Nintendo is on a serious roll.
The company’s latest console, the Switch, is a major hit. The two biggest games for Switch are massively popular entries in the long-running “Super Mario” and “Legend of Zelda” franchises.
And the future looks as big – or maybe even bigger – for the Japanese gaming giant. How does a new Pokémon game for the Nintendo Switch sound to you? That’s just the beginning.
1. Everything old is new again.
In 2017, Nintendo rereleased “Mario Kart 8” on the Switch. The game previously arrived on the Wii U, the console that Nintendo sunset in favour of the Switch.
In 2018, Nintendo plans to rerelease “Bayonetta 2,” another game that launched exclusively on the Wii U. The game even comes with a copy of the first “Bayonetta.” This is part of Nintendo’s ongoing strategy to bring back the best games from the Wii U era – games the company views as underplayed because of how few people bought a Wii U.
“Given the install base of Wii U, there was some fantastic content that consumers did not get to play,” Nintendo of America’s president, Reggie Fils-Aimé, told Vice last year. “So that creates certainly a business opportunity.”
Beyond “Bayonetta” and “Bayonetta 2,” it seems likely we’ll see some of the Wii U’s other best stuff head to the Switch. Games like “Super Smash Bros.” and “Super Mario Maker” come to mind immediately, though there are opportunities to bring over other great stuff (like “Super Mario 3D World” and “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker”).
2. Nintendo’s online service is finally going to light up in September.
The Nintendo Switch Online service is scheduled to launch in September at a price of $US20 a year. For that price, you’ll get instant access to a classic game library and the ability to play games online.
You read that correctly: Nintendo is going to gate access to online gameplay.
After this service launches, you’ll need to fork over a subscription fee to play online games on the Nintendo Switch. For the $US20 price of entry, though, you’ll also gain access to a library of classic games. The only three games announced thus far are “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Dr. Mario,” and “Balloon Fight,” which are all classic Nintendo Entertainment System games.
It’s unclear whether Nintendo will have a separate Virtual Console-like service, as it has in the past – such a service has traditionally offered a paid library of à la carte classic games. That could very well also be coming in 2018, but we just don’t know.
3. A “core” Pokémon game is being made for Nintendo’s Switch, and it could arrive as early as 2018.
A new entry in the “Pokémon” series is coming to the Switch, and it’s not a spin-off. We’re talking about a “core RPG Pokémon title,” according to Tsunekazu Ishihara, the president of The Pokémon Company.
That’s a huge deal. Main-series “Pokémon” games have only ever come to Nintendo’s handheld game consoles. But with the Switch, Nintendo’s main game console is also its main handheld console. And that means there’s only one place for Pokémon to go: the Switch!
In fairness, the game may not arrive in 2018.
When the project was announced, it was said to be “more than a year out.” That was back in June 2017, so it’s possible this game isn’t anywhere close to completion. That said, it was also unlikely that Nintendo would launch major “Super Mario” and “Legend of Zelda” games in the same year, but that was exactly what Nintendo did in 2017.
4. New games in the “Kirby” and “Yoshi” franchises, and a new “Mario Tennis” game!
With major games starring Mario and Link in 2017, Nintendo is trotting out its B-tier stars in 2018. New games starring Kirby and Yoshi are expected to launch this year on the Switch, as well as a new “Mario Tennis” and a re-release of the Wii U’s (excellent) “Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze.”
“Kirby Star Allies” looks like a return to form for the franchise, with Kirby traipsing through 2D levels, sucking in enemies, and absorbing their powers. It’s scheduled to arrive on March 16.
The new “Yoshi” game doesn’t even have an official title yet – it’s just known as “Yoshi” thus far, like the original game – nor does it have a launch date beyond 2018. It looks like a sequel to the Wii U game “Yoshi’s Wooly World” (which itself was a sort-of sequel to “Yoshi’s Island”). That means you’re controlling Yoshi in a 2D world that has 3D depth, taking out enemies with flying eggs and floating awkwardly over dangerous drops.
5. A new way to play Nintendo Switch games: Labo!
Part game, part educational tool, Labo is a delightful new idea that feels familiar and fresh at the same time.
That cardboard piano you see above? It works!
The screen in the middle is a Switch tablet, and the console’s controllers are embedded inside the piano. It’s this combination of cardboard creation and Nintendo Switch console that, together, is known as “Nintendo Labo.”
