Will they or Nintend-won’t they?
Nintendo announced today that it’s holding onto some unannounced games that it plans to release this year. If there’s one thing I love, it’s ruining the surprise for myself, and so I did a little digging into possible clues.
It’s an interesting situation, given that Nintendo tends to enjoy teeing up its bigger games well in advance of their release. That would seem to point to a smaller release – but Nintendo has also said it has an unannounced title it thinks will “please fans” in the wings. With that in mind, the following is a list of (mostly) informed speculation about what we could be seeing pop up in a Nintendo Direct, and popping into our Switches shortly afterwards:
Of all of Nintendo’s established franchises, this seems the most likely to get an impromptu release, primarily because Shigeru Miyamoto said it was close to being finished over three years ago. It then “fell down the list of priorities” at Nintendo, and we got a middling handheld spin-off, Hey! Pikmin to plug the gap.
Just in case you think Hey! Pikmin was Pikmin 4, Miyamoto spoke about the numbered sequel in 2017, saying it was “progressing” within Nintendo’s own studios (whereas the handheld game was made by an external developer). We haven’t heard anything since – wouldn’t it be nice if Uncle Shigeru was waiting to surprise us with a pretty new tale of insectile genocide?
A Mid-Tier Multiplayer Zelda
Unless we get a Majora’s Mask-style remix of Breath of the Wild, it seems pretty unlikely we’ll be getting a new mainline Zelda game for some time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get a Zelda game at all.
In recent years, Nintendo’s tended to fill gaps between major releases with smaller, more experimental Zelda titles. The Minish Cap popped up between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess; Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks propped up the spot between Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword; Link Between Worlds and Tri-Force Heroes made the wait for Breath of the Wild slightly more bearable. Every one of the gaps between those games have been two years or less.
And, as we approach two years since the Switch’s first Zelda game, we’ve had series producer Eiji Aonuma say that he’d like to take learnings from Breath of the Wild and use them in a multiplayer game, and seen Nintendo begin hiring for a new Zelda project. Five Swords Adventures, anyone?
A Retro Studios Donkey Kong
Nintendo just restarted development on Metroid Prime 4, and put Retro at the helm. Which begs some questions: what was it working on before that, and will we see that game finished? Since releasing Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze in 2014, Retro’s only public project was… a port of Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. If it wasn’t working on Prime 4 before now, something must have been in the works.
A third Donkey Kong title wouldn’t be an outlandish suggestion – each of the last two has been well-received, and it’d continue the studio’s streak of releasing one per Nintendo hardware generation. There’s also the chance it was working on a new IP altogether. Retro’s also no stranger to Nintendo cancelling its projects in favour of Metroid – development of the original Prime led to three separate games being cancelled – so there’s also the sadder possibility that whatever was in the works is destined to remain unreleased.
The NES Remix series has been built on surprise. The first retro mash-up game was announced and released on the same day, while the sequel arrived just two months after its reveal. Fans have clamoured for a SNES-themed follow-up ever since.
It’s unlikely that Nintendo would have allowed an in-house eShop title to cannibalise sales of the SNES Classic micro-console but, with that now selling out and apparently not coming back, there’s surely no impediment. Plus, co-developer Indieszero has been radio silent since the release of its last game, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido – here’s hoping this is what it’s working on.
AA Surprise Game
Nintendo’s made a virtue of announcing and releasing mid-tier, “AA” surprises for several years at this this point. The aforementioned Sushi Striker, the BoxBoy series, Dillon’s Rolling Western, and more have popped up seemingly out of nowhere and picked up followings (and the occasional Smash Bros. assist trophy). Something along these lines seems far more suited to a quick announcement-and-release than one of the company’s tentpole franchises.
Wii U Ports
Yes, we’ve had a lot of these already, but there are plenty more we haven’t seen make the jump from last-gen yet. The likes of Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Super Mario Maker, and the HD remakes of Zelda: Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are all among the top-sellers on Wii U – it stands to reason that Nintendo would want to cash in on that popularity on a far more successful console.
A New Micro-console
It’s not technically a game in and of itself, but the contents of an N64 Classic would satisfy the idea of “unannounced games”. We saw a trademark for the N64’s design filed last year, and subsequently came up with our choices for a line-up. It’d be nice to see those games pop up again in 2019. Both the NES and SNES Classic had a short announcement-to-release time too, four and three months resepectively.
Of course, Reggie Fils-Aime says the company has no plans for an N64 re-release “right now”, but he said that last year. But how long does “right now” cover? We have scientists working on that very question, er, right now.
Just kidding even more.
Joe Skrebels is IGN’s UK Deputy Editor, and he was Pikmin 4 the most. Follow him on Twitter.