Why Do So Many Modern Nintendo Games Start With A Bunch Of Talk?

I go to Nintendo games for the joy of gameplay; solving dungeons in Zelda, pulling off a triple jump in Mario, and finding a new power-up in Metroid. But I’ve noticed that Nintendo games made in the last 20-ish years often put up a wall between booting up the game for the first time and getting to the good stuff. I’m talking about how, at the beginning of most Nintendo games since the GameCube, you need to sit through minutes and minutes of text-based dialogue before you can start the game.

Nintendo Emphasizes Gameplay Over Story, Except When It Doesn't

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal, but I usually play my Switch while my wife is using the TV, so I tend to favor games on the platform that emphasize gameplay over story. Animal Well has been perfect for this since it has no text outside of menus and item names. Nintendo games, which should be homeruns here, often aren't.

Think about Super Mario Sunshine, a joyously kinetic game to play. It opens with a three-minute cutscene as Mario flies into Isle Delfino. Then, you get control of Mario for a few seconds as you walk the short distance from the plane to F.L.U.D.D., the backpack sprayer device that defines Sunshine's gameplay. Then there's 90 seconds of tutorial. Then there's a boss battle (yay, gameplay), followed by a three-minute cutscene as Mario gets tossed in front of a judge for the crimes of Shadow Mario.

Then, you can fight a giant, gooey Piranha Plant in the town square. And then there's another cutscene, this time introducing Shadow Mario. All told, roughly half of the first 15 minutes of the game is cutscenes. And Super Mario Sunshine, like all Mario platformers, is not especially story-heavy, so this early focus isn't consistent with the rest of the game.

A Pressing (The A Button A Bunch Of Times) Issue

I noticed this again recently when I started Princess Peach: Showtime! Before I could get into the action, I had an annoying amount of text to read through. I remember having similar problems in Mario Golf: Super Rush and New Pokemon Snap. The issue is actually worse now than it was in Mario Sunshine, because that game's cutscenes at least had some voice acting.

Princess Peach: Showtime! doesn’t, and I think that’s half the problem these modern Nintendo games face. When I start a game like The Last of Us Part 2, I’m happy to sit through an opening cutscene because I’m largely playing it for the story. It’s a game that does story well and therefore emphasizes it. It uses voice acting and motion capture to bring that story home. Nintendo games don’t usually have any of that, and also aren’t focused on storytelling, so it seems bizarre that they frequently start with so much narrative set-up.

Why Do So Many Modern Nintendo Games Start With A Bunch Of Talk?

Nintendo marches to the beat of its own drum and, in many ways, that’s a good thing. Its emphasis on fun gameplay and innovative ideas over slightly better graphics and longer and longer runtimes recently resulted in a great Nintendo Direct, where the Big N upstaged Sony and Microsoft by showing off a ton of high-profile games despite being in the last year of the Switch’s life. But the amount of times I need to press the A button to get past largely irrelevant story information is one of the quirks that makes the company’s games frustrating.

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