Happy birthday to the Nintendo Switch!
First released on March 3, 2017, the Nintendo Switch has made a huge splash in the gaming market. Bringing some much-needed momentum back to Nintendo after the Wii U flopped, the simple “portable-console hybrid” concept has resonated soundly with the gaming public. As of February, the Switch has over 32.27 million lifetime sales, which means that it has already overtaken the lifetime sales of the Wii U and Gamecube, and is on track to outpace the Nintendo 64’s lifetime sales soon.
From the massive success of the Wii to the floundering of the Wii U, Nintendo has clearly learned a lot from the past 15 years. While the Switch isn’t perfect, Nintendo is having its biggest hot streak in over a decade, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. Here, we’ll look at the Nintendo Switch’s biggest improvements, innovations, and missteps.
A brief history of the Nintendo Switch
One of the biggest selling points of a Nintendo console is its lineup of excellent first-party titles. With the Switch, Nintendo once again proves that they are unequivocally the best first-party developers out there. Super Mario Odyssey took players on a breathtaking journey filled with fresh, creative new worlds and mechanics, becoming a worthy successor to Super Mario Galaxy. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the best entries in the franchise and deserved a better home than the Wii U. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate celebrates the franchise’s history with an all-star cast and significant gameplay improvements. Despite being a controversial title among longtime fans, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee sold like hotcakes and introduced the Pokémon Go generation to a more traditional game.
And of course, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the most critically acclaimed game of the console generation, often entering talks as one of the greatest games ever. The game brings to life the sense of wonder and exploration present in the original Legend of Zelda, truly allowing players to save Hyrule in any way they see fit. The game’s deceptively complex physics and chemistry systems give players freedom in how they approach and overcome obstacles. All of this combines with a world that feels huge and fleshed out without falling victim to the typical pitfalls of open-world gaming. It is arguable that Breath of the Wild alone is worth the price of entry for a Switch.
Lifelong Nintendo fans have been gushing over Nintendo’s first-party titles so far with good reason. Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Breath of the Wild already stand as bona fide classics, and with many more first-party games on the way, the Switch’s already excellent library shows no signs of slowing down.
Actual third-party support
One of the biggest downfalls of the Wii U was its drought of third-party support. Developers didn’t want to bother adjusting their titles for the cumbersome Gamepad, especially to an audience that was primarily interested in first-party titles. The Nintendo Switch’s portability is a much more seamless gimmick that requires little to no consideration on the part of the developer in terms of game design. This has led to the best third-party support Nintendo has had since the days of the Gamecube. Though the system’s underpowered specs lead to several major third-party games skipping over the Switch, it has still garnered an impressive third-party lineup.
Ports of major titles like Dark Souls, Skyrim, Doom, Fortnite, and Warframe run smooth as butter, with the system’s portability giving them new life. While major third-party support is still far from perfect (the system still lacks certain major sports titles like Madden, for example) the system’s third-party lineup is already solid. Upcoming major third-party titles like Mortal Kombat 11 will also hit the Switch in the near future, so Switch-exclusive owners will miss out on far fewer third-party hits than they did with other Nintendo consoles. Hopefully, popular titles like Apex Legends and Overwatch will find their way to the Switch in the future.
Indie game heaven
If you’re a fan of indie games you owe it to yourself to get a Nintendo Switch. What’s not to love about playing indie games on the go or in bed? The system already has indie juggernauts like The Binding of Isaac, Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley, Overcooked, Terriaria, Dead Cells, and Celeste. If you prefer playing indie games on a console to a PC, the portability and vast lineup of the Switch make it the obvious choice.
Many indie developers create their games nowadays with a Switch port in mind, meaning that the system should see even more indie support throughout its lifespan. Hopefully, classic indie games like Hotline Miami and Spelunky get ported soon to round out the whole package.
Nintendo proves once again they can’t do online
Oh boy, here we go. The enormous and obvious black spot on the Nintendo Switch is its abysmal online service. Even as fans have come to expect nothing about Nintendo and online, we are left disappointed as Nintendo Switch online is baffling at best and unacceptable in 2019 at worst.
At $20 a year, the service is much cheaper than Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus, yet it offers a small fraction of the value of either of those services. Having a bunch of original NES titles available is nice, but at this point, anyone who wants to play these games already has. Having either a Virtual Console or games from other retro consoles available would be of significantly more value than 20 NES games.
Additionally, basic features that were present on the original Xbox Live in 2002 are lacking on the Switch, such as party chat or direct messages. Puzzlingly, Nintendo requires a smartphone app to access basic online features like voice chat. All in all, Nintendo Switch Online is an embarrassing mess that proves Nintendo is not only completely unwilling to learn from past online mistakes, but they are confident enough to start charging money for it. We can only hope Nintendo’s upcoming collaboration with Xbox Live will jumpstart the company’s online evolution.
Looking toward the future
There are plenty of upcoming Switch games to be excited for. From new entries in long-running franchises like Animal Crossing, Bayonetta, or Luigi’s Mansion to brand new IP’s like Daemon X Machina and Astral Chain, there’s plenty to look forward to, no matter what games you play.
Especially interesting is the unprecedented partnership between Nintendo and Microsoft, which will really take shape later this year. Will they fix Nintendo’s online service? Will we get Xbox games on the Switch? The possibilities are tantalizing.