Nintendo’s Year In Review – Our Team Chats Big Switch Games, Butt Discourse, And Sakurai’s Cat
Well, folks, 2023 is almost here. Another year has passed us by and it was undoubtedly an interesting, busy period for Switch owners, even if it lacked a mainline Mario or Zelda. We’ve seen major industry players make huge acquisitions, two major new Pokémon titles launch, and the delay of what may well be the most anticipated Switch game of all time with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom slipping to May 2023.
Before we settle in for the New Year celebrations and collapse from consuming our body weight in samosas and sausage rolls, a few of our team got together to talk through 2022 and all its ups and downs.
Let’s get cracking!
Ollie Reynolds, Staff Writer: Well, 2022, huh..? Looking back, it kind of felt like a bit of a quiet year at times, but there was actually quite a lot going on!
Gavin Lane, Editor: It was a busy one from my perspective, even with Switch getting long in the tooth. Every month brought a fresh batch of things I was desperate to play but didn’t have time for!
Alana Hagues, Staff Writer: Definitely. When you think of ‘big’ events, there weren’t many, but there were enough big games and tons of little things going on that I felt like I was walking on eggshells all year. I think I’ve bought more this year on Switch than ever before – including that Splatoon 3 OLED.
OR: A wise purchase, to be sure. So starting with January, we saw Microsoft make a move to acquire Activision Blizzard, of all things! Doesn’t it feel like that whole debacle has been going on for much longer, somehow..?
AH: And it’s still technically going on! This year feels like the year of acquisitions in the industry. Embracer Group with Square’s western studios, plenty of smaller companies being snapped up. Lots of big numbers being thrown around.
Just give me the original Modern Warfare on Switch and I’ll be a happy old man.
GL: It’s been interesting to watch Microsoft and Sony trade blows over this acquisition, with all the scrutiny it’s getting while Nintendo just gets on with its own thing off to the side.
OR: Nintendo has very much been on the sideline for the whole thing, except when Microsoft announced that ten-year commitment to bring Call of Duty over. That was… nice, I guess..?
GL: Just give me the original Modern Warfare on Switch and I’ll be a happy old man.
AH: Years of nothing from Activision, we deserve that at least.
OR: Indeed! Then we saw the launch of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. That was quite a moment, right? It still feels like the big “new” Pokemon game, even after Scarlet and Violet.
AH: We’ve technically had three Pokémon games in 12 months and it shows a little, but Legends: Arceus is the first one to actually do something hugely different. It was a big deal, but it was also another showcase of the technical issues that seem to plague Pokémon releases on Switch. More on that later…
OR: So much more! So moving onto February, I suppose the biggest story here was the announcement that the 3DS and Wii U eShops would be closing down. Have we all got our affairs in order for this yet? Have we recovered from the news?
AH: Just about! I think I knew it was coming but I was still annoyed about it. It’s just another of those events that reminds you of the downsides of digital-only stuff.
GL: I immediately took to the 3DS eShop and downloaded a dozen or more games that had been sitting on my wishlist for years. They’re all still there, wrapped in their digital paper with a bow on my 3DS home screen, waiting to be opened and played.
Nintendo introduced something truly unprecedented to the Switch… Folders! Now be honest, do you actually use this feature at all?
OR: Maybe in the next decade or so, right? But yeah, I downloaded more games in the space of about two weeks than I had since the 3DS launched. And I’m still waiting for Snake Eater 3D to return…
GL: February brought a mother of a Nintendo Direct, too. A real Mother. Eh. Eh??!!
AH: I remember the rumours that Mother 3 would be announced but I wasn’t even crushed when they didn’t announce it because it’s hard to be disappointed when Live A Live, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Klonoa, Portal, etc. got announced.
GL: Ah yes, not that Mother. But the EarthBounds “Out Now” on NSO was still pretty good. I feel like despite the love it gets, a lot of people will have discovered it for the first time this year.
AH: Yep! The original is a curio but EarthBound is a treat.
OR: That was a cracking Direct! It showed that Nintendo has a lot more in the tank than just Zelda. Plus, PORTAL! Man… So good. Moving onto March, Nintendo introduced something truly unprecedented to the Switch… Folders! Now be honest, do either of you actually use this feature at all?
AH: Hah, no! I wish they were better implemented, or that they appeared on the home screen, but alas.
GL: I think I made a ‘Backlog’ folder, but it’s basically every game on my micro SD that isn’t the first three or four on the home screen. So kind of useless, but a nice addition to mark the Switch’s fifth birthday.
OR: It was a very “Nintendo” solution that didn’t fully satisfy anybody. It was fine, I guess. But the biggest news in March was undoubtedly the announcement that Tears of the Kingdom (then still known as BotW 2) would be delayed into 2023, surprising no one.