Labo is an entirely new project from Nintendo. For $US70, you get a box full of construction tools that can be used to create a variety of different projects. One of those projects is the piano seen above, but there are several others that are equally delightful (from a fishing pole to an RC car).
In addition to creating cardboard constructions, Labo comes with a game cartridge that contains software intended for use with said constructions.
There are two Labo kits – the “Variety Kit,” which is $US70, and the “Robot Kit,” which is $US80 – and they’re both scheduled to arrive on April 20.
6. A game for every month.
Nintendo has major releases planned for its Switch console throughout 2018. It’s the same successful strategy that elevated the Switch from a fledgling new console to a gaming powerhouse in just nine months.
As Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima said in the company’s latest financial report, a steady cadence of major game releases “serve as powerful drivers for hardware sales.” In so many words: A regular supply of good games encourages consumers to buy Nintendo Switch consoles.
It’s entirely likely the roadmap laid out above will expand as the year goes on – this is just what we know so far.
7. “Mario Kart” — coming to your phone!
Here’s everything we know about the recently announced “Mario Kart Tour,” a new smartphone game from Nintendo:
“We plan to release a smart-device application from the Mario Kart franchise, Mario Kart Tour, during the next financial year (from April 2018 to March 2019). We will announce further details at a later date.”
That’s Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima in the company’s latest financial presentation, from February 1. There are no images, and there’s no indication of how the game will play. We have the statement and logo seen above, and that’s it.
If Nintendo’s previous smartphone games are any indication, expect “Mario Kart Tour” to be a pared down version of the game you’re used to playing on Nintendo consoles. “Super Mario Run,” for instance, is a simplified version of a traditional 2D Mario game. Perhaps “Mario Kart Tour” will handle acceleration automatically, and turning will be handled by using your phone’s motion controls. Maybe the focus will be on tactically using pick-ups like red shells and banana peels instead of the racing itself.
To be clear, this is purely an educated guess based on Nintendo’s past and how racing games tend to work on smartphones – it’s entirely possible the game is something completely different! Nintendo isn’t offering any details just yet.
8. A new “Metroid Prime” game is in the works.
Realistically speaking, it’s extremely unlikely that “Metroid Prime 4” will launch in 2018. Nintendo has said next to nothing about the project; it was announced via a teaser trailer last June, with nothing beyond the logo teased.
The game doesn’t even have a projected launch window. Take a look at this very teasy announcement video:
That said, it would be another huge notch for Nintendo to get out such a highly anticipated game in 2018. The company has repeatedly said one of its main goals with the Switch is to keep a steady cadence of major games coming out month after month, and “Metroid Prime 4” in 2018 would be a great way to keep that up.
9. Major third-party games are headed to the Switch in 2018.
Starting in February with “Payday 2,” “Dragon Quest Builders,” and “Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 Plus,” the Nintendo Switch is getting a lot more support from so-called third-party game makers in 2018.
Major publishers like Square Enix are working on games like “Project Octopath Traveller” (there’s a free demo up on the Switch digital storefront right now), and Bethesda Softworks has “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus” in the works. Ubisoft is getting a port of “Steep” prepared, and a new entry in the “No More Heroes” franchise is headed exclusively to the Switch.
You may find some of these games on the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, or the PC, but it’s a big symbolic move for the companies behind them to support the Switch. It’s been over a decade since Nintendo most recently had strong support from third-party game publishers on its main video game console, and the Switch is helping to rekindle those relationships.
10. Indies? Nindies!
Nintendo’s Switch is rife with blockbuster games from Nintendo’s development teams, but it has also become the go-to console for great indie games.
In 2018, that trend continues with a huge new indie game getting a long-awaited sequel: “Super Meat Boy Forever.”
In addition to a new “Super Meat Boy,” the final entry in the “Shovel Knight” franchise is headed to the Switch in 2018.
11. How about a new “Animal Crossing”? Or maybe “Pikmin”?
There are still plenty of Nintendo franchises that could use a spin on the Switch. The most notable ones are obvious: “Super Smash Bros.,” “Animal Crossing,” and “Star Fox” all come to mind immediately.
Then there’s the more obscure stuff: “WarioWare,” “Punch-Out,” “F-Zero,” Nintendogs,” “Dr. Mario,” and “Brain Training.” And that’s before you start talking about really obscure stuff like “Earthbound.”
All to say one thing: Nintendo still has miles of depths to plumb before it runs out of classic characters and game franchises.