The Kid Icarus Game That Crashed and Burned

Kid Icarus uprising
Kid Icarus Uprising

A lot of people say that Nintendo is the Disney of video games. If that’s so, then Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda are like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. The Disney brand would be nothing without them. However, Kid Icarus is more like Treasure Planet. Neither did the best financially nor are they likely to get new entries anytime soon, but they’ve got a devoted cult following and their companies have finally acknowledged them after years of acting like they didn’t exist.

However, there was one Kid Icarus game that never made it to store shelves, despite how perfect the time period was for a new release. It was the late 2000s, the Wii was dominating the seventh generation of gaming, and there was no better time for a third Kid Icarus game to be released. Despite one being in production, though, not even a trailer saw the light of day.

Why was this? To answer that, we need to look back on Kid Icarus’s history to understand why the franchise was dormant for so long in the first place, and why a possible Wii game excited so many.


The History of Kid Icarus

Kid Icarus Game Boy
Kid Icarus Game Boy

The production for the first Kid Icarus game was gruesome. It was the debut of Toru Osawa (credited as Inusawa in the game) as a video game designer, but he was the only staff member working on the game at the start. Yoshio Sakamoto, one of Metroid’s character designers, concluded that there was no way the game would be finished before its December deadline, so he decided to bring the Metroid team on board.

For three months, the Kid Icarus team worked hard to finish the game before its December release date. They worked overtime, slept in the office often using cardboard boxes as beds, and even covered themselves in curtains to keep themselves warm since the building’s heating was turned off after office hours.

The game was completed on December 16, 1986, a paltry three days before its release date. It did well enough as its NES release sold over 1.7 million copies, but this sales number paled in comparison to those of other NES releases that weren’t pack-in titles. Mario Bros. sold over 2.2 million copies, Metroid sold over 2.7 million, and The Legend of Zelda shifted a colossal 6.5 million.

Nevertheless, Kid Icarus received a sequel called Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, released for the Game Boy in 1991. While sales remain unknown, Of Myths and Monsters wasn’t able to make it to the Top 30 Best-Selling Game Boy Games of All Time, and many of Nintendo’s other games were high on that list.

It was also one of the few Nintendo games not to be released in Japan. That is, of course, until 2012 when the game was finally released in Japan through the 3DS’s Virtual Console, a strange fact considering the first Kid Icarus was released in Japan two months before it was released anywhere else.

As the years went by, the original Kid Icarus gained a serious cult following in the nearly four decades of its existence. It was ranked 20th in IGN’s Top 100 NES games, 34th on Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1997 100 Best Games of All Time, and 83rd in Game Informer’s Best Games Ever Made.

Despite that, the franchise received no new mainline game or sequel for nearly 21 years. There were rumors of an entry for the SNES and Nintendo 64, but those remained rumors. It seemed like Kid Icarus was a property Nintendo was ready to sweep under the rug and never do anything with again.

Then, the Wii happened.


Super Smash Bros. Brawl

In E3 2005, as Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata was discussing details about the upcoming Nintendo Revolution, he dropped a bomb and said, “One or two Wi-Fi games will be ready for launch, and I am pushing our team to make sure Smash Brothers is one of them.”

The Nintendo Revolution was renamed the Wii and the third Smash Bros. game was entitled Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which had a mountain to live up to given how beloved the previous game was. Super Smash Bros. Melee was the GameCube’s best-selling title, selling over 7.4 million copies.

Nintendo would have to bring the big guns out for a successor, so with the addition of third-party characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake from Metal Gear, Brawl also featured iconic Nintendo characters making their debut to the franchise, like Wario from WarioWare, Diddy Kong from Donkey Kong, Captain Olimar from Pikmin, and, somehow, Pit from Kid Icarus.

This was a character inclusion that had a lot of people scratching their heads, as most people had no clue what franchise Pit was even from. Kid Icarus fans, though, were overjoyed. The best part was that Pit wasn’t just a 3D remodel of his 1991 character design, he had a new modern look that resembled his original one while also fitting well with the 7th generation of gaming.

When designing Pit, Sakurai thought about what Pit would look like if, like The Legend of Zelda games, Kid Icarus had slowly modernized through multiple new releases and Pit had been reinvented the same way that Link had been over the decades. “Unfortunately, Pit didn’t have a game series for him to grow into,” Sakurai said.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl was, of course, a ginormous success, and a new entry from the Kid Icarus franchise for the Wii felt like a guarantee. IGN even published an article in 2008 calling a new entry “inevitable” and writing, “So-called ‘core’ Nintendo fans are demanding more traditional experiences on Wii and the company is searching deeper into its back catalog to satisfy those demands.”

With all the demand for a Kid Icarus game for the Wii, and the foundation seemingly perfect for a new entry to be developed, why is it that the console never received such a title?


