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In a new Op/Ed over on, writer Christopher Dring postulates that Nintendo is starting to look into letting other developers play around with some of its IP. While Dring is privy to some insider knowledge that he can’t share, many are taking his words as merely a rumor. Why would Nintendo allow outside developers a chance to create new games with its various franchises? The thing is, Nintendo has quite a long history of doing just this.


Zelda’s history with third party developers


You don’t even need to go back to the beginning of Nintendo’s gaming days to find a recent collaboration with a third-party developer. One of the biggest examples of Nintendo’s trust in indie developers comes from the Switch-exclusive Cadence of Hyrule. Created by Brace Yourself Games and based on the popular indie hit Crypt of the Necrodancer, Cadence of Hyrule — which was released in 2019 — adapts the traditional Zelda formula into a rhythm-based dungeon crawler while featuring a bevy of roguelike elements. It’s a far cry from something that Nintendo would have traditionally cooked up, but it fits right in with Zelda’s unique charms.



And how could we discuss third party Zelda titles without acknowledging the absolutely stellar Capcom developed Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons on Game Boy Color? These titles not only were ahead of their time, featuring the ability to unlock bonus content by completing both games, but they are also still revered as some of the best 2D Zelda titles of all-time.



While Capcom didn’t completely reinvent the wheel with these titles, as much of the design was adapted from Link’s Awakening, they still felt more unique than other Zelda titles up until that point. If you’re eager to experience these remarkable games, they’re currently available for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion members via the Game Boy app.


Third party dev Game Freak developed Yoshi


If we do wind the clock back to the NES, the puzzle title Yoshi was developed by Game Freak (of Pokémon fame) in 1991 as its third-ever game. The company would continue this relationship by making Mario & Wario on the SNES before kicking off the monster-collecting franchise we all know and love. Nowadays, you’d be forgiven for believing Game Freak was always a Nintendo company.



Nintendo teamed up with Retro Studios for Metroid Prime Remastered


Perhaps the biggest instance of Nintendo trusting an outside company to handle its legacy franchises comes from Metroid Prime. While the N64 featured a game based on pretty much every IP Nintendo had in the ’80s and ’90s, one of the most notable absences was from Samus Aran. For whatever reason, Nintendo never got around to releasing a new 3D take on Metroid and it seemed as if the series was on ice when the GameCube launched. 

Shortly before Nintendo’s purple lunchbox was unveiled came the announcement that Texas-based Retro Studios would be handling a brand-new Metroid title for Nintendo’s next-gen platform. Not only would this be the first 3D game in the series, but it would also be a first-person shooter. People at the time were furious, but anyone who played last year’s Metroid Prime Remastered will understand that the legacy of this particular entry is well-deserved. Nintendo allowed someone outside of its inner circle the chance to show their love for Samus and it created one of the best games ever.



During that same generation, we also happened to get F-Zero GX, the best entry in Nintendo’s now long-dormant racing series and the first collaboration between Nintendo and previous rival Sega. This also followed some GameBoy Color installments of Zelda that were developed by Capcom, showing that Nintendo wasn’t afraid to let others play in its toy box. The list can keep going, but I think it’s pretty clear at this point. This “rumor” of Nintendo looking into leveraging its IP to different studios has a strong chance of being accurate.


What the future holds for Nintendo and third parties


As with any new statement about Nintendo, without official confirmation, we can’t claim this as fact. Maybe Nintendo is discussing things with other teams as a way to prepare them for the Switch 2 instead of allowing them to take over its legacy IPs. Maybe Nintendo isn’t talking to anyone at all. If we look back at the history of the company, though, it becomes clear that Nintendo isn’t afraid to let others have the keys to the Mushroom Kingdom for a bit.

If there’s one thing Nintendo learned during the Wii U era, apart from how to properly market its next console, it would be to trust outside forces. Some of Nintendo’s wildest swings come from the few years when the Wii U was bombing. Hyrule Warriors, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Pokkén Tournament: these were all titles that would have never existed had Nintendo been killing it like with the Wii.

So as far as this latest rumor goes, I believe there is an extremely high chance we’ll be seeing not only something like a Mario game created by another developer but potentially even new entries in F-Zero or Star Fox created by outside companies. It would only make sense, historically speaking.


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Written by Peter Glagowski

Peter has been a freelance gaming and film critic for over seven years. His passion for Nintendo is only matched by the size of his collection.