Nintendo’s E3 Directs are normally some of the gaming events that lead to the highest volume of rumors, speculation, and anticipation. And this year’s was no exception: as the final major showcase of E3 2021, it carried all the burden of this week’s events on its shoulders, while rumors spread like wildfire of what could be there. Reports of new Switch hardware, the lack of meaningful updates to the Breath of the Wild sequel for quite some time, and the fact two of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, Zelda and Metroid, are both turning 35 this year, all combined to generate an untold number of predictions, guesses, and just plain wishes. And in spite of those impossibly high expectations, Nintendo delivered a great Direct… even if they didn’t make all of our Nintendo dreams come true.
No gaming company can inspire the same sort of wild speculation and rumor-mongering among adults as we used to trade in on the school playgrounds like Nintendo can. In the lead-up to E3 2021, every possible rumor, some of them mainstays of the Switch’s life cycle, flew around message boards and Twitter with reckless abandon. Even Nintendo saying the Direct would only be software-focused didn’t prevent speculation and pure wishful thinking that the oft-rumored Nintendo Switch Pro might make an appearance at, or ahead of, the show. The specificity of the focus primarily on software releasing in 2021 led to people concluding a hardware announcement was going to happen ahead of the Direct (it didn’t) and we’d finally get the Breath of the Wild sequel this year (we won’t) to highlight that system’s new power.
No gaming company can inspire the same sort of wild speculation and rumor mongering like Nintendo can.“
So no, we didn’t get a pre-Direct hardware announcement. We didn’t get Breath of the Wild’s sequel confirmed for this year. And we didn’t get Metroid Prime 4 (or Metroid Prime Trilogy) news. But that didn’t stop Nintendo from delighting us with some key updates and surprising us in other ways. Nintendo knew exactly what we wanted to see, which was something, ANYTHING related to The Legend of Zelda, and started off the show with an unexpected clip of an unknown figure carrying an injured Ganondorf. Though the animation style betrayed the reveal a bit, I was so amused by the dastardly reveal, I couldn’t be mad that the show opened with a new Super Smash Bros. fighter update confirming Tekken’s Kazuya as the newest fighter.
But after giving the Smash community a nice surprise, and leaving room for one last mystery fighter to join Ultimate’s already massive roster, Nintendo focused its energies on delivering a Direct that almost made me, and likely many others watching, forget all about those impossible pre-show dreams I had. Yes, I wanted to see them pull a fast one and announce new hardware, and technically they did, though not what most people were expecting. A new Nintendo Game and Watch: The Legend of Zelda edition is the closest to an acknowledgment of Zelda’s 35th anniversary we’re getting, and given the quality of the Mario 35th anniversary Game and Watch, I’m actually thrilled about this adorable compilation of classic Zelda games.
For the first time in more than 15 years, we’re getting an all-new, original 2D Metroid game“
No new Metroid Prime 4 news, other than the briefest of mentions to confirm it still exists, was a bit of a letdown, but as with the rest of this Direct, Nintendo softened the blow of what wasn’t shown by surprising us with what they do have. For the first time in more than 15 years, we’re getting an all-new, original 2D Metroid game, Metroid Dread. Dread is infamous among Metroid fans – a game allegedly cancelled or rebooted twice, but now we get to play it THIS YEAR, with a new Amiibo two-pack we’ll all be scrambling to buy. Did I want to see Metroid Prime 4? Yeah, of course. Was I expecting it? Well.. sort of. Was I expecting a new 2D Metroid? Not at all.
And Nintendo’s ability to capitalize on nostalgia like few other companies can was out in full force, offering surprises by way of a new WarioWare game, Advance Wars remasters, Mario Party Superstars, and more third-party announcements like Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania from SEGA. Were they announcements that much of the pre-Direct rumors and speculation hinted at? No. But did they deliver on Nintendo franchises that have been dormant over the last few years? Absolutely.
It all culminated in the Breath of the Wild sequel tease, which enchanted me thanks to an almost dream-like look at the vast skies above Hyrule, to the point that a 2022 release window didn’t sound bad at all. It looks astonishing in its scope and ambition, and that awe I felt watching the trailer made up for the rampant speculation, and at the end of the day pure hope, that the sequel would hit in time for a 2021 holiday release.
My personal hype levels for Metroid Dread and the Game & Watch alone are off the charts right now“
I have to hand it to Nintendo: they didn’t give us exactly what everyone thought they were going to give us. There was no new Switch model, Bayonetta 3, Metroid Prime 4, or a whole host of other entries in our collective dream journals. But they did give us such a charming, exciting presentation filled with stuff we didn’t know we wanted, or maybe had even given up on ever seeing return, I can’t be disappointed. My personal hype levels for Metroid Dread and the Game & Watch alone are off the charts right now, but Nintendo brought enough announcements covering off on so many different franchises to satisfy practically any Nintendo fan.
To quote a figure from another company that inspires plenty of rumors and speculation about what’s to come, Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs is famous for saying the customer doesn’t know what they want, a sentiment often attributed to a sneering arrogance. Yeah, Steve Jobs had some of that, sure, but what he really meant was consumers don’t know they want what they want. Nintendo proved just that with its latest showcase. It won’t stop the continued hopes and rumors from springing up until Nintendo does or doesn’t deliver on those lofty expectations, but its E3 presentation proved surprises and variety can be just as exciting. I knew what I wanted, but it’s what I didn’t know I wanted that made me so excited about today’s Nintendo Direct.
Seth Macy is IGN’s Executive Editor, IGN Commerce, and just wants to be your friend. You canfollow him on Twitter.
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