. The game is being adapted for television, and I’m interested – cautiously so in the wake of The Last Of Us Part II – to see what will happen when it makes the leap to the small screen.

Number 12: Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (PC, 2018)

Though I know Age of Empires II is the title most folks prefer, I’ve always appreciated what the original Age of Empires did for the real-time strategy genre. If you’ve been enjoying the recent remake of the second game, it could be a great time to give the original a try as well. Age of Empires didn’t invent real-time strategy, but it was one of the first such titles I played after its 1998 release – and I sunk hours and hours into it in the late ’90s! There’s something about building up an army of Bronze Age warriors to smash an opponent’s town that’s just… satisfying!

Number 13: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2019)

I played through Jedi: Fallen Order last summer and documented my time with the game here on the website. Suffice to say I had a blast; the linear, story-focused title is exactly what the Star Wars franchise needed after the Battlefront II debacle! Having just seen the dire Rise of Skywalker I was also longing for a Star Wars story that I could actually enjoy for a change, and Jedi: Fallen Order did not let me down! I had a great time swinging my lightsaber across a galaxy far, far away… and I think you will too.

Number 14: No Man’s Sky (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2016)

No Man’s Sky was incredibly controversial at launch. The pre-release hype bubble got wildly out of control, egged on by a marketing push that oversold the game. Remind you of any recent titles? But despite the backlash in 2016, Hello Games has since put in a lot of hard graft, and five years on No Man’s Sky genuinely lives up to its potential. Had it been released in this state I think it would have been hailed as one of the best games of the decade – if not of all time. I understand not wanting to reward a game that was dishonestly sold, and that the “release now, fix later” business model is not one we should support. But there’s no denying that No Man’s Sky is a great game in 2021, and if you haven’t picked it up since its 2016 launch, it could be worth a second look.

Number 15: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, 2020)

A full remake of the definitive skateboarding game is hard to pass up! In the Dreamcast era, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater launched an entire genre of skating games, and its amazing soundtrack is a nostalgic hit of late ’90s/early ’00s punk rock. The remade version, which you can pick up on Switch and the two new consoles later this year, is great fun, and has managed to do something rare for a remake: genuinely recapture the look and feel of the original title. Obviously the visuals are brought up-to-date, but the feel of the game and the way tricks are performed are fantastic. I was able to slip right back into playing as if I’d never put the Dreamcast controller down!

So that’s it. Fifteen games that I think are worth your time this Spring.

There are plenty of fun titles on the horizon, but some of the ones I was most looking forward to – like Kena: Bridge of Spirits and Hogwarts Legacy – have recently been delayed, prompting me to look at my library and put together this list.

I hope this has inspired you to find something to play over the next few weeks! If not, stay tuned because there will be plenty more gaming-related articles here on the website. Happy gaming!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct – reaction

Nintendo struck gold with their Nintendo Direct broadcasts a few years ago, advertising their upcoming games straight to their biggest fans. Nintendo Direct broadcasts have become one of the premiere events in games marketing, and the format has been emulated by a number of other companies – especially with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of big events like E3.

Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was the first major broadcast that the company has done in some time, though. Over the last year or so, Nintendo Directs have focused either on third-party titles being ported to the Switch or on single games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This one promised to be different, showing off Nintendo’s plans for the first half of 2021.

The pre-Direct spiel sounded interesting.

2021 is an interesting year for Nintendo. The company has often used the anniversaries of major releases as the springboard for themed events, and this year marks a number of such anniversaries. The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, making this year the series’ 35th anniversary. Additionally, it marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Nintendo 64 – along with the 25th anniversaries of such classics as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64, and even Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. As you may recall, I’ve never been all that interested in the Zelda series, but I was very curious to see if there would be any mention of the Nintendo 64’s anniversary.

2021 is also the 20th anniversary of the launch of the GameCube – and with it such titles as Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Wii launched in 2006, making this year the console’s 15th anniversary… so you get the picture. There are potentially a lot of anniversary-themed events coming from Nintendo!

It’s Mario Kart 64′s 25th anniversary later this year.

My most recent experience with a Nintendo game was underwhelming. Super Mario 3D All-Stars was fine… but not great. Nintendo’s approach to only release the game for a limited time meant that I rushed to pre-order it, but on reflection I wish I hadn’t. The version of Super Mario 64 contained in that package is actually worse in some ways than either the original or emulated versions – it has a weird aspect ratio meaning that, whether you play in handheld mode or docked, you’re stuck with thick black bars on all four sides of the screen. It’s really offputting.

But we’ve drifted off-topic! I went into yesterday’s Nintendo Direct with cautious interest but no plans to rush into a purchase or pre-order. However, with Nintendo’s predilection for anniversaries and the rumours of news about Mario and/or Zelda, plus the fifty-minute advertised runtime, I was expecting at least something of note.

Senior Nintendo manager Shinya Takahashi presented yesterday’s Nintendo Direct.

There were a few points of interest, but nothing that blew me away. This kind of “event” broadcast can be a double-edged sword for Nintendo, because on the one hand there was a lot of hype and interest over the last couple of days – but that hype can come crashing down if expectations are not met. And while I would say that, from my point of view, what was shown off was perfectly fine, there was nothing spectacular or that felt like an immediate must-buy. Fans expecting to hear about Breath of the Wild 2 or a big Zelda or Mario event will have certainly come away disappointed.

So let’s get into the announcements that were of interest to me. First, Fall Guys is finally making its way to the Switch! I suggested way back in August when I first played the game that it would be an absolutely perfect fit for the Switch, and I’m so glad to see developers Mediatonic agreed. The Switch has an install base of some 60+ million players, many of whom are interested in this kind of fun, pick-up-and-play title. I’ve recently got back into playing Fall Guys just in the last couple of weeks, and I’m seriously considering getting the Switch version too. The only downside is that Fall Guys will require Nintendo’s paid Switch Online service.

