Any long-time Nintendo fan knows that the company’s outside publishing partners can be friends in good weather. Many of the biggest franchises in the industry have been absent from Nintendo hardware for quite some time. In some cases, Nintendo’s own bold decisions about cartridges and standard definition games have cost them key entries in series that were once synonymous with their brand.
But, thanks to the popularity of the Switch, some of the most infamous games to bypass Nintendo’s hardware have made their way home. Square’s ambitious Final Fantasy VII was once too big to fit on an N64 car, a factor that led Nintendo’s longtime partner to opt for optical discs on Sony’s PlayStation. The move apparently caused Nintendo to tell Square “it will never come back.”
And yet, in 2019, Final Fantasy VII arrived on Nintendo hardware, and on a cartridge, no less! Very soon, Grand Theft Auto III and Kingdom Hearts will be there too; the latter not in a cartridge, but that is an item for another time.
Many popular games have bypassed Nintendo hardware entirely, but here are eight of the most glaring absences in history – games that, of course, we should be playing on our Switch right now.
Nights in Dreams (1996) • Sega Saturn
If the Sega Saturn were only remembered for one game, it would be Nights in dreams. Nights was a coup de grace for the brief 32-bit console, an eye-catching flight game with dynamic music and even an artificial life system, all built around Sega’s sleek new analog device.
Nights was a major achievement for Sonic creators Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, a first look at the extraordinary range and skill in Sonic Team that would flourish on the Dreamcast. It was so impressive that Shigeru Miyamoto supposedly said that he wished he had made it.
When Sega went third in 2001, their IP addresses went all the way around, with Nights getting a port for the PS2 and a remaster for the HD consoles. Nintendo fans got the exclusive sequel to Wii Nights: Journey of Dreams, but the original high-flying act never made it to Nintendo hardware.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) • Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Castlevania’s roots run deep with Nintendo. While the original 1986 NES game was ported to other 8-bit platforms of the time, the next three numbered entries were exclusive to Nintendo. Count Dracula and the Belmonts are well represented on Nintendo home and portable consoles, save for one major omission: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
In 1997, the year of Goldeneye 007 and Great tourism, launching a 2D side-scrolling on “next-gen” hardware was a risk. Symphony of the Night was slow to sell, but it has become a cult hit over the years.
Initially inspired by The Legend of Zelda, not Metroid as you might think, Konami and designer Koji Igarashi soon brought their fledgling “Metroidvania” formula to the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. But Alucard’s big break on PlayStation and Saturn has missed Nintendo, even as the game has been remastered for PSP, Xbox 360, PS4, and even smartphones.
Mega Man Legends 2 (2000) (and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne) • Sony PlayStation
The whole world was going 3D in the late 90s, and Mega Man was no different. After six side-scrolling games on the NES and a revamped Mega Man X series on the SNES, Capcom packed up the Blue Bomber to move to PlayStation. In 1997, they did their best for polygons with Mega Man Legends. While Legends has its fans, it’s clear Capcom and producer Keiji Inafune had to stray far from the series’ roots to adapt the classic 3D run-and-shoot game.
However, Legends was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Mega Man Legends 2and a prequel, The misadventures of Tron Bonne. Nintendo saw a version of Mega Man Legends, renamed Mega Man 64, in 2000, although it was not as well received as the original PlayStation. By then, Capcom had given up porting the other two games.
Interestingly, the canceled Mega Man Legends 3 was originally in development for the Nintendo 3DS in 2010.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) • PlayStation 2
Metal Gear is generally considered a Sony series, even if the franchise has not been exclusive to Sony hardware for many years. But Konami’s tactical spy action has made its way to Nintendo in some bizarre cases as well.
The NES got a weird version of the original 1987 Metal Gear that swapped the titular mech with a supercomputer, followed by the non-canon sequel. Revenge of the Serpent. There are two versions of Metal Gear Solid on Nintendo consoles – a completely unique Game Boy Color game set in an alternate timeline (titled Metal Gear: Ghost Babel in Japan), and an exclusive GameCube remake of Silicon Knights called Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes.
The Twin Snakes are powered by an engine similar to Metal Gear Solid 2, but Konami would skip that game entirely to port Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D to the 3DS.
Mario Kart Arcade GP (2005) • Arcade
Technically, this was released on Nintendo hardware, namely the Triforce arcade board jointly developed by Nintendo, Sega, and Namco. But unlike other Nintendo arcade titles, Mario Kart Arcade GP has never had a home release.
This arcade racing game series is actually a unique spinoff of the Mario Kart series, with crossover tracks, items, and even characters from the Pac-Man and Tamagotchi franchises. The cabinet also includes a camera where players can take a snapshot of themselves wearing Mario’s hat and mustache.
Nintendo has no qualms about bringing its arcade games home. F-Zero AX, which also ran on the Triforce board, was the sister game to the GameCube as F-Zero GX (and can even be found hidden in that game if you have an Action Replay). And of course, games like Pokken Tournament and Cruis’n Blast continue to bring the arcade experience to traditional consoles.
Come on Nintendo, at least let us race through Diamond City in Mario Kart 9.
Vanquish (2010) • Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
PlatinumGames was only three years old in 2010, but Capcom’s former developer supergroup studio got off to a great start with wild and hard-hitting action titles like Hideki Kamiya’s Bayonetta and Shinji Mikami. Vanquish.
Sega was an early Platinum partner and released the studio’s first four games, including MadWorld for Wii and Infinite Space for DS. Vanquish was Mikami’s only game for Platinum, a relentless third-person shooter that helped define the studio’s signature style. Mikami left to found Tango GameWorks shortly after.
Vanquish and Bayonetta were re-released in a 10th anniversary pack in 2020, but the Switch was strangely missed. Hopefully Nintendo’s close relationship with Platinum will change that.
Dark Souls II (2014) • Xbox 360, PS3, PC (and Dark Souls III)
There was hardly a chance that Bandai Namco would bring FromSoftware’s popular Souls games to the much less popular Wii U, but that made Dark Souls: Remastered on Switch 2018 a delightful surprise.
To be honest, it’s not a huge remastering here, as the Nintendo version is closer to the original 2011 release in some areas. But, it’s still a great way to play a rock-cold classic on the go. Why, then, has Bandai-Namco kept quiet about the aftermath?
It may simply be a matter of timing. Remastered was released around the same time as versions on other platforms; Escalating these 5- and 7-year sequels for the Switch may not be worth it at this point. Still, we need something else to do with our Solaire amiibos!
Persona 5 (2016) • PS3, PS4
Person 5 It could be the most requested switch port of all time. The inclusion of the P5 protagonist’s Joker as the first third-party DLC character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had many fans speculating whether Atlus’s dating sim dungeon finder would make its way to Switch. Two years later and nothing happened except the spin-off Persona 5 Strikers.
Sega may or may not have some type of exclusivity agreement signed with Sony for the Persona series. Although Persona’s mother series, Megami Tensei, has had a much larger presence on Nintendo hardware since the Famicom, 1996. Revelations: Person is yet another example of a third-party franchise that opened a store with Sony in the N64 era.
Sega recently broke with the PlayStation exclusivity of Persona by launching Person 4: Gold on Steam out of nowhere, so maybe they’re testing the waters for broader releases in the future.
Any other awesome games that never appeared around these parts? Let us know the games you wish had made it to Nintendo consoles below.