Shortly after Nintendo’s big Switch presentation on the 12th January, a common theme emerged among detractors of the system. “The games!” they cried. “Where are the games!”, “The system has no games” and “Nintendo is doomed!”. The voices screamed into the abyss of the internet all cursing Nintendo for seemingly releasing a system without any games. Anyone who’s been following Nintendo for any amount of time can tell you, this certain complaint is hardly new. We’ve seen it throughout the Wii’s life, at the launch of the 3DS and practically every five minutes since the Wii U was shown off at E3 2011.
However, this time when I saw the burning accusation aimed at Nintendo it shocked me. “Sure” I reasoned with myself, “The Switch doesn’t have a stellar launch line up outside of Zelda, but had people not seen what Nintendo had planned for the rest of the year?, had they maybe fallen asleep and missed the Super Mario Odyssey trailer? Perhaps they’d taken a coffee break when Splatoon 2 was shown off? Or possibly nipped to the loo when Fire Emblem: Warriors was teased?”. I was perplexed – could people still be denouncing Nintendo for lack of titles after watching the same presentation as I?
Unfortunately, it turned out that people had not fallen asleep, gone for a coffee break or nipped to the loo.They had indeed watched the Switch presentation and decided that none of the games Nintendo had shown off mattered.
Whilst it still puzzled me that people weren’t impressed by any of the games shown for the Switch, it had got me thinking- how does Switch’s first-year lineup compare with previously released Nintendo consoles? Has Nintendo learnt from its past to create its greatest launch year ever on the Switch? So I decided to take a look at the launch year lineups from several of Nintendo’s consoles to see how they compared to the Switch, below is my analysis:
*Disclosure: these lists do not name every single title released in the launch year (because that would take bloody ages) rather they include the biggest first party titles and notable third party entries- if I have missed anything off please feel free to let me know in the comments below*
Super Mario 64
Wave Race 64
Mario Kart 64
Star Fox 64
The N64 launch has much in common with the Switch’s known launch. Like the Switch, the N64 released with two titles published by Nintendo, the genre-defining Super Mario 64 and the somewhat more modest PilotWings 64. The N64 also launched with only a small number of games, having only two other third party games release alongside it! The rest of the N64’s launch year saw a trickle of critically acclaimed first-party games which have cemented themselves as classics, including Wave Race 64, GoldenEye and Star Fox 64.
Just like the N64 had a clear system seller on day one (Super Mario 64 -duh) so too has the Switch. It is yet unclear whether Breath of the Wild will be as big a change to open world games as Super Mario 64 was to platformers, but expectations are certainly high. As for the other games in the first year, personally, I think it would be hard for the Switch to beat them. This is mainly due to the N64 being Nintendo’s first 3D console which changed the way you interacted with the game world at a fundamental level, however, the Switch also has some new tech up its sleeve, could HD rumble be a game changer? We’ll have to wait and see.
Wave Race: Blue Storm
Super Smash Bros: Melee
Super Mario Sunshine
As is becoming a theme, Nintendo launched the GameCube with just two first party titles, the cult classic Luigi’s Mansion and Wave Race: Blue Storm. These titles in themselves are hardly system sellers, especially as Luigi’s Mansion was new and didn’t have the following it has today, these were titles made to hold fans over until the full AAA Nintendo titles came out later. And boy was it worth the wait! Not soon after launch Super Smash Bros: Melee was released, followed by Super Mario Sunshine jumping onto our screens a few months later. Between this Nintendo was establishing a number of titles which would soon become Nintendo A-listers, Animal Crossing came to the west for the first time, Pikmin showed us what RTS looks like on console and the beloved Metroid Prime took another 2D Nintendo IP and gave it an immersive 3D makeover!
This launch was a mix between the tried and tested and brand new which in ways mirrors the launch of the Switch. Whilst titles like Mario and Zelda are almost guaranteed to sell, will Arms or 1 2 Switch be looked back on as cult classics or the start of something bigger like some of these GameCube titles are now?
