Make fun of Nintendo all you want, there's no denying that they come up with some truly astounding games. With a legacy of amazing titles like Mario Kart 64, Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and so many more, it's a wonder that they're still pumping out great games.
Because they create such iconic games, it brings up a lot of questions about the development process. What makes a Nintendo game a Nintendo game? What sorts of standards do they have to meet before deciding to release a game to the public? What kind of development strategies are employed during the creation? It's all quite fascinating.
While we may never have the answers (as we don't work for Nintendo), the things we do know give us some insight as to how their minds work when creating games. As a matter of fact, the development of many of their games give us more information about how Nintendo operates. They brainstorm, they rationalize, they bounce ideas off of each other.
The games themselves have gone through a lot of ideas when being created. Many times, Nintendo almost created an entirely different game before changing the idea for one reason or another. Before you start shaking your head, remember that this is how some of the greatest video games of all time were created.
Here are 15 Nintendo games that were almost insanely different.
15 The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The GameCube was a powerhouse of a console during its time. It could directly compete with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in terms of raw energy. Because of this, Nintendo was able to utilize that to create some perfectly gorgeous games. Among them was The Wind Waker.
After the initial announcement of that game angered many fans, it wasn't long before fans found out that The Wind Waker was one of the best entries in the Zelda series. Because of this, Nintendo quickly began plans on The Wind Waker 2. However, the demand for a much more realistic and adult-themed Zelda was overwhelming, so they stopped work on the sequel and instead began work on what would become Twilight Princess. If you want proof that Nintendo listens to its fans, read this story over a few times.
Splatoon was Nintendo's newest IP for a few years (until ARMS was announced, that is) and had an interesting lifespan during development. It was announced fairly early in the Wii U's life cycle that Miyamoto was working on a new IP, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Splatoon wasn't always intended to be the unique shooter that it is now.
When development began on the project, Miyamoto was originally going to make it a spin-off of the Mario franchise, in the same vein of Mario Kart and Mario Party. However, as the concept became more fleshed out, Miyamoto knew that using Mario characters would limit the scope of the game and he decided to move forward with unique and new ideas. That's precisely how the Inklings were born and from there came an excellent shooter franchise.
13 Donkey Kong
Believe it or not, Nintendo's development cycle has been unique since they first started creating video games. All the way back to the arcade systems was the famous game known as Donkey Kong. We all know it as the first appearance of Mario as he tries to save his precious Pauline from the clutches of a giant gorilla.
However, this game wasn't always planned to be Donkey Kong. Instead, there was a lot of talk to make it a game starring the cartoon character Popeye. Instead of Mario saving Pauline from Donkey Kong, it would be Popeye saving Olive from Bluto. All the while, there'd be spinach power-ups he could use as opposed to a hammer. However, Nintendo couldn't get the proper licensing for the character and decided to move forward with the concept, but using original characters.
12 The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
As you'll recognize very quickly, The Legend of Zelda series is subject to the most change out of any others. Nintendo constantly experiments with different ideas before settling on a sole concept for a game. It was true for Twilight Princess and it's exactly the case with A Link Between Worlds.
Right off the bat, you'll realize how similar the game is to A Link To the Past in both name and gameplay. However, there are plenty of new ideas and mechanics to make A Link Between Worlds its own thing. During development, many of the higher ups tried to instead make the game A Link To the Past 3D. However, some of the developers didn't like this idea and wanted to create a new Zelda game for the 3DS, rather than rely on tons of remakes.
11 Kirby's Return To Dream Land
After Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, the super tough pink puff didn't have a proper console entry until Kirby's Return To Dream Land in 2011. The game brought back the character to his platforming roots while bringing in some new flavor and color to the beloved series.
When it comes to the Kirby franchise at the time, though, it's not like Nintendo was sitting on their hands. For several years, there were plans to create a multiplayer Kirby platformer for the GameCube. There was even footage shown off at an E3 conference. However, the plans didn't quite work out and Nintendo was forced to delay the project indefinitely. When creating Kirby's Return To DreamLand for the Wii, they did away with many of their original ideas (like a dynamic camera), yet the framework of the original idea can still be seen.
10 Super Smash Bros.
Masahiro Sakurai was quite brilliant when developing Super Smash Bros. Very early on, he wanted to create a unique fighting game that didn't rely on combos and health bars to get ahead. He was more focused on fun and having multiple people play at a time. Yet the development of this game wasn't all rainbows and sunshine.
The original project was titled Dragon King: The Fighting Game. In it, unique characters were going to be used to beat the hell out of each other. Sakurai wasn't sold on this idea and asked Miyamoto if he could use Nintendo characters. After getting vetoed, Sakurai decided to put the characters in the game anyway to show to Miyamoto. Thankfully, the plan worked and Super Smash Bros. became the chaotic mash up that we know and love today.
9 Yoshi's Woolly World
Early in the Wii U's life cycle, Nintendo announced that Good-Feel (the developers of Kirby's Epic Yarn) had begun work on another yarn game that starred Yoshi this time around. The game, titled Yarn Yoshi for the time being, featured the same aesthetic as its predecessor and had a clear direction early on.
However, there were a lot of changes made to the game as time went on. Originally, Yoshi was planned to be an outline like how Kirby was. Eventually, the entire game was overhauled to feature 3D models that were made fully out of yarn. This made the game stand out a bit more in the long run and served to its benefit. Yoshi's Woolly World is not only one of the best games on the Wii U, but one of the best Yoshi games yet.
