The Ultimate SwitchRPG Top Ten: Most Anticipated Upcoming Releases
It’s hard for me to believe that we’re only weeks away from the onslaught of holiday heavy hitters which publishers typically begin to trickle out in the months of September and October. While the Nintendo Switch’s fourth quarter may lack anything on the magnitude of a Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4, or Bayonetta 3—which I’m sure we’ll see at some point in our lifetimes—there remain a ton of games for RPG fans to be excited about in the days ahead.
I thought it would be fun to press our little collective of game writers and podcast hosts on their most anticipated upcoming releases in 2021 and beyond, with one major difference from the article that was published at the start of this year (before I joined the team): each staff member was invited to submit their own Top Ten list, and then, ranking the games accordingly per a point-system (1st place receiving 10 points, 10th earning 1 point), I would combine all of the lists to form The Ultimate SwitchRPG Top Ten.™
Within hours I had 11 lists on-hand (you all rock!) and just over forty games to assess. Everyone was asked to limit their lists to the types of titles that could potentially appear on SwitchRPG. Aside from RPGs, obviously, games with ‘RPG elements’ were allowed to make the cut. As you’ll notice, two games that traditionally fall outside of the RPG moniker earned spots in the final Top Ten list; you can surmise for yourself the two to which I refer.
Every game should also be scheduled to debut on the Nintendo Switch (again, duh), or be all but certain to eventually receive a Switch release. There is only one game listed below that has not been officially confirmed but I would bet my third pair of drifting Joy-Cons that it will be on the Switch at launch.
Without further adieu, let’s get into it.
10. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
With a release window set only for sometime in 2022, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is the second collaborative effort between Ubisoft and Nintendo that sees the latter’s historied franchise join ranks with a horde of demonic rabbits, the Rabbids first appearing as villains in Ubisoft’s Rayman series before claiming the spotlight for themselves. A sequel to 2017’s breakout hit, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, an early Switch success story which has since moved a staggering 7.5 million units, Sparks of Hope looks to expand upon the mechanics that made the first game such a critical darling: Kingdom Battle currently sits at an 85% on Metacritic among over 100 reviewers. Our own Ben declared the ‘oddball mashup… to be one of the better tactical / strategy RPGs on the Switch,’ while Evan Bee wrote that ‘Mario + Rabbids is just a plain, good time.’ I’ve never come into contact with Kingdom Battle myself, although now that I’m noticing it to have never received a proper SwitchRPG review, I’m beginning to reconsider…
Regardless, not much information about Sparks of Hope is yet known, though we can confidently say that composer Grant Kirkhope (Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64) will be returning to score it. The Gameplay Sneak Peek Trailer that Nintendo revealed at E3 back in June looks promising as well, and this is definitely one that many among our staff will be keeping their eyes out for over the next year.
9. Sports Story
First announced back in 2019, this Nintendo Switch-exclusive from indie studio Sidebar Games was originally scheduled for a mid-2020 launch before the team’s ambitious plans to branch out from the sport of golf, previewed in the Delay Trailer that they posted on their Twitter account, led to its indefinite postponement. Sports Story’s quirky predecessor, Golf Story—which I reviewed in my debut article for SwitchRPG—offered a fairly in-depth simulation of the sport from which it took its name but behind a distinct guise that blended witty dialogue, RPG mechanics, and beautiful 16-bit pixel art. It all made for an engaging experience that was incredibly easy to recommend irrespective of one’s passion for RPGs, their interest in golf, or whatever skepticism may be initially felt at the prospect of marrying two utterly disparate concepts.
Sports Story looks to take the promise of the first game and feed it a plethora of performance-enhancing drugs. Visually, the game appears largely unchanged (which I view as a win for the people), but Sidebar Games’s sequel is expected to be exceedingly wide-ranging in the activities that players will be able to enjoy. Apart from golf, these are believed to include tennis, baseball, volleyball, soccer, fishing, and more, along with ‘dungeon exploration’ and ‘stealthy infiltrations.’ Although Sports Story may not have a release date quite yet, and I’m too not hopeful that we’ll be playing this game before the year’s end, I have little doubt that however much longer the wait turns out to be, it’ll be worth it.
