Hi, I’m Benjamin Wagner, this is my blog and today, I fill a gap. One look at the video game sphere of Youtubers will tell you that top-ten lists sell. They are not just fairly simple to put out, they inform the audience of the YouTubers tastes and, in turn, bring those with similar tastes to the channel. That is my unsubstantiated theory, at least. And the top 10 list today is on the Nintendo Switch. Whilst I struggle to call the plucky little Nintendo hybrid my favourite console, it has certainly reached the podium places.
Before a recent need for money lead me to sell up, I owned more Switch games than I have for any other console. This is by far the most games I have ever owned for a console, and it is a point of great shame and great pride that the physical collection numbered over 300, despite my love for the Switch being drawn towards Sony’s beautiful next-gen (current-gen now, I suppose) PS5 in recent months. Prior to these two consoles, I was primarily a handheld gamer, with most of my gaming experiences coming on the GBA, DS or 3DS. This leads me back to the Switch and whilst I have not come close to playing every game I own on the console; I feel confident enough to rank my most enjoyable experiences that the underpowered tablet can offer. This was not a simple endeavour, as the shortlist I devised was 68 games long and the process of whittling this down was excruciating. I put every game on my shortlist into a Microsoft Excel document and then endeavoured to give each game an arbitrary score based on how much I enjoyed each experience. Not all games on the shortlist were games I have finished, yet the final list only consists of fully experienced experiences. So, with the scores decided and ordered, thanks to the sort feature, I thought I was done.
So this list left me with another problem. Do I make a strict top 10, or do I include all the games that are tied with one another? You know the answer, which is why I have gone with the catchy title, My Top 17 Nintendo Switch Games. And because I said the title of the show in the show, you need to drink now. Following on from this, I decided to write a mini-400-word review on each game in the list, in order to better illustrate the reasons they are on this list, to begin with. And now that this ridiculous tangent has come to an end, I will now, without further ado, tell you why my favourite Switch games are the best.
So, without further ado,
17. A Short Hike
A Short Hike is short game. And that’s a good thing. A Short Hike places you in the feathers of Claire, an anthropomorphic bird who is visiting her aunt, who lives in a mountainous, national park-like mountain range. Her Aunt is the ranger of this area. The game involves your character realising there is no mobile phone network connectivity anywhere in the park barring the very tallest mountain peak, so she attempts to placate her boredom and fix her problem by climbing the aforementioned Hawk Peak. From there, the game is simply about making it up the mountain, and the encounters and experiences you have on the way. Various conversations, mini-games and collectables are scattered along the path to the top, with the abilities to glide, climb and swim unlocking as you find enough unlockables to be deemed worthy of evolution. The game is overflowing with effervescent child-like joy, reflected not just by the laid-back gameplay mechanics and low-stakes story but the eye-popping striking low-poly visual style that the game nails. The adaptive soundtrack tailors each gameplay type to beautiful, soothing music and creates an experience that feels like it’s constantly changing with you. This is helped, of course, by the fact that the music has such a soothing effect on its players in its natural state that the game coddles you like a cute little baby, wrapping you in a warm blanket called contentedness. The gameplay is simple yet rewarding. If you don’t want to play a certain minigame or speak to a certain character, chances are, you don’t have to. You choose how you want your journey to pan out. You’re the tour guide and you will lead yourself around this picturesque, little slice of paradise at your own sedate pace. This game is all about setting a mood and taking each step in life as it comes. And, for a couple of hours, you will be on this short hike, it will quietly and slowly whisper its message across. Calmness. Introspection. Reflection. These topics shouldn’t make a fun game, yet they blend together to create an unparalleled, meditative experience.
Hollow Knight. Hades. Ori and the Blind Forest. Bastion. These are the esteemed list of indie games that litter the pantheon of Indie game heroes. Despite 3 other indie games being ranked higher on this list, A Short Hike deserves to sit at this very same table and proves itself a worthy competitor to the throne. Not the first-born son, but with every chance of taking the throne if he keeps at it. But, speaking of the pantheon of indie heroes, that moves us onto the next game.
Hades is a story-heavy, award-winning roguelike, action, dungeon crawler combat game. And here’s a hot take, it is probably one of the best indie games I have ever played. You take the role of Zagreus, son of Hades, as he attempts to escape the Underworld and reach Mount Olympus, in pursuit of his mother and the freedom he craves. One problem though. Much like a stereotypical Jewish mother, Hades doesn’t want you to go, and he is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep you at home for eternity. A simple premise but it is the execution that makes this game so special. With your weapon in tow, you head out into the depths of the underworld and attempt to make your way to the surface, fighting your father’s minions, bonding with your various formers colleagues, collecting items to power up and… dying. A lot. This game will kill you a lot. But, here’s the clever thing. A fair amount of what you can collect during a run carries over, meaning you can upgrade your base stats back in your room before heading off once more to attempt to defy your destiny.
The basic hack and slash gameplay is deep, and this is in part thanks to the 5 different weapons Zagreus can equip. Partner this with the randomly generated boons that each of the Olympians can grant you during a run to improve your move set or stats, consumable items you can purchase mid-run or multiple other secrets, this game is simple on the surface yet hides enough depth to hold a small city in its dark, dim underbelly.
