10 Biggest Nintendo Mistakes Of All Time

The red giants of gaming aren't infalliable.

After being in business for 130+ years and counting, first as a trading card company, before eventually moving into toys and electronics, it’s fair to say Nintendo has gotten more right in their history than not. Decades come and go, trends rise and fall, but Nintendo has been making consoles and games for nearly fifty years, so they must be doing something right.

But, with any story as deep and far-reaching as Nintendo’s, you know there’s going to be some catastrophic business decisions along the way. Nintendo has certainly made some serious blunders, owing to everything from bad timing to sheer arrogance, to something that proved to be a mistake later down the line. These mistakes haven’t sunk the company, but these are still stories from Nintendo that we would imagine the company would like to forget or ignore.


1. Why Does Nintendo Hate Crossovers?

Fortnite Chapter 5 Season 2 3
Fortnite Chapter 5 Season 2

Don’t expect to see beloved Nintendo faces like Waluigi or F-Zero’s Digi Boy in Fortnite anytime soon.

Nintendo clearly doesn’t want their characters in any games but their own, unless it’s on their console of course. Mario did appear in the Gamecube version of SSX On Tour, while Nintendo outfits were available in the Wii U version of Tekken Tag 2, but for other consoles? Forget about it. While that’s their prerogative, fans of Fortnite and other games that draw from a variety of IPs have been clamoring for Mario to show up in their favorites for years, so why isn’t it happening?

Well, in the case of Fortnite at least, we can guess. In a recent social media post, a former Nintendo public relations manager named Kit Ellis said “It makes no sense” for Nintendo’s brand. “They’ve spent decades building up these characters,” he elaborated. “They can just be one of a other dozen characters that all play the same, put into a game that’s all about shooting people and is so against their brand?”

Still, the argument can be made that it would be commercially and critically profitable to let Peach or Kirby show up in someone else’s game. Teaming up Mario and the gang with the Rabbids gives us hope, and then there’s Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda, but Nintendo still remains extremely protective of their characters. There are exceptions to the rule, but not even Sonic creator Yuji Naka could convince Nintendo to let Mario hang out with the blue hedgehog for a crossover platformer, so don’t hold your breath.

Also, don’t insider trade, Yuji, ya lemon.


2. Letting Franchises Like F-Zero Rot

F-Zero GX
F-Zero GX

Animal Crossing or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild fans may complain about having to wait so long between releases, but at least fans of those games get new releases. Fans of F-Zero for example were forced to wait 19 years for the release of a new game, between the 2004 release of F-Zero Climax for the Game Boy Advance and now. And the release of the battle royale-style F-Zero 99 for Switch in 2023 really doesn’t and shouldn’t count — it’s just F-Zero but someone put a chaos mod on it. That simply boggles the mind, considering how beloved this series continues to be.

And F-Zero barely scratches the surface of characters and companies that Nintendo has chosen to mothball for who-knows-how-long. Kid Icarus hasn’t had a game in 12, and before that, fans had waited nearly 20 years between Nintendo releasing Of Myths and Monsters in 1991 and Uprising in 2012. Star Fox had its last major game with Star Fox Zero for the Wii U in 2016, and well, yeah, we kinda understand why that’s been the most recent one. There’s something to be said for oversaturation, and we wouldn’t want Nintendo to publish sequels they don’t believe in, but this is getting ridiculous.

Punch-Out!! hasn’t had a new release since the Wii entry in 2009 either. Are we ever going to get a fourth Mother game? How about those Ice Climbers, who we’re going to have to rename Puddle Climbers by the time they thaw out. Devil’s Third 2: The Thirdening? The list goes on. Meanwhile, it seems as though Nintendo is physically incapable of going more than two months without a re-release of a Mario game.


3. The 1993 Super Mario Bros Movie

Super Mario Bros movie
Image source: geektyrant.com

While not without its fans, who have enjoyed a pretty good comic book sequel and a recent physical media boxset to rival that of the Criterion Collection, the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie was a brutal failure for everyone involved. Without getting into whether or not the movie is actually good, your mileage will absolutely vary, let’s focus on how this infamous box office bomb was received.

With a fair amount of hype behind its release, Nintendo’s first time at bat with loaning out one of their beloved franchises for a major live-action Hollywood blockbuster, Super Mario Bros., came to theaters on Memorial Day Weekend 1993. It was met with reviews so withering, it all but dammed the entire genre of video game adaptations for a great many critics and audiences who maybe didn’t care about Mario, his brother, and whoever the hell Dennis Hopper is supposed to be. Mario fans loathed the film. It didn’t even make back its budget, grossing less than half of its reported budget domestically, and we have no idea how the movie performed overseas. Our guess is not great.

