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When I was a kid, I learned how to type on a computer keyboard by playing Mario Teaches Typing on my family’s PC. I had so much fun making Mario bounce off goomba’s heads with the keys that I didn’t even realize I was learning how to type. Almost three decades later, Nintendo is still using games to teach valuable technology skills in diverting, imaginative ways.
Game Builder Garage has been out for almost a week. If you haven’t gotten it already, you may be wondering whether or not you should. Overall, it’s a wonderful game, about games.
The new programming game sprinkles Nintendo magic over the otherwise onerous process of programming, and makes it fun. But depending on your level of interest in how games are made, Garage might not be worth the money for you.
Garage shows the basic concepts behind game design, with its own system of lovable little characters called Nodons. Strewn across colorful graph paper, you can connect an object to an action, for instance, by joining two Nodons with a line. These charming creatures can be arranged in an essentially unlimited number of ways to create all types of landscapes and outcomes.
This game widens the scope of its predecessor Super Mario Maker titles by offering a more vast array of games you can build. Whether you want to make a side-scrolling shooter or a 3D fighting game, you have a plethora of choices.
But you’ll need to learn some skills to navigate those choices. That’s why the Garage includes guided lessons that teach you how to make seven basic games to get you started. There’s also a free programming mode, but Garage strongly suggests you take the lessons first.
This is where your personality could determine how you feel about the game. I enjoy learning in a dummy-proof, structured way. The lessons are designed to accommodate that. But if you enjoy bending rules, you may feel annoyed by the lessons.
Garage’s affable teachers, Bob and Alice, walk you through step-by-step instructions to build the tutorial games precisely to their specs. They even show you exactly what the game will look like before you set out to build it, so there’s little imagination in this part of Garage. If you want to go off script, you can’t. But then again, that’s what the free programming mode is for.
I’m not too interested in learning actual coding, so Game Builder Garage’s system of Nodons works for me. But if you are an amateur programmer, or you want to learn something more technical like C++, you don’t get that from this game.
Maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum – you don’t want to get technical at all. In that case, heads-up: this game does take you to school in certain ways, making use of math and logic. You may feel like you’re back in class. But this game makes class almost as fun as the Magic School Bus.
While somewhat limited to the game’s built-in tools, the amount of freedom and complexity you are able to explore completely satisfies the itch to create. The game is warm and fuzzy, with the cuteness of titles like Snipperclips. The scripting and character creation of the Nodons is genuinely entertaining.
You can also share your game designs with friends via a user code. Naturally, programmers have already created astounding worlds using this game’s palette, including recreations of Nintendo classics like Mario Kart and Zelda.
If you enjoy playing video games more than creating them, you may want to pass on this one. But even for non-programmers, Game Builder Garage makes game design simple and charming with classic Nintendo style.
Metroid, a Brief History
A mysterious bounty hunter battling scores of fanged aliens in the cold, dark reaches of the galaxy. A nonlinear platformer with special tools and abilities to unlock new and thrilling spaces. A terrifying adventure with a looming sense of calamity.
Metroid has pioneered the way for countless video games since its first installment, even lending its name to an entire subgenre. With Metroid Dread arriving soon, a celebration of this critically-acclaimed series is in order.
For some, Metroid may have been a relatively obscure title that we only came to know because Samus was so freaking cool in Super Smash Brothers N64. But this is a franchise rich with history and quality.
The Original Trilogy
Metroid was born out of competition, among other things. Producer Gunpei Yokoi and his team in Nintendo’s R&D1 division set out to design a game that could rival the success of Mario and Zelda, created by Yokoi’s contemporary, Shigeru Miyamoto.
But they intentionally made artistic choices that were opposite to Mario at every turn. Everything about the project was punk rock, from its nonlinear structure to its immersive, brooding atmosphere. But the biggest shock was the surprise ending that no one saw coming…
Metroid tells the story of Samus Aran, who travels to the planet Zebes to prevent space pirates from using aliens called Metroids to create biological weapons. Creators were famously influenced by Ridley Scott’s Alien film, and even named a dragon-like boss Ridley. At the end of the game, our hero takes off that iconic red robot suit to reveal… bum bum bum! She’s a woman.
