2021 is a huge year for Nintendo, as it marks significant anniversaries for The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, and Metroid franchises. These are arguably Nintendo’s four biggest non-Mario IP’s, and Nintendo loves to use any excuse to repackage and sell nostalgia right back to us. We all collectively ate it up with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and Nintendo will have plenty of chances to do it again in 2021.
Predicting How Nintendo Will Celebrate Their Anniversaries
Donkey Kong is probably the hardest one on this list to predict, so let’s get it out of the way early. Everyone’s favorite ape is one of the most iconic characters in gaming, but he hasn’t had too many standalone adventures in recent years. The Donkey Kong Country series paved the way for 2D platformers, and the Donkey Kong Country Returns series managed to perfectly recapture that formula while adding several new ideas to the table. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see any of these games coming over in 2021, as most are already playable on the Switch.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was ported back in 2018, and the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy is available for free with an NSO account. It’s technically possible for Nintendo to release a port of the original Donkey Kong Country Returns, but it just feels weird to release that three years after porting over the sequel.
Everything else in the Donkey Kong catalog leaves a lot to be desired. Donkey Kong 64 is a beautiful mess that I absolutely adore, but is objectively broken with several head-scratching design choices that have all aged very poorly. A remake of this wouldn’t sell very well unless Nintendo completely rebuilt it from the ground up, which sort of negates the entire purpose of a remake. DK64 is really the only game outside of the Country series with any sort of fanbase, as nobody in their right mind would ever want a remake of Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast.
If Donkey Kong gets any sort of material in 2021, it’ll probably be an entirely new game. Retro Studios has handled the latest Donkey Kong Country games, and they’ve done a wonderful job with the series. While they are working on Metroid Prime 4, they probably have the resources to develop more than one game at a time. A brand new installment in the Country Returns series would be a welcome addition to the Switch library and a great way to celebrate the legendary character.
If I were a betting man, I’d say Nintendo’s original plan was to have Metroid Prime 4 ready for a 2021 release. After all, they initially announced the game back in 2017, and four years is more than enough time to create a game like this. However, those plans soon went off the rails, as Nintendo wasn’t pleased with the direction of the project and hired Retro Studios to essentially start from scratch back in 2019. This means that Metroid Prime 4 won’t be coming out in 2021, but that doesn’t mean Samus won’t make her way over to the Switch.
Metroid Prime 4 will come out eventually, and there’s no better way to get fans excited for the fourth game in a series than by giving them access to the first three. Nintendo released the Metroid Prime Trilogy all on one disc back in 2009, so they should be able to do it again in 2021. This would be a relatively easy way to honor Metroid’s anniversary while also keeping fans satisfied until Metroid Prime 4 hits shelves.
Additionally, there are a lot of signs pointing towards a brand new 2D Metroid. We did a whole article on this, so we’ll keep it brief for now. Basically, multiple leaks stated that Nintendo wanted the game to release in 2020, but COVID-19 pushed the game back. Additionally, there are some older interviews and hints within 2017’s Samus Returns that imply a new 2D Metroid is in the works. If you’re interested in a deeper dive, make sure to click on the card at the top.
Ok, now we’re getting into the good stuff. Donkey Kong and Metroid obviously have big fanbases with large appeal, but they don’t have the same cultural influence as Pokemon. Unlike the previously mentioned series, Pokemon has already announced that they will be celebrating the anniversary of the original game. We know that New Pokemon Snap is coming out in April, and that Katy Perry will have something to do with the overall celebration. Yes, that is a real thing. However, outside of that, it’s all speculation.
Chances are, we won’t see a new generation of Pokemon in 2021, as Generation 8 only came out in 2019. However, Nintendo could cap the year off by announcing Generation 9 as a 2022 release. In terms of games that can actually be played this year, Nintendo could release more installments in the Let’s Go series. Pikachu and Eevee released in 2018, which means that enough time has gone by to bring the series to Johto. Additionally, I also expect the long-awaited remakes of Diamond and Pearl to release sometime around September.
Bringing these aforementioned games to the Switch should be enough to satisfy longtime fans of the series, and there is a chance Nintendo also releases a spinoff game like Detective Pikachu 2 or Pokemon UNITE. Depending on how optimistic you are, there are also rumors that Nintendo is planning on bundling a bunch of their old games onto a single cartridge. Personally, this seems a little too good to be true, but I’d be thrilled if it actually happens.
Anyone that follows my work for a while is probably aware of my love for the Zelda series. Breath of the Wild is my favorite game ever, and I cannot wait to see what Nintendo does in 2021. Just about everyone believes that Breath of the Wild 2 will come out in 2021, with most expecting it to be Nintendo’s holiday title. However, Zelda is such a huge staple in video games that Nintendo can easily release more Zelda games without flooding the market.
The most likely candidate for a remake is 2011’s Skyward Sword. As the only 3D Zelda without a remake, there are plenty of newer fans of the series desperate to get their hands on this 10-year old classic.
Nintendo could probably release this alone and get good sales, but combining it with some other 3D staples would lead to massive profits. Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker both released as HD ports on the Wii U, so it shouldn’t take too much work to bundle them over with Skyward Sword. Nintendo wouldn’t really need to worry about isolating the people that bought these games on Wii U, because nobody bought a Wii U. Ports for Nintendo’s failed system have sold phenomenally well on the Switch, and this collection should be no exception.
This is probably asking for too much, but Nintendo could also bring some forgotten 2D classics to the Switch. Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are two parts of the same whole that would be absolutely phenomenal on the same cartridge. Back in the day, you could use a linked cartridge to unlock a secret boss, and a remake would be a great way to modernize this formula. Also, put The Minish Cap on there. I love that game and it’s my video, so I can ask for whatever I want.