2017, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Switch

2017 has been a crazy year for a fan of games. So many incredible experiences have debuted this year, while at the same time there have been more controversies than ever before. For every Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata and Wolfenstein II, there’s been a major publisher promoting gambling to children, a “whales & dolphins” promotional video and a Take 2 Interactive killing off mods in Grand Theft Auto. Entire publishers have, to me at least, effectively blacklisted themselves from my interest. I don’t think I’ll ever buy an EA game again (not that I have, bar Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, since 2014). 2K’s 2017 actions put me off WWE 2K18. I’m no longer interested in a potential Forza Horizon 4 with what a mess Forza 7 was.

But it’s no loss to me any more, because 2017 is also the year where I underwent the biggest shift in interest I have ever experienced as a gamer. I spent two decades of general preference towards Sony consoles. And then the Nintendo Switch happened.

Going backwards a little, this was fairly premeditated. The PlayStation 1 and 2 were both consoles I loved dearly – I have over 200 games for each now and still play them regularly. I loved the PlayStation 3 too, with its shiny new graphics, also-incredible game library (I probably top 200 for it too!), and plenty of new features like PlayStation Home. But PS3 also started a couple of things that manifested ten years later into things I’m less of a fan of.

For one, game installs – they were fairly harmless for the most part on PS3, with games only taking a few GBs to lighten loading times. For another, updates. Again, not a big problem on the console, most games only patched a few MBs and generally you could reliably play a game without updating it. The biggest shift in gaming that didn’t interest me, though, was online gaming. I’m aware that many love gaming online and I don’t lament its existence, I just don’t like that certain games had online play forced in, to the interest of very few, when those games worked perfectly well as single player experiences.

But these issues got worse with PlayStation 4. Most games install their entire, bloated bulk to the console now – where my old 60GB PS3 could do about 20 games before I had to clear away installs and my 250GB one can hold a lot, my 500GB PS4 gets to about 8 games and gets the hump. Games often do a little of the install and then let you play the game, only for you to find out that you still have a half-an-hour wait until the actual game installs. But you can play with the menu until then! Lucky you.

Added to this, game updates can run into the tens of gigabytes in the worst examples. Most games still work without them, they just consume my internet bandwidth for several hours while they pump in huge piles of data. But then some games either steer you into awful limited versions of the games, or worse, don’t even let you play, unless you have an internet connection. Hitman was an example of the former, cutting even the level select out of the experience unless you updated and stayed online. And Steep did the latter. When Steep’s servers go down, my copy of the game, that I played single player, will completely die. It was a fun Christmas Day 2016 having to spend three hours waiting for my gift to start working.

Online gaming is more prominent than ever in PS4 and Xbox One, but the commonplace of internet connections has brought about some gross extra baggage present in many games. DLC was a fairly good idea to begin with, giving you more of the same game for a fee, and is something I’m still in support of. But games now ship with huge lists of DLC options, most of which are superficial and worthless. It’s also hilarious how many games promote themselves early on with pre-order bonuses, and then half the time if you buy it months after launch, you still get the “Day One” edition.

To pollute the payment waters, many games now also have microtransactions. Popularised by free-to-download mobile games that needed to fund themselves, there are now a plethora of full-priced games more than happy to give you some in-game currency for money… as often as you like. And as often as the game can psychologically manipulate you into feeling it’s necessary to do so. And in 2017, this has gone one step further with loot boxes, which prey on people’s desire for new things, new advantages, with casino-like elements, eye-popping graphical effects and ASMR-inducing sound effects designed to tantalise the senses and trick the gambling addiction-prone “whales” into forking out for more rolls of the dice, more pulls of the one-armed bandit, more spins of the wheel. Maybe this time, you’ll get that special clothing, or that combat advantage.

And yet, I have not encountered it. Because I’ve been in Nintendo’s arms since March 3rd this year. For this is the year that the Nintendo Switch came out, and turned me.

Nintendo, have, despite what might be considered a rocky start, owned 2017. They hooked me with that first video that revealed the codenamed “NX” to be the “Nintendo Switch”, a portable-home console hybrid. My interest in the unit was immediate, and instantly orders of magnitude greater than that of the Wii U (which I also got on launch, and still enjoyed myself with). I’ve always had a big soft spot for portable gaming and especially Nintendo portable gaming, but consoles like the PlayStation Vita kept me interested in having console-quality experiences on them, with games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss. (I still play my Vita, although mostly as a portable PS1 now with the Spyros, the Crashes and the Tombis installed.) Nintendo Switch did that, and with none of the crap that’s swimming around in Star Wars Battlefront II, Need for Speed Payback, NBA 2K18, Call of Duty WWII etc.

