Make no mistake: the Nintendo Switch is the hottest video game product you can purchase this holiday season. The unique hybrid system offers both traditional home console use as well as complete handheld portability.
After a generally disappointing showing in the Wii U, Nintendo has roared back this year with huge titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Most impressively they’ve expanded their third-party support with lots of welcome indie titles like Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight. There’s also some more mature offerings courtesy of Bethesda with Doom, Wolfenstein, and Skyrim. Simply put, Nintendo has had one of the best console launch years in history, and it should only get better from here.
A launch title for the Nintendo Switch, Snipperclips provides a unique puzzle design for two players. You play as both the paper and the scissors, cutting each other to form shapes in order to solve a series of puzzles. It’s simple yet brilliant game design that you can play solo with both controllers, but really shines cooperatively.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just 2014’s Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U plus all the DLC tracks and drivers and enhanced HD graphics. Mario Kart 8 happens to also be one of the best in the long-running series, featuring the refined controls, a huge assortment of drivers, vehicles, and tracks, and seamlessly integrated online multiplayer.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.
A motion-controlled fighting game sounds horrendous but Nintendo may have stumbled upon something special. Multiple fighters and arms-styles can be configured to best suit your playstyle as you square off from a near-first-person view to swing your comically large but effective limbs.
The first Splatoon was one of the few bright spots on the Wii U, and this Switch sequel provides more of the same great online multiplayer action. Transforming a third person arena shooter into a paintball match is a great way to make it family-friendly. Splatoon goes a step further by offering an intriguingly goofy world of squid vendors and a head-bobbing soundtrack.
“It’s like XCOM but with Mario” is not a sentence I expected to see in 2017. Yet Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle presents a fantastic tactical strategy game when Ubisoft’s Rabbids drop into the Mushroom Kingdom unannounced.
LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for: a new single player 3D Mario game. Super Mario Odyssey does not disappoint, with a wide array of beautiful worlds to explore, secrets to discover, puzzles to solve, and collectibles to collect. Super Mario Odyssey retains what makes Mario the king of gaming and also adds fun new elements, like turning Mario’s trademark cap into a sentient creature who can possess others, adding an entirely new dynamic to every encounter.
Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.
The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.
Breath of the Wild was one of the most anticipated games of 2017. As a launch title for the Nintendo Switch it became an instant system seller, providing an enormous, detailed open world that let you tackle it however you wanted – including waltzing right up to the final area after the opening. It’s a hallmark of interlocking game designs that put as much freedom as possible in the hands of the player.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will go down as one of the all-time best games, Zelda or otherwise, and should absolutely be your first purchase on the Nintendo Switch.
One of the few games on this mega-list that’s not actually released quite yet, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is another big RPG coming to Switch, after the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles and Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X. These games mostly stand on their own but feature giant open worlds and real-time combat, not unlike an MMO.
The hyper-violent first-person shooter wouldn’t seem like a good fit for a Nintendo system, but sometimes you just need to rip and tear your way through some demons. This Switch port of one of last year’s most satisfying remakes is mostly intact – minus the Snapmap editor, and you’ll need to download the multiplayer separately.
It’s usually not exciting to see a 2011 game ported into a different console, but Skyrim is anything but usual. Being able to play one of the best RPGs of the modern era on the go certainly has its perks.
Also available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Nintendo has provided its first details into its E3 2017 showcase. As in previous years, Nintendo will forgo a live presentation in favor of a video event called Nintendo Spotlight: Live at E3. The Nintendo Spotlight presentation will kick off E3 by airing on June 13 at 9 am Pacific/12 pm Eastern.
The E3 Spotlight will focus on the Nintendo Switch games coming out in the latter half of 2017, including the biggest release, Super Mario Odyssey.
Following the E3 Spotlight presentation will be a Nintendo Treehouse live stream. That show will provide a more in-depth and hands-on look at upcoming games for both the Switch and Nintendo 3DS. It will be hosted by members of the Nintendo Treehouse marketing and social team and include developer commentary.
