It's been a long, strange year for Nintendo. The publisher's first-party output has been affected heavily by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. As it turns out, however, all they really need are one or two major heavy hitters, a couple of experimental efforts, and some really strong indie games to have a pretty good year. So let's take a step back and reflect on the best Nintendo Switch games from 2020.
The Best Nintendo Switch games of 2020
Nintendo's year isn't quite over yet. There are still games like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity on the horizon. But Nintendo's already had a pretty decent 2020, led by these ten games.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the game we all needed in 2020. As we adjusted to a pandemic full of stress and quarantines, Tom Nook and company gave us a wonderful setting to go fishing, catch bugs, craft items, and create our own little utopias. Day after day, whether it was for 15 minutes or two hours, we all had our little escape. Nothing has changed since its release earlier this year. The pandemic still rages on, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons still offers that little escape with an ever-changing world that always goes out of its way to make you feel good about yourself.
Roguelikes aren't usually for everybody. There's something about their repetitive nature and constant failure loop that turns people off. Hades isn't like that, at least not entirely. Oh, you'll fail. You'll fail quite a bit. But at the center of Hades is a captivating story filled with memorable characters, one that gradually unfolds throughout and in-between each attempted run. The most memorable of those characters is lead protagonist Zagreus, who wants nothing more than to escape his father's control and see the surface for the first time.
There's so much to see, so much to experience, and so much to master in Hades. And even if you're turned off by the constant string of failure, there's a God Mode option that makes Zagreus stronger with each attempt. But it's an option that's only amplified the smallest amount with every try, so it doesn't break the game. The way Hades is constructed is masterful and it's a game that fits perfectly on the Switch, since attempts almost always average less than an hour and the games save frequently.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
The modern Paper Mario games aren't going to be everybody's cup of tea, especially those who remember the glory days of The Thousand Year Door. The Origami King isn't much of an exception, as it forgoes a lot of the standard RPG formula. I mean, there's no leveling, experience points, or even much of an incentive to grind through lower-tier enemies at all.
However, The Origami King makes up for all of that with one of the best stories the franchise has ever put forward. Mario's journey with Princess Olivia and the other friends he meets along the way is one to remember, mostly because of the chemistry between the two leads. The way they play off each other as they run into increasingly humorous scenarios, other wacky characters, and powerful (and hilarious) bosses makes The Origami King's story one of the best since the original Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars. It's a story that's absolutely worth experiencing, in spite of The Origami King's gameplay shortcomings.
The Long Dark
The Long Dark is one of the most brutal and well-crafted survival games ever made. With 10 full regions to explore, each with its own unique climate and terrain, players can test themselves to survive in what developer Hinterland Studios calls The Quiet Apocalypse. Gather loot, craft tools and clothing, go hunting to feed yourself, and stay alive as long as you possibly can. With dozens of hours of content, a subtle UI, and the freedom to create your own journey, The Long Dark should be on every survival fan’s radar.
Super Mario Bros. 35
For older generations, it's strange to think of a world where most of the gaming populace hasn't played the original Super Mario Bros. The NES classic is, after all, 35 years old. So it was really cool to see Nintendo find a contemporary way to introduce the game to new audiences and that's through a battle royale format.
Super Mario Bros. 35 is almost exactly like the NES original with only a few minor changes. Those changes involve implementing battle royale rules and the concept of taking defeated enemies and chucking them into other people's games. It infuses a kind of competitive strategy that one wouldn't have thought possible with this sort of game.
This game is loads of fun. It's just too bad it's not around forever.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit takes the excitement of the arcade racing franchise and brings it into the real world. Allowing players to control a Mario (or Luigi) RC car using the Switch as a remote, this title provides an entirely new and unique take on the Mario Kart series.
The ability to set up your own courses right in your home puts player creativity at the center. The game allows players to put a variety of different thematic spins on their levels, ensuring that the game has a solid level of replayability. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit stands as one of the best games to hit the Switch in 2020.
Ninjala is a high-octane fighting game that deserves a spot right alongside Nintendo titans such as Arms and Splatoon. In Ninjala, players take control of ninjas that blow bubble gum in order to create weapons. It’s wild, zany and colorful fun that manages to scratch the competitive itch without the usual high price tag associated with the genre thanks to it being a free-to-play title. Since its release, Ninjala has received new weapons and story modes and has seen over four million downloads. If you’ve yet to experience the fun, Ninjala is definitely one you should check out.
Murder By Numbers
Imagine taking a story-based murder mystery visual novel and crossing it with Picross puzzles. That's not the sort of concept that should work, but developer Mediatonic has certainly worked with weirder ideas. And sure enough, they made Murder By Numbers work.
Murder By Numbers is a great game for its strong characters, the dynamic between Honor and her trusty computer sidekick SCOUT, the clever dialogue, the offbeat humor, and the way it integrates the Picross element. It's a story that'll get you hooked, but it's also a game that best utilizes the Switch's Handheld Mode, just because of how easy it is to curl up on the couch and solve a few puzzles. Murder By Numbers takes two unlikely ideas and combines them into one of the most unique games to come out this year.
Exit the Gungeon
The original Enter the Gungeon was an exciting and robust roguelike experience that had players envisioning map layouts, strategies, item loadouts, and other ways to approach this adventure. Follow-up Exit the Gungeon is a success because it takes the Gungeon idea and uses it slightly differently. This is more of a fast-paced, bite-sized thrill ride.
Exit the Gungeon takes many of the best elements of its predecessor and applies them to a 2D side-scrolling environment. And it translates beautifully, challenging players to survive more bullet hell situations and take on tough-as-nails boss encounters. Success is all about learning from your mistakes, but there's also quite a bit of luck involved. Got about 20 minutes to spare? Grab your Switch and give this a shot.
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics
The Clubhouse Games package is a straightforward one. It's 51 basic games, like Checkers, Blackjack, and Darts, and putting them on the Nintendo Switch to enjoy at your leisure. What makes Clubhouse Games one of the stronger Switch efforts this year is the implementation of multiplayer.
Many of these games support online play with custom rules and that makes Clubhouse Games a great way to catch up with friends and family. In these COVID-19 times, having an online round of Chess or Darts has proven to be refreshing. Plus, it's a lot of fun to learn other classic tabletop and card games that may be less familiar. Yes, these games are the height of simplicity, but with a good enough presentation, even the simplest of games can be winners.
That's our list. Is there anything you feel we might have missed? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments. And keep it on Shacknews, because we'll continue covering the best for Nintendo Switch and the rest of the major platforms throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond.
Shack Staff posted a new article, The Best Nintendo Switch games of 2020
I know it's a bunch of old games but lacking Mario 3D All Stars seems a bit weird.