AH: I’d forgotten how early in the year that delay came. Yeah, I totally wasn’t shocked. I was surprised that we got a release date (for some reason). We’ve at least seen more TOTK this year than before.
OR: It’s quite funny that the news kind of cemented everyone’s prediction that Elden Ring would eventually win GOTY for 2022. Zelda was really its only viable competition, right? [millions of God of War fans cry out in terror] A shame, but I’d much rather Nintendo takes its time with it.
AH: So we didn’t get Zelda, but we did get a true 3D Kirby game, which feels like a huge moment in that series for Nintendo. And it was a hit!
GL: Best Kirby game since Epic Yarn. Kirby fans hate it when you say that, but what can you do, eh? What did April bring us?
OR: Some Sonic stuff! We finally got a look at Sonic Origins, and the second Sonic movie launched in the US (I think everyone else got it at the end of March). That was a good movie, though.
AH: I still haven’t seen it! And I haven’t got Origins either. But I remember being really excited about it and then seeing that pre-order and DLC confusion and rolling my eyes very hard. But hey, classic Sonic with some extra bells and whistles!
2022 gave us two of my favourite Directs ever
OR: Yeah it’s worth a shot, even without any of the extra pre-order goodies. We also saw the launch of Nintendo Switch Sports, which was a proper blast from the past, albeit without the iconic golf game included at launch.
AH: Switch Sports is weird. The mood around that game has been pretty low since it launched. The Golf delay didn’t help, and neither did the online issues. But it felt like, a lot of Nintendo sports games, that it was lacking content from the start. Oh well… we’ll get our true Wii Sports successor one day.
OR: It was definitely lacking in some key areas, which is honestly weird for a Nintendo game, although it hasn’t seemed to hurt sales. Oh well… moving onto May, the big man himself Reggie launched his own book! It felt like we wrote an awful lot of Reggie articles around that time…
AH: So much. In the build-up. In the aftermath. There were lots of cool little anecdotes in there, though. Some stuff on Iwata, on game production, on Reggie’s management style. May was a pretty quiet month for Nintendo, all in all, and this dominated our channels.
GL: When God gives you Reggie,… er, something about readying an appropriately impressive body of work.
OR: Thankfully, June had a bit more meat on the bones and we got another Direct; this time a Mini Partner Showcase with the likes of Persona, Return to Monkey Island, and Nier Automata. What did we make of this one?
AH: Beforehand, lots of people were disappointed it wasn’t a ‘proper’ Direct, but this turned out to be a pretty brilliant one. Persona felt a long-time coming, and we finally got the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection announcement. I know lots of people were hoping that would happen. I’m also delighted I can buy NieR Automata on yet another platform, too.
GL: I recall being impressed at what a jam-packed showcase it was for a ‘Mini’, and then downloading Portal and having a very pleasant couple of evenings.
OR: Yeah, lots of good stuff again! I haven’t purchased Persona 5 this time around as I already have it on the PS4, but you can bet I’ll be picking up 3 and 4 when they launch in January. On the flip side, June also saw Sega lift the lid on Sonic Frontiers with a series of utterly bizarre gameplay videos! It was the strangest way to properly reveal a game…
AH: It’s so funny looking back on June and watching the conversation from then to now shift to a more positive reception. Even if it’s not for everyone, and even if it’s been bumpy, it feels like it’s been a good year for Sonic. Those IGN trailers weren’t great though.
OR: It’s a weird one for me, because all my fears ended up materialising anyway, but I’m glad that others seem to be enjoying it! Similarly to Nintendo Switch Sports, June also saw the launch of Mario Strikers: Battle League, which — despite Alex loving it – fell flat for others due to the distinct lack of content. Have you tried this one?
AH: I haven’t! And it’s because I was burned on Mario Tennis Aces. I know that game is a lot better now, but it feels like Nintendo (and its partners) can make a good sports game foundation but doesn’t understand how to do the content side. Less content, then adding more later down the line isn’t the same as “here’s the game, but we also made extras for you”. But Mario Strikers does still have the best character animations.
GL: Yeah, you’re absolutely right that it feels like the same old formula. Get the solid bones down and hit the planned release window to plug a gap in the schedule, then pump out updates to flesh it out. Switch Sports, Mario Golf, Tennis, all the same.
OR: Yep, I thought the same with Mario Golf: Super Rush, so I didn’t end up picking up Mario Strikers. It’s definitely not a strategy I’m on board with. Anyway, moving onto July, it’s safe to say that this was probably a highlight for you, Alana, with both Live A Live and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launching..?
AH: Oh for sure. Xenoblade was also meant to be coming out in September, but it had been brought forward months earlier. Nuts. And both games were brilliant in their own ways.