Dramatic surprise endings (as well as long intervals between releases) became a calling card for the series. Metroid II, released in ‘91 on the Yokoi-designed Game Boy, ended with Samus annihilating all Metroids on the planet SR388, but taking one baby Metroid at the very end.
While Metroid and Metroid II were well reviewed, the team at R&D1 hadn’t quite delivered a hit for Nintendo. Super Metroid finally delivered that homerun. Created for the Super Nintendo in 1994, Super Metroid blew away expectations. To this day, it’s regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. Then, Metroid disappeared.
Metroid Prime & Beyond
Reasons for Metroid’s vanishing are shrouded in theories and questions, but the franchise remained mostly absent for the better part of the ‘90s. Metroid skipped the N64 almost completely, with the exception of Samus’ (insanely cool) appearance in Super Smash Bros. Unsure how to move forward with the franchise, Nintendo took a chance on a team in Austin, Tx called Retro Studios to bring Metroid back.
Metroid Prime was released on Nintendo’s new console, the GameCube, alongside a handheld title for the Game Boy Advance called Metroid Fusion. Prime (not to be confused with online shopping) brought Metroid into the age of 3D, and Nintendo insisted upon its description as a “first-person adventure”.
Set between Metroid and Metroid II in the series timeline, Prime follows Samus as she travels to a new planet to once again handle those pesky space pirates, who are trying to use a substance called Phazon to their own dastardly ends.
It was a masterpiece. Metroid Prime became an enormous success, selling well and winning game of the year awards from almost every publication. Retro was tasked with a trilogy right away. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes explored the series’ famed Dark Samus baddie, and MP3 brought Metroid to the Wii console. With Metroid Prime 4 in development, the Prime series hangs before us like a carrot on a stick.
While other iterations of the games have been released, including the multiplayer Metroid Prime Hunters and the unfortunately lackluster Metroid: Other M, Nintendo had a project in development for the Nintendo DS in 2006 called Metroid Dread. It was put on hold – until now.
Metroid Dread releases on the Switch October 8, and will be the first side-scrolling Metroid in almost two decades. The game will mark the end of the Metroid storyline, and honor the character of this masterful series. A series that has swum upstream from its inception to become an unstoppable force in the world of gaming.
Top 10 Games for Nintendo Switch in 2021
The Nintendo Switch is a sleek, versatile video game console. You can play loudly with your friends around a tv, or in quiet solitude on a bus commute. And with the Switch OLED model coming later this year, you have three different styles of the console to play your favorite games on: the Switch, Switch Lite, and OLED model.
This well-rounded, easy-to-use system allows for a lot of variety in what kind of games you can play. If you’re new to the Switch, you might not know where to start! And if you’re a veteran Switch player, ranking your favorites is just so fun. Here’s a list of ten games for the Switch that score well with critics and players alike. While everyone’s top ten will naturally differ depending on preference, this list includes titles that most gamers would consider high quality.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The GOAT! Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (or BotW as it’s commonly called on blogs and reddit threads) came out alongside the original Nintendo Switch in 2017. It was unanimously hailed as the game of the year. Many, many people call it the best game ever made, ever.
It’s an open-world adventure that redefined what a Zelda game (or any game, for that matter) could be. Words to describe BotW are as follows: masterpiece, amazing, record-breaking, brilliant, stellar, fantastic, and BEST. While there’s plenty to do in line with classic Zelda games like defeating bosses and solving puzzles, this game is mostly celebrated for its ground-breaking open concept that gives you complete freedom to explore.
2. Super Mario: Odyssey
Super Mario: Odyssey is a sandbox-style Mario game that takes you to different worlds. Much like BotW, this game completely reimagines what a Mario game can be, with arguably more imagination and charm than any Mario game before it. It’s also colorful and beautifully simple, for younger or newer Switch players.
3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
For 90s kids, Super Smash N64 was the sleepover game. The franchise-melting-pot fighting game came back and impressively met fans’ towering expectations. With faster gameplay, TONS more characters (over 70 in total), and diversely thrilling stages, Super Smash Ultimate is the ultimate multiplayer game for the Switch. Play with up to eight people – and good luck trying not to wake your neighbors.