Fall Guys is coming to the Switch.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting a number of Super Mario-themed items. This is something that fans of the game had been expecting; a Mario crossover had been teased as early as last year. But from what we saw in the broadcast the items look like fun, and they’re all very much on theme! Earlier Animal Crossing titles had Nintendo- and Mario-themed items included, so this is one more missing feature that has been re-added rather than something altogether new – but that’s been a pattern with New Horizons since it was launched. My first impression was that the items look very similar to those in Super Mario 3D World – the remaster of which has just been released for Switch. Perhaps that is not a coincidence!

I’ve never tried the Splatoon games, though they’ve always looked like fun. Nintendo opted to use Splatoon 3 as the broadcast’s big finale – I’m not sure how well that worked given that the game isn’t coming until 2022, and that it’s very much a second-tier series in the Nintendo library. But it looks like more of the same – another fun game in what is held up as a fun series.

Splatoon 3 was announced… but it isn’t going to be released for a while yet.

Speaking of 2022, there were several titles discussed or shown off that were coming either much later this year or not till next year. Ordinarily I wouldn’t remark on something like that, but the pre-broadcast statement (which you can see above) said explicitly that what would be shown off were games coming in “the first half of 2021.” Why set that expectation only to break it? If they had said “coming soon,” or something like that, there’d be no reason to comment. It just struck me as a little odd.

A notable port was that of battle royale first-person shooter Apex Legends. I’m not convinced Apex Legends will find a huge Switch audience, but if it allows players to sign in using their existing account then perhaps being able to play on the go will prove popular – as it has with other titles already. Hades, one of the best indie titles of last year, was already available digitally on the Switch but is now getting a physical release too. Hades was already a great fit for the Switch, and Nintendo’s console with its cartridge system is the one remaining place in gaming where physical copies of games are still widely popular!

Indie game Hades is getting a physical release.

Mario Golf: Super Rush is the latest in a long line of Mario sports titles, and looks like fun. Its Wii-like motion controls (using the Joy-con controllers) will surely win it some praise, and these arcade-style sports games are usually well-received, especially on Nintendo hardware. That was the only new Mario title announced. As for the Zelda series, after the director sought to reassure fans that Breath of the Wild 2 is coming along nicely, the Zelda series was treated to a remaster of Skyward Sword – which originally released in 2011. Not sure how well its mapping of the Wii’s motion controls to the Switch’s thumbsticks will work – but the option to retain the motion controls using the Joy-con controllers will still be present.

There was a strange re-release announced of 2005 Xbox/PlayStation 2 game Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. I vaguely remember that game from the Xbox era – it has a fun premise but, if I recall correctly, was little more than average. So I was surprised to learn it’s being re-released not only for the Switch but also for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword can be played using motion controls.

And that’s it really. There were some updates and new characters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Hyrule Warriors, as well as updates announced for a couple of other titles. Nothing in yesterday’s Nintendo Direct was bad, but nothing really leapt out at me as being fantastic or a wonderful surprise. It was just… okay.

Therein lies the danger with hyping up an event like this. Nintendo hadn’t done a proper Direct broadcast in a while, so expectations were high for what may be announced. The pandemic has certainly slowed work in Japan – just as it has everywhere else – so it’s no criticism that they haven’t got more to say. That’s something I feel most people will understand. But given that there really wasn’t that much to say – and that some of what was shown off isn’t coming any time soon – perhaps there was a better way to do it than by hyping up a big broadcast like this one. I have no doubt that some Nintendo fans – especially those invested in Zelda and expecting something big – came away at least a little disappointed.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.


You can watch the full Nintendo Direct broadcast below:

For the love of God, don’t call it the “Switch Pro”

What is it with major games companies giving their flagship home consoles awful names? The name of the Xbox Series X was so confusing that on the day the console became available to pre-order, sales of the previous generation model Xbox One X skyrocketed. Many consumers will have been surprised when they ended up with the wrong machine!

Nintendo is no stranger to awful names. After the success of the Wii in the late 2000s, Nintendo wanted to keep the brand name going and launched the Wii U. But due to a combination of poor marketing and the confusing name, many consumers didn’t even realise that the Wii U was a new console, instead assuming that its tablet-controller was some kind of overpriced accessory for the original Wii.

Having been in this position once before, and having seen the reaction to Microsoft’s awful naming schemes, you’d think Nintendo would know better than to release a new console called the “Switch Pro.” But if rumours are to be believed, that is exactly what they plan to do.

Has Nintendo learned nothing from the Wii U?

Here’s the fundamental flaw in that approach: it’s the Wii U problem all over again. What is a Switch Pro? Is it like a PlayStation 4 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro – the same basic machine, running the same software and games, but with a bit of extra power to make those games look better? Or is it a whole new system which will run its own exclusive software that won’t work on the original Switch? Can you figure it out? Because I can’t.

I used to work in the video games industry. I spent several years with a large games company and I’ve done freelance work for a few others. If I, as a former industry insider and someone who knows a fair amount about gaming, can’t tell what a Switch Pro is supposed to be, what hope does the average consumer have?

Not only are Nintendo potentially risking a repeat of the Wii U fiasco, with the console failing to sell due to its confusing name, but they also risk upsetting existing Switch owners if there are going to be Switch Pro-exclusive titles. Imagine the disappointment of buying a game you believe will work on your Switch only to find the console you paid £200-300 for won’t run the game. Cue angry letters from members of the public, parents, and irate gamers.

The Nintendo Switch was released in 2017.

The name “Switch” is no more of a brand than “Wii” was in 2012. What people look for are the big names: Xbox, PlayStation, and of course Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch is its own thing, and Nintendo’s next console will need a new name to give itself a new identity – it can’t recycle the “Switch” branding because that’s inextricably tied to the current console and lineup of games. When there has already been the handheld-only Switch Lite, there will be an expectation from the public that a “Switch Pro” will simply be another variant – not a wholly new console.

