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10 Shameless Nintendo Knock-Off Games

VOICE OVER: Ty Richardson WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
With a company as successful as Nintendo, there are bound to be a slew of games trying to ride their coattails. For this list, we'll be looking at games that seemingly tried to copy Nintendo's success. Our list includes "Atari Karts" (1995), "The Great Giana Sisters" (1987), "Pac-Man Fever" (2002), "Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion" (2011), and more!
Transcript
Script written by Ty Richardson

With a company as successful as Nintendo, there are bound to be a slew of games trying to ride their coattails. For this list, we'll be looking at games that seemingly tried to copy Nintendo's success. Our list includes "Atari Karts" (1995), "The Great Giana Sisters" (1987), "Pac-Man Fever" (2002), "Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion" (2011), and more! Which of these knockoffs do you think is the most shameless? Share your thoughts in the comments!

“The Great Giana Sisters” (1987)

“Super Mario Bros.” (1985)

This is perhaps the most famous example of games copying Nintendo. Upon starting “The Great Giana Sisters”, players will immediately recognize that the first level’s layout is basically Mario’s World 1-1. Just about every block and power-up is lifted from Nintendo’s hit game, and even the House Mario Built noticed. It is said that Nintendo influenced the developers to remove their own game from sale, claiming grounds for copyright infringement. Despite a tumultuous foray into the games industry, the IP would return in the late-2000’s and 2010’s only to see minimal success. “Dream Runners” was the last game from the franchise and was critically panned for its poor controls and awful design choices.

“Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm” (2019)

“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (2017)

Before 2019, “Oceanhorn” was one of many indie IPs to have been influenced by “The Legend of Zelda”, and it paid tribute to the franchise rather well, providing a solid experience. Its sequel, however, is too close for comfort. One look at the aesthetic and character design shows “Oceanhorn 2” is perhaps too inspired by “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”. That isn’t to say the game isn’t worth checking out, not even close. If you want to explore Zelda-like games, this might be worth your time! Just don’t be surprised if the visual identity comes off a little uncanny at times.

“Pac-Man Fever” (2002)

“Mario Party” series (1998-)

Originally, we were going to throw “Sonic Shuffle” on here as the “Mario Party” clone, but the confusing card system has us wondering if the game even understood why “Mario Party” was so good. No, our pellet-munching pal is arguably the bigger offender. Pac-Man and a small cast of other Namco characters attempted to cash-in on “Mario Party’s” success with as little effort as possible. Players just need to be the first one to reach the end of the board, and that’s pretty much it - standard board game fare. What hampers it from becoming a solid game is the lean content. Three boards? That’s it? And you’re telling me you could only throw in SIX playable characters out of Namco’s massive catalog of IPs? To this day, “Pac-Man Fever” is the lowest-rated console game in the franchise. Below that is the DS port of “Pac-Man World 3” and the 3DS port of “Pac-Man Party” which ripped off “Mario Party” AND “Monopoly”.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up”

“Super Smash Bros.” series (1999-2018)

Of every Nintendo IP, no franchise has seen as many copycats as the “Super Smash Bros.” series. Few have managed to be decent at best while practically ripping on the format and controls. This TMNT spin-off, however, managed to be a little more unique. Aside from just being a different IP, “Smash-Up” gives its cast their own movesets and offers up distinguishable layouts for its stages. There’s a bit more focus on stage hazards and traversal. It may not offer too much replay value, but for what it is, it’s pretty good.

“Atari Karts” (1995)

“Mario Kart” series (1991-2017)

One could argue that every kart racer is a rip-off of “Mario Kart”, but many have put their own unique spin on the racing subgenre. No, of the ones that tried riding “Mario Kart’s” coattails, “Atari Karts” was one of the earliest knock-offs next to “Sonic Drift”. Thing is that “Sonic Drift” had a cast of characters capable of rivaling Mario’s. But Atari? Yes, players will certainly remember characters like Pulpito, Bentley Bear, and Miracle Man! Even if they were to include their more recognizable properties like “Pong” or “Centipede”, would people ever choose an Atari kart-racer over one starring Sonic or Mario? The answer is “no”.

“Longvinter”

“Animal Crossing” series (2002-)

Your eyes do not deceive you - this is very much a game treading a little too close to “Animal Crossing’s” aesthetic. However, this might interest those of you looking for a new survival game to jump into, perhaps one focused more on PvP? “Longvinter” brings similar features to “Animal Crossing”, letting players decorate and improve their homes, fish, gather materials, interact with players, and such. To appeal to survival game fans, it also features the ability to cooperate or compete against other players to survive in the world. There are even PvE servers for those not wanting direct competition against other players.

“Science Papa” (2009)

“Cooking Mama” (2006-20)

Okay, we know that “Cooking Mama” is not a Nintendo property, but the franchise saw massive success in its early years on Nintendo DS and the Wii. So, it kinda counts in our eyes. Whereas “Cooking Mama” was, more or less, marketed to young girls, one studio decided to try and appeal to boys with their own minigame-based game. That studio was Activision, and their game was “Science Papa”. From the art style to the mechanics and even the title itself, everything about this game was screaming “Cooking Mama” knock-off. As one might expect, “Science Papa” never took off, and it ended up as one of many in shovelware bargain bins.

“Golden Axe Warrior” (1991)

“The Legend of Zelda” series (1986-)

Today, many games inspired by “Zelda” are treated with respect and how it honors the legacy and style of Nintendo’s dungeon-crawling adventure series. However, in 1991, more studios were focused on replicating formulas in attempts to gain their own effortless success. SEGA was one of those companies and shoveled out “Golden Axe Warrior”. And we aren’t just calling it a knock-off because of the similar gameplay. Many parts of the game, particularly the enemy and level design, look like direct lifts from “The Legend of Zelda”. What’s worse is that it somehow soils what made the original “Zelda” so good.

“Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion” (2011)

“Super Smash Bros.” series (1999-)

Steering back once more to “Smash” clones, the biggest offender in directly lifting ideas and design is “Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion”. Just about every character on the roster is some iteration of a “Smash” character. As for the single-player campaign, much of the gameplay and plot was similar to that of the Subspace Emissary campaign from “Smash Bros. Brawl”. A platform fighter of Cartoon Network characters could absolutely work, but with so many ideas pulled directly from Nintendo, it loses its identity quickly. Even though the “XL” version would introduce a couple of new fighters and mechanics, it wasn’t enough to prevent developer Papaya Studio from shutting down.

“Monkey Business” (1985)

“Donkey Kong” (1981)

Yeah, there were Nintendo rip-offs BEFORE “The Great Giana Sisters” came rolling around! Nintendo’s very first video game success, “Donkey Kong”, had its own copycat to worry about. This is “Monkey Business”, a game that is basically a worse version of the arcade classic, featuring basic animations, annoying beeps for sound effects, and absolutely no personality whatsoever. The entire game is just one massive copy-paste of “Donkey Kong” while putting in the least amount of effort to make it remotely engaging. Even by 1985 standards, this was unacceptable, but what else could you expect from an AMIGA game??
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