4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
For so many, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is associated with the 2020 pandemic quarantine. It was released as the quarantine began, and offered much needed distraction from an awfully dark time. Perhaps that’s part of the reason it holds a special place in our hearts. But it’s also a quality life-simulation game with creativity and charisma that’s sure to captivate players for many years to come.
5. Bayonetta 2
This Switch game is a “port” of its original release on the Wii U, meaning it has been essentially reformatted for a new or different console. Ports can be tricky, because sometimes the same game just doesn’t play as well on a different device. In the case of Bayonetta 2, it preserves the original quality, if not improving it. This title is renowned for its gorgeous art, combat mechanics, and dramatic characters.
6. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
This game wins the award for longest title. While this RPG (role playing game) is beautifully designed, from art to gameplay quality of life, it is most beloved for its immersive story. Dragon Quest XI is a port of a Nintendo 3DS game, but the Switch version is stuffed with bonus content, hence the stuffed name to match. This fantastically epic hero’s journey is the perfect escape from real life.
2020’s game of the year was the roguelike indie favorite, Hades. Roguelike means the gameplay is based on randomly generated algorithms. So, like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Some would argue that Hades perfected the roguelike genre with this game. Drawing on mythology, and featuring stunning art and music, the game is infectious and addictive. Heads up – you die over and over. A lot.
You likely won’t find a game that both critics and fans agree upon so fully. This 2D platformer is delightfully challenging and subsequently rewarding. Madeline has to climb Mt. Celeste, and she needs your help. Meticulously crafted level design allows for clean, elegant gameplay. The allure of this game is how its creators put so much dimension of heart and story into a simple 2D platform.
9. Super Mario Maker 2
In this video game, you make video games. Mario Maker lets you design your own levels in a side scrolling Mario game – and where the first Maker game may have lacked, the sequel worked out the kinks, making for a smooth, endlessly enjoyable experience. While it’s debatably the best game of its kind anywhere, it’s certainly the best game builder on the Switch.
10. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
If you’ve never played Mario Kart in some form or fashion… how? The game is basically ubiquitous in our society, and for a good reason. It’s the go-to multiplayer racing, banana-chucking, shell-shooting game for players of all ages. To this day, it is still the Switch’s best-selling game, and it’s a staple in every Switch owner’s library.
Nintendo President Asked Why “Switch Pro” Wasn’t Announced at E3
Leading up to Nintendo’s E3 Direct, rumors about the “Switch Pro” had reached a fever pitch. According to a Bloomberg report, analyst predictions, and gazillions of blogs, the device was all-but-sure to be announced by summer and released by Christmas. E3 seemed like the perfect time and place for Nintendo to give the people what they want.
E3 came and went. No Switch Pro.
To their credit, Nintendo tried to tame the wildly high expectations of fans in a statement prior to the annual conference. They said the E3 Direct would focus on new games, mentioning nothing about consoles. But we still held out hope, and that hope was unfortunately dashed.
Now that we’ve all had the chance to properly mourn, and accepted the fact that we aren’t seeing a next-generation Switch anytime too soon, we’re at least entitled to wonder why the gaming giant didn’t make a Switch upgrade announcement.
This week, an investor asked the million-dollar question directly to Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa at the gaming company’s annual shareholder meeting. “It was widely reported that a new version of the Nintendo Switch would be announced this June at E3, but no new model was announced at the Nintendo Direct E3 2021,” the shareholder inquired. “What are your thoughts regarding the news of new models such as this?”
Furukawa replied with a diplomatic non-answer. “Our company uses Nintendo Direct to inform our customers about individual products at the appropriate time,” he replied, adding “we are constantly developing hardware, software, dedicated peripherals, etc., but we refrain from making comments on specific products still in development.”
The Nintendo President’s response was on-brand with the company’s communication regarding leaks and rumors. Nintendo of America President Doug Bowser (yes, that’s his real name) previously gave a similar answer to a similar question, saying “we are always looking at technology and how technology can enhance gameplay experiences.”
While this evasive response from Nintendo is a bit disappointing, it isn’t altogether surprising. The Mario creators have always kept their cards quite close to their chest. Whether the device referred to as the “Switch Pro” truly isn’t ready yet, or Nintendo is milking the first generation console for all it’s worth, they’ll announce the new hardware when they’re ready. And we’ll enthusiastically celebrate the news.