For one reason or another, it’s not easy being a Nintendo fan. Sure, they've been on a roll with the release of the Switch and their slew of announcements at E3, but things haven’t always been so rosy. For every marketing blunder and E3 miscalculation, there is an army of fans who, at one point or another, have had to blush slightly when defending their favourite games company.
You do have to feel sorry for Nintendo at times. Based in Japan, they don’t have their fingers on the pulse of western gaming the same way their rivals do. Photo-realistic graphics, murky first-person shooters, and decent online capabilities just haven’t seemed to interest them. Coupled with their famously opaque company culture, Nintendo can seem baffling at times, leaving outsiders failing to understand their decision-making process.
And it’s not just their haphazard release schedule or forced motion controls gamers have to deal with. Nintendo has never been shy about the fact that they are fundamentally a toy company, meaning complex narratives and mature content have traditionally been beyond them. Not that this necessarily effects the quality of their output, but to be a Nintendo fan is to be aware that you’ll never be backing the ‘cool’ company.
That being said, here is our list of the top 15 reasons you should be embarrassed to love Nintendo.
15 Always The Same Plots
Linking to the ‘kiddy’ games point, another undeniable feature of Nintendo games is that they pretty always have the same plot.
For the most part, Nintendo fan’s don’t care. Yes, Bowser has kidnapped the Princess for the umpteenth time, but it’s the gameplay and level design we’re playing Mario for, not the logistics of the story. Saying that though, with the likes of The Last of Us bringing Hollywood-quality writing, voice acting, and direction, it’s becoming harder and harder for Nintendo fans to justify Nintendo's unambitious plots.
14 The Mario Bros Movie
Video games movies have somewhat of an infamous reputation, but few reach the nadir of the Super Mario Bros movie.
Starring Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper, there was absolutely nothing right with this adaptation. The story was some trite about a meteorite splitting the world into two dimensions, one of which needed to be saved from Koopa (aka Bowser) who had turned the king into a fungus monster. Koopa is depicted as human and the Goombas as giant round-faced henchmen. The Bros. can only jump with the use of special flying boots, and for some reason, Luigi is depicted as the hero and gets the girl. The movie apparently lacked so much direction while filming, Hoskins would turn up to the set drunk every day. Embarrassing stuff.
13 Motion Controls
These are two words that send shivers down many hardcore gamer’s spines. And Nintendo are to blame.
The legacy of the Nintendo Wii is complex. On the one hand, motion controls have seen many successful applications, with games like Zelda: Skyward Sword and ARMs genuinely benefitting from them. The problem is, for the most part, motion controls were introduced as nothing more than a gimmick, and with the out-the-box Wii Remote not being able to track 1-to-1 movement, the amount of shovelware requiring simple flick and shake motions is staggering. Nintendo fans tried to defend motions controls the best they can, but with Nintendo themselves refusing to utilize the feature’s true potential, it was never going to be easy.
12 The Cat Mario Show
You’re probably not aware of The Cat Mario Show – and after you’ve seen it, you’ll wish it stayed that way. Head on over to the Wii U Store, and you’ll notice a 10-minute video series presented by puppet versions of Peach and Mario, both wearing catsuits. The show gives previews and hints and tips to a variety of the games, and is obviously made for kids. It’s fair enough considering the audience, but listening to the grating, high-pitched voices making benign comments about some of Nintendo’s highest caliber games makes you hope the show doesn’t make its way to the Switch.
11 Wii Sports
Admit it, you were caught up in the motion control hype in 2006 as well.
Wii Sports was a sensation when it first came out, becoming the perfect showpiece for Nintendo’s new controllers. The game went down well both critically and commercially, but in hindsight fans have to admit the game hasn’t aged terribly well. The motion controllers lack the precision needed for high-level play, and for the most part, the games come down to luck more than anything. Golf pails in comparison to Camelot’s Mario Golf series, Boxing had you flailing your fists randomly at the TV, and the fact that your nan was better than you at Bowling shows the amount of gaming skill required. Wii Sports was fun for sure, but nowadays it has become a symbol of Nintendo abandoning ‘real’ gamers for their casual audience.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Tingle is short, plump, and wears a skin-tight green tunic. He’s a middle-aged man, but he wants to be a fairy. He has rosy cheeks, prances around, and tries to screw you for every rupee you’ve got. You hate him, and so does everyone else.
Tingle first appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and has been the black sheep of the Zelda franchise ever since. A series famed for its rich lore and absorbing fantasy world, Tingle snaps you back to reality faster than the flash of a Deku Nut. You try to defend him, saying yes, he is perverse, but only in a fun, charmingly-strange way. Then he throws confetti over you, and you die a little inside,
9 Reggie Fils-Aime
“My name is Reggie. I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names, and we're about making games.” With those immortal words, Reggie Fils-Aime cemented himself at E3 2004 as one of Nintendo’s most recognizable figures - for better or for worse.
We have no doubt that Reggie is a very talented businessman, but the larger than life CEO of Nintendo American just doesn’t seem to gel with the rest of the company. Secretive, modest, and with most of the company’s well-known public figures being Japanese, Reggie seems comparatively brash, and yet lacks the obvious passion that developer-turned-executive Phil Spencer of Xbox has. He also has a habit of rambling on during presentations – just check out the first 5 minutes of this years Nintendo E3 spotlight if you don’t believe us.