That’s before we even get into the frankly rather troubling idea of Nintendo talking about launching a new console while the current machine is less than four years old. The past couple of console generations have been twice as long, and there’s a reasonable expectation when buying a new console that it will have a decent lifespan. Especially in the current climate, with all kinds of uncertainty hanging over people’s jobs and economic futures, it isn’t a great time to launch a new console.

Nintendo screwed up with the Wii U in 2012, and the release of the Switch less than five years later was a response to that colossal mistake. But with the Switch doing phenomenally well and with plenty of games either already out or coming up in the next few months, there’s no need for another machine at this stage. Some newer titles that are popular on other platforms – like Cyberpunk 2077, for example – won’t be able to be ported to the Switch because it’s a less-powerful device. But that didn’t stop people continuing to enjoy the Wii, and even when the Switch launched it wasn’t going toe-to-toe with the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, yet it outsold the Xbox One in less than four years and is on course to catch up to the PlayStation 4.

There are still some great games to come for the Switch.

There’s a lot to be said for being patient and reaping the rewards of the incredibly-successful Switch. Players of all ages and skill levels have responded very positively to this hybrid machine, and while any company in the games industry needs to have an eye on the future, I’d argue that now is not the time. Even Xbox and PlayStation could’ve squeezed another year or two out of their last-gen machines instead of rushing ahead with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 launches a couple of months ago.

But we’ve drifted off-topic. The “Switch Pro” is a terrible name for a new console, one which will confuse a lot of parents and players, and end up upsetting people when they don’t get what they expected. If the Switch is coming to the end of its life – which it shouldn’t be, but we all know that Nintendo loves to artificially mess with these things – then a new console needs a new name.

Let’s not repeat the mistakes made by the Wii U and Xbox Series X!

Switch, Wii, Wii U, and other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Nintendo. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Nintendo 3DS has been discontinued – let’s look back at this unique system

With all the hype surrounding the upcoming next-generation consoles, one gaming story that flew under the radar over the last couple of weeks has been the discontinuing of the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS is arguably the last successful true handheld gaming platform – the Nintendo Switch is a hybrid, and the PlayStation Vita didn’t come close to matching the 3DS in terms of sales. As the console’s life comes to an end, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on some of its accomplishments.

I’ve never been massively interested in handheld gaming. I didn’t own an original Game Boy, and on past handheld systems, like the Game Boy Advance and the first Nintendo DS, I basically played Mario Kart and not much else. When home consoles and PC offered better graphics and generally more well-rounded experiences, that was how I preferred to play. Even when I was much more interested in gaming as a hobby, I was still content to wait to get home from work; I never felt that I needed a system I could play on the go. So that was the mindset I had as the Nintendo 3DS launched in 2011.

An original Nintendo 3DS.

When I first encountered a 3DS, I confess to being unimpressed. Though the system did offer some improvements over the older DS, which had been released in 2005, it didn’t seem to be massively better, and the almost-identical dual screen design left me underwhelmed. Its autostereoscopic 3D felt like a total gimmick too; I was convinced that someone came up with the name “3DS” and then made a product to fit! There were a lot of reports at the time of the 3D screens causing headaches and migraines, and I believe Nintendo issued official advice not to use the device in 3D mode for more than an hour at a time.

So for a number of reasons I found the 3DS an underwhelming prospect at first. I had a Wii and an Xbox 360 by this point, so I wasn’t short of ways to play games, and having never really felt the need to play games while travelling or commuting I was content to give the console a pass. However, I ended up changing my mind for a couple of reasons. The first was that I really was quite keen to be able to play Mario Kart 7, and secondly my girlfriend at the time wanted to be able to play some 3DS titles together. What really sealed the deal, though, and convinced me that I needed to get a 3DS for myself was Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Dedicating a new bridge in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

I’d been dimly aware of the Animal Crossing series, but as someone who hadn’t owned a GameCube the first title wasn’t one I got to play for myself. New Leaf sounded fantastic, though, with lots of customisation options – and I do love a game with plenty of customisation! It was this game that finally pushed me into spending my money and buying a Nintendo 3DS.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a game I’ve sunk innumerable hours into in the seven years since it released. It was so much fun to play with a friend, with almost limitless single-player gameplay and a ton of fun mini-games to play in multiplayer. It’s also the kind of game that’s very easy to pick up for a few minutes at a time. I would find myself regularly picking up my 3DS during moments of downtime to perform a single small task in my town.

Mario Kart 7 was no disappointment either, and I had lots of fun with that title. Regular readers may remember that I used to work in the games industry, and for a time I worked in a large office where several colleagues also had 3DS consoles and enjoyed Mario Kart 7. We’d often get together during breaks or downtime and use the 3DS’ Download Play feature to race against one another wirelessly. It was great fun!

Promo screenshot for Mario Kart 7.

I loved the customisation options that Mario Kart 7 introduced. There were different kart pieces that could all be selected prior to the race, and that was an innovation for the series. Mario Kart Wii had introduced a broad range of karts, but Mario Kart 7 was the first entry to allow players to choose different tyres, different kart frames, etc. It also introduced a first-person viewpoint (which was seldom used), and the ability for karts to glide.

So those are undoubtedly my top two games from the system. Animal Crossing: New Leaf in particular was a game I was still playing even earlier this year; it has incredible longevity. Let’s look at a few other titles that did well on the system.

Obviously there were the obligatory Pokémon titles: Pokémon X & Y and Pokémon Sun & Moon released on the 3DS and though Pokémon has never really been my thing, I can acknowledge that the games are among the console’s best-sellers. Both titles (or all four, I guess) were considered iterative rather than transformative in the way the Switch title Pokémon Sword & Shield has been, but at the time they were well-received by fans.

Promo screenshot for Pokémon X & Y.

