If you remove Animal Crossing: New Horizons from Nintendo’s 2020 roster, the gaming giant didn’t offer much in the way of new games this year. We know that’s like saying, “If I didn’t take out a giant student loan, I’d have no debt,” but still – for a company as huge as Nintendo, one big game and one big collaboration (Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, with Koei Tecmo) isn’t a lot in one year. Granted, COVID delayed a lot of games, but Nintendo’s prospects for 2021 have been incredibly quiet.
So what can Switch fans reasonably expect out of Nintendo next year?
Series-Wide Speculation: Pokemon’s 25th Anniversary
As of February 27, 2021 – the anniversary of Red and Green’s (yes, Green) Japanese release, aka “Pokemon Day” – Pokemon will have been around for a quarter century. If that makes you feel ancient, welcome to the club. Then, cheer up, because it’s cause for celebration.
All indicators point to Pokemon having big plans to celebrate this benchmark, and we already know about a couple of them. A few months ago, Nintendo announced a sequel to the 1999 N64 classic Pokemon Snap, entitled… wait for it… New Pokemon Snap. We know almost nothing about New Pokemon Snap, except that it exists and that it appears to expand significantly beyond the original 150 Pokemon present in the first game. However, we can definitely expect it to come out next year. Sometime.
That same batch of announcements also unveiled Pokemon Unite, a 5-on-5 online, cross-platform strategy game that works both on the Switch and your mobile device. It appears that you play a Pokemon trainer who works with your teammates to catch, train, and battle your Pokemon, just like Ash Ketchum! But, you guessed it, we don’t know anything about its release date.
We know even less about the Detective Pikachu game coming to the Switch. Many outlets are calling it “Detective Pikachu 2,” assuming it’ll be a direct sequel to the 3DS game. This would make sense, given that the first game ended on a cliffhanger, but the Pokemon Company hasn’t actually said it’s a sequel; it could just be a port. And before you ask, googling “Detective Pikachu 2” gets muddled with the soundly-rumored sequel to the 2019 movie (which is good news, actually – Detective Pikachu the film was a goddamn delight.)
Anyway, more information about this mysterious Detective Pikachu game seems likely in 2021, but whether or not we can actually expect to play it as part of the 25th anniversary is less certain.
Naturally, there are other rumors galore. The most credible one is a Switch remake of Diamond and Silver, which were the fourth generation of games. Considering that the first three generations got their own remakes, and the latest released in 2014, a do-over of Diamond and Silver seems not only likely, but actively overdue.
Other speculations include a Pokemon anniversary collection similar to the Mario collection Nintendo released this year. Who knows? The only certainty is that Pokemon fans can expect a solid 2021.
Series-Wide Speculation: The Legend of Zelda
Between Mario’s 35th anniversary and Pokemon’s 25th, another major anniversary has fallen shamefully through the hype-cracks: The Legend of Zelda’s own 35th anniversary.
Absolutely nothing has been announced, but there’s plenty that could happen. Back in August, Amazon UK slipped up and briefly allowed pre-orders for a Switch port of Skyward Sword that still hasn’t been announced. While that doesn’t mean the port definitely exists, the HD remasters of its two predecessors, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, for the Wii U gives precedent to remastering Skyward Sword for the Switch.
For that matter, port those HD Wind Waker and Twilight Princess remakes to the Switch, too. There’s already a Change.org petition for Twilight Princess. Give the people what they want!
Of course, the game every Zelda fan is losing their mind in anticipation for is Breath of the Wild 2. Unfortunately, Nintendo has shed no additional light on the sequel since announcing its existence at E3 2019.
This gap is the longest between new mainline Zelda games since the five-year period between Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time back in the 90s. It seems likely the team was originally aiming for BotW2 to be released during Zelda’s anniversary year, but we don’t know how COVID has affected the game’s timeline. Fall 2021 is probably the earliest we could expect a release, but be prepared for having to wait until 2022.
Other Pre-Announced Games
As much as we’re looking forward to Pokemon and Zelda’s anniversaries, we’re still in the midst of Mario’s. As the last big flagpole to that celebration, Nintendo is releasing an “enhanced” version of the beloved Wii U game, Super Mario 3D World, which will also include a DLC-of-sorts called Bowser’s Fury. Considering this game has co-op and catsuits, this is a port I will gladly accept when it comes out on February 12, 2021. (The date in the trailer is in Japanese date-month-year format, be not afraid.)
Nintendo will also be releasing Bravely Default II in February. This retro-vibed RPG was pushed back from its original 2020 release. If you missed the first Bravely Default because you didn’t have a 3DS, don’t worry: the sequel will feature a completely different cast and story, so it’s more of a Final Fantasy situation than a direct sequel situation. Plus, if you’re still unsure, there’s a free demo available right now.
No More Heroes 3 was also originally supposed to be released in 2020 – but, you know, pandemic. Fans are highly anticipating the first addition to the series in more than a decade, but we don’t know exactly when in 2021 we can expect the further adventures of the spectacularly-named assassin Travis Touchdown.
Any aspirations for Persona 5 to receive a Switch release are fading rapidly, but at least Atlus announced a Switch-exclusive for later in 2021. Shin Megami Tensei V is the latest mainline game of Atlus’s other big series. Actually, scratch that – Persona is actually a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei. So bereaved P5 fans can at least take some solace in that.
Additionally, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne is getting an HD remaster for the Switch in the spring.
The Switch is also getting not one, but two games from Capcom’s acclaimed Monster Hunter series. A Switch-exclusive addition to the mainline action series, Monster Hunter Rise, will be released on March 26. In addition, a sequel to the 3DS’s more RPG-style Monster Hunter Stories, entitled Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, will be available sometime in summer 2021.
Alas, two of the most highly anticipated games for the Switch remain two of Nintendo’s biggest mysteries.
Our last outing with Samus was way back in 2007, so fans were elated when Nintendo announced Metroid Prime 4 in 2017. However, we’ve heard absolutely nothing about the game in an official capacity since January 2019, when Nintendo announced they were starting over development from scratch, with a new studio at the helm.
So, really, the ultimate release date of Metroid Prime 4 could be anyone’s guess, but there’s reason to believe Retro Studios is making progress.
Bayonetta 3 was also announced in 2017, but since then, we’ve heard even less about it than we’ve heard about Metroid Prime 4, which is to say: nothing.
Still, both Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3 are in the “maybe” category for 2021. Neither is impossible, but they’re definitely not assured, either. Given the lack of bad-news-updates on Bayonetta 3, though, it seems safe to say that fans can expect that game before Metroid.
Unlikely: The Switch Pro
Many were expecting Nintendo to announce a “pro” version of the Switch in the near future – a version with higher-resolution graphics and, just maybe, Joy-Cons that aren’t plagued with the dreaded Joy-Con Drift.
However, the miraculously-named president of Nintendo of America, Doug Bowser, recently squashed these hopes. In an interview with Polygon, Bowser said Nintendo believes they’re “just at the midpoint of this life cycle of this platform.”
Some might find this disappointing but, on the other hand, money is tight for a lot of people right now. It’s legitimately good news to know Switch owners will be getting their money’s worth out of this generation of Nintendo systems.
2021 will absolutely be The Year of Pokemon, and it might also be a good year for Zelda fans. We’ll also see the release of a lot of 2020 games that were delayed because of COVID. As for the Big Three – Breath of the Wild 2, Bayonetta 3 and Metroid Prime 4 – we may have to wait for a little while longer.