Mario. Zelda. Donkey Kong. The holy trinity of Nintendo franchises has appeared in about a billion games that have sold a gazillion combined copies worldwide. Add in the more-recently sainted Pok√©mon series, and you’ve got the world’s oldest and possibly most widely-accepted, thriving videogame religion.

Dig deeper into the Nintendo catalog and you’ll find … well, actually, you’ll find even more franchises. Kirby. Star Fox. Metroid. F-Zero. They’re not quite household names, but they’re all well-known and well-loved by the Nintendo faithful.

But dig even deeper past the main franchises and you get … heck, you get spin-off franchises. The Mario Tennis, Golf, Kart and Party series have nearly 20 games between them, with more coming. Even the spin-offs have spin-offs – the Wario Land series has spawned four Wario Ware games so far, with more no doubt coming.

In an industry obsessed with extracting every last penny from any proven franchise, Nintendo is the undisputed king. Anything even remotely successful will eventually be repackaged, remarketed and resold back to a new generation of gamers at a premium price. They’re like Disney, but without the theme parks (at least not yet).

But amid all these unmitigated franchise successes, there are some false starts. Nintendo’s history is littered with the abandoned-but-not-forgotten corpses of partially aborted franchises – the under-appreciated classics that got one or two games and then faded into the background of our collective gaming memories for decades. Like, do you remember that game with the bikes where you could do all sorts of crazy jumps and stuff? Or the one with those weird bird things on balloons? Man, they should totally make some new versions of those.

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