Nintendo often marches to the beat of its own DK bongos, hoarding its own first-party announcements for sporadic Nintendo Direct presentations – bar one exception, that is: Geoff Keighley’s yearly awards bash, The Game Awards. Over the years we’ve seen some surprising announcements and reveals from the House of Mario at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, so it’s no wonder Nintendo fans anticipate a surprise or two at this year’s TGA ceremony on December 9th.
But what should we expect? Well, Reggie's back presenting an award and rumours suggest a long-planned World Premiere that some suggest might be Zelda-related. Beyond that, it's tough to predict, so we scrubbed through all seven previous shows and gleaned a pattern that may or may not hint at what Nintendo has in store for The Game Awards 2021.
We start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...
The Game Awards 2014 - Koji Kondo, Reggie, and Breath of the Wild
Famed Nintendo composer Koji Kondo opened the inaugural year with a piano rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme, followed by an opening speech by the legendary (and now former) President of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aimé. It was enough to trigger warm, nostalgic feelings even in the most hard-hearted Nintendo fan.
The rest of the show held no total Nintendo surprises during the three-hour event, although the games that did feature were impressive. Shigeru Miyamoto introduced some impressive gameplay footage for the upcoming Super Mario Maker on Wii U, and our first look at gameplay of the then-untitled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bookended the show. Instead of a hype-inducing trailer, Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma sat beside a television and described the game as if we, the audience, just happened to pop by for a cool glass of Lon Lon milk and a slice of monster cake. The quaint presentation showed off many of the features Breath of the Wild became renowned for, but Aonuma stating that the game would release in 2015 had us choking on our Doritos.
The show ended with a Koji Kondo and Imagine Dragons collaboration. We’re not sure was as weird then as it is looking back now.
Our grade for Nintendo’s presence at TGA 2014? B for Bokoblin.
The Game Awards 2015 - Satoru Iwata tribute
A quiet year following a relatively substantial debut, Nintendo revealed nothing of note at TGA 2015. We were well into the lean Wii U years by this time, with Switch (or 'NX' as the mysterious project was known) still some time away and 'nothing to announce' from the company, despite plenty going on behind-the-scenes.
However, Reggie once again made an appearance, this time to honour the late Satoru Iwata, a man who shaped and enriched our lives through the incredible games we grew up on. He’s still sorely missed by us here at Nintendo Life, and despite the company's slim TGA showing on the games front, 2015 was an emotional show for Nintendo fans.
We'll abstain from giving TGA 2015 a rating on the grounds of emotional compromise.
The Game Awards 2016 - More Breath of the Wild
Following the exhilarating Breath of the Wild trailer revealed at E3 earlier in the year, TGA 2016 relegated some new footage of the anticipated title to the pre-show.
Nintendo Treehouse did further Breath of the Wild’s love affair with TGA by giving us a gameplay premiere mid-show, but it felt like it was included to placate Nintendo fans that otherwise were unrepresented in the two-hour long event.
Ratings-wise, TGA 2016 receives only the Triforce of Courage from us for daring to bring so little. Wisdom and Power weren’t present this year.
The Game Awards 2017 - Yet more Breath of the Wild
Seeing a pattern yet? Not only did Breath of the Wild clean house by taking home three awards (Game of the Year, Best Game Direction, and Best Action/Adventure Game), Aonuma also shadow-dropped the second DLC – The Champions’ Ballad – for his masterpiece, after drawing forth the Master Sword on stage.
Aonuma’s giddy reveal and award acceptance speech still puts smiles on our faces all these years later, and with the announcement of Bayonetta 1 & 2 for Nintendo Switch, TGA 2017 deserves no less than 762 Korok seeds out of 900.
The Game Awards 2018 -
Breath of the Wild Smash Bros. Ultimate
Breath of the Wild took a much needed year off, passing the baton to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for one of the most out-of-left-field, surprising challenger reveals we’ve ever seen – Joker from Persona 5. Considering Persona 5: Strikers wouldn’t be revealed for another year, and Persona 5 still isn’t on Nintendo Switch (seriously – where is it?), it’s safe to say no one saw this coming.
While Nintendo didn’t announce much else of note, the Smash Bros. Ultimate launch and The Phantom Thieves' interruption of the Game of the Year presentation to announce Joker as the first Fighter’s Pass DLC character reminded us that the company still had some tricks hidden up its sleeve that didn't involve an open-world Zelda game.
TGA 2018 gets 6 Phantom Thieves’ calling cards out of 8.
The Game Awards 2019 - Bravely Tumbleweed
TGA 2019 let Nintendo fans down. Good ol’ Reggie made an appearance despite stepping down as Nintendo of America’s President. He gave a speech on the importance of indie games and presented the award for Fresh Indie Game. He had nothing to do with Nintendo, except that he used to work there and Nintendo fans like him.
We award TGA 2019 1 out of 4 chibi anime protagonists.
The Game Awards 2020 - Mario gets impaled
For some reason TGA 2020 was held online instead of in the Microsoft Theater. While the cheers and hype garnered from the crowd were sorely missed, most of us watched the previous six shows from our computer chairs anyway, so for viewers it was business as usual in a year that very much wasn't.
For Nintendo, 2020 mirrored 2019 quite closely. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate once again took the reins, with the announcement that Sephiroth would be joining the massive ensemble as the third fighter in the second Fighter's Pass.
While not as shocking as Joker, Sephiroth certainly took people by surprise and excited fans. He is, after all, one of the most iconic villains in video game history, and for a brief moment it looked like he killed Mario.
TGA 2020 earns one-winged angel out of two-winged angels.
The Game Awards 2021... ?
The Game Awards 2021 returns to a live show at the Microsoft Theater and Nintendo has shown it can surprise fans, though each year only features one major reveal – if that – with maybe a smaller announcement of a third-party exclusive to go along with it.
Looking back on all previous years paints a clear pattern: If not Breath of the Wild, then Smash Bros. will happen. Since Sora was the last Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC fighter, we’re 99% certain Masahiro Sakurai isn’t going to descend from the rafters to announce Goku and a third Fighters Pass.
However, the still-untitled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 hasn’t yet been shown in-depth. We know it's scheduled for 2022, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo demoed some gameplay or a World Premiere similar to TGA 2014 and 2016 along, perhaps even with an official title announcement.
But who knows? Maybe Nintendo will change gears and show us more Bayonetta 3. After the success of Metroid Dread and its Game of the Year nomination, maybe — just maybe — Metroid Prime 4 will emerge from the abyss. And where’s Mario been hiding after Super Mario Odyssey? The possibilities – and the hype – are ever-present. At least we don’t have to wait long to see what we’ll get.
Which year do you think Nintendo had its best showing? Don’t forget to vote in the poll below, and let us know what you think we’ll see this year in the comments.