Over the holidays we’re republishing some of our best features, interviews, opinion pieces and talking points from the previous 12 months from staff and contributors alike — articles that we feel represent our best of 2021. In them you’ll find our usual mix of thoughtfulness, frivolity, retro expertise, gaming nostalgia, and — of course — enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Enjoy!
Any longtime Nintendo fan knows that the company’s third-party publishing partners can be fair-weather friends. Plenty of the industry’s biggest franchises have been absent from Nintendo hardware for quite some time. In some cases, Nintendo’s own bold decisions over cartridges and standard definition gaming have cost them key entries in series that were once synonymous with their brand.
But, thanks to the Switch’s popularity, some of the most infamous games to skip Nintendo hardware have come home. Square’s ambitious Final Fantasy VII was once too big to fit on an N64 cart, a factor in driving the longtime Nintendo partner to opt for optical disc media on Sony’s PlayStation. The move apparently had Nintendo telling Square “never come back.”
And yet, in 2019, Final Fantasy VII came to Nintendo hardware—and on a cartridge, no less! Soon enough, Grand Theft Auto III and Kingdom Hearts will be there, too; the latter not on a cartridge, but that’s an article for another time.
Many popular games have skipped Nintendo hardware entirely, but here are eight of the most conspicuous absences in history—games that by all means we should be playing on our Switch right now.
Nights Into Dreams (1996) • Sega Saturn
If the Sega Saturn was only remembered for one game, it would be Nights into Dreams. Nights was a knockout for the short-lived 32-bit console, a showy flying game with dynamic music and even an artificial life system, all built around Sega’s fancy new analogue stick.
Nights was a towering achievement for Sonic creators Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, a first look into the remarkable range and skill at Sonic Team that would blossom on the Dreamcast. It was so impressive that Shigeru Miyamoto allegedly said he wished he’d made it.
When Sega went third-party in 2001, its IPs went every which way, with Nights getting a port to the PS2 and a remaster for HD consoles. Nintendo fans got the Wii exclusive sequel Nights: Journey of Dreams, but the original high-flying act has never landed on Nintendo hardware.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) • Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Castlevania’s roots run deep with Nintendo. While the original 1986 NES game was ported to other 8-bit platforms of the time, the next three numbered entries were Nintendo-exclusive. Count Dracula and the Belmonts are well-represented on Nintendo’s home and handheld consoles, save for one major omission: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
In 1997, the year of Goldeneye 007 and Great tourism, releasing a 2D sidescroller on “next-gen” hardware was a risk. Symphony of the Night was slow to sell, but it’s become a cult hit over the years.
Initially inspired by The Legend of Zelda—not Metroid, as you’d think—Konami and designer Koji Igarashi soon took their budding “Metroidvania” formula to the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. But Alucard’s big break on PlayStation and Saturn has missed Nintendo—even as the game’s been remastered for PSP, Xbox 360, PS4, and even smartphones.
Mega Man Legends 2 (2000) (and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne) • Sony PlayStation
Everyone was going 3D in the late ‘90s, and Mega Man was no different. After six side-scrollers on the NES, and a revamped Mega Man X series on the SNES, Capcom packed up the Blue Bomber to move to PlayStation. In 1997, they went all-in on polygons with Mega Man Legends. While Legends has its fans, it’s clear to see that Capcom and producer Keiji Inafune had to stray far from the series’ roots to adapt the classic run-and-gun gameplay into 3D.
Nevertheless, Legends was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Mega Man Legends 2, and a prequel, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. Nintendo saw a version of Mega Man Legends, renamed Mega Man 64, in 2000, though it wasn’t as well-received as the PlayStation original. By then, Capcom had given up on porting the other two games.
Curiously, the cancelled Mega Man Legends 3 was originally in development for the Nintendo 3DS in 2010.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) • PlayStation 2
Metal Gear is typically considered a Sony series, even if the franchise hasn’t been exclusive to Sony hardware for many years. But Konami’s tactical espionage action has also come to Nintendo in a few weird instances.
The NES got a bizarre port of the original 1987 Metal Gear that swapped the titular mech with a supercomputer, followed by the non-canon sequel Snake’s Revenge
The Twin Snakes runs on a similar engine to Metal Gear Solid 2, but Konami would skip that game entirely to port Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D to the 3DS.
Mario Kart Arcade GP (2005) • Arcade
Technically, this was released on Nintendo hardware—namely the Triforce arcade board co-developed by Nintendo, Sega, and Namco. But unlike other Nintendo arcade titles, Mario Kart Arcade GP has never seen a home release.
This series of arcade racing games is actually a unique spin-off of the Mario Kart series, with bespoke tracks, items, and even crossover characters from the Pac-Man and Tamagotchi franchises. The cabinet also includes a camera where players can take a snapshot of themselves with Mario’s hat and mustache.
Nintendo’s not shy about bringing their arcade games home. F-Zero AX, which also ran on the Triforce board, was the sister game to GameCube’s as F-Zero GX (and can even be found hidden in that game if you’ve got an Action Replay). And of course, games like Pokken Tournament and Cruis’n Blast continue to bring the arcade experience to traditional consoles.
Come on, Nintendo, at least let us race through Diamond City in Mario Kart 9.
Vanquish (2010) • Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
PlatinumGames was only three years old in 2010, but the supergroup studio of ex-Capcom devs was off to a great start with wild and punchy action titles like Hideki Kamiya’s Bayonetta and Shinji Mikami’s Vanquish.
Sega was an early partner of Platinum, and they published the studio’s first four games, including MadWorld for the Wii, Infinite Space for the DS. Vanquish was Mikami’s only game for Platinum—a relentless third-person shooter that helped define the studio’s signature style. Mikami left to found Tango GameWorks shortly after.
Vanquish and Bayonetta were rereleased in a 10th anniversary bundle in 2020, but it oddly missed the Switch. Hopefully Nintendo’s close relationship with Platinum will change that.
Dark Souls II (2014) • Xbox 360, PS3, PC (and Dark Souls III)
There was hardly a chance that Bandai Namco would bring FromSoftware’s popular Souls games to the much-less-popular Wii U, but that just made 2018’s Dark Souls: Remastered on Switch a delightful surprise.
To be honest, it’s not much of a remaster here, as the Nintendo version hews closer to the original 2011 release in some areas. But, it’s still a great way to play a stone-cold classic on the go. Why, then, has Bandai-Namco stayed silent on the sequels?
It may simply be a matter of opportunity. Remastered released around the same time as versions on other platforms; scaling these 5- and 7-year-old sequels for Switch may not seem worth it at this point. Still, we need something else to do with our Solaire amiibos!
Persona 5 (2016) • PS3, PS4
Person 5 might be the most requested Switch port ever. P5 protagonist Joker’s inclusion as the first third-party DLC character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had a lot of fans speculating whether Atlus’ dating-sim-dungeon-crawler would be coming to Switch. Two years later and nothing’s happened, save for the spinoff Persona 5 Strikers.
Sega may or may not have some kind of exclusivity deal inked with Sony for the Persona series. Though Persona’s parent series Megami Tensei has had a much heavier presence on Nintendo hardware since the Famicom, 1996’s Revelations: Persona is yet another example of a third-party franchise opening up shop with Sony in the N64 era.
Sega recently broke with Persona’s PlayStation exclusivity by releasing Persona 4: Golden on Steam out of nowhere, so maybe they’re testing the waters for wider releases in the future.
Any other amazing games that never appeared around these parts? Let us know the games you wish had come to Nintendo consoles below.