The Switch is well over five years old now, and it’s surely approaching the end of its lifecycle, but what a bumper year 2022 has been for Nintendo’s hybrid platform. From excellent first party releases to solid third party support, from exciting debuts by new IPs to long-awaited returns for established franchises, from RPGs to platformers, the Nintendo Switch has added a vast, varied, and excellent collection of games to its already vaunted library over the last 12 months. With 2022 drawing to a close, here, we’re going to take a look at what we felt were some of its best new games of the year, before crowning one of them as the one that stands tallest of them all.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
RETURN TO MONKEY ISLAND
It had been a long time since LucasArts’ beloved adventure series Monkey Island had been in the spotlight- so long, in fact, that almost everyone had given up hope that it would ever return. With Return to Monkey Island, however, not only did it come screaming back, and not only did it bring the likes of Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman back to the franchise, it also proved beyond any doubt that there is still plenty of steam left in this iconic series. Return to Monkey Island captures the bizarre, magical humour and style of its predecessors, tells a captivating tale populated by brilliant characters, crafts some truly incredible brain-teasing puzzles, and does it all while also modernizing the series in smart and meaningful ways. All the pieces fit together effortlessly, ensuring that Return to Monkey Island is well worth the wait.
Splatoon has grown into one of Nintendo’s biggest and most successful franchises in recent years, despite the fact that it’s also one of the company’s newest IPs, so there was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that Splatoon 3 would be anything short of excellent. Yet again, the series’ fresh spin on the typical multiplayer shooter formula shows just how fun and addictive it can be at its core, and how perfectly it can balance accessibility with competitiveness- which is a fine line to walk, and far from easy. Of course, Splatoon 3 also has a meaty single player campaign, which in and of itself is good enough to make the game easy to recommend to most Switch owners. This is definitely a case of evolution over revolution, but when the fundamental mechanics are this much fun, there’s really no reason to tinker with them too much.
At this point, farming sim games are a dime a dozen on the Nintendo Switch, but if you are looking for something to play in that genre, Square Enix’s Harvestella should be high on the list of games you look into. It combines action RPG combat and dungeon crawling with the leisurely gameplay loop of tending to and expanding your farm while also getting to know your neighbours better, with all of it bundled together in a sufficiently interesting fantasy world. No, it’s not likely to set your world on fire, but especially for fans of the genre, there’s plenty to appreciate here.
You can’t help but love old-school fantasy turn-based strategy RPGs, and you can’t help but love the gorgeous aesthetic of Square Enix’s unique HD-2D style. As a game that pulls both those elements together into a single package, Triangle Strategy is doubly irresistible- and when you get down to play it, it does more than enough to keep you hooked. The actual tactics and combat remain enjoyable from beginning to end, even if they never reach the heights of some of the genre’s most prominent giants. What really makes Triangle Strategy shine, however, is its surprisingly captivating story, and a world that’s dense with rich lore and intrigue, almost like a PG-13 version of Game of Thrones. Add to that a healthy smattering of genuinely difficult story choices, and what you have is a game that turns out to be far better than most would expect going in.
We were waiting for Bayonetta 3 a long time, but everyone’s favourite gun-toting witch finally returned to the big stage this year, and it’s fair to say that it was well worth the wait. The Bayonetta franchise has solidified itself as one of the best character action experiences out there, and Bayonetta 3 lives up to that billing. It builds upon its predecessors’ foundation with a number of improvements and refinements and delivers a sense of scale that is frankly ridiculous to witness (in the best way possible), all of which comes together wonderfully in a gleefully bonkers game. Whether or not it reaches the heights of Bayonetta 2 is up for debate (many would argue that it doesn’t), but there’s no denying that in and of itself, it’s a worthy entry in PlatinumGames’ beloved franchise.
POKEMON LEGENDS: ARCEUS
Pokemon Legends: Arceus represented the most radical ever shift in formula for a new mainline Pokemon game, but boy are we glad that it took that risk, because it’s a risk that paid off in spades. The simple act of catching Pokemon and building up your Pokedex hasn’t been this much fun in ages, not only because of how well the game works that premise into its core gameplay structure, but also because of how quick, snappy, and consistently enjoyable the moment-to-moment gameplay feels. There is obviously still plenty of room for improvement in this formula, but Pokemon Legends: Arceus has paved the way for an exciting future for the franchise.
