You might not have noticed, but Nintendos having a quietly stellar 2022. The Switch has seen the most radical Pokémon in years – with another mainline instalment due later in the year – plus the return of one of its most cherished properties with the arrival of Nintendo Switch Sports, while Kirby got perhaps his most high-profile outing yet in the wonderful Forgotten Land.
All thats before you factor in a back catalogue that stretches back some five years now and takes in all-timers such as The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and so much else besides. So if youve just picked up a Switch or perhaps are just looking to expand your library, these are the must-haves for Nintendos hybrid console.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
What we said in our Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review: Its quick to get to what I love about classical JRPGs – the sensation of running through endless fields of long grass with your companions, facing impossible odds with a spring in your step. It feeds into the incredible sense of adventure that makes Xenoblade Chronicles 3 truly soar as a JRPG. Perhaps more than any game before it in the series this gets the balance between systems and story down perfectly – even better, it manages to entwine the two in an adventure that infuses each of your footsteps with a sense of purpose. It might not quite be the revelation the original was back in 2010, but Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is most definitely another JRPG masterpiece from Monolith Soft.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
What we said in our Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review: Ill likely be playing Three Hopes for a long time to come – Ive already begun my Black Eagles New Game+ run – and when I said this isnt just Dynasty Warriors with a Fire Emblem skin, I meant it. Three Hopes is genuinely impressive. It walks a fine line between freshness for existing fans and approachability for new players, and personally its had me invested from the start. Id love to see where Nintendos musou spinoff concept goes next.
Nintendo Switch Sports
What we said in our Nintendo Switch Sports review: These games are so refined, and delivered with such odd, coffee-shop-and-library charm, that it doesnt matter how you play. My daughter is of the age where she completely missed the Wii, so when this new game arrived and we started moving the furniture around, she didnt have a clue what we were up to. But that afternoon we must have played together for hours, with breaks for when a diving header animation made her laugh so much she needed her breath back. The whole thing was intoxicating.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
What we said in our Pokémon Legends: Arceus review: Theres an overpowering sense of novelty to Pokémon Legends: Arceus. This is something new, and its also Pokémon, a decades-old series, in its purest essence. Battle, trade, collect. Even then theres a fraction of the trainer battles, nothing online, an option but no more necessity to trade. Is it overzealous budget cuts or pure, minimalist design? Is it empty, or is it filled with newfound nimbleness, of the kind that inspires all that wonder and awe precisely because so much of it has been chipped away?
Either way, this is a game crafted by subtractive sculpture. And how weirdly refreshing that is, compared to our artforms current, insatiable appetite for only adding more and more. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is either this series bare minimum, or its purest form. I think its both at once.
What we said in our OlliOlli World review: This is a skating game, and these games are always two games in one. OlliOlli World is a case in point: at first you just have to get to the end of each level. But then you want to advanced-trick through a Ghost, dont you? Optional challenges tug you into seeing the level you just battled over as a series of fresh possibilities. And then youre through that barrier and the whole world is filled with possibilities absolutely everywhere. Two games in one: a blend of platform hurdles that are fixed and that you need to ace, and then those gaps for self-expression and doing extra tricks and chains and grabs and manuals and spins for wild points. Oh, those gaps! Find them! Create them!
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
What we said in our Kirby and the Forgotten Land review: Its tempting to say that with The Forgotten Land Kirby has graduated from second-tier character to starring in a game that rivals Mario in its pomp, but thats not quite the case. The many ideas and new abilities are never quite as fully rounded as in obvious analogue Super Mario Odyssey; the polish, likewise, isnt quite there (and neither is the framerate, its worth pointing out, with the action sitting around 30fps rather than the more fluid modern Marios). That all seems to be by the by, though.
Like its predecessors, Kirby and the Forgotten Lands an open-armed thing, and now more than ever before its a game thats for absolutely everyone, the move to 3D platforming perhaps the most significant step forward in the series history. This is an absolute hug of a game, and quite likely Kirbys best outing yet.
What we said in our Metroid Dread review: Is this the best 2D Metroid to date? Youll have to give me more than a handful of replays and some sizeable distance for me to commit either way, but what I can say is this: heres a game thats worthy of the lineage, thats as exquisitely designed and that feels just as bold in its innovations as previous entries.
