Let’s rewind a bit, shall we? The year was 2016, the Wii U was dead, and honestly had been for a while. Hope in Nintendo wasn’t very strong. Yet, there was a glimmer, all focused on two letters, “NX”. If you don’t recall, that was the codename for the console that would soon be revealed as the Nintendo Switch. Every Nintendo fanboy and and fangirl prayed that the Switch would be good, would be special, and most importantly, had the games. And boy, did it ever. In fact, many feel that the Switch had the best first-year lineup in the HISTORY of video games. I kind of agree with that, and because of that, I’m here to list off my “Favorite Nintendo Switch Games” from year one.
Now, just so I don’t ruffle any feathers here, these are just the games that I personally have played on my Nintendo Switch. I have played many of the 1st party titles, 3rd party titles, and have also played several indie titles, so while I haven’t played EVERYTHING on the Switch, I have played a majority. So, if the game has made it onto my “Favorite Nintendo Switch Games” list? It deserves its spot. So, shall we begin?
NOTE: I have my reviews of these games in the descriptions of them you might notice that certain lower titles have higher scores than others that are higher on the list. This list is about judging in hindsight, not how I felt when i reviewed the games.
Honorable Mention: Project Octopath Traveler Demo
Surprised? Don’t be, it’s an honorable mention, I can do just about anything here.
But seriously, you’re probably wondering how a demo makes it into a top 5 Switch games list. Well…it was a really good demo. While we still don’t know everything about Project Octopath Traveler (including its final name…) we do know that this is an exclusive for Switch brought to us by Square Enix. What’s more, the game is a mix of styles that really works. It’s got 2D sprites, 3D worlds, turn-based combat, the choice of 8 characters to play as, and a very deep story.
The demo let us get a view into two of the characters, Olberic and Primrose. And while the former was “standard” RPG story, the latter was not. Primrose’s story was very dark very early, and that grabbed my attention. It makes me wonder who the other six are (we see them in the pic above but don’t know them yet), what their stories will be, and how they’ll all interact with one another.
A demo is meant to grab the attention of a gamer and then make them want more…this one did that for me, and I can’t wait to find out more about the game before its release this year.
5. Super Mario Odyssey
Ok, this one was meant to be a surprise. Yep, Mario ended up at the bottom of the list, but don’t take that as a knock against the game, for Super Mario Odyssey was without a doubt one of the biggest and best games of the year, it just didn’t rank up as high as some others in impact for me.
Odyssey first debuted in the “commercial” for the Nintendo Switch back in 2016, and people were instantly drawn into it. Fast forward to January 2017 and the first full trailer for the game was revealed, and we wanted even more. Now, fast forward to E3 2017 where Mario Odyssey took the world by storm, revealing its hit song “Jump Up, Super Star!”, the full abilities of Cappy, and more, the game was going to be successful, but more importantly, the game is just fun!
Odyssey proves that while new mechanics are important for a franchise as old as Mario, you got to have fun doing it, and I had a blast playing the game. Looking all over for Moons so that I could power up my ship. Collecting coins so I could wear cool gear. And just exploring the incredibly vast and detailed worlds all in a quest to save Princess Peach…agian.
So, why is it so low? Well, it really is a title that you play once and don’t really have the urge to play again. You can, sure, but once I beat the game, I felt accomplished. And that was enough for me.
Don’t get me wrong, Odyssey is worth the buy, and you’ll love “capturing” other beings to see what powers Mario gets, it’s a blast.
So come on…”let’s do the Odyssey!”
4. Splatoon 2
While I admit that this game may not have been as “new” as Super Mario Odyssey, that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun playing it. Splatoon was without a doubt one of the best things about the Wii U, and not surprisingly, it was one of the best-selling games on the system, by a wide margin. So when Splatoon 2 was revealed for Switch? Oh yeah, we were pumped.
So what puts this game above Odyssey? Well, ironically, it’s the fun factor. There’s just something simple and fun about jumping into the online modes and battling against friends or players around the world. When Splatoon 2 launched, I joined my fellow co-hosts of the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast and battled with them and against them endlessly, and it never got old. And as we draw closer to the game’s 1 year anniversary, I doubt that feeling will go away.
Plus, the game has serious staying power. For if you get tired of the Turf Wars, there’s League Battles, and Ranked Battles, and the new Salmon Run (which I loved endlessly). Still want more? Well, there’s Splatfests every month, and the NEP loves to debate which is the better choice between the two. It’s that level of fun that makes this easily one of the best games on Switch.
And we still haven’t really talked about the gameplay, which has both stayed the same and advanced in new ways. New weapons, new abilities, new maps, there’s a lot of new mixed in with the familiarity, and it continues to grow to this day.
So get your squid on! And settle it in Splat…toon…2.
3. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
It shouldn’t have worked…THIS GAME SHOULDN’T HAVE WORKED!!!
Think about it, no, seriously, think about it. This is Mario, the greatest video game character of all time (or at the very least the most impactful and recognizable) teaming up with one of the most HATED video game creations of all time in the Rabbids. Sure, the Rabbids were popular during their first few appearances in the Rayman games, but since? Not so much. In fact, when Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was leaked a few weeks before E3 2017…no one believed it. They thought it was a joke, a prank, or at the other end of the spectrum, a game destined to fail.
Then E3 2017 came along, and no one said those words again. So what changed? What made it work? And why is it so high on my “Favorite Nintendo Switch Games From Year One” list? Well, much like the other titles…it’s fun, but more importantly, it works as a game and a crossover.
