Hello gentle readers, and welcome to a very special edition of the SwitchArcade. It’s that time of the year again, and while it’s a bit of a photo finish for you, we’ve prepared our list of the ten best Nintendo Switch releases of 2020. Actually, when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’. These are just my personal picks and if you have different games on your list, I would say that is a very understandable thing. Ultimately, lists like these are a way to share our good experiences with others, helping our fellow gamers to find cool new games to play. As such, if you have some games you want to boost I strongly encourage you to post them in the comments. I know I would love reading them. With that said, let’s dig into the meat!
10. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity ($59.99)
Depending on where your hopes were sitting, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was either a big disappointment or pretty awesome. I fell more on the latter end of things, as I’ve been around the block enough times with Warriors games to know not to expect too much from the story. Taken for what it is, this is a huge game full of exciting battles in familiar environments, one that adds some intriguing twists drawn from Breath of the Wild to the Warriors formula. While I might have preferred the narrative to go differently than it did, it was still neat to meet up with some old friends in different circumstances. The biggest downside is that I am now very hungry for Breath of the Wild 2.
9. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition ($59.99)
Reyn time never ends, friends. This version is the third release of this game, and I’m sure some players just don’t want to play through this rather lengthy adventure yet again. Still, this is a rather impressive take on it, with graphical improvements and a fair bit of new content to help bridge it to the follow-up it spawned. The base game is as great as it ever was, with an excellent story, an unforgettable setting, and a whole ton of things to do. Sure, the size of the environments don’t impress the way they once did, but the various places you visit are still big enough to make the adventure feel vast. And hey, it runs a lot nicer in handheld mode than its sequel does.
8. Immortals Fenyx Rising ($59.99)
Immortals is basically what happens if you stick modern Assassin’s Creed in a blender with Breath of the Wild and hold the button down for a minute or two. It’s full of stupid dialogue and it scarcely has a single original bone in its body. And yet it’s ridiculously enjoyable, pulling in just enough of the good points from the games it imitates to keep you moving from thrill to thrill. Basically the video game version of those old inspirational posters that told you to shoot for the Moon because even if you missed you would end up among the stars. It’s no Breath of the Wild, but it turns out there’s an awful lot of space for excellent games in the margin underneath that game.
7. Horace ($14.99)
Fundamentally, Horace is a very good platformer with lots of challenge and some interesting mechanics. If you don’t get anything else from this game, you’ll at least get that much. But Horace is also an endlessly charming journey through the life of a rather unique little robot who is grappling with understanding the human world amid a wide range of circumstances, some mundane and others quite extraordinary. You can feel the passion dripping from every inch of this game, and that love is backed up with sheer quality at every turn. While your own cultural context will determine how precisely everything resonates with you, the humanity at the core of this adventure is something we can all understand.
6. moon ($18.99)
As obtuse at times as it is thoughtful, moon is probably the most contentious choice on this list. As an adventure game, it is sometimes incredibly frustrating in how little it gives you to go on. It’s a game from 1997, but even for that era it can be a bit hard to untangle. There’s no shame in going for a guide on this one, friends. If you can deal with its rough edges and the occasional opaque puzzle, you’ll find a truly unique experience. A game that asks a lot of interesting questions, and sometimes gives you answers you didn’t expect. The bittersweet hopefulness that pervades almost all of the works of game designer Yoshiro Kimura is here in full force, with odd, memorable characters and an ending that will leave you thinking about it for a while.
5. Ori and the Will of the Wisps ($29.99)
It was shocking enough when the first game showed up on the Switch, but no one expected the sequel to even be possible on our favorite hybrid console. Heck, the game had quite a few issues at launch on the Xbox One. Somehow, the developers pulled off a miracle and put together a port that makes it feel like the original game was made for the Switch. And that means we got to play one of the most engrossing games of the year, an atmospheric and extremely enjoyable journey into a mysterious world filled with danger and gorgeous sights. The combat system is engaging and the exploration mixes platforming and thoughtful curiosity in equal measures. Wrap all that up in some fantastic visuals and a sensational soundtrack, and you’ve got a real winner.
4. Streets of Rage 4 ($24.99)
In terms of where my expectations were before release and where they ended up after, there’s no bigger surprise for me this year than Streets of Rage 4. I’m one of those people that worships Streets of Rage 2, and I didn’t have high hopes for any modern sequel to meet its level of quality. I’ve never been happier to be completely wrong about something. Streets of Rage 4 is an amazing beat-em-up, a faithful follow-up, and exactly the right mix of new and old that it needed to be. The unlockable characters had me replaying the game again and again, and the extra modes and difficulties gave me even more reasons to come back. Simply brilliant.
3. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin ($39.99)
I learned a lot about rice farming this year, and that’s not something that I would ever have expected to be saying in a Best Games of 2020 list. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a solid action RPG that ties a lot of its progression in painfully detailed agricultural achievements. The game teaches you what you need to know, or you can just go to real farming sources and, you know, apply the information you pick up there. It’s very compelling stuff, and even with a great story, charming characters, and some hot side-scrolling action, the rice farming remains the standout part of the game. There’s nothing else out there quite like Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, so if you’re looking for something refreshing in your gaming diet you won’t find better than this.
2. Hades ($24.99)
It’s not a massive surprise when Supergiant Games puts out a great game, but even by the usual standards Hades is something special. With superb action, an excellent metagame, outstanding writing, and all-around slick visuals and audio, this is a game that’s easy to fall in love with no matter how you usually feel about rogue-inspired games. The way Hades weaves together its mechanics and story genuinely drives you to keep on coming back again and again until you finally win. It’s hard to say whether the gameplay or the narrative elements were more important for driving this game’s appeal, but we don’t have to choose, do we? Of course we don’t.
1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons ($59.99)
If there has ever been a better case of the right game in the right place at the right time, I can’t think of it. Animal Crossing felt a bit thin at launch when compared to the last game, and in any other year that might have seriously hamstrung it. But this year being what it was, chilling out on an island where nothing serious ever happens was more than enough to scratch an itch. Subsequent updates have helped fill out the game quite a bit over the course of the year, giving players lots of reasons to come back. While it’s not a revolutionary game at its core, I’m here to chill out, talk to weird animals, collect furniture, decorate my house, and amass a fortune in bells, and Animal Crossing has delivered on that.
And that’s my list, friends. Now, as I said up above, I would absolutely love to see your personal favorites. Please post them in the comments so we can all see your favorite Switch games of this dreadful year. Have a happy New Year everyone, and forever and always, thanks for reading!