Downloadable content (DLC) is hardly a new concept by this point in gaming, whether it’s simple cosmetic items or full-blown story expansions. As with most trends in the industry, Nintendo was a little late to this one, but it is undeniably on board with the idea of expanding on its games now. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Fire Emblem: Three Houses have received significant additions in the forms of new quests, items, and characters. However, while it’s great that Nintendo is now willing to add more content to its games, the DLC can vary in quality with great examples like (Ubisoft’s) Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle versus weaker examples like Breath of the Wild. With this in mind, let’s review some of Nintendo’s most prominent DLC and how it fares.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The two expansions for Breath of the Wild went for an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. They added more fun items to the sandbox of Breath of the Wild‘s world, such as a stronger Master Sword and the Master Cycle Zero. New challenge shrines offered more great puzzles, and for many fans, this was a great excuse to jump back into Hyrule. Taken in a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with Breath of the Wild‘s two DLC expansions.
However, when compared to other open-world games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s expansions offered huge new areas and story quests that were both high-quality and lengthy. Compared to the vast base game of Breath of the Wild, its two expansions are small and offer little in terms of twists to the established formula. In all likelihood, the reason these weren’t more ambitious is that Nintendo simply wants to save ideas for the sequel.
Games-as-a-service titles have become a huge deal over this past generation. Games like Fortnite demonstrate how free and frequent updates can keep an online game feeling fresh and exciting at regular intervals. Taking a page from this, Nintendo put its best foot forward with its updates to Splatoon 2, which isn’t DLC in the conventional sense, but we’re addressing the effort here anyway.
Regular patches to alter the game balance, as well as new weapons and maps, meant that Splatoon 2 players always had something to look forward to on the horizon. If this weren’t enough, the Splatfest events that pitted players on two sides of an arbitrary conflict were a great way to bring the community together for a weekend. Splatoon 2 is Nintendo’s best effort with an online game, and it’s a shame that the updates had to come to an end.
However, Splatoon 2 did receive actual DLC in the form of the surprising Octo Expansion, and — people loved it! It’s 80 new solo missions, and they’re not perfunctory pushovers. They bring a lot of challenge, an example of DLC with real meat to it — albeit octopus-flavored. This is the kind of DLC that knows exactly what players want and delivers it. The fact that there’s a bit more story and unlockable Octolings for multiplayer is just icing on top.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Of all the games on this list, Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has easily done the best job with its DLC. Donkey Kong Adventure adds an entirely new campaign mode designed specifically for Nintendo’s favorite ape and his companions. New characters and weapons appear in a meaty story that is a joy to play through.
It does what any great expansion should do by providing significant content that builds on what makes the original game special while giving players new ways to play. New tactical possibilities become available thanks to abilities like swinging around a map with vines or carrying Rabbid Cranky Kong. In a nutshell, Donkey Kong Adventure lets returning players enjoy a fresh but familiar gameplay experience that reminds them why Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was a great game to begin with.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
In fighting games, DLC often comes in the form of new characters and stages. For Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the challenger packs function as an ideal reason to jump back into the game and a perfect way for Nintendo to sustain the hype around it. After all, everyone has been caught up in the hype of theorizing about new characters, and we still will be in the future.
Thanks to outlandish additions like Joker from Persona 5, the sky is the limit for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and it’s delivered on this promise time and again thanks to its loving attention to detail. From Joker’s “all-out attack” to Terry Bogard’s original input commands, you get the sense that Masahiro Sakurai and his team truly care about making every new addition fun and meaningful, and that is the true strength of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate‘s DLC. This happened again recently when Min Min from Arms was revealed.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The Cindered Shadows expansion for Fire Emblem: Three Houses is similar to the DLC for Breath of the Wild in the sense that it is relatively short compared to its base game. Yet, unlike Breath of the Wild‘s DLC, Cindered Shadows offers Fire Emblem fans almost exactly what they wanted.
It presents players with a new standalone campaign, complete with unique classes and a new group of great student characters to both expand on the lore and get attached to. While it may not have the depth of systems that the core game does, Cindered Shadows introduces some of the game’s most difficult combat encounters. A harder challenge and more story content meant that for fans of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Cindered Shadows is one of Nintendo’s best DLC offerings.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Much like with Super Mario Odyssey, it’s strange that Nintendo hasn’t done more with its post-launch content for Luigi’s Mansion 3. Both of these games have modular gameplay that can easily accommodate DLC additions. For Super Mario Odyssey, this would have taken the form of new levels to explore, while for Luigi’s Mansion 3 this could have been new floors to the hotel or a new side story campaign.
However, rather than adding more content that builds on the great gameplay of Luigi’s Mansion 3, Nintendo decided to expand on the game’s multiplayer modes instead. While new costumes, mini-games, and co-op levels are welcome, none of these additions build upon the slow, spooky, and fantastic puzzle-based gameplay that made Luigi’s Mansion 3 special.
As you can see, Nintendo has had its ups and downs with DLC on Switch, and it was actually Ubisoft that has done some of the best work. On the whole though, things are trending in a positive direction. What is your favorite DLC for a Nintendo game?