Again, the movie has its admirers, but keep in mind that the reception to Super Mario Bros. was so profoundly bad, Nintendo didn’t even make another Mario movie for thirty years. Bob Hopkins deserved better.


4. The Virtual Boy Debacle

Virtual Boy
Virtual Boy

The Virtual Boy was released in mid-1995 and was gone in less than a full year. That’s particularly depressing when you consider the system took approximately four years to develop. Despite its many imperfections and frustrations, namely that it could cause migraines if you played too long as you were basically gazing into Lawnmower Man’s night terrors, the fact that every game was red and black, the fact that most of those games were unremarkable at best, the high price tag of nearly $180, and a plethora of other issues, the Virtual Boy started out with good intentions.

It’s just that those good intentions didn’t mean anything in the end. While some historians now see the Virtual Boy as an intriguing failure with some genuine bright spots, the fact remains that the system was a complete disaster upon release. Nintendo saw the system sell less than a million units, a seriously bleak figure that would come up again when the Wii U performed abysmally years later.

The technology behind the Virtual Boy was impressive enough, especially for the time, but Nintendo made some disastrous mistakes here. Nintendo may have been onto something, but they made a dramatic misfire in how they brought this idea to life and did a bit of damage to the image of virtual reality in the process. Wario Land was cool, though.


5. Too Family Friendly

Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D World

Is Nintendo too family-friendly? This has been an argument for a long time. Nintendo is after all the company that once turned down The Binding of Isaac for a 3DS release. Nintendo has also had a murky history of censoring games that they feel cross the line.

The Switch has seemingly brought Nintendo more in step with their competition, as you can play games loaded with gore and other types of controversial content, but the perception remains that Nintendo is a company that emphasizes being a family friendly company over anything else.

That’s simply not true, at least in the current console generation. But it’s a testament nevertheless to just how pervasive Nintendo’s squeaky-clean image has become. Even with games like Doom and The Witcher, some players still see Nintendo as a place for cuddly fun and not much else. It doesn’t help this perception that the most popular Switch games aren’t rated higher than a 7+. The company that infamously banned blood in the SNES port of the first Mortal Kombat isn’t quite that fanatical anymore, but it’s apparent to many that they still have a long ways to go to change the minds of those who don’t see their systems as an essential destination for older players.


6. Nintendo Burns Sony

best PS1 games
best PS1 games

Few mistakes had deeper consequences than the time Nintendo actually betrayed Sony in the midst of a collaboration that would leave us in a very different world today, if it had actually worked out. Would we ever have giant enemy crabs? It’s simply not worth thinking about.

So, what happened? In 1991, Sony and Nintendo had begun working together on what would have been a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo. It was a move that made sense, given the clear indication that CDs were going to become increasingly relevant in game production, and Sony saw the huge potential in collaborating with their fellow Japanese giant.

While the relationship sought to benefit everyone, with Nintendo getting a powerful add-on for their SNES, and Sony putting a more serious foot into the video game industry, Nintendo executives became convinced that Sony would simply take the technology and develop it for their own interests. There was some truth to this suspicion, as PS1 developer Ken Kutaragi has indicated in interviews, but the way Nintendo chose to handle this would have disastrous consequences.

The day after Sony unveiled the Nintendo PlayStation add-on, Nintendo announced they were dumping Sony for a deal with Phillips. Sony Computer Entertainment was literally created out of spite in the wake of this duplicity, and we got two Sports Champions games as a result. Oh, also a reduced market share for Nintendo and a rivalry that would persist for the next 25 years.


7. Speaking of Phillips…

Fans of hubris and Nintendo history will no doubt find it a little funny how Nintendo’s new deal with Phillips played out. Had the whole thing worked out, Nintendo could have at least consoled themselves in the wake of Sony’s vengeance with a successful venture with one of Sony’s biggest competitors.

Except the Phillips console, a $700 paperweight known as the CDI, completely bombed. Selling for an absurd amount of money, the Phillips CDI was never going to be taken seriously. The technology wasn’t bad, but the steep price tag and aggressively mediocre library ensured no one was ever going to buy this. I saw one on Facebook Marketplace not too long ago for £150 and I almost bought it, but I have more than enough junk already. Nintendo licensing out their characters for some of the worst Mario and Zelda games ever made didn’t move the needle much either. It was a joint effort that benefited no one in the short or long term.