“Our various E3 activities will showcase the next steps for Nintendo Switch, from a summer of social competitive gaming to a holiday season highlighted by a milestone Mario adventure,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO at Nintendo of America. “With Nintendo Treehouse: Live at E3, fans at home can watch in-depth gameplay of Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS games launching this year.”
Nintendo will have a sizable presence on the show floor, where they’ll be presenting Super Mario Odyssey for the first time. Nintendo is marketing Odyssey as a true 3D sandbox title for the Mario series – the first seen since 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube.
Two Nintendo Switch tournaments will be live streamed from the E3 showfloor. The first is the 2017 Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational. It’s the first Splatoon 2 competitive tournament of its kind, comprised of qualifying teams from Japan, Europe, Australia/NZ, and the US. It will be streamed on June 13. Splatoon 2 is scheduled for release on July 21.
The second tournament is the 2017 ARMS Open Invitational, which will feature Nintendo’s upcoming motion-controlled fighting game. The tournament will take place on June 14; ARMS launches on June 16.
More details about Nintendo’s E3 Spotlight and games will be announced as the event draws closer. E3 2017 runs from June 13-15.
PAX South 2017 hosted a large expo hall full of tabletop and video games, from wonderfully obscure indie titles to the large spectacle of the Nintendo and Capcom booths. I saw and played as many games as I possibly could over the weekend, and met with some amazing developers.
I didn’t get a chance to see everything that the convention had to offer. But here’s my list of 20 promising games you’ll want to look for this year.
Developer: Phoenix Labs Platforms: PC Release: 2017
Cooperative Action-RPG Dauntless channels the classic Monster Hunter series. Up to four players choose their weapon fighting style before being dropped into a large battlefield, facing off against a monstrous behemoth.
The PAX South demo included the four heroes shown in the trailer, as well as two behemoths. Shrike was a big owl monster that leapt at us and churned up wind blasts with his wings. Pangar resembled an armored ankylosaurus who balled up and smashed over us. You could chain attacks together to create combos, like a fighting game. I enjoyed using the warhammer’s rocket jump for a leaping strike, and turning his warhammer into a short-range shotgun blast.
The free-to-play title promises a variety of weapon styles and customization options, and promotes quickly jumping into cooperative monster slaying.
Death Squared is a delightfully charming cooperative puzzle game. The art style and theme is very reminiscent of the Portal games, as players work together to solve non-violent puzzles within a top-down arena.
Each player, whether playing solo or with up to three others, plays a different colored cube. Each cube has to reach a certain spot on the board to complete the puzzle, avoiding spikes, traps, and being knocked off the edge. Hilarity quickly ensues with multiple players, as one person moving too far could crush another with spikes. Thankfully failure and reloading is instant, and the game focuses on cooperation and a fun series of trial and error.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Developer: Larian Studios Platforms: PC Release: 2017 (Currently Available via Steam Early Access)
Divinity: Original Sin was my favorite game of 2014. The sequel is shaping up to be better in every way. The most impressive addition is that Larian has managed to double down on both single and multiplayer, including four player co-op within a massive turn-based tactical RPG. PAX South showcased the new PvP Arena Mode, which takes all the best elements of the excellent battle system. Multiple arenas were available with a bevy of delicious environmental hazards that you can manipulate using a wide variety of elemental skills and spells.
Divinity has been in Early Access since late last year to help generate feedback, bug fixes, and additional content. Recently a new “AI 2.0” update has been added. Now enemies will use their surroundings to gain every advantage against you. As a huge fan of tactical RPGs, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is easily one of my most anticipated games of the year.
Developer: HoloSpark Platforms: Steam PC, PS4, XBO Release: Early 2017 (Launching on Steam Early Access first)
I loved the Left 4 Dead games, but in recent years purely cooperative games have been sadly ignored (and Evolve mostly crashed and burned). HoloSpark aims to pick up the co-op torch and run with it in their four player first-person shooter Earthfall.
