Since 2011, Nintendo has cemented a new way to share information about upcoming games and projects to their audience outside of the usual summer events season promotions, the Nintendo Direct. Other companies followed suit – PlayStation State of Play, Inside Xbox, etc. – and for good reason. These shows, which range from a few minutes to nearly an hour, deliver exciting updates in a convenient way that forgoes the necessity to always hold in-person events that not everyone can attend, and they can happen at any time of year.
As Nintendo continues to use the Direct as its main way of detailing its biggest games, we thought it would be a great time to look back at the biggest moments from their long history.
We’ve chosen to focus on multi-game Nintendo Directs (no Nindie or Indie World Showcases as those have often been cyclically tied to events like GDC and PAX, no single-game or Pokemon Directs as those are also often cyclical, no Super Smash Bros. – Mr. Sakurai Presents, or the Super Nintendo World Direct) that have aired since the Nintendo Switch was released on March 3, 2017, and specifically we’re counting up the ones that occurred in North America. Don’t worry, we’ve also included some highlights of the years before as well.
As we wait for the next Nintendo Direct that will hopefully reveal more about the Breath of the Wild sequel that was just delayed to Spring 2023 and more potential surprises, let’s take a look at all the Directs that led us to where we are today.
2011 – The Dawn of the Nintendo Direct
Nintendo officially debuted its Nintendo Direct format on October 21, 2011. The Direct was introduced by former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime and he also famously started the presentation by saying, “For this first installment, we’ve got some important news if you’re an owner of Nintendo 3DS or are just thinking of becoming one. And really, if you’re neither one yet, what’s wrong with you?” Oh, Reggie.
Two Nintendo Directs aired in 2011, including this one, and they were focused on announcements of the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii. Interestingly enough, the first-ever reveal from a Nintendo Direct was the news that Hulu Plus would be arriving on 3DS and Wii in the near future. That first direct also included updates on Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
2012 – The First Full Year of Nintendo Directs and the Launch of the Wii U
The first full year of Nintendo Directs featured 10 broadcasts that aired in North America, including many focused on the upcoming launch of the Nintendo Wii U. 2012’s Directs also included reveals and updates for New Super Mario Bros. 2, Fire Emblem Awakening, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Pokemon Black Version 2 and White Version 2.
2013 – The Wii U’s First Full Year and the Year of Luigi
2013 was the first full calendar year of the Nintendo Wii U, and Nintendo aired 16 Nintendo Directs of various forms to highlight its news system. Highlights include Pokemon X & Y, Miiverse and Virtual Console, the Year of Luigi, The Wonderful 101, Wii Fit U, Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and even one on the Nintendo 3DS Guide Louvre app.
2014 – The Year of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS and Mario Kart 8
Nine Directs occurred over the course of 2014, and one of the biggest Directs focused on Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for both the 3DS and Wii U. Other highlights include Hyrule Warriors for Wii U, Tomodachi Life, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Splatoon, Ultimate NES Remix, amiibo, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Bayonetta 2, and more.
2015 – The Year of the Puppets
2015 also had nine Nintendo Directs in North America, including those focused on the New Nintendo 3DS, Splatoon, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Mario Party 10, Star Fox Zero, The Legend of Zelda; Tri Force Heroes, Pokken Tournament, Fire Emblem Birthright/Conquest, and many more.
Oh, and who can forget the incredible puppet segments from E3 2015?!
2016 – The Year Before Nintendo Switch
As Nintendo geared up for the reveal and release of the Switch, it slowed down its Nintendo Direct presentations. In 2016, there were only four in North America, with only two being proper Nintendo Directs. The other two solely focused on Pokemon Sun and Moon and Pokemon’s 20th anniversary and Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome Amiibo.
Nintendo made up for the slower yearby officially announcing the Nintendo Switch in October 2016, confirming its brand new hybrid system would be released in 2017.
Nintendo Direct (April 12, 2017) – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and ARMS
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 223 Days
- Runtime: 35:49
The first Nintendo Direct following the launch of the Nintendo Switch focused heavily on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, and Splatoon 2. Nintendo still featured Nintendo 3DS games in its Directs, and this show included Hey! PIKMIN, games that celebrated Kirby’s 25th Anniversary, Miitopia, and more.
Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017 (June 13, 2017) – Metroid Prime 4, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC, Super Mario Odyssey’s Release Date
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 62
- Runtime: 24:48
Ok, this one is not technically a Nintendo Direct as Nintendo chose to call it Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017, but we couldn’t not include an E3 presentation in this list, especially one of this magnitude that is pretty much a Direct anyway. While we got a lot of teases about upcoming franchises headed to Switch – Pokemon, Kirby, and Yoshi – it was also filled with the long-awaited announcement of Metroid Prime 4 (Where is that one already?!), DLC for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and an extended trailer and release date for Super Mario Odyssey.
