If we’re talking impressive debut years for consoles, the Nintendo Switch is right up there. Since launching in 2017, it’s smashed records all over the world and is only just getting started. Most importantly, however, it proved the most cynical of naysayers wrong: Nintendo isn’t anywhere near finished as a company with some of its Switch exclusives being some of the best games of 2017.
One dud console doesn’t undo decades of innovation and success.
Rumours and hope surrounded the Switch right up until its reveal – the feeling was that this was a make or break move for Nintendo. The Wii U, to be blunt, failed to inspire much confidence in the gaming public, which wasn’t helped by muddled marketing and a lack of true advancement from the Wii.
So, when the Switch was announced as a true hybrid between console and handheld gaming, a statement was made.
Playable either through your TV via a dock or entirely handheld, the Switch may be underpowered compared to its peers, but something that the industry could learn in general is that you don’t need to see every inch of muck on a soldier’s face to be sold on a game. Thanks to a controller idea so simple that you have to wonder why nobody thought of it before, gamers could take their favourite Nintendo titles with them wherever they wanted it, but mainly so that they don’t need to keep re-reading the same old, worn Time magazine from 2009 while sat on the toilet.
As well as them always thinking outside of the box, people are drawn to Nintendo for their exclusives. For all the talk of Sony nailing the exclusives this generation, it’s always been Nintendo who have flourished with their enviable catalogue of IPs. Their newest console is off to a bright start on that front, so it’s time to sift through the best Switch exclusive games.
Bear in mind, just like other exclusives lists on this site, we’re excluding re-releases and remasters for the sake of variety. That means Pokken Tournament DX, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe have to sit this one out.
And, sadly, it means we won’t have one more chance to wax lyrical about Breath of the Wild – it’s not technically a Switch exclusive as it’s also on the Wii U.
Every list has to start somewhere, but it’s hard to argue that 1-2-Switch shouldn’t be at the bottom here. While it has the same weird family fun that Nintendo have made a name out of, it’s hard to shift the feeling that this really should have been packed-in with the Switch, not unlike Wii Sports.
Whereas your aunt could find plenty of enjoyment in Sports, however, what with its promises to help you stay active, 1-2-Switch is just a strangle jumble of mini-games that make you look severely unwell when you play them. If you want to milk a cow, that’s fine, but do you really want to spend this much money for what is essentially a bunch of disparate demos?
The range in quality is alarming, so for every mild distraction you will find at least a few fillers. If you absolutely must buy 1-2-Switch, make sure you have enough friends so that it’s worthwhile.
11. Mario Tennis Aces
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Nobody comes into a Mario Tennis game expecting a realistic sim — that’s simply not what it’s about. Just like every Mario x sports game Nintendo have released, Mario Tennis Aces should be seen as a fun party game that you shouldn’t take too seriously.
It’s the wisest choice because Mario Tennis Aces isn’t often actually tennis, its Adventure Mode a bizarre mix of one of the oldest sports and also boss battles where you have to get through an enemy’s shields — it’s bananas.
The game also introduces a few key tweaks to the way it plays with a learning curve sure to bewilder even veterans, but Mario Tennis Aces is ultimately let down by its lack of simple features in online play.
You either love or you hate puzzle games. I, personally, would rather die into the beautiful lakes seen in The Witness with large boulders tied to my ankle than actually play the thing, but I have all the time in the world for puzzlers with unique and fun twists. Snipperclips is one such game, asking you to pair up with a friend to cut you way to the solution.
The main objective is to cut your character down to fit the obstacles the game throws at you. While this might sound like some kind of Lovecraftian nightmare, the cutesy artstyle and upbeat tone mean that Snipperclips is anything but. One of the better party games on the market right now and arguably the Switch’s most underrated exclusive.
You know what you’re getting with any Kirby game. It’s not going to tax you mentally whatsoever and is going to mainly be a laidback adventure with some pink fluff. That’s exactly the case with Star Allies, Nintendo’s unlikeliest mascot’s first outing on the Switch.
While you can have some fun with Star Allies on your lonesome, it’s at its best when you’re teaming up via the game’s easy drop-in-drop-out co-op to wreak some light-hearted havoc.
