Indie Developers Keep Classic Nintendo Games Alive

Nintendo will never make another StarTropics. I know it hurts to hear, but it won’t work. Why would he when anything named Mario or Luigi is guaranteed to sell out when it can make money or remaster an old Zelda game once a year until the sequel of Breath of The Wild is ready? Unlike many companies that would bring back any series with the slightest name recognition (looking at you Prey),

Nintendo is more interested in trying to launch massive new series rather than bringing old ones back. Sometimes it works, and Ring Fit Adventure sells out in the early months of the pandemic or Splatoon taking the world by storm. Other times, less, and we end up with Lab and Game Builder Garage.

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We’re unlikely to see any new Ice-Climbers, Wave Race or Star Fox anytime soon. But what if we already got the next best thing? What if there was an alternative that might be even better than Nintendo bringing back these classics itself?

Related: The best SNES games on Nintendo Switch Online

Throwbacks are nothing new, especially those looking to fill the void of a beloved series. The modern Metroidvania revival was born out of indie developers wanting to create something like the long-dormant Castlevania or Metroid games in the early 2010s. More recently, there’s been a wave of Zelda-inspired 2D games like Eastward and Garden Story.

However, over the last couple of years I’ve noticed an increasing number of games that aren’t just inspired by developer youth games. These are games that, for all intents and purposes, try to be unofficial sequels to series that have been left behind. Some embrace modern technology and sensibilities in their gameplay and art style, while others might make you think they fell from the back of a shipping container in 1999.


Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling was released in 2019 after an early access stint and it was the first time I remember thinking to myself that if Nintendo had no interest in creating a new Paper Mario in the style of the classics RPG, at least someone has. This came right after it was confirmed that its upcoming Paper Mario and the Origami Team was going to focus on a turn-based action gameplay style.

Bug Fables wasn’t the most innovative game ever when I tried it, but its huge audience didn’t want it to be. Not only did it sell well enough to get a physical edition and console ports, but it has overwhelmingly positive user reviews on Steam nearly three years after release, likely due to its similarities to Paper Mario and the obvious lack of a real sequel from Nintendo.


It would be easy to attribute this wave of Nintendo likes to Shovel Knight, but this game was always meant to be a combination of various underrated NES, SNES and Game Boy games like Wario Land, Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link and Tales of ducks. It was never really a spiritual successor to any particular game, but rather a mish-mash of influences from that era of gaming. Shovel Knight developer Yacht Club Games has released a game that fits much better with this spiritual sequel title: Cyber ​​Shadow.

Cyber ​​Shadow is a spiritual successor to Ninja Gaiden. It might have a cyberpunk setting and a few extra abilities, but it looks like a long-lost Ninja Gaiden 4 on a console somewhere between the NES and SNES. The game is not only a hard as nails action platformer starring a ninja, it also sets itself the noble challenge of telling a story without words like the first Ninja Gaiden, through beautiful pixel mosaics art. The solo developer even goes so far as to recreate their version of the iconic Tall Grass intro.


While yes, Ninja Gaiden is a Koei Tecmo series and not Nintendo, you really have to wonder if the original publishers brought back those kind of games, would they be something like that? Would they honor the spirit of those original games? Probably not. Hell, Koei Tecmo brought Ninja Gaiden back in 2004, just as a 3D action game instead. Nintendo has continued to make Paper Mario games, but each is less of an RPG than the last.

This all crystallized for me during this summer’s Steam Next Fest which was held around Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest. During that time, I played at least four that were basically a sequel to an old Nintendo game.

Ex-Zodiac is unabashedly a new Star Fox, right down to its setting that lets you force it to run at 15 frames per second. Agent 64: Spies Never Die is so similar to GoldenEye that I’m always a little worried someone at Nintendo, Rare, or EON Productions will sue. Thunder Ray feels like Punch-Out if everyone bled a lot more, and Melatonine imagines Rhythm Heaven not as a frenzied fever dream of the late 2000s, but as a daydream about modern anxieties and social media.

While half of these games might not be for me, and some even feel a bit dated, it’s undeniably cool that fans of these forgotten series can play something so close to a sequel. – even if those who own these beloved series no longer see them as viable products. Much like game preservation, when big corporations leave their history behind, it’s awe-inspiring to see fans keep the light alive for these classics.

This trend is spreading even outside of games that have found their way onto Nintendo platforms. Unmetal was released in 2021 and is inspired by the original MSX Metal Gear. The long development Praey for the Gods finally released in late 2021 and is more than open about Shadow of Colossus’ influence on the game. Gloomwood enters early access today and hopes to remind everyone why the original Thief games were so revolutionary in their day.

These games aren’t for everyone, but the joy they bring to fans of discontinued series is amazing. Now if only someone could make a modern Nintendogs.

Next: Games to play if you like Ninja Gaiden

Timothy C. Mayo