Pokémon GO may not have been developed or published by Nintendo, but given Pokémon’s platform history (and the marketing push Nintendo put behind the app) folks are understandably talking about it in the same breath as Nintendo’s own official forays into the mobile market. Miitomo seemed to enchant the gaming public for a week or two before wearing thin, and with early impressions of Pokémon GO—not to mention server troubles—hinting at a similar pattern it’s easy to start considering what’s in store for the Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing apps due out in the future. I’d be lying if I said I was optimistic about either one, which upsets me considering that Nintendo has already published so many games that would be perfect fits for iOS and Android with next to no alteration required. Some of these picks are obvious, some easily overlooked, and some of them are opportunities that Nintendo has already missed.
Although Picross has a history that extends beyond Nintendo’s electronic adaptations, it seems like a natural choice to fill out their mobile portfolio. Picross puzzles (also called nonograms) have already been a reasonable success on iOS, with a few well-known and a few less than well-known examples already available. Then again, that’s likely one of the biggest marks against this idea. Nintendo doesn’t really own the general concept of picross, which means they would have to struggle against many other very similar games to stand out. But given that Nintendo’s many Picross games have their own following, not to mention the draw of pairing popular series’ like Legend of Zelda with Picross as they already have on 3DS, it’s hard to imagine a Nintendo-backed Picross app doing poorly.
The movements and maneuvers in Pushmo, Stretchmo and Crashmo are simple enough that translating them to gestures on a touchscreen shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. A swipe here, a tap there, and it’s perfectly conceivable that you could navigate the series’ blocky puzzles as easily as you could on Nintendo’s own handheld. Or maybe even easier, considering how well similar mechanics have already been executed in mobile games like Monument Valley.
8. Mario vs. Donkey Kong
If you tend to open your 3DS only for slightly more robust games then there’s a chance you’re not familiar with this series where players shepherd little wind-up Marios through various environments and around various hazards. It’s like a much less fiddly version of Lemmings, and unlike Pushmo it has the advantage of being lead by characters that are immediately recognizable—and practically synonymous with Nintendo itself.
7. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
This game is already built around the idea of tapping on a screen to solve levels and reveal secrets, and much like Mario vs. Donkey Kong has the added benefit of recognizable characters. Though it wasn’t a tremendous success on console, Captain Toad is an example of how many Nintendo games built to take advantage of the Wii U gamepad could translate deftly to mobile platforms. While I can’t say that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the kind of game I’m looking to play on my Wii U, it’s exactly what I tend to play on my phone.
6. Rhythm Heaven
Rhythm Heaven is already such a pure and simple game that it almost feels unnecessary to explain why it could exist largely unchanged on iOS or Android. The mechanics are right there, just pop your earphones in and tap to the beat. It’s already the perfect game for a commute, and would be made even more perfect by putting it on a device most people carry around constantly.
Much like Rhythm Heaven, WarioWare seems like a natural fit for a platform built on inexpensive, bite-sized experiences. Moreover there’s a strong foundation of more “toyboxy” styles of games on mobile platforms, so the idea of a bunch of short, repeatable, amusing diversions—especially directed at younger players—wouldn’t be out of place.
4. Art Academy
Just about every how-to-draw app I’ve seen as a struggling wannabe artist myself has been absolutely pathetic. Calling them subpar is charitable, so even if the Art Academy series wasn’t as solid and well-done as it is there still wouldn’t be much competition to speak of. But it is. Art Academy is outstanding, and given the phone and tablet-based art community and the lack of comparable alternatives it’s almost absurd that it’s not on these devices already.
3. Animal Crossing
I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t have any illusions about the upcoming Animal Crossing mobile game being a full-fledged entry in the series. Even if Miitomo hadn’t, let’s say, adjusted our expectations, the most recent Animal Crossing games (Happy Home Designer and Amiibo Festival) haven’t engaged with many of the aspects that made the series so popular. A few apps have tried to take a slice of Animal Crossing’s pie on iOS and Android, but none have really been able to make it stick. It’s almost blasphemy to consider free-to-play monetization practices in Animal Crossing (which might be why imitators have struggled to attain the same adoring fanbase as the original) but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The key to making an Animal Crossing mobile port work would be in finding that balance. Luckily I think I know a certain generous if misunderstood raccoon dog entrepreneur who could help with that.
2. Streetpass Plaza
The biggest problem with the 3DS’ Streetpass Plaza games (free and premium ones alike) is that unless you live in an urban center it can be a pain to remember to actually bring your 3DS along when you go somewhere that might have people to Streetpass with. That would be much less of a concern for those of us with smartphones in our purses or pockets almost 24/7. In fact, it would be kind of ideal.
1. Tomodachi Life
It kills me, it just kills me how close Nintendo’s first app was to hitting its mark. Tomodachi Life may even be better suited to phones and tablets than to the 3DS. It’s a game that’s almost hard to play in anything more than short bursts, with loads of customization and currencies and all the little things that help make freemium games sustainable. It’s built around designing and bringing your friends into the world alongside your Mii, and while Miitomo absolutely grasped at that it just didn’t follow with the rest of what makes that game work. Instead it replaced the many moving pieces that gave Tomodachi Life its charm (the songs, news broadcasts, locations, room customization, gift items, food, I could go on) with… What, exactly? Weird pachinko and endless surveys? Great. It’s almost as fruitless and frustrating as making a Pokémon game where I have to loiter outside of unfamiliar buildings just to battle at a gym.
Janine Hawkins is a games writer based in sunny Canada. You can find her written and video work on HealerArcherMage.com or follow her on Twitter @bleatingheart.