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3DSSwitch

Too Many Ports? We Present The Portdoza Line To Quantify Port Levels

by Neal Ronaghan - April 2, 2020, 7:30 am PDT
Total comments: 8

We attempt to prove how many ports is just too much using made-up math and judgement.

While the game lineup on the Nintendo Switch has been a fantastic one, a common complaint has been that it is reliant on ports, whether it’s something from a third-party like Skyrim or Witcher 3 or the myriad of Wii U ports like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Riffing off of the baseball concept of the Mendoza Line, we introduce to you the Portdoza Line - the percentage of ports and remakes that is deemed “too much” by our staff by using a simple formula. I’ll explain the methodology and figure out what recent year of Nintendo’s publishing is the “Portdoziest.” Hell, maybe we can all chuckle and extend it to third parties on the Switch in a future post.

I’ll take a selection of games and split them into four categories: New Game, Full Remake, Enhanced Port, and Straight Port. New Game is self-explanatory (hopefully). Even if it’s a formulaic sequel, as long as it’s a brand new entry, it counts as a new game. Full Remake represents your Link’s Awakenings and Metroid: Samus Returnses. Sure, one of those is a little bit less of a brand new experience, but if you’re gonna do a full-on remake, that’s basically like a new game. Enhanced Port is a bit of a judgement call. Dragon Quest XI S is for sure an Enhanced Port, but for example, I won’t quantify Tropical Freeze as an Enhanced Port (Funky Mode be damned). I might wind up being more ruthless with this and if you’re so inclined, feel free to make your own Portdoza Number with your own rulings. Lastly, Straight Ports are what it says. It’s when they take your game as it was on another platform and more or less just put on another console with maybe a new hat or all of the previous DLC. Game of the Year editions on new consoles are Straight Ports by our metrics.

Each of those categories will be scored accordingly:

  • New Game = 0 point
  • Full Remake = 0.5 points
  • Enhanced Port = 0.75 points
  • Straight Port = 1 points

All of those points will be tallied and then divided by the total number of games to create the Portdoza Number. If that number trends above 30%, then we’re above the Portdoza Line and that means we’re rolling in ports.

Before we get to the deeper research here, let's take a quick glance at 2020 so far (and what we know of). We are three months into the year and have a decent idea of what the entire first half will contain. I will always remain optimistic for something shocking and cool in the next three months (and there are usually shadowdrops around E3 - whether it happens or not). We did have those Mario rumors the other day, which would be super cool, but would also ramp up 2020's Portdoza Number. Here's where we stand with what is officially known, however.


Nintendo's 2020 (So Far)

  • New Games: 4 (Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Good Job, Clubhouse Games, and Bravely Default 2)
  • Full Remakes: 1 (Pokemon Mystery Dungeon)
  • Enhanced Ports: 1 (Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition)
  • Straight Ports: 1 (Tokyo Mirage Sessions)
  • Portdoza Number: 32.1%


It is hard to fully judge 2020, but from what we know, this might be a potentially heavy port year. Based on the first half so far, it would be the second highest Portdoza Number from the past five years. If the current lineup holds as is until June, half of Nintendo's output will be ports and remakes. Of course, we don't know what the rest of the year will bring. There are rumors of numerous Mario ports and remasters, a new Paper Mario, and a whole lot more. The cynic can even look to the fact that there are still Wii U games left (seriously!) that Nintendo can port to Switch. Here's hoping they figure out a way to make Nintendo Land or Wii Party U work, or at the very least remember that Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3 rule. An optimist can dream of playing Bayonetta 3 and The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by year's end. A crazy person can imagine Metroid Prime 4 launching by the end of 2020.

2020's story is yet to be written, though with the coronavirus looming large over the game's industry, it might change quickly. Either way, I'm hopeful this Portdoza Number will level off somewhere in the late teens or low twenties.

Alright now - Let's get down to ful years and check out 2019.


Nintendo's 2019

  • New Games: 16 (headlined by Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Pokemon Sword/Shield
  • Full Remakes: 1 (Link’s Awakening)
  • Enhanced Ports: 2 (New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Dragon Quest XIS)
  • Straight Ports: n/a
  • Portdoza Number: 10.5%


2019 was, kind of surprisingly, really strong for Portdoza standards. Most everything that came out from Nintendo was a new game, including some strong entries in marquee franchises like Fire Emblem and Pokemon as well as cool new projects like Ring Fit Adventure and Tetris 99. Link’s Awakening definitely stretches the spirit of the full remake idea as it is, at the end of the day, a very faithful remake of the Game Boy game. On the other hand, the amount of additions to Dragon Quest XI S makes it feel like Enhanced Port is too limiting, but hey, I’m probably being too generous with calling Peachette and the other tweaks to New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe enough for Enhanced Port status.

