The existence of a Nintendo Switch successor coming soon has been a repeated conspiracy theory on the Internet for a while. Nintendo fans, like myself, always try to predict what the big N will do next, and we’re rarely right. Who else remembers when Mario’s watermelon seeds was a sign that Super Mario Odyssey was definitely getting a sequel? Despite this, it’s starting to feel almost inevitable at this point. As of next year, the Switch will be six years old, and trends tell us we’re due to hear about a new system any day from then on. There were five years between the GameCube and Wii, six between Wii and Wii U and five between Wii U and Switch. It’s not just likely at this point though – I think it’s pretty essential.
We’ll start with some history. There was a lot of skepticism around the Switch when it was announced. Nintendo merging its home and handheld system together was a pretty wild idea, and after the disaster of the Wii U, the concern was understandable. Exactly how Nintendo could deliver any kind of modern home console experience on a handheld was the topic of much debate, but we’d be eating our words when it dropped in 2017. A flurry of hits like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 all hit the system in just under a year, each being visually stunning and varied in their art styles. Somehow, Nintendo actually delivered on their promise, and the loyal Nintendo fanbase were eating better than we had in years.
The hits kept coming through 2018 and 2019 with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Octopath Traveller, Pokémon titles and a bunch of Wii U ports too. Little did we know of the incoming drought. The pandemic year of 2020 is when things took a turn for the worse, as Nintendo was quiet on upcoming projects, working from home delayed projects and there wasn’t a full scale Nintendo Direct to be seen. We did get to start the year with the mega-hit that was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but there was a lot left to be desired in regards to Nintendo’s support of the title.
Through the drought, the PlayStation and Xbox were gearing up to release their flashy next gen systems, and speculation stirred over what’s next for Switch. As 2021 began, rumors swirled of a Pro model for the Switch, possessing an OLED screen and 4K capabilities, according to Bloomberg. This Switch OLED model would appear in July 2021, but besides better screen visuals it offered no technological improvements to the Switch internals. Despite this, gaming media insisted a 4K capable Switch does exist somewhere, and developers already had 4K dev kits. Feral speculation continued but we still didn’t have any concrete evidence, all the while Nintendo denied any new hardware was incoming.
Then earlier this year, it happened. The “mother of all cyber attacks” hit Nvidia, and with it three references to a Nintendo Switch capable of DLSS, with an all new chip and the accompanying improved graphics. Nintendo ‘reassured’ us all that there won’t be any new Switch hardware in this financial year, but it’s almost the end of the calendar year and we can’t help but think the time is almost upon us, and it’s about time at that.
This year has been a good one for Nintendo, but I can’t help but feel like we’ve reached the point of hardware hindrance on the Switch’s library. The beloved Kingdom Hearts series finally hit the Switch in February, and every single one was a cloud version. The first Kingdom Hearts game is a PS2 game from 2002. That’s not to say the Switch is weaker than a PS2, but it does tell us Square Enix was struggling to cope with porting a remastered PS2 game onto the system. The official reason given by series producer Ichiro Hazama was due to “storage capacity” issues, amongst other things. This led to fan outcry on social media, but nothing changed. This was only the first sign that the Switch was aging poorly, as several more games have proven throughout the year.
This summer had two big releases, with Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Splatoon 3, with both of them being big hits for their respective franchises. Although they look great, they actually don’t do as much as former Switch titles in terms of pushing the bar. Kirby and the Forgotten Land sure is as cute as ever, but the 30fps cap was surprising for a Nintendo first party platforming release. The perfect pink puffball lags behind series like Mario and Metroid with its sluggish frame rate, and was a disappointing stain on an otherwise well received game. Meanwhile, although Splatoon 3 smashed Japanese sales records at launch, the technical performance and visuals were not drastically improved over 2017’s Splatoon 2. As we said in our glowing 10/10 review, “the graphics were already good in Splatoon 2, and now they’re a bit flashier.” Splatoon is a series that needs to prioritize its frame rate, so the roof for visual flair seems to have been reached.