Hades is remarkable, though not because of the superbly satisfying gameplay loop but with the deep and engaging narrative that surrounds each run. Through interacting with the various denizens of the Underworld, you learn more about each of them as well as your own character and this creates a beautiful machine-like combination. The gameplay encourages you to keep playing due to incremental stat-increases making you feel stronger each time you play, and the story unlocks a little at a time as you get better, encouraging you to start a run just one more time to find out what Megaera is steamed about this time. Or why Dusa is quite as shy as she is. Or why Cerberus is such a good boy. Visually impressive, kind on the ears and many other things besides, it would be simple to write 5000 words on this beautiful gem of a game. And I probably will someday. Yet, for now, I will summarise. Hades is an incredible game that, despite its deliberately high difficulty, is surprisingly accessible, fun and an experience that any sort of gamer can extract fun from. Hades oozes fun and does as the titular character commands by keeping you locked in the underworld for hours at a time. Speaking of oozing, that moves us on disgustingly to…
15. Ring Fit Adventure
As I am sure you can tell through my exquisite prose, I am the very definition of physical fitness. I am what most men strive to be when they begin training in gyms. Most are unable to reach this level of perfection, despite years of rowing machines and treadmills. But now, expensive gym memberships are a thing of the past because, for just the price of a Nintendo Switch, a game, and a ring peripheral, in pounds, £350, you can become a fitness god, like me.
Ring Fit Adventure is a fitness RPG. This is a ridiculous sentence but, as its position on this list will testify, this works bewilderingly well. The story is mostly inane gibberish, with a sentient fitness ring that recruits you to take down his former student, Dragaux, who is hell-bent on conquering the world and reforming it in his fitness-obsessed mould. Gibberish, sure. But entertaining gibberish nonetheless.
In the vein of classic 2D New Super Mario games, the levels are split into a 2D, semi-linear world map. Put your leg strap on. Pick up your ring-con and start jogging. The in-level traversal is easy. Just jog. When you run, your player runs. From there, you use the ring-con to interact with the world and bust your way through obstacles that stand between you and the end of the stage. And this works well; the perfect warm-up for the main event. For this is not a platformer game where traversal is the aim. No. The aim is RPG style combat, and, in each level, you will often come across monsters. Sat there, waiting. Planning. Squatting.
The merging of a workout and classic JRPG mechanics sounds ridiculous, but it feels revelatory in practice. Each move in your arsenal is a workout move, such as a squat or a lunge that you have to act out to activate. The number of repetitions you are required to do depend on the level of challenge you set yourself, which is an effective way of tailoring the experience to those who aren’t blessed with my incredible physical fitness and swimmers physique. Outside the story, rhythm games and personalised workouts allow for customisation and high score chasing leader boards that encourage you to experience each part of the experience. When I was using this game daily, I did get fitter and lose weight. The current me clearly needs to jump in again but that should display the quality that this weird Nintendo oddity presents. Unlike the Wii U, this is a weird peripheral that has knocked it out of the park. And speaking of weirdness, we move on to the next game…
14. Groove Coaster Wai Wai Party
I love rhythm games. I am also bad at rhythm games. Voez. Deemo. Hatsune Miku. Taiko no Tatsujin. There are many pretenders to the crown, yet Groove Coaster Wai Wai Party is the one I have deigned as King of Rhythm. Also, despite not being the winner of the title of my favourite Switch game, it has won the title of my favourite Switch title; the title, in this case, being ‘the name of a book, composition, or other artistic work’. If you tell someone you’re playing a game known as Groove Coaster Wai Wai Party, you will get a confused look from all the normal people in the world. And that’s a good thing. Because this game isn’t normal. It is exceptional.
If you like anime songs, Vocaloid tracks and J-pop bangers, then this soundtrack will rock your world. If you just like western songs, don’t play this game. If you are not a fan of Japanese pop culture, stay clear. And if you aren’t open-minded about this, you will probably hate this game. If you give yourself up to the madness, however, this coaster will jet its way right into your heart.
Moving past the banging soundtrack, we go into the loop-de-loop that is the surprisingly deep and difficult rhythm gameplay. A variety of button combinations, intuitive timing and hidden targets that can increase your score come together to create an unforgettable ride and one that you could ride again and again without getting bored or throwing up. Even more than this is the amount of content in the game to unlock simply by playing songs and beating challenges. Be it navigators, animated women who cheer you on and guide you through the game or new songs and even new ways to edit the gameplay experience through fun visual effects and modifiers that makes the timing easier, harder, or borderline impossible.
Yes, there is a large amount of fairly pricey DLC that is possible to purchase but this is optional and only for the hardcore Wai Wai fans that love the experience so much that they want more. And I don’t think there is another Wai Wai Party I wanted to attend. Groove Coaster is truly the grooviest roller coaster I have ever ridden on, and I don’t ever really want to get off. And talking of groovy, we move onto:
13. Splatoon 2
Splatoon is the best new Nintendo franchise of the 2010’s. Nintendo’s take on the multiplayer shooter genre is an innovative, enjoyable and fresh take on a crowded style of game; with charm oozing like ink from every part of the game. The inklings look beautiful and Nintendo-ey, and each separate stage is beautifully designed and visually inviting. This game is much more than just graphics and arguably, because of the limited hardware power of the Switch limiting the graphical quality, the system can produce. The single-player campaign is surprisingly fun and it places you in the ink of a secret agent attempting to stop a group known as the Octolings from spreading and conquering the world. The puzzle-like linear level design reminds me of the platforming sections in Super Mario Sunshine with added combat and it is always fun, if not groundbreaking.