POKEMON SCARLET AND VIOLET
It’s a little surprising (to say the very least) that The Pokemon Company and Nintendo felt the need to release two mainline Pokemon games in the space of a single year, and given the rough technical state that Scarlet and Violet have launched in, many would argue (and not without merit) that perhaps they should have been given another year of development. In spite of their many technical issues, however, the new Pokemon games are easily among the best new mainline generation instalments in years. Finally, it feels like the series has grasped how to properly implement an open world formula that blends well with Pokemon’s familiar trappings, while also encouraging plenty of freedom. On top of that, a number of smart improvements and quality-of-life changes also help the traditional Pokemon gameplay feel more enjoyable than it has in recent entries. If only the technical side of things wasn’t an absolute mess- because at their core, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are exactly what this series has been in need of for years.
PERSONA 5 ROYAL
How long have Switch owners been waiting for Persona 5 Royal to come to their platform of choice? After years of begging for a port, we finally got to see Atlus’ beloved franchise gracing the Switch with a mainline title in Persona 5 Royal, and of course, it was a perfect fit. This right here is one of the greatest RPGs ever made- we’ve known that since 2017, when the vanilla Persona 5 launched, and Persona 5 Royal’s original 2020 release solidified that beyond doubt. To no one’s surprise, playing through this masterpiece on the Switch is an absolute blast, and it serves as a fitting jewel in the crown that is the console’s RPG library.
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES 3
An absolute behemoth of a game- in more ways than one. A dense and intricate combat system that layers system upon system to craft something wholly unique and utterly engrossing; a massive, gorgeous world that is a constant joy to explore, and never fails to take your breath away with its gorgeous vistas- these are just some of Xenoblade Chronicles 3’s many highlights. For anyone with even a passing interest in the genre, this is an unmissable game.
KIRBY AND THE FORGOTTEN LAND
It’s strange to think that it took Kirby this long to finally make its jump into 3D platforming, but now that it’s finally here, it’s safe to say that it’s an absolute delight. Kirby and the Forgotten Land may even be one of the best games this long-running series has ever produced. It’s overflowing with charm, somehow striking the perfect balance between the series’ trademark childlike wonder and its desolate and post-apocalyptic setting (which somehow manages to feel whimsical in spite of itself). On the gameplay front, it’s a constant rollercoaster, boasting a surprising amount of variety in Kirby’s moveset, abilities, the level design, and more. There’s no shortage of incredible 3D platformers to play on the Switch, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land is right up there with the best of the best.
MARIO + RABBIDS SPARKS OF HOPE
Nobody would have blamed Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope for taking the safe approach and delivering an experience that largely stuck to its predecessor’s excellent formula. Credit to Ubisoft, then, for not only making the decision to develop a sequel that feels entirely different, but also for doing it this well. Everything feels expanded and blown up in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope- its combat flourishes thanks to the drastic changes in movement, making for much more dynamic battles, while the significantly larger levels make exploration a significantly more rewarding and prominent part of the game. Sparks of Hope comfortably a better game than Kingdom Battle, which is saying a lot, because Kingdom Battle was amazing.
POKEMON LEGENDS: ARCEUS
To the millions of Pokemon fans who had been begging for the series to show a little more ambition after years of stagnancy, Pokemon Legends: Arceus was like an oasis in the desert. Set in the distant past in the region of Sinnoh before it was even called Sinnoh, it throws players into a completely unfamiliar world, where rather than being faithful companions of humans, Pokemon are looked at by the region’s sparse population as mysterious and terrifying creatures that are best left alone. Against this fascinating historical setting, Pokemon Legends: Arceus delivers a terrific gameplay loop where exploring the open world maps, finding new Pokemon, and building up your Pokedex never, ever loses its addictive wonder. We can only hope that there will be more Legends games in the future, because this is the best that Pokemon has been in a long, long time.