Claiming that Earthfall is Left 4 Dead with aliens is a compliment, but it also feels like a natural evolution of the co-op shooter. Up to four friends complete objectives while surviving against waves of flesh-hungry aliens. You’re given more options than just “make it from point A to point B”, like a 3D printer you can use to make weapons, as well as turrets and barricades to help form a solid defensive perimeter. Earthfall brought back all the fun memories I had playing Left 4 Dead with friends, and I can’t wait to help defend against the alien invasion.
Developer: Northstar Games Platforms: PC, Mobile Release: 2018 (Kickstarter coming in Summer 2017)
Board games have become a huge business among the geek crowd, and with the proliferation of mobile devices many make a perfect fit for digital versions. Northstar Games’ Evolution is the latest to receive the digital treatment. Despite being still being a year away, Evolution was fully playable on PC and mobile devices at PAX South, and a lot of fun.
Evolution is a 2-6 player game where each player creates a series of creatures using multiple traits. Keeping your creatures well-fed earns victory points, but you have to manage your cards between making new creatures, increasing their numbers, or adding new traits like Carnivore and Burrowing to give them the edge they need. The digital version will play up to four, and displays everything on a lovely board with the watering hold in the middle, and cards are displayed on the bottom Hearthstone-style. You can easily drag and drop to make the choices you need.
Northstar Games will be launching a Kickstarter to help create the game and add multiplayer support. Look for the Kickstarter this Summer, and the full release next year.
First Impact: Rise of a Hero
Developer: Red Meat Games Platforms: Steam PC, HTC Vive Release: February 3, 2017
VR games have a reputation of being more tech demos than full-fledged games. But First Impact: Rise of a Hero felt like an actual game. You’re a superhero wielding the powers of the four elements in a mini open-world island with its own city. Each power can be used in three different ways, from projectiles to shields and movement. Earth+Shield produces a giant wall of stone, while air+movement gives you flight.
Flying around a city shooting fireballs in virtual reality is crazy fun. The art style feels like a classic silver age comic book, and you’ll be given missions and tasks to help defend your citizens against newly powered enemies. Becoming a superhero has always been a childhood fantasy and First Impact takes the first steps towards living it out.
Developer: Jason Roberts Platforms: iOS, Steam PC Release: Spring 2017
Gorogoa wins my personal “you have to play this game” award at PAX South. Everyone I talked to I had to mention this game. I could barely even explain it properly; you had to play it to properly experience its unique and beautiful take on environmental puzzles.
The striking hand-drawn art style immediately pulled me in. The screen includes four quadrants where you drag and drop different paintings. Most pictures let you zoom in and out, changing what you see and letting you manipulate objects. Sometimes you can combine pictures in clever ways, like dragging a doorway onto a brick wall to create a new opening. The silent world teased an emotional story as you lead a young boy on a journey through the pictures. Gorogoa was one of the single biggest surprises of the entire convention.
I enjoyed Hand of Fate and with its rogue-like Action-RPG infused with tarot cards and games of chance. Hand of Fate 2 is very much a sequel, improving on everything that worked and adding more content to fit its card-based world.
The Dealer is back from his near death experience and sets out to train a new pupil. The sequel keeps the timed action combat most famously used in the Batman Arkham series while alleviating some frustrations from the first game. A big help is an AI ally who helps keep the often large number of foes manageable. The randomized chance mechanics have also been greatly improved, and now include new mini-games like rolling dice in addition to choosing cards.
Developer: Frozenbyte Platforms: Steam PC, PS4, XBO, Nintendo Switch Release: March 28, 2017
Has-Been Heroes was briefly teased during the Nintendo Switch Presentation, and at PAX South I got my hands on it. It’s a rogue-like strategy-RPG where your veteran heroes have to escort the young princesses to school. You control three heroes who each occupy a separate lane while enemies creep toward you, similar to Plants vs Zombies. Combat is designed to let you pause frequently to set up attacks and spell combinations.
