Nintendo’s E3 Direct is an event I look forward to every year, and odds are you do too. Considering 2020 lacked that dedicated showcase of all that’s on the way, anticipation is at an all time high for whatever June 15th has to share.
Rather than simply predict or lay out what we know going into the presentation, I thought it might be more worthwhile to give some of Nintendo’s biggest (and not so big) franchises an arbitrary and idiosyncratic likelihood rating. I’ve focused only on games Nintendo themselves are publishing, so while we very well could see something on Shin Megami Tensei V or No More Heroes 3, this list is strictly Nintendo.
That’s not to say we won’t have surprises or shake ups, both from them and third parties. I’ve also left out the prevailing rumors of a Switch hardware update or revision, as that’s a completely different ballgame of manufacturing and moving units. With that out of the way, let’s get right to what it’s all about.
It is never a matter of “if” Mario, but rather “what” Mario. Mario Golf: Super Rush will be out less than two weeks from the E3 Direct, so there’s a chance Nintendo will let their plumber off the hook for the rest of the year. There’s always the hope for Odyssey DLC, or Galaxy 2 to get some love after it sat out the 35th Anniversary, but the prevailing hope is some sort of news on the next Mario Kart.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to sell extremely well on Switch, with it and Animal Crossing in a league of their own when it comes to software sales. In some ways this may mitigate the “need” for a new entry, with Mario Kart Tour and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit filling the void. Still, success shouldn’t hold anyone back – if Nintendo wants to light a fire not just in its loyal fans but across all Switch owners, Mario Kart 9 (or whatever it gets called) is the game to do it.
Likelihood of appearance (Mario) – Pretty much as likely as they are for the other Bowser
Likelihood of appearance (Mario Kart) – As likely as you dodging a Blue Shell without an item
The Legend of Zelda
Mark my words, Zelda will be in this Direct. That could be as simple as Skyward Sword HD getting a new trailer, and if not that then it (and the Zelda & Loftwing amiibo, perhaps) could always get some love during the following Nintendo Treehouse Live. If not that, then there’s always Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity DLC or some murmurings of 35th anniversary celebrations. That’s not what you’re really asking, though, is it?
Breath of the Wild 2. When Eiji Aonuma last updated us on the game it was in the context of requesting patience. That is a very difficult thing to muster when its debut trailer was so intriguing, and when BotW still remains one of the most incredible experiences on Switch. The worst that could happen here is it’s brought up only to be formally delayed into 2022 or beyond, but if we somehow get a release date and it’s this year then that’s the kind of thing that “wins” these events.
Likelihood of appearance (Zelda) – As likely as us stanning Groose for the next few months
Likelihood of appearance (BotW2) – Slightly lower than you finding every Korok Seed
Super Smash Bros.
Hey, speaking of Sakurai, there’s no reason not to anticipate the next DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to be revealed at this point. E3 has always made a spectacular stage for these debuts, with 2019’s Hero + Banjo-Kazooie double dip reaching peak Smash hype for many fans across the world. Guessing who’ll Crash the party is a whole other story, though.
Likelihood of appearance – Equal to losing a stock to Zelda’s Final Smash
If Nintendo is going to bust out a platformer this year then I’d be down for the old banana slamma. Tropical Freeze and its Funky freshness is starting to wear off, and as excellent a game as it is I’d be interested in seeing something new for the whole entire DK Crew.
That said, series shepherds Retro Studios are a little occupied with something else (we’ll be getting to that in a minute) so it begs the question of who could be cultivating Kong country. With K. Rool’s comeback, the in-the-works DK minecart roller coaster at Super Nintendo World, and the original Donkey Kong arcade game celebrating its 40th anniversary, all signs are pointing to the big ape barreling towards us this E3.
Likelihood of appearance – As good as you reciting the whole DK Rap from memory
I’m not even the biggest Metroid fan around, but I want to believe. One of my best E3 memories is losing my mind with colleagues over the Metroid Prime 4 announcement back in 2017, and every year I hold out hope for something more. Still, this has been a tricky development with a whole lot of prestige and expectation behind it. Factor in that Metroid, as beloved as it is, has never been a big seller for Nintendo and this one could remain on the backburner for some time.
