Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Top Ten Nintendo Switch Games of the System's Fourth Year

On March 3rd, 2021, the Nintendo Switch officially celebrated another anniversary. Since its debut four years ago, the little hybrid that could has managed to surpass expectations as well as collect quite the arsenal of engaging games. As is customary on SPC each Switch anniversary: 1) I'm late to the party, and 2) SPC is counting down the best games that released during the system's fourth year on the market. It was an understandably slower year for the Switch, for sure, but overall, there was still some quality software released during this period from March 3rd, 2020 to the Switch's latest anniversary. After you've checked out the picks here, share your thoughts on what Switch games reign supreme during the system's fourth year.

10) Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX

We start this countdown of the best games released during the Nintendo Switch's fourth year on the market with a type of game that will be seen multiple times throughout this list. No, I don't mean the roguelite. I'm talking about the remake. 2020 was no doubt a slower year for the Nintendo Switch than normal, but even still, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX brought back the dungeon-crawling delightfulness of the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance adventures and added plenty of new features (and new Pokémon) to make for an enjoyable and engaging remake. Between delving into the countless multi-floor dungeons of the game, battling Pokémon, recruiting Pokémon to join your cause, and following along with the entertaining if not somewhat simple story of the game, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX gave dungeon-crawling and Pokémon fans alike lots to love throughout its expansive adventure.

9) Trials of Mana

This next game is also a remake, though of one of a game that originally was not released outside of Japan. It wouldn't be until the Nintendo Switch's Collection of Mana that the third entry in the Mana franchise, Trials of Mana, would be properly localized. Soon after that Super Famicom game finally saw the light of day in the West, a brand-new, full-fledged remake of Trials of Mana launched on the Nintendo Switch. A fantastic game with a fully realized 3D world, satisfying combat, and glorious new visuals, Trials of Mana offered a delightful adventure boasting replay value and longevity by allowing players to select between one of six playable party members with three able to be chosen in one playthrough. Aside from some questionable voice acting in the English release, Trials of Mana served as not only one of the better JRPGs released on the Nintendo Switch in its fourth year, but just one of the better JRPGs released on any platform in 2020.

8) Pikmin 3 Deluxe

A franchise from the mind of famed game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Pikmin saw its third outing originally releasing on the Wii U. Like so many games from that failed system, Pikmin 3 made the jump to the Nintendo Switch. Not just that, but it crammed as much content as possible to more than make its Deluxe branding worthwhile. Between the original adventure (featuring full co-operative play this time around), new quality of life improvements, additional missions in Mission Mode, multiplayer offerings, all DLC from the Wii U game included, and all-new Captain Olimar-centric content, Pikmin 3 became an even more enticing, even more excellent game with its Deluxe incarnation. Whether you have a green thumb or adore the mix of real-time strategy and adventuring elements the series boasts and is known for, Pikmin 3 Deluxe offers an abundance of rewarding content making it more than worth checking out--even if you've already enjoyed the vanilla version of the title on the Wii U.

7) Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

An interesting take on both the Musou formula and the events leading up to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (well, sort of for the latter), Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity brought with it epic battles, large scale maps, and tons of variety and replay value in its lengthy and enjoyable missions. Each playable warrior in Age of Calamity boasts a unique and distinct move set, with some requiring some practice to master, but once accomplished, players will tear through enemy forces with ease. There is so much to love and admire about Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, whether that be its implementation of many of Breath of the Wild's mechanics (such as using the Sheikah Slate in battle, completing missions around the game's map, gathering materials, etc.) or its stellar combat and aforementioned varied roster of characters. While Age of Calamity skimps on the more strategic aspects of the Dynasty Warriors formula, opting more on combat, it still serves as an excellent and rewarding Musou game, not to be missed by fans of the genre or Zelda fanatics alike.

6) Paper Mario: The Origami King

It was with great trepidation that I picked up Paper Mario: The Origami King. The previous two games in the series, while I ultimately ended up enjoying bits and pieces of, were not necessarily the best experiences overall. With The Origami King, I found myself absolutely loving almost everything about the game. Between the rewarding exploration of the game's colorful and vibrant environments--searching for treasures and collectables alike--enjoying the sensational dialogue and humor the game delivered, and even liking the battle system, though this was occasionally a bit tedious at times to engage with, Paper Mario: The Origami King crafted an exceptional adventure that filled me with joy, brought me loads of laughs, and even gave me a touching moment or two as well. It's a clever, immensely charming, (mostly) well executed game.

5) Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Those in the Xbox ecosystem enjoyed Ori's latest adventure earlier last year, almost exactly one year ago. It wouldn't be until summer that Ori and the Will of the Wisps would surprisingly find its way to the Nintendo Switch. While the game didn't reach the same visual highs as its Xbox sibling, Ori and the Will of the Wisps still managed to not just run well on the Switch hardware but look absolutely stunning, too! Adding new unlockable moves to Ori's repertoire of actions, including side quests to enjoyably pump up the play time, as well as throwing in some fun speed challenges as well, Ori's second outing was an improvement over its already stupendous first. It's a Metroidvania that shouldn't be missed by any fan of a highly competent, well developed and masterfully designed platformer. 

4) Bravely Default II

Just coming in at the tail end of the Nintendo Switch's fourth year, Square Enix brought its exceptional Bravely Default series from the Nintendo 3DS to Nintendo's hybrid wonder and did so with great gusto and style. Offering complex and challenging combat in battles, a robust job system courtesy of the game's Asterisks, and an overall well polished experience, Bravely Default II delights in almost every way imaginable. The game also saw the return of beloved prog rock performer and composer Revo to the game's soundtrack, further heightening the audio and presentation experience. For me, and no doubt others, Bravely Default is classic Final Fantasy-style gameplay in modern clothing. It's the type of satisfying RPG that works well in both docked and portable play, allowing players like myself to absolutely lose themselves in, either engrossed in the world and characters or engaged with the many gameplay systems (or in my case, that darn addicting B 'n D card game) Bravely Default II possesses.

3) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

The latest Wii U game from Nintendo to see a Nintendo Switch port, Super Mario 3D World makes for yet another wonderful 3D Mario platformer, though this one modeled similarly to the 2D games in how players move from the start of the level to the goal in a linear obstacle course. The 3D world portion of the game features faster movement and additional moves such as a midair roll, opening the game to new strategies and capabilities. The inclusion of well functioning online play further enhances an already appealing package. However, more so is the addition of a brand-new adventure set in an open-world playground using 3D World's movement, items, and abilities: Bowser's Fury. This exceptionally designed and crafted game serves not only as a great bonus to the Super Mario 3D World package, but also might give us a glimpse at Nintendo's future plans for the series. Either way, with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury, Nintendo Switch owners received a combination of both the familiar and fresh in one excellent, excellent package. 

2) Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

If you were an RPG fan and had a Nintendo Switch, you were eating well with the system's fourth year. My pick for the absolute best of the role-playing game bunch is without question Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, a well playing, engrossing relic of the Wii era made even more engrossing and magnificent on the Nintendo Switch. Players received more than the original Wii game in glorious high definition and updated textures, environments and character models with a remixed soundtrack, they also received myriad quality of life and gameplay improvements to make an already enjoyable game more enjoyable. Not one to leave it at that, developer Monolith Soft included a brand-new epilogue in a previously cut area of the game, featuring a lovely, expansive new area to explore, new characters to play as and meet, new enemies and bosses to face, new quests to complete, new--well, you get my point. Xenoblade Chronicles was already a stellar RPG, which in my opinion released on a platform that didn't do the game much justice. Now on the Nintendo Switch, the game has been given the proper TLC and right hardware to make an awesome adventure and terrific game even better.

1) Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Though completely unintended by Nintendo, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was a great game that launched at the right time. It's no secret or original observation that New Horizons was just what most players needed to escape the nastiness that was the year 2020 and the pandemic that we currently find ourselves still facing as people. However, even removing that from the equation, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just a fantastic game in general. It's awesome to build up your own island--your virtual home-- decorating it to your own liking, throwing everything into it, and imbuing it with your own personality and style, as you start out with a squalid isle and eventually turn it into your own virtual paradise. Even with features from past games not yet being included in New Horizons and small, niggling grievances that I have with the game, the latest Animal Crossing is one I've spent the most time with, enjoyed the most, and have the fondest experiences with. Perhaps some of that is tied to how it helped me cope with a disastrous, hellish year, but even still, Animal Crossing: New Horizons makes a strong case for not just the greatest game released in the Nintendo Switch's fourth year, but also one of the best games on the system in general.

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