Also a final note: I’m not counting 3DS games for 2019 because, honestly, totally forgot the 3DS had new games in 2019. And I think judging by the reported sales numbers of 3DS games in 2019, everyone else did as well. But in the interest of full disclosure, three Nintendo-published 3DS games came out in 2019, one full remake (Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story), one new game (Yo-Kai Watch 3), and one enhanced port (Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn - though I say that under duress because I think the 3DS port is actually worse). If we factored those in, it raises 2019’s Portdoza to a still very respectable 14.5%.

Next up, 2018


Nintendo's 2018

  • New Games: 12 (headlined by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Sushi Striker, and Mario Tennis Aces)
  • Full Remakes: 1 (Pokemon Let’s Go)
  • Enhanced Ports: n/a
  • Straight Ports: 8 (including Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker)
  • Portdoza Number: 40.5%


2019 might have surprised me but 2018 might have just proven the port feeling right. Nintendo’s 2018 shattered the Portdoza Line, winding up well above the 30% threshold at 40.5%. Even being generous with Enhanced Ports wouldn’t send it below the Portdoza Line. Hell, even factoring in the 3DS game (which were once again excluded because Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers likely sold poorly and I’m upset so that means we’re not counting it here. Related: that game is awesome), the Portdoza Number is still above 35%.

In the grand scheme of things, however, I’ll be generous with the Switch’s high Portdoza Number in 2018. This is the second year of a new console and it’s a little evident Nintendo frontloaded 2017 to make a huge impression for the system’s debut. For most consoles, the Portdoza-heavy year might be year one, but Nintendo switched it to the sophomore year. It meant there was a little bit of a sophomore slump, but everyone was too busy playing Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey to care.

On to 2017!


Nintendo's 2017

  • New Games: 20 (headlined by Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and a bunch of 3DS games you forgot about)
  • Full Remakes: 3 (including Metroid: Samus Returns and Fire Emblem Echoes)
  • Enhanced Ports: 2 (including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe)
  • Straight Ports: 4 (including Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon and that third version of Yo-Kai Watch 2 you had to Google)
  • Portdoza Number: 24.1%


First things first, the Switch had a much stronger year if you separate it from the 3DS. The 3DS had a Portdoza Number of 27.6% by itself, a number acceptable for a system that late in its life but definitely toeing the line. The Switch in 2017 was only hindered by an overall low amount of games, landing a Portdoza of 15.9% with only a pair of ports (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Pokken Tournament DX) to its name. This was, overall, a great year for Nintendo.

The Switch managed to pull off one of the best debut years for a system ever with essentially a system-selling hit every few months and the 3DS still put out some strong titles even in its final relevant year. The 3DS lineup featured a trio of strong remakes with Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Metroid: Samus Returns. It also had a smattering of original titles that are probably better than your gut says they are in Ever Oasis, Monster Hunter Stories, Hey! Pikmin, and Miitopia.


Nintendo's 2016

  • New Games: 24 (headlined by Pokemon Sun/Moon, Star Fox Zero, and Metroid Prime: Federation Force)
  • Full Remakes: 1 (Dragon Quest VII)
  • Enhanced Ports: 2 (including Super Mario Maker for 3DS)
  • Straight Ports: 1 (Twilight Princess HD)
  • Portdoza Number: 10.7%


2016 blew me away with the variety and freshness of the lineup. However, 2016 was probably overall one of the worst years in recent Nintendo history. This was the gap year before the Switch with a Wii U lineup peppered with monkeypaw wishes like Paper Mario: Color Splash and Star Fox Zero. A 3DS lineup with Fire Emblem: Fates, Pokemon Sun & Moon, and Metroid Prime: Federation Force. This is a capital-W weird lineup, but also one with a lot of brand new games and under-the-radar gems. Pocket Card Jockey and Picross 3D Round 2 might be my two personal favorite 3DS games. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is an excellent Wii U RPG. Rhythm Heaven Megamix rules. Kirby: Planet Robobot might be the recent peak of the franchise. We got a new Style Savvy, more BoxBoy, and a well-made remake of a bad Dragon Quest game (sorry fans of Dragon Quest VII). This has the lowest Portdoza Score (10.7%) of any other tracked year, but it’s also probably a year every Nintendo fan could point to and be like “that’s one to forget.” Maybe, we love ports. Maybe we feel strength from the familiar as we try new experiences that might be something we don’t want.


