Hello gentle readers, and welcome to another special edition of SwitchArcade. While I normally save this sort of thing for the last day or two of the year, I figured you might like to have something to read during the Christmas holiday. This was a really difficult list to put together, as is usually the case with this sort of thing. Only ten games? Sure, a lot of the games that hit the Switch this year were of… dubious quality, to say the least, but there were oodles of awesome games as well. If you don’t see your favorite game on this list, know that it was probably cut at great pains as I tried to get the list of titles down to a manageable number. Feel free to comment with your list below. Now, let’s get down to business.
10. Dragon Quest XI S – Definitive Edition
Yeah, you know this list was a rough ride when Shaun puts a Dragon Quest game at the number ten spot. This is the best version of Dragon Quest XI so far, which means it’s an essential play for any JRPG fan. It has all the stuff you’d want in a game like this. Epic battles! Heart-wrenching drama! A huge world to explore! So much story-critical post-game content that you can’t really call it post-game content at all! And you can take it with you anywhere you go. This version also gives people who don’t understand Japanese their first crack at the nostalgic 2D version of the game. Simply a wonderful adventure that will keep you absorbed for dozens of hours.
Nintendo and Microsoft have been curiously buddy-buddy of late, and Switch owners have benefited greatly from this spirit of cooperation. One of the fruits of that relationship is Studio MDHR being able to bring its tough-as-nails run-and-gun game Cuphead to the Switch. It’s a great port, and the cartoon visuals pop just as well here as they did on other platforms. Some people would suggest that the game is too difficult, that even its easy mode gates players away from experiencing all of the content, and I can see that point of view. But as tough as the game is, it’s very much focused on learning each boss’s relatively small number of patterns and acting on them. If you’re stubborn, you can probably push your way through any of its challenges sooner or later. And friends, there’s no one more stubborn than me.
8. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition
Sometimes an idea is so outlandish that you have to discard it as a pure flight of fantasy. That’s how I felt about the constant rumors of The Witcher 3 coming to the Switch. Surely there was no way to bring that game to hardware as, er, humble as our favorite little hybrid without completely compromising it? Well, Saber Interactive proved me wrong and then some with this impressive port of the game. Don’t get me wrong: you’ll never confuse this for any of the other versions of the game. But it’s content-complete, looks good compared to other Switch games, and plays perfectly. The game itself is often put near the top of many players’ lists of the best RPGs in recent memory. Being able to take an epic game like this on the go is one of the things I love best about the Switch.
7. Baba is You
Baba is You is one of the best puzzle games I’ve ever played. It gives you a clear goal in each stage, a limited number of tools to reach it, and leaves the rest to you. The developer obviously has a solution in mind, and in some of the levels it may well be the only one. But it lets you color outside of the lines just often enough that the experience on the whole feels amazingly open-ended. Every solution that works feels like it was an idea you and you alone came up with. That’s obviously an illusion, but puzzle games that shake out that way are truly special. An amazingly clever idea with the gameplay to back it, Baba is You is magical.
6. Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker was an experience so thoroughly wedded to the Wii U console and its software that any port or continuation of the idea was likely going to lose something. And indeed, Super Mario Maker 2 is missing some of the things that made Super Mario Maker such a wonderful experience. But it more than makes up for those lost elements with tons of new tools and options for budding level designers to create their masterpieces with. For those not interested in making their own levels, Super Mario Maker 2 provides a constant stream of new content in the form of player-created challenges. It makes for a lovely, if often chaotic, counterpart to the more orthodox New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.
5. Ori and the Blind Forest
Yes, one of the best Nintendo Switch games of 2019 was published by Microsoft. This is one of those weird things that can happen in today’s world. Anyway, the Switch and Metroidvania games go together like peanut butter and jam, so it’s no surprise that one of the finest examples of the genre in recent years would take to the platform so well. It’s atmospheric, controls like a dream, is just challenging enough without going over the top, and has an excellent pace to it. Sure, it came out a few years ago on other platforms, but it’s still just as special now as it was then. Don’t miss it.
4. Astral Chain
When Platinum Games settles in and puts together an original action game, it’s always a good idea to pay attention. As with most of the other efforts from this developer, Astral Chain is a rip-roaring good time. The fighting mechanics are super-fun, the puzzles provide a nice break from the action, and the story is just so over-the-top bananas that you can’t help but get pulled in. Some of the set pieces in this game will make your jaw drop, and it never stops finding interesting new situations to throw at you. It’s basically Sci-Fi Police Anime the Video Game, and if that doesn’t catch your attention then I know someone who isn’t invited to my New Year’s party.
3. SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions
Imagine Square Enix dropping an enhanced port of a Japan-only Vita game from a few years back on the Switch eShop at a budget price in December with almost no fanfare, and it turning out to be not just one of my favorite games of the year, but one of my favorite RPGs of the decade. This is the RPG for people who love RPGs. The battle system is incredible, and I don’t think I’d get tired of it even if the game were ten times as long as it is. While there aren’t any dungeons to explore and you won’t be going street-level in any towns, the game’s world feels alive and rich with possibilities. There’s so much side content and so many interesting events to uncover that you’ll be finding new things even after you’ve beaten the game. I can’t believe there’s a SaGa game that I can recommend without any qualifiers whatsoever, but here you go.
2. Tetris 99
Perhaps even less likely a candidate for this list, however, is a free multiplayer version of Tetris that Nintendo tossed out as a value-add for its online subscription service. Multiplayer online Tetris isn’t anything new, but having 100 players and an interesting attack system helped the game immediately stand out at launch. The many excellent additions and updates that Nintendo has delivered for the game have only made it shine brighter. It’s hard to mess up Tetris, to be sure. But it’s equally hard to make a Tetris game stand out, and Tetris 99 pulls that particular trick off with style.
1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Once a series on the brink of cancellation, Fire Emblem found a much-needed second wind with the 2012 3DS title Fire Emblem: Awakening. Its sequel, Fire Emblem: Fates, sold even better. Fire Emblem Heroes has far and away been Nintendo’s greatest mobile success. Frankly, if developer Intelligent Systems had decided to stay the course on this installment, no one would have blamed them. But rather than playing it safe, Fire Emblem‘s creators teamed up with Koei Tecmo to reinvent what the series could be. It features the same great turn-based strategy gameplay that the series was built on, but greatly expands on it with more RPG elements and a far better storyline than we’ve seen in this series lately. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s still a great achievement for a series that has seen its share of ups and downs.
But hey, that’s just my list. What do you all think? I’d love to see your personal top ten lists, so please do comment below with your favorite Switch games of 2019 when you have the time. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you soon in the next SwitchArcade Round-Up. As always, thanks for reading!