This list is similar to another one we just published that focused on PlayStation games instead of Nintendo. The point of that and this article is to track down unique games with mechanics, or settings not found in a lot of other titles. The world has plenty of multiplayer shooters and roguelikes right now, but these ten games are still incredibly rare in concept.
These games may not have started out on Nintendo platforms but that doesn’t diminish just how important they are for the video game industry. To qualify, a game must be available on a Nintendo console but does not have to be a first-party title, as those have mostly been copied to death.
10 River City Ransom
The '80s and '90s were loaded with beat ‘em ups, but only one of them tried to be something different: River City Ransom. This game featured a semi-open world where players could level up by spending money in shops.
Food, for example, would increase stats. The Scott Pilgrim game paid homage to this system and also the recent sequel, River City Girls, also copied this mechanic. Not many others have tried to create the Grand Theft Auto of RPGs.
Evoland is kind of a more obscure indie game, but one with a very novel idea. The game begins with virtually no mechanics an 8-bit world. As treasure chests are collected, more things are added like more colors, music, combat and so forth. It even changes graphics.
It is sort of like a history lesson through game consoles. Besides its sequel, there was also The Messenger, which went from 8-bit to 16-bit in the course of the game, but that is the only other game we could think of with this graphical swap mechanic.
8 Mega Man
Mega Man has existed for over thirty years. Guess how many games have copied its random level and boss progression: One. That was the spiritual successor, Mighty No. 9, which had mixed reviews.
Now truthfully there have been others that tried to create this sort of boss and level select mechanic, like Azure Striker Gunvolt, but it and the other copycats have never managed to blend this exact formula with as good a science as Capcom. This is one of those cases that the original is just too good to be properly recreated, or - at least - nobody has yet been able to.
7 Katamari Damacy
How does one define what Katamari Damacy is? The best genre we could put it into is a chaos simulator. There was a recent successor to this idea, Donut County. Instead of balls, players would suck up objects with an ever-expanding hole. With Katamari Damacy being ported to the Nintendo Switch, it feels like the right time for other studios to turn to this series for inspiration.
Goat Simulator, while there is no real goal, could also be summed up in this chaotic category. However one defines it, Katamari Damacy is like a once in a lifetime game, but that doesn’t mean it can’t find success with inspired clones. Obviously, there are plenty of sequels, but the Katamari brand is unique.
6 L.A. Noire
With the success of Heavy Rain and other Quantic Dreams games along with Telltale’s various episodic narratives, adventure games are back in a big way. The genre has been both evolving and increasing in volume for a good decade now. There haven’t been many like L.A. Noire though.
At its heart, it’s a detective game that follows some Grand Theft Auto formulas but remains one fine example of how far this genre can go. Another detective game set in the period would be great, even if does just boil down to Rockstar green lighting a sequel.
5 Dragon Quest IV
Dragon Quest IV had players begin in different areas of the world, each following a separate party member before they all eventually met up. One of the most unique heroes was Torneko who was a shopkeeper by day and an adventurer at night. That is to say, the wares he sold were acquired from traversing dungeons.
This idea was so unique it created a spinoff series, Mystery Dungeon, in which Torneko starred in two. There have been many other entries in that series, but not a lot of other games have coped this merchant/hero formula. Last year Moonlighter did this to great effect with a roguelike spin to it, while the Atelier franchise is somewhat similar.
There have been a lot of survival horror games that have chased after Resident Evil’s core. This was especially true during the PS1 and PS2 generation, but recently this genre has sort of dried up. There certainly aren’t many games like Onimusha, which is about fighting monstrous creatures in feudal Japan as samurai and ninjas.
Nioh could be considered a recent example, but it isn’t exactly a survival game. It is still very good though. The point is we want another Onimusha or something like it.
3 Bravely Default
Bravely Default was basically a Final Fantasy reboot in everything but its name. It returned to the classic fantasy setting, turn-based battle system, and even brought back Jobs. It was a great throwback while pushing the Japanese RPG genre forward.
For example, it allowed players to fast-forward through battles. Cool. It also implemented a random encounter gauge that could be turned up, down, or even off. Remasters such as the recent Final Fantasy VIII port did this as well, but that was an old game. Not many new RPGs do this.
2 Red Faction: Guerrilla
Red Faction: Guerrilla, at the most basic level, is an open-world sandbox. Players are part of a resistance force trying to take back Mars through diving and shooting segments. What sets it apart is its destructibility. Every building, vehicle, or whatever can be blown to kingdom come.
Physics will also dictate whether a structure can fall, or stay standing. It is repetitive but has the potential for hours of chaotic mayhem. Turn the brain off and get crazy. We can’t really think of anything recent that fits this exact bill. Just Cause almost scratches the same itch, but its destruction is not quite as all-encompassing.
1 Kid Icarus Uprising
Kid Icarus Uprising had a similar mechanic to Bravely Default’s random encounter meter, but this was in regard to the overall challenge. Before a mission, players could crank up the game's difficulty. This meter displayed the number of rewards that could be collected as each tick on the bar was raised.
We’re not just talking about a few spaces either. This scale was huge! Instead of putting like three difficult settings in a game, we would like to see other developers try this setting out instead.