Nintendo’s innovative home console/portable hybrid machine, the Switch, is finally here. We’ve put the system through its paces, and while the tech is impressive, the real reason to consider buying it is for the games themselves. After all, hardware is only as good as the software it powers.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal to choose from at launch. The Switch arrived with only 10 launch games, a paltry list compared to the other consoles and handhelds that have released in the past decade or so.
But even with a relatively small pool, you likely still have questions regarding which games, exactly, should top your Switch list. Here’s your guide to the best — and the rest.
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” ($60)
I could happily write a few thousand words explaining why Link’s latest adventure is so superb, but my colleague Dan Howley already did that. Go read his review.
If that’s TL;DR, just check out its insane Metacritic score (a jaw-dropping 98 at the time of this writing). “Breath of the Wild” is an incredible video game, a fresh, fascinating, open-world take on a venerable franchise. Immediately ranking as one of the greatest launch games (and “Zeldas”) ever, it’s a shoo-in for Game of the Year contention and light years ahead of any other Switch game. If you own a Switch, you should own this video game. Period.
“Snipperclips: Cut it Out Together!” ($20)
This adorable downloadable game turns your Switch into scissors. Cut, move and rotate two weird little shapes to fill holes and solve puzzles either with a few friends or by yourself. Lightweight but clever, “Snipperclips” recalls quirky handheld games like “LocoRoco” for the PSP and makes a fine Day One purchase.
“Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove” ($25)
Indie developer Yacht Club Games hit pay dirt in 2014 with this loving homage to 8-bit RPG action. It’s a fine fit for the Switch; the “Treasure Trove” version contains the full original game plus three extra campaigns starring unique characters one of those, “Specter of Torment,” is sold separately for $10. It’s not the revelation it was when it first launched, but if you missed it on other platforms, consider remedying that here.
“Fast RMX” ($20)
A blend of “F-Zero” and “Wipeout,” “Fast RMX” is a Switch-specific “remixed” take on a Wii U racer called “Fast Racing Neo.” And fast is right. Players careen down a wealth of futuristic tracks in floaty space cars, grabbing turbos powerups and trying desperately not to smash into walls. It’s not the newest idea on the block, but it’s pretty, small-ish (only 900 MB) and priced right.
The Probably Nots
Nintendo presumably hopes this mini-game collection will do for the Switch what “Wii Sports” did for the Wii. Sadly, it won’t. While a handful of the 30 or so included games do a decent job of showing off the Switch’s Joy-Con tech, many are just too dull and simplistic to warrant repeated play. Worse, it’s being sold at a ghastly price. This should have been a free pack-in, not a premium buy.
“Super Bomberman R” ($50)
Overpricing is also an issue with this otherwise solid entry in the vaunted “Bomberman” series. It’s perfectly suited for the Switch’s local multiplayer gaming focus, featuring both single tablet co-op gameplay along with up to 8-player multiplayer for seriously hectic Bombermanning. And while it comes with a 50-stage Story mode, this old-school jam simply doesn’t warrant the $50 price tag.
“Just Dance 2017” ($60)
Ubisoft’s long-running (dancing?) series makes it way to the Switch, but this club raised its cover charge since “Just Dance 2017” was originally released for consoles in October of 2016. As with those versions, smartphone integration means you don’t even have to use the Switch’s controllers to play. That’s kind of a bummer in this case; the Joy-Cons offer all kinds of cool tech to tinker with that the game doesn’t really take advantage. Other than your wallet, that is. At $60, “Just Dance 2017” is actually $10 more than it was for other systems five months ago. Stop the music!
“I am Setsuna” ($40)
Nintendo’s Switch event back in mid-January was pretty big on Japanese role-playing games, and indeed, we get one at launch in this throwback. First released last year, “I Am Setsuna” scores points for a thoughtful story steeped in tragedy, but its ho-hum, derivative gameplay makes it less exciting for genre fans.
“Skylanders: Imaginators” ($60)
Full disclosure: this is the one Switch launch game I did not play … at least not on this particular console. I played it on the PS4, where it was another solid, money-grubbing effort in the toys-to-life franchise. At this point, you’ve likely played it or purposefully passed on it, and while the Switch version gets around the pesky Portal of Power accessory by letting you scan toys using your Joy-Con, it’s just not an exciting game for a brand new system.
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Ben Silverman is on Twitter at ben_silverman.