Ubisoft could’ve failed SO HARD on this. They were taking two franchises, mixing them together, and then adding the gameplay of XCOM. HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO WORK? Yet, it did, they took great care in making it work, making it shine, making it fun to play and replay. In fact, the gameplay is so good that the current Creative Director for the XCOM series said that he got ideas off of playing it himself! There is no higher praise than that! …ok, I suppose Game of the Year would be on par with that, but still!
What made Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle so fun for me, and thus earning it its No.3 ranking, is the depths it went to make it more than a “stereotypical” title for either of these franchises. Aside from the gameplay, some of these characters acted very differently than what we’re used to seeing. I personally think that this is one the best Princess Peach games in history because of her entrance into your party. Peach is a boss here!
Which leads to another fun aspect, customization. You can build your team based on how you want to play. Do you want damage above all else? Are you a long range fighter? Do you want to ensure your characters never lose all your health? You have options for that!
This game defied all expectations, and its the best-selling 3rd party game on the Switch right now, and that deserves praise.
2. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
This was VERY close, I could have easily put Xenoblade Chronicles 2 up at the top spot, and I very nearly did, and I wouldn’t have felt too bad if I did. However, when I thought about it, I feel I had to put it in the No.2 spot…but that’s still pretty good for an RPG from a “niche” franchise.
Full disclosure, I did not play the original Xenoblade Chronicles, not even when it came out on 3DS (I had the wrong 3DS to play it on), but, I did play Xenoblade Chronicles X on Wii U, and I loved it. Aside from a certain other game, this was the title I was anticipating the most for the Switch in 2017, and it blew away my expectations.
While the previous three games made the list because of its fun aspect, I would say that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 thrived because of its story, and its characters. This game is LONG, and though it starts slow, once it picks up, it picks up. The characters we meet are deep and complex, the heroes, the villains, the side-characters, all of them are major in their own way. The world of XC2 is massive, and yet, very unique, as each “land” is in fact a flying creature called a Titan.
Sure, the overall story of “boy meets girl, girl saves boy, and now boy must help save the day” is a bit cliche, however, how we get from that starting point to the endpoint is anything but simple. There are several plot twists that even I didn’t see coming, and I loved that as a guy who prefers a story be impactful in titles like this one.
Moving onto gameplay, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 definitely had a difficult battle system, however, once you learned it, you could work it to match your style. Adding to that, the “Blade” system of summoning and using them in battle was really cool. And there’s nothing like getting a unique Blade and wondering what they will allow you to do in battle.
So why only No.2? Well, the game isn’t for everyone, you need to be willing to learn a difficult system and endure a very long play-time, however, if you do commit to it? You won’t regret it.
And if you don’t believe me, I’ll tell you this, between the update that just came out with the Game Plus Mode, and the new story DLC coming out later this year, I’m more excited to do a second runthrough in this game than any of the single-player focused games on this list. Including…
1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Yeah…not so much of a surprise here. But this game needed to be on top, and for all the right reasons. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the game that we wanted on the Wii U since that “tech demo” debuted for it. But it never happened, then when we heard it was coming to the Switch, we were all excited. When it was revealed it was the “killer app” launch title, we nearly exploded. But, we put ourselves back together and held on until its release, and our hype and anticipation was rewarded with one of the greatest video games ever made.
Legend of Zelda is meant to be a “once in a generation” series, meaning that there is often only one game per console/handheld generation, with some exceptions of course. And Breath of the Wild proves why that is. This team, led by such great men as Eiji Aonuma, wants perfection in their games, and more than that, they want each one to be special and unique in a way that transcends what the others have done, and Breath of the Wild did all of that in spades.
Where to start, right? Well, how about the open world? Which is truly an open world. You can go anywhere, do numerous things both big and small. Go to the temples and regions in any order that you want, and you can even take on Ganon himself without doing any of that! We don’t recommend it…but you could!
The Nintendo team made freedom and choice a key and necessary aspect of Breath of the Wild, and it shows in every aspect of the world and its gameplay. You can wield the weapons you want (and throw out those you don’t), you can raze the land and kill all the monsters you want for simple treasures, or so you can get enough money to buy special clothes and armor. Did you know there are dragons in the game? There are! And you can go find them and battle them.
Of course, there’s also 100+ mini-dungeons that are littered throughout the world for you to find. As well as four massive dungeons for you to complete on your journey to save Hyrule.
That’s right! You still have to save Hyrule, but for the first time (arguably), you get an enhanced story that is (arguably) more fleshed out than any Zelda game before it. For this time, both Zelda AND Link get more fleshed out (in contrast to Skyward Sword where Zelda got more fleshing out than Link). We see their relationship go from forced companions to something much more touching. This is also a Zelda game where Zelda isn’t the “regal princess”, but rather, a woman who’s trying to save the world in the way she feels is right, destiny be danged. Add that to the four Champions, who have their own special personalities, and various other side characters, and you got a Hyrule that’s full of life in a way we’ve never seen before.
You can play Breath of the Wild for hundreds of hours and still have things to do. Battle dragons, find Korok’s, get new mini-quests, it’s all there. And it goes without saying, that Breath of the Wild is going to be pretty hard to top, but I’m eager to see them try.
So there you have it, my “Favorite Nintendo Switch Games From Year One”, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask, what are yours? What games stood out to you? Please let me know, and we can chat about it! And let’s hope that Year Two of the Nintendo Switch delivers some epic titles as well.