I was on the phone being interviewed by a friend’s potential employer as a reference on the day the Switch came out, and was willing it to be over, halfway through, when the postie knocked on the door. As soon as it was, I tore the console and my shiny new copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild open, and fell in love even more.

I’ve always adored games I can get lost in. Ubisoft’s “formulaic” offerings, led by Far Cry 1-4, were often lambasted for being fairly formulaic and copy-and-paste, filling an expansive open world with repetitions of the same few ideas for you to work through one at a time, but it’s something that’s always worked for me. I like seeing a map slowly, piece by piece, region by region, turn my colour, and even better if I can dawdle in the world in the meantime and immerse myself. Fallout 4 got me more than almost any game prior for this, adding character customisation so I could even more place myself in my character’s shoes.

Breath of the Wild captured that magic to the same degree as Fallout 4. For 205 hours, I was Link, and I was a resident of Hyrule. And I couldn’t get enough of the game. It speaks volumes about Nintendo’s quality this year that Breath of the Wild wasn’t even my favourite game on Switch of 2017, but it was still an easy 10/10 experience for me.

Legend of Zelda also started a run of high-quality Nintendo games that I cannot recall being matched by them, or perhaps any other game developer or publisher in a long time. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Arms. Splatoon 2. Mario vs Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Pokken Tournament. Super Mario Odyssey. Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Not every game for everyone, but a whole lot for most people. And that’s only the first party tip of the Switch gaming iceberg.

Beyond that, the console has had excellent, high quality ports of high-ticket games like LA Noire and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, both of which feel as fresh, modern and incredible as they did when first released, made better by their newfound portability (playing Skyrim alone on the go is captivating). It’s had plenty of other bigger experiences like Minecraft, Rayman Legends, all four Jackbox Party Pack games (including the brand new one), several Lego games (I got 85 hours out of Lego City Undercover alone), Street Fighter, two Sonic games of varying quality, NBA Playgrounds (which has none of NBA 2K18’s microtransactions) and many more.

The indie game support for the Nintendo Switch has been astounding as well, with many heavy hitters and otherwise superb experiences making their way to it this year. The Binding of Isaac, Cave Story, Snake Pass, Snipperclips, Mr Shifty, Sine Mora, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Gonner, Wheels of Aurelia… the list is already expansive. I have over 30 games for Nintendo Switch – I doubt I’ve bought that many for any console prior in its first eight months.

So I have Nintendo to thank for 2017 being a hugely optimistic time for me as a gamer, rather than the train wreck it could have been.

And as a little extra, here’s what I’d like to see in 2018 (ignoring what’s already been announced – Pokémon for Switch is going to be what I look at with tunnel vision until more is revealed) and beyond for Nintendo’s device. It’ll have to do a lot to top 2017, that’s for sure. But I hope dearly that it does.

Realistic

Super Smash Bros 5
Obvious choice, and probably happening. Super Smash Bros is a series made for the Switch – its single screen display means the unit’s physical screen size is not a problem when playing it in portable mode, and the game’s simple controls should translate without issue to a single Joy-con.

Mario Party 11
Another obvious choice, being a first party Nintendo series that would be perfect for the Switch setting. If (or when, really) Mario Party 11 occurs, I really hope it retracts the change introduced in 9 where every player remains on the same square of the board – 8 is the game I always find myself going back to when I require a Mario Party fix. Infact, I would love 11 to just be 8 HD – the return of that superb game board in Mario Party 8 where you could build up hotels Monopoly-style would be right up my alley.

Watch Dogs 2 (or 3)
I loved both Watch Dogs games – the first, despite a stupid story, was a jam-packed rendition of Chicago that was great fun to play in. And the sequel took that concept and ran further with it. If Watch Dogs 1 and 2 suggest a pattern for Ubisoft’s GTA-meets-hacking series, it would seem possible that Watch Dogs 3 might arrive at the end of next year. And 2017 has seen them pair up with Nintendo and support the unit well, including with the Mario + Rabbids game that was better than it had any right to be. I would love for a game on the calibre of Watch Dogs 2, be it a full sequel or a rerelease of the second game, on the Switch. Nintendo consoles have sadly been quite barren on the crime simulator front, but a Watch Dogs game still seems on the cards for Switch. If it means they have to drop Steep, which is yet to come out despite being promised a Switch release… fine!

