What does Nintendo have planned for 2021?

Since the Big N has been keeping its cards to its chest, providing scant details on new projects, I gaze into my crystal ball and conjure up what Nintendo has planned for the upcoming year.


As 2021 gains momentum and the New Year fades into the new fiscal year, let's take a guess at what Nintendo might have up its sleeves for the next 11 months. I’ll take some easy shots, I’ll make some wild speculation, but more importantly, we’ll have some fun along the way. There is a lot to be potentially excited about as we move into the fourth year of the Nintendo Switch’s lifespan. Of course there will be new games, maybe a new Switch entirely, and maybe we’ll see Nintendo’s most well-known mascot take a back seat to upcoming anniversaries. Grab your tarot cards as I try to invoke the secrets Nintendo is hiding.

Mario had his time to celebrate, but there are lots of anniversaries coming up.

Was today our anniversary?!

With Mario’s big 35th out of the way, Nintendo has some choices to make. As we continue through 2021, every franchise introduced in 1986 will reach the same milestone. There won't be room for everyone when it comes time to decide who to highlight and who to snub again. With “The Legend of Zelda” debuting on February 21st, the celebration must surely be right around the corner. Zelda isn’t the only beloved franchise turning 35 this year. Our favorite femme fatale bounty-hunter is also getting older on August 6th. Recent years have been tumultuous at best for the Metroid property, but there’s never a better time than now to turn it around and show fans that Nintendo also cares about restoring peace to the galaxy. However, F-Zero’s 30th anniversary sped by on November 21, 2020, with barely a “You got boost power!” Will Samus be overlooked the same as Captain Falcon?

There is also the long-shot anniversary of Kid Icarus. This game won’t reach the big three-five until 2021 is almost over, on December 19th. My guess is that Nintendo won’t give Pit his due until next year, if at all. Whoever gets the big soiree, it’s time for Mario to move along and let some other franchises shine. Besides, things might get even more dire for the beloved plumber.

The most recent of myriad 'death scenes' Mario has endured over the years.

The death of Jumpman

Mario is going to die. His time is over. 35 long years is something to be proud of, but it’s time for Mario to retire like Takaya Imamura. Nintendo can only tease the man of many suits meeting his grim fate so many times before the gag gets stale. Big N needs to commit and cast aside its bread and butter. If you can kill Superman, surely you can have some after-life fun with our favorite video game mascot. It also can’t go without mention, what is going to happen with Super Mario Bros. 35 and Super Mario 3D All-stars? Will we truly never be able to play SMB35 again? Will 3D All-Stars be chopped up piecemeal and sold digitally only, making the physical edition a limited product as claimed?

With the fate of these two games in the balance on March 31st, it seems the time is ripe to cast Mario into the sunset and make a big to-do about it. Could 2021 be the next year of Luigi, or will it be time for other notable characters to shine? Imagine a slate of Mushroom Kingdom spin-offs without the iconic red cap. This is obviously way out there and a world without Mario most likely means a world without Nintendo. I would love to see more risks taken like the original Luigi’s Mansion or Super Princess Peach. I would be surprised but delighted as well to see these new risks really take advantage of some new hardware.

One of many Switch Pro fan-made concepts that will surely never come to life. via Computer Bild https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGOfqC7JSc0

To dock or not to dock

"This is the year that Nintendo will release the Switch Pro." I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that claim repeated for the past two trips around the sun. As the console reaches the end of its Senior year and graduates into a new generation, the claim of a Switch Pro looks less like a prediction and more like an inevitability. I think the more interesting conversation lies around the form factor of this Switch Pro that is "totally coming out this year." The gulf between dedicated home consoles and the Nintendo hybrid handheld has expanded into an ocean this past holiday season, and more and more Switch ports are starting to struggle with the chipset on offer. A system can’t survive on first-party titles alone, as incredible as Nintendo software is at showcasing its hardware. History has proved this over the course of the industry, and third-parties have flocked to the Switch since its release, but that can only last so long when ports become unfeasible.

This is where the crystal ball starts to become cloudy. I want to say there’s no way Nintendo would make a TV-only version of its hit system but it's already had success with a version that is confined to mobile play. I suspect the inverse could potentially be a hit with many people leaving their Switch in the dock at all times. The prospect is enticing, but I don’t know if the Big N wants to create a split player base with future games featuring drastic performance differences or not working at all on various hardware revisions. As difficult as it is to predict the moves that Nintendo might make here, we know that it only need one mega-hit to keep those units moving.

Will Breath of the Wild 2 be the tent-pole of the Nintendo 2021 circus?

