The Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2017

We look back at the very best that Nintendo’s hybrid system had to offer last year!

By Angela Marrujo. Posted 01/03/2018 20:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

The Nintendo Switch has had a wild ride since its launch in March 2017, with no signs of slowing down. In less than a year, it’s featured two major titles from both The Legend of Zelda and Mario franchises, has beat every launch sales record for any Nintendo system in the Americas in history and, as of a couple of days ago, Media Create, a Japanese company that studies the market in the entertainment industry, reported that the Switch has outsold the PlayStation 2 as the fastest selling console for first-year sales in Japan.

Now that 2017 has come to a close, we’ve taken a look back at the Switch’s already sizable library of physical and digital titles and present our selections for the best Nintendo Switch titles of the year.


BEST SWITCH GAME

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild threw series traditions out the window and trudged fearlessly into uncharted territory. Link has been defeated. A victorious Calamity Ganon has decimated Hyrule and only Zelda stands between him and Hyrule Castle, where she has sealed him to prevent his ultimate rise to power. An amnesiac Link awakens 100 years later and must travel to the locations of the Divine Beasts to restore his memories and free the trapped spirits of the Champions slain by Ganon so they can pilot them once more to aid Link in bringing about Ganon’s defeat.

Breath of the Wild replaces the temples and dungeons we’ve come to associate with Zelda gameplay with 120 shrines hidden within the landscape, which test skills from combat to puzzle solving and critical thinking. The open-world, sandbox environment is a first for the series, allowing players to explore and complete the story in a non-linear manner. Gone is Link’s trusty arsenal, replaced with weapons he must scavenge that all have limited durability. Gone, too, are his iconic green hat and tunic, replaced instead with a blue Champion’s tunic, and myriad sets of upgradeable armor.

True to the game’s title, Link is thrown into the unforgiving wilds of Hyrule and the player is left to their own devices to explore as much or as little of it as they desire. Nearly every ledge, every distant island, every mountaintop is reachable, and it’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to get there. This level of freedom is unprecedented in a Zelda title, and Eiji Aonuma said recently that he feels there’s no going back from it and that it must be present in future entries to the series. Climbing, riding horseback, gliding, shield surfing – there is no right or wrong way to traverse the landscape in Breath of the Wild, all that matters is that you reach your destination.

The lack of guidance and level of difficulty in the game hearken back to The Legend of Zelda and its less lock-and-key nature compared to the Zelda titles of the past 27 years. Bokoblins might be pushovers at the beginning but as Link grows in strength so do his enemies, and suddenly those Bokoblins aren’t such pushovers anymore. The freedom to wander aimlessly around the landscape is refreshing, but it’s easy to find yourself unprepared and face to face with a relentless pack of Lizalfos, a Wizzrobe, or worse, a Lynel, all capable of quickly turning a session of exploration into a game over screen.

Voice acting brings Breath of the Wild’s characters to life in ways previous titles have not enjoyed, and in particular gives Zelda a more central role and fleshed out identity. Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess all featured a proactive, dynamic Zelda, but in Breath of the Wild we not only hear Zelda speak for the first time, we also see her express a range of emotions and experience anguish over her own failings and shortcomings. Similarly, though Link remains voiceless, he too isn’t perfect, falling at the hands of Ganon. The Champions aren’t merely static NPCs but are supporting characters with personalities and stories of their own.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a vast departure from the territory the series has been working within for well over two decades, but isn’t a wholly alien experience. Nintendo managed to meld the Zelda franchise with an open-world, sandbox environment and create a world that is simultaneously fresh and different while also very much a Zelda game. A perfect hybrid of new and old, experimental and familiar, Breath of the Wild is nothing short of a modern masterpiece and absolutely deserves recognition as the best Switch game of 2017.


BEST SWITCH GAME RUNNERS-UP

Super Mario Odyssey

Nintendo isn’t afraid to take Mario to wild, weird, and funky places both within and far, far away from the Mushroom Kingdom, but Super Mario Odyssey might take the cake as Mario’s grandest, strangest, and most epic journey yet – perhaps one might even call it Odyssean in nature.

Nintendo’s flagship series wrote the entire 3D platformer rulebook and Mario 64 has never disappeared from industry memory (or from shortlists of the greatest game ever), but after Mario Sunshine, Mario abdicated his open world throne and moved on to newer, tighter adventures in the Galaxy games and beyond. In the years before and since, Mario has worn a lot of hats but, just in time for the collect-athon renaissance, the king has returned to reclaim his crown (and his pith helmet, and his sombrero) with Super Mario Odyssey.

Super Mario Odyssey sends the erstwhile plumber and his sentient hat on a globetrotting adventure that somehow manages to feel more expansive than his trek through the stars in Mario Galaxy, not to mention stranger than his trip through the world of dreams in Super Mario Bros. 2. The game has drawn comparisons to the Switch’s other GOTY list shoo-in, Breath of the Wild, thanks to its move to more open landscapes, its willingness to let the player wander, and especially its 900+ collectibles. Yet while Breath of the Wild is a brave new vision of what Zelda could be, Super Mario Odyssey is a refinement and revisiting of the 64/Sunshine model.

