Nintendo’s console-handheld hybrid saw a number of excellent releases this year, but some stood out more than all the rest.
The Switch had an incredible launch year in 2017, marked by unprecedentedly strong sales and a number stellar releases. And though 2018 started out very slow for Nintendo’s console-handheld hybrid, it eventually gathered enough momentum to finish the year strong. Looking back, it’s hard not to be pleased by how many great titles came out on the Switch this year- a mix of exclusives, top-notch ports, great third party support, and some excellent indies made for a compelling library throughout 2018. Here, we’re going to talk about the fifteen Switch games of 2018 that we feel were the best of the lot, and then pick out the single one among them that managed to stand out.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
MEGA MAN 11
Mega Man is one of the old guard of the video games medium, a progenitor of so much of what we look at staples today. Bringing back this legendary and hibernating franchise and doing it well must have been an intimidating task, but Capcom took it in their stride. As a result, what we have with Mega Man 11 is exactly what fans of the series have been clamouring for for years. A gruellingly challenging yet thoroughly entertaining gauntlet of platforming and action, Mega Man 11 doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it does do one thing perfectly- it’s a reminder of why the Blue Bomber is an industry icon.
THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU: FINAL REMIX
The World Ends With You is often regarded as one of the best Nintendo DS games ever, which is saying a lot, considering the handheld’s legendary library. So when Square Enix and Nintendo announced that the innovative RPG would be making its way to the Switch, there was an eruption of excitement in its dedicated fanbase- which paid off, of course. The World Ends With You: Final Remix is a reminder of why the 2007 title is as deeply beloved as it is, with a unique combat system, an engaging story, and characters that are easy to invest in. Here’s hoping this port means that Square Enix is finally looking into making a sequel.
No amount of praise is enough for Dead Cells. It’s not often that you come across a game where everything just clicks, but that is exactly what Dead Cells is. It mixes elements of roguelikes and metroidvanias with brilliant ingenuity, leading to some excellent level design, and a core loop of “just one more run” that ends up being dangerously addictive. Combat and progression are what define Dead Cells more than anything else, and they’re almost flawless in their execution. Each year, we get at least a handful of indie titles that proudly stand tall and reaffirm the fact that indies can be just as good as high budget AAA releases, if not better, and in 2018, Dead Cells is undoubtedly one of those titles.
POKEMON LET’S GO, PIKACHU! AND LET’S GO, EEVEE!
Pokemon Let’s Go might not be the core console Pokemon sequel that we’ve been waiting for since it was first announced in 2017, but it’s still a game that managed to exceed all expectations. Journeying through a lovingly recreated and charmingly beautiful Kanto is just about as much fun as you would expect it to be, and the experience is, predictably enough, further heightened thanks to heavy doses of nostalgia. Many of the most controversial changes Let’s Go made also surprisingly turned out to work much better than anyone could have expected. Though it doesn’t quench our thirst for a proper Pokemon experience that is tailor made for a console, Let’s Go still manages to capture that quintessential feeling of adventure that Pokemon is so famous for.
On face value, Moonlighter is a distillation of the dungeon crawling action RPG niche of games. And while the dungeon crawling and roguelike aspects of Moonlighter are certainly no damp squib, it’s how it makes use of them and contextualizes them within its larger scope that truly makes it shine. Go into dungeons, progress as much as you can, get the best loot possible, and come back to your shop where you can sell that loot to grow as a business. A business simulator disguised as a dungeon crawler? It’s an idea that seems totally out of left field at first, but once you get into it, there’s no getting out.
Runner3 is a game that has no qualms with being as challenging as it can be. Not worried about wanting to be accessible to as many people as possible, Runner3 puts players through the wringer almost constantly. And while that can at times lead to moments of frustration, more often than not, it feels like an immaculately crafted experience. Sporting some truly genius level design and a charming visual aesthetic, playing through Runner3 when it is at its absolute best is a blast. With a ridiculous amount of content on offer as well, it’s well worth the price of entry.
VALKYRIA CHRONICLES 4
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a pure distillation of everything that makes the franchise – especially the first game – as good as it is. Though its narrative and writing are nothing to write home about, where its strengths truly lie is in its long, thrilling, engaging tactical battles. Strategy is paramount in Valkyria Chronicles 4, where every battle can be as much as 90 minutes long, and every move you make can make or break an entire encounter. It’s not a gruesomely difficult game by any means, but manages to strike just the right balance, where constant strategizing and forward-thinking can lead to some very satisfying victories.
MONSTER BOY AND THE CURSED KINGDOM
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a game that will have you smiling through the entirety of your playthrough. From its charming and vibrant visuals and art to its classic platforming, this is a game that smells of childhood. Monster Boy also boasts of some genuinely smart level design, which makes making use of all your different powers in some truly wonderful ways. Though it’s practically a love letter for fans of the Wonder Boy series – to which it serves as a spiritual successor – Monster Boy is also a game that is good enough to stand on its own two legs.
SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE
Super Smash Bros. games are pretty much always guaranteed to be among the best games in whatever year they come out- and when a Smash game promises to be the culmination of everything the franchise has ever been about, that guarantee turns into a dead-set inevitability. This is a game that is teeming with undying love for not just Nintendo, but the entire medium as a whole, and it shows that love through an ocean of content, all of which is built with unbelievable love and care, and a characteristically obsessive attention to detail. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exactly what its name suggests- Smash Bros, but bigger, better, and shinier than ever before.
DONKEY KONG COUNTRY: TROPICAL FREEZE
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was one of the very best games in the Wii U’s entire library. It is, in fact, one of the best side scrolling platformers ever created. Due to the limited instal base of the Wii U, however, it never got the recognition and love that it deserved. This year, Nintendo brought over the excellent platformer to the Switch, and we were reminded of just how excellent it is. Level design is the thing that defines most games, if not all of them, and in this area, Tropical Freeze has no peers. It also provides a proper challenge to its players, which rarely ever feels like it’s achieved cheaply. With better visuals and some neat new content added on top, Tropical Freeze on Switch is the best version of an already excellent platformer.
HYRULE WARRIORS: DEFINITIVE EDITION
Hyrule Warriors is a game that is very easy to recommend to both, fans of the musuo genre, and fans of the Zelda property. Definitive Edition brings all the content associated with the game neatly into a single package, buoyed by shinier visuals, and though it’s not a compelling purchase for someone who may have already played the original game when it released, on its own two feet, it’s a great experience. It blends the best elements of the action packed and adrenaline fueled gameplay of the Warriors franchise with a great deal of love and respect for The Legend of Zelda, and ends up as an experience that is, all in all, a fun and satisfying romp.
MARIO TENNIS ACES
Mario Tennis isn’t exactly one of Nintendo’s premier franchises, but thanks to years of consistently solid entries, it’s managed to endear itself to the masses. After a couple of years in the slump with a less than stellar entry on the Wii U, Mario Tennis Aces brought the series back to form. Its core gameplay is exactly as addictive and unabashedly fun as you would expect from a Mario Tennis title, which translates excellently to multiplayer, both online and local. The game’s campaign leaves something to be desired, and it’s lacking in some other areas, such as customization tools, but for those who’re simply looking for a good time, Mario Tennis Aces delivers.
SUPER MARIO PARTY
Some might say that in attempting to bring the Mario Party back on track, Super Mario Party delivers an experience that is a bit too conventional- and while that is true, the fact that it is, at its core, a very well made game that can be an absolute blast when played with friends simply cannot be denied. Super Mario Party removes many of the annoyances that had been plaguing the series for some times, and goes back to the roots by doing what the series is best known for. It’s got a large assortment of some extremely enjoyable mini games, and though it’s not a game without flaws, when it comes to something as pure and simple as fun, Super Mario Party’s appeal is undeniable.
We’ve praised Celeste to the skies and back ever since it launched at the beginning of 2018, but it’s just that sort of a game- it cannot be praised enough. From a gameplay perspective, it is a tight, challenging platformer with crisp controls, excellent level design, and a surprising amount of replay value. From a narrative perspective, it tells a surprisingly moving and personal tale that sticks with you long after you’re done with the game. Things such as an excellent soundtrack and a gorgeous visual aesthetic serve as cherries on top of an already decadent sundae.
Octopath Traveler is a dream come true for fans of classic JRPGs. But while it’s a throwback to an era of the genre that is little more than a memory now, it never hides behind that facet of itself. Rather than trying to pander to a particular audience, Octopath Traveler carves out a solid identity of its own, with a beautiful, striking aesthetic, incredible art design, an addictive combat system that encourages tactical and strategic thinking way more than you’d expect, an excellent soundtrack, and so much more. Flaws in the game’s narrative structure and the general story itself are undeniable, but those things ultimately play second fiddle to its many, many strengths.
AND THE WINNER IS…
SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE
Over the years, Super Smash Bros. has stopped being a celebration of Nintendo, and grown far beyond that, to the point where it’s just a celebration of video games in general. When Masahiro Sakurai proclaimed during the reveal of Ultimate that “everyone is here”, we couldn’t have guessed that that wasn’t the game’s end goal, but rather simply the base that it would build on. Because yes, everyone is here- but that is just the beginning. This is a game that is teeming with a ridiculous amount of content- all of which would have counted for little if the game itself wasn’t as brilliant as it is. The mechanics of Smash have been honed to perfection in Ultimate, and with over 70 characters, 100 stages, 900 music tracks, a bevy of modes, and so much more, Smash Ultimate is a game that has something for everybody.