With March’s Nindies presentation, we were given a look at several promising independently developed games coming to the Switch. But the biggest bit of news to come from the presentation might be Cadence of Hyrule, an upcoming rhythm-based roguelike from Brace Yourself Games, the studio that produced Crypt of the NecroDancer. The idea that Nintendo would hand over Legend of Zelda, one of their flagship properties, to an indie developer is huge. I’m sure there is a representative from Nintendo that has final say on what could or couldn’t be done with their beloved characters Link or Zelda, but the fact remains that it’s a pretty big step. True, we’ve seen Nintendo hand the reins of classic properties over to other studios like Rare or Bandai Namco, but seeing them embrace smaller studios has opened up a world of possibilities.
With that in mind, I put together a list of indie games and matched them up with Nintendo properties that might benefit from a little outside the box thinking. Rule #1 was that I had to keep in mind Nintendo would have oversight on these projects. No matter how much I might love an Undertale inspired Kirby RPG, I didn’t think Nintendo would let Toby Fox tell the types of stories he’s used to telling with the little pink puff. Rule #2, however, was one I imposed on myself to keep things interesting. I wasn’t allowed to pair developers up with properties that were too similar to their previous works. This means no handing Metroid over to Thomas Happ, who developed Axiom Verge. It doesn’t do much in the way of new or exciting things, which is why I pushed myself to think outside the box. So without further ado:
- Star Fox: CSS
Star Fox & Papers, Please
Rather than focus on the space battles or on-planet conflicts, Star Fox: CSS embraces Papers, Please’s intriguing yet simple gameplay. In it, you play as an officer of the titular CSS (Cornerian Spaceport Security), approving and denying access to people with (or without) the proper documents. They can use procedurally generated animals for the day to day customers, since the series has shown that just about any anthropomorphic animal is a character option. This is a pretty safe idea for Nintendo, as they don’t have to give up too much control of their beloved characters. As a security officer, your actions can have amusing, if unintended consequences on the inevitable umpteenth Battle of Corneria as a result of say, allowing in an Aparoid-infected subject or holding up a member of Team Star Fox because of some misfiled documents (we’re looking at you, Slippy.)
- Super Mario: PipeDream
Mario & Stardew Valley
Not to be confused with the LucasArts-renamed port of Pipe Mania, this game’s not going to center on Nintendo’s titular plumber, but rather on someone else. Think about it for a second: we don’t know anything about Mario and Luigi’s family, and the pair’s earliest appearances are in Yoshi’s Island. So, you name a young Italian man or woman who comes to the city to take over a relative’s plumbing business. Stardew does a great job constructing an interesting and potentially addicting gameplay loop, so I have no doubt they can make working on the city’s waterworks and meeting its inhabitants interesting. You can dive into the business headfirst, repairing the city’s sewers and waterworks and improving your tools, or getting lost in the game’s many other side activities, including raising mushrooms with faces on them or fire flowers, or pursuing the love of your life! Some time after you marry one of the game’s NPCs, a dutiful, if a bit harried stork, can arrive with a pair of twins in matching red and green hats, fresh off an island adventure that involved LOTS of crying.
- Golden Sun: First Adept
Golden Sun & Hollow Knight
Since the release of Dark Dawn in 2010, fans of the Golden Sun series have been looking for more from Camelot Software. While this entry in the series might not return to its RPG roots, fans could still journey back to Weyard, the series’ fantasy-based setting. First Adept should be set in the Lost Age of Man, shortly after Alchemy has been sealed away from the world. The game’s hero, possibly either a Venus (earth) or Jupiter (wind) Adept for exploration and puzzles’ sake, journeys through a dungeon (perhaps Mount Aleph before Sol Sanctum has been built), searching for the answers of where Alchemy has gone. Golden Sun provides plenty of Metroidvania ammunition in the form of its magic system, Psynergy, and the equippable Djinn who could easily alter your combat or exploration abilities. This offers an opportunity to explore the game’s rich, untold backstory and possibly learn a little more about the people who sealed away Alchemy, all while providing a fresh gameplay take on Golden Sun.
- Pokémon: Deep Sea Exploration
Pokémon & Subnautica
You’re a trainer, beginning your journey in the Hoenn region. On your way to visit family, your ship is sunk by a rampaging Pokémon. Armed only with your wits, an interest in engineering and your trusty partner Mudkip, you’re forced to explore the sea, seek out other survivors and their Pokémon in order to craft more complicated equipment in an attempt to get to civilization. Subnautica does a fantastic job displaying the world beneath its waves, and that’s the sort of survival and exploration gameplay the Pokémon series could benefit from. The shipwreck allows you to cut out the capture mechanic prevalent in the core series. The construction mechanics could come from teaming up with some of the ship’s other survivors, with Fire or Steel types handling welding duties or something similar. Tell me it wouldn’t be both awesome and terrifying, swimming away from massive water-based Pokémon like Gyarados or a particularly persistent Cloyster with Spike Cannon. The series even has a group of aquatic-based villains, Team Aqua, who are just begging for an awesome, sprawling underwater base with hostile Sharpedo.
- F-Zero: Hot Pursuit
F-Zero & Furi
You’re probably thinking “An action shoot-em up for a racing game, Joe? Come on.” Hear me out: games routinely tell us that Captain Falcon is one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy, but we don’t really get to see that in action, instead focusing on his racing prowess. Enter Hot Pursuit. Some intergalactic baddies bust out of space prison, and it’s up to the good Captain Falcon to bring them to justice. Furi developers The Game Bakers already have an understanding of what an F-Zero game is going to need: slick gameplay, futuristic looking graphics, and above all else, a thumping soundtrack. Can you imagine darting across a level with your Falcon Kick, firing a blaster and putting the hurt on bad guys with a Falcon Punch? I won’t even be mad if we never get to drive the Blue Falcon. We’ve seen him clean up in Super Smash Bros., now it’s time to see just how cool Captain Falcon is in his home series off the racetrack.
So there they are: five fresh indie takes on Nintendo IPs, rated by my personal preference and how well I think they’d work. Nintendo taking the chance to put their properties in smaller studios’ hands could mean great things for beloved franchises, allowing them to try something a little different and wow gamers in new and exciting ways. Did one of the ideas above stand head and shoulders above the rest for you, or do you have an awesome idea for one of your favorite Nintendo IPs? Let us know in the comments below!