This is a modern Metroid, a 2D adventure delivered with triple-A panache, yet one that retains the grace and poise thats always marked the highlights of this series, and marked it out from its many imitators. How blessed we are to have Samus properly back, and what a marvel it is to be reminded how special Metroid can be. The wait, Im delighted to say, was somehow worth it.
Monster Hunter Rise
What we said in our Monster Hunter Rise review: Monster Hunter Rise encourages experimentation, pushing you to pick up a weapon type you might previously have neglected, or poke around in the depths to be found elsewhere. And those depths are still there to be explored – with all that the additions bring, Id argue that Rise is as deep as Monster Hunter has ever been. Its just that those depths have been made a little easier to get to, which is surely no bad thing.
Its all enough to make me believe that this really might be the Monster Hunter for all, and as much as World pushed the series into the mainstream its Rise that could yet propel it to be a phenomenon – and at the very least itll earn the series some new fans along the way. If youve been put off by the challenge, the investment or even the action, Rise does its very best to smooth the path and open up Monster Hunters charms to all. If youre already smitten with the series like I am? Well, Monster Hunter Rise might well be as good as video games can get.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
What we said in our Fire Emblem: Three Houses review: This isnt the game to bring together fans of the old-spec Fire Emblem and those drawn in by the appeal of the new. Theres a clear divide right through the centre of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and its masterstroke is in bridging the two, the bonds you build away from the battlefield giving each blow taken on it that much more impact. Its a deeply emotional tactical game, one in which you end up invested in each unit. In that way, its true to whats always made Fire Emblem so special – its just that Three Houses expresses itself on a different scale, and a different style. Fire Emblem: Three Houses really is a game of two halves, but they come together to make one incredible whole.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
What we said in our Animal Crossing: New Horizons review: 90 hours in, Animal Crossing: New Horizons maintains its ability to surprise. Its how each day presents a new mystery to unravel, or a new visitor to hang out with – though often its satisfying enough just to check in to see how your flowers are doing. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is probably the best this series has ever been and therefore one of Nintendos very best games to date. It presents a world absurd in its mundanity yet shot through with magic, offering an escapism thats reassuringly dependable. I just hope you werent planning on playing anything else this year.
Ring Fit Adventure
What we said in our Ring Fit Adventure review: Scrape away at the fitness aspect, at the RPG and at the lifestyle elements that accompany Ring Fit Adventure and you have something thats pure Nintendo. Perhaps youll see that at its purest in the 12 included mini-games, all with their own global and local leaderboards, and all unlocked off the bat. Here youll ease a parachute as you glide through a course, sculpt pottery by maintaining posture or play a game of circular whack-a-mole by pushing and pulling the Ring-Con.
Theres an end-of-pier charm to it all, the showmanship of the arcade matched with Nintendos time-proven ability to take something – here the humble pilates ring – and imbue it with a sense of play and wonder. Ring Fit Adventure is that and then some, boasting all the inventiveness of last years curio Labo and matching it with a video game that compels you to come back for more. This might not have the show-stopping pull of a Mario or Zelda, but I can guarantee that its the purest Nintendo experience youll play this year.
Streets of Rage 4
What we said in our Streets of Rage 4 review: For too long I used to think the beat em-up genre died a death all those years ago for good reason, and that this was a brand of game best left alone in the 90s. With its improvements, embellishments and above all reverence for the originals, Streets of Rage 4 makes me realise the error of my ways as it reframes the beat em-up as the forefather of the action genre that lives on today in the likes of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry – games born from the same mentality, and with that same swagger. Streets of Rage 4 has all that and then some. This is more than a mere revival of a once-loved series. Streets of Rage 4 is quite simply the best of the bunch.
What we said in our Hades review: Hades is a proper lark. I love it. But there is something else here, something that I have always felt about games but never been able to put into words. There is something about polished, smartly conceived Hades, about so many of Supergiants games which, the joyous brilliance of Pyre aside perhaps, are always too rigorous, too responsibly conceived not to know exactly what spot theyre going to fit into on the shelf, which pillars theyre going to present to the press – there is something about these games that are so assuredly products that reminds me that games are never ever just products. Games are always a way of being. To play Hades, Roguelite aside, economy aside, loop aside, is to be furious and vengeful, to be driven by bitterness, self-hate, ennui, to be pulverisingly powerful and yet horribly efficient. This is the truth of it down to the controls, which encourage you to grip the pad by the facebuttons and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze like youre one stress ball away from telling your boss to shove it.
