Nintendo Year in Review: Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom leads the charge in what could be a swansong year for Switch

Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom
(Image credit: Nintendo)

It really has been a big year for Nintendo. With a strong spread of major first-party releases, Fire Emblem Engage kicked everything off in January. While it may not have quite measured up to its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Nintendo's lineup only got stronger and stronger from there. Fast forward to May and we got The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which dominated the year as one of the most anticipated new games to launch on Switch in recent memory. 

After being met with delays that only heightened the hype surrounding Link's return, the long-awaited Breath of the Wild sequel landed to a chorus of praise. Now counted among the best games of 2023, Tears of the Kingdom continued to hold attention throughout the year thanks to its inventive mechanics and imaginative sandbox world. 

But the releases didn't stop there. More came our way to keep the Switch's year going strong, with the likes of the psychedelic Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the delightful Pikmin 4, and the quirky WarioWare: Move It. With months packed full of third-party title launches, the Switch exclusives did well to stand out among a sea of exciting games. Now, with the rumor mill churning out more and more about the prospect of the Switch 2, 2023 in many ways feels like a fitting swansong for one of Nintendo's most successful consoles. If it were to be the year to see out the Switch, it really couldn't be any better. 

Switching it up  

Super Mario RPG Remake

(Image credit: Nintendo)

We were treated to a swath of great new first-party games, but a lot can be said about the power of nostalgia for Nintendo this year. The summer saw the re-release of Pikmin 1 and 2 to complement the launch of Pikmin 4 soon after, and we also got the likes of Kirby's Return to Dreamland Deluxe that brought the Wii game to Switch with added content, and a shiny coat of paint. 

The biggest release in this department, though, was Super Mario RPG. Following a surprise reveal that at long last put to rest rumors in a June Nintendo Direct, we got a remake of the famous plumber's first foray into the RPG genre back in November. As a faithful remake to the original through and through, it beautifully brings to life the oddball adventure that makes for one very memorable slice of Mario's history. 

On top of fresh launches and a wave to nostalgia, 2023 was also host to DLC that padded out some previous Switch exclusives such as Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. And with the last of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course additions, the beloved racing game at long last rounded off its full line-up of new tracks and playable racers; offering something fresh to the eight-year-old Mario Kart entry that first released on Wii U. It's hard not to think about what's next for Mario Kart after all these years. You have to wonder why Nintendo decided to step things up a gear in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe instead of releasing a new entry, but if rumors are to be believed, perhaps it's keeping Mario Kart 9 under its belt for what's to come. 

Pikmin 4

(Image credit: Nintendo)
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Alan Wake 2

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

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After all, despite how strong a year Nintendo has had, there's been an ever-growing sense of anticipation surrounding what's next for the Switch. With the Switch OLED launching two years ago, and reports alleging that Nintendo had shown the Switch 2 to developers with a "souped-up version of Breath of the Wild", it seems increasingly feasible that we'll see a new console reveal in the not too distant future. 

If it were to happen, it would at long last signal that we're moving into the next generation of Nintendo, and that's undoubtedly an exciting prospect. We do still have some exciting releases for the Switch coming in the new year - with the likes of Mario Vs Donkey Kong, and Princess Peach Showtime - but with March 2024 marking seven years since the launch of the first Switch console, it feels like we're on the precipice of something new. 

The Switch has undoubtedly had a very impressive run, selling 132.46 million units since 2017, making it just over 20 million shy of the sales of Nintendo's best-selling console to date – the DS. We can't say for certain what the future holds, but 2024 may well be a year to remember. And since Breath of the Wild was a launch title for the Switch, it would be apt if 2023, which saw the release of its follow–up Tears of the Kingdom, was one of the last major years for one of Nintendo's best-selling consoles. 

Look back over the console's game library highlights with our pick of the best Switch games, or look forward to what's ahead with our roundup of upcoming Switch games

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.