A couple of years ago I wrote about a bunch of the little games you could play on the official Pokemon website. You know, short Flash games with a Pokemon theme, like a Puyo Puyo clone hosted by Munchlax or a Gastly-themed hidden object game which sounds like something designed specifically for me but which unfortunately turned out to be not that good. Well, now that I’ve gotten over the crushing disappointment of Gastly’s Hidden Haunt I decided I was ready to take a trip to another set of browser-based minigames, and where could be more appropriate than the websites of Nintendo themselves? Nintendo are one of the world’s most famous entertainment brands, a lot of their output is child-friendly and they make games, so I’m sure the browser games on their site will be top-notch. Right?

Here at Nintendo’s European site you’ve got the Nintendo Kids Club, where young Nintendo fans can gather to have less fun than they would if they were, for example, playing actual Nintendo games. Maybe it’s their older sibling’s turn to use the Switch or something, so little Timmy or Terri turns to the Nintendo Kids Club, where they’re greeted by your favourite Super Mario characters looking extremely cheerful. This is probably because Bowser isn’t currently trying to abduct Peach / Luigi’s not exploring a haunted mansion / Toad’s not talking so they don’t have to hear his voice. And look, there are games! Other stuff, too, but I’ll be focussing on the games. Yes, games are great, I’m looking forward to playing some.

As expected the Super Mario series is heavily represented, with Animal Crossing having a few games too plus only lonely Kirby game. More surprising is the complete lack of games based on The Legend of Zelda, Metroid or Splatoon. Okay, maybe the lack of Metroid isn’t surprising – Nintendo seem to regard the franchise with an air of “oh, and Metroid too I guess” at the best of times, but Splatoon’s pretty big and Zelda is, well, it’s Zelda. Not even a sliding block puzzle with Link’s face on it, Nintendo? Really?

Time for the first game on the list and it’s a Super Mario jigsaw. A jigsaw with a Christmas theme, bafflingly. I know Christmas starts early these days, but it’s only the beginning of September. Perhaps that’s why there’s no games based on Splatoon or Breath of the Wild – it’s because these games haven’t been updated since about December 2014.
You know what you’re getting with a jigsaw, at least, even if “Mario blasting through a Christmas wreath in his flying go-kart” isn’t exactly what I expected the first game I played to look like. The jigsaw game works fine. Not much that can go wrong with a jigsaw, is there? It’s a good job it works, too, because a bunch of the other games on this page are jigsaws, including one of Yoshi throwing an egg, an Animal Crossing scene and one starring that famous Nintendo superstar, Teddy.

You know, Teddy! Everyone loves Teddy! Okay, I have no clue who Teddy is. I looked it up and apparently Teddy is the star of a 3DS game called Teddy Together which was developed by Street Fighter EX creators Arika, so you could make the argument that Teddy and Skullomania are related. Teddy Together is a “life simulator” type game in the vein of Nintendogs, except with a teddy bear that talks in a slightly disconcerting synthesized voice that’s very… breathy. From what I’ve seen it’s a bit creepy, but not as creepy as Donkey Kong’s mostly-obscured grinning face staring out at me from behind Teddy. Donkey Kong likes to watch, you see.

I’d never heard of Teddy Together before today and I’ll be honest, doing a very basic jigsaw of the bear himself is not likely to make me rush out and buy a copy. This jigsaw is making want to rush out and buy some cakes, though. Maybe it’s stealth advertising by Mr. Kipling.

Okay, time for something that’s not a jigsaw with “Make Four With Mario.” Luigi’s name goes unmentioned despite him being right there, which does fit in with most of Luigi’s characterisation these days, so let’s assume it was intentional.

It’s Connect Four, except the counters are red and green rather than red and yellow. I’ll let you decide whether the colour was changed from yellow to green to match Luigi or to avoid Milton Bradley’s lawyers.
To reiterate, it’s Connect Four. That’s it. It has no connection to anything Nintendo-related aside from using the words Mario and Luigi for the player names. You could change the names to Rommel and Montgomery and call it “Make Four At El Alamein” and no-one would suspect its Mario-related origins. The very definition of low-effort, right? Could there not have even been some Nintendo artwork at the side of the screen, or a voice clip of Luigi saying “Mamma mia, I lost again, my existence is a hollow-a nightmare”? If only there were some kind of coin-shaped disc that Mario was famous for collecting, they could have used those for the counters instead of plain circles.

"Spot the Animal Crossing Friends" next, where Animal Crossing characters slide into a picture of the village and you have to click on them. Well, at least it’s definitely based on Animal Crossing, so it just abut clears the incredibly low bar that’s been set for these minigames.
The thing is, the characters appear and vanish so quickly that it’s actually quite hard to click on them in time… but it’s okay, because you can still get credit for clicking where they were. Considering they’re supposed to be your friends, these characters can’t get away from you fast enough.

By far the best game on the site is "Kirby’s Quick Draw", based around Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. It starts off strongly by being the only game with any music, and from there it gets by on the powerful cuteness of the Kirby brand – a power that should not be underestimated. I’d probably have done a lot better on the maths portions of my degree if the textbooks had been presented by Kirby and his pals. Kirby believes in you.

The actual game is connect the dots, which does tie in to Rainbow Curse’s use of the Wii U gamepad to draw lines for Kirby to walk on. That’s synergy, that is. As a connect the dots minigame it’s perfectly acceptable, although the best thing about it was that it reminded me I need to buy a new mouse. The left button’s going on mine, which mean I kept not dragging the line properly. Someone recommend me a decent, cheap wireless mouse, please.
It’s a very simple minigame, but as I said, it gets by on cuteness. I mean, just look at this:

Hi, Kirby! If you play this minigame and don’t say hello to Kirby out loud upon reaching this screen then you’re probably some kind of irredeemable sociopath.

