The Nintendo Switch is in its filler era

A Switch Oled sits in front of a right background.

After years of speculation and wild rumors, it’s official: Nintendo’s new console is on the horizon.

In a tweet this week, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa confirmed that the company plans to announce its Switch follow-up in the next fiscal year (though that won’t be during its upcoming June Direct). It’s an exciting piece of news, but one that shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone paying attention to the Switch’s first-party game lineup this year: The Nintendo Switch is already in its filler era.

I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. While this has so far been a strange year for Nintendo filled with B — and sometimes C — releases, it’s given the Switch a host of niche titles that I imagine players will look back on fondly years from now. It may feel like we’re in a Switch drought right now, but enjoy this moment defined by left-field curiosities while you can. Once the Switch 2 drops, we’re back to the races.

The filler era

I first began to suspect that Nintendo was scaling back Switch support last November. That’s when the company dropped a surprise remake of Super Mario RPG. It was an exciting announcement, but something felt a little off. It wasn’t marketed as a major release. That made sense when I played the final product, a 1:1 remake that felt conservative in its ambitions.

The biggest tell, though, was the mystery surrounding the project’s developer. Nintendo kept that information hidden prior to launch, even barring reviewers from revealing it. Once the game came out, credits revealed that the project didn’t come from Square Enix or Nintendo; it was outsourced to the smaller ArtePiazza. With Switch 2 rumors heating up, I began wondering if perhaps Nintendo was filling up its first-party schedule with smaller projects like this from satellite studios so as to keep major players like Monolith Soft focused on bigger Switch 2 games.

Mario jumping towards Donkey Kong in Mario vs Donkey Kong for the Switch.

Since then, every new first-party Switch game has carried that same feeling. Another Code: Recollection and Mario vs. Donkey Kong both felt like left-field remakes built to pad out 2024’s early months. The same feeling extends to the upcoming Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD. As for new games, both Princess Peach Showtime! and this month’s Endless Ocean: Luminous feel surprisingly sleek in scale. Each pads out their slim runtime by remixing content or utilizing repetitive gameplay loops. The back half of 2024 doesn’t appear to be much different. Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition is another retro game collection in the vein of NES Remix that feels like a quick way to get something on shelves this summer.

If this moment feels familiar, that’s because it’s a common one during the last full year of a Nintendo platform’s life. Take a look at the Nintendo 3DS’ game lineup in 2017 as the handheld passed the torch to the Nintendo Switch. Those 12 months brought us ports of games like Yoshi’s Woolly World and surprise remakes like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions. Underwhelming games like Mario Sports Superstars and Mario Party: The Top 100 helped keep the platform afloat while Nintendo’s major players delivered Super Mario Odyssey on Switch. Now, the Switch finds itself in that exact position.

Divers swim near a large creature in Endless Ocean: Luminous.

As I mentioned, when I say it’s a “filler era,” I don’t mean it in a derogatory way. Yes, it does mean that we’re unlikely to get much in the way of major releases, barring a Hail Mary Metroid Prime 4 holiday release. But just because the Switch’s 2024 game lineup isn’t full of critical darlings doesn’t mean that it won’t be memorable. I still look back on the last years of the 3DS fondly. Games like Ever Oasis and Hey! Pikmin are the kind of hidden gems that might not impress in the moment, but they spur some warm nostalgia years later. The 3DS’ most important moment came with 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns. At the time, it was positioned as a low-stakes side experiment for a dormant franchise. Its success revitalized the Metroid series and paved the way for the excellent Metroid Dread. I’m hoping that titles like Princess Peach Showtime! have the same long-term effect.

So enjoy this experimental year while it’s here. Once the Switch 2 comes out, Nintendo will undoubtedly roll out its top-tier franchises again, kicking us into a more predictable cycle of surefire bets. Niche games like Endless Ocean: Luminous will be far and few between. This is your moment to revel in Nintendo’s oddities.

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