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Gameverse | September 20, 2019

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Nintendo: Are Their Modern Games Too Easy?

Matthew Byrd

Yoshi's Crafted World

Have you played the new Yoshi’s Crafted World Switch demo? It’s a wonderful little game highlighted by colorful visuals and some genuinely inventive level design. Granted, the demo doesn’t reveal much, but it reveals quite a bit of promise.

The only problem is that Yoshi’s Crafted World is incredibly easy and probably won’t preoccupy you for long. Actually, that’s not a problem unique to Yoshi’s Crafted World. It’s actually a problem that is starting to affect too many modern Nintendo games.

At the risk of going on an old man tangent, it should be said that Nintendo games used to be much more difficult. Whether you think that’s a good thing is a matter of opinion, but it’s a fact that older Nintendo titles like classic Mario games used to offer much more of a challenge.

The idea that Nintendo is intentionally making their games easier has always made some sense. They’re a company that has always appealed to a larger market and to younger gamers/families. One of the best ways to get families to enjoy any piece of entertainment together is to make it as accessible as possible.

It’s an approach that makes sense…until you realize that it doesn’t. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is a brutally tough platformer, and it sold incredibly well on Switch. Breath of the Wild was a fairly challenging Zelda title, and it became a sales phenomenon.

But titles like Yoshi, Kirby, Super Mario Party, and perhaps even Super Mario Odyssey (which saved its challenges for special areas), have gotten easier. The games themselves are of varying quality, but they’re certainly easier than other titles in the same franchise.

Is there really a benefit to making these games easier in terms of how they sell? To put it another way, is there anything great about these games that wouldn’t be retained if they offered a little more challenge on the back-end of the experience?

That’s what’s disheartening about this new wave of easier Nintendo games. They offer very little to older Nintendo fans, and you get the feeling that younger fans would actually buy them and enjoy them even if they offered a little more challenge on the back-end.

What’s unfortunate is that the solution isn’t a simple matter of adding some new difficulty levels. The difficulty of classic Nintendo titles is very much tied into the design of the games themselves. It’s not really about whether enemies deal more damage or whether or not there are a few more obstacles in the way.

To be fair, Nintendo fans looking for a challenge can still find one. Super Smash Bros. is highly competitive, Super Mario Maker 2 will surely offer plenty of challenging custom maps, and the port of New Super Mario Bros. U offers tons of old-school Mario challenges. Those games will always exist even if the challenges do sometimes come from the presence and contributions of others.

But when you look at titles like Yoshi’s Crafted World and Kirby Star Allies, you can’t help but feel like they were made by a modern version of Nintendo that is asking less from gamers because the developers are asking less of themselves. Those games utilize an old-school design formula but ultimately offer less because it’s so much easier to complete them with relatively fewer challenges.

These easier Nintendo games are hardly the end of the world, but you do have to wonder if they’re accomplishing as much as Nintendo seems to think they are.