Donkey Kong Country Returns was ported from the Wii, and obviously had to undergo a minor graphical downgrade to work on the less-powerful handheld system, but nevertheless was great fun. This was one of Nintendo’s big experiments with porting more modern titles to their handheld platform; older titles like Super Mario 64 had succeeded on the original DS, but there was a question-mark over how well a Wii title would work. Because Donkey Kong Country Returns is a 2D platformer, the 3DS held up remarkably well. Games like this also set the stage in some respects for the porting of “bigger” titles to the Nintendo Switch a few years later, and now it’s not uncommon to hear people say they can’t wait to play a Switch port of their favourite title so they can play it on the go.

The two main Mario games on the 3DS – New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario 3D Land did well too, and both were enjoyable. I loved Mario’s return to the 2D platforming genre on the Wii, and the 3DS title was more of the same. Super Mario 3D Land was okay, but didn’t really bring a lot to the table. It was criticised by some self-proclaimed “hardcore gamers” for offering players a way to skip tricky levels when they’ve been unable to get through after ten or more attempts. We could talk all day about difficulty options and accessibility – and perhaps we should one day – but suffice to say the argument was particularly stupid, as the inclusion of such options doesn’t change the main part of the game in any way.

Several Nintendo 2DS and 3DS variants in official marketing material.

Aside from games, the Nintendo 3DS leaned heavily into being a connected device that could do things like play YouTube videos and communicate with friends. It could connect to the internet via wi-fi, which was something home consoles at the time either couldn’t do or could only do with additional accessories. It also came out of the box with a basic augmented reality minigame, and thus was my first real experience with AR. Augmented reality never really took off in the way it could have, and in that respect feels gimmicky even today, but it was nevertheless interesting, and it’s something that the console was set up for – if any developers had been interested!

The 3DS had a camera that could not only take digital photos, but was also capable of taking autostereoscopic 3D photos. The 3D functionality in general was not something most folks were interested in, but again this is something that had potential in 2010/11 to take off, and if it had done so we would perhaps be hailing the 3DS as a pioneer! Remember it was around this time that 3D televisions were being pushed as “the next big thing” along with 3D blu-rays. Had the public been more receptive to 3D as a whole, some of these features would have surely been refined and reused.

The Nintendo 3DS came with a basic set of AR minigames.

Nintendo could see the writing on the wall for 3D, though, and released the Nintendo 2DS only a couple of years after the 3DS launched. The 2DS was marketed at kids, and was a less-expensive variant of the console that didn’t have the autostereoscopic 3D functionality. Partly released to overcome the worries of parents who’d heard about the problems that 3D could cause, the 2DS did well in that market. I couldn’t get past the fact that it didn’t fold up, though!

At a time when the Wii U’s failure threatened Nintendo as a company, the 3DS helped them tick over. It remained a profitable system, and even at the height of the Wii U’s problems in 2012-13, the 3DS continued to churn out titles and move units. The importance of its success in that period to Nintendo can’t really be overstated – without the money it was bringing in, Nintendo would have been in a much more shaky position.

The Wii U failed hard, but the Nintendo 3DS kept the company’s head above water.

Before Nintendo tried (and failed) to recapture the “hardcore gamer” market with the Wii U, the 3DS continued the trend of appealing to casual and occasional players in a much broader market. Titles like the Brain Age series, Sudoku Party, Nintendogs + Cats, and even Tomodachi Life appealed to many people who wouldn’t have considered themselves “gamers.” I know of disabled and elderly folks who enjoyed the 3DS for its casual puzzle and brain training titles, and the system was a gateway into the gaming hobby for kids who wanted to play some of the cuter titles. In that sense, the 3DS was an important platform, even if it wasn’t as transformative as smartphones and tablets.

The 3DS gave me one of my favourite games of the last decade in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and one of the best multiplayer experiences in Mario Kart 7. For those two games alone I can say it was a fun system, and I greatly enjoyed my time with it. As smartphones have become a major gaming platform, it’s hard to see how another dedicated handheld gaming system could replicate the 3DS’ success. Even Nintendo themselves have recognised this, releasing mobile games that feature some of their biggest characters and franchises. With the system being discontinued in 2020, it may be the last ever dedicated handheld gaming system that isn’t either a phone or tablet.

The Nintendo 3DS – and many of the games mentioned above – is the copyright of Nintendo. Promo screenshots courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is… fine, I guess

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Super Mario 3D All-Stars (and its three constituent games).

Tempted by the promise of replaying Super Mario 64 – which remains one of my favourite games of all-time – I overlooked Nintendo’s godawful “forced scarcity” business model and stumped up £50 for Super Mario 3D All-Stars. And the game is fine. All three titles work, and in the short amount of time I’ve been able to spend with them today, there haven’t been any glitches or bugs that would make me feel it was somehow unfinished. And there shouldn’t be – these games are between thirteen and twenty-four years old, after all.

Let’s talk about this business model, then. I mentioned this when I talked about Super Mario 3D All-Stars shortly after its announcement, but the idea of releasing a game as a limited-time only thing is a blatant attempt by Nintendo to drum up more support than it would otherwise merit. Removing the game from sale – even as a digital download – after a mere six months is just awful, really, and there’s no excuse for it.

Super Mario Galaxy is one of three games in the collection.

This is a shameless marketing ploy, nothing less. And Nintendo is playing right into the hands of scammer and scalpers, who are already selling copies of the game for well over its asking price on sites like eBay. This is something that will only get worse as time goes by and as the deadline for buying the game next March passes.

I guess why I feel underwhelmed by Super Mario 3D All-Stars is that the game could be so much more than Nintendo chose to make of it. There are small details in the games that have been improved – such as the text in Super Mario 64, which has been upscaled. Some of the in-game icons have clearly been polished too; gone are the rough edges where a lack of pixels caused a blocky effect, replaced by the smoother lines a modern title can deliver. Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy have been upgraded to be in 1080p widescreen.

