Nintendo is at the top of its game - here's what to expect in 2018

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Nintendo is on a serious roll.

The company's latest console, the Switch, is a major hit. The two biggest games for Switch are massively popular entries in the long-running "Super Mario" and "Legend of Zelda" franchises.

And the future looks as big - or maybe even bigger - for the Japanese gaming giant. How does a brand-new Pokémon game for the Nintendo Switch sound to you? That's just the beginning.

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1. Everything old is new again.

1. Everything old is new again.

In 2017, Nintendo re-released "Mario Kart 8" as a "new" game on the Switch. The game previously arrived on the Nintendo Wii U — the console that Nintendo sunset in favor of the Switch. 

In 2018, Nintendo plans to re-release "Bayonetta 2" — another game that launched exclusively on the Wii U. The game even comes with a free copy of the first "Bayonetta." This is part of Nintendo's ongoing strategy to bring back the best games from the Wii U era — games that a limited number of people played due to how very few people bought a Wii U.

"Given the [very low] install base of Wii U, there was some fantastic content that consumers did not get to play," Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aimé told Vice last year. "So that creates certainly a business opportunity."

Beyond "Bayonetta" and "Bayonetta 2," it seems likely we'll see some of the Wii U's other best stuff head to the Switch. Games like "Super Smash Bros." and "Super Mario Maker" come to mind immediately, though there are opportunities to bring over other great stuff (like "Super Mario 3D World" and "Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker").

2. Nintendo's online service is finally going to light up.

2. Nintendo's online service is finally going to light up.

The Nintendo Switch Online service is scheduled to launch in 2018 at a price of $20 a year. For that price, you'll get instant access to a classic game library and the ability to play games online.

You read that correctly: Nintendo is going to gate access to online gameplay.

After this service launches, you'll need to fork over a subscription fee to play online games on the Nintendo Switch. For the $20 price of entry, though, you'll also gain access to a library of classic games. The only three games announced thus far are "Super Mario Bros. 3," "Dr. Mario," and "Balloon Fight," which are all classic Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games. 

It's unclear when the service will actually launch; Nintendo has only given its service a release window of "2018." 

It's also unclear if Nintendo will have a separate "Virtual Console" service, as it has in the past — such a service has traditionally offered a paid library of a la carte classic games. That could very well also be coming in 2018.

3. A "core" Pokémon game is being made for Nintendo's Switch, and it could arrive as early as 2018.

3. A "core" Pokémon game is being made for Nintendo's Switch, and it could arrive as early as 2018.

A new entry in the "Pokémon" series is coming to the Switch, and it's not a spin-off. We're talking about a "core RPG Pokémon title," according to Pokémon company president Tsunekazu Ishihara.

That's a huge deal. Main series Pokémon games have only ever come to Nintendo's handheld game consoles. But with the Switch, Nintendo's main game console is also its main handheld console. And that means that there's only one place for Pokémon to go: the Switch!

In fairness, the game may not arrive in 2018. 

When the project was announced, it was said to be "more than a year out." That was back in June 2017, so it's entirely possible that this game isn't anywhere close to complete. That said, it was also unlikely that Nintendo would launch two major "Super Mario" and "Legend of Zelda" games in the same year, but that was exactly what Nintendo did in 2017.

4. New games in the "Kirby" and "Yoshi" franchises.

4. New games in the "Kirby" and "Yoshi" franchises.

With major games starring Mario and Link in 2017, Nintendo's trotting out its B-tier stars in 2018. New games starring Kirby and Yoshi are both expected to launch this year on the Switch.

"Kirby Star Allies" looks like a return to form for the franchise, with Kirby traipsing through 2D levels, sucking in enemies and absorbing their powers. It's expected to launch in spring 2018.

The new "Yoshi" game doesn't even have an official title yet — it's just known as "Yoshi" thus far, like the original game — nor does it have a launch date beyond "2018." It looks like a sequel to the Wii U game, "Yoshi's Wooly World" (which itself was a sort of sequel to "Yoshi's Island"). That means you're controlling Yoshi in a 2D world that has 3D depth, taking out enemies with flying eggs and floating awkwardly over dangerous drops.

5. A new "Metroid Prime" game is in the works.

5. A new "Metroid Prime" game is in the works.

Realistically speaking, it's extremely unlikely that "Metroid Prime 4" will launch in 2018. Nintendo's said next to nothing about the project; it was announced via a teaser trailer in June 2017, with nothing beyond the logo teased.

The game doesn't even have a projected launch window. Take a look at this very teasy announcement video:

All that said, it would be another huge notch for Nintendo to get out such a highly-anticipated game in 2018. The company has repeatedly said that one of its main goals with the Switch is to keep a steady cadence of major games coming out month after month, and "Metroid Prime 4" in 2018 would be a great way to keep that up.

6. Major third-party games are headed to the Switch in 2018.

6. Major third-party games are headed to the Switch in 2018.

Starting in February with "Payday 2," "Dragon Quest Builders," and "Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 Plus," the Nintendo Switch is getting a lot more support from so-called "third-party" game makers in 2018. 

Major publishers like Square Enix are working on games like "Project Octopath Traveler" (there's a free demo up on the Switch digital storefront right now), and Bethesda Softworks has "Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus" in the works. Ubisoft is getting a port of "Steep" prepared, and a brand-new entry in the "No More Heroes" franchise is headed exclusively to the Switch. 

You may find some these games on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC, but it's a big symbolic move for the companies behind them to support the Switch. It's been over a decade since Nintendo last had strong third-party game publisher support on its main video game console, and the Switch is helping to rekindle those relationships.

7. Indies? Nindies!

Nintendo's Switch is rife with blockbuster games from Nintendo's own development teams, but it's also become the go-to console for great indie games. 

In 2018, that trend continues with a huge new indie game getting a long-awaited sequel: "Super Meat Boy Forever."

In addition to a new "Super Meat Boy," the final entry in the "Shovel Knight" franchise is headed to the Switch in 2018. 

8. How about a new "Animal Crossing"? Or maybe "Donkey Kong Country"?

8. How about a new "Animal Crossing"? Or maybe "Donkey Kong Country"?

There are still plenty of Nintendo franchises that could use a spin on the Switch. The most notable ones are obvious: "Super Smash Bros.," "Animal Crossing," "Donkey Kong Country" and "Star Fox" all come to mind immediately.

Then there's the more obscure stuff: "WarioWare," "Punch-Out," "F-Zero," Nintendogs," "Dr. Mario," and "Brain Training." And that's before you start talking about really obscure stuff like "Earthbound."

All to say one thing: Nintendo still has miles of depths to plumb before it runs out of classic characters and game franchises. 

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