2022 is shaping up to be a big year for Nintendo. Not only will it be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Switch, but we’re also – hopefully – going to hear a whole lot more about Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and, perhaps most exciting, the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In addition, Mario will once again jump beyond video games to the big screen with Chris Pratt, of all people, taking on the role of the legendary plumber in Super Mario: The Movie.
While that is enough to inspire any fan to yell out “yahoooo!” whether you think Chris Pratt is right for a stocky Italian plumber or not, Nintendo is also known for its big surprises and delivering that which we least expect. Will we hear more about the fabled “Switch Pro”? Will Metroid Prime 4 or the long-rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy finally be revealed? It’s also been quite some time since Super Mario Odyssey was released. Could Nintendo be planning to release its sequel or a brand new experience in step with the upcoming film? The possibilities are truly endless, but let’s take what we know and look ahead to what we can expect from Nintendo in 2022.
The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Rumors of a “Switch Pro”
The big question on everyone’s mind going into 2022 is undoubtedly whether the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will actually make its way to the Switch before 2023 begins. As it stands, Nintendo has committed to a 2022 release window, but as we know, an initial release date is never a lock.
Despite it being nearly five years since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we’ve seen very little of this new entry, and we don’t even have a proper name for it yet. The much-anticipated sequel was announced in 2019 with a brief teaser, and we didn’t get another glimpse of Link’s newest adventure until Nintendo’s E3 2021 Direct.
Another question is: what will it run on? Even though Breath of the Wild earned many perfect review scores from outlets like IGN, it wasn’t without its technical problems, even with the Switch being a brand new platform at the time. While it’s hard to overstate what magic the game DID accomplish, its inconsistent frame rate and sub-par draw distance did, for brief moments, take some out of what is otherwise a sublime experience.
Considering Breath of the Wild launched alongside the Nintendo Switch in 2017, many have assumed its sequel would be a showcase for the more powerful Switch that has been rumored for what feels like centuries now. There were various reports that teased a new model would arrive in 2021 with upgraded internals, a 7-inch OLED display, a faster Nvidia Corp. graphics silicon that will make 4K resolution possible when docked to a TV, and more. Instead, we received the still-great Nintendo Switch – OLED Model that did provide a better screen, but added nothing to improve performance.
Nintendo has repeatedly said it has “no plans” to release another Nintendo Switch model at this time, but it also said the same thing just five months before announcing the Switch OLED Model. With Nintendo, anything is possible, and while we should keep our expectations in check, never say never in regards to a dream announcement. It’s just important to note that, no matter what plans Nintendo actually has, pandemic supply shortages have massively hit gaming hardware production and may have altered what it thought its 2021 and even 2022 would look like. Either way, Zelda fans will soon, hopefully, have another incredible adventure to get lost in.
Exclusive Games Confirmed for 2022
The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may be the most-anticipated game for many, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo doesn’t have a ton of other games in the works for the roughly 93 million Nintendo Switch owners out there.
In early November 2021, Nintendo shared a graphic that detailed the biggest upcoming exclusives headed to the Switch in 2022, and the first major game set to be released is Pokemon Legends: Arceus on January 28. While it isn’t the full open-world Pokemon experience many had hoped for, it looks to be a big departure from the tried-and-true formula of the previous Pokemon entries. This new adventure takes place in the feudal past of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl's Sinnoh region and will have players exploring wide-open areas in their quest to catch ‘em all.
Nintendo will also be continuing its trend of letting third-parties release cloud versions of games that probably wouldn’t run as well natively, and the first one up in 2022 will be Dying Light 2 on February 4. On the non-cloud front, exactly a month later, Square Enix’s tactical RPG Triangle Strategy will be released with an art-style that is reminiscent of Octopath Traveller. Triangle Strategy is the last game on Nintendo's list of confirmed 2022 games that has a definite release date, but there is still plenty more to discuss.
Spring 2022 will not only bring back the beloved Advance Wars franchise with Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, but it will also see everyone’s favorite pink puffball of happiness return to the spotlight. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is another 3D open-world-ish take on an established franchise, and the story looks to take players to the ruins of a civilization long-gone that is giving us some The Last of Us vibes. Seriously.
Summer 2022 will bring with it the first major expansion for Monster Hunter Rise in Sunbreak. The first, quick tease of gameplay showed a terrifying new monster in an “eerie new setting,” and Sunbreak as a whole is also said to include a new story, new locales, even more monsters, hunting actions, and quest ranks, to name a few.
There are a few big games that only have a 2022 release window, and these include Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, and Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. Splatoon 3 was first announced in February of 2021 and looks to take players to a big desert metropolis hub city that will let them participate in both multiplayer and single-player activities. Splatoon 3’s campaign is called “Return of the Mammalians” and focuses on… well… the return of mammals in the world of Splatoon. It also appears that customization will play a much bigger role and players will be able to take an adorable companion creature with them into battle.
Next up is Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, which was unveiled during E3 2021’s Ubisoft Forward. Alongside new characters like Rabbid Rosalina, Sparks of Hope is promising to feature many more open levels and a new, less-restricted battle system that does away with the original’s grid movement.
Almost four years after its original announcement, Bayonetta 3 gameplay was finally shown during Nintendo’s September 2021 Direct and it didn’t disappoint. We were all treated to Bayonetta going head-to-head with a massive kaiju monster, a tease of some of the new areas and enemies she will encounter, and a devastated Tokyo that looks to be the main location of part of the game. The final shot also had conspiracy theorists jumping through the roof as it appears Vergil from Devil May Cry may be finding his way into this universe.
