This year wasn't all that exciting in terms of Nintendo hardware. However, the Switch saw an impressive number of successful exclusives and third-party titles launch this year. Still, the number of limitations and processing issues in these hits show that it's time for Nintendo to release its next-gen console or some sort of Switch 2.
Now that the year is drawing to a close, let's take some time to reflect on how the Switch did in 2022 and talk about where Nintendo needs to head in 2023.
Little in terms of Nintendo hardware
Technically, there were no new Nintendo Switch models in 2022, which isn't surprising given that new Switch variants have historically released on odd years. So if new Nintendo hardware is incoming it would likely be next year. Even then, I'm not sure we'll be seeing a new Switch variant in 2023, but we'll talk more about that later in this article,
While there wasn't any brand new hardware, Nintendo did release a couple of fun new limited edition Nintendo Switch OLED designs as seen with the Splatoon 3 Switch OLED and the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet Switch OLED. These both launched around the time of the games they were themed after and sold out very quickly. Both offered fun visual elements, but the Splatoon 3 Switch OLED gave us our first Joy-Con with a color gradient that went from one hue to the other. It's truly a beautiful collectible if you're able to find one.
A spectacular year for Switch games
We not only had a packed list of new titles this year, but some of the best Nintendo Switch games of all time released in 2022, despite it being five years into the gaming system's lifecycle.
It would be impossible to list all of the amazing games that came to Switch this year without writing a novel, (many of these Switch games were winners at The Game Awards 2022) so I'll just highlight some of the very best Switch exclusives from 2022 in the order they released:
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Game Freak surprised us all with Pokémon Legends: Arceus when it launched last January. It does away with the usual goal of battling gyms in favor of simply having users create the first-ever Pokédex in ancient times.
While not a polished-looking game by any stretch, the brand-new stealth mechanics that it introduced combined with the new FPS-style catching elements shook up the Pokémon series in an enjoyable way that was sorely needed. It's hard to say if the game's horrible world visuals are more due to the limitations of the Switch or if has more to do with the amount of time Game Freak put into the game. At any rate, you shouldn't let the ugly world design sway you away from playing this amazing game.
These days, Square Enix is best known for its complex JRPGs and HD-2D art style and that's exactly what Triangle Strategy brought to Switch when it launched as a console exclusive in March. The plot centers around a young man of title named Serenoa Wolffort who finds himself making difficult decisions as the lands around him erupt in war. He must gather allies to his side, influence his followers, and choose how to employ his people in battle.
Though it has a weird name, the game is incredibly rewarding as it offers strategic battles with characters that each have their own strengths and weaknesses against opponents. The decisions players make affect the course of the plot and some of these decisions are very difficult to make. It's an excellent game that follows in the steps of Final Fantasy Tactics and will make you want to play again and again to see what outcomes you can get. It's no wonder it was able to sell over one million copies this year.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
At the beginning of spring, we got Kirby and the Forgotten Land — a platforming adventure that has proved to be one of the very best Kirby games of all time. Kirby gets sucked into another world where things are all in ruins and he must figure out what happened to this strange place. Along the way, he must protect his new blue friend, Elfilin, and save some captured Waddle Dees. As always, he can float temporarily as well as inhale enemies to acquire their powers.
In addition to providing a fun two-player co-op campaign, it introduced the ridiculous-yet-fun Mouthful Mode, which allows the pink puffball to wrap his lips around objects in order to use them. It didn't take long for Kirby's Mouthful Modes to become viral memes. The game is incredibly enjoyable and a great platformer for beginners or those looking for a relaxing adventure. It also walked away with Best Family Game at The Game Awards 2022.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 follows three friends who have been soldiers since as far back as they remember. Shortly into the plot, these three join forces with a threesome of opposing soldiers and realize they unlock special abilities when together. Now it's up to them to put a stop to the war and free other warring colonies in the area — that is, as long as they aren't killed along the way.
