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Nintendo in 2022: Here's what to expect

Nintendo switch oledn handheld display
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It was an exciting year for the Nintendo Switch. In 2021, not only did we get brand-new hardware in the form of the Nintendo Switch OLED, but we also got the long-awaited Metroid Dread to go along with it. The Switch now supports Bluetooth headphones, thanks to a much-needed firmware update.

The console is well on its way to outselling the record-breaking Nintendo Wii, and unlike the PS5 and Xbox Series X, you can actually find a Switch in stores. In short, the Switch is currently riding high. Which leaves us to wonder: Where can the console go from here?

In this piece, we’ll lay out a few observations and predictions for the Nintendo Switch in 2022. From its big game releases to its potential for new hardware, the Switch could potentially accomplish a lot in the coming year. If you don’t currently own one, check our where to buy the Nintendo Switch online guide and see where you can pick one up.

Nintendo 2022: New Switch games

breath of the wild 2

(Image credit: Nintendo)

We can say one definitive thing about Nintendo’s plans for 2022: The company plans to put out a lot of highly anticipated games. Things will kick off in January with Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but the Switch exclusives will continue well into 2022. At a glance, here are all the big Switch exclusives we can expect within the next 12 months:

We’re not going to go into exhaustive detail about each of these games — check out our list of the most anticipated Switch games for 2022 — but we will say that it’s a pretty broad swath of franchises and genres. Whether you’re in the market for turn-based strategy remasters or modern takes on classic Japanese RPG tropes, there should be something here to suit your tastes. 

I should, however, at least stop to discuss Bayonetta 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 briefly. Bayonetta 3 is the latest game in one of the best action series currently on the market, and it’s decidedly different from most Nintendo fare. It’s not family-friendly; it’s not easygoing; it’s not for everyone. By focusing its attention on Bayonetta 3, Nintendo has, in effect, reaffirmed its commitment to making the Switch a place where strange games can thrive, even if they don’t fit the traditional “Nintendo” publisher mold.

Then, of course, there’s Breath of the Wild 2 (which Nintendo calls “Breath of the Wild Sequel” — we imagine there’s a catchier name incoming). I’ve waxed poetic about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild before, going so far as to call it the best game of the past decade. A sequel could be even more ambitious — or it could fall short by essentially doing the same thing without enough innovation. Either way, it will be fascinating to finally play this one for ourselves, then see how the gaming community reacts.

Nintendo 2022: Switch Pro, Switch 2 and other hardware possibilities

Nintendo Switch OLED vs Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Here’s where things start getting thorny. In 2022, the Nintendo Switch will turn five years old. The shelf life of a home console these days is about seven years. Nintendo could run out the clock on the Switch and give us a true successor in 2024. Or, it could release a full 4K Switch model as a stopgap in the meantime. Call this theoretical console the Nintendo Switch Pro, or the Nintendo Switch 2, or whatever you like, but it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll hear anything about it next year.

The first and most obvious question is, “Is Nintendo actually working on a new console?” A handful of developers said, “Yes,” but Nintendo denied the report. To summarize a complicated issue as briefly as possible: Some developers claimed that Nintendo had distributed 4K Switch dev kits to help them work on upcoming games. However, Nintendo’s official corporate Twitter account claimed that the company is not developing 4K Switch hardware.

Whatever’s happening here, it’s clearly going through layers and layers of corporate speak and development logistics — not to mention a language barrier. If I were to hazard an educated guess, I would say that Nintendo is almost certainly laying the groundwork for its next console.

However, I also believe the Nintendo Twitter post that states “we have no new plans for any new model other than the Nintendo Switch [OLED].” Releasing an expensive mid-life console upgrade, then asking gamers to buy a replacement one year later seems like a great way to stir resentment among loyal fans.

A lot of fans spent 2021 prophesying a 4K Switch, and felt burned when Nintendo announced the Switch OLED instead. In order to avoid that disappointment again, I’d recommend taking Nintendo at its word for the time being. Of all the major gaming companies, Nintendo does things its own way, at its own pace. I’m sure a 4K system is coming, but based on past experience, it’ll probably come when you least expect it.

Nintendo 2022: Nintendo Switch Online improvements

Nintendo Switch Online

(Image credit: Nintendo)

In 2021, Nintendo introduced its controversial Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. This subscription service costs between $50 and $80 per year, and gives you access to downloadable N64 and Sega Genesis games, on top of the NES and SNES games you get with the regular Switch Online subscription. It’s also the one way to get the Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Happy Home Paradise DLC.

Without going into excruciating detail, some gamers like the Expansion Pack because it offers a lot of good games that aren’t easy to find elsewhere on modern consoles. Some gamers dislike the Expansion Pack because it’s extremely expensive, and the port quality is generally lackluster. Both arguments have merit, but either way, the Expansion Pack is going to get a few more additions in 2022.

Within the next few months, players can expect about half-a-dozen more N64 classics, including Banjo-Kazooie, Pokémon Snap, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Kirby 64:The Crystal Shards, Mario Golf and F-Zero X. These are good games, but they alone don’t quite justify the Expansion Pack’s high ongoing cost — particularly since Nintendo hasn’t announced any additional Genesis games yet.

Furthermore, we have no idea what to expect from the NES and SNES side of things. Classics such as Earthbound, Super Mario RPG are still missing; there’s no word about adding Game Boy games at all. Nintendo Switch Online has been an extremely mixed bag so far. Nintendo can address this in 2022, or it can continue to coast on a handful of excellent games. Based on the company’s past decisions, it could go either way.

Nintendo 2022: Outlook

Super Mario Odyssey

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 is reason enough to get excited about Nintendo’s output in 2022. And yet, we can’t help but wonder whether that’s the only big thing the company has planned. It doesn’t seem ready to announce any major hardware, and all of its anticipated games are sequels or spinoffs.

Seeing as Switch sales are still through the roof, Nintendo can probably manage 2022 any way it sees fit and come out fine on the other side. Still, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are putting up stiff competition, particularly since they’re considerably more powerful than Nintendo’s aging handheld hybrid.

When it’s firing on all cylinders, Nintendo can practically reinvent the whole gaming scene. It did so with the NES; it did so with the Wii; it did so with the Switch. If 2022 isn’t a year for reinvention, then let’s hope the company has something big in mind for 2023.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.