It’s been a full year since I first purchased my Nintendo Switch, and I thought it would be a good time to reflect. I’ve never been a big console video gaming person, and even when it came to the PC, I was a casual player of things like Civilization and The Binding Isaac. I just don’t get caught up in first-person shooters or even the stories of games, really. However, if something is just an open playground, I get bored easily. Roguelikes have quickly become my favorite game genre as they encourage replayability, and I love unlocking new stuff. That’s sort of who I am as a “gamer,” which informs my decisions in what games I purchase and spend the most time playing.
The Switch itself is a fantastic piece of hardware, and I am willing to say it’s the best console of all-time because of its portability. No matter what the situation is if I want to pick up and play, I can. My wife is watching something on the television? I just undock my Switch and play. I do think the joycons feel super fragile and invested in a pro controller about six months ago. However, the joycons are the perfect size and complexity when I play with my niece and nephew. We mostly stick to Mario Party, which they love, which allows them to be introduced to controller concepts in small, bite-sized chunks. Here are my thoughts on some of the games I own:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This is the most beautiful looking Zelda game I’ve ever played, and the scope and scale of the world are breathtaking (no pun intended). The choice to do away with large scale dungeons and move to shrines as a mini-dungeons in an interesting choice and one I’m still neutral about. One element I strongly dislike is weapon destructibility. I understand to a point why this is in the game, but it is such a frustrating part of the gameplay. I can handle managing stamina, but there has been more than one occasion where I only stockpiled weak melee weapons and end up with nothing in the middle of combat. I haven’t picked up BOTW in a few months because it is more like Dark Souls than traditional Zelda. I fully support Nintendo experimenting with what a Zelda game can be, but maybe this isn’t the one for me.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
This is the Zelda game on the Switch I have had more enjoyment with probably because I’m a grumpy old man. It’s a classic top-down action-adventure in the vein of A Link to the Past. I actually beat this one with a small bit of help from a walkthrough when I really got into the weeds, and the solution wasn’t apparent. It’s a challenging puzzler but a lot of fun. The director Takashi Tezuka was inspired by Twin Peaks when he made the Gameboy original in 1993 and infuses that quirkiness in the ever-evolving lives of the villagers of Koholint Island. I really love the decision to adopt a tilt-shift diorama aesthetic for this Switch remake. It often feels like you’ve gotten out some old toys and are playing around with them.
Super Mario Odyssey
I am always astounded at the seeming infinite creativity to reimagine what a Mario game can be. Odyssey isn’t as challenging as the Galaxy series, but it is a game of open-ended ways to accomplish goals. The player sets their own pace with lots of bonus areas and content for hardcore players to challenge themselves with. However, you can play super casual and have a hell of a lot of fun. The hat mechanic is a genius addition and opens up so many more strategies of how to play. Playing this reminded me of the excitement of discovery I felt on my tenth birthday popping Super Mario Bros. 3 into the NES. There is something new around every corner, and it is a delight to play.
Super Mario Maker 2
This gets my vote for the best Nintendo game on the console. While I have not played with the Maker side of the game, I have played a ton of user-generated levels. If you love Mario, then this is like an unending well of new content and ideas. The imagination and creativity of the other users are astonishing: they take mechanics and remix them in ways you would never expect. Nintendo added some beautiful content through updates, the Legend of Zelda power-up & the Mario Bros. 2 mushroom are perfection. My only real fear is how this content may be lost one day down the road with a new console and a Maker 3. I hope that Nintendo manages to make all of this backward compatible and accessible through that future generation, but the company often doesn’t make the most straightforward & thoughtful decisions.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
You either love this game or hate it. As a more casual player, I love it, but I definitely understand other people’s frustrations. Limiting it to one island per console is frustrating because the additional residents are playing a limited game. I’m guessing they were pushing each household member to have their own Switch, which is not reasonable. I don’t share my Switch with anyone regularly, so it’s not too bad. Animal Crossing is also very routine driven, so if you don’t like repetition with tiny variations every few weeks or so from holidays, you will likely get bored. I see New Horizons as a meditative game, and I don’t get caught up in the ravenous frenzy of making my island “perfect.” I enjoy it’s messy imperfection, slowly making little tweaks here and there.
Enter the Gungeon/Streets of Rogue/Into the Breach/Dead Cells/The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+
I told you I love roguelikes. These three have seen the most play from me on the console. Isaac was a no-brainer when buying games from the eStore. I’ve clocked over 800 hours on Isaac via Steam and 70-plus on the Switch. Dead Cells is another one of those always good to pick up and play games. Into the Breach, I’ve probably played the least but really enjoyed every hour, it’s more on the strategy side, which isn’t always my thing, but the roguelike elements keep me coming back.
Enter the Gungeon was a game that never clicked when I first picked it up on Steam, but I have become a big fan playing it on the Switch. It is hard as hell but satisfying. I don’t guess I will ever master it entirely but get a little better over time. Streets of Rogue is the kind of playground I enjoy. It’s done in the style of 8-bit Zelda but plays like Grand Theft Auto. You start at the bottom of a megacity and work your way up by accomplishing objectives and making it to the next elevator. There are dozens of character classes to pick from, and each one comes with intriguing abilities and challenges. Rogue lets you play whichever style suits you that day and switch it up when it gets boring.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection
I didn’t think I would play this as much as I ended up. I’ve logged 100 hours since December, and the game is still a lot of fun to go back to. I am an unabashed fan of dungeon-crawling loot machines (I also Torchlight II on the Switch and am chomping at the bit for the upcoming sequel). This is a lot of arcade fun, you can turn your brain off to an extent once you’ve learned a character class’s strategy. I really appreciate the Seasons because I don’t think I would have played as much or experimented with the game as deeply. My favorite class is the Wizard, but I’ve just started a run with the Necromancer and am warming up quite a bit. This game is all about that dopamine hit of loot, loot, loot, and leveling.
Super Mega Baseball 3
I wouldn’t have expected to buy a sports game much less enjoy it this much, but here we are. Unlike the loot crate driven EA sports games, Super Mega Baseball 3 is a deep baseball sim with no hidden bells and whistles. You can keep things simple, or you can amp up the complexity. This is a profoundly satisfying game to play, and after learning the basics through a few dozen exhibition games, I’m going through a full season and loving the added elements of managing the team. I think this appeals to the city builder/resource management nerd in me. Definitely, a fun game, even if you don’t necessarily like the sport.