The Electronic Entertainment Experience for 2021 was, in a word, underwhelming. For the majority of companies, the switch to a digital-only presentation was not the smoothest, and many presentations were lackluster. However, Nintendo has been producing digital presentations for E3 since 2013, and has only mastered the art since. Nintendo’s showing at E3 this year was leagues better than any other company, but why? Let’s analyze Nintendo’s E3 show for 2021 and what made it so great.

The Unexpected in the Expected

There were a couple of announcements which, going into the Direct, many people knew were happening. Breath of the Wild 2 news, a new Smash character, a reference to Metroid Prime 4. You kind of need to have a few tentpoles in your presentation that everyone knows are coming. In this instance, it was Smash Bros. which began the Direct and Zelda which ended it. That makes the most sense. Start your presentation with something everyone knows is coming and, while exciting, is really nothing more than a small addition to a larger game. End your presentation with something everyone knows is coming and is big news for one of the most anticipated upcoming releases in your company’s history.

What’s great about these expected announcements is that each of them had something unexpected surrounding them. For Smash Bros., simply put, you’re a pathological liar if you say you expected this character. Tekken is one of the games that revolutionized fighting games for consoles, and Kazuya is arguably the most recognizable character from the series outside of Heihachi. I’m also just a big fan of when Smash Bros. introduces characters from more ‘competitive’ fighting games. They really go all out to make them feel faithful to their home games, and you should absolutely expect Kazuya to come with unique button inputs that mimic combos from Tekken.

As for Breath of the Wild 2, while it still looks like the first game, I don’t think anyone expected to see anything like what this game looks like it’s shaping up to be. Prior to E3, basically every single leak predicted a playable Zelda and exploring the underground caverns of Hyrule. Practically the first thing that happens in the trailer is Zelda falling away from Link before shifting to islands in the sky. And, while we may still get both of the things that were leaked, Breath of the Wild 2 is shaping up far differently than anyone expected. Regarding Metroid Prime 4, pretty much everyone knew we wouldn’t get much news about it, but no one could have predicted what that would lead to.

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Metroid Dread looks incredible. The first traditional Metroid game in 19 years, and with a new horror aesthetic, no one saw this coming. A game that has been dormant since the mid 2000s. Resurrected just like that. This would have been one of those things that, had it been leaked, people would have automatically assumed was fake. It seems like too much of a grasp, even for the classically ‘I’m not satisfied with all this content’ Nintendo audience.

And yet, this Nintendo Direct was absolutely crammed with similar announcements. A brand new WarioWare, Advance Wars remake, a Mario Party all-star game, nobody saw these coming. And the majority of them are releasing in this calendar year. Realistically, we should have seen it coming. Prior to E3, not much was known about Nintendo’s slate in the back half of the year. We knew about the Sinnoh remakes, but that was effectively it.

Something For Everyone

And the variety is insane. So many familiar franchises are making long-awaited returns. Party games, tactical games, adventure games, RPG games, this Direct ran the gambit of genres. Even the horror genre, with the Switch revival of yet another Wii U exclusive in Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. It was almost impossible to be disappointed by an announcement, since you knew that a large group of people would 100% be over-the-moon at the news. The worst reaction you could fairly have to one of these announcements is “Oh, okay, that’s neat.”

Even the 3rd-party offerings were exciting. A Super Monkey Ball collection is something people have been asking for forever. Danganronpa is going to feel right at home on Switch alongside Ace Attorney, as will Life is Strange. A lot of people are super excited about Shin Megami Tensei V, Monster Hunter is a big series by this point, even Cruis’n Blast looks like such a fun arcade port. The variety was there, the familiarity was there, the unknown was there, and there wasn’t a lot to be disappointed about in this Direct. Maybe Just Dance.

Timing is Everything

But even Just Dance’s spotlight was handled well. It was bundled with Cruis’n Blast in a quick ‘Here’s what’s coming’ round-up, not getting it’s own segment of the Direct. That’s what Nintendo really nailed with this presentation: they knew what to focus on and how long to focus on it. Extended spotlights went to Smash Bros., Metroid, SMTV and Zelda. Makes sense. Although personally I felt the SMTV segment dragged on a little too long, I’m sure if I were more of an RPG guy, I’d appreciate the level of depth they went to a little more. As for the other spotlights, they didn’t overstay their welcome, and were exciting to watch.

As for the headlines, every 1st-party Nintendo game got its own segment. Again, makes sense. But they knew how to present each individual segment to full effect. Mario Golf gets a quick overview of everything the game will include plus the promise of free updates, since it’s so close to release. WarioWare has Wario himself narrate the game’s trailer, which is so fitting for the series. Advance Wars doesn’t even get an intro with the announcer teasing the next segment. It just starts with a black screen and sound effects, leading into the reveal. This allowed for the perfect, “Oh, damn” moment when gameplay began. Great for reactions, great for engagement.

As for 3rd-parties, again, they know what to focus on. Monkey Ball gets a spotlight. Danganronpa gets a spotlight. Life is Strange gets a spotlight. Everything else gets a smaller segment within a montage. Again, makes sense. Guardians of the Galaxy eats up the majority of the Square Enix presentation. Here, the questions surrounding how this game will ever run on Switch are merely a footnote. We don’t have time to talk about Guardians some more, here’s Worms! Just Dance is coming to Switch; it gets 30 seconds at most in our Direct. Doom Eternal DLC comes out today; but it’s already released for other platforms, so it’s not a big deal.

Nintendo Just Gets It

Nintendo is the only company that brought both the quality and the quantity for E3 this year. They knew what to announce, they knew how to announce them, and, for the most part, they knew when to move on. They were the only E3 presentation which nailed all three of these key aspects of the perfect E3 presentation.

But f*** that! Where’s Mother 3!? Nintendo sucks!!!