It’s officially been one year since the Nintendo Switch released and took the world by storm. After the Wii U’s abysmal life cycle, and despite its fairly respectable library of games, it’s nice to have confidence in The Big N as a home console manufacturer once again.
For comparison, the Nintendo Switch had already outsold the Wii U in less than twelve months.
As an early adopter of the Switch, I can safely say that I’ve used it more in the last twelve months than any other console in my home, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite consoles of all time. The biggest draw thus far has been its portability. I’ve taken it on road trips, cross-country flights, the dentist, the bathroom (obviously), and out on the porch while hanging out with my cats. I’ve played Super Mario Odyssey here in South Carolina and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in Seattle 24-hours later. I love that I can have a game going on the TV and just pick the console up to immediately continue it on the go, but I’m also starting to notice smaller indie games using the console’s portability and touch functionality in more intimate ways to encourage handheld play (like A Normal Lost Phone and Subsurface Circular).
I currently own 61 games and have reviewed quite a few of them here at Cheap Boss Attack. My review of Thumper was even published in a printed magazine, which is all I’ve ever wanted.
Speaking of games, there are more than 400 of them available for the Switch in its first year, which is pretty insane to think about when you consider the Wii U had around 750 in a little under five years. The support for the Switch is incredible and there are so many games to choose from already. Clearly, I haven’t played them all.
I wanted to do something for the Switch’s one-year anniversary, but I wasn’t quite sure what. I tossed around the idea of doing a top ten list, but I also wanted to do a more categorical spread to draw attention to a wider variety of games.
Since the Switch is both a handheld and a home console, why can’t I do both of these things? Right? Let’s get started then.
For starters, there are some really great games that got ported to the Switch after I had already played them elsewhere — like Rocket League, Axiom Verge, Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight, Thimbleweed Park, Syberia 1 & 2, Doom, I am Setsuna, Outlast & Outlast: Whistleblower, Detention, and The Binding of Isaac, for instance. Obviously, these won’t make the cut but I felt it was worth noting why.
Looking at what I have played on the Switch, my ten favorites currently look something like this:
1: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Although I’ve said before that Breath of the Wild was simultaneously the most memorable and forgettable Zelda experience I’ve ever had, I can say with confidence that it’s my favorite game on the Nintendo Switch and my favorite in the entire series. I don’t think it’s the best game since it has some clear design flaws, but it does so many things incredibly well and reminded me why I fell in love with the NES original’s sense of adventure. The fact that people are still discovering rad ways to use the game’s toolset is astounding.
On paper, Celeste is definitely not my kind of game. I’m just not into challenging 2D platformers anymore. However, I found myself sucked into this beautiful, wonderful game about a girl named Madeline overcoming her mental health struggles by climbing Celeste Mountain. I’m rarely moved by the narrative of a 2D platformer, but Celeste is just super endearing and plays like an absolute dream. It’s a masterclass in platforming mechanics and world design, accompanied by beautiful pixel art and one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard since Undertale.
3: Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is one of the most joyous games I’ve ever played and may very well be the finest game Nintendo has ever crafted. I wasn’t sucked into it like I was with Breath of the Wild, but I absolutely adored every minute of this fantastic 3D platformer.
4: Old Man’s Journey
This touch-based narrative puzzler took me by surprise last month. Using touch controls (if you want) you drag and stretch multiple layers in the environment to help an aging man walk from one end of the screen to the other. Each level is broken up with a quick vignette that serves as a self-reflection into his life choices and their current consequences. Its unique blend of environmental puzzle solving, distinguished art style, and touching narrative will stick with me for a very long time.
5: Subsurface Circular
Another recent addition to the Switch’s library, this narrative detective story tasks you with investigating the disappearance of a workforce robot by interrogating your fellow robot passengers aboard the Subsurface Circular railway system. Its clever dialogue system makes for one hell of an adventure game, despite its two-hour runtime.
Although I’ve yet to topple Thumper’s punishing difficulty, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this horrifying rhythm game. It’s like piloting a space beetle down a rollercoaster without any breaks, all while accelerating at breakneck speeds toward the mouth of hell. It’s wonderful.
7: Night in the Woods
A small town adventure game full of mystery and well-written characters, Night in the Woods was an absolute delight. It’s a relatable coming-of-age tale of a catgirl who returns home after dropping out of college at age 20 (much to her family’s dismay). Everything is different, yet similar, in the fictional town of Possum Springs, but what’s most startling are the disappearances. Startling doesn’t always mean important, though, so some days are better spent playing video games, going to band practice, or having pizza with some old friends.
8: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve already played it across two separate 200+ hour saves, yet I couldn’t have been more excited to jump back in on the Nintendo Switch. Having this sort of familiar experience on the go was like the gaming equivalent to comfort food. Being so familiar with Skyrim also helped sell the Switch’s hybrid functionality when the console was revealed.
9: A Normal Lost Phone
Yet another recent addition to the Switch’s evergrowing library of indie games, A Normal Lost Phone is a brief, unique experience that turns the console into an unlocked smart device. The goal is to go through this person’s private emails and messages in order to find out who the owner is. However, as more personal information gets revealed behind hidden apps and dating profiles, it became clear that this wasn’t an average detective story.
10: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
I loved Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, therefore I love Mario Kart 8 on the Switch. Enough said.