The latter half of this year is when it became undeniable that a Switch successor is necessary. We had Bayonetta 3 followed by Pokémon Scarlet and Violet one month after another, and they’re some of the best worst performing games on the Switch. Best because, gameplay wise, they both push the somewhat formulaic franchises to new refreshing heights, and broaden the horizons of what a Bayonetta or a Pokémon game can be. At the same time, they perform absolutely abysmally. The visuals of Bayonetta 3 can be blurry, bland and downright bad for large parts of the game, as the Switch practically screams out for more power. The witch is clearly becoming too powerful for outdated hardware.
The technological disaster that is Pokémon Scarlet and Violet can’t be entirely pinned on the Switch. Game Freak clearly rushed the game out, working first on the gameplay and then throwing together some blurry textures over an open world map and calling it a day. The clipping, crashing and bugging can all be safely blamed on Game Freak. That being said, a more powerful hardware would have at least offered some technological padding to the game’s struggling frame rate, giving the system more resources to run a poorly optimized game better. I know that Game Freak could’ve delivered better, but it would have been undoubtedly easier with a system that can handle more. This is exactly why we need the Switch successor – we can’t head into 2023 and beyond being fearful of the performance of the games we’re looking forward to.
The upcoming release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be a big one, a sequel to the 2017 Switch launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As much as Tears of the Kingdom is a surefire success already, it’s also an opportunity. Breath of the Wild was available on both Wii U and Switch, as a perfect title to cross over Nintendo’s weakest generation in recent history into its strongest. The game is great no matter where you played it, but it managed to showcase the Switch’s capability over the Wii U with the game’s performance and handheld options. There’s no reason that lightning can’t strike twice. With the seemingly ambitious sky-spanning scope of Tears of the Kingdom, a game will have been in development for six years once it releases. There’s surely going to be a lot to show off there, and what better time to transition Switch users over to an improved model with improved graphics and performance? Zelda is a core Nintendo franchise and Tears of the Kingdom has an ocean of hype behind it; the game definitely has the power to transition a user base to a new system, arguably more than any other forthcoming release.
We’re overdue a new original Mario title, and every other Nintendo series has already had some love on the Switch – even Metroid! The only other big titles coming at some point in future without confirmed release dates yet are Pikmin 4 and Metroid Prime 4, but there’s nothing stopping those from being cross-gen titles. Imagine a Switch successor launch year with Mario, Pikmin, Zelda and Metroid, all performing beautifully on an enhanced Nintendo system. It’d be like 2017 all over again.
An improved system would also enable better third party support. Phil Spencer just confirmed that Xbox is committing to a ten year deal that would see Call of Duty arrive on Nintendo consoles (notice how which platform isn’t specified…), and it’s hard to imagine that would be ten years of cloud ports. It could be, Microsoft is increasingly pushing its cloud gaming service, but it would be disappointing and they know that. Running a first person shooter over the cloud, a genre famously reliant on input timing and smooth gameplay, seems like a silly thing to do. The rumored DLSS abilities of a Switch successor could easily give it the push it needs to look presentable enough and run effectively a Call of Duty title, if Nintendo can just give us the hardware we need.
There’s one last potential thing of note when considering an imminent new Nintendo system with Tears of the Kingdom. The game is scheduled to release on May 12 2023, one week after Japan’s ‘Golden Week’. Golden Week is a week that encompasses four different public holidays in one, and can be a hotspot for new releases, like Nintendo Switch Sports last year. Nintendo missing this period by just one week feels strange, and almost intentional. There’s almost no reason to give it a miss, unless there’s something bigger getting in the way. This is just speculative and could come down to many other things, but it’s interesting.
The Switch is an excellent system. The Switch is my personal favorite system from Nintendo, being easily the prettiest and offering such a varied library. That being said, everything ends eventually, and I can’t help but feel like the sun is setting on the Switch. This doesn’t have to be the end for Nintendo’s reign over the hybrid market, and it has done so much right throughout the Switch era. We’re almost in a new financial year, and Nintendo is in the perfect position to make the move, and push its hardware further than ever before.
Do you think a Switch successor is coming? More importantly, do you think we need one? Let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes on GameLuster for more gaming news.