Since its launch, the Switch has settled into a very clear pattern- one where it alternates between having jampacked and relatively quiet years. And after a 2019 that was brimming with one excellent release after another, in 2020, Nintendo’s hybrid took a bit of a breather. But even in this relatively quiet year, the Switch still managed to deliver a number of excellent games- from long awaited sequels to indie gems, from solid remasters to ports of beloved games, from first party hits to third party surprises. Here, we’ll be talking about the best Switch games of 2020, starting with the nominees, before declaring GamingBolt’s winner of this honour.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES: DEFINITIVE EDITION
Xenoblade Chronicles made a glorious comeback to the limelight on the Nintendo Switch this year, and it was somehow bigger and more beautiful than ever before- which is high praise for a game that was already considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time. An epic story, a gorgeous world to explore, a meaty chunk of new content to dive into, and so much more- Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition had a lot to offer.
CrossCode has been in a playable state to some extent for a long time now. After spending three years in early access, the action RPG released in full for PC in 2018, before debuting on the Switch this year. And as anyone who’s played it would tell you, it was well worth the way. CrossCode takes a unique concept, a fascinating narrative premise, challenging and thrilling action combat, and beautiful retro visuals, and combines them all in one of the finest games we’ve played on Switch all year.
PAPER MARIO: THE ORIGAMI KING
Paper Mario has been struggling with finding its feet with its action-adventure approach for a while now, and after several stumbles back to back, this year, it landed on its feet with The Origami King. Beautiful, charming, funny, and addictive, Paper Mario: The Origami King turned out to be the best game this series has put out in many years. It might not be the The Thousand Year Door successor we’ve been waiting for for years, but if this is the direction Paper Mario wants to stick with, at least it’s finally found the right way to do it.
MARIO KART LIVE: HOME CIRCUIT
Nintendo is always more than willing to experiment with how its games are played, and of late, they have been doing that even more than usual. From Labo to Ring Fit, they’ve had some interesting and unconventional experiments of late, and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit was another similar attempt. Blessedly, it was a successful attempt. Combining the chaos and unadulterated fun of Mario Kart with augmented reality gameplay and actual RC karts sounds like a completely ridiculous idea, but true Nintendo fashion, Home Circuit makes it work.
ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS
With Animal Crossing, you always know what you’re getting into- a wholesome, ridiculously addictive game that you can (and probably will) sink hundreds of hours into. New Horizons was that- and so much more. On top of expanding upon the core formula that its predecessors have polished to a sheen over the year, New Horizons also introduced major new mechanics like terraforming and constant progression system in Nook Miles. The result was what is easily the best Animal Crossing to date, and probably one of the finest games in the Switch’s library.
ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS
After Ori and the Blind Forest debuted on the Switch (and saw great success, to boot), most people were sure that its sequel would also eventually make its way to Nintendo’s hybrid. And merely a few months after its initial launch on Xbox and PC, that is exactly what Will of the Wisps did. With their second Ori game, Moon Studios delivered an instant metroidvania classic, once again concocting a perfect blend of tight platforming, intricate level design, beautiful visuals, and affecting storytelling. With that, and major improvements over its predecessor in key areas like combat and progression, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is easily one of the best metroidvania games you’ll ever play.
KINGDOM HEARTS: MELODY OF MEMORY
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory isn’t what you expect from Kingdom Hearts game, but though it drops the flashy and colourful action of the mainline RPG series, it instead chooses to hone in on the series’ musical strengths. Melody of Memory, as its name suggests, is a solid rhythm game that, crucially, has excellent music and feels like a celebration of the series’ history up until this point. After Kingdom Hearts 3 wrapped up a major, longform arc, Melody of Memory feels like a perfect breather while we wait for the series’ next big step.
Ghostrunner has a simple core idea- your enemies die in one hit, and so do you. What makes this cyberpunk action title so special, however, is that it takes that idea and keeps on building upon it, keeps on escalating it, keeps on using it in new and interesting ways. Its kinetic and thrilling combat and traversal are bolstered by true challenge, which in turn is balanced excellently by a generous checkpoint system which keeps encouraging players to immediately jump right into the action even after multiple failures.