Oh, and the Spotlight was so jam-packed that Nintendo decided to save the announcement of 3DS’ Metroid: Samus Returns for its Treehouse Live stream.
Nintendo Direct (September 13, 2017) – Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Kirby Star Allies
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 92 Days
- Runtime: 45:59
While Super Mario Odyssey was the star of September 2017’s Nintendo Direct, the show also gave us the release dates of both Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the official reveal of Kirby Star Allies, new details on what was then known as Project Octopath Traveler, Mario Party: The Top 100 for 3DS, updates on Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and even the Champions amiibo from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo Direct Mini (January 11, 2018) – Dark Souls Remastered, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 120 Days
- Runtime: 14:21
A Nintendo Direct can feel like a holiday for Nintendo fans, but sometimes they take a while to arrive. To help with the wait, Nintendo occasionally releases Nintendo Direct Minis as a way to give a smaller batch of updates while it waits for the right time for the grand slams.
In this first Nintendo Direct Mini since the launch of the Switch, Nintendo showcased Dark Souls Remastered, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Super Mario Odyssey: Luigi’s Balloon World update, Mario Tennis Aces, a release date for Celeste and Kirby Star Allies, and the news that Donkey Kong would be the newest playable character in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Despite it not being a full-fledged Direct, this one was pretty substantial!
Nintendo Direct (March 8, 2018) – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s Reveal, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 56 Days
- Runtime: 34:17
The March 8 Nintendo Direct will forever go down in history as the show that gave us the legendary reveal trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. What many thought was a mere Splatoon 2 trailer turned out to be what everyone had been hoping and dreaming for – a Smash Bros. game for Switch.
This Nintendo Direct also gave us Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Undertale, a Luigi’s Mansion remake for 3DS, an amiibo figure for Dark Souls’ Solaire of Astora, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Okami HD, a release date for Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, Octopath Traveler, and Mario Tennis Aces, WarioWare Gold and Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for 3DS, and much more.
Nintendo Direct at E3 2018 (June 12, 2018) – Every Fighter Ever in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Fortnite on Switch, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Official Reveal
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 96 Days
- Runtime: 42:45
Sure, the announcement of a Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo Switch was an incredible one, but it lacked many details. So Nintendo decided to make its big E3 2018 showcase a Smash Bros. bonanza where it confirmed that every fighter who had ever appeared in a Smash Bros. game would return for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Nintendo’s E3 showcase also confirmed Fortnite for the system, and featured the unveiling of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Party and its ability to use multiple Switch systems at once, and Mew for Pokemon, Let’s Go, Pikachu! And Let’s Go! Eevee. Additionally, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 got new DLC, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Overcooked 2, Hollow Knight, and Killer Queen were announced for Switch, and much more.
Nintendo Direct (September 13, 2018) – Animal Crossing, Nintendo Switch Online, and Luigi’s Mansion 3
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 93 Days
- Runtime: 38:13
Nintendo’s first major Direct since E3 2018 saw the announcement of what would become Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Not content with just one Animal Crossing announcement, Nintendo also confirmed Isabelle would be joining the roster of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Final Fantasy fans were also in for a treat as Final Fantasy 7, 9, 10, 12, and more were revealed to be coming to Nintendo’s latest console. Alongside these reveals, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was shown for the first time, Yoshi’s Crafted World got a brand-new extended look, and we learned much more about Nintendo Switch Online.
This was also the Direct that unveiled the Nintendo Switch NES controller, New Super Mario Bros. U for Switch, a port of Kirby’s Epic Yarn to 3DS, and even that Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would be playable on Switch via the cloud in Japan.
Nintendo Direct (February 13, 2019) – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake, Super Mario Maker 2, and Tetris 99
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 153 Days
- Runtime: 36:45
The first Nintendo Direct of 2019 ended with the surprise reveal of a remake of Game Boy’s The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Super Mario Maker 2 also made its big debut and was welcome news as many expected for the Wii U’s Super Mario Maker to be ported over to the Switch.
We also learned more about Fire Emblems: Three Houses, both Dragon Quest Builders 2 and Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition, some updates headed to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Platinum Games’ new title Astral Chain, and a few third-party ports, including Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered, Mortal Kombat 11, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
The Nintendo Switch Online-exclusive Tetris 99 was also announced and promised to put a battle royale-esque spin to the classic Tetris formula.
