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Nintendo Direct Turns 10: The Best Announcements From Nintendo's Video Presentations
We pick our favorite moments from 10 years of Nintendo news coming directly to our homes.
Ten years ago, on October 21, 2011, the first-ever Nintendo Direct premiered on YouTube. The 7-minute presentation--only SEVEN minutes!--included updates on Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. A decade later the format has become the standard for delivering gaming news to the masses, be it PlayStation's State of Play, Microsoft's Inside Xbox, or other pre-recorded, livestream-style broadcasts throughout the industry.
Looking back at the history of Nintendo Direct is a tall order--there are to date close to 150 videos if we include the game-specific presentations like this month's Animal Crossing Direct or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Sora reveal. That didn't stop us though, and we've gone back and chosen our favorite announcements from the first decade of Directs. Check them out below, listed in chronological order from oldest to most recent.
(Oh, and in case you're wondering, the first-ever Nintendo Direct announcement was Hulu Plus coming to the Wii and 3DS. How far we've come.)
February 2012 - The Last Story Comes To America
The first "mic drop" announcement in Nintendo Direct's history came from the second-ever episode, as then-CEO of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime announced that Japanese-exclusive RPG The Last Story was making the trip to the West. The game was one of three Japan-only RPGs--along with Xenoblade Chronicles and Pandora's Tower--that a fan initiative called Operation Rainfall tried to convince Nintendo to localize. This announcement, cleverly grouped with a mention of Xenoblade Chronicles, was a huge boon to the group, who saw complete success when Pandora's Tower dropped in North America in 2013.
January 2013 - The First Pokemon Direct
While this wasn't the first Nintendo Direct devoted solely to one game--that distinction goes to the October 2, 2012 New Super Mario Bros. 2 presentation--this is the first Nintendo Direct to be themed around a single franchise. Fittingly, that franchise was the wildly successfulPokemon, which unveiled its debut on the Nintendo 3DS, Pokemon X and Y. The Direct ran through the entire Pokemon franchise to that point before airing the debut trailer for X and Y, and also showing off both games' starter Pokemon: Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie. For the first topic-focused Direct, this one set a high bar.
February 2013 - The Year Of Luigi
"Hello everyone. You may be curious about why I am wearing this hat." As then-president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata said those words, little did the rest of us know we were about to kick off an entire year dedicated to everyone's favorite sidekick. Nearly half of this 40-minute presentation was dedicated to Luigi, from his history to his games (like Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and Mario and Luigi: Dream Team), and the themed DLC New Super Luigi U. The rest of the Direct has some OK updates, but this was all about Luigi, and we loved it.
June 2013 - The First Digital-Only E3 Direct
This is a landmark in the history of Nintendo Direct: the first time Nintendo eschewed the bombastic live stage show format for its own digital event. While not the first E3 Direct--there was an "E3 Direct" that came out before the E3 2012 live briefing--this was the first time Nintendo put all of its eggs Directly into the Direct basket, and it paid off. Pokemon X and Y, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and the debut of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS--with the added punch of Mega Man joining the roster--made this a Direct to remember. The E3 booth tour by Satoru Iwata at the end was a nice touch. "Shall we go to the Pikmin area?" Yes we shall, Mr. Iwata.
July 2013 - The Art Of The Shadow Drop
A hallmark of modern Nintendo Directs is the "shadow drop," or a game that is announced during a Direct and then immediately released. "Play it today" is a phrase that Nintendo fans have grown accustomed to, and that began in earnest in July 2013 when the Super Nintendo classic Earthbound was unleashed onto the Wii U eShop the same day it was announced during this Nintendo Direct Mini. After this Direct, guessing how many games we'd be playing the same day they were announced became a rite of passage for Direct predictions, and we still get giddy when it happens.
(Wow, 2013 was a great year for Nintendo Direct, wasn't it?)
April 2014 - Tomodachi Direct Gets Weird
Just watch it. You'll understand.
June 2014 - Robot Chicken, Iwata Vs. Reggie, And More
We're not sure what's more surprising about this E3 Direct: Nintendo recruiting the Robot Chicken team for a series of skits (which were hilarious) or Miis being introduced to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS via an anime fistfight between two of its executives. This Direct also marks the debut of amiibo, Yoshi's Woolly World, Super Mario Maker, Splatoon, and the first slight tease of what would become The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. The tease of a new Star Fox game at the end--by Miyamoto himself no less--was the icing on the cake.
November 2015 - Cloud Storms Into Battle
Now THIS was a mic drop. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS' roster was about to get a jolt of Square Enix electricity as Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII was announced at the end of this Direct. This reveal sets the table for every Smash reveal after it: innocuous beginning with a clue that only big fans would understand (the music in this case), the slow burn with the Smash and FFVII logos appearing on-screen, and then the man himself. This was a solid Direct all-around, but Cloud's reveal was lightning in a digital bottle.
June 2017 - Primed For Big Announcements
Remember that Metroid Prime 4 teaser during the E3 2017 Direct? We do. We remember Nintendo. At least now being reminded of it doesn't fill us with Dread.
March 2018 - The Ultimate Swerve
At this point Nintendo had made it a habit of saving one big announcement for the end of the Directs, but even though we knew "one more thing" was coming, the Splatoon-tinged Smash Bros. Switch tease at the end of the March 8, 2018 Direct still caught us off-guard. If you're wondering why Sora's Smash Bros trailer started out looking so familiar, this is why.
September 2018 - A New Horizon
Well, they got us again. When Isabelle was confirmed for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate we were happy, but we thought that was the end of the show. The screen fades to black and a few seconds go by, but instead of a red Nintendo logo screen we fade up to Tom Nook watching along on his computer. He faces the audience, mentions that he's "Got to make sure everyone has a nice, new place to come home to," and then WHAM! Animal Crossing is coming to Switch. This reveal still makes us smile, even after we've been to our private islands.
June 2019 - GUH-HUH!
Yes, the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct is filled with great announcements, from The Sequel To The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (working title) to the full Animal Crossing: New Horizons reveal. But this Direct belongs to Banjo and Kazooie, who entered Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in a dream scenario. There'd be other third-party characters announced, but this one opened the forbidden door of The Big Three, and set the table for another blockbuster 16 months later.
September 2020 - Happy Birthday Mario
There's something special about a Direct focusing entirely on Nintendo's flagship character, and in September 2020 we got the Super Mario 35th Anniversary blowout he deserves. Between Super Mario 3D World coming to Switch with Bowser's Fury, Super Mario 35, 3D All-Stars, and more, this was an extravaganza worthy of the Mushroom Kingdom.
September 2021 - Mario Pratt
When Miyamoto drops by a Nintendo Direct these days, you know a big announcement is coming. Still, we weren't expecting that news to be "Star-Lord is Mario," and yet that's exactly what happened. Miyamoto announced the release date of Super Mario's new movie, as well as the cast voicing the iconic characters. A lot was made of Chris Pratt voicing Mario himself, but Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad are inspired choices.
October 2021 - Sora Soars Into Smash Bros.
We're still coming down from the reveal that Sora from Kingdom Hearts--thought to be impossible by Masahiro Sakurai himself--is the final Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC character. This reveal is a perfect example of everything that made Smash Bros. reveals great: building tension for four minutes by revealing the Mii Fighter costumes first, the slow burn trailer finally showing the Mickey Mouse symbol that gives the character away, and then a half-hour of deep-diving into both Sora in Smash Bros. and Kingdom Hearts as a whole. If it's the last time we see Sakurai on our screens, it's a heck of a way to sign off.