What does Zelda Tears of the Kingdom tell us about Nintendo

The game might be a masterpiece, but where does it leave Nintendo's hardware plans?

Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom 10

Nintendo / Pocket-lint

Playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in 2023, it's hard to believe that its predecessor, Breath of the Wild, came out all the way back in 2017, just as the Nintendo Switch launched.

The new Zelda game is a masterpiece - as you can read in our full review - but, much like Breath of the Wild, it reflects interestingly on Nintendo's plans where hardware is concerned, raising questions about Nintendo's future hardware plans.

Breath of the Wild was a launch game for the Switch but was also available for the incumbent Wii U, a reflection of Nintendo's quick and hard pivot away from its largely failed console: a game that might have been the jewel in the Wii U's crown instead signalled its demise.

Now, seven years later, the Zelda sequel is the triumph that Nintendo would have hoped for, capping off half a decade of outrageously impressive sales figures for the Switch in all its iterations. That doesn't mean that Nintendo has it all figured out, though.

While Tears of the Kingdom hasn't had to bridge the gap to a new console, it nonetheless arrives at a time when Nintendo's hardware plans are seemingly up in the air. How does Nintendo follow the success of the Switch, given how badly it fumbled the Wii's stellar performance?

One set of observers thinks that Nintendo's plans for a Switch Pro were translated and reduced down to the eventual release of the Switch OLED - upgrading the console's display but not its internals.

Best games console 2020: Should you get an Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch? photo 16
Nintendo Switch OLED

It's the best Switch for our money, offering the best of all worlds.

If so, the move has gone well given the Switch's continued relevance, but this still leaves open the question of what the next console looks like. The Switch is undeniably long in the tooth technically, but Nintendo has spent the last couple of years showing that resolution and frame rate don't make a console king - if it can fit Tears of the Kingdom on the Switch, it might not desperately need higher-performance hardware with any true urgency.

Reassuringly for Nintendo, the real key to the Switch's reign has been a steady stream of incredibly good first-party games that you can't play elsewhere. Tears of the Kingdom is the latest but, while we'll get Pikmin 4 later this summer, that game is hardly a system seller and there's a slight slow-down in what we know is coming further down the line.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Super Mario, which hasn't had a new game since 2017's Odyssey and must surely be a candidate to launch a new console if one is indeed in the works.

So, while we fully intend to bask further in the glory of Link's latest outing, we can't help but wonder when Nintendo plans to take its next major step. We'd assume that the dockable portable idea is here to stay based on its popularity but, given Nintendo's history, all bets are realistically off.

While this all sounds rosy, the fact is that we're coming into a period of huge risk for Nintendo: it can't afford another Wii U.