Factor 5’s Icarus

As early as January 2008, rumors were already circling that game developer Factor 5 was developing a new Kid Icarus with Nintendo. In May 2008, online magazines were reporting that a new Kid Icarus game was coming to the Wii, based on a statement made by IGN’s Matt Casamassina on an episode of the IGN Nintendo Voice Chat podcast.

“Of course [Nintendo is] going to have some E3 surprises,” Casamassina said. “You know, Kid Icarus, for crying out loud, how many times do we have to say Kid Icarus? Kid Icarus is coming for crying out loud.”

At Nintendo’s E3 2008 conference, games like Wii Music, Wii Sports Resort, and Animal Crossing: City Folk were announced, but there wasn’t a single mention of a new Kid Icarus game. That’s because while a Wii title from the franchise had been in development since 2007, the direction it ended up taking was too divergent from what Nintendo wanted.

The rumors about Factor 5 were right. The developer studio had worked with Nintendo in the past, particularly with the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games. When they were chosen in March 2007 for a Kid Icarus revival, Nintendo gave them creative freedom, only requesting that they use 3D graphics and also that they use Pit’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl design in some capacity.

Factor 5, however, wanted to reimagine the Kid Icarus franchise in a darker and grittier way. While they paid attention to the Greek mythology-inspired source material of the first two games, they wanted to stray away from the cartoony visuals and kiddy tone. Icarus was their working title for the project, as Pit would no longer be a kid, but an older, more coarse version of the character.

The plan was that Kid Pit would still be there at the beginning, but Older Pit would take up the majority of the new Wii game. Older Pit would also be highly skilled at combat and flying, as, unlike the previous games where Pit merely used his wings to flutter, this game would allow Pit to fly freely, soaring like a bird and exploring the skies.

By August 2007, work began, and despite Nintendo’s request for Pit’s Brawl design to be used, Factor 5 wanted to design their own version of Pit instead. His design underwent multiple revisions. Some had him wearing all white, like his original design, while others had him dressed in black, donning a cape. Some even changed his wings from white to black, while others had Pit with tattoos to represent his crimes. This wasn’t your dad’s Kid Icarus.

By March 2008, the first prototype was completed. To nobody’s surprise, Nintendo disliked the project’s direction and felt that it was too much of a departure from the franchise to continue the game’s development. The project was ultimately canceled, and aside from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Pit never appeared on the Wii again.

“With Icarus, I feel like we were missing the point,” Joe Spataro, a former Factor 5 animator, said. “Nintendo sent us the model of Kid Icarus, very much like the one that appears in Smash Bros, but we didn’t use it. We made our own version and it was more mature, maybe even a little dark… It felt more like Devil May Cry. I knew Nintendo would never go for the adult version of Pit… in fact, I’d wager they took it as an insult that we didn’t use their version.”


The Future of Kid Icarus

Kid Icarus
Kid Icarus

Luckily for our brown-haired protagonist, Nintendo wasn’t planning on sweeping him under the rug again just yet. At E3 2010, a new Kid Icarus game was announced, entitled Kid Icarus: Uprising, following the announcement of the Nintendo 3DS. Released in March 2012, Kid Icarus: Uprising was a welcome hit, selling over 1.18 million copies by April 2013 and earning an 83 on Metacritic

Despite the sales and high praise, though, director Masahiro Sakura said that there were no plans for sequels. “For now, my thought is that perhaps we’ll see someone else besides me make another Kid Icarus in another 25 years,” he said in 2012.

What’s worse is that Project Sora, the developer team behind Kid Icarus: Uprising, closed on June 30, 2012, just three months after the game’s release, with no announced reason. Kid Icarus: Uprising was the only game they ever made.

Still, Pit remained playable in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U in 2014, this time alongside his Echo Fighter Dark Pit, and Palutena even joined him on the roster. The three also returned for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in 2018, and will most likely be in the next Smash Bros. entry given how consistent their roster presence has been for the past three games.

The first Kid Icarus also had a fun surprise cameo in 2023’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, where Mario, in one scene, is playing the game on his bedroom TV.

As of now, Kid Icarus occupies a strange position in the Nintendo zeitgeist, where the company is seemingly interested in celebrating the IP in any way other than releasing a new entry for it. Given the recent success of Disney’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians show, and even Fortnite having a Greek season, worlds inspired by Greek mythology will never go out of style, so it’s disappointing Kid Icarus: Uprising won’t be getting a sequel, a spin-off, or even an HD remake soon.

“It’s a shame that it’s only lived on 3DS, as I’d love to play on a bigger screen with smoother graphics,” Sakurai said. “Without a team around to work on it, crafting a follow-up seems difficult.”

That said, it’s important to never say never when it comes to video game revivals. With rumors of a Nintendo Switch 2 popping up left and right, Pit may soon get another chance to spread his wings and fly. When that happens, there’s a dedicated fandom that’s sure to be waiting in line on its release date.

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