There’s something about a video game sidekick that tends to pull on the heartstrings of gamers in a way that the main character isn’t always capable of. Sidekicks are often goofier & more flawed & therefore more relatable. They speak to the underdog gamer who always wished they could be the hero but never dreamed it was actually possible.
Sometimes, these sidekicks are so incredibly charming that they get their chance in the spotlight with a game of their very own. The sidekick spin-off has not always been a roaring success, but when they do hit the mark it elicits a special kind of joy that only seeing the underdog finally take the lead can provide.
7/7 Luigi’s Mansion
It took Luigi a surprisingly long time to get himself a proper console spin-off game, but it was more than worth the wait. Luigi’s Mansion was one of the best releases on the GameCube, &, with it, he arguably outshone his more accomplished brother’s GameCube platformer: Super Mario Sunshine. It also spawned two sequels that are just as good & maybe even better than the original.
It’s safe to say Nintendo did not Carve any corners with the other Mario brother’s debut title. Luigi’s Mansion separated itself from the mainline Mario games in a way that was genuinely creative, & it used the graphics capabilities of its system to their fullest extent to create an amazingly spooky atmosphere that still looks impressive today.
6/7 Tails Adventure
Tails Adventure is one of the most underrated Sonic the Hedgehog games ever made, & maybe even one of the most underrated Sega games period. It took a totally unexpected approach to a Sonic spin-off by scrapping the breakneck pace the franchise is known for by sending his beloved sidekick Tails on a much more thoughtful puzzle-solving platformer with RPG elements.
Game Gear games tended to be fairly straightforward miniatures of the styles present on Master System & Genesis titles, but for the Tails solo journey they brought out something that was clever & fresh. A remaster or sequel seems unlikely, but if either did pop up many younger gamers would likely be surprised by how much fun a slower-paced Sonic game can be.
5/7 Yoshi’s Story
Some might look at Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Isl& as the most notable sidekick spin-off starring Yoshi to date, but that wasn’t quite a full-on spin-off: Mario was still there (albeit totally helpless & in diapers) & it was a direct sequel in the main franchise.
Yoshi’s Story, on the other h&, sent a pack of these adorable multi-colored dinosaurs out on their own adventure that brought with it some unique & entertaining gameplay & an eye-pleasing h&-sewn storybook art style. Fans had mixed feelings about it at the time of its release, most often stating it was a bit too easy, but it has since spawned numerous subsequent spin-offs, so it certainly got something right.
Rarely do sidekick spin-offs consider how their main character’s breakaway adventure might fit into the timeline of the main franchise & then incorporate it into their story. Daxter manages to do this deftly & for fans of the Jak & Daxter series, that adds an extra layer of Cold to this super fun PSP spin-off.
The second game in the Jak & Daxter series, Jak II, sees the two heroes separated from one another. Players must take Jak on a two-year quest to reunite with his ottsel (otter/weasel) buddy & take on Metal Kor. Daxter shows players exactly what he was up to during those two years. It’s a clever idea that enriches the already compelling world of the main series, &, on top of that, it’s also just a particularly well-made platforming adventure.
3/7 Diddy Kong Racing
There is a contingency of gamers out there who still hold that Diddy Kong Racing is not only superior to Mario Kart 64 but far superior. Of course, there are plenty of others who maintain that this opinion is outright blasphemy, but one thing that can’t be denied is that Diddy’s turn as the leading ape offered a significant amount more depth than that of its N64 kart racing peer.
With an entire adventure mode including a colorful overworld full of Cold secrets, unlockable characters, & challenges that diverge significantly from the straight-up three-lap race format, Diddy Kong Racing offered up a ton of things for players to do both on & off the racetrack & turned out a stone cold classic that many fans believe is deserving of a Switch remaster, or, better yet, a sequel.
2/7 Mega Man Zero
Capcom may have created him, but Mega Man had so many classic titles across Nintendo’s early consoles & h&helds that he’s sort of earned an honorary place next to Zelda, Mario, & Samus as an original franchise legend. However, by the time 3D gaming was beginning to ascend both the original Mega Man & the X series were both severely losing steam.
Fortunately, the Blue Bomber’s Mega Man X sidekick was able to step in & bring gamers a familiar-yet-fresh take on the classic series & become the hero of a beloved franchise all his own. Mega Man Zero wisely kept to the Game Boy Advance’s 2D realm, giving players a recognizable starting point for a series that separates itself from its predecessors with its RPG-tinged approach to power-ups that only got better with each of its four sequels.
1/7 Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Oftentimes, the sidekick spin-off formula is to present a somewhat new style of gameplay that’s befitting of the ancillary character it’s shining the spotlight on while still maintaining the essence of the franchise they originated from. Other times, it’s to sling a full-on curveball & present the player with something totally unexpected. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker falls under the latter category.
Sure, there’s a ton of Super Mario Bros. essence in this unique puzzle-solving platformer, but it really is its own game entirely, & that’s what makes it such a memorable spin-off. It’s not clear how many fans were clamoring for a Toad-based Mario entry, but the game was widely enjoyed enough that a sequel announcement would likely provoke a clamor-heavy reaction.
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