What does keep me coming back then? The multiplayer of course.
I am a lonely guy. I play single-player games, enjoy single-player games and then I’m done. The beauty of Splatoon 2 is that it is a team game where, at the amateur level, communication is not at all necessary and is fun experienced by oneself. Turf war is my jam; you and your team have to paint the arena before the other team does. This mode is simple yet complex as well. And it is fun enough for me to sit there and play it for hours without getting bored. The competitive modes are fun and will appeal to some but as these require much better coordination, playing them single-player just doesn’t cut it for me. And, if you begin to find the game dull, why not change the weapon? There are a wide array of interesting and wacky guns and other miscellanea to choose from and each and everyone makes the experience feel unique. The roller is my personal choice but I can play with any of them and feel comfortable enough doing so. The paint lobber, the rifle or shotgun, there is a great many undercoats of greatness that make this wet, painty canvas shine.
This little summary doesn’t really do the game justice as there is so much more to experience. The levelling system in which you gain traits through equipment. Special attacks change as you get stronger weapons. The Salmon Run mode is innovative, new, and a perfect break from the main multiplayer mode; adding a little bit more tactical carnage and co-op hijinks. Simply, this game is fun, appeals to me and many more casual shooter fans. Buy it. Play it. Anticipate Splatoon 3 and let that hype build until you scream so loudly you become a gelatinous, emotionless blob. And speaking of gelatinous blobs, that moves us onto…
12. Luigi’s Mansion 3
A game that probably shouldn’t exist and bewilders me that it does is Luigi’s Mansion 3. The original was a launch title for the Nintendo Gamecube and whilst I enjoyed it as a child, it was more of an oddity than a game I would call a childhood favourite. Luigi’s Mansion was an uncharacteristically daring and un-Nintendo title and the very fact that this game has not one but two sequels and has become a flagpole Nintendo franchise is surprising and very exciting. Nintendo’s most recent take on an all-ages survival horror experience is one of the most unique games published by Nintendo on the system and it excels in so many areas.
Story. Simple yet exuding charm and having much more story than one would expect from Nintendo. Not through long dialogue choices or skill trees but through little animations and conversations with boss ghosts and the sort of visual storytelling that makes the game atmospheric yet not scary. Gameplay-wise, the core mechanic of shocking a ghost with your flashlight and then sucking it up remains a joy and the addition of a slam is both a blessing and a curse; with the power it grants you being nice but the fact it is essentially the only way to play the game now leaves it feeling a little overpowered and the combat a little one-note because of this. But you know what makes up for this?
The boss fights. Each boss ghost is brimming with character and is mechanically different enough to feel fresh each time you fight enough to reach them. But the gameplay isn’t the killer point here. Just based on this alone, the game is a fun 15-hour romp but not much more than that. I am easily won over by a pretty face and Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the prettiest Nintendo-made and published title. The animated cutscenes look nice enough to be a standalone cartoon and the in-game environments and character models are simply stunning. I am stunned and amazed that this game can run on the Nintendo Switch without any performance hits. This technical wizardry is appreciated and excites me for what this newly purchased Nintendo studio, Next Level Games, can achieve next because if it is anything close to this game in terms of quality, it will sell gangbusters.
It’s Break Time!
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Well, that was fun but a complete waste of time. And, as I love a good lead-in, a fun game that is fun but a complete waste of time, we move onto…
11. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
A life simulator is a game that has you living a life in a fictional world and doing little more than that. Animal Crossing is both a life sim and not a life sim. A simple description of the things you can do in Animal Crossing will sound less like gameplay features and more like simple, everyday chores. Picking fruit. Crafting furniture. Planting flowers. Talking to fellow villagers. Fishing. Paying back exorbitant loans to a shady, underworld figure. Animal Crossing is an experience that is uniquely Nintendo and uniquely its own.
Much like real life, Animal Crossing can be tedious, dull, and quiet. Also like real life, the game can be relaxing, invigorating and a truly memorable experience. This is the sort of game that you get more out of by giving yourself up to it. Unlike an open-world RPG or WW3 shooter, this is a game that, to make progress, you need to play day after day. You can’t just sit there and grind for 15 hours to get what you want; Animal Crossing thrives on its slow-paced atmosphere and its chilled-out gameplay mechanics. There is no story to follow and what you do, truly is up to you. From the very moment you arrive in this games village, a desert island, you have free reign on what to do, outside of the first 15-minute tutorial and it’s up to you how fast you want to take things. Do you want to chop some trees and gather wood for crafting or simply mingle with the locals? Catch some bugs to scare the museum’s curator or dig up fossils to sell for a tidy profit? Earn a currency known as Nook Miles by completing everyday tasks and spending them on a variety of speciality items and services? If you wish, you could simply entertain yourself by just taking photographs of your new island paradise and posting them on social media for strangers to enjoy. Getting lonely? Have some friends jump online and come to your island to play! If you want to travel yourself, get off the island via the airport and explore a neighbouring island and find rare materials. I played 75 hours of this game in the 40 days I spent with it just after release. After a long break waiting for an update, I am over the 100-hour precipice now and the finish is not even in sight. Animal Crossing is a black hole; difficult to explain to those out of the loop but it will suck you in once you start approaching it.