Nintendo's 2015

  • New Games: 28 (headlined by Super Mario Maker, Splatoon, and Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash)
  • Full Remakes: 1 (Majora’s Mask 3D)
  • Enhanced Ports: 2 (including Xenoblade Chronicles 3D)
  • Straight Ports: n/a
  • Portdoza Number: 6.5%


2015 might not have been the flashiest year, but in terms of raw new games quotients, it’s a rousing success and handily comes in as the lowest Portdoza of this five-year stretch. We can knock the Wii U era all we want, but you know what? 2015 was the system’s creative peak, with likely the top two Wii U games of all time releasing in Splatoon and Super Mario Maker. Even the projects that didn’t crack that upper echelon still had noteworthiness, whether it was Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water, Yoshi’s Woolly World, or everyone’s favorite punching bag Devil’s Third. We can just ignore the November releases that were bolstered by Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash and Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. The 3DS was nearing the end of its peak, but even still, a handful of interesting games (your mileage may vary) came out. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. launched (and flailed). Tri Force Heroes was interesting. I’ll die defending Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash. BoxBoy debuted. Stretchmo rules. 2015 was a year that, in retrospect, might have shown that Nintendo still had it as they bided their time for Switch.

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Talkback

Ian SaneApril 02, 2020

To me the king of too-many-ports is the GBA 2002.  Here's the lineup:

Game & Watch Gallery 4
Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords
Super Mario World
Yoshi's Island
Metroid Fusion

So we have three SNES ports, a remake of an NES game in Kirby, a collection of recreated Game & Watch games which includes a fair amount of titles that were already included in the GBC G&W Galleries, a new multiplayer mode in Zelda that is kind of enough content to be considered a new game, and an outright brand new game in Metroid Fusion.  So really we're looking at like 1.5 first party new games for the GBA for the entire year and this was only the second year the system was on the market!  It pissed me off then and I'm getting a little mad reflecting on it now.

nickmitchApril 02, 2020

This was a great read!

I'm not sure if a full remake should be weighted half a point though, but I guess it is that half step being "yes, definitely a new game" and "no, this is just that old game again".  The examples you gave could've easily swayed me to think it'd be weighted .25.

One thing about a Portdoza line, if you explored 3rd parties and looked at other systems, there would definitely be a lot of things you'd have to control for.  For instance, there's a year effect where there's naturally going to be more ports over time because there's a) more games to port and b) better technology with which to port them.  Then there's the issue of multiplatform games.

But looking at PS4's first year, there's like 4 new games out of 10 published by Sony.  Pretty bad.

EnnerApril 03, 2020

Good article.

The port frenzy feel on the Switch is probably exacerbated by the third-party and indie releases.

I knew 2018 was a slump year, but wow does it look poor when you list it out.

StratosApril 03, 2020

Makes me think of IGN Voice Chat's running joke about the "Port Everything to Switch Initiative". Looking at my library of Switch games, it kinda is a port machine for me. My recently played games list includes Turok, Doom 64, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy, Witcher 3, Skyrim. So I seem to be using it as a port machine. The output has been a pretty good mix of ports and new games and hopefully the pace is continued into the future.

Luigi DudeApril 03, 2020

In terms of Nintendo's own games, I never saw the reason why too many ports was a bad thing when we're still getting new installments.  The only franchise I can see people getting angry about is Mario Kart since 8 Deluxe is selling so well Nintendo will probably wait until the Switch successor to release MK9.  Other then that, most of the major Nintendo series from the last decade have either gotten a new installment on the Switch, or have one in development right now.

I mean third parties on the other hand have been more port crazy, but many of these games have never been on a Nintendo system before.  So if someone was a Nintendo fan who owned a Wii U, the third party ports are basically new games for them.  Anyone else that didn't own a Wii U, the Nintendo ports are basically new games to them.  So it's kind of a win/win for the Nintendo diehard and the general gaming public as a whole.  Both sides are getting flooded with games they haven't played before.

Ian SaneApril 03, 2020

Quote from: Luigi

In terms of Nintendo's own games, I never saw the reason why too many ports was a bad thing when we're still getting new installments.  The only franchise I can see people getting angry about is Mario Kart since 8 Deluxe is selling so well Nintendo will probably wait until the Switch successor to release MK9.  Other then that, most of the major Nintendo series from the last decade have either gotten a new installment on the Switch, or have one in development right now.

