The Switch isn’t slowing down, despite a new console era looming
Looking at the Switch’s catalogue this year, you wouldn’t have thought it was a console entering its seventh year.
A huge Zelda game alone elevates any year, and we got one in 2023. We also got a new 2D Mario, Fire Emblem, Pikmin game and some remakes/remasters of some of the most beloved games in Nintendo history.
With rumours of a new Switch console growing more substantial, let’s look back at Nintendo’s 2023 and how it might just be the greatest year of releases for the Switch yet.
Small but Mighty
When I think about the best year for the Switch, I think back to its debut year - 2017. This year had a new Zelda game and a new 3D Mario, both of which might be Nintendo’s most critically acclaimed video game series. This one-two punch solidified the Switch's position as a console that was worth your time. And that's before we factor in the ever-popular Mario Kart 8: Deluxe released that same year.
2023 had Zelda too, but rather than 3D Mario, we got 2D Mario. Thankfully, Super Mario Bros Wonder is more on par with its 3D counterparts. Instead of simply replicating the same formula from the New Super Mario Bros line-up of games, it’s an imaginative playground with new ideas being introduced at every turn.
Tears of the Kingdom took the groundwork laid by Breath of the Wild and re-invented what open-world Zelda can be. Its creativity is unparalleled, offering players an immense canvas to explore at their own pace and a huge array of tools to turn Hyrule into their own ridiculous toybox. I still can't quite believe it fits on that tiny cartridge.
These two games alone would be enough to call 2023 one of the best for the Switch. I can’t really think of a bad year - maybe 2021, but calling a year with Metroid Dread a bad year for the console seems foolish. Still, 2023 stands tall with a long list of other releases in popular franchises.
If you’re a general Nintendo fan, you were treated to a new Pikmin game - the first since Pikmin 3 in 2013. A decade later this series is still one of Nintendo’s most charming and original. As I mentioned in my review, Pikmin 4 is a tiny titan - the kind of game that doesn’t feel like a game of the year contender, but anyone who’s played it must at least consider it.
Fire Emblem Engage was a big one, but it’s often forgotten about due to its January release date. Still, it just about landed in 2023, so we can add it to the list. Metroid Prime Remastered was my first experience with the Gamecube classic, and I can’t believe it took me this long to play it. It feels like it could’ve been released for the first time this year, showing the quality the team captured back in 2002. And we can't forget about Super Mario RPG, which had a fresh coat of paint and a re-introduction to a modern audience.
With so many major titles released across the year, it’s almost impossible to imagine a new console could be on the horizon. It doesn’t feel like the Switch is running out of steam, or that these big games are being held back for a next-gen launch. They’re being released on a seven-year-old console, a console somehow able to squeeze these game’s contents onto a tiny cartridge.
We’re getting even more Switch games in 2024 too, from a brand new Princess Peach game to a Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remaster. These are highly anticipated titles, but they’re not quite on the level of Tears of the Kingdom or Mario Wonder - perhaps a sign that 2024 could finally be the year we move on to what comes next. Nintendo likes to hold things close to their chest though.
So if 2023 introduced us to a new Zelda, 2D Mario, Fire Emblem, Pikmin and more, what could await on the next console?
The obvious answer is Mario Kart. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe launched in 2017, and the original Mario Kart 8 launched even earlier in 2014 for the Wii U. That technically means we haven’t had an actual new Mario Kart game since the Wii U days, if you don’t count the mobile game Mario Kart Tour.
To put that in context, GTA V came out in 2013. We’ve just seen the first trailer for GTA VI a whole decade later, yet we haven’t seen any new Mario Kart game news yet. It’s quite crazy to think Mario Kart now rivals GTA in terms of the long wait for a brand-new game.
The next “Switch”, whatever Nintendo decides to call it, needs to have Mario Kart. It’s the ultimate Nintendo multiplayer game, arguably more than Super Smash Bros, and fans have been desperate for a brand-new title. The Booster Course Pass DLC was a great way to bridge the gap, but it’s time for a fresh experience.
Speaking of Super Smash Bros, it’s pretty clear to me that Nintendo will want a new brawler on their next console. We don’t know what form it will take, whether it’ll be a complete re-imagining or just a continuation of Ultimate, but there’s a 0% chance we won’t get Smash eventually.
With a brand new Zelda launching so recently, it seems likely the next console will bring back some Zelda classics to satiate the fans. Every Nintendo console needs a Zelda game of some kind, but we have a long way to go before the next new title. Remasters of some older games are an ideal way to pull in that part of Nintendo's fanbase.
But what about Metroid Prime 4? That game was announced years ago for the Switch, then development restarted, and now we haven’t heard anything about the long-awaited shooter. If I had to guess I’d say it’ll be saved for Nintendo’s next console, perhaps as a dual-release in the same vein as Breath of the Wild. That game is truly an enigma though, so who knows what'll happen.
Finally, there are some major platformers we haven’t seen in a while. 3D Mario is the big one, and I’d wager we’ll be getting a fully-fledged title like Odyssey pretty early in the next console’s lifespan. And Donkey Kong has been absent for far too long, so I’m personally hoping the iconic ape will return in a new adventure soon.
Until we know what the next console actually is, it’s impossible to truly predict what’s in store. Nintendo has a tendency to do the opposite of what you’d expect them to do. The Switch is immensely popular, so naturally we should get a stronger Switch with better graphics and performance, but I’m pretty certain Nintendo won’t take such a simple approach.
As for what they will do, your guess is as good as mine. Just put Donkey Kong on it, please.