Last year Nintendo came to E3 with one game, the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. In retrospect, Zelda ending up being one of the best games made in recent years but it was still only one game. The Zelda-only E3 2016 was indicative of something that’s now obvious about Nintendo, they just don’t care about E3 like they used to. It’s not like they had nothing to show last year. At the time, their latest console was less than a year away from release yet we heard nothing of the Switch, then known as NX. That’s right, it’s hard to believe but the Switch was revealed, marketed and launched without ever seeing an E3. I honestly can’t think of a single major gaming platform that can claim the same. This is why predicting Nintendo’s position the next twelve months by looking at this year’s E3 is almost pointless. Nintendo has settled on revealing projects throughout the calendar year through surprise Nintendo Direct presentations and stealth press releases.
Even so, Nintendo didn’t come to Los Angeles empty handed. We learned a lot about the immediate future of the brand new Nintendo Switch and veteran Nintendo 3DS and both seem relatively bright. When the Switch was first shown in earnest during Nintendo’s January special presentation a thin 2017 line-up circulated the internet and many lamented that Nintendo was once again doomed to failure due to long software droughts and weak third party support. We’re only 6 months away from that presentation and the second half of 2017 is beginning to look extremely crowded. With at least one noteworthy first party title every month, several third party titles, and a surprisingly healthy stream of compelling indie titles, the Switch will know no droughts in its first year like the Wii U did. The amazing part of it is that these are not bite sized experiences or first generation experiments that many may expect in a console’s first year. Much of the Switch’s year one line up are massive single player experiences or robust multiplayer titles that require long term commitments. Open world action games and RPGs buttress the 2017 lineup with The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 joining Breath of the Wild by year’s end. Competitive multiplayer experiences like Arms, Pokken Tournament and Splatoon 2 join third party titles like Payday 2. Unfortunately there still seems to be tepid support from third parties as many of the biggest titles are still missing from Nintendo’s lineup. Games like the latest Madden, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Anthem, Monster Hunter World are nowhere to be seen. It’s possible that these games are just out of the Switch’s league but less taxing third party offerings like Life is Strange Before the Storm or South Park Fractured but Whole are also noticeably absent. As Nintendo’s development houses transition away from 3DS support in the coming year and third parties begin to recognize the system’s success, these holes in the Switch’s line up will become less relevant but until then Nintendo will have to do most of the heavy lifting.
While Nintendo focused mostly on 2017, they did offer a glimpse of what they had in store for next year and beyond. Games like a new Yoshi platformer and a new entry in the Kirby series we’re shown and look like solid additions to each franchise. The real story, however, was the announcement of both a new Metroid Prime and a core Pokemon RPG for Switch. Neither title was shown and I hazard to give too much credit for a logo a few words but these are megaton announcements among the Nintendo faithful. Metroid fans have been hungry for a the return of the Prime sub series for years and Pokemon fans have wanted a core console entry since the Nintendo 64 days. Indeed, the Pokemon title alone will ensure that the Switch has a bright future ahead of it.
For the immediate future, big releases like Spatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids and Fire Emblem Warriors will lead to the crown jewel of the 2017 line up, Super Mario Odyssey. The Switch’s flagship Mario looks and plays like a modern interpretation of Super Mario 64. Open spaces and large worlds are the core of Odyssey, making it the first major sandbox 3D platformer in years.
On the 3DS front, Nintendo continues to support the aging platform with new and exciting titles like a sequel to last year’s Pokémon Sun and Moon, a new IP in the form of the RPG Ever Oasis, the Mii centred role playing game Miitopia and a ground up remake of Metroid II, Metroid Samus Returns due this September. Nintendo’s handheld still has at least another year of quality titles headed to it and for those that still can’t find a Switch in stores, it may be worth exploring what’s coming to Nintendo’s elder machine. As for Switch, many questions still remain about its future. The state of Nintendo’s paid online network and the details of the Switch’s Virtual Console service to name a few, but Nintendo has managed to use this E3 to build on the success of the Switch launch. With several big and meaty games releasing every month and a future that includes a mainline Pokemon title, it’s clear that Switch and the Wii U will not share the same fate.