Super Mario Sunshine is now in widescreen.

But that’s all. Super Mario 64 doesn’t even get the 1080p treatment, and isn’t even in widescreen, leaving weird black bars on all four sides of the screen when played on a television. Sunshine and Galaxy are at least in widescreen, and as more modern games to begin with don’t look quite so out-of-place.

The soundtracks are a something-and-nothing addition. All three titles’ soundtracks are included, but can only be played via the Switch. If you don’t mind having the console on and doing nothing but listening to music, perhaps that’s okay. If you want to listen to it in the background while working or studying, perhaps that’s okay. If you want to do other things or if you want to listen to the music while on the go, you can’t unless you bring your Switch with you – hardly something easily done while jogging or engaged in any number of activities. An mp3 of the albums would have been a far better offering – perhaps redeemable via a code. As it is, all three albums are stuck on the Switch.

The soundtracks don’t really offer much by way of added value.

Perhaps I rushed to buy Super Mario 3D All-Stars too quickly. Perhaps I was taken in by Nintendo’s decision to artificially limit the game’s availability. Perhaps… something. Because I feel like for £50, Super Mario 3D All-Stars is quite a big ask. In a way it’s hard to argue that I didn’t get my money’s worth, because I picked up a slightly-updated version of one of my favourite ever games, got the chance to replay a great game I only rushed through once in like 2002/03, and a game that everyone says is amazing that I haven’t played yet. Yet it still feels like a lot of money for these games considering the newest of the bunch is from 2007. Maybe PC gaming, with its Steam sales and heavily-discounted older titles, has spoilt me!

For somebody who got into gaming this generation and thus missed playing all three of these games when they were new, I would recommend Super Mario 3D All-Stars. These are not just classic Mario games, all three are classics of the 3D platformer genre. Super Mario 64 in particular is a piece of gaming history and well worth any Nintendo fan and indeed any gamer’s time. The problem is that in its current form it still feels like a piece of history – its outdated controls and unimproved visuals will be offputting for some players.

Super Mario 64 has weird black bars on all four sides. Not the best look.

Instead of releasing three titles in a bundle for £50, what Nintendo could have opted to do is to release them one by one after giving them a proper remaster. The engine used for Super Mario Odyssey a couple of years ago could certainly be repurposed, and the games rebuilt from the ground up akin to the work Capcom put into Resident Evil 2. A fully-remade version of any of these games would still have been a celebration of Mario’s past, and if they were to make all three they could retail for, say, £35 each or thereabouts.

Regardless, I knew what to expect from Super Mario 3D All-Stars. I can hardly say the game was not as advertised; it absolutely was as advertised. And again, for the price getting three awesome games – one of which I haven’t played in almost twenty years and one of which I’ve never played – is still good value, even if they haven’t been upgraded as much as I would have liked.

For Mario superfans, I think this is a must-buy. And for gamers who skipped these titles for whatever reason when they were new, it’s also a must-buy. For me… perhaps Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a shouldn’t-have-bought.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is out now on Nintendo Switch, but will only be available until the 31st of March 2021. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some interesting Mario projects for the franchise’s 35th anniversary

The Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary Nintendo Direct.

I don’t usually watch Nintendo Direct presentations, at least not unless I’m eagerly anticipating a title. I only own a handful of Switch games, as they often remain expensive even years after release. When I have a stack of unplayed PC games, spending £50 on a Switch game feels wasteful! This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Mario franchise, as Super Mario Bros. debuted in 1985. Though a 35th anniversary is hardly one of the “big ones”, rumours had been swirling for months that Nintendo would take the opportunity to do something significant in celebration of their most famous character and mascot.

Super Mario All-Stars, which features the original Super Mario Bros. as well as its first three sequels, was one of the first games I owned when I had a SNES in the early 1990s. I enjoyed playing through those games, and while the Mario series has never been my biggest fandom, it’s one that’s usually offered fun and well-made titles. Though I skipped the Mario Galaxy games, I’ve played many of the other mainline entries, including the recent Super Mario Odyssey.

Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 – 35 years ago.

The main reason why I tuned in, though, was because there had been rumours of a remastered Super Mario 64 – perhaps my favourite entry in the series. I was at least a little disappointed that it hasn’t received an upgrade, as seeing that game with the visual style of Odyssey would have been spectacular in my opinion! But Mario 64 is coming back in its original form, bundled with Mario Sunshine and the first Mario Galaxy game as part of a collection called Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

The collection looks like a lot of fun, and being able to replay Mario 64 will be great. I’ve also only played Mario Sunshine once, in like 2002, so it’ll be fantastic to have a proper look at that game for the first time in a long time too. And as someone who’s never played Galaxy, perhaps now’s the time to give that one a try! But Super Mario 3D All-Stars comes with a stupid and artificial limitation – in true Nintendo style. I criticised Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the arbitrary decision to prohibit players having more than one save file per console, despite there being no reason for such a limitation. And Super Mario 3D All-Stars deserves all the criticism it gets for its forced scarcity business model.

Super Mario 64 might be my favourite Mario title.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars will only be available for six months. At the end of March next year it will be removed from sale – both physically and digitally. I’ve never heard of such nonsense as a digital download game being removed from sale. It’s arbitrary and it’s clearly designed to drum up as much support as possible by playing on gamers’ fears of missing out. Many people, myself included, choose not to buy games at launch because they’re often discounted (or available pre-owned) a few weeks or months later. Super Mario 3D All-Stars, thanks to its unnecessary removal from sale, won’t be in that position, and thus the only way for players to get a copy is to snap it up as quickly as possible. This is a scummy tactic from Nintendo – a company that, despite its family-friendly façade, is no stranger to them. Resellers will be loving this – copies of Super Mario 3D All-Stars will go for big money in six months’ time, and even Switch consoles with the game pre-installed will sell for a packet. Just look at how scalpers have been making money selling iPhones with Fortnite installed since the Epic Games/Apple fight. Something similar will happen in this case too.

