After the recent announcement of Nintendo acquiring Dynamo Pictures — and renaming it to Nintendo Pictures nonetheless — it seems the Japanese gaming giant is now officially part of the film-making business, so here are 10 possible movies they could make, from the depths of the company’s most unexpected intellectual properties.
The signs Nintendo wanted to make movies have been there for a while, with shorts for Pikmin and Star Fox, Kid Icarus having several in-game cutscenes, and Animal Crossing having some animated works in Japan. Yet, movie studios are want to pick some surprisingly old, obscure IPs from time to time.
The rules here are simple. Metroid, Wario, and anyone else that got into Smash Bros. is probably gonna end up with a movie or similar. This list is for Nintendo published IPs that may be overlooked by gamers, but nonetheless have potential to tell a good story.
A few things worth bringing up before we take a deep dive into the list. I will freely admit all of the following run a big risk of audiences and creators having genre fatigue if poorly timed. For instance, A Fire Emblem movie might be undermined if a Golden Sun film came before it, same with Metroid or Star Fox being hindered by audiences having already experienced a sci-fi story with Custom Robo.
Nonetheless, and before we present you with our Top 10, here are a few entries Nintendo may wish to avoid entirely, despite their fanbases, that are still deserving of recognition.
Special Mentions – Sin and Punishment, Fatal Frame, Eternal Darkness
Sin and Punishment was set in the far of dystopia of 2007, where attempts to make a GMO livestock backfired when they begin to attack people; with the Armed Volunteers doing more to oppress than to save them from the new threat.
What should be a harmless take on a big monster-killing rail shooter, could end up getting Nintendo a lot of bad PR from certain groups. The likes of Bill Gates and others have been pushing for “lab-grown meat” and other meat alternatives. A film showing lab-grown cattle turning into horrific monsters might just give GMO supporters an idea: that it’ll give audiences an idea they don’t like.
In fact, more mature films may be an issue for Nintendo as a whole. While Nintendo loves its family-friendly image, it’s not been shy in publishing more mature-rated titles. Yet, they may wish to hold onto that reputation with films for as long as they can before depicting something horrific or bloody like the aforementioned.
Fatal Frame could also suffer a similar issue under Nintendo Pictures. They had a 2014 live-action film in Japan where a ghost kills lesbian girls at a Catholic school. The game’s recurring themes usually involve a shrine maiden being sacrificed in order to either opening or preventing a passage to the afterlife, only for something to go wrong; killing everyone in the remote village and inadvertently haunting the area.
Whether it be one twin being forced to kill the other, kidnapped girls having their childhood memories wiped, or being forced to let go of lost loved ones, it could be hard for Nintendo to make this film without cocked eyebrows from the unknowing general public.
Another Nintendo-owned horror IP that is unlikely to see the silver screen is Eternal Darkness. The plot jumps between multiple points in time — from ancient Rome, to WW1 France, to the modern day — showing rival eldritch horrors working across centuries to be revived.
After inheriting her grandfather’s estate, Alexandra Roivas learns of this through ancient tomes, though players are shown these events first hand. Players were also led to experience mind-warping insanity effects, including those that knocked on the 4th wall to give the illusion of glitches and self-deleting save files.
Nintendo could easily deem the plot too convoluted to adapt to film, and couldn’t do the sanity effects justice without distracting audiences. Then again, perhaps their 2002 fan-film short contest could be elaborated upon. You can find the under 5-minute Unloved short here that brilliantly showcases how Eternal Darkness could remain sufficiently creepy; even after taking creative liberties.
The big N” are obviously going to send their best-selling and brightest properties down the red carpet first, and they would be mad not to. Even so, the course of true movie production never did run smoothly for “The big N.”
Out of experimentation or desperation, Nintendo may look into their more overlooked IPs to make a film out of. So, now that we’ve gotten the special mentions out of the way, here’s our list of 10 Possible Nintendo Movies You Might Not Expect:
10) Famicom Detective Club
A pair of murder mystery VN games from the late 1980s, Famicom Detective Club managed to get a remake in 2021. The first game, The Missing Heir, featured an amnesiac detective trying to unravel not only his own mystery but that of a murder at a nearby Japanese countryside estate as well.