As for the more categorical side of things…
Game I Paid Full Price For that I Never Got Around to Playing: Golf Story
I was really looking forward to Golf Story’s charming approach to an RPG centered around a sport I know nothing about, picking it up at launch for $20. To this day I haven’t played it. Once I heard it was unbalanced and nearly 20-hours long, I didn’t necessarily lose interest as much as I just pushed it to the bottom of my backlog.
I also picked up Stardew Valley, thinking I’d invest 100+ hours like my girlfriend has done twice, but I’ve only played for 30-45 minutes. I don’t hate it, I’m just intimidated by games that never seem to end and paralyze me with choice. I guess I’d rather play a lot of different games than playing just one game for a large amount of time.
Game I Wish I Was More Into: Splatoon 2
Despite having not played a ton of the original Splatoon on the Wii U, I really enjoyed the 10 or so hours I put into it. However, I received Splatoon 2 for Christmas and all I’ve done is create my inkling. I just haven’t worked up the motivation to hop online and play the damn game. I know a few of my Switch friends are on it quite a bit and I’ve tossed around the idea of setting up a date night, but I always seem to be in the mood for single-player stuff instead. I know Splatoon 2 has a single-player feature, shhhhhh.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a close second. I did put about 6 or 7 hours into that one and really liked the combat, but the exploration was unrewarding (yay, concept art) and doing battle after battle became exhausting. What a crazy idea that nailed the landing, though.
Biggest Disappointment: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (because 1-2-Switch was too easy an answer)
I was starving for an RPG when Xenoblade Chronicles 2 came out, but I bounced off the game after enduring 10 hours of absolute boredom. It was a constant barrage of cutscenes and tutorials slathered atop dull combat that doesn’t gain momentum until hours later. I also found the characters and overall narrative to shift between being dull and downright annoying.
I may have been overly harsh at launch and I know it’s been patched a few times since then, so I do intend on giving it a second chance.
I also loved the point-and-click adventure series Syberia on PC and was genuinely stoked to replay them on the Switch — until I saw they were releasing at $29.99… each. These games came out in 2002-03 and are currently available for $9.99 or less elsewhere. This felt like a shameless cash-grab to take advantage of Switch’s surging popularity.
Biggest Pain in the Ass: Tumbleseed, Snake Pass, and Has-been Heroes
Closer to the console’s launch I had the chance to review all three of these games back-to-back-to-back, and boy was I miserable. All three are ridiculously difficult, with two proving to be some of the most unbalanced games I’ve ever experienced. Snake Pass was a great idea on paper that was marred by an awful control scheme and an equally awful checkpoint system. Talk about a triforce of misery.
Wii U Port I Thought We’d See By Now: Super Smash Bros.
Indie I Wish Was Ported to the Switch Already: Risk of Rain
I loved my Vita until the Switch became my portable indie box, and I played the hell out of Risk of Rain on Sony’s little handheld. It’s a super rad 2D roguelite shooter with different classes and powerups, an amazing soundtrack, and endless replayability. The developer is currently hard at work on the game’s sequel, so unless they hand it over to a porting studio it’s unlikely we’ll see one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played.
Game I Wish I Had Played on the Switch Instead: Thimbleweed Park
I’m a point-and-click adventure junkie and absolutely loved Ron Gilbert’s Twin Peaks-inspired detective story, but I played and reviewed the PS4 version since the developer was out of Switch keys. I spent a lot of time scratching my head while figuring out puzzle solutions and I would have definitely preferred enduring these moments in handheld mode on the Switch.
What I Want on Switch More Than Anything: A wrestling game that isn’t trash.
WWE 2K18 is garbage as it is, but was significantly worse on the Switch. I’m begging you, Spike Chunsoft: please bring Fire Pro Wrestling World to the Switch. Please. I need this.
A decent baseball game would be nice as well, but I can’t stand the R.B.I. series.
Biggest Surprise Enjoyment: Knight Terrors, Membrane, and Dragon Sinker
Knight Terrors was a bit like Flappy Bird meets Ghosts n’ Goblins and it somehow worked incredibly well. It’s a generously priced endless runner (er, flapper?) that’s great to just pick up and play whenever I have a few minutes to spare.
Membrane is a game I’m still playing through for a review, but it’s not something I would have pegged as “good” just by looking at it. It’s an incredibly unique 2D puzzle platformer where you create your own platforms by shooting blocks. You can build bridges and devices, and reaching the end of a level fully depends on your ability to be creative. It’s slightly clunky at times, but I really dig it and hope it does well on the eShop.
Dragon Sinker is a retro-inspired RPG that I just played. It’s a rad throwback with a mostly by-the-numbers story beat, but it also throws in quite a bit of modern conveniences and unique combat mechanics that help it stand out as more than an homage.
Games I Haven’t Mentioned Yet, But You Should Play Them Because They’re Awesome: Yono and the Celestial Elephants, Graceful Explosion Machine, Steamworld Dig 2, OPUS: The Day We Found Earth, Kamiko, Floor Kids, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, Crawl, Wulverblade, Snipperclips.
Seriously. All of those games are fantastic and you should check them out if given the chance.
What about you, folks? Did you pick up a Switch during its first year? If so, how have you been enjoying it? Have any personal favorites? Sound off down in the comments!