Now that 2024 is here, the countdown is on. Rumors suggest that the Nintendo’s Switch long-awaited successor is coming by the end of the year. While there’s no official word from Nintendo on that yet, there’s good reason to think it could happen. The current lineup of Switch games for 2024 is looking thin, so one could reasonably guess that developers may be off working on Switch 2 games by now.
As I begin to reflect on the Switch’s wildly successful life span, I can’t help but think about what a bounty of games its given to Nintendo fans. I’m not just talking about Mario and Zelda games either. Most of Nintendo’s franchises have been represented in some form, even if some were just rereleases or oddball spinoffs. We’ve seen Animal Crossing, Metroid, WarioWare, and even F-Zero get new games on the system. Nintendo left virtually no stone unturned this generation, as it turned just about every franchise it had into a cash cow.
Despite its extensive library, there are still a few holes. Some key Nintendo franchises have yet to grace the system, even in the form of an old game remaster. While titles like Advance Wars and Big Brain Academy made a comeback, heavy hitters like Star Fox have seemingly skipped the Switch entirely. With perhaps only months left in the system’s life span, these are the biggest Nintendo series that could miss the Switch unless a last-second release is on the horizon.
Of every major Nintendo series that has yet to come to Switch in any form, Star Fox is the most surprising omission. The space shooter has been a staple of Nintendo consoles ever since 1993. The series has appeared on almost every Nintendo system since the Super Nintendo, only missing the Nintendo Wii. It seems like we won’t get one on the Switch at this rate, and that makes sense to a degree. The Wii U’s Star Fox Zero was a commercial failure, likely leaving Nintendo with cold feet.
Even so, we’ve seen that the Switch has been able to elevate even the most niche franchises thanks to its massive install base. An improved Star Fox Zero rerelease could have rehabilitated the series. Perhaps Nintendo is saving that for its final gamble on the platform. If not, there’s always hope that it gets the F-Zero 99 treatment.
At this point, Earthbound’s absence on a modern Nintendo system is a bit of a meme. It’s not even that players are clamoring for a new entry in the niche RPG series; they’ve simply been begging for a port of its third entry, Mother 3. For a few years prior to the Switch’s life, it felt like Nintendo was building to that moment. A surprise Earthbound Beginnings release in 2015 felt like table-setting for a Mother 3 revival heading into the Switch era, but that never came.
There’s still a sliver of hope that we might see Earthbound on the Switch in some form this year. This year marks the series’ 30th anniversary and some vague events are planned to celebrate it. That includes some merch drops and collaborations. While games aren’t mentioned on the anniversary webpage, this is probably the best hope we’ve had since 2015 for a revival of some sort. If the year goes by without Mother 3 launching on Switch, either as a full remake or a Switch Online retro rerelease, we may be looking at the true end for the dormant series.
At this point, I don’t think many people really expect a new Punch-Out!! game from Nintendo. It’s in the same boat as Duck Hunt — a retro series that we’re comfortable looking back at with pure nostalgia. But it’s a little surprising Nintendo opted to skip the series entirely on Switch. Nintendo showed its eagerness to make a motion-controller boxing game early in the Switch’s life with Arms, so Punch-Out!! seemed like a logical (and more bankable) next step. That never happened, nor did any kind of throwback port of its Wii installment.
Punch-Out!! may have been a casualty of what I call the Switch Lite effect. When Nintendo released its lower-tier system, which ditched detachable Joy-Cons, the system moved away from motion-controlled games entirely. Titles like Mario Party Superstars and WarioWare: Get It Toegther! prioritized traditional button controls to ensure they could run on all systems. Perhaps that explains why we never got a Punch-Out!! game. If that has you feeling blue, might I recommend watching Summoning Salt’s fantastic two-hour documentary about the history of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! speedruns?
While the Rhythm Heaven series might seem as niche as they come, it’s still a bit of a surprise that it has yet to appear on the Nintendo Switch. The bizarre rhythm game series has a long history on Nintendo systems, appearing on the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, 3DS, and even the Wii. It seemed like the kind of game that could get a small-budget surprise launch on Switch during some random Nintendo Direct. That never happened though, and indies like Melatonin were left to pick up where the series left off.
Rhythm Heaven is one of those awkward franchises that found itself lost in Nintendo’s transition from separate handheld and home console markets to a unified system. Games like Pushmo that were specifically designed for on-the-go play have disappeared on Switch as Nintendo turned console-quality games into robust portable experiences. Perhaps there just isn’t a lot of space left in Nintendo’s first-party schedule for a quick rhythm game that takes a few hours to complete.
For a long time, Kid Icarus was hardly even considered a “Nintendo franchise.” It had two entries in the publisher’s early days, but it went cold after 1991’s Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. Interest in the series would come back when the series’ winged hero, Pit, made his way to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but few were really clamoring for an actual revival. What would a modern Kid Icarus game even look like?
That mindset would change in 2012 thanks to Kid Icarus Uprising, a cult hit Nintendo 3DS title that stands as one of the company’s most creative outputs. It would reimagine the series as a mythical third-person shooter full of aerial battles and some on-rail segments. It’s a wildly ambitious game that made great use of the 3DS and one that left fans hungry for more. Unfortunately, it’s been over a decade now since that release. Uprising wouldn’t turn Kid Icarus into a top-tier series, and there’s no reason to think it’ll become one anytime soon; a new Switch title would have been its best shot at that. Perhaps it’ll make a comeback on Nintendo’s next system as a way to push the new tech.
I fully admit that this pick is one that perhaps only I care about, but it’s worth mentioning regardless. Tons of Mario spinoffs have made their way to Switch over the years, from Mario Maker to Strikers. There’s one that hasn’t though: Dr. Mario. The puzzle series has been absent on Switch outside of its appearance on the Switch Online NES app. Instead, Nintendo would try to turn it into a mobile game with 2019’s Dr. Mario World. That title would reimagine the franchise as a touch-based puzzler with mixed results. It seems like that release is why we never got a dedicated Switch installment.
Do we really need a new Dr. Mario game? Perhaps not considering how many great puzzle games are on the Switch, but Dr. Mario is a blast for fans of the genre. In fact, Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure was one of my most-played games on Nintendo 3DS. It was a solid standby that I returned to any time I was in-between big releases or wanted a casual experience to dig into. Arcade-based Nintendo games like that have been lacking on Switch as the company focused on console-caliber titles, but I hope Nintendo can find a way to return to its roots on its next console. Series like Dr. Mario are the kind of portable staples that a portable device needs.
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