It’s a unique combination of side-scrolling tower defense and action-RPG that requires you to learn a rhythm of timing your attacks and chaining spell effects together – like drenching foes in water before shocking them with lightning. Randomized map layouts, spells, and items ensure a plethora of replayability. I wanted to play a lot more of this game, and that’s always a good sign.
Developer: Daylight Studios Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux Release: February 14, 2017
With a crew of veggie-people and a name like Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space, you know you’re in for a silly adventure. But there’s a great-looking sim management and spaceship combat game here as well. You’ll need to hire engineers, researchers, and a pilot to command your massive starship. Building new facilities and weapons is simple and fun, yet there’s also a lot of tactical options in deciding which weapons to mount where and who will fire them. A procedurally generated universe should bring a hefty does of depth to the bright, cheery art.
It would be presumptuous to call this the next FTL, but fans of that indie rogue-like spaceship adventure should definitely take a look.
Developer: Nexon America Platforms: Steam PC Release: 2017
I initially rolled my eyes at the goofy art style and MOBA gameplay, but then I sat down to play Hyper Universe. I’m now prepared to declare it one of my favorite games of PAX South.
Hyper Universe is a 2D, side-scrolling MOBA. This creates an interesting combination of 2D platformer with classic MOBA gameplay. You choose from a colorful cast of characters ripped straight out of sci-fi and popular culture. In the demo I played as a squid captain, clearly a take on Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Hyper Universe uses all the familiar mechanics of a MOBA, from farmable NPCs to multiple lanes and towers, but the 2D format really makes it unique, and creates an interesting arcade-like experience. It’s deliciously chaotic and colorful during massive team fights. Hyper Universe has been in beta in Korea since last year, and is hitting the U.S. for beta testing soon.
The Inner World
Developer: Headup Games Platforms: Mobile, PC (previously released), PS4, XBO Release: 2017
If you think the only kind of adventure games still being made are from Telltale, you need to pay attention to what’s coming out of Germany. Headup Games previously released their classic point and click adventure The Inner World on PC and mobile devices. At PAX South they showed off the new controller support as The Inner World heads for consoles.
The hand-drawn, cartoon graphics make The Inner World very accessible for all ages, and I couldn’t help but smile through the dialogue and descriptions in the opening area. Using a controller for an inventory-based adventure game takes some getting used to, but getting a chance to play this charming adventure is well worth it.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U Release: March 3, 2017
It’s Zelda. You want it. I want it. We all want it. I got to play about 15 minutes of the press demo at PAX South and it only confirmed my beliefs that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was really something special.
I’ve been lax with my 3D Zeldas. I never finished Twilight Princess and didn’t even play Skyward Sword. But Breath of the Wild is an astonishing leap forward. It’s a gigantic open world full of reactive enemies, dynamic weather, and a fully integrated crafting system. Zelda purists may actually balk at some of these changes but most of us will see them as long-awaited improvements. Breath of the Wild is set to completely redefine what it means to be an open-world game.
Developer: Daedalic Studio West Platforms: Steam PC, PS4, XBO Release: 2017
The Long Journey Home is a space exploration adventure that aims for a slightly more serious take than the other Daedalic published space game, Holy Potatoes. Your crew of four is stranded far from Earth, and will need to use their skills and the tactical choices you make to get back home.
Starting a new game generates a new galaxy to explore, filled with aliens that range from trade-happy to aggressively hostile. You’re given complete freedom on where to go and what to do. You can find and interact with aliens, harvest resources from planets, and make new discoveries. There’s a hefty dose of realistic space physics I saw first hand, like sling-shotting around planets and melting from radiation if you fly too close to a star. In a post-No Man’s Sky world, The Long Journey Home looks like a much more manageable and engaging space-based adventure.
Mages of Mystralia
Developer: Borealys Games Platforms: PC Release: 2017
On the surface Mages of Mystralia looks like a nice indie Zelda clone. But there’s an incredibly cool spell-crafting system that lets you modify every spell at your disposal into near infinite combinations.
Zia is a young mage just learning to use her newfound powers. Instead of gaining weapons and items to defeat enemies and solve puzzles, you’ll be given spells. Not just spells – runes to modify each spell.
