In episode 35 of the Stone Age Gamer Podcast, the topic of video game cartoons was discussed. Naturally, the Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Captain N the Game Master were mentioned, and it reminded me of a magnificent time. Nintendo used to have cartoons. Granted, in retrospect these shows don't hold up so well. They have their charm, but when viewed critically, they leave much to be desired. With the recent success of shows like Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, it got us thinking; Nintendo should be making their own cartoons, and they should take it seriously this time. They have a nearly unprecedented stable of intellectual properties to pull from, and some of those worlds are just begging to be explored. With a live-action adaptation of The Legend of Zelda recently announced, the timing couldn't be better for the big N to start really branching out with their characters. Which ones should they go with? Here are the top ten Nintendo franchises that should be turned into animated series.
10. Ice Climber–Nana and Popo are some of Nintendo's oldest characters, and they have been long overdue for some attention since being revitalized in the Smash Bros. series. Their world is perhaps one of the more blank canvases available, since they haven't had a new title since the original Ice Climber for the NES. Still, what we do have is a pair of explorers, polar bears in speedos and sunglasses, fruit everywhere, and a pterodactyl for transportation. The possibilities are endless.
9. BattleClash–This under appreciated SNES gem and its sequel could make for one heck of a show. Taking place in a post apocalyptic world, people fight using giant mech suits called ST's (or Standing Tanks). The warlord Anubis has assembled a team of Battle Chiefs as his enforcers, and it's up to the Mike Anderson, his brother (the player), and his ST Falcon to defeat them all, avenge their father's death, and save the world. There's a villain, a conflict, and some absolutely kick-ass character designs to pull from. In the right hands, this could be a serious winner.
8. Duck Hunt–Now here's another IP that hasn't been touched since a Smash Bros. revitalization. Honestly, before Smash, I wouldn't have thought that this would work, but after seeing their announcement video, and specifically my son's reaction to it, there's potential. There's a Looney Tunes-esuqe vibe coming off their updated designs, and I would love to see someone mine that. It could even be more of a series of animated shorts, no longer than 10-15 minutes a piece, told from the perspective of the hunter. The dog and ducks get into various shenanigans, the hunter shoots and misses, hilarity ensues. It practically writes itself!
7. Tin Star–Another forgotten SNES gem, Tin Star was The Tick meets a sci-fi western. You played as Tin Star, accompanied by his sidekick Mo and his trusty steed Aluminum as you set out to clean up East Driftwood. The Bad Oil Gang has laid siege to the town, and only the new sheriff can put a stop to their nefarious ways. This game not only featured a colorful and amusing cast of characters, but the writing was funny as all heck. Unlike many other Nintendo games, Tin Star had actual dialogue and the characters had a more definable sense of, for lack of a better word, character. A sic-fi action comedy western? There's a niche that's currently not being filled. Sign me up!
6. Star Tropics–Ahh, Star Tropics. The story of a boy named Mike Jones, a series of tropical islands, monsters, mystery, and space aliens. Then, in the sequel, they added time travel, Sherlock Holmes, and I think there were some Tetris pieces thrown in too. Star Tropics is as fun as it is strange, and the continuing adventures of Mike, his space princess girlfriend, and his scientist uncle Dr. Jones could be an absolute blast. There's an almost unlimited amount of untapped potential in this franchise, from both a gameplay and storytelling perspective. There's even the promise of a running gag involving shoving bananas in your ears! Make it happen, Nintendo.
5. Star Fox–Speaking of space, the Star Fox team is about to make their return to the limelight in the new Star Fox game for Wii U. What better time to give them their own animated series? This would be one of the easiest games on the list to adapt, because they have literally already built an entire solar system for this universe. There's several factions of villains, plenty of backstory to pull from, and it involves cute animals piloting ships! The Star Fox team fights to stop the evil Andross, while battling against their rivals Star Wolf, and solving the mystery of James McCloud's supposed death. They would have to work on making Slippy less annoying though...