Coming in at the eighth spot among all games most anticipated by our staff is another gorgeous-looking, retro style, indie title, Eastward. Created by the small team that comprises Shanghai-based studio Pixpil and published by Chucklefish (British developer of Wargroove and former publisher of Stardew Valley), Eastward’s development began all the way back in 2015! The action-adventure RPG boasts an impressive, detailed pixel art aesthetic that aims to pay homage to 1990s Japanese anime, a narrative that invokes classic JRPGs, and gameplay inspired by the Zelda series. Like the previous entry on this list, Eastward was intended for release sometime in 2020 before its date was disappointingly changed to ‘TBD.’ However, as recently as June, Chuklefish confirmed that Eastward is arriving ‘later this year,’ and last month brought further cause for celebration when the game was officially rated by ESRB in the United States, meaning its upcoming launch on both Steam and Nintendo Switch should be just around the corner.
In the meantime, if you’re excited about Eastward as much as we are, I might suggest that you check out Gio Pimental’s extensive analysis of the game from February, 2020, including an interview he scored with Eastward’s composer, Joel Corelitz (Death Stranding, Halo Infinite). As Gio noted back then: ‘When Eastward was shown on the Indie World Showcase, I fell in love. It brought me back to some of the games I hold dear to my heart. But will it be my next favorite thing, or will it be forgotten with time?’ Here’s hoping Gio has an answer to that within the next couple of months!
***On August 12 the release date for this listing was changed from ‘TBD’ to ‘September 16, 2021’ following Eastward’s most recent Launch Trailer.
7. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
I must confess that independent developer and publisher ZA/UM’s open-world CRPG Disco Elysium wasn’t a game that really popped up on my radar until three of our staff members included it among their top 5 most anticipated games. I had been previously aware of an absurd controversy that ensued when the government of Australia banned the console release of Disco Elysium: The Final Cut earlier this year due to the game apparently offending the country’s ‘standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults,’ but I totally failed to note the universal acclaim and numerous awards it received upon its PC launch in late 2019.
Announced as a summer 2021 release on the Nintendo Switch last December, which I can only assume has been delayed since it’s now August and still has no solid date locked down, Disco Elysium is a murder-mystery that places players in the shoes of a detective suffering from memory loss. Unlike your typical CRPG, its gameplay centers on conversation over combat, using branching dialogue trees as the means by which new skills get unlocked and alter the thoughts that coalesce within the protagonist’s head. If you were ever a fan of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, tabletop role-playing games, or simply find the notion of getting lost within a dystopian metropolis that is portrayed from an isometric perspective oddly attractive, Disco Elysium might just be for you.
6. Diablo II: Resurrected
At no time growing up was I ever much of a PC gamer. This was largely owing to the fact that my household never had a computer powerful enough to stably operate anything more demanding than Descent, and later, once my family ever so slightly upgraded our hardware, Roller Coaster Tycoon. Despite this, there were some PC titles that had such a dominating effect upon the industry that even my unlearned mind was incapable of escaping the omnipresent shadows they cast. Diablo and its sequel, Diablo II, were two of those games. Although only an ignorant, pubescent, Nintendo fanboy in those days (I’m no longer one of those things), I didn’t have to play them to be fully cognizant of their quality and importance.
Now, thanks to Blizzard Entertainment—a developer/publisher that I’d be remiss to bring up without in some measure referencing the truly despicable allegations recently levied against their parent company—the classic isometric action-RPG is simultaneously being resurrected across all platforms! Not only will I be able to finally discover what the fuss was about all those years ago (mind you, I have played through the excellent Diablo III: Eternal Collection), but I’ll be able to do so in the palm of my hands! If you’re not itching to hack your way through heaps of ghastly monsters like we are, and I understand that some have very reasonably decided to once again boycott all products associated with Activision-Blizzard, then at least let one lifelong ‘diehard PC gamer’ tell you ‘Why I Am Excited For Diablo II: Resurrected.’
Or as Ben puts it, ‘One of the most popular hack-and-slash lootfests… faithfully recreated for both old and new generations? LET’S FREAKING GOOO!’
