Mario has been the star of games for over 35 years which has resulted in the creation of an entire Mario universe. Other characters such as Luigi and Peach have earned their chance to shine in their spin-off franchises, whether they lasted only one or two games.
All of these characters have managed to stand out on their own without the presence of a red Italian plumber at their side. It shows how rich and filled with potential this Nintendo universe is, with these spin-off franchises providing unique adventures for the whole family to enjoy.
Technically this isn’t a franchise since there has only been one game. However, the fact that Princess Peach got her own game where she saves the day instead of being a damsel is worth praise. Peach was given her side-scrolling adventure on the Nintendo DS in which her emotions give her different abilities.
Combined with her parasol, Peach is surprisingly powerful and makes for a unique protagonist in this universe. So much so that there are still fans clamoring for a sequel to Super Princess Peach on the Switch.
Beginning as a bonus mode in Super Mario 3D World, a top-seller for the Nintendo Wii U, Captain Toad was a puzzle platformer in which the player controls a Toad who cannot jump. Instead, he has to traverse a 3D environment to solve obstacle puzzles that can allow him to get to the end.
This simple but fun concept for a game mode was so well-received that it got its own standalone game with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It took the minigame and expanded it into its adventure puzzle platformer which was also a success. With the gyro-controls for the Switch, it’s surprising that Nintendo hasn’t released another follow-up yet.
Mario Kart is likely always going to be the more famous racing game franchise for Nintendo but Diddy Kong Racing was far ahead of its time. Not only did it have the kart racing that many are familiar with but it also gave players the ability to fly in planes and glide across the water in boats.
Combined with an Adventure Mode that a Mario Kart has always sorely needed, Diddy Kong Racing was one of Rare’s best in this universe. It debuted on the Nintendo 64 and would get a remake for the Nintendo DS but since then, Nintendo has put all focus on Mario Kart instead.
After getting their foot in the door at Nintendo with Wario Land: Shake It!, the developers at GoodFeel would go on to show their talents. They revamped the Yoshi franchise by taking him on an adventure made entirely out of fabric with Yoshi’s Woolly World.
With Yoshi’s Crafted World, they managed to keep a formula while also providing something new in terms of visuals and new gameplay mechanics. These spiritual successors to the Yoshi’s Island games seem to have a bright future since there are so many kinds of ways Yoshi could be brought to life.
Perfect for parties, the WarioWare games are a large collection of micro-games that last only seconds at a time. Most of them are wild, wacky, and provide a ton of fun for the family that can lead to a lot of laughs. This version of Wario has even resulted in many memes on the internet.
Even though almost every WarioWare game follows that same concept, they more often than not deliver since they have new micro-games every single time. With nine games in this franchise, a party of players could play for hours and not run out of micro-games to play.
These games may have Baby Mario as a character but they are still games about Yoshi in the end. These are colorful platformers that take things in their unique direction while still feeling part of the Mario universe.
Similar to the Yoshi’s World games, Yoshi can swallow enemies thus creating eggs for them to use as projectiles. This simple mechanic allows Yoshi to stand out since using projectiles allows the player to solve environmental puzzles and defeat enemies in different ways than Mario would.
Starting on the SNES and continuing even onto the Switch, Donkey Kong Country has remained a staple for decades, and good reason. Donkey Kong Country is a pretty standard affair: a sidescrolling adventure with Donkey Kong and other Kongs collecting bananas and other items along the way.
However, Rare and Nintendo still managed to make it stand out thanks to the jungle themes and settings. It never feels like the games are Mario games with Donkey Kong slapped on them; they are true Donkey Kong games from the aesthetics to the gameplay to even the music. With six different entries in the series, each providing something different, all newcomers to Nintendo should try them out.
Perhaps back when it first began, Super Smash Bros. could be considered a Mario fighting game. However, with later titles starting from Super Smash Bros. Brawl to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the series is now a massive crossover title of Nintendo properties and other franchises with a plethora of DLC characters.
Mario will always remain a staple but the games also feature Luigi, Peach, Wario, Donkey Kong, and more. Now with the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem characters, and even Undertale characters, this spin-off franchise has evolved into something much greater than it already was.
Though it was not the first time Luigi got his spin-off, Luigi’s Mansion was the first successful one which led to it becoming a trilogy of games. Luigi’s Mansion combined the dark labyrinth-like maps of the Resident Evil games with the fun and silly ghost-catching combat of the Ghostbusters franchise.
It’s also with Luigi’s Mansion that Luigi himself became his developed character. No longer was he just the green little brother of Mario, he was now a scared but determined hero willing to save his friends and family. It’s not The Last Of Us in terms of storytelling but just the fact that Luigi was given his personality shows how much the Nintendo universe has evolved over the years.
Often forgotten but never lacking in quality is the Wario Land series. Wario began as a villain in his debut with Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins but with the sequel, he became the main character. Though he plays similarly to Mario, he has his trusty shoulder bash and other abilities that helped him stand out.
Wario Land games also focus a bit more heavily on exploration and giving a real reason to collect coins., leading to an almost-Metroidvania gameplay style. The Wario Land games also have more dialogue and story than his red rival ever did which combined with surreal enemies, locations, and even characters, make the multiple Wario Land games into an underrated Nintendo franchise.
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Author: Melody MacReady