What’s Wrong With Nintendo Games These Days?
First and foremost, Nintendo is known for making great games. The level of thought, care, and polish the company puts into its best titles is why many gamers have remained die-hard fans their whole game-playing life. Unfortunately, it looks like the level of care given to 2015’s slate of games has slipped. Is Nintendo burning the trust of its fans?
Let’s take a look at the Metacritic scores of the high-profile games Nintendo released during 2015.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D – Metacritic score: 89
- Super Mario Maker – Metacritic score: 88
- Xenoblade Chronicles 3D – Metacritic score: 86
- Xenoblade Chronicles X – Metacritic score: 85
- Splatoon – Metacritic score: 81
- Yo-Kai Watch – Metacritic score: 78
- Yoshi’s Woolly World – Metacritic score: 78
- Pokémon Picross – Metacritic score: 74
- Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition – Metacritic score: 73
- Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon – Metacritic score: 73
- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse – Metacritic score: 73
- The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes – Metacritic score: 73
- Doctor Mario: Miracle Cure – Metacritic score: 69
- Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. – Metacritic score: 69
- Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water – Metacritic score: 67
- Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer – Metacritic score: 66
- Mario Party 10 – Metacritic score: 66
- Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash – Metacritic score: 59
- Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash – Metacritic score: 59
- Pokémon Shuffle – Metacritic score: 56
- Devil’s Third: Metacritic score: 44
- Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival – Metacritic score: 43
Going in descending order, things start off pretty well, with five games earning coveted scores in the 80s. When you look a little closer, though, you’ll notice that two of those games — The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D — are remakes of older games that proved to be critical darlings years ago.
The remaining three titles that scored in the 80s are all fantastic games that are worthy of Nintendo’s heritage. But Nintendo published a lot of games this year, and only three non-remakes earned exceptionally high scores from critics. The remaining 17 titles all scored in the 70s or below, including five games in the 40s or 50s.
That’s not a terrible track record for a publisher, but it’s bad for Nintendo. In the past five years, the Metacritic scores for Nintendo-published games have averaged out to 77. In 2015, the average is 70. That’s a lot of points to drop.
Fans expect more from the company that gave us many of the best games ever created, from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Metroid to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Mario Kart 8.
Delays and poor sales
Scores aren’t the only sign that Nintendo has seen better days. Fans were promised 2015 releases of Star Fox Zero and a new The Legend of Zelda game for Wii U. Both of those games have been delayed to 2016, and there’s reason to think the Zelda game will be delayed even further.
Ever since Nintendo announced it was working on the Wii U’s successor, code-named NX, the Wii U has essentially been a “dead console walking.” Nintendo had no choice but to abandon the Wii U because despite making a number of fantastic games for the system, gamers haven’t been buying it. To date, the Wii U has sold roughly 10 million units in the three years it has been on the market. The PlayStation 4, by comparison, has sold 30 million units in just two years.
There’s still hope
The likely reason for Nintendo’s poor showing this year is that it has shifted many of its resources over to the NX. There’s always a slowdown in output or a dip in quality when companies have to split their attention. Maybe the NX will be a raging success whenever it’s released.
In the meantime, Nintendo will have to take its lumps. For a company that has worked hard to earn a reputation as a top-tier video game publisher, Nintendo has squandered much of that goodwill in 2015. Let’s hope the company can bounce back in 2016.