5. Metroid Dread
The first entirely new 2D Metroid adventure since 2002’s Metroid Fusion, the concept for Metroid Dread emerged back in the mid-aughts when it was thought to be an upcoming Nintendo DS release. Whatever may have been the true status of Dread at that time, the title was eventually scrapped by Nintendo. Nonetheless, series’ fans never really let it go and somewhere out there in deep space the idea of Dread lingered on…
Enter E3 2021. While a fresh 2D entry in the series had been rumored for quite awhile at this point, nobody was prepared to see MercurySteam (Metroid: Samus Returns) once more join forces with Nintendo for a revival of Dread. In the upcoming 2.5D adventure, which in my view absolutely looks to be worth its $60 price tag, our favorite intergalactic bounty hunter has become the hunted. Alongside the usual elements of platforming, exploration, and kick ass power-ups that often make Metroid games as addicting as the franchise is beloved, Samus Aran must avoid detection from prowling ‘E.M.M.I. robots.’ These menacing predators have the potential to quickly K.O. players should they get caught. Sounds… dreadful! (I had to say it.)
So, to briefly address the Kraid in the room, why is Metroid Dread included on this list when it’s clearly, by no reasonable stretch, an ‘RPG’? Simply put, an RPG can be typically interpreted as containing one or more of the following: various optional character classes; an opportunity to increase player stats through combat or some other core mechanic; menu systems in which players freely select between different items, skills, and weapons to be used in battle; an overarching narrative littered with sidequests; and an ability to interact with NPCs or environments, often coinciding with character progression (e.g. dialogue options, lockpicking, etc.).
Though in the context of a wholly separate debate, Ben argued that ‘if a game has a level up system and/or meaningful equipment progression, I can get behind it being marketed as an RPG.’ None of us at SwitchRPG (as far as I am aware) would really consider Metroid games to be RPGs despite their containing very ‘meaningful equipment progression.’ Likewise, as Jeremy Rice noted, ‘When I was growing up… RPGs were loosely defined along a simple spectrum, which include story-focused games with some sense of character progression and/or customization, along with a helping of dungeons to explore and puzzles to solve.’
Again, the Metroid series isn’t exactly known to have ‘dungeons’ or ‘puzzles’ in the sense that your average Zelda game does, but they certainly consist of extensive maps to explore, interactive environments that don’t fully reveal their usefulness until some item or equipment upgrade has been procured, and so forth. I won’t waste any more time on this issue here but the point remains: many of us are very hype for Metroid Dread and as it’s arguably a game with light RPG features, expect further coverage when Samus’s latest outing launches in October!
4. Shin Megami Tensei V
The latest iteration in Atlus’s popular (in Japan anyway) turned-based RPG series has been a long time coming. First revealed back in January, 2017, the fifth instalment looks to follow the playbook of past Shin Megami Tensei games such as Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster, wherein players use the power of persuasion to lure demonic creatures over to their side—think Pokémon but with far fewer cuddly partners and a much greater difficulty level—as they attempt to defend Earth against the otherworldly intruders that have descended upon a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
I myself have never dabbled in the franchise, passing on the recent Switch HD remaster of Nocturne as I was rather tied up in other projects when its May 24th release arrived earlier this year. Nevertheless, everything about Shin Megami Tensei V that has been shown off thus far looks encouraging. If your interest is as piqued as ours, Evan Bee has happily published a rundown of some of the things you can expect from V, as well as a short analysis of the series’ evolution. Also, I can say from personal experience: take Evan’s advice and Don’t Google Mara!
3. Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake
Where were you the moment that the Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake was announced? It’s a question that future generations are bound to pose when they enviously analyze the privilege we now share, existing at a time when the HD-2D revolution is in full swing thanks to the success of Octopath Traveler and the ongoing push of games like Eiyuden Chronicle.
Alright, I may be overstating things a bit. We haven’t yet received a full-throated endorsement of the dazzling graphical style that an announcement of either Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger—to borrow from Rich’s wise suggestions—reimagined in orgasmic HD-2D, would entail. But short of these, I’ll take basically anything, and a classic JRPG from Square Enix’s treasured catalogue, despite my unfamiliarity with Dragon Quest prior to XI, is enough to send me to the moon. And I’m not the only one here at SwitchRPG who is ecstatic to play the Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake; the game topped both Kierra Lanier and Elias’s Top Ten lists.
But when will it come to the Nintendo Switch? Sadly, next to the information I’ve already divulged, we know almost nothing about the future of Dragon Quest III. When it comes to even a vague release window or the platforms on which it will debut, Square Enix has said zilch except that ‘DRAGON QUEST III HD-2D Remake is planned for release on console.’ Whether or not the game ultimately ships to stores in 2022 or later is anyone’s guess, but given the history of Dragon Quest and Nintendo—and I’m not referring to Fortune Street—in addition to the success of the Switch, I actually cannot conceive of a world in which we aren’t eventually playing Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake on Nintendo’s portable hardware. The only other inquiry that persists is what other possible HD-2D projects does Square Enix have up their sleeve?