Super Mario 64 DS
Yoshi Touch and Go
Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Kirby Canvas Curse
Mario Kart DS
Out of all of the systems listed here, the DS had the bleakest launch year when it came to first party titles. Super Mario 64 DS was a remake and there isn’t anything this humble writer would call a AAA game until Mario Kart DS came along. However, something I will mention is the appeal of portability. All of these games were able to be taken with you wherever you went, a selling point that the Switch shares, yes Super Mario 64 DS is a remake, but now you can play it just about anywhere and this will be a key feature for many Switch games too.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
WarioWare: Smooth Moves
Super Paper Mario
Mario Party 8
Mario Strikers Charged
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Super Mario Galaxy
Wow! Now that’s how you do a launch year! No wonder the Wii was so successful with big hitter first party titles like these. Launching with Zelda, filling the year with a number of amazing B-tier IP, and ending with Super Mario Galaxy. Hmm now, this reminds me of something, ah yes the Switch! Nintendo has quite possibly taken note that the Wii had a strong launch (and yes most of that was due to the success of Wii Sports) and is trying to copy it for the Switch. It turns out that having your two most successful IP release in the launch year sells consoles, who’da guessed.
Nintendogs + Cats
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
StarFox 64 3D
Super Mario 3D Land
Mario Kart 7
Kid Icarus: Uprising
The 3DS is a fantastic example of how to turn a console around after a rubbish launch. It launched with three Nintendo titles which I wouldn’t even list as D-tier IP. At the launch of the system, things for the 3DS looked dire. But by E3 2011 Nintendo came along and breathed life into its faltering handheld, suddenly the system had a remake of two of the best games the N64 had to offer, both with improved graphics and added portability. After this and just in time for the holidays both Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 tag teamed onto the 3DS. Finally, the first year of the 3DS ended with Kid Icarus: Uprising showcasing the potential of the 3DS’ graphical capabilities.
What the Switch can really learn from the 3DS’ launch is how a few key titles are shown at E3 then launched the same year can completely turn around a console’s fortune. I have no doubt that Nintendo still has some cards up its sleeves saved for E3 to dish out to more games for the Switch.
New Super Mario Bros U
Game and Wario
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
The Wii U’s first year is perhaps symptomatic of its entire life, it had good games but too few and far between. It didn’t have any brand new AAA titles in its first year and whilst the Wind Waker HD was nice it wasn’t a system seller for many people.Another problem the WiiU had from its first year was the support of third parties, not the fact it didn’t have support but rather the fact that it did. (Alright I can see you already trying angry comments, hear me out!)
The Wii U launched with several third party ports and this trend continued throughout its first year, however, due to the low sales of the WiiU and the questionable quality of the porting, sales for these ports were low turning publishers away from the WiiU for the rest of its lifetime.
Whilst the Switch absolutely does not want to copy the Wii U’s first year, it can take note at its failings and address them accordingly, which it already seems to be doing by having brand new AAA titles ready to go at launch and then a steady flow of them throughout the year.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
1 2 Switch
Snipperclips: Cut It Out Together
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Fire Emblem Warriors
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Super Mario Odyssey
So now we’ve arrived at the Switch launch let’s have a recap of what we’ve seen from past releases and what Nintendo has learnt for this time around. Just like the N64, it has one main launch day system seller, Breath of the Wild. Similar to the GameCube the Switch has experimental titles which could lead to sequels in the form of Arms and Snipperclips. The DS has shown that adding portability to a remake adds to the value of the title (looking at you Mario Kart 8 Deluxe). Resembling the Wii, the Switch has a Zelda and mainline Mario game within the first year as well as fun party games aimed at the casual market, 1 2 Switch. The 3DS taught us that E3 is often waiting to reveal titles which can turn around the market if things start to look rough. And unlike the Wii U (thankfully) the Switch’s titles are released evenly throughout the year with a bigger selection of AAA titles.
Nintendo has looked and learnt from its past for the Switch and is bringing us the greatest number of AAA titles released over the first year in the company’s history. Not counting currently unannounced titles or smaller titles like Snipperclips, the Switch will have six AAA Nintendo titles in its first year. We get a brand new Zelda, a portable Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Fire Emblem Warriors and a brand new mainline Mario with Super Mario Odyssey.
But I suppose the Switch has no games.