The prequel, The Girl Who Stands Behind, focuses on the murder of a schoolgirl. The investigation is further hindered by the urban legend of a ghost that has latched onto the case.
Admittedly, this is the weakest entry on this list, and while I should have put it in the special mentions lower down, “Top 9” just feels wrong; as would family-friendly company Nintendo releasing a murder mystery story, especially one based on titles that launched to middling reviews in their respective Switch remakes.
The caveat there would only apply if it was a straight one-to-one adaption of that story. The need to drop Famicom from the title for more blatant international appeal, and perhaps “Detective Club” could be exactly that; a school club (or school aged main character) roped into solving a crime.
The purist in me would prefer we don’t get a watered down adaption of anything. But a movie adaption should adapt for the medium, and sadly may need to do so for the market to sell. Still, once Nintendo establishes themselves as worthy movie studio, Detective Club may just be the IP to help them prove they can do more than kids movies, before risking a larger property.
9) Excitebike and Other Sports
Sports movies still hold a special place in people’s hearts, and woe be the person who claims something stops being a sport once you sit on an engine. The complete lack of plot opens the door for nearly any sports movie screenplay lying around, with a Nintendo IP slapped on top of it.
While 1980’s NES sports titles like Baseball, Golf, and Tennis would be too generic, a little bit of Nintendo magic and family-friendly approach could easily manage to get families roped in.
Excitebike could feature a motocross course that changes as racers navigate through it, throwing up ramps and boost pads to delight and challenge competitors. Just add in the classic underdog protagonist.
The formula would apply for a few other IPs as well. Wave Race and 1080° Snowboarding could both take liberties and add “video-game” like features to their races to make them feel fantastical and futuristic — even in cases where such gimmicks were not present in the original games.
Pure spectacle and light on substance, there’d be no better way for Nintendo to snatch up a few screenplays based on their scarce sports titles Mario didn’t turn up in.
8) The Legendary Starfy
No, you’re not the only one asking who this little starfish is. Despite appearing as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Starfy was a platformer series relegated to Japan until its 2009 release on DS, and it still managed to build up a bit of a cult following. The plots for the games are pretty simple, with most involving the evil spirit Ogura being freed from a Magic Jar and wreaking havoc on the seven seas.
In both the graphics and gameplay departments, Starfy has a lot in common with the Kirby series. The saccharine nature may also be the ideal IP when Nintendo needs a quick and simple family-friendly movie. There’s great potential for visuals with underwater corals and rock formations, beams of light from above, and anything else that’d make a CG director excited and a CG animator cry.
Simple IPs also give more room for experimentation without outright creating a new IP — not to mention backdooring the chance for new games, which applies to nearly every title on this list. If Angry Birds can crowbar in a whole plot about a bird village and anger management, Starfy can probably build upon a plot about stopping an ancient evil by twirling.
7) Dillon’s Rolling Western
As the Nintendo 3DS online shop is soon set to be taken out back and shot, maybe cinema can finally given Dillon one last ride. Armadillo Dillon and best friend Russ are on a mission to make cold hard cash to reclaim their childhood home from a thief. Rather than turn to crime, the pair offer help to local villages by fending off the monstrous Grocks that would otherwise eat livestock.
The games task players with not only building up tower-defense style towers, but also to quickly roll to areas where Dillon’s claws may be put to good use thinning the heard.
Combining fancy moves with time being of the essence, I could see this western drawing more inspiration from martial arts movies, taking advantage of Dillon’s need to quickly move around a village to save the day while Russ and other animal friends taking to the guns.
The only downside are the Grocks’ total lack of arms. Sure they’re made of stone, but they’d really come across as punching bags for Dillon if poorly implemented. There certainly are other antagonists in the series but liberties may need to be taken to give Dillon a fight audiences can be thrilled by.
6) Fossil Fighters
You’d think a game about kids commanding supernatural dinosaurs would have detonated with success — likely because it was dismissed as a cheap Pokemon knock-off — but regardless, Fossil Fighters has its advocates. These include a couple of YouTubers touting it as The Most Underrated Game Ever and One of The Best DS Games.