2. Project Triangle Strategy
Hey! Whaddya know! Another HD-2D RPG from the minds over at Square Enix and… Artdink? The developer of… A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism?! All jokes aside—including the extremely awkward name of Project Triangle Strategy (it’s just the ‘working title’ after all… right?)—Artdink is a Japanese game developer with a history that extends back over thirty years and, apart from their A-Train and Neo Atlas series, the former of which has going strong since, believe it or not, 1985, they also had a hand in porting Tactics Ogre and the Japanese version of SimCity 2000 over to the Playstation in the 1990s.
I don’t know what exactly it was in their long resume that persuaded Square Enix to offer them a brand new IP in the tactical RPG genre to develop, but as the team that worked on Octopath Traveler is reportedly overseeing its progress, my hopes remain high. In fact, here’s some of the things that the critics have said following the demo Nintendo published on the eShop back in February:
‘I think I like what I’ve got here so far in Triangle Traveler… This so reminds me of one of my favorite RPGs, Divinity: Original Sin 2. The music is pretty top notch. The game is still visually stunning…’ – Gio Pimental, SwitchRPG.com
‘My biggest takeaway so far is just how DENSE this game is. There are a ton of interconnected characters, political motivations, and interpersonal relationships to track. Combat has layered environmental effects, the TP accumulation system, interactive map elements, in-battle events, and a heaping dose of unit variety.’ – Jeremy Rice, SwitchRPG.com
‘The gameplay in this is amazing and I love everything I have experienced so far. The game does an amazing job at truly illustrating the “weight” of the decisions made in the game and makes thought necessary to see how things play out.’ – Elias, YouAlreadyKnowWhatItIs.com
‘I love how the environmental factors and mid-battle events help break the monotony. The game is also drop dead gorgeous. I love 2D-HD.’ – Timothy Taylor, NoSeriouslyLookAtTheAddressInYourBrowserRightNow.com
With regard to 2D-HD, HD-2D, and whatever the hell you want to call The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake… yes we do, Timothy. Yes we do.
And speaking of Zelda, that brings us to our most anticipated upcoming release!
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
Since I refuse to let myself be pulled into that debate again, I’m not really sure what else can be said about the Breath of the Wild follow-up that hasn’t already been stated ad nauseam. I could speculate about the most recent trailer’s blatant allusions to Skyward Sword, how neat it would be if the roles were reversed and players had to take control of Zelda in an effort to rescue Link, or I could expand upon the more cockamamie theories out there which even imagine Ganondorf as some sort of good guy. But nah, I won’t do that. Every word that Nintendo declassifies, every second of footage from 2022’s most anticipated game that travels outside of Nintendo’s top secret headquarters in Kyoto is immediately met with legions of hungry fans putting their investigative caps on to pour through every detail and scrutinize all possibilities. There’s been more than enough said on these fronts and if you’re but half as amped about Link’s forthcoming adventure as we are, you’ve probably already been down all those Mogma holes yourself.
I’ll merely say this: Putting semantics aside and excepting the existence of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, i.e. the best RPG currently available on the Nintendo Switch in my humble opinion, I largely agree with Jonny that Breath of the Wild 2 will be a ‘sequel to the greatest RPG ever made.’ As such, the expectations surrounding the upcoming Zelda—ours included—are extraordinarily high, so much so that I wonder how Nintendo can possibly hope to meet them. Moreover, when are we going to be able to stop calling it Breath of the Wild 2? I fear that no matter how catchy the subtitle, and remember Nintendo has been responsible for such classic names like Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, the casual gamer is going to forever know it as simply Breath of the Wild 2. Grumble, grumble…
That about does it for The Ultimate SwitchRPG Top Ten™! Even though the top three games are likely to be at least another whole year out before they’re in our hands, five that made the list should be available within as many months. And to conclude on an even more positive note, I thought I’d briefly highlight four additional games that just missed the 10th place spot by a hair. All of these were tied at #11!
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with the releases that most galvanize our crew, we’d like to know: What are YOUR Top Ten Most Anticipated Upcoming Releases? Leave them in the comments!