Each of your four spell slots can be equipped with multiple runes that change the nature of the spell. Attaching an arrow to fire lets you shoot firebolts. Eventually you can attach several runes to create some crazy cool powers. One example I saw was dashing forward, leaving behind a decoy that then rotated around and fired fireballs at an angle. You’ll need to manage your mana levels and you’ll gain more advanced runes as you go. With a story written by Ed Greenwood (of D&D fame), Mages of Mystralia is looking like a must-buy indie title.
MetaArcade Adventures Platform
Developer: MetaArcade Platforms: Mobile, PC, Mac Release: 2017
If you’re too young to remember the old black and white Tunnels & Trolls role-playing books from the 70s and 80s you should still recall the Choose Your Own Adventure books. These stories allowed you to create your own personal role-playing story, crafted by the choices you make on each page. MetaArcade’s new Adventure Creator recreates this system, giving the tools to craft these user-friendly RPG adventures directly into players’ hands.
MetaArcade acquired the Tunnels & Trolls license, allowing them to produce the over 30 published adventures. In addition to creating these adventures, the release of the Adventure Creator will allow anyone to make their own text-based dungeon-crawling adventures. At PAX South I helped create a classroom section that rewarded the player based on three different choices. I look forward to what great story-tellers can do given this nifty tool.
Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!
Developer: Nintendo Platforms: Nintendo Switch Release: March 2017
I was hugely impressed with Nintendo’s little cooperative puzzle game Snipperclips. Snipperclips was designed for two player local cooperative play using the two halves of the Joy-Con.
Within the cute paper world, the two paper characters could rotate their bodies and snip each other to fit shapes and solve puzzles. Puzzles were open-ended and could be solved in multiple ways, such as creating certain shapes to push buttons and move objects. The art style and design is very kid-friendly. Snipperclips will be a very nice addition to the Nintendo Switch’s near-launch lineup.
Developer: Nintendo Platforms: Nintendo Switch Release: Summer 2017
Splatoon 2 played just like you’d expect – exactly like the first game. Two teams of four square off in third-person shooting mayhem. Your goal is to paint more of the map in your team’s colors, and you can choose from a variety of weapon types and special abilities.
The PAX South demo just showed the standard PvP mode, which didn’t have much new to offer. A new jetpack ultimate ability boosted you in the air where you could rain down rocket blasts of paint at foes. A whirlwind attack let you blast a large area right around you. If you loved Splatoon or missed out on the first one, the sequel will definitely deliver more of that paint-shooting goodness.
Developer: Trion Worlds Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO (currently in open beta) Release: 2017
Trove is a voxel-powered MMORPG, which is fancy for “it’s like Minecraft.” Trove feels like much more of a structured game, however, with a variety of character classes you can switch to on the fly. It’s an easy game to jump into and far more action-packed than Minecraft. You can still build and construct worlds, but the goal will be to jump in and go on quests and battle monsters with friends. Each server can host up to 60 people, and you don’t even need to be in a group to share experience and loot with people around you.
Trove is currently in open beta and being crafted as a free-to-play title, with player-created items, mounts, costumes, and entire zones to explore and adventure in together.
A new sub-genre of adventure games called First-Person Narrative Adventures are becoming more popular, with Gone Home being the biggest example and a champion of the genre. What Remains of Edith Finch is told in a similar vein. Edith returns to her creepy yet wondrous childhood home, where all her relatives have died. Their rooms have been sealed up but Edith finds ways inside, and relives their last moments.
That may sound like a horror game but What Remains of Edith Finch is actually much more introspective and emotional. You experience the hopes and dreams of your past relatives, and even shift to entirely new perspectives. When I explored Molly’s past, a girl that died in the 1940’s, I searched for food, eventually climbing outside and morphing into different animals as I hunted prey.
Your goal is to complete each section of the family tree and explore your home and your past. For fans of this relatively new and interesting genre, What Remains of Edith Finch looks like a definite winner.