It’s easy to forget how much this iteration of the Animal Crossing formula; adding crafting mechanics and the ability to shape the terrain of your island being true game changers that add hours of fun to a game that is almost eternally re-playable. And with a large update adding almost every major feature from previous games in the series into this title AND some amazing paid-DLC on top, this game is still growing and has well and truly earned its position on this list. Come back in a year, it may well be even higher as it keeps shooting for the stars. And speaking of the stars, we move on…
10. The Outer Worlds
One year ago, I would have told you that this was my favourite game on the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case but that doesn’t diminish the amount of joy I experienced playing through this game. From start to finish, I was invested in this off-kilter, out of this world RPG experience. And I do mean an RPG. Whilst systems aren’t as deep as tabletop games or other video games like Divinity, the mechanics that are implemented alongside the first-person combat are well balanced and allow for different play styles to thrive. If you don’t want to fight, often, you don’t have to. Yes, the feral humans that live outside the colonies are fair game and the fact you can’t interact with them and negotiate a non-violent way of progressing when the rest of the game invites these choices is disappointing. However, these choices and the fact that the game can adapt to them makes the game something that was truly new to me. The gunplay feels good but is a little basic. The partners you meet along the way are endearing and fun to learn about, but their questlines do feel oddly linear and a little forced at times. And I do wish they would interact with each other a little more than they do. The game has a distinct graphical style but looks like regurgitated mud on the Switch. As you can see, each positive I levy, I can refute with a complaint of some kind. Does that make this a bad game? If so, why is it even on this list? Well, this game is more than the sum of its parts and the experience is somehow better than the core gameplay loop would originally suggest. This is just a working theory of mine, but I think a game that has a few decently sized flaws or limitations can actually shine brighter and stick with you more than some more polished, near-perfect experiences can. It makes the game feel a little more human, so to speak.
Honestly, I could easily still place this at number one as I love it quite so deeply, but the technical limitations and graphical downgrade are just too large; especially after experiencing the game on PS4 and seeing how everything is supposed to run and look and play. In every corner of the Halcyon galaxy, a little bit of whimsy, joy and humour can be found along with the interesting and bizarre stories about those who live there. The characters are another massive highlight and Pavarti is one of the greatest video game characters of all time; the writing of her and all of the other companion characters make this a game that truly shines through the murky fog. And speaking of excellent writing, we move on…
9. Bug Fables
Taking the prize of my second favourite indie game on the Nintendo Switch is Bug Fables. Funnily enough, it’s also the second-highest placed turn-based RPG on this list. For a game that is a spiritual successor to a series of games, I’m sure I will love but have never actually played, it is truly amazing how much I enjoyed this game. I blasted through this 30-hour RPG in a couple of days and have been itching to jump back into it for the flood of reasons I’m going to try and rocket through.
The main trio of characters, Leif the Moth, Vi the Bee, and Kabbu the Beetle are the ones you will control throughout the adventure and their personalities are delightful. Even more than that, the way in which each character grows makes all of them more personable and relatable. Vi grows from a headstrong child into a mature adventurer who goes back to help her family when duty calls. Kabbu grows from a stoic loner struggling with the pain of his past and grows to be capable of letting it go and moving on to accept his new friends. And Leif endeavours to remember his forgotten past and adapt to… well. He adapts to something, but I don’t want to spoil it. But yes, all 3 characters are great, and the supporting cast is just as good. The beautiful characters are enhanced by the beautiful visual style that not only emulates its inspiration but matches it, moving the paper aesthetic forward without relying on it as a gimmick, as later Paper games have tended to do. And, this is a personal quirk, but I just like characters with nice, thick outlines. And the characters really have that here. Monsters and NPC design create a world that feels diverse yet believable; in a world of insects, I could believe the sort of civilisations that are portrayed here and the way they interact with one another just go another step towards giving the game more character. In terms of character interactions, the story that surrounds them is also surprisingly detailed and this game truly is story heavy. The dialogue is exquisitely written and has a strong amount of emotional depth; bringing characters big laughs and long, heart-breaking cries as the quest to find the Everlasting Sapling ebbs and flows, twists and turns and really is quite heartfelt by the end. The visuals belie what a deep and interesting is being told here. And what ties everything together is the gameplay. Whilst the system seems to be very similar to the first 2 Paper Mario titles, I can only say that it works incredibly well. I mean, as a newcomer to this style, I can clearly see now why fans yearn for Paper Mario to go back to this turn-based style. It is not a standard turn-based RPG as your skill determines how much damage you give and take with each move. Timed button presses turn an often-passive battle system into a more active, involved system that would probably even turn non-RPG fans into converts. But I have no maths to back that up.
With every single aspect alone, Bug Fables would be great. With all of these parts put together, it is incredible. The amount of detail this indie team has put into this passion project is amazing and is really, truly inspiring. And speaking of inspiring scenes, we move on…
8. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Before playing Breath of the Wild, I really wasn’t a Zelda fan. I had dabbled with a couple of the handheld titles and owned Twilight Princess on the Wii, but the gameplay never really clicked with me. I had always had fun with what I had experienced but the scale always felt small. I got about 5 hours into Ocarina 3D, enjoyed what I had played but didn’t really want to continue. Same with Minish Cap and Spirit Tracks. It always felt to me that the series wanted to be something more open. Bigger. Grander. So, taking the tight and enjoyable puzzle-adventure gameplay of the Zelda series and warping this into a large open-world adventure akin to Skyrim or a Ubisoft game intrigued me and inspired me to pick it up a couple of months after buying a Switch.
