What to Expect from Nintendo in 2023
Moreso than any of the other major platform holders, Nintendo loves to keep its cards very, very close to its chest. At any given time, it’s impossible to say for certain what the publisher might be cooking up more than a few months down the road.
Its 2023 plans are no different. While a handful of relative certainties are already on the schedule – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Fire Emblem: Engage, and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe – there are plenty more giant question marks filling out their schedule. When, oh when, are we getting Metroid Prime 4? Is Pikmin 4 really a 2023 game? Will there be a Switch Pro? What’s the big holiday game? Did Advance Wars get canceled?
As much of a crapshoot as it is to guess Nintendo’s next move, with a little bit of data and clever guesswork, we can somewhat map out the year ahead. Here’s what we know, and what we expect and hope for, from Nintendo’s 2023.
Nintendo in 2023: What We Know
We actually know quite a few things we’re going to see in 2023. So let’s get started with a quick rundown of everything that Nintendo has explicitly said is coming next year.
Probably the most certain thing on this list is the release of Fire Emblem: Engage due to its imminent release date: January 20, 2023. It’s pretty unlikely this new Fire Emblem installment gets delayed at this stage. Folks who loved the gameplay of Three Houses but are equally hyped for the return of franchise mascots like Marth should already be prepared to kick off the year strong.
Immediately following Fire Emblem: Engage, we’ve got Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe – a remake of the Wii four-player platformer of the same name – the following month on February 24. And then we have a few empty months before the big one arrives: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which releases on May 12, 2023. While it seems unlikely that either Fire Emblem nor Kirby will suffer a delay, Tears of the Kingdom has already been pushed back a few times. Its May date seems fairly set in stone, but there’s always the chance we have to wait longer than we think to finally play the long-awaited sequel to 2017’s Breath of the Wild. Hopefully, this is just the anxiety talking.
Other than these three, Nintendo’s 2023 is looking pretty quiet, but there are two other games that are likely to appear in its line-up somewhere. The first is Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp, which was previously set to release in April 2022 but was delayed due to the war in Ukraine. Back in September, Nintendo reassured fans it was still just a delay, not a cancellation, and we actually know the game is finished already too: one fan accidentally got ahold of it digitally just after the delay and everything seemed in order. So Reboot Camp seems like an easy release to slot in somewhere next year when Nintendo needs to get something new out the door to fill a release gap.
Finally, there’s actually one more game on Nintendo’s slate for 2023: Pikmin 4. After ten years of speculating and halfway announcements, Nintendo officially revealed that Pikmin 4 was on the way earlier this year. We didn’t see anything of its gameplay or story, just a logo. But Nintendo did promise a release window of 2023. While delays can always happen, rumor has it Pikmin 4 has been nearly done for quite a while now, so hopefully that means we’re on the cusp of getting our hands on those cute little plant guys really soon.
Remember 1-2-Switch? That bizarre launch game from the Switch’s release that was fun for, like, 45 minutes and really should have been a packed-in tech demo instead of a full-priced game? Well, earlier this year, a report from Fanbyte suggested that Nintendo was, inexplicably, nearly done with a sequel. Tentatively titled Everybody’s 1-2-Switch, the report claimed this weird follow-up would include wonders like a game show theme, games big enough to hold 100 players via online, smartphone-based lobbies, more movement based games like musical chairs, and a very weird mascot known only as “Horse.”
Unsurprisingly, Everybody’s 1-2-Switch apparently went over badly with playtesters. As of the June report, while the game itself was largely complete, Nintendo couldn’t decide whether or not to release it as a full-priced game or a Nintendo Switch Online tier release, and empty boxes were reportedly sitting around in a Nintendo warehouse somewhere, waiting for a game with no release date.
While it’s not clear what all may have happened to this strange successor since then, I find it unlikely that Nintendo would just drop an effectively finished product into a bin somewhere. I think it’s likely we see the strange beast that this has become sometime in 2023 – hopefully as a humorous Nintendo Switch Online perk and not a doomed $60 retail flop.
It really is! We’re due for a new Mario, folks! Looking back at the timeline of Mario games, there are basically two major Mario “schools”, if you will. There’s traditional 2D Mario games – which have moved into 3D like Super Mario 3D World, but still follow a traditional, level-based, linear platformer format – and there are open-ended Mario games in the 3D tradition like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Odyssey. And I think we’re just about due for the next iteration of the latter.