Metroid is also in the 35th anniversary club this year, and even if Prime 4 is still formulating beyond the stars there’s some hope for a new 2D entry. Samus Returns on 3DS was an out of nowhere reveal right after Prime 4’s announcement, after all, and for every “prediction” we make there’s always the possibility for some kind of surprise.
Likelihood of appearance – About as likely as you finding a squishy Metroid amiibo for MSRP
Kirby, Kirby, Kirby. That tough pink puff has been popping up on Switch fairly regularly ever since Star Allies launched. Frequent free updates and sudden subgame standalones have been the norm for developer HAL Labs as they’ve also put out smaller games like BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! and Part Time UFO. With the “next phase” of Kirby currently being in the works, I’d sooner expect something more on the scale of those games, or something more experimental.
It’s worth noting that when Kirby tries new things it usually goes pretty well. I see people regularly clamoring for Air Ride’s return, and games like Canvas Curse and Epic Yarn endeared themselves easily. If we’re getting anything from Dream Land, I’d expect it to be along those lines. I wouldn’t say no to some kind of compilation either, but that may be better served for the series’ upcoming 30th anniversary.
Likelihood of appearance – Just shy of Dedede actually being a jerk again and not possessed or misunderstood.
There will be Pokémon, almost certainly. Really, it’s more down to how much focus it will get and which of its two upcoming games will be in the spotlight. Seeing an updated look at Legends: Arceus would be the most compelling due to that game’s rougher look at its reveal and deviations from series norms. The Pokémon Company is also content to run its own digital presentations from time to time, so I’d be more inclined to expect a light preview during Treehouse or a new trailer for either of these Sinnoh adventures.
Likelihood of appearance – On par with “fans” moving on to begging for Unova remakes in chat
Much has been said about F-Zero recently, thanks to a recent interview with designer Takaya Imamura. The man who created Captain Falcon said he’s thought of the possibility of a new F-Zero entry, but claims it’d need “a grand new idea”.
Here’s one – F-Zero GX HD. There you go. Money please.
Seriously though, any new F-Zero would be good and welcome. However, Nintendo seems fine with letting it stay in the garage as they give fans their racing fix with Mario Kart. The potential for gorgeous, high-speed, anti-gravity racing is slim as of right now but this is an announcement that would get me out of my seat immediately. That gets bumped up to jumping for joy if Sega is involved again.
Likelihood of appearance – Same as finding an F-Zero AX machine in an abandoned arcade
The Switch is overdue for something weird, and nobody does weird quite like Wario. There’s always been this divide between handheld WarioWare games (usually great!) and console WarioWare games (Smooth Moves was good, right?) that the Switch could blur the line between. Imagine a collection of new microgames that also offered up some wild Joy-Con gimmicks that’d make 1-2-Switch blush. I’d buy that for $49.99.
Likelihood of appearance – Way better than a new Wario platformer, I’ll tell you that
Fire Emblem is in a pretty good place when it comes to a potential new entry. Three Houses was a great success, and Heroes remains Nintendo’s biggest mobile money maker despite its abundance of swordsmen. Rather than starting from the ground up, though, I’d put my money on an Echoes-style remake of an older entry in the series. That would just beg the question of which one…
I’m inclined to narrow things down to The Binding Blade and Genealogy of the Holy War, both of which stand to gain quite a bit from that treatment. Be it banking on Roy’s popularity and Blazing Blade’s familiarity with old fans, or letting Seliph and Sigurd’s saga burn bright, either of these would be good gets for strategy fans. That or a new Advance Wars. Switch Wars? Wars.
Likelihood of appearance – Slightly better than a Legendary Hero focus (8% isn’t bad if you’ve got the Orbs to spare…)
Star Fox is one of those wildcard franchises that could pop up out of nowhere in some form. Miyamoto’s fondness for it (or perhaps the Wii U’s winding down) was notable enough that Star Fox Zero was Nintendo’s E3 2015 tentpole. Other than that and Smash, the last time we saw Fox and the boys was in Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas. So really, I got nothing. No reason to expect anything, particularly with its creator being more involved in theme parks at the moment.
Likelihood of appearance – Slightly lower than a Star Fox 4D movie coming to Universal Studios Japan
Give me anything related to Uprising and it’ll soar to the top of my most anticipated list.