Naturally there are also some sliding block puzzles, including another Christmas-themed Mario one and a couple based on Yoshi’s Woolly World, like this mixed-up Shyguy. I completed none of these minigames. I’ve made my contempt for sliding block puzzles clear many times in the past and I will not engage with them if I can possibly avoid it. I tell myself it’s because they’re not fun, they’re boring and they take too long, but really it’s because I’m awful at them and I hate feeling like I’m being outsmarted by a children’s novelty.

"Shadow Spotter" is all about identifying silhouettes of famous Nintendo characters, like Princess Peach. You get four shadows to choose from – three where she’s looking regal and one in the top-left where she looks like she’s getting ready to beat the crap out of someone – and you click on the matching outline. Donkey Kong continues to stare out from the background, silently judging your every choice.

Oh, cool, there’s a proper little hidden object game in here.  I do love a good hidden object game – which is to say I love horror-themed hidden object games with wonky 3D models or images clipped out of a Halloween gift catalogue. This Animal Crossing version is neither of those, but it’s an okay way to pass thirty second while reflecting on the fact that I’ve never actually played an Animal Crossing game. Maybe that’s because I’ve seen how I run a household; the thought of being in charge of a whole town is too much pressure for me to handle.

There’s a Christmas hidden object puzzle, too. Please note that there was a turkey in the previous scene. The turkey is not visible during the village’s Christmas celebration.

And here’s "Luigi’s Word Jumble", a wordsearch with Nintendo charactersszzzzz – okay, I’m rapidly slipping into a coma here. I think I’d better head over to the US Nintendo site and see what’s on offer there. Sure the razzmatazz and spectacle associated with America will pervade the games on the US site, that should keep me awake.

Or perhaps not. Yet more jigsaws, this time with the cast of the Wario Ware series. On the plus side this jigsaw’s pieces are at least shaped like jigsaw pieces, but it’s still just a jigsaw and I had enough of those on the European site, thanks very much. A lot of the games are in a similar mould on the US site, but there are some that are a bit different.

For instance, there’s "How to Draw Captain Toad and Toadette", which gives you an outline of everyone’s favourite fungoid serf and a few pen tools and colours with which to recreate your own masterpiece. It’s a fun little tool and one that I think kids would get more enjoyment from that most of the other offerings on the site – I know that at around age six I did nothing but draw Super Mario characters and if I could have done it on the computer with traceable outlines and an undo feature I’d have been all over it.

You can even download your finished picture and print it out, or email it to your enemies with no accompanying text in the hope that they’ll take it as a mysterious threat and, in their panic, accidentally reveal their next move in your long-running game of mental chess. Personally I rather like my finished Toad. It looks crap, but charmingly crap. It’s definitely “stick it on the fridge” material.

Of course, there’s no rule saying that you have to draw Toad or Toadette. I drew a jack o’lantern, because I am extremely predictable. Hey, it’s September now, get used to it. Given the way Britain seems to be heating up in recent years I might not get to see many more Autumns.

There’s a different shadow-matching minigame, this time featuring bizarre cube-shaped versions of Pokemon. The folly of trying to turn Exeggcute – a Pokemon solely defined by being shaped like goddamn eggs – in a pile of cubes is so ridiculous I can’t help but love it. Plus, cube Pikachu looks like it ran face-first into a wall in the manner of a hyperactive puppy.

Honestly, the US site doesn’t have much in the way of actual games, focussing much more on quizzes and goofy polls, and these do feature a lot more “real” Nintendo content even if that does just mean pictures of the characters that the games are supposedly involved in. Here’s one about matching the emblems from Mario Tennis to their respective characters. Not the most difficult mission, but it gives me the chance to see Mario and Luigi looking annoyed that Toad and Bowser aren’t taking this tennis tournament seriously, having turned up in their normal outfits (or lack thereof, in Bowser’s case).  I suppose Toad’s little Aladdin vest allows him freedom of movement, but he could have slapped on a couple of sweatbands or something.

I know I’m supposed to be focussing on the site’s games, such as they are, but I can’t leave without mentioning this Zelda quiz that gives “North American Vampire Inc.” as a possible origin for Navi’s name. I know it’s the wrong answer but in my heart it’s right, right, right. What the hell would North American Vampire Inc. even be? The cynical, topical answer would be “the US healthcare system” but it’s definitely a construction company that builds ornate Gothic castles and mouldering crypts that suit both your unholy needs and your budget.

Okay, that’s enough of these websites, I can’t handle the excitement any longer. They were a disappointingly low-effort bunch of timewasters, especially on the European site. It’s a real downgrade from the Pokemon web games, which weren’t amazing but at least had some quality to them and even the generic ones had plenty of Pokemon art and stuff. I must admit I expected more from Nintendo, especially when compared to the web games offered by big toy companies like Lego and Playmobil. On the Playmobil website there’s a Ghostbusters game where you run around the firehouse zapping ghosts and you can even play as Janine, which knocks bloody Connect Four into a cocked hat.
I am being a little unfair, though. There are some fun things on these sites, especially the downloads section of the US site where you can get printable things like greetings cards and party invitations. Oh, and this.

That’s right, a pattern for carving a Goomba into a pumpkin for Halloween – and by “Halloween” I mean “however long you can make a pumpkin last because you wouldn’t throw out a Goomba pumpkin until it was a pile of brown mush, would you?” This discovery alone has made this entire article worth it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to camp outside my nearest greengrocer.

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