While we did recently get Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury right on the tail end of 2021, the last major 3D Mario game was Super Mario Odyssey in 2017. It’s been five years since then, which is about the right amount of time to start hearing about another Mario – especially since the last few Mario releases of any kind have been some variety of remake/remaster.
Even if it’s not a Mario in the Mario 64 tradition, I don’t think there’s any way we get through 2023 with literally no games featuring our red-clad plumber friend. After all, there’s a Mario movie coming out and Super Nintendo World is opening its Mario-centric theme park too. What better way to celebrate and promote both than with a tie-in game?
Camelot Sportsware Planning
While they rarely make it into our most starry-eyed speculations, Camelot Software Planning actually makes predicting Nintendo games pretty easy by virtue of being extremely consistent. About once every 2-3 years, they release another Mario sports game. It’s been that way since 1999, when they quit making Shining Force and took their Everybody’s Golf chops from PlayStation to start working on Mario Golf games. Since then they’ve taken on Mario Tennis as well, and briefly showed off their RPG chops again by making the Golden Sun trilogy for the GBA and Nintendo DS.
But in recent years, it’s all been sports, and Camelot has a pretty consistent cycle of flipping between tennis and golf, tennis and golf. Its last game, Mario Golf: Super Rush, came out in June of 2021, meaning 2023 is about the right time for the studio to emerge again with another sports gambit. That said, I don’t think Nintendo is likely to drop two entire Mario tennis games on the Switch. More likely, Camelot has something in the works more akin to Mario Sports Superstars, its final 3DS entry from back in 2017. Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked if we got something effectively like a straight port.
Or maybe I’m totally off-base and they’re actually working on a new Golden Sun. Yeah, okay, I know, keep dreaming.
A Little More, as a Treat
Another solid bet for Nintendo next year is that we see not one but two major pieces of paid DLC content at minimum announced within the year, and likely released too: one for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, and another for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
Pokemon DLC in the tradition of Sword and Shield feels inevitable. Given the extremely rocky release of Scarlet and Violet as well as how well-received both Crown Tundra and Isle of Armor were, I anticipate we see a big DLC drop in lieu of a full Pokemon release next year. Hopefully by then, Nintendo will have gotten the games running halfway well so we’re not tearing our hair out trying to do limited time Tera raids a year after launch.
It’s also a pretty safe swing to expect DLC for Tears of the Kingdom, again following in the tradition of its predecessor: Breath of the Wild. While I’m less confident we’ll see a major content addition by the end of the year as we did with Breath of the Wild’s Champion’s Ballad, I do think at minimum Nintendo will announce an Expansion Pass for Tears of the Kingdom ahead of the game’s launch in May. And it’s likely that even if a big story update doesn’t hit by December 2023, we’ll at least see some minor DLC ala Master Trials sometime that year.
Here at Last for the Holidays
Every year, Nintendo podcasts, fans, and analysts speculate on the biggest Nintendo question of them all: what will Nintendo’s big holiday game be this time?
Look, it’s prediction time, so I’m going to go nuts: I think it’s finally Metroid Prime 4 time. We have been waiting so long. It was announced all the way back in 2017, and in January of 2019 we learned it had been restarted entirely now in the hands of original Metroid Prime developer Retro Studios. It’s now been four years, and while games can certainly take much longer than that to make, the timing and work that has gone into Metroid Prime 4 thus far seems about right that we very well might be preparing our power suits for this to be Nintendo’s big holiday release.
Of course, this begs the question – if we get a Metroid Prime 4, does that mean we’ll also get the exhaustively rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy for Switch to go with it? That I can’t say. Whispers about this mysterious port/HD remake/whatever-it-is have been circulating for years now, and it’s hard to tell if there’s really fire behind all the smoke or if it was just a lot of folks stirring themselves up over nothing. Personally, I think it’s likely we see at least some level of classic Metroid Prime love on the Switch to get folks excited ahead of Metroid Prime 4 – I’m just not fully confident exactly which of the many-rumored forms that will take.
Nintendo All Year ‘Round
Aside from heavy-hitters like Mario, Pokemon, and Metroid, Nintendo has an array of other mascots that get games every few years or more to fill out the calendar. Kirby, for instance, seems to have at least a release a year, even if some of them are smaller ones like 2022’s Dream Buffet (alongside the much larger Forgotten Land), Kirby Fighters 2, or Kirby Battle Royale. Yoshi and Donkey Kong haven’t been around for a bit, though. Yoshi’s last release was Good-Feel’s Yoshi’s Crafted World in 2019. Meanwhile, Retro Studios has been so busy on Metroid I wouldn’t expect them to follow up the excellent Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze with another DK game anytime soon – but that doesn’t stop other studios from taking up the mantle.
