Hello gentle readers, and welcome to a special edition of the SwitchArcade. Our list of the best Switch games of the year 2019 is coming, but I wanted to have another list to go with it. After a lot of consideration, I remembered something: Nintendo has genre categories on the eShop! Game publishers and developers can pick categories that their game fits in, and sometimes those categories don’t make a lot of sense. So wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to go through and pick what I think are the best Switch games of 2019 in each category? I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You may find some of these odd. So did I! But I can’t help how the makers of these games chose to categorize them. Roll that beautiful bean footage!
Education Game of the Year 2019
Winner: FUZE4 Nintendo Switch ($39.99)
Friends, this category is mega-weird. Like, Picross games are in here? I don’t feel like those are especially educational, but you do you, publishers. One thing I found in here that definitely qualifies, however, is FUZE4 Nintendo Switch. Learn to make your own games even if you can’t code. Make them in 2D or 3D. Take advantage of the Switch’s features, and enjoy full support in both docked and undocked modes. You can plug in a USB keyboard, and I would honestly recommend that. Now, look. This isn’t as simple as building a level in Super Mario Maker 2 or anything, but if you know someone who is patient and genuinely wants to learn how to make games of their own, this would make an excellent gift or recommendation.
Fitness Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Ring Fit Adventure ($79.99)
Runner-Up: Zumba Burn It Up! ($39.99)
Wii Fit was a decent bit of exercise that helped some people lose weight and maintain fitness with relaxing workouts. A gentle yoga instructor, calmly teaching you stretches and poses. Ring Fit Adventure is like a mean coach from a weight loss camp. You will be in pain after playing this game if you’re even a bit out of shape. But you know, it works well and the RPG elements are a clever bit of gamification that helps people push through that pain. Also, if you have an extra copy of this in Japan you can sell it to make some money for the holidays. Anyway, kudos to Nintendo for finding a fun way to do something that often isn’t.
Indie Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Cuphead ($19.99)
Runner-Up: Untitled Goose Game ($19.99)
So this category is another weird one. First of all, is ‘Indie’ really a genre? According to Nintendo, I guess it is! But also, many prominent indie game developers do not have their games in this category. This actually kind of helped, as I didn’t have to make certain tough choices. At any rate, the winner here is Cuphead. This is an excellent port of a wonderful game, and playing it in handheld mode wherever the heck I go feels really good. No, it didn’t originate on the Switch, but I think you could make a reasonable case for it being the best place to play it if you really wanted to. It’s tough as nails, but gosh it feels good when you finally take down a boss or level that was giving you grief. As long as you don’t mind a challenge, you should definitely pick this up.
Music Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Cadence of Hyrule ($24.99)
Runner-Up: Cytus Alpha ($49.99)
The Switch got a lot of really good music games this year, but the best one is the one that no one saw coming: Cadence of Hyrule. A mash-up of Crypt of the NecroDancer and The Legend of Zelda is the peanut-butter-and-chocolate combination I never knew I wanted, but the two concepts go together so well you’d think they were made for this union. The recent free update that adds on a bunch more content helped seal this deal, as my main gripe with the game before was that it was just a little too short. Simply excellent, and I look forward to whatever future indie collaborations Nintendo has lined up.
Racing Game of the Year 2019
Winner: GRID Autosport ($34.99)
Runner-Up: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled ($39.99)
There have been a lot of racing games released on the Switch, but when it comes to realistic racers most of them have been pretty poor. GRID Autosport smashed through that wall with glee, giving Switch owners the gorgeous, full-on racing simulation they’ve been craving. Feral Interactive did an outstanding job of porting this game to the platform, bringing all the joys of the Codemasters original without the usual heavy sacrifices such efforts tend to entail. The only real negative point was the lack of multiplayer, and the latest update has added in some local multiplayer options with an online mode apparently coming next year. Great!
Sports Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ($59.99)
Runner-Up: Football Manager Touch 2020 ($39.99)
Another odd category for the Switch, one that certainly isn’t helped by the lackluster efforts of the two biggest names in sports video games. And so it is that I have chosen a SEGA game about cartoon mascots as the finest sports game of this year on the platform. It’s a good time, particularly in multiplayer, and the nostalgic retro events are a cute hook for a series that’s a bit long in the tooth. You get plenty of events to play, and I love the cornball dialogue in the story mode. Bowser Koopa for life, friends.