As befits a game about circling the world, Super Mario Odyssey’s aesthetics are all over the map. While that’s unusual in his post-N64 history, it’s not unprecedented for Mario. Super Mario Land flits from pyramids to Easter Island to space aliens to hopping vampires; Super Mario Land 2 juxtaposes ant infestations, a giant robot Mario, witchcraft, and outer space; and Super Mario RPG has a kleptomaniac crocodile, a talking sword, a carnivorous wedding cake, and a Final Fantasy boss. In that context, Odyssey’s pastel skeletons, sentient forks, and yellow taxis make sense. We’ve grown used to each Mario game working from a more coherent palette (piranha plants, chain chomps, question blocks, etc.), but Odyssey’s aesthetic recklessness isn’t unprecedented, just rare. New Donk City, the game’s signature kingdom, serves as the game’s thesis, juxtaposing the absurdity of semi-realistic mid-century New York with the most over the top fan service and series homage we’ve ever seen.

Super Mario Odyssey is a landmark title, a celebration of Mario’s history, and one of the greatest 3D platformers ever made.

Splatoon 2

Who knew Splatoon could manage to top itself so thoroughly with Splatoon 2? The sequel boasts countless improvements upon the original, including a variety of new weapons and stages in multiplayer mode, a more robust single-player campaign, and improved visuals. Splatoon 2 succeeds in furthering the idea of creating a shooter that moves away from the stale formula of guns and grit by replacing it with ink and irreverence. This is one of the rare sequels that trumps its predecessor and yet another reason to own a Switch.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle’s secret weapon is its approach to movement. As in most tactics games, each unit can move and act in the same turn, but Mario+Rabbids makes movement itself consequential and complicated rather than just a means to an end. You can damage enemies by dashing through them, extend your movement by jumping off allies (who can them jump off you), damage enemies by jumping on them, neutralize status effects via jumping, counter enemy movement via X-COM-style Overwatch mechanics that you can bait with other characters’ actions, and more. While the game allows only three controllable characters per map (anemic by genre standards), each player turn presents an incredible depth of possibility and opportunity as the player attempts to figure out not just which their priority targets are but in what order to move their units and how.

Mario+Rabbids is a high mobility and aggression-friendly game that makes every turn feel consequential and action-packed. Some tactics games feel like exercises in patience, turtling, and micromanaged unit positioning, but Mario+Rabbids instead focuses on unit interaction and an ability to improvise. That the Mario aesthetics complement the mechanics so well is the cherry on top. It’s one of the best tactics game to grace a Nintendo console since the heyday of Advance Wars, and a genre landmark.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 perfected everything that is wonderful about Mario Kart. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at, has a fantastic soundtrack and, for the first time, introduces characters and locations from Nintendo franchises other than Mario and Donkey Kong into the mix. Isabelle and Link join the competition via some beefy DLC packs (another franchise first), bringing with them tracks based in an Animal Crossing village and Hyrule, along with courses straight out of F-Zero.

Classic tracks are reimagined with anti-grav incorporated on certain parts of the course, breathing new life into roads we’ve raced on before and causing players to approach them using different, updated strategies. New tracks are inventive and, in many cases, impressive: race down the face of a waterfall in Shy Guy Falls, speed through an airport and find yourself airborne and coming head on with a jumbo jet in Sunshine Airport, be part of a Shy Guy/Koopa Troopa/Goomba/Piranha Plant dance party in the Electrodome, or channel some serious James Bond vibes as you fall out of a helicopter and zoom down a treacherous, snowy mountainside on Mount Wario.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe conveniently compiles the game and both DLC packs into one package onto the Switch, bringing what is arguably the best Mario Kart game from last gen to current gen. A solid (but not perfect) online experience makes going head-to-head with other racers around the world easy to execute and pretty hard to put down once you’re a couple of races in. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-have in your Switch library and a shining addition to the series.

Doom

Opening portals to Hell probably isn’t a good move, which quickly becomes apparent in Doom. Now it’s up to you to rip and tear through hordes of demonic beasts but, on the Switch, you can do it with the flourish of motion controls for a little added immersion while performing glory kills. Perfect for quick pick-up-and-play sessions, Doom’s fast-paced combat and levels that move at a quick clip work well with the Switch’s portable console design.

Doom fills the horror and mature shooter void on the Switch. That they were able to get the game running so well on the console, both in docked and un-docked modes, is a real testament to the care that went into this port. It’s as riveting now as when it released previously and a game that shooter fans would do well to not ignore.


What’s your take?

That’s it for our list of the best Switch games of 2017! Stay tuned for more later this week as we count down more of the best games of 2017!

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