A lot of gaming franchises have become dormant over time for various reasons. Publishers just might not see the value in creating a brand new entry in a franchise, such as Konami with Castlevania or Nintendo with F-Zero. Whatever the reason, once famous gaming franchises have unfortunately faded out of the spotlight, and in their absence, independent developers have come to the rescue. Indie studios are often passionate fans of the gaming franchises that inspired their work, and some choose to take up the mantle to create their own spin on a beloved game. Here are just five of the best spiritual successors you can play on Nintendo Switch.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
Many consider Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door to be the best game in the Paper Mario series and even among the best of the Mario franchise in general. In the absence of a traditional follow-up to Thousand-Year Door, developer Moonsprout Games created a spiritual successor, Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling. Wearing its inspiration on its sleeve, the papercraft aesthetic is immediately recognizable for fans of the Paper Mario classic, but that isn’t to say that Bug Fables is only a copycat. Familiar elements are present, such as a variety of fun puzzles, platforming sections, and a turn-based battle system that implements timed button inputs to achieve bonuses like extra damage or defense. Bug Fables also tries some new ideas with the Paper Mario RPG formula though.
Instead of having a team of characters that you can rotate through, Bug Fables limits you to a party of three core members. While that may sound disappointing at first, it’s a case of less being more. As each character is always present, it lets you get to know them more and get a feel for their unique uses in combat. While in combat, unique mechanics set the game apart from Thousand-Year Door, such as being able to forfeit a party member’s turn to give another character two moves in a row. It’s clear that Moonsprout Games developers are big fans of The Thousand-Year Door, and with Bug Fables, they’re keeping its legacy alive with some fresh twists.
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
There isn’t really a lack of legacy titles or new games to choose from when it comes to the Legend of Zelda franchise. That said, in recent years there has been quite a while to wait between brand new entries, and restless fans are clamoring for a new adventure to embark on. That’s where Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm comes in, offering up a Zelda-inspired game that sticks closely to the template set out by past 3D Zelda entries. As a more traditional Zelda game than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Oceanhorn 2 presents players with story elements, dungeons, and puzzle designs that should immediately feel familiar to fans of the green elf. In some respects, Oceanhorn 2 might be sticking too closely to the Zelda formula for comfort, but considering the niche that it’s filling, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Traditional dungeons let you unlock unique items that must be used to progress in said dungeon, such as a hookshot, while some well-thought-out puzzle designs could make you forget that you weren’t actually playing a Zelda title. It’s also a beautiful game on Switch, with developer Cornfox & Bros. punching above its weight in the visual department. The addition of a gun weapon with a variety of elemental bullets lets you tackle puzzles and combat with some appreciated flexibility, setting apart Oceanhorn 2 from its inspiration. Yet, its imprecise and somewhat shallow combat (originally designed for mobile devices) can let down what is otherwise a fantastic game to fill the void for hungry Zelda fans.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2
Sometimes, developers involved with the original famous franchises are the ones that make the spiritual successor. With Konami seemingly uninterested in making new games, former Castlevania director Koji Igarashi took it upon himself to create a spiritual successor to the Metroidvania branch of the franchise with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. At the same time, developer Inti Creates teamed up with Igarashi to create an 8-bit spinoff that played like the original sidescrolling style of Castlevania, a game that sold well enough to warrant an excellent sequel. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 builds on what made its Castlevania-inspired predecessor great, offering a variety of challenging bosses and a rocking soundtrack. However, while the original Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was mostly faithful to its Castlevania forefathers, Curse of the Moon 2 adds some meaningful new additions to help set it apart from the crowd.
Presented as episodes, the game takes players through a linear series of stages chosen from a menu. Yet, within each stage, the strong level design allows for multiple paths to be taken, depending on your skill and the characters you play as. As the best twist the game has on the classic formula, Curse of the Moon 2 lets you unlock and switch between a wider variety of playable characters at any moment. Each character brings their own weapon, movement mechanics, and unique abilities to the table, making both combat and platforming play out differently depending on your approach to a level. While the Castlevania series seems likely to remain dormant for a while, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 proves that there is still plenty of life left in the classic formula that NES Castlevania games created.
When it comes to Nintendo-exclusive racing games in recent years, Nintendo has understandably stuck by its bread and butter success with the Mario Kart series. Long-time fans of the F-Zero and Diddy Kong Racing games have all but given up hope on seeing them return, but in their place, Shin’en Multimedia released Fast RMX as an exclusive spiritual successor for Nintendo Switch. As an improved version of Fast Racing Neo on the Wii U, Fast RMX kicked the racing up a notch with new features and a buttery smooth frame rate, making it arguably one of the best high-speed racers you can play on Switch today.
The anti-gravity racing game has clear roots in F-Zero and other similar franchises, apparent in its futuristic tracks and frantic gameplay. At higher difficulties, the precision required to succeed is even more reminiscent of the F-Zero franchise. Though, much like other games on this list, it’s what Fast RMX does to evolve the genre that sets it apart. Vehicles can switch between orange and blue phases to match the color of long strips on any given track. By matching colors you’re rewarded with a speed boost or, conversely, get slowed down by mismatching your color. It’s a fresh twist on the high-octane racing that relies on your reflexes and quick decision-making skills, amid some eye-melting speeds.
Much like with Nintendo’s reliance on Mario Kart in the racing game genre, Fire Emblem has been Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems’ go-to franchise for turn-based strategy. Players that enjoyed Advance Wars waited a long time for a suitable follow-up and were finally rewarded in 2019 with Wargroove. Its level design and overhead maps will be nostalgic for anyone that originally played Nintendo’s Advance Wars, but in all the ways that Wargroove pays tribute to mechanics from the past, it achieves a lot on its own merit too. A fair learning curve introduces you to the tactical gameplay on offer before testing your abilities. In some respects, it’s a difficulty that can be a bit daunting when a level and its challenges stretch on. But the Advance Wars faithful may be happy to take on the challenge.
Expendable classes introduce new options in combat, such as critical attacks that trigger when specific criteria are met. Buildings can be captured to heal units or summon reinforcements, and the story provides a welcome reason to push on. Arcade and puzzle modes offer some quicker missions that more closely resemble those in Advance Wars, but it’s what Wargroove does with its online content that makes it stand out the most. Asynchronous multiplayer means you and an opponent can take turns in your own time, letting you juggle multiple matches at once, and the custom content browser provides a robust tool for players to create an endless suite of missions with the same tools used to create the game by the developer themselves. As a spiritual successor to Advance Wars, it’s hard to ask for much more.
What are some of your favorite spiritual successors in games?