Nintendo at the Movies – which franchises could work?

Nintendo has announced that movies are coming. Here are some thoughts on what might make decent movies from their flagship franchises, and the difficulties the producers and writers would face:

Mario: Probably the most difficult to make into a movie, as we’re all painfully aware. Sticking to CGI would probably have to be done, as it’s hard to imagine live-action working in the zany world of Mario Land. Perhaps a Mario Galaxy-esque film where Mario meets some aliens and has to help them, discovering later on that Bowser is behind their plight… or something. What could work is a more localised story, something like Luigi’s Mansion – with a strong and defined theme and location. It’s a really tough one though, but Nintendo do seem to be implying it’ll happen with this announcement.


A Mario movie within a defined themed setting like Luigi’s Mansion could work well.

Zelda: The big question with a Zelda film is whether to make it an all-out LotR-style epic with grand Hyrule battles and lots of characters, or to keep it more intimate and focus on Link and his solitary journey through dungeons and towns of Hyrule on his quest to save Zelda. Personally, I would prefer the latter, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t work as live-action. Perhaps a trilogy that sees Link visit a dungeon in each movie – meeting the Zora, the Gorons and the Gerudo in each one could work. The biggest difficulty would be the writing and casting of Link, who of course we know only as a silent protagonist. He would of course have to speak, and in fairness in Wind Waker and Skyward sword in particular Link ahs been given defining character traits that shouldn’t be too hard to translate into a speaking role.

Metroid: Probably more difficult than Zelda, as a key element that has defined the Metroid games so far has been Samus’ solitude and loneliness in a struggle against the mysterious forces of the Space Pirates and Metroids. Other M and to an extent Corruption tried to mix it up by adding more characters, but at best this only served to muddy the feel of the games, and at worst caused fan outrage. Solitude can work in films, and even in films based in space (Gravity, Interstellar) so there’s no real reason it couldn’t work – I’d like to see it borrow heavily from the first Alien in terms of atmosphere and structure.

Star Fox: The franchise that probably best lends itself to the movie world, the lovable muppets in the Star Fox Zero promo could make a great ‘Star-Wars-Lite’ style film, maybe aged at a younger audience than Disney’s behemoth. Perhaps an origin story of the Star Fox Team, showing how Fox’s father banded together the original team, culminating in his death and the birth of Fox McCloud?

F-Zero: Another tough one, although Nintendo has done well to have already established  backstories for the many pilots in the game. A film would have to follow Captain Falcon and probably his rivalry with  Samurai Goroh. The high-speed racing and inter-galactic courses have the potential to be spectacular, but as Nintendo seem reluctant to even make another game in the franchise, it’s unlikely F-Zero will see the silver screen anytime soon.

fzero movie

F-Zero already has a surprisingly large amount of lore.

Smash Bros: Nintendo’s ideal scenario financially would be to have a ‘Nintendo Cinematic Universe’ a la Marvel and DC, but their franchises are so different it’s hard to imagine how it would be feasible. Only the first Smash really gave any attempt at a narrative as to why the characters were all fighting together, with the novel toy box idea; but it’s unlikely that will manifest on-screen as it would surely be too similar to Toy Story and The Lego Movie. Even if they managed to find a good excuse for the universes to mesh, it’s hard to imagine Master Hand being a compelling villain in film. Let’s hope they avoid this route.

Pokémon: of course there have already been a boatload of Pokémon anime films, which have seen some success. But a big-budget live-action movie would be a sight to behold, and if Pokémon Go really kicks off it could pave the way for a live film. Even a live-action re-imagining of the first film that sees the rise of Mewtwo would be pretty cool, although they would be more likely to tie it in with whichever Pokémon game had been released at the time.

Whatever happens I hope Nintendo proceed with caution. I think they are right to pursue this avenue as they have some of the best franchises going, but the last thing they want to do is tarnish a brand in the eyes of a new generation, and a film flop can do exactly that.