The Xenoblade Chronicles series has long had a dedicated audience, but the JRPG has grown more popular over the last few years. With its latest entry which released in July, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 provided a long adventure filled with a robust combat system and an engaging plot that makes players want to make it to the end. The world is huge and the characters are fascinating. While it does run incredibly smoothly considering how massive the world is, the landscapes aren't very detailed and some visuals really don't look that great.
It didn't win Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2022, but it's an honor that it was nominated against such tough competition like Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarök. It's still a phenomenal game that all JRPG fans should enjoy.
The Splatoon series has been incredibly popular ever since the first game released on the failed Wii U in 2015 and now Splatoon 3 has added to that amazing legacy. At its core, this is a turf war shooter game, but it changes things up since players shoot paint guns to cover the arena rather than with a focus on targeting opponents. The team that has the most paint on the field by the end of the countdown wins the match.
Fortunately for former and new fans of the series, Splatoon 3 built upon the foundations already established by previous games and brought us a fully-fleshed-out single-player campaign for the first time ever. Additionally, Splatfest events regularly release allowing players to choose a team and compete against others online, which helps keep the game interesting. However, the game suffers from connection issues that have left many players frustrated. It's clear that Nintendo needs to provide a newer means for online multiplayer to make the game run more smoothly.
Despite this, Splatoon 3 broke records by selling 3.45 million copies in just three days and also won Best Multiplayer Game at The Game Awards 2022 even though it was up against some big competition like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, MultiVersus, Overwatch 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge. This just goes to show how compelling the gameplay is.
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
Although it feels kinda weird seeing Mushroom Kingdom characters and Rabbids from Rayman come together, it somehow works really well in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. Mario, Luigi, and Peach once more find themselves working alongside their Rabbid counterparts as they travel from world to world in order to save everyone from a powerful force that threatens everything.
This strategy game sequel released in October and included some new mechanics that refined the original gameplay. Each character has their own attacks, abilities, and skills so players feel like intelligent tacticians when using them. It offers extremely satisfying combat, which is probably why it walked away with the award for Best Sim/Strategy Game at The Game Awards 2022. Not to mention, the way the silly characters react to the plot or interact with eachother makes for an entertaining story.
Bayonetta 3 blasted onto Nintendo Switch in late October and provided a fast-paced action RPG filled with titanic battles and adult themes. The suggestive leading witch must fight against threatening Homunculi who put the whole multiverse in danger.
There was some controversy surrounding Bayonetta 3 before it came out since the original Bayonetta voice actor claimed that she had only been offered a small sum for her part, which was why she turned down reprising the role. However, more information soon came to light that made it apparent that this information wasn't correct. On another note, the game suffers from bad performance on Switch with tons of lag and stutter. Despite this, the game sold incredibly well and even walked away from the Game Awards 2022 with the reward for Best Action Game.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
Of all of the games on this list, none are as difficult to write about as the Gen 9 Pokémon games. As I said in my Pokémon Scarlet and Violet review, "these would be the best Pokémon games ever if not for the performance issues." The games are laggy and filled with glitches to an unprofessional degree, especially for the largest franchise in the world. It's hard to say if these issues are more due to the limited and old capabilities of the Switch itself or if they are more due to the work Game Freak put into them. Of course, it could also be a mixture of the two.
Despite this, Scarlet and Violet sold 10 million units in the first three days making them the fastest-selling Switch games, the fastest-selling Nintendo games, and the fastest-selling Pokémon games of all time. Their popularity isn't surprising given that they offer the very first open-world Pokémon adventure and allow far more freedom than any gen has before.
Players can take on Gym Leaders in whatever order they want, but they also have other goals to achieve like defeating Titan Pokémon and Team Star Bases. It also offers the very best plot of any Pokémon game and includes some interesting new creatures to catch. If Nintendo ever patches it properly, it will be much easier to praise this adventure.
