Nintendo reveals new animated ‘Mario’ movie with Chris Pratt and expansion for Switch Online

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Some of the best games of the 1990s (and a few truly random choices) will be included in the 16-bit Sega Genesis collection for Switch Online. (YouTube screenshot)

Nintendo took to major livestreaming platforms on Thursday afternoon for the first time since E3 to announce some of what it’s got in store, including a full-length animated feature film based on the Super Mario franchise.

In past years, Nintendo frequently put together pre-recorded press conferences called Nintendo Directs to reveal news and updates on its upcoming games. The pace of its Directs has slowed to a relative crawl in the last year and a half, however, primarily due to the effects of COVID-19 on Nintendo’s publishing timeline. Thursday’s Direct began with an explicit disclaimer thereof, saying that all release dates were subject to change due to the ongoing pandemic.

Some of the biggest items on a Nintendo fan’s wish list were conspicuously absent from today’s Direct, however. News about the next and final fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is being held back for a special virtual presentation by Smash producer Masahiro Sakurai on Oct. 5, and no one even mentioned Breath of the Wild 2.

Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto came onstage unexpectedly to reveal details about the upcoming Mario movie, however, which is scheduled for release in North American theaters on Dec. 21.

While Miyamoto didn’t have any footage to show off, he did reveal the film’s all-star voice cast, which includes Chris Pratt (Avengers: Endgame) as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen’s Gambit) as Princess Peach, Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) as Luigi, Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) as Toad, and Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda) as Bowser.

Mario’s traditional voice actor, Charles Martinet, will also appear in the Mario film in unspecified “surprise cameos.” Martinet has voiced Mario for about as long as the character has had a voice, beginning with 1992’s Mario Teaches Typing, and attained a Guinness World Record in 2019 for the most video game voiceover performances as the same character.

In game news from Nintendo, the company plans to expand its Switch Online subscription service starting in late October. In a new “Expansion Pack,” Switch Online users can switch over to a new plan that will unlock access to a new library of selected games for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis systems.

While Nintendo didn’t disclose information about how much the new plan will cost, it did reveal that its starting lineup for the expanded Switch Online will include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Sonic the Hedgehog, Gunstar Heroes, Phantasy Star IV, and in a small surprise, the rail shooter Sin and Punishment, which was never released outside of Japan during the Nintendo 64’s original lifespan. All of the available retrogames will also feature online multiplayer where applicable, such as with Mario Kart 64.

Post-launch, Nintendo plans to add more N64 titles to the Switch Online library, such as The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Mario Golf, and Paper Mario.

The current version of Switch Online costs $3.99 a month. Subscribers have access to cloud backup for their local data, are able to play Switch games online, and can stream a large, but strangely random, selection of retro games from the NES and SNES libraries. The new subscription plan will reportedly encompass all the existing features of Switch Online in addition to the new N64/Genesis libraries.

Switch Online subscribers will also be able to purchase new wireless controllers directly from Nintendo for $49.99 each, which mimic the appearance and function of the classic Nintendo 64 and three-button Genesis gamepads.

Nintendo also released a lengthy new trailer for its 2022 game Splatoon 3, as presented by an unnamed “Squid Researcher” in a lab coat. Splatoon 3 is set in a new location, Splatsville, the City of Chaos, where the various Inklings engage in turf wars as a recreational activity. Like its predecessors, Splatoon 3 is a multiplayer shoot-’em-up where two teams of four contend to cover as much of the stage as possible with paint.

Splatoon 3 will also feature a new single-player story mode, entitled Return of the Mammalians. In the world of Splatoon, all of the mammals on the planet had previously vanished besides two cats, and the playable Inklings are technically squid-people. The story mode will answer the question of where the mammals went, and why.

The fan-favorite character Kirby is also making a return to the Switch in the spring of next year. In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby washes up on the beach near an abandoned city, and must explore it in search of a way back home.

It’s a peculiar look for Kirby, contrasting long-abandoned urban decay with the happy-go-lucky adventures of a pink puffball, but also brings Kirby’s traditional style of action/platformer into full 3D for the first time in a while.