Party Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Invisigun Reloaded ($19.99)
Runner-Up: Treasure Stack ($19.99)
This was a very strange category, as many of the games I expected to find here were not here. But hey, Invisigun Reloaded is a perfectly award-worthy game, so no harm done. This game feels a lot like Bomberman, but with more stealth and confusion involved. Gather up your friends and experience it the way you really should. The trick here is that every character is invisible, and you can only see where anyone (including yourself) is by their shots. You need to think very carefully about where you are, where your opponents might be, and consider whether or not you’re willing to reveal yourself to get at them. A robust single-player mode gives you something to do if your friends can’t come around, but true to this category, Invisigun Reloaded makes for a great party game.
Puzzle Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Baba is You ($15.00)
Runner-Up: Tetris 99 (Free)
This was a really tough call. Tetris 99 is fantastic. It gives a great twist to one of gaming’s most familiar concepts. But in the end, I have to go with Baba is You in this category. It’s one of the cleverest games I’ve played in a long time. Indeed, I suspect it’s cleverer than I am at times. It’s a variation on a Sokoban puzzler, which is about as old as the hills as far as video games are concerned, and yet in my four decades on this planet I’ve never played anything quite like it.
RPG of the Year 2019
Winner: Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition ($49.99)
Runner-Up: SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions ($29.99)
This was another really hard decision. Switch owners saw so many excellent RPGs come to the system this year. While I think I personally would give the slight edge to SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions, I feel like Divinity: Original Sin 2 is almost as good and probably a better general recommendation. It’s a big chunky CRPG that has somehow been made to work on a console, and being able to take it with you anywhere is simply… divine. And unlike many of the other CRPGs that hit the Switch this year, there aren’t any major game-stopping bugs in this port.
Simulation Game of the Year 2019
Winner: VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action ($14.99)
Runner-Up: Star Wars Pinball ($29.99)
What a bizarre category. Well, no mind. Whatever bucket you want to put VA-11 Hall-A in as far as genres go, it certainly deserves to be in the “buy this game" bucket. You play as a bartender in a bar with some highly unusual patrons. Serve the right drinks and you might loosen their lips enough to catch some very interesting tales indeed. The visuals, which evoke classic Japanese PC adventure games, are highly appealing and the writing is right on point. As for its designation as a simulation game? Well, it is kind of a bartending simulator. That works for me!
Strategy Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Slay the Spire ($24.99)
Runner-Up: Tangledeep ($19.99)
This is another genre that had stiff competition on the Switch this year. Something about this machine makes it perfect for tucking into some serious head-scratchers, and Slay the Spire is a great one of those. A little bit of a card game, a little bit of an RPG, and a little bit of a roguelite, Slay the Spire will have you coming back again and again with its compelling risk/reward gameplay and stylish presentation. Truly an excellent game, and while this Switch port had a few rough edges at release, it’s been hammered into shape nicely.
Action Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Astral Chain ($59.99)
Runner-Up: The Ninja Saviors ($19.99)
It’s not as though Platinum can do no wrong, but even at their worst they’re better than most. Astral Chain may not be up there with the likes of Vanquish and Bayonetta, but it’s definitely an awesome action game that stands tall among Nintendo’s releases this year. You play as a super-powered police officer who keeps a monstrous force called a Legion on a chain. Investigate crimes, battle enemies, and solve puzzles in this rollicking adventure packed full of awesome set pieces and rock-solid action chops. If you slept on Astral Chain, it’s not too late to dive in and enjoy one of 2019’s best Switch exclusives.
Adventure Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Fire Emblem: Three Houses ($59.99)
Runner-Up: Return of the Obra Dinn ($19.99)
This is pretty much the perfect example of a messy category. I could fit Fire Emblem into many different boxes. Strategy. RPG. Simulation, even. But the only genre Nintendo grouped it into is the adventure category. As we can’t very well let Fire Emblem: Three Houses get away without an award, I’m forced to give it this one. I suppose I can acknowledge that there are some vaguely adventure game-like qualities in some of the choices, side quests, and events. But really, what this game does well is to take the tried-and-true Fire Emblem strategic turn-based gameplay and expand it out into a more RPG-like format. Little wonder that the game seems to have found a lot of fans outside of Fire Emblem‘s usual circles.