The creature-collecting title has players digging up fossils and, depending how well they clean them, summoning ever mightier “Vivosaurs.” Realism is out the window, as their designs are delightfully stylized; armed to the teeth with fire-breathing attacks, lasers, and more.
While the plot in this particular video game series focuses on becoming a Master and the best Vivosaur battler, they can take some surprising turns. Alien invaders, ancient wizards, mind-control, and even the frequent use of time-travel seems blasé compared to those elements.
It’s basic, it’s bonkers, it’s an excuse to see giant cartoon dinosaurs beat each other up. How it didn’t get even a one-season-and-done anime I’ll never know.
5) Doshin the Giant
The 2002 god game saw players outside of the US commanding the titular giant, rising from the ocean each day to help or hinder one of four tribes. While players should aim to unite the tribes, they can also be a rotter and unleash mass destruction. Doshin also returns to the sea at the end of every day, rising with the sun on the next.
That last point seems to me an ideal vehicle for the plot; Doshin potentially “resetting” each day, maybe even blissfully unaware what good or bad it had done the prior. The plot seems obvious from there, if told from the villagers’ point of view.
One tribe worships Doshin, while another hates it as the aftermath of a few well-intentioned accidents causing outcry and anger. A plucky protagonist could uncover that this vicious cycle made Doshin eventually treat that tribe with malice, before booking it to the other side of the island for a fresh start.
There’s plenty of room for a narrative based on people wanting to change and learning to forgive. It could even touch on the thin lines between faith and unquestioning trust; or even doubt and prejudice. Think Iron Giant, but with an even greater emphasis on giving peace a chance.
4) Custom Robo
Poor, poor Custom Robo. On paper this should have been one of the greats; collect parts for your pint-sized robot, customize them, and duke it out with friends and NPCs in fast-and-furious battles. Yet, I can also see those claiming the game was a lesser version of the more popular Medabots, and that didn’t exactly set the world on fire either.
Most who are familiar with Custom Robo will likely only know the plot of the 2004 GameCube title — one of the few games in the series to be released in the west. Revealed to be a post-apocalyptic story, the fact that a children’s toy can help take down a world-ending threat somehow avoids being corny… If you’re a young teenager when you played it, that is.
Regardless, the tale of these 12-inch heroes — stop giggling — could easily focus purely on the sports-side of Custom Robo. The increasing popularity of eSports, plus the aforementioned endurance of sports films, means a Custom Robo movie could essentially act like more of a sci-fi-focused Real Steel with laser guns.
The holographic arenas offering plenty of spectacle, with different environments and hazards, for interesting-looking robots to be blown to scrap in. Yet, fights outside of those arenas could also help create spectacle with how small they are. The plot can also easily be given higher stakes and more teeth, as these miniature robots could either pose a threat to humanity or provide protection to it under the right circumstances.
3) Golden Sun
While Fire Emblem is a shoe-in for a movie — besides the 1997 OVA, of course — the small problem is the large number of characters that can constitute a player’s army, not to mention a sprawling multi-hour plot.
Working out who and what scenes need more spotlight based on their respective popularity can be challenging, and Nintendo may wish to whet their teeth on a more traditional fantasy story first. Oh hi, Golden Sun.
Four teenage Adepts, or wizards, set off to uncover the mystery of a nearby mountain and how the ancient power of Alchemy was lost to the ages. So too are another group of Adepts — seemingly looking to command the power for their own ends. Sequels would later show that, while Alchemy had brought the world to ruin thanks to ensuing conflict, its power was also the only thing holding it together.
Villains were shown in a more sympathetic light, attempting to bring back Alchemy to save humanity, despite the risk, and using it to destroy itself. Tackling the plots of the first two games within the same movie — and several liberties for length pacing’s sake — could be used for narrative parallels to various forms of energy which help and hinder us today.
One of Golden Sun’s features is using “Psynergy” (i.e. magic) to solve the game’s puzzles. Two groups of wizards, using magical giant hands and elemental magic to solve Indiana Jones-style traps, fight against one another when audiences can easily sympathize with both sides? Sounds interesting to me, though maybe a bit too much to bite off unless a certain antagonist is revealed earlier and is made more blatant.
