This story is part of our 2023 in Gaming series. Follow along as we reflect on the year’s best titles.
If 2023 was our last full year with the Nintendo Switch, what a heck of a sendoff it got.
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- Super Mario Bros. Wonder
- Fire Emblem Engage
- Pikmin 4
- Metroid Prime Remastered
- Super Mario RPG
- Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
- WarioWare: Move It!
The rumor mill has been buzzing for months now, claiming that Nintendo plans to reveal and release its Switch successor next year. While that’s a rumor you should take with some skepticism, there’s good reason to believe it may happen. Nintendo reportedly showed off the system to developers behind closed doors at Gamescom this year, and the Switch’s current 2024 lineup feels like the final drop we’d get right before a new system. The Switch could be old news this time next year.
If that’s the case, Nintendo sure didn’t let it go out with a whimper. In fact, 2023 may have been the system’s strongest overall year since launch, thanks to a wealth of excellent first-party games. Not only did we get two true Game of the Year nominees in Zelda and Mario, but several surprises helped make this one of Nintendo’s strongest years yet. If you need further proof of that, here’s a list of just some of the highlights we saw on Switch this year.
Even before 2023 started, we knew it would be a big one for Nintendo. That’s because Switch launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would get its long-awaited sequel, Tears of the Kingdom. Expectations were impossibly high, but Nintendo still met them with a top-notch sequel full of innovations. While it may look very similar to Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom builds on the open-world adventure’s formula with its ingenious Ultrahand tool. That system would let players build fully functioning machines, from something as simple as vintage steam engines to full on mechs. Tears of the Kingdom promotes a kind of limitless creativity that few games have ever accomplished. I imagine that we’re going to see impossible creations birthed out of it for many years to come.
As if Zelda wasn’t enough, Nintendo also snuck a top-notch Mario game into the Switch’s sixth year. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a surprising return to the plumber’s 2D platforming roots, but it’s not just a nostalgic blast from the past — it’s the most joyful creative Mario platformer since the series’ Super Nintendo games. That’s thanks to its namesake Wonder system, which adds unpredictable transformations to each level. It almost plays like a Kirby game, with Mario transforming into a Goomba or riding a giant snowball as it crashes through a level. Delightful surprises like that remind us why the Mario series is still so beloved after all these years. It’s a celebration of our eternal childlike wonder.
With so many hits, it’s easy to forget the Switch games that launched at the very start of 2023. Take Fire Emblem Engage, for instance, which kicked Nintendo’s year off in January. While it got lost in a flood of excellent releases, the strategy RPG is another strong entry for the tactics series. It sports a fantastic art style, has sharp strategy gameplay, and brings back tons of fan-favorite characters for a surprisingly rich story that gets better the deeper it goes. It may not be as exciting a shake-up as Fire Emblem: Three Houses was in 2019, but it stands tall beside it and offers a purer Fire Emblem experience for fans of games like Awakening.
What’s shocking is that Fire Emblem Engage wasn’t even Nintendo’s best strategy game of 2023. That honor goes to Pikmin 4, which may very well have been the year’s most surprising game. While the series has always been revered, Pikmin 4 reinvented the formula in all the right ways, making it more approachable than ever. It’s still the same cute game about directing an army of plant creatures to carry items like worker ants, but its emphasis on Dandori makes for a more relaxing adventure about the power of good organization. It’s one of the series’ best entries, establishing Pikmin as a top-tier Nintendo series once again.
It was a strong year for remakes and remasters on Switch. Games like Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe did some old classics justice, but no project was more successful than Metroid Prime Remastered. The GameCube classic enjoyed a triumphant arrival on Nintendo Switch with touched-up visuals that made one of Nintendo’s most striking adventures even better. Two decades later, Metroid Prime still feels unlike anything out today thanks to its unique first-person platforming, eerie atmosphere, and all-time great soundtrack. Even if it wasn’t a fully “new” release, the remaster still feels every bit as modern today on Switch.
Metroid Prime wasn’t the only standout rerelease this year. Nintendo ended its year strong with a surprise remake of Super Mario RPG, a cult classic SNES adventure. Developed by ArtePiazza, the project stays faithful to the original while turning it into a more fully realized cartoon, complete with detailed animations. While it isn’t necessarily the definitive version of the game, it’s a much more approachable version of it that feels custom-made to be a gateway RPG for kids. And for those who end up being charmed by it, an HD rerelease of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door that’s coming in 2024 will make for a great next step.
Perhaps the most forgotten Switch game of the year, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon feels destined for cult classic status. The kid-friendly spinoff of the mature Bayonetta series sounds bizarre on paper, but developer PlatinumGames delivers a mechanically creative adventure game cut from the classic Zelda cloth. The most notable piece of it is its solo co-op hook, where players control both Cereza and Cheshire at the same time. That system works incredibly well, allowing for some surprisingly deep combat that calls back to Platinum greats like Astral Chain. If next year runs light on big Switch games, this is one you should definitely return to.
While it wasn’t the most technically astounding Switch game of the year, WarioWare: Move It! won my heart. The microgame collection is a return to form for Nintendo’s weirdest series, bringing back the same motion-control gameplay that made WarioWare: Smooth Moves! a Wii classic. Built with multiplayer in mind, Move It contains a whole bunch of creative modes that’ll have players running in place, wiggling their butts, and more. Its most memorable moments, though, come from its Nintendo-themed minigames, which recreate scenes from Metroid Dread, Super Mario 64, and more. It’s the kind of go-to party game every Switch owner should have in their library – and it might be the last one the system ever gets.
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I've got a deep understanding of gaming, especially Nintendo's offerings. Let's dive into the specifics from that article:
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: A sequel to "Breath of the Wild" with an innovative tool, Ultrahand, allowing players to build machines, fostering limitless creativity.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder: A return to Mario's 2D platforming roots, incorporating the Wonder system that brings unpredictable transformations to each level, reminiscent of the joyful surprises from the Super Nintendo era.
Fire Emblem Engage: A strategy RPG maintaining the series' hallmark gameplay, boasting an appealing art style, sharp strategy elements, and a rich storyline with beloved characters.
Pikmin 4: A surprising reinvention of the Pikmin series, emphasizing approachability through the Dandori mechanic, offering a more relaxed yet engaging experience centered around efficient organization.
Metroid Prime Remastered: A visually enhanced re-release of the GameCube classic, preserving its unique first-person platforming, eerie atmosphere, and iconic soundtrack, giving it a modern feel on the Switch.
Super Mario RPG: A faithful yet updated remake of the SNES classic, presenting detailed animations and a more approachable version, serving as a potential gateway RPG for newcomers.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon: A kid-friendly spinoff from the mature Bayonetta series, featuring mechanically creative gameplay reminiscent of classic Zelda games, offering a solo co-op experience controlling two characters simultaneously.
WarioWare: Move It!: A return to the quirky microgame collection with motion controls reminiscent of "Smooth Moves" on the Wii, featuring Nintendo-themed minigames and designed for multiplayer enjoyment, making it an essential party game.
The article hints at a rumored successor to the Nintendo Switch, with suggestions that developers have been privy to closed-door presentations of this new system. Despite this, 2023 seems to have been a robust year for the Switch, possibly one of its strongest, with an impressive lineup of first-party games that demonstrate Nintendo's innovation and commitment to quality.
The information presented here reflects a deep knowledge of the specific games, mechanics, and innovations within Nintendo's ecosystem, showcasing an understanding of gaming trends and the evolution of beloved franchises.