For decades, Nintendo has shied away from adapting its beloved video games to film – an absolutely appropriate response after witnessing 1993’s live action Super Mario Bros. It’s taken the lauded game maker thirty years to get over that particular trauma, but with Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie now in cinemas and aiming to break the curse, it’s time to see which other Nintendo properties could warrant an outing on the big screen – and what form they might take.
The Legend Of Zelda
This is a gimme – and one that’s rumoured to already be in development. Zelda is by far Nintendo’s most storied franchise, and one rich in material to mine for the silver screen. Almost any one of the series’ games could serve as a basis for a movie (well, maybe not the janky Philips CD-i ones), with heroic Link’s quest to overthrow the evil Ganon and rescue Princess Zelda offering a strong template. A cinematic Zelda wouldn’t have to be a by-the-numbers fantasy though – there are elements of predestination and repeating history baked into the games, with key figures reborn across generations to defend or conquer the land of Hyrule, all of which adds gravitas and importance to the action. A canny adaptation could use that aspect, and make a movie canonical with the wider games.
Look, if Lucasfilm isn’t going to make that long-promised Rogue Squadron movie, let Star Fox Squadron have a shot. Given the anthropomorphic cast, led by daring Arwing pilot Fox McCloud, this would most likely have to be an animated entry, but all the ingredients are there for an edge-of-your-seat space adventure: an evil scientist, Andross, seeks to take over an entire planetary system, with the only hope to stop him being a scrappy group of fighter pilots. Imagine the Death Star run crossed with Top Gun, only in a universe where Goose could be a literal goose. Who doesn’t want that?!
Part of the problem in adapting Metroid is that Nintendo’s sci-fi action platformer is already strongly influenced by Alien – right down to bounty hunter Samus Aran’s nemesis being named Ridley, after Ridley Scott – so translating it back to film would require tactfully avoiding overt comparisons. The best option would perhaps be to lean into Samus’ origins, hinted at in the games but barely explored – orphaned by a Space Pirate attack on a mining colony, young Samus is raised by the ancient, bird-like Chozo, who prophecise her to be the “Protector of the Galaxy”. That leaves plenty of room for character growth, while setting the stage for bigger adventures to follow. The toughest challenge for any Metroid film though? Same as the games – explaining how Samus transforms into her spherical morph ball mode without being crushed to goo.
High fantasy, epic swordplay, dragons? Check, check, check. Fire Emblem is perfect for the big screen, and while later games such as Fire Emblem: Awakening or Three Houses have clout among gaming fandom, we’d opt for a loose adaptation of 1990’s original Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon And The Blade Of Light for a movie. While the game was comparatively basic, its plot involved a kingdom betrayed, an exiled prince, and a mix of politically charged battles and quests for powerful magic artefacts – all perfect for emotional performances and cinematic flair. Plus, the exiled prince in question is Marth, arguably the franchise’s most recognisable face thanks to appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series and cameos in later Fire Emblems. Think Game Of Thrones meets The Lord Of The Rings, and you’re scratching the surface of Fire Emblem’s potential.
The easy option with F-Zero would be to do a straight futuristic race movie – a sci-fi take on Le Mans ’66 with a dash of the Wachowskis’ psychedelic Speed Racer mixed in for good measure. That would definitely have to be a part any adaptation, but the series’ iconic protagonist Captain Falcon is an intergalactic bounty hunter off the track, an aspect that would allow a film to put more at stake than the fate of some car manufacturers – Falcon drawn into the championship with an eye on tracking down a dangerous target on the run. With its zero-G races and jet-like vehicles, F-Zero would also be a high action, hi-octane thrill ride, and spectacularly well-suited for a 4DX experience – brain-candy of the purest order, but a damn good time. Plus, if Nintendo ever signed off on a movie of F-Zero, it might finally get around to making another game in the series, too – it’s been 20 years, Ninty!
Loosely inspired by Dragon Quest, the EarthBound games abandoned the trappings of fantasy RPGs for a real-world setting, and saw a bunch of paranormal pre-teens saving the planet from a cosmic being of unspeakable horror. Sound familiar? Stranger Things may have shown there’s an audience eager for 1980s-set weirdness focused on psychic kids, but EarthBound (known in Japan as Mother) did it first. With plot points involving time travel, alternate worlds, zombies, and reality-warping musical numbers to draw on – and that’s just scratching the surface of EarthBound’s strangeness – this would definitely be an ambitious project, but audiences have shown they’re ready for its unearthly delights.
The Creed series has shown there’s an appetite for boxing movies again, and conveniently enough, Nintendo has a boxing franchise ready and waiting to adapt. Like Creed, 1984’s Punch Out!! built on the success of the original Rocky then-trilogy, with 17-year-old Little Mac rising from wannabe boxer to world champ. Unlike Rocky though, Punch Out!! was gloriously stupid, with the series featuring exaggerated rivals such as Canadian hillbilly lumberjack Bear Hugger, a Russian opponent originally named Vodka Drunkenski, and King Hippo, who looks like a cross between Batman villain Clayface and, well, a hippo. Why not bring things full circle by having Creed star – and noted anime fan – Michael B. Jordan direct or produce, to really lean into Punch Out!!’s colourful insanity?
Every hero needs a villain who’s a dark reflection of them – an inversion of everything they stand for. Superman has Bizarro, Shazam has Black Adam (just don’t tell Dwayne Johnson that), Holmes has Moriarty – and Mario has Wario. With a greedy, selfish, scheming thief for its lead, a Wario film could take cues from Dreamworks’ supervillain comedy Megamind, charting Wario’s rise from childhood rival of Mario and Luigi – who never even notice him, of course – to master criminal, before a swerve to Venom-style anti-hero as he takes on his own dedicated villains, such as Captain Syrup and her Brown Sugar Pirates. Best of all, Wario’s near-invulnerability allows for plenty of Looney Tunes style physical comedy, while his anarchic tone and a gallery of unique supporting characters from the WarioWare games mean any film would have its own identity, distinct from Mario. Bonus points for a Waluigi post-credits stinger.
Hear us out – it’s Homeward Bound meets Legion Of Superpets. After its master Iggy Koopa and the rest of the Koopalings are driven off by Mario, an abandoned Chain Chomp tries to find its way home. Teaming up with a Goomba, a Cheep Cheep, and a Shy Guy, and guided by a Lakitu (look ‘em up, if you’re not a nerd), Chain Chomp and pals must use their unique abilities to survive the perils of the Mushroom Kingdom, learning that they can be more than just cannon fodder for the Koopalings along the way. At some point, a Toad will tell Chain Chomp he’s a very good boy, and you will cry. Five stars.
Cold. Trapped. Isolated. After young couple Popo and Nana are caught in an avalanche, Ice Climbers would follow their quest for survival. A gritty tale of humanity versus the uncaring elements, the stranded duo faces certain death if they can’t make their way back to the surface. Armed only with mallets, hunted by hungry arctic predators, and with their sanity waning – is that a yeti?! – Popo and Nana have only one way out: climb. C’mon, it’s Ice Climbers – there’s no story to the game, so just let 127 Hours’ Danny Boyle go wild on this. It’s a mountaineering masterpiece waiting to be made!
The Super Mario Bros Movie is out now in cinemas