Thanks to its charming soundtrack, quaint visuals and just how much fun you can get out of it without putting much effort it, Kirby Star Allies might be the perfect opportunity for some bonding with the young ones on a Switch.
Arms didn’t really get the love it deserves. Perhaps it’s due to the lack of content or not all of its punches quite hitting their mark, but Arms remains one of Nintendo’s most interesting, entertaining experiments. It’s certainly one of the platform’s biggest examples of the dynamism allowed by its controllers.
For our money, the best way to embrace Arms is with a pair of Joy-Cons in your hands, swinging for the fences and screaming expletives like a crazed celtic warrior. It’s more than just wild punching, though: there’s a lot more tactical depth to Arms than you might first believe.
The learning curve is a little steep and its playerbase may have dwindled significantly, but Arms is still worth playing.
Hands up if you saw this coming: a collaboration between Nintendo and Ubisoft featuring the main mascot of the former and the most irritating minion-alikes of the latter? Okay, well put those hands down again, because you’re liars. Don’t even try to flinch if I ask if you thought the end result would have been this good, either.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle absolutely, undeniably should not work. It’s Mario teaming up with Rabbids in what is, more or less, XCOM. On paper, that should be a disaster and further proof to Nintendo that they should treat their properties with a tight leash.
However, Kingdom Battle ended up being a smart, testing RTS title that somehow made Rabbids hard to hate. Thanks to a clearly passionate development team, Kingdom Battle turned out to be one of the surprise hits of this generation. Who’s next for Mario to team up with? My money’s on Bubsy.
6. Pokémon: Let’s Go
Developer: Nintendo/Game Freak Publisher: Nintendo
Pokémon: Let’s Go is not a bad way for us to let us twiddle our thumbs while we wait for the full-fat Pokémon RPG that’s due sometime soon. It lacks the depth of the games that Pokémon made its name on, but is an appealing hybrid between the casual nature of Pokémon GO (while also featuring integration with the mobile phenomenon) and the classics that could be a great introduction.
Available in two version, Pikachu and Eeevee, players must take their Pokémon of choice on a journey through the original games (sans the random encounters) with some simplistic combat and a bonding mechanic that makes your pocket monsters feel like tamagotchi.
The addition of co-op also makes Pokémon: Let’s Go feel like the perfect introduction to meatier Pokémon games, so anyone born in this decade will be in for a treat.
“For veteran players, just experiencing the original games one more time in a brand new way is enough to put a smile on your face and reawakening that inner child. Playing along with a newcomer or first-timer makes it even more inviting and enjoyable, reminding you why you fell with love with Pocket Monsters in the first place.”
Another example of just how much you cannot underestimate the capabilities of the Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 brings all the hallmarks of a JRPG and delivers them in style. Featuring enough content to tide you over until the looming end of days and just the right amount of weirdness, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 closed out a debut year for the Switch in style.
The follow-up to the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles, this sequel takes what made its predecessor so great, sprinkles some of the older games in the Xenoblade series’ finest moments in for good measure and with the added bonus of letting you become totally enamoured by your party of digital people while sat on the toilet for hours at an end.
Trust us, the piles will be worth it — it has a talking tiger, for crying out loud.
If you’re looking for a sequel that completely flips the script and changes everything you thought you knew, Splatoon 2 is not that game. The changes are minimal enough that you might have to do a double-take on the box to see if the ‘2’ rubs off, but when you have a game this thrilling and somehow also wholesome, a revolution isn’t necessary.
Nintendo’s family-friendly foray into arena shooters swaps out the guns for paint while introducing alliance-based gameplay. If you know Splatoon, you ultimately know what to expect from Splatoon 2, but the maddening brilliance of Salmon Run and the ability to challenge your friend in the same room to a decorative deathmatch is hard to resist.
And people try to say that traditional JRPGs are dead. While many franchises pivot towards embracing freer and more action-oriented fare that polarises fans, it was good to see Square Enix release a game that bleeds the old school to great success. If you’ve been left jaded by Noctis and his bros, here’s where you should turn.
