The Week in Gaming: Nintendo Direct brings Monster Hunter, Smash Bros., Splatoon 3 & more

Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what’s ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We’ll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!

Already in early 2021, we’ve paused for an extended glimpse at the biggest upcoming exclusives for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and lavished plenty of love on all the new cross-platform games we’ll soon be getting our hands on. But despite outselling every other console for more than two years running, Nintendo and the Switch have mostly spent the past few months playing catch-up when it comes to big new game announcements.

That finally changed this week, when the Big N broke an uncharacteristically long silence by airing its first Nintendo Direct gaming showcase since 2019. While we didn’t get any fresh news on Metroid Prime 4 or the much-hyped Breath of the Wild sequel, this week’s 45-minute news marathon did serve up a few pleasant surprises, plenty of updates for existing blockbusters, and even a couple of new game announcements that aim to further expand the Switch’s library of Nintendo-only titles.

The two headline stealers from this week’s showcase came by way of Star Wars and — though not the BOTW sequel update we’ve been watching for — the Zelda-verse. and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD were both announced for the Switch this week, complete with trailers, dates, and tons more details that you can check out here. But those were just two titles in a long, rapid-fire list of gaming updates that will likely keep Nintendo’s hybrid console at or near the top of the sales charts for the foreseeable future.

With new character reveals for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a new Square Enix RPG, fresh new looks at Monster Hunter Rise, a surprise drop-in from some DC superheroes and tons more, this week marks the perfect time to hand the spotlight over to Nintendo by taking a closer look at the biggest game announcements from this week’s Direct showcase. Charge up those Joy-Cons and get ready to roll, because there’s plenty of ground to cover.

Monster Hunter Rise

Capcom’s upcoming mainline successor to 2018’s is heading to the Switch next month, and Nintendo showed off a new trailer that highlights the story beats of the new game’s “Rampage” event. Kamura Village hasn’t been the same since a monster-driven calamity ruptured the peace long ago, and now it’ll be up to your hunter to right old wrongs in classic Monster Hunter action-RPG style. Commemorating game’s release is a cool Monster Hunter-themed Switch Pro controller featuring art inspired by Magnamalo (the game’s main monster featured on the box cover). It all arrives on March 26 — the same day ascends as a Nintendo Switch exclusive.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. on YouTube

Nintendo’s melee madness is throwing fans of Xenoblade Chronicles some love, bringing allies Pyra/Mythra to as a two-for-one addition to the game’s lineup of fighters. Of course that means importing the pair’s split abilities from the JRPG universe; each character from inhabits the spirit of the Aegis (the legendary sword wielded by protagonist Rex) — and each has her own personality and skill set. Part of Ultimate’s Fighter’s Pass Vol. 2, Pyra & Mthra join a growing lineup that’s recently added Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth and Minecraft’s Steve & Alex to the roster…with two more still-unannounced fighters on the way. Nintendo didn’t reveal when Pyra/Mythra will report for fighting duty, pledging that more info is heading our way soon.

DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power

started life in 2015 as a web series before making the big move over to Cartoon Network, and now it’s coming to animated life as a new Nintendo-published video game. Take on the supervillains of Metropolis as Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and more — all while finding time on the side to explore some lite-RPG elements like keeping up with your high school social calendar and hitting the town for some retail therapy. Each hero has her own unique slate of skills, and it’s all rendered in the same art style that’ll be instantly recognizable for fans of the TV series. DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power swoops in to save the day on the Switch beginning July 4.

Project Triangle Strategy / New Square Enix RPG

Square Enix unveiled news of an all-new tactical RPG title coming to the Switch next year that, for now, is going by the working title of Project Triangle Strategy. Finding the right place to stand is a key piece of that strategy: The battle terrain spreads across different elevations, and your character’s ranged attacks will be “determined by their equipped weapon, so it is imperative to survey the battlefield before acting,” Nintendo teases. Branching-path choices will shape how your version of the story plays out, and will even affect which team members you’ll be able to add to your party along the way. Though the game won’t be out until next year, Square Enix wants fan feedback: a free demo of the game is available now at Nintendo’s landing page.

Splatoon 3

Things are about to get messy all over again as Nintendo traces out the next chapter in its squiddly, squishy Splatoon shooter franchise. was revealed this week as a full-scale sequel, leaving Inkopolis behind to tackle new threats in a region known (aptly enough) as the Splatlands. At its center “is a new city where battle-savvy Inklings and Octolings gather: Splatsville, also known as the ‘City of Chaos,’” Nintendo teases. The new game will bring new features to Splatoon’s venerable vein of inky combat, including the new bow-weapon, more weapons customization, and the return of 4-on-4 Turf Wars matches. So far, Splatoon 3 has only been penciled in for a 2022 release, but Nintendo is promising to burst through with more details later this year.