Nintendo would soldier on through the 90s and back cartridges for the Nintendo 64, which was probably a mistake, while Phillips got out of the console manufacturing business and officially abandoned the CDI in 1998, which is akin to giving someone CPR for 8 whole years even after they turn into The Thing and bite your hands off. The CDI wasn’t without potential, but it certainly seems like Phillips didn’t have the first clue of what they were doing. You might have hoped working with Nintendo would have rubbed off on Phillips a little, but no.


8. No DVD in the GameCube


While a lot of us love the GameCube, and wouldn’t categorize it as a failure, the console’s struggle to compete with Sony and Microsoft during the sixth console generation can be attributed to any number of things. Some feel the library just wasn’t strong or varied enough, despite the GameCube having some of the best games of its time. Others consider that Nintendo’s decision to go with smaller CDs, skipping DVD playback altogether, was the one crucial mistake that crushed the GameCube’s hopes.

It’s hard to argue with that opinion. While the GameCube was a fascinating little system that showcased Nintendo’s willingness to be innovative from a design standpoint, it didn’t have the ability to play DVDs at a time when the medium was a massive part of an average consumer’s life. Sony and Microsoft understood this and benefited greatly. Most of us knew at least one person who bought either of those consoles because they were the most cost-effective DVD player on the market for a little while.

Would DVD support have made the difference for Nintendo? It certainly wouldn’t have hurt. Nintendo was crushed by Sony and was narrowly outsold the Xbox across the early 2000s. DVD playback might have made the console just a little more attractive to some and helped Chibi-Robo to sell 6 gorillion units like it deserved.

Curiously, Japan did get a GameCube that featured DVD playback by the name of the Panasonic Q, along with basically every other media playback of the time. However, it only ever managed to sell 100,000 units worldwide, and is kind of hard to find today at an affordable price while not needing some repairs.


9. Wii U Marketing

Best Wii U Games
Best Wii U Games

Otherwise known as “What marketing?”, the Wii U was seemingly in trouble from the moment it was announced, beginning with how it was marketed. The Wii U’s release proved to be a defeat so brutal, you had to wonder at the time if Nintendo could even come back from such a comprehensive failure. It put Nintendo in the position of having to make sure the follow-up, which of course was the Switch, was a monumental success. Otherwise, the Wii U might have become a good deal more infamous as the console that triggered Nintendo’s complete downfall.

What went wrong with the Wii U? In a word, everything. The launch library was a little underwhelming. There wasn’t much third-party support after it was initially promised. It was also a little confusing for some (read: clueless parents) as to whether or not the Wii U was a new Nintendo console, an add-on for the existing Wii, or some sort of mutant hybrid of those two possibilities.

That confusion could have been addressed easily with a clever, well-timed, and expansive advertising campaign. The Wii U would still have problems, a few of them rhyming with Smanimal Smossing: Smiibo Smestival, but at least people would be aware it even existed, and had at least a few excellent games available and coming soon.

Unfortunately, the Wii U marketing was sparse, cringey, and confusing. It was hard to care after watching any of those ads, and the Robot Chicken and Reggiecide simply came too late.


10. Putting Content Creators In Content Jail

Smash Wii U
Smash Wii U

Nintendo has had a long, ugly relationship with people who want to play and stream their favorite Nintendo games. This has been particularly true with YouTubers, with Nintendo at one point starting a highly controversial creator’s program that saw streamers losing even more revenue than they already were after YouTube’s cut, basically disincentivizing free promotion and making the company look scared of the future of media.

Maybe they were right, though… 

Nintendo eventually shut down the program, but the damage to their reputation was already done. Taking a deeply antagonistic approach to dealing with people who play your games is something that’s difficult to understand in 2024, and while Nintendo is obviously quite successful, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that not taking advantage (but in like a fun way) of their supporters and content creators is a mistake of the highest order.

It also doesn’t help that Nintendo is still clashing with content creators, going after people for playing mods or any other number of sins Nintendo seemingly can’t forgive. We’re still waiting for them to bash our front door in for reminding the people that F-Zero deserves better. Don’t get us started on Nintendo’s response to emulation, even if that emulation involves games that cannot be obtained through any reasonable legal channel. It’s a frustrating pattern of behavior against creators and players who by and large are just enthusiastic supporters.

Nintendo has softened their stances a bit in recent years, but to say they still have a long way to go would be an understatement. Nintendo continues to make life very difficult for historians, streamers, content creators, and players alike, and that’s a big mistake.

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