The little robot still gets a lot of love despite having its last title launch in 2015. The first game tells how Chibi-Robo is brought home by a former toy company employee, hoping to connect with his withdrawn daughter, much to the dismay of his money-worried wife.
A toy doing housework might not seem like particularly high stakes, but when an imminent divorce and the happiness of a potentially special needs child are on the line, audiences can be quick to root for the little scrapper. Get two parts Wall-E, one part Inside Out — particularly that bit with the family — plus a dash of Toy Story, and you’re on the right track.
As the game’s mechanics meant players would have to recharge their battery, it also makes a nice narrative metaphor for someone exhausting themselves trying to solve other’s problems. How could you not root for the easily-marketable guy then?
As the original game concluded with wish-granting aliens, time-travel, toy spiders being reprogrammed to attack rival toys — yes this is the same game, honest — there were more than a few themes regarding the energy crisis bankrupting families being fleshed out.
Later titles would touch on environmental themes, but the initial game offers inspiration based around a family struggling to keep the lights on; pushing themselves further into trouble with distractions and entertainment and trying to remember that the most important thing they have is each other. While still painfully relevant, such a tale could manage to resonate with audiences long after “Brandon” leaves office.
1) Captain Rainbow
C’mon, look at the name on the door; of course we’re gonna pick a superhero!! Also, The Wonderful 101 is no longer published by Nintendo… Cough. Nick is the titular Captain Rainbow, former TV darling who has seen his ratings plummet. Desperate to reclaim his lost fame, the Captain heads to Mimin Island; a place where wishes are said to come true.
What he finds is Nintendo’s Z-list characters and IPs — at least by 2008’s standards — all looking to get their wishes granted, and still looking. Shipwrecked, Captain Rainbow must help the hapless hoi polloi to heave their hopes to the heavens.
In gameplay terms, you play minigames and help with smaller requests of the islanders to earn Kirarin. Earn enough and you can catch a falling star to take up a mountain. After fending off Shadows, you can lift that star high atop the mountain to grant your wish… Or the wish of an other islander, if you’re prepared to collect those Kirarin all over again.
The moral is more blatant than a neon stop sign, but there’s nothing wrong with that if the journey is fun. Pulling inspiration from Megamind, Deadpool, and Ratchet & Clank’s Captain Quark, Captain Rainbow could easily be a jerk arrogant hero who slowly learns to love the little band of weirdos he’s trying to dupe. He’s exposed at the end of the second act, redeems in the third… you know the drill.
The game makes it clear Nick is a real superhero with a real transformation and powers; that of yo-yos. Through adaption, however, why not make that fake? The Three Amigoes, Rango, Bolt; how better to denounce a failing hero who rises to the challenge than starting him as a fake hero.
While this year’s Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers took the gag of “hey, we’re rebooting something only die-hard fans asked for” to a horse-beaten extreme, Captain Rainbow would have the chance to take on reverence for the old while still welcoming the new.
Old video game characters hoping for a second chance — like a remake or sequel — is not a bad way to lean on the meta. Not to mention it’d almost mock the “IP Porn” franchises like Marvel have banked on. Everyone is begging for a Smash Bros. movie, instead you get a crossover of characters nobody knows that will probably end up offering a more coherent story.
You’ve also got the potential to mock the Superhero movie genre. A group placing all of their hopes and dreams on one guy who quips and has flashy effects, only to realize he’s a terrible person that only does good deeds to be self-serving? It’s not a new tale, but one that bears repeating as the genre hasn’t had its coffin fully nailed shut just yet.
A Captain Rainbow movie would have potential to mock most tropes and trends of the last decade of cinema. At the end of the day, a good movie needs a good story, and the success of its source material is almost irrelevant as long as that can be gained from adaption. So without arguing other IPs are more deserving because they’ve reached mainstream status, the lingering question for a Captain Rainbow movie is a resounding, “Why not?”
What do you think? Do you disagree with any of our picks? What would you want to see Nintendo make a movie of? Let us know on social media and in the comments below!