Nintendo has, somewhat quietly, had a pretty packed year. Even if you only count first-party releases, it’s been busy from start to finish. Nothing has taken over the world quite like Animal Crossing: New Horizons did on release in 2020, but nothing could really measure up besides The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – which has been delayed once again into 2023.
And yet, Nintendo still managed to put out two iterations of Pokemon this year. Pokemon Legends: Arceus finally proved that Pokemon really could shift to an open-world design without losing its magic, even if Pokemon Scarlet and Violet didn’t fully capitalize on the concept – it having launched with some significant performance issues. That’s not to mention the popular releases of anticipated sequels such as Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It has truly been a banner year for new installments in staple franchises.
If there’s one thing seriously lacking from Nintendo this year, though, outside of the mixed bag that's been Pokemon in 2022, it’s what might be considered tentpole releases. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is perhaps the closest to this, being a new and expansive Kirby game that’s also been well received – but it’s hard to imagine people talking about Kirby's latest jaunt going forward in the same way as, say, Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Years later, the Nintendo Switch is still largely defined by its launch lineup, or the games that landed shortly thereafter.
There was also no new hardware launched this year, which isn’t exactly surprising. After the release of the Nintendo Switch OLED model last year, the rumors and sketchy reports of a Switch 2 or Switch Pro didn’t exactly fade away, but they did change form. It seems likely that whatever the inevitable followup bit of hardware is called, it’ll still be some time off. Despite the fact that it is obviously in competition with Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo continues to play by its own rules, so even if the former announces new half-step iterations in the near future, there’s no guarantee Nintendo will do similar.
And frankly, that might be just fine. While some games seem to struggle on the Switch, other games of similar stature and expansiveness do not. The hardware itself doesn’t seem to be the problem but rather how developers are using it. Additionally, the folks behind the companies behind the consoles increasingly seem to care less about any one particular year and more about the overall health of the current platform and its longevity.
Link to the future
That’s not to say Nintendo hasn’t been busy. In other ways, the company continues to grow and stretch while still making it known that it hasn’t totally forgotten about what came before. Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Strikers: Battle League might not blow everyone away, but for diehard fans of the previous games, they are a welcome sight and a delightful time. More titles continue to be added to Nintendo Switch Online and its expansion, and this year also saw the first truly good look at whatever The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom ends up being like.
All of which is to say: the heart of what makes Nintendo, well, Nintendo is still beating, and that consistency is something neither of its direct competitors have. The promotional machine for 2023 is already well underway with the opening of Super Nintendo World, as well as the release of the animated Super Mario Bros. Movie firmly on the horizon. Without the benefit of long-term hindsight, who can really say how 2022 has been for Nintendo, but at this juncture, 2022 seems like a fine though not stellar year for the company. And, again, that’s perfectly all right.
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