What can I say, I was busy playing Fast RMX, I am Setsuna and Disgaea 5. I like playing off-kilter games before the big ones.
Anyway, because of the Switch, I can now say I have finished not one but two Zelda games and that Breath of the Wild takes everything I struggled with about the earlier, more rigid puzzle-dungeon setup and instead replaces it with uncontested and incomparable freedom. Instead of having 7 or 8 large dungeons throughout the game, Breath of the Wild instead takes a more challenge-based approach; having approximately 80 mini-dungeons, known as shrines, scattered around the world. Instead of these lasting an hour a time, each shrine can usually be finished in a few minutes, and this makes the game far more accessible to casual peasants like myself. There are explorable giant robots later in the game that are reminiscent of the classic Zelda dungeons but even these feel unique in the way you interact with them. So, a Zelda game without traditional dungeons may leave you asking you what the selling point is?
Well, it’s the open world.
Breath of the Wild’s open-world is unique in that, unlike the rest of the genre, allows you to interact with it and affect it due to the abilities you have. An item known as the Sheikah Slate, akin to the Wii U gamepad or a standard tablet, grants you four key abilities that grant you powers that allow you to seamlessly interact with anything you want in the world. Do you want to cook some food to restore your health? Well, shoot a fire arrow at some wood to start a campfire first. Do you want to make your way up a seemingly impassable waterfall? Well, you could use your Cryonis ability to create traversable ice in the water and climb up.
Do you want to know the best thing about this though? None of this is mandatory. Every challenge in the game can be tackled in a different way if you want to. The only thing that limits you in this game is your own mind. If you want to, you can attempt to beat Ganon using only a stick or a fan. You can avoid combat by freezing the enemy in place and fleeing. Even the story, compared to other Zelda tales, is great, if a little passive in how it’s told. Graphically stunning and musically melodious, Breath of the Wild is a game that I really struggle to say anything bad about. I jump back into this world now and again and I always manage to find something new, even after close to 100 hours. This game truly is a forever game and one that manages to be incredibly polished and reinvent one of Nintendo’s oldest and most beloved franchises. And speaking of reinventing a beloved franchise, we move on…
Metroid Dread was my first Metroid game and I’ll tell you something now, it won’t be my last. A franchise I have always been interested in; Metroid is a series that I have somehow managed to avoid up to this point. Whilst there is a lot of coverage on the Youtube regarding this series, Nintendo’s reluctance to release new or old titles on the Switch has definitely affected my drive to play these games. Until Dread’s release. I wasn’t going to pick it up but felt myself get washed along with the hype wave that came along with the release of the game in October 2021. And I’m very glad I did. Metroid Dread does almost everything right. You can see my full thoughts on this in my Metroid Dread review but, in short, the game looks stunning, sounds amazing and it probably has the best game feel of any 2D game I have ever experienced.
For a series that is often said to have little in terms of story, Metroid Dread has more than enough to encourage me to keep going and the story that is here is absolutely incredible. The main gimmick of this game revolves around robotic sentinels known as EMMI’s that stalk the planet that Samus has been shipwrecked on and they create the titular dread. These robots can kill you in one hit and their inclusion makes Metroid Dread a very difficult game. Difficult but not punishing. Honestly, I’d say Metroid Dread is pretty forgiving in terms of checkpoints, enemy placement, and health pickups. That’s not the peak of what this game achieves though. Oh no. Metroid Dread is a game that makes you feel stronger as you progress; with you unlocking different powers for your suit as you explore the world, the world itself becoming more accessible as you do so. The way this game has incorporated exploration won’t be a surprise to long-time fans but how Mercury Steam has created a game that makes you feel free in how you explore yet also does its best to prevent its players from getting lost is a genuine mystery to me. They have managed to have their cake and eat it and, I can quite confidently say that this game may very well have brought Metroid to a new generation of gamers, ready to enjoy the best of what 2D exploration can offer. I hope this game sells enough to move it from a cult classic to a tentpole franchise as the amount of fun you can have with this almost eternally replayable franchise deserves to be experienced for years to come.
And talking about experiences we can have for years to come, we are going to pause for a second to consider…:
The Top Three Games I Haven’t Finished:
Yes, the problem when you own quite as many video games as I did is that finishing all of them can become a gargantuan challenge. Yes, I believe you don’t need to completely finish a game to know whether you like it or not, but some games, for whatever reason, you don’t finish despite loving them. So, here are three games that are excellent, yet I haven’t finished.
