Even in more ‘normal’ times Nintendo would often head into a new year with a lot of its big hits still under wraps. A 3-6 month turnaround from announcement to release isn’t uncommon from the company even for its most important games, and it still follows this template for some titles – Metroid Dread being a good example in 2021. This year, however, the list of expected releases is already eye-opening, and that’s before the inevitable Nintendo Directs and expo appearances (whether virtual or in-person reveals). It could be quite a special year.
We headed into last year, in particular, with little idea of what Nintendo would produce. There’s an extremely obvious reason for this, with a lot of development projects slowing down and requiring drastic shifts to work-from-home structures since 2020. 2021 was a bit of an improvisational year, in some respects, too, with major releases joined by quirky but fun smaller games and a handful of ports / remasters. Nintendo was just about able to fill its typical annual quota of first-party titles, while no doubt internally revising, rescheduling and pushing back some games that – in an alternative reality – would have already arrived.
Nintendo is not alone in this, of course – pretty much every triple A publisher and also Microsoft / Sony have had to delay major projects and struggle to fill the gaming calendar. It’s been a reality of the times, though all things considered we’d suggest 2021 was a good year for gaming.
This year, however, could be a belter for Switch. Whether it’ll be just another part of an extended lifecycle that ignores the system’s ageing technology as the sales roll in, or the beginning of a grand farewell, it doesn’t really matter. The Switch, as always, has games.
To avoid accusations of hyperbole, below are confirmed first-party games (or major crossovers) slated for this year, with a good few having release dates. Nintendo is already well on its way to having (or distributing) a major game almost every month, and as is the case early every year it’s only the starting picture.
It definitely feels like a case of ‘good things come to those who wait’, as delayed projects finally come to fruition, with a good number of non-Nintendo titles also catching our eye.
It’s worth highlighting that a lot of those without firm dates look like they should be comfortable arrivals for the year. The only notable doubts may be Bayonetta 3, which has had a long time in the oven but the scarcity of updates prior to last year’s new trailer still gives us some nerves, and of course The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2. The latter’s progress is inevitably the source of speculation and proclamations from those claiming to have insider knowledge on its development, with some confident it’ll hit a release late this year with ease, and others less sure. Ultimately, Zelda titles do tend to get pushed back in order to ensure they hit the right standards; it could be a festive highlight or slip to Spring next year. Whenever it comes, it’ll be a huge event.
As is always the case Nintendo will have more to reveal in the coming months, both big and small games. We’ll likely have have surprise ports or less prominent titles, as is the norm, and no doubt a blockbuster or two. It feels like time for some sort of Metroid Prime game, though the form is anyone’s guess with contradictory rumours over the past year. A HD remake of the original? A HD port of the Trilogy? We’d prefer the latter despite a lot of noise over the first option, but in either case it could serve as a wonderful warmup for Metroid Prime 4, which doesn’t seem likely this year based on the fact it’s had zero notable updates since it was restarted in early 2019. But, again, Nintendo does like to surprise.
Of course, rumours will swirl and there are other possible big hitters yet to be revealed. There’s been chatter over a new Donkey Kong game, or perhaps another 3D Mario (maybe Odyssey 2) that would be well timed with the upcoming movie, and it also seems like an opportune moment later this year for a second mainline Fire Emblem title considering the generosity of releases we saw in the 3DS generations. Even forgetting all the rumours, we can be sure that a few major titles will be revealed and boost excitement around the Switch.
All of this overlooks notable third-party efforts, of course, and there’s no sign of the eShop / download only scene slowing down either. In a sense this feels like it could be a reward year for gamers.
Good things certainly do come to those who wait.