It’s one of those difficult situations. I want to like this game, and I’m interested in playing it, but at the same time I don’t want to endorse or support a company that uses such an unfair and anti-consumer business model. Though I felt the same way with Animal Crossing: New Horizons I did ultimately buy the game… and I guess I will be one of the suckers who buys this one too. But I want to register my protest at its business model – which is so incredibly stupid. Nintendo won’t even see most of the benefit, as resellers and scalpers will take the profits. It’ll just screw over ordinary gamers.

It’ll be great to replay Super Mario Sunshine.

As it costs £100, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a bit beyond my budget! But the concept is fun, and I can see this becoming a must-have Christmas toy this year. Augmented reality is a neat idea, but the applications I’ve seen of it have always felt like little more than gimmicks. And usually the nature of augmented reality either necessitates every participant using a single platform or makes the experiences one-person things. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is basically just a remote control car with a camera strapped to it and a few gateways to drive through, but the Mario Kart branding, and being able to race around courses in the real world, hold some appeal.

The only drawback I can see is that it’s very much a one-trick pony. And considering most people don’t have huge homes, there will be limited options for setting up a racetrack. Once those options have been expended, the toy will perhaps be cast aside in favour of others, and while that is the nature of toys, £100 for something that looks like a day’s worth of interest at best from the average child means it feels like poor value. Some of Nintendo’s gimmicks are just there for the sake of it, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the single-use nature of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit feels like it would be offputting except for Mario fanatics and wealthy parents.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit looks gimmicky, but fun.

It’s encouraging to see Nintendo making use of the Mario Kart brand, though. I’m still hopeful we’ll see Mario Kart 9 on the Switch before too long; I even made a list of tracks that could be included a little while ago. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit shows that Nintendo is still making use of the brand, and that raises expectations – at least a little – of a new game perhaps being in development. The original Super Mario Kart was released in 1992; with Nintendo making a big fuss about anniversaries, 2022 will be that series’ 30th so perhaps that could be a good time for a new iteration? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

The other big announcement was a port of the Wii U game Super Mario 3D World, which will bring with it what looks to be a new expansion pack titled Bowser’s Fury. I played this a few years ago, when I was one of about fourteen people who owned a Wii U, and while it was okay and I enjoyed the cat suits the characters can wear, I’m not in a mad rush to replay it so soon after its launch on that console. Nintendo have released some solid Switch titles since 2017, but they’ve also put a disproportionate amount of time into porting Wii U titles to the new system, and the result is that some franchises haven’t got the attention they deserved. Even Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a port – there are a few extra characters and the DLC included, but nothing about the game is substantially different to the Wii U version. The Bowser’s Fury expansion for Super Mario 3D World may make the game worth a second look, but we didn’t see a lot of it in the direct and while it absolutely could be great, it could also turn out to be insubstantial and a bit of a let-down.

Super Mario 3D World is getting an update and a re-release.

The final game worth mentioning is a very strange one – Super Mario Bros. 35 is a multiplayer competitive version of the classic game, played with 35 players in homage to the title’s 35th anniversary. Defeating an enemy will send it into another player’s game, and it looks like whoever racks up the most points per level wins. Or something. I’m struggling to see how this will be all that fun – Super Mario Bros. simply isn’t designed for something like this, and if the game sticks with the original level design I think players could be overwhelmed with enemies. I know multiplayer isn’t usually my thing to begin with, but even with that caveat this doesn’t seem like a game that will be a lot of fun!

So my dreams of playing Super Mario 64 in the engine used for Odyssey will have to wait for another day! The 3D All-Stars collection is tugging me in both directions right now: it looks like fun, but I’m upset at its crappy anti-consumer sales tactic. Otherwise, despite the pandemic, Nintendo has managed to pull out several fun surprises to celebrate Mario’s 35th anniversary. Not all of them will be to everyone’s taste, but even a casual Mario player should be able to find at least one title that they’re interested in.

The Super Mario franchise, including all titles listed above, is the copyright of Nintendo. Some screenshots courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Mario Kart racetracks (that would be perfect for Mario Kart 9)

I was very fortunate in mid-2013 to attend a press event for the Wii U game Mario Kart 8. Well before the full game would launch in 2014 I got a brief opportunity to get my hands on the latest edition of Nintendo’s genre-defining kart racer, which scored me pretty significant bragging rights at the company I was working with at the time! The game blew me away with its improved visuals while retaining the exact same feel of playing a Mario Kart game that had been present in every iteration since Super Mario Kart on the SNES. Super Mario Kart, by the way, is one of two racing games I owned back in the SNES days – the other being Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing. I wonder if anyone besides me (and presumably Nigel Mansell) remembers that one!

So I’ve been a Mario Kart fan since the series debuted, and in that time I think I’ve played every iteration of the series. I didn’t own a GameCube in the early 2000s, but I played Mario Kart: Double Dash with friends when I was at university. I think that’s the only title in the series that I didn’t own at one point.

Box art for Mario Kart Wii.

Nintendo usually releases one Mario Kart game per console, and with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch at the moment – where it’s been one of the console’s best-sellers since it launched – perhaps there won’t be a Mario Kart 9 any time soon. But Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is really just a port of the Wii U game; it isn’t a title unique to the Switch. That provides us a tentative glimmer of hope that Mario Kart 9 may still be coming sometime soon!

Recent Mario Kart games have recreated tracks from older entries, changing and upscaling them to fit the new game’s theme. With that in mind, here are some of my favourite racetracks from past games that would be amazing to see return whenever Mario Kart 9 comes around.

