Games: 2021 a big year for Nintendo

Nintendo's $500 million Super Nintendo World will give Disney a run for their money when it opens in Osaka
Neil McGreevy

WHILE all eyes were on Sony and Microsoft's latest toys, Nintendo's three-year-old Switch still managed to outsell both in 2020 – and this was a company barely trying.

Apart from Animal Crossing, the ridiculously popular nine-incher suffered a dearth of marquee titles for Santa's sack. The best fans could hope for was Mario's 3D Collection. Coasting on the quality of the originals, this barebones bundle was like three Faberge eggs chucked in a Lidl bag.

Here's hoping Nintendo makes with the goods in 2021 – a year in which the Japanese giant celebrates more anniversaries than a polygamist. Marking the 40th birthday of a certain monkey called Donkey – whose loin cloth must stink to high heaven nowadays – it's also 25 years since we first sampled Nintendo's lucrative spin on cockfighting, Pokemon, while Metroid and Zelda both turn 35.

The first blockbuster on the calendar is late March's homecoming for the Monster Hunter series with Rise – the Switch's most significant new release in ages.

While in the West a cult following will snap this up, in Japan it's sure to sell gangbusters. And fans can savour a snifter right now with the Switch store's free demo.

Given it's 35 years since Link first drew a pixellated sword on the NES, our safest bet for a blockbuster this year is Breath of the Wild 2, which has been on the cards since 2019. Though the characters and setting may be the same, expect to visit new lands beyond the original's critically acclaimed sandbox.

And if a brand-new epic isn't on the cards this year, I wouldn't rule out some rose-tinted nostalgia with a Zelda collection, ensuring classics like Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword and Wind Waker aren't consigned to the attic.

The company's ginger stepchild, Metroid's dark, mature space antics may not scream vintage Nintendo, but given bounty hunter Samus Aran turns 35, it'd be a fitting year to launch Metroid Prime 4, which was first announced back in 2017, finally giving fans a long-awaited snootful of spacefaring.

Younger gamers have New Pokemon Snap to look forward to – a sequel to an N64 oddity 20 years in the making, where players pap their favourite pocket monsters on an island paradise.

Yet while the software front looks rosy, Sony and Microsoft's next-gen muscle means the Switch is a tech minnow, and 2021 is sure to be the year Nintendo announces a hardware upgrade. The company has form, having traditionally refreshed their handhelds every two or three years, so expect a spanking new version of the Switch – complete with 4K, OLED screen – before year's end.

While juicing up the grunt, expect it to be fully compatible with the bog-standard console – after all, it's shifted enough units to let Nintendo plough $500 million into Super Nintendo World, which will give Disney a run for their money when it opens in Osaka next month.

And gamers still scarred by 1993's god-awful Mario Bros movie can finally banish all memories of Dennis Hopper as a turtle with Universal's brand-new animated effort, set for cinema release in 2022.

In the meantime, let's all raise our glasses to the enduring popularity of an elf, a monkey and an electric rat.

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