Today’s Direct concluded with a new trailer for the long-delayed character action game Bayonetta 3, which was initially announced all the way back in 2017. It places the title character, a gun-wielding witch (and notoriously high-tier Smash Bros. character), in the center of a city that’s come under siege by monsters.

In addition to her trademark stylish combat moves, the new game also gives Bayonetta the ability to conjure up massive monsters like dragons that fight on her behalf, which lets her engage giant enemies on even terms. Bayonetta 3 is (theoretically) planned for release in 2022.

Other announcements from today’s Nintendo Direct include:

  • Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise, an exclusive for the Switch, is planned to receive a “massive” paid expansion called Sunbreak next summer. It promises new stories, locales, quests, and of course, big new monsters to hunt.
  • In advance of its release in two weeks, Nintendo showed a new story trailer for Metroid Dread. Samus is journeying to the uncharted planet ZDR to see if the deadly X-Parasite is still there, and why the previous team of research robots sent to ZDR have gone dark. A series of dossiers on Metroid Dread have been put up on its official website to go deeper into the game’s background and setting.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a free update coming in November that will add unspecified new content to the game. Nintendo will go further into detail about it in a New Horizons-specific Direct broadcast at some point in October.
  • The forthcoming Mario Party Superstars (Oct. 28) will feature five new boards from the N64 Mario Party games, including Woody Woods, Yoshi’s Tropical Island, and Horror Land. A new feature also allows players to only play Mario Party‘s trademark minigames, either locally or online, with a new Tag Match mode for co-op action.
  • Square Enix showed off a new Japanese RPG from the eccentric creator Yoko Taro (Nier: Automata). In Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars, all of its elements, such as characters, towns, and shops, are represented as playable cards in a simulated tabletop game. A free demo is now available on Switch in advance of its release on Oct. 28.
  • Paradox Interactive is bringing the Seattle-based studio Harebrained Schemes’ PC adaptations of Shadowrun to the Switch in 2022. Shadowrun Trilogy collects 2013’s Shadowrun Returns (set in Seattle), 2014’s Dragonfall, and 2015’s Hong Kong.
  • A new Final Fantasy-themed kart racer, Chocobo GP, is coming to Switch in 2022. You can play as customizable racers based upon various trademark creatures from the franchise, such as chocobos and the sword-wielding summon Gilgamesh.
  • Rune Factory 5, the latest installment in the long-running farming/life sim/JRPG series, will be released on the Switch in North America on March 22, 2022.
  • The long-rumored Castlevania Advance Collection made its official debut today on Switch. It bundles together three Castlevania games that were previously exclusive to the Game Boy Advance — Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow — with the SNES game Dracula X.
  • Deltarune: Chapter 2 is now available on Switch as a free update to the original Deltarune, Toby Fox’s follow-up to his hit indie RPG Undertale.
  • Techland’s Dying Light 2: Stay Human will be released in a special “cloud version” on Switch on Feb. 2, 2022, for players to stream it rather than install it locally.
  • A complete “Platinum Edition” of the original Dying Light is scheduled for release on Switch on Oct. 19, right in time for Halloween, which collects the base game with all of its downloadable content.
  • The 2003 Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic will receive a rerelease on the Switch on Nov. 11. Set millennia before the events of the movie trilogy, KOTOR is considered one of the best Star Wars games ever made despite being notoriously glitchy.
  • Mario Golf: Super Rush, released back in June, is getting a free update today which will add two new courses, as well as Koopa Troopa and Ninji as playable golfers.
  • Square Enix’s new tactical RPG Triangle Strategy was originally announced during February’s Direct show. In response to feedback from its demo on the Switch, the game has been fine-tuned to improve its UI, difficulty, loading times, and camera control. It’s scheduled for release on March 4, 2022.
  • The SNES “god game” Actraiser has made a surprise comeback. Square Enix has remastered it in HD for the Switch as Actraiser Renaissance, featuring new bosses and stages, and a rearranged soundtrack. In one part of the game, you fight a host of monsters in side-scrolling action; in the other, you cultivate and grow the world to expand its population, which powers up your character for the next action stage. It’s now digitally available in the Switch eShop.