In 2014, after several fiscal quarters of disappointing Wii U and 3DS sales, Nintendo finally decided to develop games for the mobile market. There had been much resistance within the company, but eventually, the power of turning a decent profit prevailed. Thus, the Big N entered the mobile fray in 2016. Since then, there have been seven games developed for this platform. For your consideration, here is my personal ranking of them, scoring them across three clearly defined metrics.
These are strictly my views and opinions, so if you’re breaking out the torches and pitchforks, leave my colleagues out of it. It’s me you blaggards want!
How we’re doing this
I’ll be ranking the games using three scientific metrics:
A game is Fun if it is enjoyable external to the hollow joy of winning tiny digital lotteries. We’re talking good mechanics, tight gameplay, engaging story, and/or robust social features.
This refers to how long you’re likely to stick with a game. Daily challenges, timed events, and intermittent content drops can all increase a game’s Longevity.
Many mobile games are greedy; they take your Money and give you bonuses, characters, and additional play time. A high Money score means that the game is not pay-to-win or that it is generous with in-game currency, while a low score means it will suck your wallet dry.
Super Mario Run (December 2016)
It’s Super Mario, only you don’t have to worry about running! This game focuses on Mario’s other specialty, jumping. It features six main worlds of four stages each, a bunch of different modes, and daily challenges. The best part: a one-time fee of $9.99 unlocks the whole game forever. I love this model, as Nintendo treated Super Mario Run like a video game and not a font of microtransaction money. It would be the last time.
Fire Emblem Heroes (February 2017)
Nintendo’s first attempt at a gacha game utilized the best franchise for it. Fire Emblem Heroes features a surprisingly decent story about Fire Emblem waifus and husbandos being summoned from their games to help the Askran Order of Heroes. Two and a half years since its launch, however, it hasn’t spiced things up enough to hold fans’ attention. It’s relatively generous with in-game currency, but PvP and high-level content are frustratingly locked behind a pay-to-win model, hurting its money rank.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (October 2017)
Animal Crossing already had many of the hallmarks of mobile gacha games. Everything is collectible and usually random. Daily tasks keep players invested. There’s in-game currency. A rabid fanbase will post screenshots all over their social media. All it needed was microtransactions to become Pocket Camp. There’s no winning in Animal Crossing, so you can’t pay to do that — but players do get to pull for furniture.
Look. Animal Crossing isn’t my thing, and this may very well be the most Animal Crossing game ever. I hate it.
Dragalia Lost (September 2018)
Dragalia Lost had a 13-minute trailer. That’s how we knew this game was going to be hefty. Between an epic main story, dozens of characters with their own stories, event stories, and castle side stories, there is a lot of narrative to experience. The mechanics are simple but fun, familiar to anyone who’s played an MMO. Virtually every solo quest can be tackled co-op with strangers around the world, and the big boss raids even require it.
There are several play modes, all different enough to keep them interesting. The timed events and release of the main story chapters give players something to do at all times. Dragalia Lost has already hosted a crossover with Fire Emblem Heroes, and it will have a Mega Man event in November. While real-money purchases are expensive, the game is incredibly generous with in-game currency and materials. I’m perfectly happy spending time playing this game instead of paying to win it.
Dr. Mario World (July 2019)
At first, it seems like Dr. Mario World will be a delightful romp through the Mushroom Kingdom as you cure its residents of their various plagues. It’s a fun puzzle game with good mechanics. Unfortunately, the stamina refill times make the experience feel like a stay in the ER when the surgeon isn’t picking up their phone. Somehow, this game also has an incredibly greedy gacha mechanic, making you pay specialist prices to get not only the doctors you want, but enough copies to make them viable in the PvP mode and late-game content.
Mario Kart Tour (September 2019)
Mario Kart Tour is a beautiful mess. The game itself is surprisingly fun, and you can play as much of it as you want without a mandatory pit stop. The roster is enormous, and each character has their own signature item, bringing back memories of those cheating CPUs in the original Super Mario Kart. Tracks include both old favorites and new hotness based on real-world cities like New York and Tokyo. It’s also super stylish in a way that I hope they keep for the Mario Kart series.
Past that, however, you get Nintendo’s greediest game to date. When there’s only a 1% chance of getting a focus pull, and with in-game currency difficult to get, it’s going to be very tough to do well in MKT without a jet-powered credit card. I haven’t even brought up the monthly subscription service. As for the longevity ranking, it’s still too early to see if it can keep pace with other mobile games.
Honorable Mention: Pokémon GO (July 2016)
Using the real-world map to host a Pokémon adventure was a stroke of genius. It made $176 million in August 2019 alone, three years after launch. You never have to buy anything with real money, and it gets players outside and making friends in the real world. I play it every day. However, Nintendo doesn’t have much to do with Pokémon GO aside from providing the license, so it can’t be considered for this list.
Dishonorable Mention: Miitomo (March 2016)
Nintendo’s first foray into the world of mobile gaming apps was also the blandest. Fans were super excited to be able to play a Nintendo game on their phones. Sadly, it was the digital version of a card game you pull out at a party to obtain blackmail information about your friends. It wasn’t enough to keep players invested, and Nintendo discontinued it in May 2018. Therefore, it was not considered for this list or any others.
Dragalia for Smash! Thank you.
What’s your favorite Nintendo mobile game? Let us know!