Is Hollywood's next big franchise a Nintendo Cinematic Universe? The Super Mario Bros. Movie is already a massive hit, making a sequel highly likely. But the film has been such a success that it's hard to imagine Universal isn't also eying other Nintendo franchises that can be brought to the big screen. While nothing has been confirmed, these are the Nintendo properties that seem most likely to spawn movies:
'The Legend of Zelda'
Among fans, the most commonly requested Nintendo adaptation is easily The Legend of Zelda, perhaps the company's most iconic franchise after Super Mario Bros. The games generally follow a hero named Link as he goes on an adventure to defeat the evil Ganon and save the kingdom of Hyrule. Zelda is a princess of Hyrule, though the player character is usually Link. From the original 1987 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game to next month's The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the series has tons of mythology and worldbuilding to work with for a movie, much more so than Super Mario Bros.
A potential Zelda animated film would surely have a much more serious tone than The Super Mario Bros. Movie, closer to The Lord of the Rings than Minions. A rumor from Giant Freakin Robot in January suggested a Zelda animated movie is already in the works from Illumination, the same studio that made the Mario film, but that hasn't been confirmed. As far back as 2007, though, animation house Imagi Studios put together a pitch for an animated Zelda film, which you can watch on YouTube. It never went forward, but after the success of Mario, now may be the time to revisit the idea. A Zelda TV series, rather than a movie, could also be a possibility, and Netflix was rumored to be in talks for a live-action adaptation in 2015.
When recently asked by Screen Rant about potential movies based on Zelda or other Nintendo properties, Nintendo game director Shigeru Miyamoto said "there's nothing I can really comment on at the moment" but that "I think there'll be opportunities in the future."
If Nintendo is looking for potential spinoffs of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, though, an obvious contender would be Luigi's Mansion.
The horror-themed series began with a 2001 Nintendo GameCube game, in which Luigi is the one trying to rescue Mario. That first entry sees Luigi visit a mysterious mansion and subsequently search for his brother after he goes missing, and he teams up with a scientist to capture ghosts using a vacuum cleaner. So a movie could have a similar tone as Ghostbusters and flip the script from The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which was about Mario trying to rescue Luigi. The game spawned two sequels, the most recent of which, Luigi's Mansion 3, hit the Nintendo Switch in 2019.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie already draws on Luigi's Mansion a bit in the scene where Luigi ends up in a spooky forest. Luigi voice actor Charlie Day has also expressed interest in a Luigi's Mansion spinoff, telling ComicBook.com, "Yes I do [want to do a Luigi's Mansion film], big time. Let's get that out in the zeitgeist. Let's make this happen, okay? I am in!"
'Donkey Kong Country'
Another potential Super Mario Bros. Movie spinoff could be one focused on Donkey Kong, who's voiced in the film by Seth Rogen. The character has had his own successful series of games, including the Donkey Kong Country franchise, which are also platformers like Super Mario Bros. Besides, Mario actually originated in a Donkey Kong game, not the other way around.
Like Super Mario Bros., the Donkey Kong games usually don't put a tremendous amount of emphasis on story. But there are tons of characters in Donkey Kong's family to work with, some of whom already make cameos in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, including Cranky Kong, his father. An adaptation of the Donkey Kong Country games would also likely introduce King K. Rool, a villainous crocodile who commands an army known as the Kremlings.
Rogen has already expressed hope that a Donkey Kong spinoff film will happen. "There's a lot of opportunity there," he told Collider, adding that there's room to explore "the family unit of the Kongs" further.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie's post-credits scene teases that Yoshi will be a character in a likely sequel. If he's a fan favorite there, there's always room for yet another potential spinoff about this character considering Yoshi has also led a whole series of games.
Yoshi's early games include 1998's Yoshi's Story for the Nintendo 64, which was also a side-scroller, and the story involved Baby Bowser turning the island where the Yoshis live into a storybook and stealing their Super Happy Tree. Other Yoshi games include the more recent Yoshi's Woolly World and Yoshi's Crafted World.
