Friday, December 18, 2020

Top Ten First-Party Nintendo Switch Exclusives

Let's cap off the work week right with a brand-new top ten list on SPC. This time around we're going to be taking a look at the best first-party exclusives on the Nintendo Switch so far. There's one caveat of sorts, and that's that each game has to only be able to be played on the Nintendo Switch, so games that have Wii U versions, even enhanced ones like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, are excluded from this list. However, remakes of older titles from previous systems are allowed. So, let's get to counting down the best of Nintendo's Switch lineup, offering a copious amount of variety in genres, franchises, and styles!

10) Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield

The countdown begins with a familiar favorite, the ever-popular monster-catching and battling series of Pokémon with the dual versions of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Adventuring in the Galar region sees prospective Pokémon trainers journeying through plenty of expansive and beautiful pastures, including the all-new Wild Area, as well as the huge cities and other sections of the game. Gigantamax battles and the combat against gym leaders made for impressive encounters, too. What makes Pokémon Sword and Shield even more worthwhile is the addition of downloadable content in the form of two new areas in Galar: The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, bringing with it new Pokémon to catch and new challenges to tackle. It makes a game that was already rather content-rich into an even richer game.

9) Paper Mario: The Origami King

Releasing over the summer, and after bouncing off the previous entry, Paper Mario: Color Splash, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the latest in the Paper Mario series, Paper Mario: The Origami King. Not only is the game full of charm, lovely and cleverly designed areas to explore for all sorts of collectibles, and filled with a well done script featuring an abundance of humor, but the battle system this time around was something I actually liked. It was worthwhile in the sense that all battles were essentially puzzles to solve, awarding coins to be used to purchase myriad goods outside of simply more items for battle. Paper Mario: The Origami King stands as one of my favorite Switch games released this year, and one that I will no doubt come back to in the not-so-distant future.

8) Splatoon 2

It's time to get funky and fresh with the Inklings from the Splatoon series with the inked up sequel to the Wii U's breakout hit. Splatoon 2 features a brand-new campaign, serving as not just a collection of well executed obstacle course levels to shoot, splat, and paint one's way through, but also to serve as a primer and tutorial for hopping online in the 4v4 competitive modes. No doubt the latter is the main draw, offering a pleasant smattering (or is it "splattering"?) of maps to learn, tactics to master, and a wide assortment of weapons to become acquainted with. I'm not usually one for competitive shooters, as I find the genre to be a bit overdone, but Splatoon and its amazing Switch sequel bring an exuberant amount of freshness, originality and uniqueness to a somewhat tired genre.

7) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Last year, players got the wonderful opportunity to return to Koholint Island, playing one of the most cherished entries in The Legend of Zelda series. It was almost like a dream come true! (Wink, wink!) The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening sees the remake of a Game Boy classic with everything modeled like a collection of toys set in a diorama. The adventure is as fantastic, if not better than ever before thanks to a multitude of quality of life upgrades, most notably having additional buttons to assign items to. Players can even design their own dungeons using pieces of completed in-game dungeons, and while the level of freedom certainly holds no candle to the Super Mario Maker series, it is enjoyable enough. This is especially so if you try to complete Dampe's construction challenges, which serve as puzzles in how you to have to select the correct rooms and place them properly to satisfy each design condition. Overall, it was a tremendous privilege to be able to revisit Koholint Island and Link's Awakening.

6) Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Three houses, three unique stories, and an astounding amount of maps, strategies, characters, and weapons to employ all make this next game on this list an insanely enjoyable strategy RPG. Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers a surprisingly dark at times story to digest with characters that are hardly one-dimensional, giving great performances and possessing a great deal of depth. Battles are as incredible as ever, continuing the Fire Emblem franchise's rock-paper-scissors-esque strengths and weaknesses system, and presenting a sizable variety of combat scenarios to engage in. Between battles, scampering around Garreg Mach Monastery sees players interact with their students, teach classes, participate in mock battles, purchase weapons and other goods, and enjoy one-on-one events with characters. Fire Emblem: Three Houses leaped to the top of the list of my favorite Fire Emblem games, and with all of the aforementioned factors, it's no wonder why. 