Into the Breach
What we said in our Into the Breach review: Pretty soon youre lost in the detailing and you realise that – yes! – alongside being billiards and Whack-a-Mole and chess and American Football and all the rest of it, Into the Breach is also FTL, in its delight in the glinting clockwork of failure, in its fascination with difficult choices, in surprising victories, in drastic variation that works its strange magic within tight restrictions. And all of these games come together to make Into the Breach, which is precise and brutal and complex and dizzying and utterly thrilling – and Into the Breach is, somehow, entirely its own thing too.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
What we said in our Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review: Its the details that bring Smash Bros. to life, really, that attention to the smaller things from series creator Masahiro Sakurai – that selfless soul who once confided to mentor Satoru Iwata that games should always be made with the player in mind, and was baffled that more games werent made that way – that make it all such a thrill. Theres a mindfulness for all types of players in Smash Bros. Ultimate, from the professional to the novice, and a willingness to serve them all thats endearing.
Super Mario Odyssey
What we said in our Super Mario Odyssey review: There is nothing like a new Super Mario to remind you that there is no other studio that can make games like this. Jump on a tomato in the Luncheon Kingdom and watch how it splats out into a sizzling hot pool of sauce; ride a Jaxi, a stone steed as fast as a rocket, and watch the way it scrabbles frantically at the ground as you try to rein in its boundless speed. Then release it – whee! The happy revelry that has gone into the making of this nonsensical world is infectious, while the return to the open design of Super Mario 64 has freed all that gleeful energy in a sloppily explosive burst. To many people, Mario is video games. To play Super Mario Odyssey is to remember why that is.
What we said in our Splatoon 2 review: Splatoon 2 inherits much of the smartness of its predecessor, then, but it also inherits a handful of its problems. Youre still locked to two multiplayer maps every two hours until they work their way out of rotation, a quirk that suited the original when it was short on content, but one that seems overly stubborn now. Theyre the same gripes existing players of Splatoon will be familiar with, but theyll also be familiar with the same magic that it weaves. The frantic rhythm of each match, soundtracked by singalong songs and the delightful plop, plop, plop of falling ink. The elaborate game of dress-up that ensues as you venture into Splatoons meta, visiting the central hub of Inkopolis shops each day to see what new stock is in store. The feeling that, with its emphasis on fashion and its frenetic bursts of action, no other game has ever captured the candy rush of adolescence so well. If this is your first time with Splatoon, youre in for a serious treat.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
What we said in our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: Therell be arguments about whats a fitting price tag for what is at heart a port, but all thats moot in the face of what remains one of the most exquisite video games in recent years. The detail, the care and the craft on show amount to a package that feels luxurious, a feeling only emboldened by this deluxe edition, and the few tweaks made here underline its brilliance. There was some debate when it originally came out about whether Mario Kart 8 was the best in the series – with Deluxe, thats now no longer in doubt.
What we said in our Arms review: Lets start with the music, because its the first thing youll come across when booting up Arms, Nintendos Switch exclusive. Caixa and surdo drums burst into a rhythm met by a bright chorus being sung through the widest of smiles. Its a tune I havent been able to stop humming ever since first hearing it, an infectious little samba that sets up the cartoonish capoeira that is Arms combat – a heady dance of swirling limbs and dazzling colour as players duke it out. Not since Mario Kart 8s joyous cover version of the series original theme tune has a title screen done such a wonderful job of starting you off in the best possible way. Lets do this, it sings. Lets play!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What we said in our The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review: Breath of the Wild isnt just the most radical departure from the Zelda tradition in its 30-year history, its the first Nintendo game that feels like it was made in a world where Half-Life 2, Halo, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Skyrim happened. Its inspired by those greats and others, but it doesnt ape them any more than it rests on its own laurels. And if were talking inspirations, we have to recognise one game above all others, an uncompromising adventure from 1986 that dared to take gaming off the rails, that put a whole world beyond the TV screen and invited the player to explore it: the original Legend of Zelda.