3. SHADOWVERSE: CHAMPIONS BATTLE
A deck-building, card-battler based on a multiplayer CCG by Cygames and an anime with the same name, Shadowverse Champions Battle is better than it has any right to be. The game feels reminiscent of early Inazuma Eleven titles, placing you in a typical anime high school and having you challenge those around you to the hobby of the day: here that pastime being Shadowverse. Whilst I am only a few chapters in, the story is nice, and it flows well and the world and the explorable areas are much bigger than I would expect. The game also looks surprisingly striking on the Switch and despite the occasional frame drop, the game runs well too. But the piece-du-resistance is the card game itself. Feeling like a mix of Yu-Gi-Oh, Gwent and Hearthstone, the card battling is addictive, enjoyable and shockingly easy to learn. The different types of cards to use and decks to build allow a great amount of depth and freedom in how you tackle each challenge and I can safely say I’m going to keep dipping into this world over the next few weeks and months. Recommend to anybody who likes TCG’s or anime in general. Taking a big turn to the left now with number 2…
2. LONELY MOUNTAINS DOWNHILL
Sports games often thrive on excitement and fill you with adrenaline as you emulate your sporting heroes. Or Wayne Rooney. Lonely Mountains Downhill is the opposite of this and is a zen sporting experience. It’s you, on a mountain bike, on a mountain peak, and you have to get to the bottom. Yes, there are different bikes and different peaks but this game feels less about massive amounts of content and instead just creating a place for people to decompress. The unique control scheme takes a little getting used to and manoeuvring through some of the more difficult areas can be truly treacherous. It’s the sort of experience you get a little bit better at each time, slowly whittling down your time and whittling away the hours you spend with this minimalist, relaxing sports game. Take it easy and go for a ride sometime.
1. BUDDY MISSION BOND
Oh yes. Number one is a Wildcard entry. Developed by Koei Tecmo but published by Nintendo, Buddy Mission Bond is a Phoenix Wright style visual novel/ adventure game in which you investigate crimes through interview and deduction as well as breaking into the villains base afterwards to inflict sweet justice. The weird thing? This game is Japanese only. A Nintendo published game in 2021 is still Japanese only. And, whilst I am still only a few chapters in, this game is truly amazing. This is probably the best way to spin this sort of adventure game, with the story being engaging and truly moving, both forms of gameplay fun, plenty of voiced dialogue and stunning art from the pen of Eyeshield 21’s mangaka. There is loads of content here and I would recommend it if it was in English. I am still learning Japanese and feel confident enough to fumble my way through this game, but it does require a decent amount of language knowledge to enjoy. If this was localised, I would become the game’s one-man marketing team and try to flog it to everyone across the internet. This game is stylish, polished, and truly an excellent experience. Once I find a little time, I can’t wait to dive back into and strengthen my bond with this one.
With that, it’s back onto the list and number six, my top indie game. Which is….
6. Tangle Tower
Sometimes, a short game stays with you longer than a long one. Sometimes, a small indie team can create an experience that means more to you and is more enjoyable than a triple-A masterpiece. Tangle Tower is a point and click murder-mystery adventure that follows the slightly ditzy Detective Grimoire and the slightly gothic assistant Sally as they respond to their summons to the Tangle Tower to solve the mystery of a woman who was inexplicably killed by a painting. From here, you slowly meander your way around the tower meeting its multiple, eccentric residents and questioning them to find the guilty party and catch them. The writing here is top-notch and often laugh out loud hilarious. The freedom this gameplay system gives you as well is also something I haven’t experienced before. Think about LA Noire or Phoenix Wright. It is often quite easy to cheese your way through something you don’t know as the game doesn’t want you to get stuck. Tangle Tower doesn’t care about this and gives you a wide array of words and phrases to choose from when making deductions. If you get it wrong, the game nudges you in the direction of where you might need to go, but never overtly tells you. When you work out a puzzle, you have truly worked out that puzzle. It is a great feeling, and this feels like the direction the Professor Layton games should move into if Level 5 ever decide to revive their star man. The only minor downer is that the ending is a little unsatisfying but that was written on purpose and simply goes against my personal inclination towards happy, sappy endings. The atmosphere of Tangle Tower doesn’t invite a happy ending, so this makes sense. No loose ends. Just a crime solved, and a job done. And speaking of a job well done, we move on…
5. The Witcher 3
It is truly impossible to go into everything important regarding the Witcher 3 in just 400 or so words. The Witcher 3 is truly vast. If you wanted to rush through the game then sure, you can probably do it in a dozen or two hours but that just isn’t what you do. You want to experience the world of The Witcher. You want to take on quests and interact with the believably flawed residents of Velen, the bustling city of Novigrad or the rowdy residents of Skellige. To experience the shockingly deep combat system and craft rare Witcher gear. To experience the greatest and most human video game story I have ever had the pleasure to witness. To play Gwent! The Witcher 3 is a game to be savoured. Enjoyed. Leisurely.
On the Switch, it takes a visual downgrade but still looks remarkably good considering the hardware and there is nothing cut out here. All the DLC. All the additions. All of everything. The Witcher 3 is a truly mesmerising game and the fact it is on Switch still makes me smile. I very rarely want to try and 100% a game and I haven’t 100% this. But I’ve done every quest, experienced all the Witcher contracts and become a master Witcher. And that truly is a testament to what an experience this is. Even 6 years later, I don’t think an open-world game has come close to this in terms of polish, story, combat and just the pure fun of being Geralt of Rivia. And it will take something special to do this. Maybe only CDPR can do it themselves either with a Witcher 4 or reimaginings of the first 2 games. Either way, The Witcher 3 is a game that makes you want to keep playing, improving and being the best Witcher you can be. And that is a testament to an impeccable product. And speaking of impeccable products, we move onto…
4. Astral Chain
Astral Chain is a Platinum Games game. And yeah, it feels like it. Whilst I like Bayonetta and the Wonderful 101, Astral Chain is the first time one of their games has really connected with me. ‘Ah, so this is what the fuss is about’, kind of feeling. Astral Chain is about future cyber police who capture and control robotic interdimensional creatures in order to defeat interdimensional terrorist creatures who are trying to invade the planet. Using the titular Astral Chain, you control these aliens, known as legions and hack and slash your way through the invaders to save the world. You start as a police officer and end by fighting a God.
