Real talk: If you’re picking up the Nintendo Switch this week, chances are you’ve already decided to invest in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as well. And that is totally okay because that game is awesome.
What you still may be floundering on is what else to buy for your Switch. I’ve already suggested a few necessary accessories–*cough*microSD card*cough*–but something I haven’t really touched on is additional games.
Again, BotW is amazing. It is also hard as balls, so you might want to consider purchasing a bit of lighter fare—a gaming palate-cleanser if you will.
This is especially true for those of us in gaming families, where fun trumps frustration and multiplayer reigns supreme. So, with that in mind, here are my picks for great Switch launch titles that aren’t Breath of the Wild.
At first blush, 1-2 Switch looks like some modern day Wii game, and, in a sense, it is. But don’t go in expecting the sort of simple challenge of a Wii Sports. Instead, think of 1-2 Switch as a wackier, wilder brand of mini-game collections.
Boasting more than two-dozen unique (and occasionally perplexing) experiences, 1-2 Switch first differentiates itself the rest of the motion-enabled pack by its constant insistence that you not look at the screen. Yeah, that one takes some getting used to.
Instead, each scenario requires that you and another played—this is strictly a two-player affair—lock eyes and follow cues like sound or Joy-Con motion to complete a competitive task. You’ll milk cows and soothe babies. You’ll have gunfights and try to catch sword strikes samurai-style. You’ll get mildly confused and kind of sweaty. But mostly you’ll laugh.
Each mini-game activity includes a fun, stylistically consistent intro video that, more or less, lets you know what you’re in for, as well as a pepper rating for its relative intensity. Single-pepper games are mild and almost contemplative, while four or five peppers denotes a livelier experience.
At $50, its difficult to call 1-2 Switch a budget title, and my heart still says that this wonderfully ridiculous product should have been a Switch system pack-in. However, it’s impossible to deny that 1-2 Switch knows exactly what it is; this is truly an outlandish gameplay experience for gamers and onlookers alike, not to mention one that’s destined to make an instant impression on pretty much anyone else within earshot.
Whether you’re estimating (by feel) the number of marbles in a virtual cup using the system’s HD Rumble feature—which does, for the record, totally work as advertised—or playing ping pong using your Joy-Con as a paddle and a wholly theoretical ball, 1-2 Switch is a good time. It’s a party game that truly is the life of the party, and the portable nature of the Switch itself means you can take this madcap action with you wherever you go.
Skylanders arguably invented and undeniably popularized the toys-to-life genre, but, as the market became crowded with other similar titles, my kids and I slowly drifted away from the property. At the January Nintendo Switch press event in NYC, I wandered into the Imaginators display—ironically enough because the 1-2 Switch booth had a long wait time—and was immediately reminded why Skylanders has proved such a robust and enduring license.
For those who, like me, may have lost touch with Spyro and company over the past few years, the core experience remains unchanged. It’s mostly a matter of picking the most effective (or simply your favorite) Skylander figure and transporting them into the game to platform, puzzle, and brawl your way through a candy-colored world teaming with fierce enemies and destructible obstacles.
There are, of course, the sort of notable new additions you’d expect from an A-list series in its sixth iteration. The first is the introduction of Senseis, massive masters of the fighting arts who have returned to the Skylands to aid in the fight against the evil Portal Master, Kaos, and his growing army of Doomlanders. Senseis can employ “Sky-Chi” to unleash punishing special attacks as well as unlock Sensei Shrines and sound Battle Gongs, new content areas otherwise inaccessible to regular Skylanders.
The Senseis have arrived, in part, to help train the newest generation of warriors, the titular Imaginators. These customizable characters are the real draw of this particular chapter in Skylanders lore, and, using special Creation Crystal figures, players can make them their own with a seemingly endless supply of unlockable components freed from scavenged Imaginite crystals. From armor and weapons to body parts and color schemes, your Imaginator is whatever you want it to be, even down to its voice and catchphrase!
Thanks to the right Joy-Con’s onboard NFC reader, you no longer need to fuss with the Portal of Power accessory to scan characters into the game world. Better yet, the Switch edition boasts a new digital library feature that lets fans load and store more than 300 Skylanders to the Switch hardware itself.
With its remarkable production values, Skylanders Imaginators looks and sounds even better than the earlier titles, and, with its trademark humor and specific focus on the power of imagination, it’s a perfect game for sharing with your little ones. While in Handheld Mode, you’re limited to a single-player experience, but TV and Tabletop Modes support two-player gameplay using your Joy-Cons and/or the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
Imaginators continues to support the toys from previous-generation games, and there is the requisite bevy of new Skylanders figures available for purchase. My kids are already leaning on me to pick up more Creation Crystals, but with Senseis like Grave Clobber and Pain-Yatta, I instead have my eyes on more of those delightful heavy-hitters. But even if you limit yourself to the trio of figures included in the Starter Pack, Skylanders Imaginators is another undeniable hit from Activision and Toys For Bob.
Super Bomberman R
My most recent Switch acquisition is a veritable blast from the past. (That was a horrible pun, and I apologize.) Originally developed by Hudson Soft in the 1980s, the Bomberman franchise now finds itself part of the expansive Konami family, and Konami Digital is celebrating the series’ 33rd anniversary with a special launch title for the Nintendo Switch.
Super Bomberman R—another $50 game—stays close to its old school roots. Steeped in its classic frantic, maze-based gameplay, it’s a title that offers plenty of fun, if not a whole lot in the way of surprises.
Its single-player Story Mode recounts the battle of the Bomberman Brothers (and Sisters, who always seem to get a little overlooked in their team branding) as they fight against evil mastermind Buggler and his Five Dastardly Bombers by… well, you know, blowing stuff up. Its 50 maps range from expansive and labyrinthine to downright claustrophobic, and each themed area is capped off with a bomb-tossing boss battle.
The writing isn’t exactly what you’d call groundbreaking, but the simple animation and unique vocal characterizations of each Bomberman (Bomberperson?) are certainly enjoyable. In the end, though, it all comes down to the cleverly effective mechanics that have long made Bomberman a beloved franchise: making calculated, deliberate movements, anticipating those of your enemies, and placing bombs strategically.
The bigger draw here, especially for longtime fans, is the multiplayer Battle Mode, and here Super Bomberman R undoubtedly delivers. Tabletop Mode lets four players get in on the isometric action, and TV Mode supports a full stable 8 Bombermen going head-to-head in online or local play. Its initial level offering is a little scant, but you can purchase additional maps and character customization options in the game’s shop using the coins collected during gameplay.
Stage mechanics like bomb-dragging magnets and collapsible columns help to keep things interesting, and the mix of explosives and players’ related expletives contrasts nicely with the quirky, childlike charm of the game as a whole. While families with younger geeklings likely won’t be able to get the full effect of Super Bomberman R‘s peculiar magic, those with older kids and households with an inclination toward fierce competition will no doubt be charmed by its brutal but cartoony bombast.