What Surprises Does Nintendo Have in Store for 2022?
However, we all know these games aren’t all Nintendo has up its sleeve. Nintendo has, at times, been the master of surprises, and there is a pretty good chance we are in for some in 2022. Here are a few educated guesses of games we will at the very least hopefully see, if not necessarily get to play next year.
Metroid Prime 4. This long-awaited follow-up to 2007’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, was announced back in 2017 with only a tease of its logo, and the game went dark until Nintendo revealed that its development was being restarted at Retro Studios, the developer of the original trilogy. Now, at the tail end of 2021, we’ve seen both the announcement and release of a new game starring Samus Aran in Metroid: Dread without so much as one new detail on Metroid Prime 4.
Could 2022 be the year we see what Retro Studios has been cooking up? After all, it will be the 20th anniversary of the original Metroid Prime. If not, there continues to be rumors that we may finally get our hands on the Metroid Prime Trilogy. These rumors have been swirling around for years now, and they eventually have to be true… right?!
While on the topic of remasters/re-releases, there are still a few leftovers from the Wii U’s library that have yet to make their way to the Switch. Chief among them are HD ports of both The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but there’s also Star Fox Zero, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and even NES Remix Pack, the latter of which inexplicably never got a new entry in the form of new NES games or even SNES, N64, Game Boy, or GameCube games. Seriously Nintendo, please bring those back! None of these have necessarily been confirmed, but given that Wii U ports have been a staple of the Switch’s library every year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the last major games from the console make their way over.
Next, with the release of Pikmin Bloom on mobile devices, many fans have been screaming to the skies, “Where is Pikmin 4?!” After all, in 2017, Shigeru Miyamoto said Pikmin 4 was “progressing,” but shared no further details. Could Pikmin Bloom be setting the stage for its big reveal? Anything is possible!
It’s also about time we heard any news about the future of the Super Mario series, which had its last proper entry in 2017 with Super Mario Odyssey. We’ve been treated to various Mario games since then, like Super Mario Maker 2 and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, but it’s the perfect time for Mario to go on his next mainline journey to undoubtedly save Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser.
These are all in the realm of possibility, and of course we also continue to have some more improbable pipe dreams like the return of F-Zero and Star Fox, an official English language release of Mother 3, and the next Mario Kart game… if Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ever stops selling, that is. One can wish, but we’re not putting too much stock in those hopes just yet.
The Future of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack
2022 will be the first full year of the expanded offerings of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, and it will be interesting to see how Nintendo adds to its service that was met with a not-so-positive reception when it was released in late October. While it is great to have access to various N64 and SEGA Genesis games, many of these ports have been suffering from input lag, frame rate issues, sound delays, incorrect controller layouts and more.
This issue is magnified by a price hike as Nintendo decided to charge $30 per year more for this upgraded version of Nintendo Switch Online. All these benefits, concerns, and more begs the question – Is Nintendo Switch Online worth the price of admission? While that’s for each person to decide and for Nintendo to prove, It’s important to note that it also includes access to Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Happy Home Paradise DLC that normally costs $24.99 USD, but, there is still a lot to be desired from Nintendo Switch Online, and its feature-set is well behind those offered by Sony and Microsoft for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles.
However, Nintendo has promised to “improve and expand” the Switch Online service in the future, which makes sense as the number of players that access its online features has now exceeded 32 million – which is six million more than this time in 2020. Will this mean more classic games added to the service from Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, and GameCube? Maybe there will be more exclusive items like the N64 or SNES controllers or further DLC for Nintendo’s biggest games? Fingers crossed that 2022 sees Nintendo’s online service broaden its horizons.
Nintendo Is Much More Than a Games Company Now
While games are the bread and butter of Nintendo’s repertoire, it has recently made it a priority to expand the reach of its franchises through amusement parks and movies. Set for a theatrical release on December 21, Super Mario: The Movie stars Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, and Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong.
Additionally, Kevin Michael Richardson will voice Kamek, Fred Armisen will voice Cranky Kong, and Sebastian Maniscalco will voice Foreman Spike. For those worried, it was also confirmed that longtime Mario voice actor Charles Martinet will have a series of featured cameos in the upcoming film.
This new project doesn’t appear to be a one-off experiment, as reports have also stated Seth Rogen will reprise his upcoming role as Donkey Kong in a new solo film. Could this be the start of the Nintendo Cinematic Universe that will bring the likes of Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s Subspace Emissary to life? Why not?
We may also hear more plans for the Super Nintendo World theme park that is currently open at Universal Studios Japan and is set to open at Universal Studios in Orlando in 2025. It was recently revealed that there will be a Donkey Kong expansion at Universal Studios Japan, and one can only imagine what else is being discussed behind closed pipes.
Pokemon is also getting the theme park-treatment, as The Pokemon Company announced a long-term partnership with Universal Studios Japan that will let these companies “jointly explore groundbreaking entertainment that will immerse guests into the world of Pokémon with innovative technology and creativity beginning in 2022.”
And with that, we’ve looked at most everything we can expect from Nintendo in 2022. However, if we’ve learned anything from the 132-year history of this company, it's to always expect the unexpected.
We can’t wait to see what 2022 holds for Nintendo, and we look forward to sharing and celebrating all the biggest moments with you on IGN.com and through our weekly Nintendo Voice Chat podcast. As the Switch enters Year 5 with no signs of stopping, we all should be ready and excited for one truly special Rainbow Road ride.