Featuring some gorgeous pixel graphics and a huge cast of characters each with their own stories to uncover, Octopath Traveler is a stark reminder of why JRPGs work best when they’re simple. Octopath Traveler has depth, make no mistake about that, but it cuts the fat where it needs to to provide something that feels like a nostalgia trip for SNES lovers and an introduction to the joys of the genre for newcomers.
“Above all else, Octopath Traveler never ceases to be a game that entertains. Whether it’s the quirky look, the excellent soundtrack, the hours upon hours upon hours of content, or the core gameplay, everybody should find something to appreciate with this game. And for a brand new JRPG, that’s a pretty special success.”
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Developer: Nintendo/Bandai Namco Publisher: Nintendo
Ultimate by name, ultimate by nature. You simply couldn’t ask for a better way to experience what Smash has to offer than its most recent offering, an absolutely gigantic game with such a staggering amount of content that it’s like wandering into a time portal. And that’s just if you want to play the thing entirely solo — let’s not even discuss how deep this thing goes if you want to become the best.
Featuring every single character featured in the history of Smash and then a tonne of assist trophies, it’s basically unrivalled in terms of things to experience, but it also has the tightest and best balanced gameplay of the franchise — no more Bayonetta ruining tournaments.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is only just getting started, but you would expect it to take Melee’s crown as everyone’s favourite Smash game down the line.
Only joking, it will be 2050 and people will still die for Melee.
“What else is there to say? This is Smash in its purest, most perfect form. Everything from previous games that made it such a worldwide phenomenon is back and everyone that made the game so great is here to make it that much more fun. Keyword: fun.
It’s both a blessing and a curse for Nintendo that two veritable contenders for GOAT games came out in the same year. It’s a blessing because oh boy look at all those sales, but it’s also a curse because one doesn’t see quite as much love as the other. It’s lucky, then, that we have stupidly strict rules as Super Mario Odyssey might have missed out on another top spot to Breath of the Wild.
However, it’s ultimately apples and oranges. Breath of the Wild is a more daunting experience whereas Odyssey is a more joyous, whimsical affair that also completely enslaves you to collecting stars around its quasi-open-worlds.
Every mainline game has a unique hook, Odyssey’s being that you can inhabit almost everything in the world, whether that be a distressingly real human being, a tank, or even a dinosaur.
It’s silly and you know exactly where its story is going before the end, but make no mistake: Odyssey is further proof that you cannot underestimate gaming’s most iconic mascot.
3D Mario hasn’t been this good since the N64, and the Switch might also be Nintendo’s console since then.
“For the second time this year, Nintendo have blasted one of their flagship franchises to dizzying new heights. Totally sublime from start to finish, Super Mario Odyssey is an essential Nintendo Switch title. It’s genuinely one of the greatest games ever made and you owe it to yourself to experience it.”
Upcoming Nintendo Switch Exclusives
Pokémon Sword/Shield – Nintendo have only very briefly teased the Switch exclusive Pokémon game, but we know that is inspired by Britain and that we would die for all three starters.
Metroid Prime 4 – a slowly appearing 4 was all that was needed to hype Switch fans about the re-emergence of one of Nintendo’s flagships. Don’t hold your breath about seeing it soon, though, especially since its development has been restarted.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses – again, not much known here. What we do know, though, is that it’s the first Fire Emblem to get a home console release in a decade.
Bayonetta 3 – one of the biggest Switch exclusive coups, there’s no doubting that the platform exclusivity won’t hurt Bayonetta 3 like it did its predecessor on the Wii U.
Animal Crossing – next to nothing is known about this one, but it’s coming!
And that’s your lot. This list just goes to show that even when you take away a couple of essential re-releases, the Switch is still packed with great exclusives. Better yet: we have a list of the best Switch games that newcomers to the console have to check out.
Update 16/03/18: Super Bomberman R drops out because of its recent port to other systems.
Update 19/04/18: Kirby and his mates waddle their way in.
Update 12/01/19: Smash, Octopath, Tennis, and Let’s Go jump in. We forgot to update this for a while.