10 Nintendo Franchises Perfect for Mobile Games

Nintendo is making mobile games now. How will their most famous IP transfer over to mobile devices? Let's discuss.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata maintained for years that Nintendo would never make software for any device that the company did not make itself. But that changed last week with the announcement that the company is partnering with mobile developer DeNA to make games for tablets and phones based on Nintendo’s popular IP.

The move made big waves throughout the industry, with many speculating on what it means for the company’s future. But to be fair, the company was already hinting at the possibility of taking this step with games like Puzzles & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition and Pokemon Shuffle.

Now that the Big N seems fully committed to moving to mobile, we thought it’d be a good time to take a look at the company’s extensive catalog of games and characters and come up with a few ideas for how Nintendo’s popular franchises could translate to tablets and smartphones. Here are 10 Nintendo franchises we’d like to see on our iPads in the near future.

The Legend of Zelda

First things first, there’s no reason why Nintendo couldn’t release a full-featured 2D Zelda game, or a full-featured version of any of the games on this list for mobile devices. But reading the press release, it does feel like Nintendo will be focused on getting its mobile audience to transition to Nintendo’s own platforms in order to get a premium gaming experience. There’s also the fact that the controls on a touch screen device would likely not be as precise as Nintendo would want for one of its most prestigious franchises.

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So where does that leave Zelda? Well, one possibility could be something like Link’s Crossbow Training. That game featured assets from Twilight Princess, but the gameplay was mostly just Link shooting at various targets, attempting to get a bullseye. Something like that would transition to tablets quite well, as players would only need to tap the screen where they wanted to shoot.

You could also look to Hyrule Warriors as evidence that Nintendo may be willing to think even further outside the box when it comes to bringing its IP to mobile. Perhaps something like the popular iOS series Infinity Blade reskinned as an adventure in Hyrule would work. Nintendo could then use an existing series’ established control scheme so that Zelda wouldn’t feel that foreign on a touch device.

Mario Kart

Nintendo’s long-running Kart franchise hasn’t been afraid to make adjustments to how players play the game from title to title, introducing things like gliders in Mario Kart 8 and letting two characters drive one kart in Double Dash on the GameCube. So it feels like Nintendo might be more willing to make a few needed adjustments to get the franchise to translate to mobile then it might be for some other franchises.

Steering could easily be handled by using accelerometers, and players would only have to tap the screen to unleash the dreaded blue shell upon their opponents. Tapping on a different side of the screen while steering would allow players to power drift around curves, which is something that many Mario Kart clones have already proven works pretty well on touch screens.

Wii Sports

Perhaps it would need a new name for mobile, but Nintendo’s collection of sports games that came bundled with every Wii console last decade would be extremely easy to port to tablets and smartphones. Most smart devices already have all of the same motion sensors the Wii remote used. You could simply tilt your tablet from side to side to move your character back and forth on the screen and tap or swipe as needed. Since these games were aimed at a more casual audience, Nintendo likely will not be as concerned about the touch controls being as spot on as it probably will be with some of its more marquis franchises.


Gameloft’s N.O.V.A series showed that FPS games can work pretty well on tablets, and Nintendo has several franchises that could easily be adapted to mobile. For the upcoming Splatoon, simply tap the screen where you want to fire, or make a larger swipe if you want to really splatter an entire area with some paint. The game is already designed to make use of a touchscreen on the Wii U, so it’s easy to see how a tablet version could work.

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One of the coolest features of the Metroid Prime series was the ability to explore and scan the environment in between battles. Just pinch your fingers together or move them apart on the screen to zoom in or out and focus in on the next big piece of evidence you need to continue your journey. Swipe down on the screen to turn Samus into her ball form, and swipe up to bring her back up to full size. Tap the screen on the bottom to jump, or up higher to fire at your enemies. Nintendo already has experience adapting Metroid for a touch screen thanks to the 2006 release of Metroid Prime Hunters on the Nintendo DS.

GoldenEye 007

As long as we’re speculating here, we might as well include a new James Bond game like the Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye 007. It’s not a Nintendo IP, but the game has always been identified with Nintendo. Activision is no longer using the license, so it really is free game. 

Perhaps Nintendo could surprise everyone by grabbing the license to the upcoming Bond movie Spectre and make a mobile adaptation that taps into everyone’s nostalgia for GoldenEye. This game was never known for its spot on controls. It was more about navigating the map and getting the jump on your opponent, so a virtual joystick set up could work here.

Star Fox

The main titles in the series have always been “on-rails,” which means there wouldn’t be as many issues adapting this IP to touch screen controls. With a game like this, you could even come up with multiple control schemes so that gamers can pick whatever feels best for them. You could go with a virtual joystick and on-screen buttons, but steering the ship by tilting the tablet and then tapping on the screen where you want to fire could also work. Specific maneuvers could be accomplished by swiping in a specific pattern. Just make a quick circle on the screen to “do a barrel roll!”

Animal Crossing

There have been several clones of Nintendo’s popular life smulator released on iOS, and it’s easy to see why. Absolutely zero precision is needed with the controls when all you’re doing is just walking around town. This franchise would also be a great fit if Nintendo is looking to explore the free-to-play model. The game’s shops contain a wide assortment of different items that can be used to decorate your in-game house. Build up a decent amount of bells and they can all be yours, but you’ll also have the option to cough up some real cash to help spruce up your town at a faster rate.

Kirby and Yet Another Curse

So maybe the title needs some work, but you get the idea. Both Rainbow Curse and Canvas Curse made great use of their respective system’s touch screens. In fact, in our review for Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, we noted that the gameplay was done entirely on the Wii U tablet, and that looking up at the TV could actually put you at a disadvantage. It would be quite easy to make another game like this just for tablets, perhaps optimized a bit so that people can just use their fingers instead of a stylus to draw the colorful paths that send Kirby through the levels.

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Captain Toad

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was a unique title in that it stripped the game of the mobility that we have come to expect from a game set in the Mario universe, and yet its puzzle-based gameplay was fun and engaging. Just tap the screen where you want Toad to go next. Rotate the camera by holding down on your touch screen and swiping left or right. Captain Toad started out as a mini-game within Super Mario 3D World and its quick levels would be a great fit for gaming on the go.

Follow Jason Gallagher on Twitter @MuckrakerJG.