What to expect from Switch in the new year
The parade of new titles hasn't stopped as there are a number of highly-anticipated Switch games coming out in 2023 for fans to look forward to.
Eagerly awaiting Tears of the Kingdom
At the forefront of most people's minds is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which is set to release on May 12, 2023. This adventure builds upon many aspect that were already present in Breath of the Wild and hopefully will be another defining moment in the Zelda series. At the very least, we have to figure out what happened to Zelda and what those floating islands from the trailers are all about.
I'm expecting it to be an amazing game, however, it's good to be tempered in our expectations. Regardless of how good Tears of the Kingdom is, it's likely impossible for it to provide us with the same sense of wonder and curiosity that the first game provided. When we played Breath of the Wild everything was a new change of pace for the franchise: The open-world map, mechanics, Runes, enemy designs, post-apocalyptic world, etc. Meanwhile, Tears of the Kingdom will bring some new features and characters with it, but it will also bring many things that we are already familiar with.
Fortunately, it looks like the new mechanics shown off in trailers like the ability to go through walls, put things in stasis and then fly backward, and glide from floating islands can really do a lot to shake up the gameplay we're already used to. May 12 cannot get here fast enough. We just hope that the game can run smoothly on Switch when it does.
A Switch 2 really should get announced in 2023
We don't know the exact numbers of Switch unit sales in 2022 yet, but we do know that while the Nintendo Switch and Switch OLED sold well enough that they had significantly declining sales this year over the two previous years. In August, Nintendo attributed this decline to economic issues and chip shortages. However, it's also likely that we've gotten far enough into the Switch's lifecycle that things are slowing down and consumers are ready for the next system to come out.
As we enter 2023, the Switch also approaches its sixth anniversary. Most gaming systems have a lifecycle of five to seven years, depending on how well they perform. Considering the current state of Switch sales and the frequent performance issues that its hit games suffer from, it's really about time that Nintendo seriously considers announcing its next-gen console, which will hopefully be a Switch 2 of sorts that still offers the hybrid TV mode and handheld mode but with increased processing power and resolution abilities.
Obviously, the next-gen console is already on Nintendo's mind and has been for a while. Recently in a ResetEra forum, orzkare posted a translated Nintendo Q&A session in which Nintendo legend and representative director, Shigeru Miyamoto, was asked about Switch backward compatibility with a next-gen console. Miyamoto reportedly answered by saying, "Nintendo's strength is in creating new games. With new hardware, we would like to propose unique games that cannot be realized on existing hardware." It seems likely that if they're talking about the next console's gimmick already that plans for the system are probably pretty far along. It's just a matter of when the Switch's time is up and that seems to be nearing.
Of course, many people think that instead of launching a next-gen system that Nintendo will just give us another upgraded Switch model that's better than the Switch OLED. But I really doubt Nintendo would produce another Switch with the increased processing power and 4K resolution capabilities that the Switch desperately needs until the next-gen Nintendo gaming console comes out. After all, Nintendo needs to keep a distinct difference between its systems so players have a reason to upgrade and that's one way to do it. I won't be surprised at all if we get news of a new system by E3 2023.
Was this a good year for Nintendo Switch?
In terms of game sales, Nintendo has done very well for itself in 2022. In fact, more than one title broke records this year in terms of units sold and many of Nintendo's exclusive games walked away as winners from The Game Awards this year. However, the current state of the Switch hardware is holding back Nintendo's biggest franchises from stepping into the modern world.
Many of this year's biggest Switch games also had unacceptable performance issues including problems like really bad lag, stuttering, and connectivity issues. These are all things that are embarrassing to see in modern gaming and taint Nintendo's successes in 2022.
With Nintendo hardware sales calming down, it really feels (more than ever) that the Switch is getting old. The Japanese gaming company likely won't release a Switch with increased processing power and upgraded graphics capabilities on another Switch variant and so it really feels like the time is drawing near for the next-gen console to come out. Hopefully, we hear about it by E3 2023.
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.