Nintendo Direct at E3 2019 (June 11, 2019) – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel, Banjo-Kazooie and Dragon Quest’s Hero in Smash, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Delay
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 118 Days
- Runtime: 42:41
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sits atop IGN’s best games of all time list, and Nintendo’s E3 2019 Direct revealed that a sequel was currently in development. Despite us only seeing one more trailer from the game since this reveal, the excitement for this next chapter continues to make it one of the most anticipated games out there.
The sequel news may have been a good surprise, but an unfortunate one was the delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Delays are usually for the best, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ push was no different, as it has now gone on to sell over 37 million units.
We were also treated to not one, but two Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC fighter reveals in Banjo-Kazooie and Dragon Quest’s Hero, a release date for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake, Dragon Quest 11 S, and Luigi’s Mansion 3, the confirmation that The Witcher 3 was headed to Switch, No More Heroes 3, and much more.
Nintendo Direct (September 4, 2019) – SNES Games on Nintendo Switch Online, Overwatch, and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 85 Days
- Runtime: 38:45
Nintendo Switch’s library of classic titles leaves much to be desired, but the September 2019 Direct went a long way to fix that by confirming that Super Nintendo games were on their way to Nintendo Switch Online. Alongside confirming 20 SNES titles would be available at launch, Nintendo also revealed the special Switch SNES controller.
Overwatch was another big star of the show, as was the announcement of Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and Fatal Fury’s Terry Bogard joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. We learned more about Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Pokemon Sword and Shield, saw the unexpected reveal of Deadly Premonition 2, and were told of a few new ports headed to the Switch, including Return of the Obra Dinn, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, Divinity Original Sin 2, and Assassin’s Creed: Rebel Collection.
Nintendo Direct Mini (March 26, 2020) – An ARMS Character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition Release Date, and BioShock: The Collection
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 204 Days
- Runtime: 28:55
The wait for a proper Nintendo Direct continued on through 2020 as Nintendo (and many other companies) figured out their processes during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, Nintendo shared a Nintendo Direct Mini that revealed an ARMS character would be joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Min-Min!), a release date for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, Bioshock: The Collection, Borderlands Legendary Collection, and XCOM 2, and more.
We were also treated to a demo of Bravely Default II, new details on Pokemon Sword and Shield’s expansions, the infamous Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Easter event, Star Wars Episode I: Racer, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, and more.
Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase (July 20, 2020) – Shin Megami Tensei 5, Cadence of Hyrule, and WWE 2K Battlegrounds
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 116 Days
- Runtime: 8:14
The first Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase took place on July 20, 2020, and it highlighted titles from Nintendo’s development and publishing partners. This first show was a quick one, and only featured a few announcements, including a Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster, Shin Megami Tensei 5, WWE 2K Battlegrounds, Rogue Company, and Cadence of Hyrule DLC.
Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase (August 26, 2020) – Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, Collection of SaGa Final Fantasy Legend, and Puyo Puyo Tetris 2
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 37 Days
- Runtime: 11:47
Nintendo surprise dropped a new Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase in August 2020, headlined with the release date of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory. The roughly 12-minute show also featured new Fuser gameplay, the Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack, World of Tanks, Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions, Collection of SaGa Final Fantasy Legend, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, and much more.
Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Direct (September 3, 2020) – Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 8 Days
- Runtime: 16:13
NES’ Super Mario Bros. celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2020, and Nintendo honored the milestone by presenting fans with a ton of Mario-themed game announcements in its Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Direct.
Leading the way was undoubtedly Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a collection of optimized versions of Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Sunshine. We also learned about Super Mario 3D World’s arrival on Switch with the Bowser’s Fury add-on, a real world Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit toy/game, Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 35, and more.
While it was an exciting show for Mario fans around the world, it also came with a very odd caveat that both Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Super Mario Bros. 35 would only be available until March 31, 2021, a.k.a. The Day Mario Died.
Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase (September 17, 2020) – Monster Hunter Rise, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, and Hades
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 14 Days
- Runtime: 15:37
Another Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase was shown on September 17, 2020, and it was headlined by some big Monster Hunter news. Alongside the reveal of Monster Hunter Rise, we also learned about Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin and a Monster Hunter Direct that would take place right after this one.
It was also a big day for ports, as Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Hades were confirmed to be coming to Switch. Additionally, Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, Balan Wonderworld, Rune Factory 5, The Long Dark, Empire of Sin, and Sniper Elite 4 were shown.
Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase (October 28, 2020) – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Demo, Cloud Versions of Control and Hitman 3, and No More Heroes on Switch
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 41 Days
- Runtime: 18:59
Alongside getting a demo and learning more about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity – the prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – we also saw more of Nintendo’s commitment to the cloud with the news that Control: Ultimate Edition and Hitman 3 would be playable on Nintendo’s handheld through it.