4. Pikmin–This one is kind of a cheat, because there are already some excellent Pikmin animated shorts. The thing is, they're fantastic, and there should be more of them! These little guys are great at getting into trouble, and their naïveté makes them absolutely lovable. The existing animated shorts barely scratch the surface of what could be done though. Great characters like Olimar, Alph, and more from the planet Hocotate are ripe for exploration. This one should also stick to the animated short route, but nonetheless, there must be more.
3. Donkey Kong–While the DK crew are no strangers to the world of animation (DK was on Saturday Supercade, and there was a somewhat terrible Donkey Kong Country GC cartoon back in '97) the recent resurgence of their games, and that expansion of their world, makes Donkey Kong a prime candidate for a new animated series. What sets DK apart at the moment is that he's starting to build up a bit of a rogues gallery. There's the Kremlings, the Tikis, Ghastly King & Cactus King, and the Snowmads. They could even bring Stanley the Bugman into the mix! He's also got a rather eclectic collection of allies in the form of the DK crew. Granted, some of those character designs are... less than good. (I'm looking at you Candy Kong. Ughhhh) But while characters like Lanky Kong serve as a warning to never let drunken circus midgets design video game characters, Cranky Kong could prove to be quite a source of comedy gold.
2. Kid Icarus–I may be a little biased here, because I love this franchise to death, but after Kid Icarus: Uprising, Nintendo proved that there's tons more to see in Angel Land. Heck, they even made a series of animated shorts based on the game, and they were pretty darn good! Kid Icarus's unique mixture of comedy and action makes it a perfect fit for an animated series. There's an entire new set of villains for Pit and Palutena to deal with thanks to Uprising, and there's even an entire other faction of opponents to face in the form of Orcos and his minions from Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. But to top it all off, Pit is just a likable character. He's an angel who's wings don't work, but that doesn't stop him from being a hero. He's confident, and insecure at the same time, and that made him a great character to root for in Uprising. Factor in rival/ally characters like Magnus and Dark Pit, and you have all the makings of a new hit show.
1. Super Mario Bros.–It's time. We all want to do the Mario again, and quite frankly, it's ridiculous that this isn't already a thing. I understand the reservations Nintendo might have after the last Mario cartoon and the live action movie debacle, but seriously. Get some talented people behind the project, and bring the Mushroom Kingdom back to life. There would be some challenges to be sure. For one, Charles Martinet's Mario voice works great for "woo's" and "wahaa's", but carrying on a conversation in that voice can get a little grating. If they can figure out how to get around that obstacle, there's no limit to what they could do. They could build a mythology, they could cross over with the Donkey Kong cartoon (that also doesn't exist), they could bring in other villains like Tatanga and Wart, and they could put some good female characters in the spotlight like Rosalina, and Daisy. (Let's face it, Peach is a ditz.) Super Mario Bros. is a no brainer. Timeless character designs, tons of source material to draw from, and a genuine hunger from the fanbase could all add up to a perfect storm of marketing synergy. This could not only be a terrific show, but an amazing money making opportunity for Nintendo.
But what about...
There were some major franchises left off this list, so allow me to explain. First, I left Zelda off because there's already a show in the works. Pokemon still has an ongoing cartoon, so that's out. And F-Zero, and Kirby have recently had their own animated series in the last 10 years. Then there's the question of Metroid. I adore the Metroid series, but I don't think it would make for a very good show. Metroid is about solitude, and adding characters and voices to something like that tends to take away from the world more than help it. Just look at Other M. Great game, terrible story. In my humble opinion, Metroid should remain a game.
And that's the list. Clearly, Nintendo is in a position to make a lot of people happy, and potentially make a ton of money in the process. If they do decide to move forward with any new projects, quality control must be high on their list of priorities. What are your thoughts? We would love to hear them. Sound off in the comments, send us an email, dispatch a series of carrier pigeons, whatever works for you. In the meantime, let's all just hope that Netflix doesn't screw up that new Zelda show. If they get it right, what it could lead to has the potential to be pretty amazing.