Nintendo Switch: The System's Best Games Of 2019
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The Best Games You Can Find On Switch This Year
The current console generation may be winding down for PS4 and Xbox One, but as 2019 proved, the Nintendo Switch is just hitting its stride. Nintendo's hybrid system has been on a veritable roll since it launched back in March 2017, and this past year has been another strong one for the platform, with a swathe of great titles (exclusive or otherwise) arriving over the course of the year.
Nintendo's first-party lineup, in particular, was terrific this year. While 2019 got off to a slow start in terms of releases, things quickly ramped up toward the back half of the year, with Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Luigi's Mansion 3, Pokemon Sword and Shield, and more all hitting the system in quick succession.
And that's to say nothing of the third-party support Switch received in 2019. The hybrid console continues to be a fertile home for indie developers, and this year brought another batch of stellar indie games to the platform, including the Zelda/Crypt of the NecroDancer crossover Cadence of Hyrule and the hilarious Untitled Goose Game. And despite Switch's technical limitations, major third-parties continued to bring their titles to the system, even some that would not have seemed possible just a few years ago, like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Overwatch, and Dragon Quest XI.
All of that is to say 2019 has been a great year for Switch owners. With so many highlights to choose from, narrowing down a list of this year's standout titles has been difficult, but the GameSpot staff have rounded up our picks for the best Switch games of 2019 below.
If you're curious about what else we've highlighted as the best games in other categories, be sure to check out all our end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub. You can also check out our top 10 games of 2019. Over the next few days, we will offer further insight into why we picked them as the best of 2019, with a standalone article going live on-site in order of the games' release dates. Then, on December 17, we will reveal which of them gets to take home the coveted title of GameSpot's Best Game of 2019.
Pokemon Sword & Shield
Pokemon games typically don't stray very far from the series' formula, and that holds true for Pokemon Sword and Shield as well. At their core, the eighth-generation titles still largely adhere to the same conventions established by Pokemon Red and Blue back on the Game Boy, but it is the numerous ways developer Game Freak has built upon and refined this foundation that makes these the most exciting new Pokemon games in years.
On top of the usual changes that accompany each generational leap, Sword and Shield introduce an assortment of new features that improve the experience for both longtime players and newcomers alike. For hardcore fans, it's the various adjustments to competitive play that are most alluring. Not only has Game Freak introduced a variety of new equipable items and Pokemon abilities to the mix, upending familiar battle strategies, the studio has also made competitive battling more accessible than ever thanks to radical new additions like nature-changing mints, which drastically cut back on the amount of time it takes to assemble a battle-ready team.
The entire experience has been streamlined in other smart ways as well, but it's the Wild Area--a sprawling expanse of land that stretches across the Galar region--that stands out as another highlight. It's in this open-world area, with its light MMO elements and constant sense of discovery, that Sword and Shield shine the brightest. Add to that addictive new timesinks like curry cooking and Max Raids, which allow you to team up with other players and catch Godzilla-sized Pokemon together, and it's easy to see why Sword and Shield deserve a place among Switch's best games of 2019.
Untitled Goose Game
Of all the power fantasies peddled by video games, few have felt as convincing as House House's Untitled Goose Game. The premise of the title is universal: As Mother Nature's agent of chaos, a goose, it is your duty to methodically harass the inhabitants of a sleepy English village, stealing items, knocking over furniture, and generally making life miserable for whoever is unfortunate enough to cross your path.
As humorous as the game's premise is, what makes Untitled Goose Game such a memorable title is just how brilliantly it depicts the awfulness of geese through player agency, resulting in a genuinely side-splitting experience. It is rare to see a game convey humor through its gameplay as well as Untitled Goose Game does, and startling villagers with a loud honk never ceases to be amusing. It may be on the short side, but there's a good reason Untitled Goose Game is one of the most talked about titles of the year, and it's an absolute must-play for every Switch owner.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Despite its early struggles to reach a Western audience, Fire Emblem has grown into one of Nintendo's tentpole franchises, and its latest installment, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, sets a new benchmark for the long-running RPG series. Developer Intelligent Systems has taken the challenging chess-like gameplay the franchise is renowned for and enlivened it with greater social aspects, resulting in one of the most compelling titles of the year, regardless of platform.
Part of Fire Emblem's appeal has always stemmed from the camaraderie you develop with your troops, each of whom has their own distinct personality and backstory, but Three Houses expands on this greatly by placing you in the shoes of a mercenary-turned-professor charged with overseeing one of the game's three student houses. You'll spend much of your time in this role managing the growth and tutelage of your pupils, dictating which lessons they study and how they ultimately develop. This, in turn, makes it much more rewarding to forge bonds with them and watch as they grow into hardened soldiers who can hold their own on the battlefield.
Underpinning all of this is the series' trademark tactical foundation, which remains as thrilling as ever thanks to some smart refinements. The weapon triangle of old is downplayed significantly in favor of Combat Arts and Gambits, which make enemy engagements more thoughtful. All of these elements coalesce into one of the most engrossing RPGs on Switch and arguably the best game to arrive on the system this year.
Luigi's Mansion 3
Nintendo's cowardly plumber Luigi rarely gets a chance to step out of his older brother's shadow, but each time he does, the results have been wonderful. His third solo outing, Luigi's Mansion 3, is perhaps the strongest entry in the series to date, marrying the best elements of its two predecessors to create one of the most charming and inventive titles to hit the Switch this year.
Much like previous installments, Luigi's Mansion 3 plays out like a methodical game of Ghostbusters. As the lanky plumber, you must carefully explore each floor of the Last Resort hotel, sucking up ghosts and solving puzzles. Luigi's primary means of surmounting these obstacles comes through the Poltergust, a vacuum-like contraption that he wears on his back at all times, and the game makes clever use of the device throughout your adventure. Every puzzle and boss you encounter utilizes the Poltergust's various functions in some inventive way, and they feel incredibly satisfying to overcome as a result.
Also satisfying are the new Poltergust abilities at your disposal, such as the Suction Shot and Slam, which open up new gameplay opportunities and add a welcome sense of action to ghost hunting. Best of all, however, is Gooigi, a goopy doppelganger of Luigi that a second player can control for some co-op adventuring. That the campaign is complemented by two dedicated multiplayer modes, ScreamPark and the hectic ScareScraper, is just icing on what is an already delectable cake.
Many developers were quick to jump on the battle royale bandwagon in the wake of Fortnite's breakout success, but the most unexpected stab at the genre came in the form of Tetris 99--a battle royale-inspired take on the classic puzzle series. All the more surprising, however, is just how potently this unlikely combination works, turning what initially seemed like a prank into one of the most consuming games on the Switch.
Much like a typical battle royale game, Tetris 99 pits you against nearly a hundred other players, with the object being to outlast your opponents. Matches otherwise play out in traditional Tetris fashion, but it is the presence of so many adversaries, who may send screen-filling debris your way at any given moment, that lends each round such urgency. The result is a fast and frenetic multiplayer experience, which is made all the more addictive by the ease with which you can jump into a new match when the pieces don't quite fall your way.
In the months since its release, Nintendo and developer Arika have steadily supported Tetris 99 with new modes and regular monthly events, giving players numerous reasons to return to the game regularly. Even with the embellishments, however, the core appeal of Tetris 99 stems from its thrilling battle royale mode, making it not just one of the best games of the year, but one of the best in the entire Switch library and the standout reason to subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online service.