As The Super Mario Bros. Movie implies, the Yoshis are meant to be a whole species of dinosaur-like creatures, so a potential sequel or spinoff could include many of them, though the green Yoshi is the one best known to players.
Outside of Mario games, Metroid is another hugely popular series that Nintendo fans have suggested could make a great film, either animated or live-action. The sci-fi series follows a bounty hunter named Samus Aran on various adventures in space, during which she encounters alien creatures known as Metroids. The series' first game was Metroid on the NES, though a fan-favorite entry is Metroid Prime for the Nintendo Gamecube. The series was also somewhat unique for the time in that players take control of a female action hero.
A live-action Metroid move has previously been discussed, with none other than legendary Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo at one point in talks. Producer Brad Foxhoven told IGN the film would have explored Samus' origins, though Nintendo apparently had second thoughts about filling in the gaps in her backstory via a movie.
"Things started to go south when we tried to dig into the character a bit more," Foxhoven said. "...What are Samus's aspirations, history, and fears? Nintendo appreciated the questions, but had never thought about them before, and ultimately didn't have a lot of answers. In the end, they felt uncomfortable with our team being the ones to propose those answers."
Another popular Nintendo sci-fi franchise is the Star Fox series, which gets a shout-out in The Super Mario Bros Movie. The model spaceship that Mario has in his room is the one used in the Star Fox games.
Beginning in 1993 for the Super Nintendo, the games follow a group of anthropomorphic animals, including Fox McCloud, and their adventures in space as part of the titular Star Fox team. Other main characters include Peppy Hare, a rabbit, and Slippy Toad. In the right hands, an animated Star Fox film could be like a more kid-friendly version of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
A claymation Star Fox series was once in the works, but it was canceled by Nintendo, Adam Conover revealed. But in 2020, a fan poster for a proposed Star Fox animated movie made the rounds on Twitter and earned the attention of Gary Whitta, a screenwriter who received a story credit on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. "I want to write this animated movie," he tweeted.
Another classic Nintendo franchise that got a shout-out in The Super Mario Bros. Movie was Pikmin — one of the titular creatures was seen in the form of a statue — and it's also a potential candidate for an animated feature.
Released in 2001, the original real-time strategy game involved a pilot, Captain Olimar, becoming stranded on a mysterious planet and attempting to repair his ship. He controls hordes of Pikmin, small creatures that look sort of like plants. It spawned several sequels, and Pikmin 4 is set for release on the Nintendo Switch this year.
The story of the games is somewhat thin, but Nintendo already has experience adapting it, having released a series of animated Pikmin shorts in 2014. Could these serve as a sort of demo reel for a potential film?
'Super Smash Bros.'
If a potential Nintendo cinematic universe seeks to model itself off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, could its equivalent of the Avengers films be based on Super Smash Bros.?
The hugely popular fighting game series involves all the characters from various Nintendo franchises coming together to do battle, everyone from Mario and Luigi to Star Fox, Samus, and more. Long before Avengers: Infinity War was the most ambitious crossover event in movie history, these were the most ambitious crossover events in gaming history.
In terms of plot, a movie could perhaps draw inspiration from the single-player mode of the most recent game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and involve a protagonist — in the game's case, Kirby — seeking to rescue various characters and bring them together to defeat the evil Galeem and Dharkon. So it could be sort of like the first Avengers film, with all of the Mario characters doing battle against one another before eventually teaming up against an external force.
Animal Crossing, the life simulation game series that sees the player move into a fictional village and live with anthropomorphic animals, may seem impossible to turn into a movie given there is virtually no story to work with. But believe it or not, an Animal Crossing anime movie already exists.
It's called Gekijōban Dōbutsu no Mori, and it was released in 2006. But it only came out in Japan and has never made its way to the United States. Similar to the games, the film follows an 11-year-old girl who moves into a village filled with animals. The most recent game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was a massive phenomenon in 2020, in no small part thanks to being released right as COVID-19 lockdowns hit the U.S.
So after the success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and New Horizons, perhaps a new Animal Crossing animated movie could be on the table, or at least an official American release of the existing one. Move aside, Darth Vader: The greatest cinematic villain of all time may soon be Tom Nook.