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Why isn't Nintendo making a bigger deal out of its milestone 2021 anniversaries?

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The February 2021 Nintendo Direct came and went with little fanfare. As a showcase, specifically outlined to show off new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC and the Nintendo Switch games arriving in the first half of 2021, it speaks volumes that the most exciting announcement was for a game we won't see more of until 2022. Splatoon 3 is coming, finally. Its predecessor landed way back in 2017, and the thought of having to wait a whole year to ruin the lives of the janitorial staff stationed out of the Splatlands fills me with a deep sadness that no amount of Splatoon 2 game time could possibly paint over. 

Looking back, wistfully at a time where hope – hope for an F-Zero revival – still existed, it's clear that anybody daring enough to dip their toes into the speculation game yesterday afternoon got a little carried away. We let speculation get the better of us, again; radio silence from Nintendo for months (four months since the last Direct Mini, and 17 since the last generalised Direct showcase) will do that to even the most gracious of Switch owners. Looking forward to a long-awaited Breath of the Wild 2 update? Well, we found out that no update is on the near horizon and that we're getting a Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD remaster. It's basically the same thing, right?

Nintendo Direct 2021

Splatoon 3 Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Looking for a more comprehensive breakdown of everything Nintendo showed last night? We rounded up everything announced during the February 2021 Nintendo Direct.

With LucasFilm Games back at the Star Wars franchise's helm, would we see a return of Star Wars Rogue Squadron? No, but we can have squad-based multiplayer game Star Wars Hunters. Eager for news on Bayonetta 3 or Metroid Prime 4? Nintendo didn't acknowledge either game's existence, but it did announce that Stubbs the Zombie is getting an unlikely reanimation this Spring. I'm being a little facetious. I know that I am. I know that you probably are too. We wanted a Final Fantasy Tactics Advance remaster, and we're getting something titled (and this is real) 'Project Triangle Strategy' instead. 

I mean, I'll play it. I'll play the hell out of it. The same goes for those two Famicom Detective Games; I've spent much of my game-playing life eager to try Famicom Tantei Club for myself, and they are finally being localised for the West after languishing in the annals of history since 1988. Putting niche interests aside for a second, I think that many of us were hoping to see Nintendo fill out some of the gaps in its first-party lineup. 2021 is looking a little barren, and I had personally expected to spend much of this year replaying a run of Nintendo's greatest hits in my bedroom and from my bathtub. For a good reason, too; 2021 is filled with a genuinely chaotic amount of anniversaries you'd expect Nintendo to be celebrating.

Let us celebrate these anniversaries, Nintendo 

Animal Crossing GameCube

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo has always gone big on Super Mario anniversaries. In 2013, Nintendo graced us with The Year of Luigi to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the brother's first appearance. In 2020, the publisher celebrated the 35th anniversary of Super Mario with Super Mario 3D All-Stars – a fantastic package of remasters, all optimised for Switch – and continued the celebration into 2021 with the news that Mushroom Kingdom paraphernalia is being air-dropped to your island in Animal Crossing New Horizons.

On February 21, The Legend of Zelda is celebrating its 35th anniversary. It isn't unreasonable to have anticipated a similar package of ported games to arrive on Switch. Especially as it wouldn't be the first time Nintendo has put together something like this. In 2003, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition. At the time it was a must-own promotional item, a package of GameCube ports that collected the original The Legend of Zelda, Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time, and Majora's Mask. If for some reason that were off the table, a GameCube port of Twilight Princess also already exists – stripping out the cumbersome motion controls inherent to the Wii launch game, work that has had to be done for Skyward Sword's Switch debut – while Wind Waker was already made HD for Wii U in 2013. 

On some level, I suppose I expected The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition to no longer be a prized part of my GameCube collection and be made available from my Nintendo Switch game library this weekend – more fool me. The legendary Capcom Zelda games – Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages – are also celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Two experiences that would be well-placed for a Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening style makeover – the Game Boy Advance classics are far too good to be allowed to fade from view forever. 

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons

(Image credit: Nintendo / Capcom)

"The legendary Capcom Zelda games are celebrating their 20th anniversary, and would be well-placed for a Link's Awakening style makeover"

Aside from Zelda, February 27 marks the 25th anniversary of Pocket Monsters: Red and Green – better known to you, I'm sure, as Pokemon Red and Blue. That Nintendo is seemingly going to let the 25th anniversary of one of the best-selling role-playing games of all time pass it by without some kind of Switch celebration seems strange. Especially when 2004's Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen are sitting right there in the archive, begging for a port. Not to mention Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, whose remakes were long-rumoured to land this year in line with their own 15-year celebration. 

The thing is, we're not even close to being done. In April, we'll hit the 20th anniversary of Dōbutsu no Mori – the N64 debut of Animal Forest or, as you probably know it now, Animal Crossing. Bring Rover back, get him to set up an underwater train network, and run the tracks between my New Horizons island and the original 2001 settlement. I want to rekindle my friendship with Booker, the police dog, and get into an argument over memory card management with Mr Resetti. 

Speaking of New Horizons, the game is also, presumably, going to go big on its own first-year anniversary content. And while I don't want my island to become a dumping ground for anniversary tat from Nintendo's biggest franchises, I would quite like to put a replica decayed Master Sword in my Town Square and transform Blathers' museum into a retro-styled Pokemon Gym. The February Nintendo Direct didn't do much for those of us hoping for some anniversary good times, but perhaps that's waiting for us in the second half of 2021.

All eyes are on the second half of 2021

Metroid Prime

(Image credit: Nintendo)

We would probably be right to anticipate another Nintendo Direct in the Summer that will focus on the second half of 2021. The rumours of a Legend of Zelda anniversary package have not subsided, so perhaps we'll see something similar to what I detailed above arrive. Creating ports is by no means easy business, so I don't want it to come across that way, but you have to hope that the work done for the GameCube versions of these games can at least aliviate some of the pressure a little bit. 

In the second half of 2021, you have the 40th anniversary of Donkey Kong – for all intents and purposes, the beginning of it all for Nintendo. There's also the 35th anniversary of Kid Icarus and the 35th anniversary of Metroid. With no sign of life from Metroid Prime 4, you have to hope that work is being done to bring the Metroid Prime: Trilogy over to Switch. I'm desperate to revisit Tallon IV, but my GameCube memory card is long gone. It's been a long 12 months, we need this.

Nintendo might not have a great deal to showcase right now from its first-party studios, but it's also in an enviable position of being sat on an array of video game classics that still play great to this day. Anniversary packages can't fill the space entirely, but I have to imagine that few will find complaint in spending 2021 touring the greatest hits of Nintendo's greatest franchises. 

Nintendo's latest first-party release came out last week, and you can read our full Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury review by clicking the link, or you can watch the video review below.  

Josh West
Josh West

Josh West is Features Editor of GamesRadar+. With over 10 years experience in both online and print journalism, Josh has written for a number of gaming, entertainment, music, and tech publications, including 3D Artist, Edge, gamesTM, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. He holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing, has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh plays bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.