Today is the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Nintendo Switch. And boy, was that a day of days — a console debut smack in the middle of Game Developers Conference 2017. Let’s take a look back at the year it had, because it was more than just sales at a breakneck pace and a comeback story for Nintendo hardware.
• March 3, 2017: The Switch launches with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We scored the game a 10, and we weren’t out on a limb, either; when the dust settles, the game Metacritics a 97, and it’s the game-of-the-year choice for many, including us. Breath of the Wild goes on to briefly outsell the Switch itself — and yes, that’s the Switch version, not combined sales (it launched on Wii U, too). Players can’t get enough, either; a 2D, retro-style fan-made game based on a concept shown at GDC makes it out, although it was quickly DMCA’d. It takes about five weeks to log the first 100 percent speedrun.
• April 28, 2017: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches on Switch. It’s a version of the game that launched three years before on Wii U, but it does carry some notable improvements — principally a thumb-saving auto-accelerate option. It gets off the starting line as the fastest-selling game in the 25-year old Mario Kart franchise.
• June 2017: Another big month in the news as Nintendo goes to E3 and shows off Super Mario Odyssey, which causes a virtual stampede to the company’s booth at the first E3 open to the public. Nintendo also launches Arms, which gets nominated for Best Fighting Game at the E3 2017 Game Critic Awards and adds several fighters to its weird roster over the remainder of the year.
• July 21, 2017: Another month and another hit on Nintendo Switch: Splatoon 2. Pearl and Marina, the game’s new J-pop mascots, develop a fan following before it even launches. They host the Splatfest events, which go on to resolve some of life’s most intractable disputes in three different regions over the rest of the year. By the end of 2017, Splatoon 2 will sell almost 5 million copies globally.
• Aug. 29, 2017: One of the strangest crossovers and a big splash announcement at E3 2017 launches: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. With most of the Switch’s popular third-party lineup being adaptations of games that launched previously on other platforms, Ubisoft’s bizarre XCOM-like tactical game clocks in as the Switch’s big third-party highlight. Ubisoft later touts itself as the biggest selling third-party publisher on the hot new console.
• Oct. 27, 2017: Super Mario Odyssey arrives on one of the biggest launch dates for AAA video gaming in recent memory. Like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe back in April, it also becomes the fastest-selling Mario franchise game in the United States, rocketing out to two million copies sold before even a week old. It also hits a 97 on Metacritic. In our top 10 for 2017, Super Mario Odyssey is No. 3, edged out by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. But by the end of December, it will sell 9.07 million units worldwide, by far Nintendo’s top seller.
• Jan. 17, 2018: With a launch date of 4/20 and a starting price of $69, Nicetendo announces Labo, a make-and-play, toys-to-life initiative for the Switch. The stage is set for the next big craze of the console’s second year.
• Jan. 31, 2018: In less than a year, the Switch officially surpasses the lifetime sales of the Wii U, which was discontinued after a four-year run. Moreover, the Switch also broken PlayStation 2’s record for first-year sales in Japan. It’s also the fastest-selling console in U.S. history. If not for some supply-chain problems that senior executives would later acknowledge, it could have sold more.
What lies ahead for the Switch? Well, there’s Labo, and there’s a Pokémon RPG (as yet unnamed) that was announced at E3 2017 but has no launch date yet. A Monster Hunter game — Monster Hunter XX — is coming to Switch, but not in the U.S. Still, news of it alone coincided with a nine-year high in Nintendo’s stock price. While Pokémon and Labo will assuredly make big splashes, it may be hard to follow the console’s debut with a 2018 as impressive as its first year.