Arcade Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Heave Ho ($9.99)
Runner-Up: Sayonara Wild Hearts ($12.99)
Another senselessly broad category, but this allows me to indulge one of my favorite multiplayer games of this year. Heave Ho challenges you and up to three of your friends or family members to make it to the goal in each level. The problem is that your character has no legs and has to use its arms to pull, push, and fling its way to wherever it needs to go. The controls really help sell this idea, allowing you to grip with each hand by pressing the left or right trigger. It’s amusing in single-player, but in multiplayer mode the sheer havoc of trying to get everyone to the goal as they tangle up with each other is a riot. Bust this one out over the holidays with your family; you won’t regret it.
Fighting Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Mortal Kombat 11 ($59.99)
Runner-Up: Fantasy Strike ($29.99)
Something of a “fish in a barrel" situation in this genre. There were plenty of fighting games released on the Switch this year, and some of them were quite good. But none of them were able to match up to the unique combination of fun and bombastic production values that Mortal Kombat 11 offers. The Switch port prioritizes a smooth framerate over visual quality, and while that doesn’t do it a lot of favors in screenshots, the gameplay benefits greatly. Absolutely stuffed with content with more available for those who want to buy it, Mortal Kombat 11 is the rare bird of a fighting game that is enjoyable both in single-player and multiplayer. It sure doesn’t hurt that the game goes on sale for half-price on a fairly regular basis.
Shooter of the Year 2019
Winner: Blazing Chrome ($16.99)
Runner-Up: Assault Android Cactus+ ($19.99)
Taking all varieties into account, shooters make up a rather healthy chunk of Switch releases, particularly on the eShop. Switch owners clearly like shooting things. So what better time for Konami to bring back its classic run-and-gun series, Contra, with a fresh new installment? Oh, they did? And it was completely awful? Well, that’s a sad feeling. If only an indie developer made an homage to Contra that nailed every last aspect of what made the 16-bit entries so freaking awesome. Ah, that’s right, one did. And the name of that game is Blazing Chrome. If you have even a tiny spark of love in your heart for Contra, you have to own Blazing Chrome. That’s all there is to it.
Board Game of the Year 2019
Winner: Warhammer Quest ($29.99)
Runner-Up: Catan ($19.99)
An absolute hodge-podge, that’s what this category is. I tried to keep things in the spirit of the rather specific genre label and stuck to things that at least slightly resemble board games. While there are lots of conversions of great real board games from Asmodee and the like, I think my favorite is the Switch version of Warhammer Quest from Chilled Mouse and Rodeo Games. This was a ton of fun on mobile, and it’s just as good here. The sequel is also available, but while it has a clear visual edge on its predecessor, I like the first game and its wealth of content just a bit more.
FPS Game of the Year 2019
Winner: SUPERHOT ($24.99)
Runner-Up: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger ($19.99)
To say the least, this isn’t one of the Switch’s strong points. But there were a few solid ports to the system this year, if nothing else. My personal favorite was SUPERHOT, a rather creative approach to the genre that gives you (almost) all the time in the world to plan just how you’re going to take down every enemy, dodge every bullet, and come out of some truly wild scenarios with your hide intact. It’s a bit short, but other than that I have trouble finding anything bad to say about it.
Platformer of the Year 2019
Winner: Super Mario Maker 2 ($59.99)
Runner-Up: New Super Lucky’s Tale ($39.99)
Since platformers are basically Nintendo’s bread and butter, there’s always something good to pick up each year in this genre on any Nintendo system. And while I can’t say that I have zero complaints with it, Super Mario Maker 2 is the best of the bunch from the Big N in 2019. It expands nicely on what the first game offered, giving players more tools to create interesting levels. And if you’re like me and don’t really have much time to build levels, it’s still a near-limitless source of new 2D Mario goodness. It’s the kind of game I wish I’d had as a kid. The recent update’s addition of Legend of Zelda elements give it even more value.
That was a fun exercise. Also: frustrating! I can’t make sense of some of these categories and which games are placed where. But it let me talk about a bunch of a good games, so all’s well that ends well. If nothing else, I hope it whets your appetite for our Best Switch Games of 2019 feature. Many of the games on my top ten list for the year can be found in these genre awards, but not all! Check back tomorrow to see how all those chips fall. Thanks for reading!