You Can’t Go Home Again: Why Nintendo Shouldn’t Grow Up

Nintendo makes toys.

I’ll see if I can explain what I mean.

I’m vaguely excited every time that I see an ad for Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. I don’t own a 3DS. However, I did own an NES back in the day, and I did own Kid Icarus. It wasn’t a very good game.

In 1987, I was 13, and I played the hell out of Kid Icarus. I didn’t commit so much time to it because it was good, though. I committed so much time to it because it was an epic Nintendo game. Like Super Mario Bros., like Zelda, like Metroid, this was the game to beat because, well, it was a Nintendo product, and Nintendo made all the games worth beating for a boy my age. While not living up to the quality of those other titles, Nintendo was still the benchmark of quality for the era. Licensed crap for the machine was, well, licensed crap. Even the worst Nintendo game was worth playing around with over most anything else developed for the NES by anyone else. Everything else was a knock-off of the real thing — a Go-Bot to an honest to God Transformer.

In other words, Nintendo made the very best toys, and in many ways they still do. Which is why I get kind of excited every time that I see an ad for Kid Icarus: Uprising. It could be the Kid Icarus that I always wanted Kid Icarus to be. Nintendo products are still well crafted and well polished experiences. Good Lord, New Super Mario Bros. is good. It is hands down the best game that I have played with my family (my wife and three girls) maybe ever. However, I’m still not buying a 3DS.

Despite claiming that New Super Mario Bros. is the best family game ever created, I don’t even own a copy. I’ve played it at my sister-in-law’s house. It was fun, really fun and not something that I really feel it necessary to go back to over and over again. Why own it? I loved Wall-E. I loved Up. I’m not buying them on DVD. They’re movies for kids.

Like Disney and Pixar, Nintendo produces very, very high quality family-friendly fare. (Indeed, I think Nintendo needs to build a theme park. They have the full stable of familiar and family-friendly characters to support a family-style of tourism akin to Disney World and the like. I’d go. You’d go. Because they are a part of the youth of several generations of grown-ups. We can revisit with family. But we can’t stay there.). I can get into family-friendly fare (like the aforementioned films) — for awhile. Then I need to play Red Dead Redemption. I’m a grown up.

I’ve heard a fair amount of backlash against Skyward Sword from critics that are clearly a part of the 20- to 30-something demographic. It’s a familiar and well crafted Nintendo product that isn’t quite what they expected. It’s missing… something. It just lacks… some substance. It’s a game for kids, guys, an extremely well made game for kids. But you just aren’t the audience anymore. You can’t go home again.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I disparage the Wii constantly as a console. I hate the waggle. I hate standing up while playing. Mostly, I hate the games available for it. For me, it’s a No More Heroes machine. There is just nothing there (beyond that Suda51 game) that I just have to play. Super Mario Galaxy is tremendous… to play with my daughter. When she goes to bed, I’ll be playing the Binding of Isaac again, though.

My wife, who is a kindergarten and first grade aid, tells me that I need to accept the Wii. It isn’t for you, she says. Every one of her kids talks about Wii games. They love Wii games. She says that the Wii makes new little gamers. She says that I need to thank my lucky stars for the Wii because it is the reason that I will be able to play an Assassin’s Creed or a Portal ten years from now. She’s probably right.

All those little boys in her classes want to play Call of Duty. They aren’t allowed, but they will — because of the Wii, because of Kid Icarus, because of Mario, because of Zelda. In other words, for the same reason that you do.

So, no, I won’t be buying a 3DS. No, I won’t be playing Kid Icarus. But my six-year-old nephews will — with their Dad. And he’ll be playing L.A. Noire on his 360 when they go to bed.