The Switch is good. I know that’s old news, but the Switch is easily the videogame system I play the most often these days, for a number of reasons. First off is because, well, I travel all the time. I can’t just pop a PlayStation 4 or the gaming PC I bought earlier this year in a carry on and get down to business during a flight to California. I can do exactly that with the Switch, though. Or when I’m laying in bed at the end of the night, or feel like quickly moving between the living room and a bedroom—Nintendo’s portable console makes it all fantastically easy. I can even fit the dock into my bag and bring it with me, if I think I’ll have time to play through a game for work on my hotel room’s TV. The Switch is good in part because of how convenient it is.
Much more important is the Switch’s library of games. Between Nintendo’s first party works and the deluge of fantastic smaller and artier games that constantly floods the Switch’s store, there’s always something I want to play on the Switch. I can’t say that about other platforms, but my Switch backlog is overwhelming.
2019 has really helped make that wait even younger. There have been more interesting Switch games over the first seven months of 2019 than I’ll ever be able to play. I have been able to clear enough time to fit every game below into my routine, and I can vouch for them all. If you own a Switch, any one of the 10 games below would be worth checking out. They’re all very different games—one’s a dunderheaded beat-’em-up based on 60 years of comic book goofery, one’s an unexpectedly combative reappraisal of perhaps the most famous game of all time, and another is just a 100 hour-plus epic that combines anime with Medieval fantasy and a deep focus on story and characterization. They’re all really good, though, and sometimes even great, along with the other seven games on the list.
Enough rambling. Let’s get to it. Here are the 10 best new games on the Switch so far in 2019.
10. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
The massive Marvel team-up brawler returned after a decade break, during which the blockbuster movies restored characters like Captain America, Thor and Iron Man to the upper echelon spots they occupied back in the ‘60s. Ultimate Alliance continues to remix decades of Marvel history, tossing a large, motley assortment of superheroes and villains into various locales from the comics, and pitting four at a time against constant streams of cannon fodder henchmen and the occasional villain boss. If you played the first two, or the X-Men Legends series that it grew out of, you’ll immediately be zapped back in time as if by Kang himself once you load this one up. It’s a blunt, brute force tool for nostalgia and fan service, but longtime fans of Marvel will love the recognition factor, and there’s just enough strategy required to keep your brain from fully checking out. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but that’s pretty much what this game is.—Garrett Martin
9. Cadence of Hyrule
Nintendo let Brace Yourself Games, the small Canadian studio responsible for Crypt of the Necrodancer, play with some of its most valuable toys in this unexpected Legend of Zelda spinoff. Stick to the beat of some of your favorite Zelda songs as you fight and explore your way through a procedurally generated mash-up of Zelda maps and dungeons. It’s an unlikely new twist on one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, proving once again that there’s still a lot of fertile ground to cultivate within the world of Zelda.—Garrett Martin
8. Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is set in the building genre that Minecraft pioneered but, in a lot of ways, Dragon Quest Builders 2 does Minecraft better than Minecraft. There is a central narrative, objectives, waypoints and streamlined mechanics that make the title welcoming to almost any curious person, whether they are into Dragon Quest or not. The is roughly based off of 1987’s Dragon Quest 2 and sees you, the titular builder (male or female), tasked with rebuilding society after the Children of Hargon (I don’t know) decide to make the world slowly die. Each attempt at rebuilding society in some way is met with violence. So what is the builder to do in such trying times? Collect resources and build those walls just a little sturdier and higher, of course! Dragon Quest Builders 2 is deliberately straightforward in both its narrative and core gameplay loop. Nothing is obfuscated, everything is as easy to understand as it can be, and once players fall into its task-focused rhythm, everything becomes smooth sailing.—Cole Henry
7. Tetris 99
If you always thought Tetris would be better as a brutal war of attrition, pitting you against dozens of other players to see who can emerge from the block-strewn battlefield as the sole victor, well, Nintendo has good news for you. Tetris 99 turns the classic puzzler’s competitive multiplayer mode into a full-fledged battle royale game, with up to 99 different online players competing directly against each other. It plays just like the Tetris you know and remember. Blocks fall from the sky, you can turn them and move them right and left as they fall, and the goal is to use those blocks to form unbroken lines at the bottom of the screen. If you complete two or more lines at a time, you’ll send junk rows over to one of your 98 opponents, cluttering up their field and driving them closer to the end. You can target specific opponents with your junk rows, or anybody who’s close to going bust, or even just random people. (Really, Tetris 99 doesn’t care whose day you ruin.) And at the end there can be only one survivor. It’s like Fortnite or PUBG in puzzle form, wrapped around what’s probably the most famous videogame in the world.—Garrett Martin