OR: Has that ever actually happened before where a game was brought forward so close to its release? So strange, yet very welcome. I didn’t play Live A Live, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a definite highlight for me; such an incredible experience and leagues above XC2!
AH: It also came out without any major hitches – a few little bugs, but nothing big. We’re ignoring the special edition fiasco, of course. But I can’t recall that a game has ever been brought forward like that. And we still have more Xenoblade 3 to come in 2023.
OR: Take note, Game Freak!
AH: 2022 is also the year we got a bigger hint towards Nintendo’s cinematic aspirations – it’s got its own movie studio now! And we’ve got more to say on the Mario Movie later, but it’s really nailing down those comments Miyamoto put down a few years ago.
OR: Yeah, the Dynamo Pictures acquisition was an interesting little move. We’ve yet to see anything come to fruition, but I imagine this is more of a long game for Nintendo and we’ll start to see little movies or cinematic stories launch in the coming years.
GL: Let’s hope the adaptations are better than Netflix’s go at Resident Evil. I know you were a fan of that one, Ollie…
OR: Oh lord… That was beyond terrible. Somehow I managed to get through every episode, but when one of the characters launched into a Dua Lipa number, it was over. Awful.
Somehow I managed to get through every episode, but when one of the characters launched into a Dua Lipa number, it was over.
GL: August also happened. Sakurai launched his YouTube series, Kirby’s Dream Buffet released, and… was there anything else?
OR: That was more or less it for August; pretty quiet month overall, but Sakurai’s been putting out some pretty great content, particularly if you’re into game development. I didn’t buy Kirby’s Dream Buffet, unfortunately, but it does look pretty neat. I do buy games, I promise!
AH: I’ve watched Sakurai’s video on his cat a (un)healthy number of times… We got our first taste of Splatoon 3 in August with the demo, the pre-release Splatfest, and a Splatoon 3 Direct. That was a fun Splatfest, but August was weirdly quiet. So we might as well hop into September with Splatoon then, since… well, that pretty much dominated the news for a while. Record-breaking sales and the like.
OR: It seems quite funny to think that we actually questioned whether Splatoon 3 needed to exist, and now here we are, millions of sales later!
GL: Looking back, The Cowabunga Collection dropped in August and the Pokémon ScarVi PR cycle was whirring into motion with reveals at the Pokémon World Championships.
AH: Oh 2022 was a great year for TMNT fans. Shredder’s Revenge in June and Cowabunga Collection in August, and both have had some hefty QOL updates since launch. September, though, was another big Nintendo Direct month! But before we dive properly in – where’s GoldenEye?
GL: In my N64 cart slot, innit.
OR: That was a huge Direct! Kind of felt like we were building up to that one. Even GoldenEye felt a little lost amongst the copious announcements. We got the final name for Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom here, right?
AH: A name and a release date! 2022 gave us two of my favourite Directs ever. I genuinely didn’t think we’d get a release date until like… December, but hey, we have it, and I’m sure we’re all champing at the bit to play it in May. Also, Pikmin 4 EXISTS.
GL: I remember hearing complaints that it was ‘Farm Sim Direct’, but there were so many other announcements that it didn’t make much difference. That little Zelda snippet at the end was the icing on the farm sim-flavoured cake.
OR: Also, it’s “Tears”, not “Tears”. Good Direct! So moving onto October, we saw a few games launch here, including Bayonetta 3, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, and Persona 5. Pretty good month, right? There was also the debut trailer for the Mario Movie!
AH: I did not expect to come away from the Mario Movie trailer impressed, but I did. Pleasantly surprised by what we’ve seen so far, especially all of the little references. Bowser is going to steal the show for me, I think.
OR: He looks surprisingly fearsome!
GL: The Mario Movie feels extremely familiar already. We’ve seen a handful of trailers and clips, but I feel like I’ve seen the film! I’m sure it will be decent fare, but I’ve also seen enough for the moment and would be happy not to get any more trailers before April (or March for us lucky European folk).
OR: Yeah it looks quite “safe” in some ways, but I was pleasantly surprised by the whole Mario Kart section in the second trailer! I’m hoping Nintendo and Illumination are holding back on some other key surprises, so like you, I’m quite happy to wait until its launch now.
AH: Any thoughts about the month’s games? Bayonetta 3 had been a long time coming, but it feels like it’s polarised the fans a little – some adore it, some don’t. I like what I’ve played so far! And Mario + Rabbids sort of came and went a bit, despite how delightful it is.
OR: I bought Bayonetta 3 on launch day, but uhh… yeah, I didn’t get on with it. I can totally see why some would love it and why it’s been getting such a strong reception, but for me, it was a weird departure from the first two games and it didn’t quite nail the execution. I didn’t play Mario + Rabbids simply because I’m not a massive fan of tactics games, but it looks lovely!