Number 1: Kalimari Desert (Mario Kart 64)

Mario Kart 64 might just be my favourite game in the series. It had an amazing set of tracks, including the definitive version of Rainbow Road. But we’ll come to that in a moment! Kalimari Desert is a western-themed track, and while its skewed oval shape is pretty basic, it features a train constantly going around on its own railroad – which can be used as a shortcut if you’re willing to take a chance!

I like the aesthetic of the American west. The desert, the mesas, the cacti; it’s all here in Kalimari Desert. The track has been recreated twice already: in Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS, and again in Mario Kart Tour.

Number 2: Vanilla Lake 2 (Super Mario Kart)

The Mario Kart series has some great snow or ice themed tracks. The first tracks to have this kind of wintry theme were the two Vanilla Lake tracks in Super Mario Kart. Vanilla Lake 2 isn’t an easy track in its original incarnation, with lots of obstacles and no clear racing line. It’s easy to fall into the large central lake with its jagged and uneven edge, and because of its basic square shape, Vanilla Lake 2 can be deceptively simple to new players.

The track was recreated once, but hasn’t been used since Mario Kart: Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance.

Number 3: Wuhu Island Loop/Wuhu Loop (Mario Kart 7)

Beginning in Mario Kart 7, a handful of tracks were longer than others, and instead of racing three laps, players race from a start line to a finish line. For the purposes of the game, tracks like Wuhu Island Loop are still split into three sections – the sections replacing laps. Mario Kart 7 is a game I had a ton of fun with, and Wuhu Island Loop is one of its better offerings.

When I worked in a large office in the early 2010s, several colleagues and I would sometimes get together and use the 3DS’ wireless networking function to play Mario Kart 7 during breaks and downtime. It really was a blast!

Number 4: DK’s Snowboard Cross/DK Summit (Mario Kart Wii)

Another snow-themed track here, but this one is based on a winter sports resort. Toward the end of the track is a really fun section based on a snowboard half-pipe, complete with snowboarding characters and patches of deep snow to avoid! It’s brilliantly done, and while it isn’t the easiest track it’s a ton of fun.

DK’s Snowboard Cross (a.k.a. DK Summit in North America; Nintendo seem to love arbitrarily changing names!) has only been seen in Mario Kart Wii, which I think makes it overdue for a return!

Number 5: Rainbow Road (Mario Kart 64)

As I mentioned above, Mario Kart 64 truly has the definitive version of Rainbow Road. Everything about the track is perfect: its complicated layout, the clever placement of obstacles, and the starry, atmospheric background featuring characters from the Mario series lit up as neon signs. The music that accompanies the track is phenomenal too, making the whole experience strangely nostalgic.

Rainbow Road has been recently recreated for Mario Kart 8, but for some reason Nintendo cut it short and players only get to enjoy one lap instead of three. The original Nintendo 64 version remains the best, and I’d love to see it return in its true form!

Number 6: Animal Crossing (Mario Kart 8 DLC/Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)

With Animal Crossing: New Horizons performing so well and becoming one of the Switch’s top-selling titles, I have no doubt that Nintendo will reference it in some way if there is to be a Mario Kart 9 this generation. However, the Animal Crossing track featured on Mario Kart 8 (originally as DLC on the Wii U) was based on Animal Crossing: New Leaf. It’s a very sweet track that really captures the essence of the sleepy Animal Crossing village perfectly.

Like the Animal Crossing village it’s based on, the track has four seasonal variations and looks different in each. It’s random which one will be chosen every time a player selects the course, which adds another small element of fun!

Number 7: Mushroom Bridge (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

Having not been a GameCube owner (I had an Xbox instead in those days) I’m less familiar with Mario Kart: Double Dash than other entries in the series. However, one track I loved to play with friends was Mushroom Bridge. Toad’s Turnpike on the Nintendo 64 introduced traffic as moving obstacles to race around, and Mushroom Bridge is in a similar vein.

Because the other vehicles on the track are moving, it can be difficult to predict where they’re going, adding an element of complexity to the race. And it’s great fun to sabotage an opponent, sending them careening into traffic!

Number 8: Toad Harbour (Mario Kart 8)

At the press event I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Toad Harbour was the track I got to play for myself. I believe there was one other track available, as well as one battle course – but I can’t remember what those were! Toad Harbour was a great choice to show off the Wii U’s greatly-improved graphics – the course is bright and sunlit, and there’s plenty of detail in its San Francisco-esque scenery.

If Mario Kart 9 opts to drop the anti-gravity racing that premiered in Mario Kart 8, Toad Harbour could be a great choice to adapt as its one anti-gravity section is optional.

Number 9: Bowser Castle 3 (Super Mario Kart)

Super Mario Kart had some very fun and interesting tracks, despite the limitations of the SNES. Bowser Castle 3 (which I always thought was called Bowser‘s Castle 3, with an -s) snakes around like a normal racetrack for the most part, but then there comes a point with the track splitting in two. The jumps lead to a number of smaller islands in the lava, and there are several possible routes across, adding an extra element to what was already a fun track.

The music for Super Mario Kart’s Bowser Castle tracks was also great! The track hasn’t been seen since Mario Kart: Super Circuit, so it’s a great candidate to bring back.

Number 10: Lakeside Park (Mario Kart: Super Circuit)

Lakeside Park is a pretty clever track. The first lap is normal, set in a jungle beside a lake. The intimidating-looking volcanoes seem like just a part of the background… until lap 2, when the sky goes dark and the volcanoes erupt! Chunks of lava then rain down the track, peppering it with additional obstacles.

Considering this was a Game Boy Advance title, there are some pretty clever things going on in Lakeside Park. The track would make a wonderful addition to Mario Kart 9.

Number 11: Peach Beach (Mario Kart: Double Dash)

When my friends and I used to play Peach Beach, we rather immaturely called it the “cock-and-balls” track… because c’mon, what else could that giant rock formation possibly look like? It’s even vaguely flesh-coloured. I’ve known many animators and developers having once worked in the games industry, and I guarantee that was done on purpose.