8 ‘Kiddy’ Games
Rather than list all the franchises we had to defend in the playground at school, we’ll simply sum it up like this: yes, in many ways Nintendo games can be classed as ‘kiddy.’
This shouldn’t be an issue to most mature adults. No one can deny the polish and ingenuity of a Pixar movie, or the epicness of Studio Ghibli’s output. But for some reason people don’t get that just because a game can be enjoyed by a child, it doesn’t mean it is exclusively for children. This isn’t so bad for games like Metroid and Zelda which has a semblance of maturity throughout, but when you’re unwinding balls of yarn in Kirby’s Epic Yarn or talking to your pups in Nintendogs, you do tend to get some funny looks.
7 Poor Online Service
Nintendo and online go together like cheese and chalk. For the longest of times, Nintendo refused to acknowledge the importance of online play, and when they were forced to play ball they gave it such a half-hearted attempt, they needn’t have bothered.
Part of this reluctance was Nintendo's stringent privacy policies, which meant friends had to exchange long friend codes before they could play together. When it worked, the online capability on the original DS were faintly impressive, mainly due to the novelty of playing online on a handheld. The Wii’s online capabilities, however, were dire, with the lag so bad on games like Smash Bros Brawl they were rendered unplayable. And as for voice chat and online lobbies, you can forget about them.
6 Skyward Sword Demo E3
There are a couple of E3 moments that we can pick from, but this has to be one of the most cringe-worthy. Picture this: it’s E3. You have a new Zelda game whose job is not only to prove the worth of motion controls in mainstreaming gaming, but also breathe fresh life into the Zelda series after the rather predictable Twilight Princess. The pressure is intense. Miyamoto steps on a stage with a Wii Remote. The next 10 minutes can only be watched behind shaking fingers.
It may have just been due to interference (or the console being too far away) no one knows for sure. What we do know though is the motion controls completely failed on Miyamoto-san. While Shigsy courageously pushed on by vigorously swiping his Remote, the rest of the world watched transfixed as none of this moments transitioned to accurate sword moments on the screen behind him. Full credit to Miyamoto for carrying on with the show, but it was none-the-less a terrible preview of the game.
5 The Animal Crossing Franchise
“So what do you in Animal Crossing?” people ask. You pause for a second, before trying to answer in a way that doesn’t make the franchise sound like boring drivel made for toddlers. You fail miserably.
Does Animal Crossing have a plot? There’s no princess to save, or big bad to take down. Your task is merely to live in a town. Sure, later iterations spice things up by making you the mayor, but for the most part, all you’re doing is pottering around, catching insects with your bug catching net and buying new furniture for your house. Once you’re hooked, it’s a totally engrossing experience. But it's best to avoid telling people you need to get home by 4 pm for Tom Nook’s sale, or that your first ever Valentine’s Day card came from Tutu the Polar Bear next door.
4 Underpowered consoles
“Lateral thinking with withered technology” is Nintendo’s design philosophy, coined by GameBoy creator Gunpei Yokoi. The phrase basically means using combining older, cheaper parts to create products that are both unique and affordable. A fine thing to be sure, but it does mean Nintendo comes up short on the graphics front.
Of course, Nintendo fans have been arguing against cutting-edge graphics since the Wii days. It not all about polygon count they say. Nintendo is offering experiences that aren’t possible elsewhere – there is only so far great graphics can take you. Deep down though, there’s nothing much they’d love to see than a 4k Zelda with slick next-gen graphics.
3 The N64 Controller
From the NES controller to the Wii Remote, Nintendo has revolutionized the way we play. Even the N64 innovated with its ground-breaking analogue stick, allowing for 360 degrees of movement in 3D space. The controller itself though is…. unconventional to say the least.
The normal controller setup is to have two prongs, corresponding to your left and right hands. The N64 controller doesn’t seem to have got a good grasp on the human anatomy, because it has a third prong. The idea is that it makes the controller easier to grasp when using the D-Pad, but in reality, it’s a cumbersome solution to a problem that could be fixed by smarter button placement. It’s a unique controller for sure, but also large, weighty, and flat-out weird.
2 Wii Music E3
If you thought the Zelda: Skyward Sword fiasco was bad, it has nothing on E3 2008. Now two years after its launch, the novelty of the Wii’s motion controls was beginning to wear thin, particularly for hardcore gamers. Nintendo were still gunning for the casual crowd, but their demonstration of Miyamoto’s casual-friendly Wii Music didn’t go down quite as well as planned. Listening to an awful rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme tune was one thing, but watching four grown men – including one gaming legend – bounce around the stage miming instruments with their Wii Remotes was too much to bear.
1 Nintendo Fanboys
Every console has its fanboys, and while the passion is admirable, there is something really irritating about die hard Nintendo lovers. Don’t get us wrong, we’re huge Nintendo fans ourselves, but it takes a particular brand of fanaticism to deny that the Wii U wasn’t a marketing mess, and that the New Super Mario Bros. series lacks the magic and inventiveness that made the NES originals such classics. It gets to the point that it can be embarrassing to call yourself a Nintendo fan, because you don’t want to be associated with people who claim Nintendo has ‘won’ every single E3, even when they perform appallingly. We love Nintendo dearly, but ultimately it’s the fans that love Nintendo too much that makes us embarrassed to admit our adoration.