STREETS OF RAGE 4
Streets of Rage is the poster boy of beat ’em ups, and the burden of responsibility that Dotemu, Lizardcube, and Guard Crush Games were shouldering with the series’ revival was a heavy one. They rose up to the challenge like champions though, with Streets of Rage 4 turning out to be an excellent return to the spotlight for the series. Its classic, varied, and satisfying combat, its excellent music, its beautiful art design, and its cast of characters were everything that fans had hoped a new Streets of Rage would boast of- and those were just a few of the game’s many notable strengths.
CHRONOS: BEFORE THE ASHES
Chronos: Before the Ashes has been around (if not exactly in its current form) for a while now, but this year, Gunfire Games released the previously VR-exclusive RPG as a non-VR game, retooling it and officially confirming it as a prequel to the surprise hit Remnant: From the Ashes. And Chronos succeeds in a lot of very similar ways. Solid, challenging combat, meaningful progression mechanics, compelling Souls-like design, and more come together to make up for deficiencies in other areas, and even though Chronos: Before the Ashes won’t set the world on fire, it’s still a damn fine game.
SUPER MARO 3D ALL-STARS
Super Mario 3D All-Stars has no shortage of issues. The remastering work done here was far from the best (especially from a visuals perspective), some important features were missing at launch (but some have since been added in), while its nature as a timed release was met with plenty of controversy. It really says something about the inherent strengths of Super Mario, then, that in spite of these issues, 3D All-Stars is still an easy purchase to recommend. It compiles three excellent games in one package, two of which are arguably among the greatest games ever made- it’s hard to say no to a package like that.
PIKMIN 3 DELUXE
One of the Pikmin series’ more overlooked releases, Pikmin 3, came to the Switch this year as another game in a long line of Wii U games being given a second lease of life on a much more successful system. And that’s a good thing, too, because as Pikmin 3 Deluxe illustrated, this is a great game that deserves to be played by more people. It looks better, of course, but more importantly, the core gameplay loop remains predictably solid. This is the best way to play a great game, and though our long wait for Pikmin 4 continues, Pikmin 3 Deluxe is more than an adequate stopgap.
Supergiant Games might not be the biggest developer in the industry, but over the years, it has proven that it is definitely one of the best. And for a studio that has a track record as immaculate as Supergiant’s, to say that their latest, Hades, is their best work yet, is incredibly high praise. It’s very well deserved though. It balances its roguelite structure with constant and rewarding progression, and actually uses that structure to effectively tell an incredible, smartly written story. Moment-to-moment gameplay is always a thrill thanks to exciting combat and fantastic boss fights, while the beautiful art design serves as the cherry on top of the sundae.
NEED FOR SPEED: HOT PURSUIT REMASTERED
Though Need for Speed’s recent history has been a bit spotty, the franchise has seen some truly excellent entries throughout its lifespan, and this year, EA remastered and brought back one of those highlights. The original Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit in 2010 was an excellent racer that cared about nothing but, well, racing, and to be able to have that kind of an experience in a superbly designed AAA production in 2020 was a refreshing change of pace. More than anything else, Hot Pursuit Remastered is a testament to the timeless quality of the 2010 original.
HYRULE WARRIORS: AGE OF CALAMITY
With Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, Nintendo promised us a hardboiled Breath of the Wild sequel. It turned out to be… not that- but if you keep those expectations aside and look at it for what it’s is, there’s no shortage of things to be impressed by. It captures the essence of Breath of the Wild really well, which is made all the more surprising by the game’s action musou nature. On top of that, Age of Calamity boasts of a large roster of characters – each more enjoyable to play as than the last – and the pure visceral fun of mowing down hordes of hundreds of enemies that any good musou game should deliver.
ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS
Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ rapturous success tells you everything you need to know about this game. Sure, some of that success can surely be attributed to the circumstances surrounding the game and its launch- but nothing can take away from how delightful, charming, wonderfully fun, and welcoming Animal Crossing is an experience. Regardless of whether you’re engaging in the most mundane of activities – like catching fish and watering flowers – or the more long-term goal-oriented mechanics like terraforming your island to turn it into a proper paradise, New Horizons is constantly addictive, constantly entertaining, and constantly delightful. It’s a truly excellent game that deserves every ounce of praise and success it has enjoyed thus far, and will surely continue to enjoy for a long time to come.