That synopsis makes this story seem bonkers and it is. And that’s a good thing. The story really is odd and clearly takes inspiration from cyberpunk anime and manga. The way story is interwoven into combat is inspired, your connected legions being an irreplaceable part of combat and the story. There are 5 different legions to choose from and each one offers a unique experience: with each having their own role. Not just this but the number of different techniques you can pull off with them as you grow and improve shows that just one playthrough is only scratching the surface of what Platinum has programmed here. The classic Platinum scoring system is here too for those masochists who want to chase perfect scores in each of the 20 or so chapters. More so than the gameplay though, what really connected me to this were the characters, visuals, and the world on display here. Whilst living there would be a drag, the Ark is truly stunning and stretches the Switch to its graphical limits with the amount of colour and cyberpunky charm on offer here. Each character in the Neuron police that you get to interact with has a personality all of their own and whilst some could be called a little tropey, each is special in their own way. Marie is a goddess, and I won’t have anyone argue against this. The investigation in each small sandbox area is a nice break from the combat but that’s not what most of us are here for. We’re here to dish out justice to massive beasts and that is where Astral Chain excels more than almost every game that has preceded it. And, on the subject of massive beasts, we move onto the podium with…
3. Monster Hunter Rise
As a series, Monster Hunter is fine. I have no real connection to it and whilst playing three games prior to this one, none of them really worked for me. They were functional yet seemed to try their best to keep new players out. Like you really had to work for the fun. Monster Hunter Rise is the first game in which Capcom has absolutely nailed it. The combat has always been enough for hardcore Monster Hunter fans but that being all there is in the game just didn’t work for me. So Monster Hunter Rise adds a little bit more story. Probably not much more than World did but the story and characters that are here, add enough charm to keep me coming back. This is probably my love for all things Japanese inspired but the land of Kamura is unapologetically inspired by feudal Japan and it wants people to know this. The story, simply growing strong enough to defend your village from a rampaging beast of legend, is hardly One Piece but it is enough to give me something to aim for. To bring me to the gameplay. And it is the gameplay where MH Rise shines the most. There are 14 types of weapons and with each separate weapon class having many different craftable tools under it, the amount you have to choose from is simply stunning. Playing through the main story quests rank 1-5 with one weapon took me about 25 hours so the possibility of doing this again 13 more times, which is optional, not mandatory, would usually be something I would sniff at and never think of again. Until you use them. I used the dual blades for my first go of the game and they were fast, light, and felt really beginner-friendly. Then I tried experimenting with the Insect Glaive and lo-and-behold, the game felt completely fresh all over again. The ability to essentially cram 14 different play styles into this beautiful experience is not only impressive but gives this game the sort of longevity. Did I mention that there are a separate list of quests to complete, entirely designed for co-op play? Did I also mention that the materials you can gather from monsters you have defeated can be used to craft better weapons and armour and that these armour sets can be levelled up?
Did I mention that the game is graphically stunning and runs with nary a blip in performance? Did I mention the majestic musical score or the terrifying array of monsters, each with their own special introduction video narrated with classic kabuki-style vocal delivery? This game is the absolute pinnacle of what I think one can achieve with a triple-A title on the Nintendo Switch. With technology progressing and other companies moving forward into the next-gen, Nintendo is going to struggle to keep the third parties developing for this ageing hardware. However, what is already on the Switch is enough to make most other game systems blush and with the first party titles for 2022 looking exceptional, it’s a good time to be a Switch fan…
So, why does it sound like I’m finishing up? I’m only at number 3. Well, the reason here is that my top two are games that, technically, are not as good as Monster Hunter Rise or The Witcher 3. They are at the top of my list simply because I find them incredibly fun and they appeal to me personally. They are not the greatest games the system has to offer but they are my favourites… But before that, I think it’s time for some honourable mentions.
So, I’m going to name the title and then compose one sentence about what makes it special. Okay, here we go.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
A visually muddy yet deep tactical RPG with anime waifus, four storylines and a decent story that whilst not as good as previous entries, is still a good entry in the series.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury, Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE# Encore ( i.e. The Wii U Ports)
The Wii U had very good games and now people can play them on a system that sold.
Super Mario Odyssey
A sandbox 3D platforming adventure that both played it safe and innovated; successfully bringing the Super Mario 64 style of gameplay into the modern age.
Xenoblade Chronicles 1 & 2
Two RPG’s that are mechanically complex, visually okay and narratively stupendous, the Xenoblade games are among the biggest and best open-world RPG’s around.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Probably the best platform fighting game ever made with a mind-boggling roster and lacklustre online services.
Kirby Star Allies
A slow-burn Kirby game that gets better once you finish the main game; not the best in the series but a very good 2D outing.
Winning Post 9
A Japanese only horse racing management game that taught me the Japanese word: 種付け- which means mating.
Dragon Quest 11 S
The best Dragon Quest game and arguably the best classic JRPG ever made; Dragon Quest continues to iterate on a successful formula to create a whimsically fun experience.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
The best warriors game ever made; now with framerate issues and stunning Zelda fanservice.
2D platforming never got this polished; excellent platforming overshadowed by special stages using classic tunes like ‘Black Betty’.