Historically I found ports from Nintendo more annoying when their third party support was terrible.  There was already a smaller variety of games for the system and thus Nintendo had more responsibility to fill up the lineup themselves.  When you're going to see only a handful of decent games for the entire year it stinks if a fair chunk of them are re-releases of titles you already played on earlier Nintendo consoles, which probably also had weak third party support.  If you've been waiting months for anything to come out getting, for example, a Gamecube game with motion controls tacked on, and then having to wait months more is very irritating.

In regards to ports from other systems I don't really even think of that as a port as much as a multiplatform release, unless the title is really old.  There have been times where Nintendo would get a port of an old title while the other systems would get a brand new game in the same series and that felt like a slight but as you mentioned something making its first appearance on a Nintendo system can reasonably be assumed to be a new experience for most of the userbase.  The perceived value is obviously different if you own multiple systems in which case you want exclusives to justify your purchase.

Still I find the frequency of ports or remakes on all systems to be a rather annoying trend.  The Virtual Console should have established a system where old titles are always available for purchase (assuming no rights issues of course) like how you can typically buy an old movie or music album in current formats.  The fact that digital stores will "restart" with a new system and have different titles available and then this game will get a full remake and this one gets a remaster and these get released in a compilation but these are full price solo releases, etc. is pretty silly.  I think we really want a digital storefront for retro games and that those purchases should stick around and be playable on later generations by the same manufacturer.  There is also a major inconsistency where some games get completely remade and others get emulated.  Why are there rumours about 3D Mario remasters when any Mario game on the N64, Gamecube and Wii should have been available for digital purchase as an emulated ROM the day the Switch launched?

Luigi DudeApril 03, 2020

Quote from: Ian

There is also a major inconsistency where some games get completely remade and others get emulated.  Why are there rumours about 3D Mario remasters when any Mario game on the N64, Gamecube and Wii should have been available for digital purchase as an emulated ROM the day the Switch launched?

Remasters are usually trying to make these games more appealing to a modern audience.  Just putting the exact ROM on the Switch might be acceptable for longtime fans that want to play the exact game again, but remaster tend to have some changes.  The big one is making them look good in HD, which for 64 and Sunshine will require quite a bit of work.  Especially something like 64 which is usually regarded as one of the most important games of all time but modern audiences might not play it because of the graphics.

Plus remaster do sometimes fix some of the flaws to make them more acceptable as well.  I mean look at Wind Waker HD.  They made the sailing not as tedious to do with the fast sail, streamlined the Triforce quest better so it also wasn't as tedious, as well as allowed the camera to take more pictures making the figurine side quest less tedious as well.  They also include Hero Mode something modern Zelda's have had since Skyward Sword which makes the enemies cause more damage and they no longer drop hearts.  This gave the game a badly needed difficulty boast which while still not a hard game by any means, at least provides a somewhat sense of actually being able to die now, which is lightyears better then the original.

As we went over in the previous thread, something like Sunshine could be improved from a remaster in a similar way.  Certain parts of that game being fixed up though tweaks in the level layout, better camera, or outright redesigns like Corona Mountain, would greatly improve the quality.  This way even the fans of the original can get more excited since they're getting a better version of the original game, which makes it easier for Nintendo to charge more money for it.

Ian SaneApril 04, 2020

Quote from: Luigi

Quote from: Ian

There is also a major inconsistency where some games get completely remade and others get emulated.  Why are there rumours about 3D Mario remasters when any Mario game on the N64, Gamecube and Wii should have been available for digital purchase as an emulated ROM the day the Switch launched?

Remasters are usually trying to make these games more appealing to a modern audience.  Just putting the exact ROM on the Switch might be acceptable for longtime fans that want to play the exact game again, but remaster tend to have some changes.  The big one is making them look good in HD, which for 64 and Sunshine will require quite a bit of work.  Especially something like 64 which is usually regarded as one of the most important games of all time but modern audiences might not play it because of the graphics.

I get that, though part of it feels like colourizing black and white movies or dubbing in dialog for silent films.  Though the point I was trying to get across is really that classic games should always be readily available for purchase.  If I own a Nintendo system there should be some way to play the classic Mario and Zelda games on it.  They shouldn't hold things back to save them for remasters or try to space out VC releases.  If you bought Super Mario World on the Wii VC it should have been playable on the Wii U and Switch and the 3DS if feasible without having to buy it again and someone wanting to play the game for the first time should always have it available.  I think if they remaster a game with better visuals and QoL improvements they can probably sell it at a higher price point specifically as a "special edition" while the unaltered ROM remains available for historical interest.

It's all very haphazard compared to the music or film industry where it was odd if something took a fair bit of time to transition from record to CD or VHS to DVD.  The expectation was really that the content that had been purchasable for years would be on the new format quickly for purchase there.

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