All this is to say, we can definitely expect Nintendo’s calendar next year to fill in gaps between big releases with some smaller, but pleasant, fluff. Do I think we’ll get a Kirby game, a DK game, and a Yoshi game all in one year? I do not. But I’d be surprised if we didn’t see even a minor spin-off or port (Woolly World, anyone?) from one of those three characters.
And that’s not to mention that Nintendo will also fill out the calendar with some sporadic Nintendo Switch Online classic releases too. Though the cadence of these has slowed down somewhat lately, we’re about due to see Donkey Kong 64 finally show up on the service, and Super Mario RPG is still conspicuously missing too. It’d be an easy win to throw a few of those out in 2023; though I’m keeping my hopes low for anything like a move to release Game Boy, GBA, or GameCube games on the service too.
Super Nintendo Switch?
Will they or won’t they? That’s been the question since reports first surfaced in 2019 that Nintendo was working on an upgraded Nintendo Switch console. The upgraded version supposedly (depending on which of the many rumors over the years that you honed in on) would be pricier, have 4K support or just generally better resolution, would still be portable and have a better screen, would be a home console only and not a handheld, or would have more power, more storage, more everything.
We’ve since gotten the Switch OLED Model, which did at least bring the improved screen, a LAN port, more storage, and other small improvements. But a Switch Pro it is not, and rumors continued to churn that Nintendo is cooking up something more. Personally, while I believe the reports themselves that Nintendo is working on upgraded models are true, I’m not sold that means a Super Nintendo Switch is imminent given how well the Switch itself continues to sell.
Nintendo Switch (OLED Model)
But this is an area where speculation has gotten so wild, that I opted to ask a few analyst experts for their thoughts. First, I asked NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella if he thought there would be a new Switch model in 2023. Piscatella responded that while he thought such a release would ultimately be a good thing for Nintendo, he had “no idea” if the company would actually do it.
“If the past 15 or so years in games have taught me anything it is that the path to madness is paved with the bricks of bad Nintendo predictions,” Piscatella said. “I have a forecast with new Nintendo hardware in 2023, and another with new hardware in 2024. Other analysts have been out there for years with Switch Pro this and new gen that… and it hasn’t worked out too well for them.
“We are certainly seeing post-peak Switch. It still has quite a bit of runway left as it has been a massively successful device, but the days ahead will come with declining sales for Switch. It’s just the cyclical nature of the console business.”
I also asked Kantan Games’ Dr. Serkan Toto the same question, to which he cheekily noted he was “almost infamous on the Internet” for his 2020 prediction of an imminent Switch Pro (in his defense, he did call the Switch Lite correctly a year prior!). But even though he’s willing to eat crow about that one, Toto is diving back into the Switch prediction pool again for next year.
“On paper, a new Switch model would really, really make a lot of sense in 2023,” he told me. “The Switch is getting into its sixth year, hardware sales are declining, a lot of new games don’t work well on the system, etc. If it comes next year, I believe Nintendo will sell it alongside Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom, just like they launched the original model and the Lite with a Zelda game.
“But then again it’s Nintendo: they don’t necessarily care if something makes sense or not.”
In that closing remark at least, Toto is certainly correct. Switch Pro or no, Nintendo is sure to do things in 2023 that don’t always seem logical. Which leads me to my final prediction…
A Little Nintendo Magic
Look, we’re overdue for something really, specifically Nintendo-weird, don’t you think? Something out of left field, strange, but potentially very cool. I’m talking things like 2018’s cardboard Nintendo Labo, or 2019’s Ring Fit Adventure (or the Wii Sports games that preceded it). Something in the camp of the Virtual Boy Advance, or the popular micro-consoles NES Classic and SNES Classic. Stuff in the tradition of the Wii Motes, or even the Switch itself (though this isn’t another console prediction).
What I’m trying to say is, it’s been a few years since Nintendo announced something totally bizarre but brimming with that playful, Nintendo magic. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking to imagine we might get something in that vein in 2023, and this particular brand of Nintendo release is always impossible to predict in any specific way. But with Nintendo, you can always be confident there are cool toy experiments cooking behind the scenes. Perhaps next year will be another pleasant surprise.