8 Star Fox Adventures
Star Fox Adventures is a fantastic game, but one that doesn't really fit the formula of the Star Fox series. As a matter of fact, its style and gameplay fit something more akin to The Legend of Zelda.
The truth of the matter is that Star Fox Adventures wasn't initially planned to be a Star Fox game. When Rare began work, the project was called Dinosaur Planet. It was to feature unique characters and a unique story. However, when Nintendo took a look at it, they remarked how similar many of the new faces looked to characters from the Star Fox universe. Because of this, work was done to simply reskin the game to put in Fox McCloud and other recognizable characters. Love it or hate it, Star Fox Adventures remains one of the best games in the series.
7 The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
The Legend of Zelda series had made a lot of records since its days on the NES and SNES. Due to the rise of the Nintendo 64, the company decided to take the leap from the 2D space into the 3D space. Mario did it, Donkey Kong, and now it was The Legend of Zelda's turn.
When crafting Ocarina of Time, Nintendo originally structured it to be a first-person adventure. They wanted Link to be never be shown on screen, to make it feel as if you were the Hero of Time. However, that idea was eventually scrapped. That said, echoes of the first-person design can still be seen in the game. The Z-targeting was a leftover idea as well as being able to look around by moving the analog stick. Imagine how scary it would've been to fight the massive Ganon in first-person.
6 Pokémon Gold And Silver
What started as a simple idea quickly turned into one of Nintendo's biggest franchises. Game Freak never anticipated how successful Pokémon Red and Blue would be. While they planned a sequel in the form of Pokémon Gold and Silver, the end result was much different than what they originally planned.
The plan was for Gold and Silver to be the final entries in the series. However, the success for the first two games was so high that Game Freak and Nintendo decided that they would continue on. That said, elements of Gold and Silver being the last games still exist. For example, you can fight Trainer Red from Red and Blue on Mt. Silver. He is the hardest trainer to fight and will take all of your skill. It would be like fighting the avatar you had from Red and Blue. It could've easily been the final game in the franchise.
5 Xenoblade Chronicles X
After the success of Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, Nintendo thought it'd be a good idea to keep Monolith Soft around for future projects. When the Wii U was being developed, Monolith Soft began work on a new game titled just X. The game featured giant mechs and monsters to fight, but other than that, wasn't related to anything else.
Sometime during development, it was announced that X would instead be Xenoblade Chronicles X. Due to Shulk's inclusion in Smash 4, Monolith Soft felt that it was time to continue the franchise and that people would be more interested in it. It was a great move on their part, but it does beg the question: what would the game have been like had Monolith continued on with just the X name? Perhaps it would've been more independent?
4 Metroid Prime
Out of all of the Metroid games, very seldom will you hear anyone say that any of them comes close to Metroid Prime. This exploration title came out on the GameCube in what feels like ages ago. Yet its phenomenal gameplay, focus on adventure, and added formula from the Metroid series made it one of the greatest games on the system.
However, Metroid Prime wasn't always the direction that Nintendo wanted to go. They worked closely with Retro Studios to craft a Metroid game on the N64. However, none of their ideas seemed to work and nothing came together. They attempted continuing the sidescrolling formula, but ultimately wanted to try something new. Development was so late that the project had to be pushed to the GamCcube, but that console offered the right amount of power to create Metroid Prime.
3 Star Fox Guard
Nintendo knew that the Wii U wasn't doing well and part of the reason was because of many projects that were never fully realized. One of these projects was known as Project Guard. It was a tower defense game that allowed you to place different cameras to see what enemies would come through your base.
After E3 2014, Project Guard evolved into Star Fox Guard. The game itself was given a visual overhaul, featuring elements to remind you that it was a Star Fox game. However, the game wasn't big enough to be released on its own, which is why it was bundled with Star Fox Zero and likely why Nintendo branded it with a franchise that people already knew about. The game isn't the greatest thing on the Wii U, but imagine how it would've turned out had it not been packaged with Star Fox Zero.
2 Mario Kart 8
The Mario Kart series is one of Nintendo's best. They created the kart racer genre and perfected it in one fell swoop. Each subsequent entry seeks to build on the formula while adding new things to distinguish them from the rest of the pile. Even Mario Kart 8 was going to have some interesting mechanics before the anti-gravity was decided on.
Early in development, Nintendo knew they wanted a new driving mechanic for Mario Kart 8. They're first idea was to put drills on the ends of the karts and have them race while burrowing into the ground. However, it was decided that anti-gravity would work better with the underwater racing and gliders of Mario Kart 7. And that's how Mario Kart 8 was born with anti-gravity.
1 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
If you haven't heard of Breath of the Wild, then you probably live under a rock. It's one of Nintendo's greatest games of all time and has won more awards than you can shake a Master Sword at. Despite how excellent the game is, development took a long time because Nintendo experimented with many different ideas.
One potential idea was Link being a rockstar and riding on a motorcycle (glad that was scrapped). One that got a little more attention was The Legend of Zelda: Invasion. In it, aliens invade Hyrule and Link was tasked with fending them off. This idea actually had a screenshot to go with it, and was much farther along in development. Overall, Nintendo felt that wouldn't fit the feel that they were going for and decided to create a fantasy world with interesting tech and a monster known as Calamity Ganon.