My people are not, as a rule, dancers. We are, however, gamers, so when Nintendo of America sent us a Just Dance party pack—complete with snacks and silly hats and, of course, Just Dance 2020 for the Nintendo Switch—we were beholden to try it out. What we found was a joyous, raucous rhythm-game experience, but one that was occasionally interrupted by a paywall.
Assuming you’ve been in some sort of self-imposed isolation for the last decade, Just Dance is a music game property that grew out of motion gaming craze of the early 2000s. Unlike arcade-style dance titles, which required specialized dance pad hardware, Just Dance used the motion tracking capabilities of the Wii Remote to follow players’ actions as they mimicked the moves of virtual choreographers.
This eventually translated into support for the PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect, with modern iterations using nothing more than your smartphone and a specialized controller app. In addition to smartphone support, Just Dance 2020 can also employ the Switch’s innovative Joy-Con controllers to chart your boogying, but no matter which interface you choose, the mission remains unchanged: ape the movements of the onscreen avatars for fun, points, and bragging rights.
Just Dance 2020 comes complete with a number of modes. Solo or co-op, you can work your way through the game’s 40 new tracks—featuring pop hits from Ariana Grande (“7 Rings,” “God Is a Woman”), the driving dubstep of Skrillex (“Bangarang”), the Baltic rave sounds of Little Big (“Skibidi”), and the country rap of Lil Nas X alongside K-pop queens 2NE1 (“I Am the Best”), Cardi B’s Latin-flavored “I Like It,” and some truly perplexing but no less satisfying selections (like The Streets’ 2004 alt-hip-hop banger “Fit But you Know It” and even a cover of Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”).
There’s also a dedicated Kids Mode (complete with that “Baby Shark” song you can’t seem to escape) that’s just right for your youngest dancers, and All Stars Mode, which perfectly encapsulates 10 years of Just Dance‘s high-octane hijinks, is equally well-suited to longtime fans.
By far the most impressive feature, though, is Just Dance Unlimited, an on-demand streaming service boasting more than 500 tracks to choose from. The catch, of course, is that there is a subscription required. Ranging from $2.99 for a single day to $24.99 for a full year (with one and three-month intervals also avaialble for $3.99 and $9.99 respectively), there are a number of options based on whether you’re just looking to dance the night away or dig deep into the Unlimited catalog, but be warned that there are bound to be some selections that catch your eye on the song list that are locked behind this subscription wall.
This Switch version does come with a free 30-day Unlimited subscription, which definitely sweetens the pot during this visitor-heavy holiday season, but I’ve yet to be able to actually use mine. While I can see that the subscription is active in my Nintendo account, I seem to be stuck in an endless online confirmation loop that keeps directing me to log into the eShop and return to the game only to tell me, again, to… log into the eShop… and return to the game.
(For what it’s worth, this is likely due to the fact that the original Switch on which I’m playing is not my “primary” machine—that’s now my Switch Lite—but if you’ve also activated a Switch Lite as your main system, consider this a friendly warning.)
With song recommendations based on your musical tastes, dance routines across multiple levels of skill and intensity, themed and customizable playlists, and ample unlockables, Just Dance 2020 has a lot to offer music lovers of all stripes. In fact, at a $40 MSRP (currently around $34 on Amazon) the only knock I have against the title is how it regularly tempts players—especially us older types—toward its subscription-only content.
Of course, a reliance on the subscription model is not the game’s most dubious honor.
Just Dance 2020—a veritable celebration of the Ubisoft rhythm franchise’s 10th anniversary—is likely the last commercial release for the Nintendo Wii. Let that sink in for a minute; a console that was discontinued in 2013 is still receiving support as of this month for America’s most enduring dance game.
While that says a lot about the family-friendly legacy of the Wii, it says just as much about the universal appeal of the Just Dance series. So, as your family rolls in from out of town or you and your friends spend another joyful evening imbibing eggnog and reminiscing about your glory days, don’t hesitate to slap Just Dance 2020 in your Nintendo Switch. Because nothing goes better with the holidays than shaking your collective groove thing to Billie Eilish.
Review materials, gourmet popcorn, novelty hats, and brightly colored wigs were provided by Nintendo of America. There are photos, but my children have made me promise never to share them. I am sorry. This post contains affiliate links.