When March 3, 2024 rolls around, the Nintendo Switch will turn seven years old.
Not since the jump from the Famicom to the Super Famicom has Nintendo committed to a single home console for seven whole years, and yet the Switch’s continued steady sales suggest it may be in no rush to reveal its successor.
This is often the point in a console’s life where the quality of its software starts to slowly wind down, as publishers and developers put their brightest minds to work on the next generation. Despite this, while we’re all undoubtedly itching to see the next Nintendo system, there can also be little doubt that even in its sixth year, the Switch has had one of the strongest years ever for a console line-up.
This past year, the Xbox Series X/S has continued to struggle to find that killer game to kick off an upward momentum truly, and the PlayStation 5 – for all its impressive sales figures – only got a single first-party exclusive this year in Spider-Man 2 (its only other first-party release, MLB The Show 23, was also on Xbox and Switch).
And yet, despite this, it was the Switch – the console that is frequently bemoaned for its lack of power and has some constantly claiming that it’s time for it to be put out to pasture – that delivered no fewer than three exclusives with Metacritic scores higher than 90 this year.
With Metroid Prime Remastered, Nintendo showed that the evergreen nature of its legacy catalogue means it can pluck out the highest-rated game from 2002, give it a facelift and deliver the third-highest rated game of 2023 (something that was never a guarantee, given that 2002’s second-placed game was GTA Vice City, and we all know how those remasters went).
With The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it showed the ability to take Breath of the Wild, one of the finest games of this generation, and make it even more impressive by essentially adding a suite of engineering tools on top of it, adding even more possibilities to a game whose delightfully surprising one-off moments were already a regular fixture on social media.
Finally, with Super Mario Bros Wonder, Nintendo finally listened to the players who had sat through four separate iterations of the New Super Mario Bros series (to the extent that the ‘New’ part almost felt sarcastic), and were pleading for something fresh that didn’t have “waa-waa” music anymore. That freshness was delivered in the shape of one of the finest Mario games ever created.
Indeed, when you look back at the console’s release schedule for this year, it’s nothing short of stunning that Nintendo’s unspoken plan to ensure the Switch has a major game released on it every month has continued through the console’s sixth year.
“It’s nothing short of stunning that Nintendo’s unspoken plan to ensure the Switch has a major game released on it every month has continued through the console’s sixth year.”
Fire Emblem Engage in January. Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe and Metroid Prime Remastered in February. Bayonetta Origins in March. Advance Wars 1+2 in April. Tears of the Kingdom in May. Everybody 1-2-Switch in June (hey, they can’t all be winners).
Pikmin 4 in July. Red Dead Redemption and Vampire Survivors in August (sometimes it’s third parties who provide the goods). HD revamps of Pikmin 1 and 2 in September. Super Mario Bros Wonder in October. Super Mario RPG in November.
Go back through every year, and the consistency with which this happens is ridiculous. And, as has been indicated above, it’s not just first-party games that made the Switch the best platform this year.
Octopath Traveler II. Dredge. Theatrhythm Final Bar Line. Sea of Stars. Persona 4 Golden. Ghost Trick. A Space for the Unbound. PowerWash Simulator. Oxenfree II. We Love Katamari. A Highland Song. All released this year and all brilliant. EA even pulled the finger out and gave the Switch version of EA Sports FC full feature parity for once.
It was an excellent year for the platform’s retro offerings too. As well as the sublime F-Zero 99, which brought back the racing series for the first time in nearly two decades, the retro libraries in Switch Online got some brilliant re-releases, including GoldenEye 007, Jet Force Gemini, 1080 Snowboarding and Excitebike 64.
Even better, the addition of new Switch Online apps this year adding Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games brought another 30 or so handheld games to the service and opened up even more possibilities for the future.
It’s looking likely that 2024 will finally be the year that Nintendo officially reveals the Switch’s successor and we all get to find out the details: its power, its release date, its price, and whether it has backwards compatibility (fingers crossed). As such, there’s a chance that 2023 may have been the final year that the Switch was able to stand tall as Nintendo’s premium system.
If that turns out to be the case, and this time next year we’re looking at a new Nintendo system and the inevitable sunsetting process for its predecessor, we can look back at 2023 and say, without question, that six years down the line the Switch was still the best in the business.