This Nintendo Direct Mini also revealed the delay of Bravely Default 2, the release of No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle on Switch alongside new footage of No More Heroes 3, a new Immortals Fenyx Rising trailer, and much more.
Nintendo Direct (February 17, 2021) – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, Splatoon 3, Mario Golf: Super Rush
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 112 Days (532 days since a proper Nintendo Direct!)
- Runtime: 50:46
The first proper Nintendo Direct since September 4, 2019, finally arrived on February 17, 2021. It was filled with new announcements for Switch owners, and it was headlined by Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Pyra and Mythra joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, Splatoon 3, and Mario Golf: Super Rush.
There was also plenty more to be excited about, including Project Triangle Strategy, Star Wars Hunters, Fall Guys on Switch, Miitopia for Switch, the Legend of Mana remaster, Outer Wilds, Tales from the Borderlands, Knockout City, and the confirmation that more news on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 was planned for later in 2021.
Nintendo Direct at E3 2021 (June 15, 2021) – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Dread, and WarioWare: Get It Together!
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 118 Days
- Runtime: 38:50
Nintendo’s E3 2021 Direct finally gave fans what they’ve been hoping for since its announcement in 2019 – more details and footage for the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not only did we get to see more of the game in action, but it was confirmed for a 2022 release window. As of this writing, we haven’t learned much more about it or its launch plans.
We were also shown the first 2D Metroid game in 19 years in Metroid Dread, the reveal trailer for Tekken’s Kazuya Mishima joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Party Superstars, WarioWare: Get It Together!, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, and Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.
Life is Strange: True Colors and the Life Is Strange Remastered Collection were confirmed for the Switch library alongside a cloud version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, and much more.
Nintendo Direct (September 23, 2021) – Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, Super Mario Bros. Movie Cast and Release Date
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 100 Days
- Runtime: 40:34
The last proper Nintendo Direct of 2021 not only gave us our first look at Kirby and the Forgotten Land (and its The Last of Us vibes!), but also the reveal of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
This expanded version of Nintendo Switch Online gives subscribers access to a library of N64 and SEGA Genesis games, and it was later revealed that the service would also give players access to Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Happy Home Paradise expansion and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s 48 new courses at no extra cost.
We also saw Bayonetta 3 gameplay alongside a 2022 release window, Splatoon 3 gameplay, the Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak expansion, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for Switch, Castlevania Advance Collection, Actraiser Renaissance, Chocobo GP, the big twist that Project Triangle Strategy would become Triangle Strategy, and more.
Perhaps the most talked about news from this Direct was the cast for the upcoming Super Mario Bros. movie that is set to be released in theaters on December 21, 2022. In the film, Chris Pratt will play Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy will play Peach, Charlie Day will play Luigi, Jack Black will play Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen will play Donkey Kong. Charles Martinet, who voices Mario in the games, will appear in the movie as well as special characters.
Nintendo Direct (February 9, 2022) – Xenoblade Chronicles 3, 48 New Courses for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Mario Strikers: Battle League
- Days Between Nintendo Directs: 139 Days
- Runtime: 19:03
Nintendo rang in 2022 with a brand-new Direct on February 9 and surprised fans with the news that, instead of Mario Kart 9 arriving anytime soon, players will soon be able to enjoy 48 new courses for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Furthermore, it shared that subscribers of Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack will get these courses at no extra cost.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 was also announced and confirmed for September 2022, a new Fire Emblem game is on its way that features characters from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and Mario would be returning to the pitch in Mario Strikers: Battle League.
The Direct also featured the Chrono Cross remaster, Nintendo Switch Sports, remakes of Front Mission 1 & 2, Splatoon 3’s new Salmon Run mode, a free Metroid Dread update, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land’s Mouthful Mode that adorably let’s Kirby inhale real-world objects like a car or vending machine.
Earthbound and Earthbound: Beginnings were confirmed for Nintendo Switch Online alongside Portal 1 & 2, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a demo for Triangle Strategy, No Man’s Sky, Klonoa 1 & 2, Disney Speedstorm Racing, and more.
How Often Does Nintendo Air a Nintendo Direct?
Since the first Nintendo Direct in the Switch era, the amount of time between Nintendo Directs has been anywhere from 8 days to 223 days. If we are counting the longest time without a proper Nintendo Direct, that would be 532 days. Nintendo tends to hold Directs, on average, every 104 days. This is by no means an accurate way to predict when a new Direct will be, but it does give a bit of insight into the planning of these shows.
Nintendo has held 20 Nintendo Directs since the Switch launched on March 3, 2017, and the average length of a show was around 30 minutes and 27 seconds.
If you enjoyed this look back at the history of the Nintendo Direct, be sure to check out our similar retrospective on PlayStation State of Play presentations!
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Author: Adam Bankhurst