6. Yoshi’s Crafted World
Yoshi’s Crafted World is almost a kind of therapy for me. It’s like gaming detox. When I was fully overwhelmed by the stress and frustration of Sekiro, a retreat to the warm environs of this beautifully crafted world made all the difference. To use a metaphor that Yoshi’s presumed target audience has to be too young for, Yoshi’s Crafted World is the soothing chaser to the harsh shot that is Sekiro. The two have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are both videogames, but they unintentionally complement each other so well that I can’t really imagine playing one without the other now. And Yoshi’s Crafted World will no doubt have the same palliative effect when combined with any angry, serious violent spurt. It’s a game for all seasons and emotions, and almost entirely because of that glorious grade school aesthetic.—Garrett Martin
5. Gato Roboto
Gato Roboto packs all the action and adventure you expect from a Metroid-style game into just a few hours of play. If you aren’t a completionist in thrall to the bewitching allure of that 100%, it’ll take even less time. It’s in and out before it turns into a chore or starts repeating itself, which sets it apart from most Metroid acolytes and even some official Metroid games. And although we wouldn’t advocate for an abridged Super Metroid or Metroid Prime (or even Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), most games that follow in Samus’s bootsteps aren’t designed well enough to justify their length. Gato Roboto is here to remind those games that aimlessly dragging on and on isn’t a crucial part of the Metroid recipe.—Garrett Martin
4. Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 has the same impact as the original, only with an updated set of options. It still leaves Mario exposed, not just giving you the tools to design your own levels but walking you through the process step by step. Sure, it’s not how these games are really made—you won’t be doing any coding or creating any art assets—but you can still learn some of the basics of level design, and have the freedom to follow or flout those rules as you see fit.
Freedom is the foundation of Super Mario Maker 2, and that freedom is a big reason why it’ll be hard to go backwards to a traditional side-scrolling Mario game after this. It lets us break the game apart and put it back however we see fit, and no matter how seamlessly Nintendo glues it all back together in the future, we’ll still see those cracks and see how everything fits into place. Even if Nintendo was still designing side-scrolling Mario levels as ingeniously as they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we would simply know too much to once again feel the way we used to feel about them.—Garrett Martin
3. Ape Out
Slaughtering tons of dudes has never felt so morally appropriate before. Ape Out makes a statement about animal abuse by focusing on a gorilla lab subject’s violent escape from captivity. It has the mechanical precision and deceptively deep game loop of a classic arcade game, but with a gorgeous aesthetic based on Saul Bass art and jazz percussion. Levels are packaged as if they’re tracks on old LPs, and the whole game looks like the cover to Miles Davis’s greatest hits come to life. It looks and sounds amazing, feels good to play, and has a just and socially relevant message, to boot.—Garrett Martin
2. Baba Is You
Baba Is You is a wonderful exercise in critical thinking and problem solving, where the objective is to break the rules in order to win. Each level has a certain set of parameters, ie “BABA IS YOU” “WALL IS STOP” or “KEY IS OPEN” but the catch is that these rules are written out as actual words that can physically move around on the screen and be rearranged to win. I truly love this game; there were certain puzzles that had such a surprising and delightful solution that I literally cried out loud.—Holly Green
1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
This might be the best game I know I’ll never actually finish. The latest Fire Emblem game is massive. That’s no surprise—Fire Emblem games always eat up a lot of time—but Three Houses has fully established the relatively new social aspects of the series as a true equal to the tactical battles that have always been the main draw. I’ve spent at least as much time teaching my students, learning about their lives and personalities, and trying to make them happy as I have on the battlefield—and no, that is not in any way a problem. With class consciousness as a narrative backdrop, Three Houses is less of a straight-forward story than an impressionistic look at a large crew of characters united by tradition, obligation, and the need to save society as they know it—maybe while reforming it. It’s a smart, charming, sometimes brutal experience, and one whose 80 hours length per house guarantees I’ll never fully experience it. One house is good enough for me—unless every publisher in the business wants to take pity on us and not release any other games until, let’s say, December.—Garrett Martin