What can we expect from Nintendo at E3 2021?

A very dry year has Nintendo fans thirsty for any new information.

Image via Nintendo

When it comes to Nintendo announcements, it’s best to expect the unexpected—and to lower your expectations. In a year where we haven’t seen many major titles released, Nintendo’s announcements at E3 may (or may not) set the tone for the remainder of the year and the fourth year of the Nintendo Switch.

This year’s E3 follows suit with last year’s, forgoing an in-person event in favor of numerous digital events due to evolving situations surrounding the pandemic. Nintendo is heading back to the event with a new Nintendo Direct scheduled for June 15 at 11am CT, likely bringing about information regarding new games and more news about those already revealed.

Last time on Nintendo Direct

The previous Nintendo Direct from February focused on numerous titles that had previously been announced, as well as hinted at some new releases for familiar series that fans can expect this year. Most notably, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD received an official announcement and release date of July 16, while the unexpected Splatoon 3 was teased at the end for 2022.

Splatoon 3 caught fans of the series completely off-guard, though it was not entirely unexpected. Its predecessor was released on the Switch during its first year and has since stopped receiving consistent updates. Similar to Splatoon’s end, Splatoon 2 featured a final Splatfest—the series’ monthly turf war tournaments—that pit two sides of the game’s universe against one another. The outcome directly affected portions of the second game, and from the teaser trailer it looks to be the same for this next title. While it’s unlikely that we will receive a specific release date for Splatoon 3, we may get another taste of what to expect when the game releases next year.

Other than these titles, the games discussed in this presentation—the first full-length Direct in over a year—have already been released or will release later in the year, likely set to receive some coverage during the E3 Direct. Mario Golf: Super Rush and Square Enix’s new title codenamed “Project Triangle Strategy” also received their first gameplay trailers, though more information is more likely to be revealed for the former title due to its cemented release date of June 25.

Who’s joining Smash?

Fans of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate have anxiously been awaiting the announcement of the next fighter in the game’s second fighter pass. In February’s Nintendo Direct, Nintendo revealed that Pyra and Mythra from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would be joining the roster as a transforming character in the fourth spot of the fighter pass, leaving two spots remaining for unknown fighters. Since then there has been no indication as to what the next two fighters may be or when they may release, though the E3 Nintendo Directs have historically fed Smash fans well.

In 2018, Nintendo centered its entire E3 booth around the newest title in the series, releasing the “Everyone is Here” trailer and announcing that every fighter in Smash history would be returning to Ultimate. The following two years revealed three iconic DLC fighters: Hero from the Dragon Quest series, Banjo and Kazooie from their series of the same name, and Min Min from ARMS. Fans are currently speculating as to what the next fighter may be that is potentially announced, with the possibility that Nintendo reveals the entirety of the rest of the second fighters pass at E3 also being up in the air. Names such as Master Chief from the Halo series, a new Pokémon from Pokémon Sword and Shield, and Dante from the Devil May Cry series are popular names in speculation, though as seen with the second fighters pass thus far, we may get someone completely unexpected.

Regardless of when the reveals happen in the Direct, there almost certainly will be announcements that get Smash fans talking well after the presentation concludes.

Where are the previously announced sequels?

Metroid Prime 4? Bayonetta 3? Breath of the Wild 2? Where are you?

These highly-anticipated titles vanished as quickly as they were announced. Outside of their initial teasers—which, outside of Breath of the Wild 2, were simply logos—there have been little to no updates regarding their release dates, let alone their development. Fans have been anxiously anticipating new information regarding these titles, but all we have received thus far is news of delays and ongoing development.

According to a 2020 interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu, Hideki Kamiya, director of Bayonetta 3 with PlatinumGames, the game is still undergoing development and is set to be released sometime in the future. This quelled concerns that the highly-anticipated title had been cancelled due to the lack of updates on its development.

Metroid Prime 4, on the other hand, is stuck floating around in space. Two years after its initial announcement, Nintendo released a video announcing that the development of the game had been in disarray. To better compensate for what they believed the fans would enjoy, they placed the further development in the game in the hands of Retro Studios, who had worked on the other entries in the Metroid Prime series. The game was said to be restarting development from the ground up, and since then there have been no further updates. But four years after the initial announcement may be the perfect time to give fans a much-needed update.

The most welcome yet unexpected surprise of E3 2019 was the teaser trailer for Breath of the Wild 2, the sequel to the Switch release title. This announcement came as a shock to many Nintendo fans, as the fourth best-selling Nintendo Switch game had only been around for two short years—though the critical acclaim made it clear Nintendo had ventured onto the right path with the series. In the first Nintendo Direct of this year, series director Hidemaro Fujibayashi confirmed the title was still in development but had experienced some delays due to the ongoing pandemic.

To hold fans over, he announced The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, releasing this July, yet simultaneously relieved worried fans that hadn’t heard much about the sequel since its announcement. While this bit of information is enough for fans to understand the current state of the game, Nintendo may surprise us all with another small announcement regarding Breath of the Wild 2’s development.

What else can we expect?

One of the biggest rumors that has run rampant around all corners of the internet is the “imminent” announcement of the upgraded Nintendo Switch. Leaks have circulated regarding the new version of the console since 2017, the year the Switch was first released, but in the past few weeks rumors have reached the forefront of all conversations.

At this moment, there are no indications any new version of the Nintendo Switch is set to be announced any time soon. But knowing Nintendo and its methods of announcing games and hardware, it is highly possible that should this upgrade truly be in the works, there may be some sort of reveal in the E3 Direct. But since these are just rumors, it is likely we won’t receive any information on a new Nintendo Switch system.

Nintendo’s other flagship titles that have already been announced for release in 2021, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, have yet to receive any further information following the Pokémon Presents presentation from earlier this year. Pokémon has historically had a large presence in Nintendo’s E3 presentations. In 2019, the last in-person E3, Nintendo created a life-size replica of a Pokémon Gym on the expo floor to celebrate the imminent release of the newest games in the series, Pokémon Sword and Shield.

While it’s unlikely these remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl will receive the same treatment as the 2019 titles, we are more than likely to expect more information about them during the E3 Direct. Since we already know the Nov. 19 release date, new information will likely center on what makes these games different from their originals.

Remaining on the Pokémon train, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is releasing in January for the Switch, and like the Diamond and Pearl remakes, has only received one trailer. Since this title is releasing next year, we will likely not receive any new information about this open-world journey until later in the year, much less at this year’s E3. But since this year is Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, perhaps Nintendo has more in store than we may know.

Looking forward

This year is looking very, very light for Nintendo so far. Outside of a few new titles teased in this year’s first Nintendo Direct, many of Nintendo’s biggest franchises are not receiving new titles in their respective series. Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda series are forgoing new experiences for remakes that bring their old adventures to the newer generation, while the Mario, Kirby, and Metroid series, among others, are yet again left in the dark.

E3 has long been Nintendo’s staple event for announcements, and in a year where Nintendo’s current schedule looks drier than ever, this E3 Direct will be significant in defining the Switch’s fourth year of life. Fans can look forward to Nintendo’s E3 Direct on June 15 at 11am CT, marking the beginning of the last day of this year’s summer celebration of gaming.