One hit can go a long way

2020 was decent for the Kyoto, Japan-based titan of interactive entertainment. Despite the global pandemic and delay on everyone’s lives, the Switch consistently topped sales charts month after month, with games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons steering the ship. The lackadaisical life-simulator remained relevant throughout the tough times, garnering award acclaim and appearing alongside giants such as The Last of Us Part II and Final Fantasy VII Remake. Nintendo has a few things cooking that could steal 2021 and keep them in the debate with Sony and Microsoft. I can’t claim to be Nostradamus by saying Breath of the Wild 2 could very well be the game that Nintendo leans on this year. The previous launch title changed open-world games and Zelda forever, cementing a new path that felt so perfect for many lifetime fans of the franchise.

I’m seeing a parallel here, one that is too obvious to ignore. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time also upended the adventure series, laying the foundations for decades to come. That achievement was quickly followed by a darker, more mature direct sequel utilizing the same engine and assets as its predecessor. This is the year history repeats itself for Zelda. Breath of the Wild is undoubtedly the most important game in the series since Ocarina. The stars are aligned and the moon is perched high, ready to fall again.

I don’t think we have long to wait until we get to explore the vast Hyrule that immersed us four years ago, but with a much darker tone and story that could rival Majora’s Mask as the most memorable Zelda continuation. I’m willing to wager that the follow-up last shown in June of 2019 was supposed to come out at the end of 2020 given Nintendo’s current mindset of “we'll show it when it’s ready”.

Nintendo will show us what's coming out of Kyoto when it feel like it.

The big “N” stands for “Not shown ‘til ready”

If there’s one thing I can conclude with any certainty, it’s that we’ll have to prognosticate until Nintendo decides it’s time to release something. Be it a hotly anticipated sequel or a sorely needed hardware refresh, we won’t see anything until it’s close enough to completion that any delays would be minor or altogether mitigated. And those are the delays that we actually hear about, it’s a different world for the Nintendo Switch than when we first laid hand on the hybrid. Most projects have been put on hold in some way or another and this year will have the advantages of lessons learned from the last.

I’m very excited and hopeful for the remainder of 2021 and how Nintendo is planning on seizing it. The Big N is wise to keep its past relevant as it prepares to impress us in the future, but don’t expect to see anything before it's ready to lift the veil and uncloud our eyes. For more views on the upcoming year and the games we're looking forward to, be sure to peruse our most anticipated list as well as the indie titles that might make their way home soon, including quite a few on the Nintendo Switch.

Contributing Editor

From the test launch of the NES in New York to 4K gaming in his living room, Bryan Lefler has been immersed in video games his entire life. Battle tested in the arena shooters of the turn of the century yet kind to all animals that may cross him, Bryan enjoys a breadth of games but strives to be the best in any contest of digital skill. He is a former esports competitor and has been part of the Shacknews community for over 15 years. You can also catch him on skankcore64 streams on the Shacknews Twitch channel where he plays through the N64 library and follow him on Twitter @skankcore.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 29, 2021 9:00 AM

    Bryan Lefler posted a new article, What does Nintendo have planned for 2021?

    • reply
      January 29, 2021 9:15 AM

      Yeah, we really don't know and it's quite frustrating.

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        January 29, 2021 9:19 AM

        I really hope it's as good as I'm forecasting!

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        January 29, 2021 10:01 AM

        Now that Nintendo has switched to the Directs and just talking to customers directly they play it close to the chest. Usually they lay out the first part of the year with the January Direct, then the 2nd half with the E3 direct. But no January direct this year so who knows.

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          January 29, 2021 3:14 PM

          Yeah, it's been extra super close to the chest and while we appreciate the occasional surprise release having nothing on the calendar is worrisome.

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      January 29, 2021 9:48 AM


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      January 29, 2021 10:27 AM

      I just want BOTW 2

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        January 29, 2021 10:33 AM

        It’s this year or bust. I would bet anything it got delayed internally near the beginning of last year when they realized they couldn’t make holiday 2020, and we didn’t hear about it.

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          January 29, 2021 10:33 AM

          Hopefully! I might have to get a second switch when it comes out or my wife and I will be fighting over it

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      January 29, 2021 12:05 PM

      2021 Nintendo Strategy: slow dev cycles on anything innovative and port more old classics to make more moneyhats. EZ

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      January 29, 2021 1:32 PM

      I think this is the year we'll finally see some footage of Metroid Prime 4.

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        January 29, 2021 2:48 PM

        I really hope so, they would steal the show this summer around what used to be E3 if they announced BOTW2 for holiday release and showed an in-game teaser of MP4 that ended on a major reveal.

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      January 29, 2021 1:33 PM

      Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze advanced pricing strategies.

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      January 29, 2021 3:16 PM


    • rms legacy 10 years legacy 20 years mercury super mega
      February 1, 2021 6:44 AM

      haha a fun article woven entirely of dreams and fairydust, i like it!

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