But we’re off-topic! Peach Beach is a fun track with some interesting obstacles and different terrains to get stuck into, and although it reappeared on the Wii I’d love to see it back again.

Number 12: Shroom Ridge (Mario Kart DS)

Another track featuring traffic, similar to Mushroom Bridge above, Shroom Ridge was one of my favourites from Mario Kart DS. Weaving in and out of oncoming traffic is difficult to master, so I think this track would be perfect for a more challenging grand prix.

It’s also one of the few Mario Kart DS tracks that hasn’t been seen since that game debuted in 2005, making it due for a comeback!

Number 13: Maple Treeway (Mario Kart Wii)

Maple Treeway is a beautifully atmospheric track with an autumnal setting. It has a fantastic musical accompaniment too, and a couple of more challenging parts. There’s nothing too tricky, however, and I just adore the setting, the music, and the whole layout of the track. It’s easily one of my favourites from Mario Kart Wii.

Mario Kart 7 brought back Maple Treeway on the 3DS, but I’d still like to see it return one more time – upscaled in full HD!

Number 14: DK’s Jungle Parkway (Mario Kart 64)

DK’s Jungle Parkway was a clever track when it debuted on the Nintendo 64 – straying off its fairly narrow track onto the grass verge would result in being hit with objects from the jungle background, further slowing you down! This feature meant it was a challenge to avoid oversteering and understeering to stay on the track – and meant it could be a lot of fun to push an opponent off!

DK’s Jungle Parkway reappeared on the Wii, but that version made a couple of changes (the objects no longer hit you when not on the track, and the big jump across the river forces you to go straight instead of taking a chance and cutting the corner) which I feel took away its uniqueness. I’d love to see it back with those features included!

Number 15: Daisy Circuit (Mario Kart Wii)

A nice, straightforward track that takes players through a town at sunrise (or sunset), Daisy Circuit is a sweet little track set to another great piece of music. There are no major obstacles to speak of, though there are two sections in the middle where a fountain and statue must be circumnavigated. It’s a nice, easy track that someone brand-new to Mario Kart could pick up and have fun with.

Daisy Circuit hasn’t been reused since it was first seen in Mario Kart Wii, which is a great reason to bring it back for Mario Kart 9!

Number 16: Shy Guy Bazaar (Mario Kart 7)

The Mario Kart series has a few recurring settings for its tracks, so it’s great when we get something genuinely different. Shy Guy Bazaar has a definite Arabian theme – almost like something from Aladdin – which is a great spin on the typical desert-themed tracks of other Mario Kart titles.

There are some unique obstacles, and the track has some narrow and wide sections, allowing for varied race strategies. It was one of my favourites from Mario Kart 7 – but I always felt it was underappreciated!

Number 17: Wild Woods (Mario Kart 8 DLC/Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)

Another track that was initially available as DLC on the Wii U, Wild Woods is a ton of fun. As I mentioned above, many Mario Kart tracks follow one of a limited number of themes; Wild Woods is something altogether different with its “deep, dark woods” setting – which is reminiscent of some old levels from the Donkey Kong Country series.

Tracks from Mario Kart 8 seem like they’d be well-suited to be brought into Mario Kart 9, and I’d love to see Wild Woods back.

Number 18: Mushroom Gorge (Mario Kart Wii)

Mushroom Gorge is a gorge-ous track. See what I did there? With both an outside section and a section in a cave, there was already a lot of fun to be had, but Mushroom Gorge also introduces giant mushrooms to bounce on – getting the speed and angle right for your bounce is incredibly important, lest you fall into a bottomless pit and have to be rescued!

The track did make a reappearance on the 3DS, but its fun and unique bouncy gameplay would be great to bring back for Mario Kart 9 too.

Number 19: Choco Mountain (Mario Kart 64)

Choco Mountain in Mario Kart 64, as well as the earlier Choco Island tracks in Super Mario Kart, always seemed to be ignored by players in favour of other tracks. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fairly bland all-brown colour scheme, but that’s one possibility. It’s a shame, because Choco Mountain in particular is a clever track with some difficult sections and unpredictable obstacles.

Choco Mountain was seen in Mario Kart DS as well, but I think it’s a candidate to get an HD makeover for Mario Kart 9!

Number 20: Sunshine Airport (Mario Kart 8)

One of the tracks used to market Mario Kart 8, Sunshine Airport has a lot to offer. Mario Kart 7 had introduced gliding, allowing players to soar through the air, and Sunshine Airport takes that theme and runs with it. The airport setting has some unique obstacles, and as somewhere completely different to race around, it’s lots of fun.

I particularly like the aircraft that sometimes pass you while racing, even though I’m always worried that they’re going to crash into me!

So that’s it. A handful of Mario Kart tracks from past entries in the series that I feel would be great to see given an overhaul and an update for Mario Kart 9. This article shouldn’t be interpreted as me having any “insider information” from Nintendo that a new game is in the works! Just to be clear: I have no idea if Mario Kart 9 is in development, or if it will be released on the Switch. It’s possible that Nintendo may not release another entry in this fantastic series until they launch their next console – whenever that could be! However, I think there is reason to be hopeful of a new Mario Kart title. As I mentioned, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of the Wii U game, and aside from collating the main game and its two DLC packs, doesn’t really offer anything substantially new. Secondly, Nintendo has seemed more open to changing things up this generation, particularly where sequels to its most successful titles are concerned: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is getting a direct sequel, for example.

As long as Dry Bones – the best character in the whole Mario Kart series – is playable in Mario Kart 9, I’ll be satisfied with whichever tracks Nintendo decides to bring back!

The Mario Kart series – including all games mentioned above, as well as all individual racetracks, characters, and other properties – is the copyright of Nintendo. Screenshots courtesy of the Super Mario Wiki. They are used under the principle of Fair Dealing. For further information, see my copyright policy. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.