5) Luigi's Mansion 3

Speaking of entries that jumped to the top of my list, Luigi's Mansion 3 delights with Luigi's journey through the Last Resort hotel. Filled with ghosts and specters of all villainous varieties, the Last Resort is by no means a friendly place, but Luigi and his patented, trusty and literally dusty Poltergust G-00 are there to vanquish all that goes bump in the night. Between the masterful puzzles, some of which spread across multiple rooms for some particularly tricky brain teasers, the showdowns against boss ghosts, the different themed floors of the hotel, and the absolutely jaw-dropping visuals on display, Luigi's Mansion 3 offers a lot to love. That's not even going into the co-operative goodness that is the Scarescraper, allowing up to four players to search rooms of a given floor for a means of escape. It's quite the fright..eningly good time! All of this makes Luigi's Mansion 3 a scary good entry in the series and one of the Nintendo Switch's top exclusives first-party-wise. 

4) Super Mario Maker 2

The next two first-party exclusives are ones that I have dedicated the most time to on the Nintendo Switch. With Super Mario Maker 2, everything from the story mode that shows players possible design ideas to implement into their own levels, to jumping online and playing other creators' levels, to designing my own creations and making a Super World--essentially my own Mario game--out of them, I spent an exceptionally lengthy amount of time with Nintendo's Mario level creation suite. Then, there is the multiplayer, where one can leap online and either compete or play with other players co-operatively. The online at first was quite a mess with plenty of lag, but as of now, things have tidied up considerably, making for a much more enjoyable experience. A game where you can create your own levels is only as good as its creators, and fortunately, the pickings of excellent levels certainly aren't slim in Super Mario Maker 2. Yes, there's definitely a lot of poorly made and ill-conceived levels online, but take a shovel with you and you'll eventually find some gold.

3) Animal Crossing: New Horizons

There is no game that was better for a quarantine and pandemic than Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The ability to "visit" people--albeit in virtual form brought countless people and players around the world together in ways that just wasn't responsible or possible face-to-face due to the pandemic. Plus, New Horizons just offers so much with its monthly events, endless amount of tasks to do and accomplish, islanders to talk to and become friends with, and a multitude of furniture and various odds and ends to decorate one's home and island with. The addition of new updates allows more and more reasons to keep returning to players' islands, and I know for certain that this particular player has been doing just that. What is usually a three month game for me with past Animal Crossing games has turned into a yearlong ambition, and that's mostly because this specific Animal Crossing has so much that I love about it.

2) Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

A game that keeps on giving in the form of new characters, stages, and updates (though the latter is the only thing that is gratis; the others require paid DLC) is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I don't know if there is a more fitting name for this Super Smash Bros. either than Ultimate, as throwing in every playable fighter ever featured in a Smash Bros. game, tossing in the majority of stages from every past Smash Bros. game, and chucking in an abundance of new modes and features for good measure makes a very compelling argument. There is just SO much content packed inside Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the actual fighting mechanics are my favorite in a Smash Bros. game. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is an absolutely amazing and stellar love letter to gaming, an excellent fighter in its own right, and one of my favorite Nintendo Switch first-party exclusives.

1) Super Mario Odyssey

However, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is not my absolute favorite. That title goes to none other than Super Mario Odyssey, Mario's biggest and boldest 3D platforming outing. The amount of freedom that players have to reach destinations throughout the expansive kingdoms featured in Odyssey is something to truly behold. The additions to Mario's move set thanks to Cappy, his throwable hat, makes his repertoire of moves his grandest and most ambitious yet. Never has Mario controlled so exquisitely, feeling so tight, enabling such mobility. Plus, the expansive kingdoms that Mario gets to explore is something to cherish, too, delivering impressive platforming challenges, myriad enemies and objects to capture, sights to see and take in, and wonders behind every corner. The Power Moons are fun to find, as well, giving players motivation and rewarding curiosity every step of the way. Super Mario Odyssey is a fantastic title, and one that I routinely return to since it just plays so well, feels so good, and makes me so happy when I'm in the act of playing it.

Honorable Mentions:

ARMS, Ring Fit Adventure, Yoshi's Crafted World, Pokemon Let's Go, Pikachu! / Let's Go, Eevee!

Which Nintendo Switch first-party exclusives are your favorites? Drop a comment below to let the SPC community know!

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