When a series becomes very popular, it doesn't take long for its creators to realize how much potential the series has. To maximize this potential, companies release spin-offs. Usually they have very little to do with the main series in terms of gameplay, but they attract fans. They tend to get a bad rap, but there are some spin-offs that deserve credit.

This game was an attempt to introduce younger and new players to the fantasy RPG genre of the main Final Fantasy games. As such, it's severely stripped down and thus not all that fun for anyone but the intended audience. However, it makes this list anyway because it's hilarious. You can see all of the dialogue in the script posted for the game on this site. It's so stupid, it's the funniest game I've ever played.

A Mario Party (see #4) rip-off? Perhaps, but a fun one. While it tends to get blasted by people, I thought Sonic's first foray into the party game genre was great. In addition to the basic gameplay shared with Mario Party, it featured battles against enemies and story-based minigames (which were added to Mario Party games that came after it). It sported a cel-shaded style that was welcome but new to the Sonic series, some genuinely fun minigames, and the same Sonic charm as the Sonic Adventure titles.

What separates Mario Superstar Baseball from the rest of the Mario sports spin-offs is the variety. You can play as Mario characters that have never been playable before, like Monty Moles, Dry Bones (who has since become a Mario spin-off mainstay), Piantas, and Nokis. It also added Dixie Kong to the Mario sports roster. Super Mario Strikers, which came out later, had a bigger variety; however, I have never played it, so I don't know if it's as fun as this game.

For those unfamiliar, Megaman Battle Network is a series of RPGs for the GBA (one of which was ported to the DS). Gameplay-wise, it has very little to do with any other Megaman series. I wouldn't consider Battle Network itself a spin-off (it's more of a sub-series), Network Transmission is a spin-off of it. It actually does the opposite of what Battle Network does: rather than being an RPG, it features gameplay based on that of the classic Megaman and Megaman X games. What's great about this is that you get to experience the Battle Network version of the series's roots, featuring the classic gameplay and new characters you love. Note that a similar game, in 2D and retelling the story of the first Battle Network rather than being a sequel like this one, was released in Japan for the Wonderswan Color. It was entitled Rockman.exe WS.

Safari games existed in arcades before Pokemon Snap came out, but they could never match the success of this N64 classic. The most basic reason? Pokemon is absolutely gold. But given the low popularity of other Pokemon spin-offs, it's clear that Snap has merit of its own. The sheer variety of Pokemon to snap is part of that. It's also the first opportunity gamers had to see Pokemon in 3D, and so far the only opportunity we've had to seem them in the wild in 3D. Photography shouldn't lead to a fun game, but even without the Pokemon, there's just something fun about Snap.

I don't know of the SNES title Super Mario Kart was the first game of its kind, but the Mario Kart series is certainly the father of modern kart racers. Featuring racing that doesn't require you to know what a transmission is, colorful Mario characters and landscapes, and havoc-wreaking items, the Mario Kart series has always been a favorite. With 32 courses, half of them from previous games (the 2D ones brought into semi-3D); 9 characters; and 3 karts for each character; Mario Kart DS is probably the biggest Mario Kart yet. All together, Mario Kart is the series to which all kart racers are compared, and few are considered worthy competitors.

Despite its great popularity, the Zelda franchise has not had too many spin-offs. Of all the spin-offs it DID have, this is one of the only two to make it out of Japan (the other being the original Four Swords). The core gameplay is like that of the original Four Swords, which means A Link to the Past plus maneuvering 4 Links and carrying only one non-sword weapon at a time. Unlike the original, you could play this game yourself. If two or more people played, they had to connect the GBA. When you went into a cave, house, etc, the gameplay would switch to the GBA so only you could see what you were doing. One of the biggest appeals, in my opinion, is that the game contains Zelda characters, storylines, gameplay, music, and level design into a game that's divided into levels so it's less of a puzzle and commitment than the standard Zelda adventure. It's by no means a replacement, but it's a great addition.

The Mario Party series was not the first series of party games, but it's probably the most successful and the first one many gamers experienced. Nowadays, party games are often referred to as "Mario Party-style" games, much like how kart racers are often called "Mario Kart-style" games. What really makes the series stand out is the minigames. While the board games are the main method of gameplay, the minigames are the real meat. They're always fun, and people often just play them without the board game part.

It's hard to describe the appeal of this game; I can't do so myself. Tennis video games are fun, and because it's a Mario game, it's got a wealth of mini-games and other fun modes. Also, the portable Mario Tennis games (this one and its GBC counterpart) add an RPG mode to the mix, combining the same fun tennis gameplay (both matches and other activities) with a storyline to keep people interested. As a fan of the GBC game, imagine how I felt when I started playing this game and learned that your character's tennis trainer is the player character from the GBC game!

The WarioWare series is novel: it throws minigames (here called "microgames") at you rapid-fire-style and you only have a few seconds for each one. The games, characters, and storylines are bizarre and hilarious. With the exception of the Mario-themed microgames in 9-volt's Nintendo-themed collection, the gameplay could just as easily not be related to the Mario series at all. The specific Mario connection is that the main character is Wario, but it really doesn't have to be. That said, WarioWare has carried over into other games: there's a WarioWare-themed court in Mario Power Tennis, and Wario will appear in his WarioWare style in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Spin-offs can either be vain attempts to milk a franchise or solid games that expand a series. If they're the latter, they can be excellent in their own right. Mario Party is a good example of how developers can benefit from a good spin-off: its 8th installment is on its way out. We want more from our favorite franchises, but only if they're still fun games. These games show how spin-offs can be positive.

List by unknownwarrior3 (05/16/2007)

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