I loved Masahiro Sakurai’s revival of the Kid Icarus series back on 3DS, and I have the hand cramp horror stories to prove it. Considering just how occupied Sakurai is with continued Smash Bros. development, though, he and Sora Ltd. might not be able to get this one off the ground themselves. Porting it to Switch with a new control scheme though? Now that’d be something to celebrate.
Likelihood of appearance – As probable as Pit spelling the word “probable”
Pikmin 4, huh. Remember that that’s supposedly in the works? Frankly I don’t expect any update on this one unless someone has a chance to interview Miyamoto directly during E3, and even then it’d likely be a “development is going smoothly” sort of thing. This is as good a time as any to say I’ve been spectacularly wrong in the past with these sorts of predictions and anticipations. Pikmin is exactly the sort of game that could catch us all off guard mid-Direct.
Likelihood of appearance – Nearly the same as you finding someone who’ll defend Hey! Pikmin
With Pyra and Mythra on people’s minds (and I don’t mean in a blushy-crushy way) since they joined Smash, there’s a case to be made for something Xenoblade to be in the works. The scale of these games, though, along with the likelihood of Monolith Soft helping out with Breath of the Wild 2 would point to it being quite far off. There’s always the possibility that Chronicles X could see a Switch port, crossing off yet another reason to still plug in your Wii U.
Likelihood of appearance – You’d sooner hear your clock strike Reyn Time
Many people see ARMS as “that weird launch-window fighting game Nintendo tried”. I see ARMS as a multi-million selling new IP on (at the time) a fledgling system. It’s no Splatoon success story, but it’s definitely sequel worthy. Considering how much the Joy-Con’s thumbs up grip and motion controls play into ARMS it wouldn’t be strange to see a follow up on Switch. It might just need some more time in the gym with all these other heavy hitters coming out swinging.
Likelihood of appearance – Whooah out of WhoooOOOOooooOOOoooah
With apologies, it’s just not a year for Adepts. Camelot has their hands full with Mario Golf, and while it’s technically possible someone else could develop a new entry in the series it’s been a very long night for Golden Sun fans with no sign of light. Still, I’d be remiss not to give it some attention even when Nintendo probably won’t. If you like to cheer for the underdog, you’re looking at it.
Likelihood of appearance – Might find an actual Djinni before this gets announced
Project Triangle Strategy
If Nintendo was keen to give time to Octopath Traveler and the Bravely Default series, there’s nothing stopping them from bringing out Project Triangle Strategy. It could simply be a follow up on the game’s demo and accompanying survey, or even a proper title that’s literally just the removal of the word “Project”. Some might groan when it hits the screen, but there’s no denying how gorgeous and compelling this one is.
Likelihood of appearance – Perfectly balanced between “will definitely be there” and “waiting until the next Direct”
It may be a little early for real Splatoon 3 talk, but another trailer (or perhaps a live match demonstration based on new weapons and mechanics) wouldn’t be too unlikely. After all, 2022 is a ways away and a year-long window. Depending how substantial this new entry ends up being we may be waiting for a while. Expect dedicated Directs and Squid Research Lab updates in the coming months, but for now even a quick spotlight will be satisfying enough for me.
Likelihood of appearance – Likely as Little Buddy melting all our squidkid hearts
Likelihood of appearance – If Reggie somehow appears during the Direct, ready your body
Oh boy, I’m about to get self indulgent! Rhythm Heaven is an all-timer of a Nintendo series for me, and one whose lack of presence on Switch can’t be ignored. The infectious melodies, the fun and out-there aesthetic, and the simple yet oh so addicting gameplay belongs on this system. It might have direct competition and less recognition than sister series WarioWare, but if there’s a time to double up it’s with these simple (potentially eShop only) offerings.
Likelihood of appearance – As likely as perfecting Lockstep the first time you play it
The Nintendo-bankrolled Bayonetta 3 has been MIA for years now. Though PlatinumGames have been busy on projects like The Wonderful 101 Remastered and the excellent Astral Chain, there’s been nothing but brief mentions and assurances for the third Bayonetta game. The queen of over the top action has more competition than ever after Devil May Cry 5’s success, and deserves to take up her crown (and guns, and probably a new pair of glasses) once again real soon. Please, let it finally be Witch Time again…
Likelihood of appearance – Ask your mom
You can see how all these odds play out during the Nintendo E3 Direct 2021, airing live on June 15th at 9 a.m. PT.