GL: Honestly, the Sep-Oct-Nov trio is a bit of a blur for me, games-wise. We were averaging over a review per day across those three months, and I was having to turn down review codes, too. The sheer number of games released across that period – good ones, too, alongside the big hitters – was a little crazy.
OR: It was a busy period, to be sure! Speaking of November, that one saw the launch of both Sonic Frontiers and Scarlet and Violet; games that were, it’s safe to say, quite controversial for a number of reasons, particularly Scarlet and Violet.
AH: Even as someone who loves Scarlet & Violet, yeah, they absolutely have huge problems that aren’t at all related to Switch hardware. It’s frustrating to watch the quality of visuals and performance decline from Sword & Shield, Arceus, and now this. But in my heart, this is the best mainline entry in a long time.
OR: Yeah, it genuinely feels like the first time that fans have collectively said “enough is enough”, so we’ll see how Game Freak approaches its future titles.
It wouldn’t have been a true year of journalism without some healthy butt discourse.
GL: We didn’t mention Summer Game Fest earlier! Is it still going on now?
OR: I reckon Geoff is still hyping it up somewhere on the internet. That was a frustratingly lengthy and scattered period of the year! I’d much rather have one big showcase like The Game Awards, even if it does last three or four hours.
GL: Yeah, I jest about Summer Game Fest – it was much more focused than in prior years, although I worry what it’ll look like in 2023 with E3 returning [season’s greetings to our ReedPop partner overlords by the way!]. I was pretty impressed with this year’s TGAs, in terms of announcements at least. The awards themselves are oddly sidelined given the title of the thing, but as a video game showcase ‘event’, there was some good stuff revealed.
AH: Oof, yeah, I’ll take some Hades II down the line. Some solid announcements, and a surprise Bayonetta prequel? That was a weird but cool one. My 2023 calendar is a mess already with all of these new games… But it was definitely the best Game Awards show so far.
OR: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised! I’m still not sure exactly what it is, but that new Hellboy game looks fantastic, especially since it draws inspiration from Mike Mignola’s original art. Outside TGAs, we also had confirmation that the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is finally landing on consoles next year, though it’s going to be an expensive one if you’re going for the full set.
GL: Well, if #fontgate doesn’t get addressed, you can scratch that off the wishlist, amirite? Speaking of which, we didn’t mention #nobuttgate when we discussed the Mario Movie! I don’t remember it coming up when the second trailer dropped.
AH: People were too busy trying to find all of those Kongs in the Mario Kart section. Oh, and focusing on the fact that Peach looks like a badass.
OR: To be fair, I think the whole butt thing stemmed from the poster, but from what I saw of the trailers, Mario has a lovely butt. Good butt…
GL: At the coalface of video game journalism, eh? Freeze-framing clips of Mario’s rear. What a year!
AH: It wouldn’t have been a true journalistic effort without some healthy butt discourse.
OR: Indeed! Well, that just about does it for 2022! Any final thoughts as we head into the new year?
AH: A super interesting year, I think! You said it well, Ollie – it seems like not much happened, but actually, there were tons of events and announcements peppered throughout the year. I bought more games on my Switch this year than ever before. My 2023 looks dangerous though. I may have to remortgage my apartment…
GL: Agreed. If that was a “disappointing” year for Switch, I don’t know what people want. I mean, obviously people want Mario and Zelda and Metroid and F-Zero and everything. BUT, the breadth of software that launched on Switch this year is really staggering. So much great stuff, and so varied. It’s a fine time to be a video game lover.
OR: Yeah it’s been a good one, for sure! I’m super excited for 2023, though. Beyond Zelda and maybe Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, there’s not much we know about what Nintendo has up its sleeve. There’s so much potential, and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.
AH: PIKMIN 4!!!
OR: Oh yeah, that. Meh, I really need to see more of it!
GL: Fire Emblem Engage in a matter of weeks, too. I know you like your tactics, Ol.
OR: Okaaaaay, beyond everything we know about! Still, lots we don’t know, lots to come from the Big N. It’s going to be another fun-filled year!
GL: You’ve artfully avoided putting the words ‘Switch’ and ‘Pro’ or ‘2’ together. Good work!
OR: We’ll leave that for our community to discuss!
GL: Right you are. I think that’s a wrap for the year! Can someone give Kate and Jim a nudge? They’ve been awfully quiet today.
Jokes! Kate and Jim are obviously off enjoying the final hours of 2022 with friends and family, perhaps even playing Switch at a rooftop New Year’s Eve party.
So that was our 2022 year-in-review chat! Be sure to comment down below with some of your favourite memories of the year and what you think Nintendo might have in store for us for 2023!