A decent RPG that plays nicely but looks even nicer; 2D HD is the future of these games.
NSR: No Straight Roads
A wonderfully stylish and colourful adventure game with musical combat and surprising charm and polish.
Yoshi’s Crafted World
The best Yoshi game since the original Yoshi’s Island.
And with the quickfire round over, we find ourselves with the top two steps just in front of us…
2. Atelier Lulua and the Scion of Arland
The Atelier franchise fits me to a tee; an RPG franchise with mostly turn-based RPG combat, low stakes, comical anime story and characters that never feels like a chore to play, the Atelier games are without a doubt my favourite B-tier franchise. Far from a household name, the Atelier series of games are the sort of games only fairly niche and hardcore video game fans will have even heard of, let alone played. But that’s a shame. Because in terms of gameplay, aesthetics, sound and story, this series is among the very best for me. I’m not going to pretend that this game or series has the potential to sell 15 million titles a game and become a AAA hit, but for its niche, these games are pretty much perfect and the most perfect of them, is Atelier Lulua. Lulua is my favourite Atelier protagonist, endearingly positive and desperate to escape from her mother’s shadow, she follows in the path of many former Atelier protagonists before her and leaves on a journey to hone her alchemy skills and save her atelier from the imminent closure. These coming-of-age stories are usually fairly relaxed and don’t involve world-saving journeys with fights against deities, although they can on occasion, this story does just enough to keep you involved.
However, the story isn’t my main focus and instead, the character interactions are. Lulua and her party of childhood friends, teachers and new encounters create numerous unique dynamics and interesting little skits based on your friendship level with each of them. These are what keep me going. What keeps me crafting. What keeps me beating enemies. I want to see every encounter, every scene, every interaction that this game gives me because it is unxious, slice of life anime goodness and I cannot get enough of it.
Aside from this, all the other mechanics are impeccably made and implemented. The crafting is probably my favourite in the series, despite the sequels, Ryza and Ryza 2 attempting to make it more accessible, with the breadth of things you are able to create in your atelier wide-ranging and often fun to discover. The core gameplay loop of discover, gather, craft is deep and engaging and really, really fun. I have lost not just hours but days to this gameplay loop and after 6 or 7 games in the series, I’m nowhere tired of it and I’m just eager for the franchise to keep growing. I haven’t spoken much about the combat because there isn’t much to say. It is turn based combat with few frills but, as someone who absolutely loves this sort of gameplay, this is absolutely okay with me. So, yes, I can see that this game won’t appeal to everybody, and it doesn’t have to. Because I love it. And I will keep loving it for years to come. To tell you the truth, this game was my number one until recently. Until this June. This is when I played…
1.AI: The Somnium Files
My favourite game on the Nintendo Switch is AI: The Somnium Files. I didn’t even start playing this until May just because I was holding off until I was good enough at Japanese to play it in that language. However, on a particularly dull June day, I looked at my backlog of Switch games and said, let’s change this.
So I did.
I brought every single game off of the shelf and stacked them up on the couch next to me. Put them all on a random number wheel and played an hour of each as they came up. However, when I got to this game, I didn’t just play the single hour. I played for 30 hours. I completed the game in about 2 and a half days and just couldn’t put it down. Euro 2021 on the television, AI: The Somnium Files on the Switch and just blasting my way through this timeless classic. So what was so good about this that I couldn’t put it down? That’s simple.
This is a story-heavy game; 70 % visual novel and Ace Attorney style adventure game with 30% time-restricted puzzle solving. And it is glorious.
AI: The Somnium files places you in the shoes of amnesiac Kaname Date, a special agent with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police who works with his boss and partner to solve odd and often gruesome crimes. Oh, and his partner is an AI eyeball called Ai-ball, which is a clever play on words with the Japanese word ‘aibou’, which means partner. What starts as a seemingly straightforward murder case, quickly spirals into you pursuing not just a serial killer but also someone inexplicably attached to Date’s past. Along the way you meet various characters and interact with the environment; interviewing witnesses, searching for clues and trying to solve this crime. This is a visual novel in the sense that the game has 5 endings, but only one is the ‘true ending’. Playing one route to the end feels… redundant, as when played as a whole package, the twists and turns along the way are among the best I have experienced not just in gaming but in any media I have consumed. The characters have depth, and depending on the route, will expose something a little different about their personality. There is an incredible amount of voice acting and different animations. There is even a secret ending where you can abandon the case and run off with a large-bosomed secretary. I haven’t really even touched on the time-based puzzle gameplay that whilst excellent, isn’t what I enjoyed the most here. AI: The Somnium Files is a game I played for the story. A game I love for the story. It is funny, touching and epic. Oh, and it ends with an anime song and dance, which made me smile so much the first time I experienced it, and I still watch it now and again now, because all of the characters are involved. All these characters mean something to me by the end of the story. If you are to play one visual novel-style in your lifetime, you can’t go wrong with AI: The Somnium Files.
Can you believe something I started because I thought it would be easy to put out content, would balloon into something this unnecessarily long? Well, there we are. I would ask what your favourite Switch game is but, frankly, unless you’re willing to make a 9750-word essay about it, I don’t really care. 🙂
And it’s on that unnecessarily harsh note that I will end. I have been Benjamin Wagner and I approve this message.
All Images are taken from the Nintendo Online store. In the future, I will be using my own screenshots but due to the large number of pictures needed, I buckled. I own none of these images.