Neon White

Annapurna Interactive is laying its card on the table with , a speedy new first-person action game that draws on card-based combat cues to exterminate demons who’ve taken up residence in Heaven — of all places. As protagonist White, you’ve been hand-selected as a “Neon,” an eligible assassin destined to leave your hellish confines behind for a chance to compete for a permanent abode in the good place. Of course you’ll have to fight for your right to be there, all while competing against other assassins who’re vying for the same address. Maybe you knew your familiar-looking competitors from a past life, but there’s little time to pause and reflect: White and the other Neons will relay on magic cards that transform into weapons, all useful in the quest to earn the coveted Mechanical Halo…a device that amounts to a permanent heavenly hall pass. Watch for Neon White to light up the Switch sometime this winter.

Mario Golf: Super Rush

We know, we know — it’s a sports game, which doesn’t exactly qualify for eligibility in the sci-fi and fantasy gaming pantheon. But one look at Mario in those sweet golf khakis, spiked shoes, and visor is reason enough to give the mustachioed one’s next day on the links a quick moment in the spotlight. The latest installment in the Mario Golf series, Super Rush heads to the Switch on June 25, and brings a new “Speed Golf” racing mode to the mix that even adds in a bit of old-school platforming action (after all, how else are you supposed to beat your opponents to the finish line?) But let’s not kid ourselves: We’re totally just here just to see Mario upgrade his plumber’s overalls for those Arnold Palmer-inspired leisure threads.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons + Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary

Nintendo’s been teasing a new Mario crossover for ever since it started celebrating our red-capped hero’s 35th anniversary last year, and now we know what it’ll look like. A trove of Mario-inspired items are headed to ACNH, allowing you to customize your island digs with retro-cool flair. Want to turn a Super Mushroom into a piece of furniture or create fast-travel spots with fully-functioning Super Mario warp pipes? With this Mario-themed update, you can. All the new Mario gear unlocks within the game starting March 1, on the heels of the next free ACNH update, which arrives on Feb. 25.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Expansion Pass

The fightin’ side of the Zelda-verse is set to expand with a pair of upcoming DLC add-ons for . The two waves of downloadable content are the first entries in the game’s just-announced Expansion Pass, featuring characters that’ll be new to the game, new stages, and more. The first DLC drop arrives in June while the second sweeps in this November, and can be grabbed all at once with the all-access $19.99 Expansion Pass price. Springing for the pass also nabs a new in-game weapon, as well as a new outfit for Link — both of which become available beginning May 28.

The original lent the Wii a much-appreciated slice of PG-13 sass when it debuted back in 2007, and since then, antihero Travis Touchdown has collected a cult fan following for his katana-wielding, trash-talking takedowns and deep appreciation of all things anime and manga. The third mainline installment throws a new space alien wrinkle at Travis’ quest to climb the leaderboards to the top of the Superhero Ranking tournament, but he won’t be going empty-handed toward the little green men melee. expands your fighting moves with “a new and improved Death Glove” that you can upgrade and tweak before every match. Travis scores once more when hits the Switch on Aug. 27.

Outer Wilds

Mobius Digital scored a huge critical hit with 2019’s , and now the time-looping space mystery is bringing its 22-minute race against the clock, for the first time, to the Switch. Fly to planets strewn with the remnants of an ancient, now-extinct advanced civilization, while taking notes on how the short countdown timer changes your environment along the way. Following your curiosity is key to solving the riddle at the heart of Outer Wilds, as you probe your open-world surroundings, track mysterious signals, and learn to decipher an ancient alien language. The winner of numerous 2020 game awards when it originally debuted for PlayStation and Xbox, Outer Wilds expands to the Nintendo-verse when it arrives for the Switch sometime this summer.

On top of everything above, there’s also tons more on tap, beginning next week with (Feb. 25), the Switch version of (March 9), a new physical edition of (March 19), (March 19), (April 15), (June 10), (June 24), and a Switch-ported version of , which is set for an unspecified summer release date.

Sure, we’re still waiting for Nintendo’s next big Zelda update. But at least the spring and summer calendar is loaded with new games, DLC updates, and Switch-optimized versions of established hits that’ll make it hard to put down our Joy-con controllers in the meantime.