Apps
Netflix is on everything except Switch, it seems. I don’t use Netflix, but there are a number of similar services I’d love to have on Switch – Plex at the top of the queue, but Spotify, WWE Network, YouTube, Amazon Video, and catchup services like BBC iPlayer and All 4 would be welcome and useful to me. Because of their ubiquity on consoles nowadays, this seems likely to occur. Beyond music and video, it would also be good to have some other basic functions, such as a web browser, a news app (for general news, not Nintendo news), heck even maps and weather, would be great.

Possible

A great new first party IP
Nintendo are renowned for keeping old franchises going – Switch’s two “headline” titles this year were both the latest instalments in franchises that are 5-10 years older than I am. But they do crack out new games now and then – Nintendoland, Splatoon and Arms were all interesting new ideas. A brand new IP, with a game at a scale comparable to Breath of the Wild and Odyssey, showcasing Nintendo’s usual creativity while simultaneously bringing new, interesting ideas and characters to the forefront, would be excellent.

More from Bethesda and Rockstar
The tag team of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and LA Noire have proven that previous-generation games still feel great to play today while also working beautifully on the Nintendo Switch – both of those games run perfectly. Bethesda in particular even went one step further by porting Doom, a 2016 game, and will be bringing this year’s Wolfenstein II in the coming months – both of which are just as fun as, and nearly identical to, their bigger console counterparts.

The big glaring game I want to see from Bethesda on Switch, having already spent around 30 hours in Skyrim and looking to go much much further in it, would be Fallout 4. Rockstar have a huge expansive library of games I love, including my all-time favourite game, Bully. But Grand Theft Auto IV and V, Red Dead Redemption (if not its sequel), The Warriors and even Max Payne 3 would be equally welcome onto my machine any day of the week.

And it would be lovely if Bethesda continued releasing their new stuff on Switch, too. I don’t mind if they look worse than on PC/PS4/Xbox One, come months later, lack disposable features and are a tenner more expensive, I’d still happily opt to buy the Switch versions for all the reasons I’ve gushed about it already – as I will be doing with Wolfenstein II when it makes it out, and Doom when I’m less lost in the world of Skyrim.

Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 HD
High resolution ports of Mario’s previous big adventures are long overdue. They came to Wii U as digital downloads but remained in standard definition. With Super Mario Odyssey in the bag and it being maybe a tiny bit too soon to go for a full second playthrough, I would love to be able to enjoy the ex-plumber’s planetary adventures again, and on a console I love rather than one I’m relatively ambivalent to. Heck, it could be argued that there’s room for a Super Mario All-Stars 2, covering 64 and Sunshine as well.

…and other rereleases of Nintendo games
The Switch shouldn’t become solely a rerelease machine, sure. Wii U had a problem with a lack of heavy hitting games, with Mario lacking a major adventure and its Zelda games being HD versions of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess until Breath of the Wild released on both. But it feels like, now the most powerful Nintendo console is also portable, it should be viable, and would be great, for some of Nintendo’s other fantastic games from their past to gain that power. I want to play The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker on the go. Nintendoland. Super Mario Maker. Bayonetta. Metroid Prime. F-Zero GX. I’m cherry picking my personal favourites here, but there are countless others that I’m sure many Switch owners would appreciate too. Nintendo probably has the best library of games to their name in terms of quality and quantity, and to me, the Switch is a natural home for them all.

A modern Street Fighter
I do love me a good fighting game, and my preference lies with Street Fighter. The console has an enhanced port of Street Fighter II already, but I’d love to see a much more modern version with more of the recent roster. My choice, if I could give one, would be Street Fighter X Tekken for its massive roster and interesting tag team mechanic, but I’d take one of the enhanced versions of Street Fighter IV or even a more complete version of Street Fighter V. (Mortal Kombat X, Injustice 2 or Dead or Alive 5 would also suit me fine.)

More digital versions of physical games
The Switch currently has games for things like chess, Othello, Monopoly and Uno, and to me, with the fact it comes with two controllers sitting on it at all times, it’s a brilliant way of playing these games with minimal space consumption. Monopoly’s a whole lot less fiddly when you don’t have stacks of money, too.

More “high-ticket” indie games
Nintendo Switch has already killed it in 2017 with independently-developed games, with a ton of releases at good prices and low drive space impact that are easy to buy and throw into your library for fast-paced fun. I hope this continues for years to come. Some of my desired “Nindie” releases would be games like The Witness, Gang Beasts, Superhot, Cluster Truck, Tokyo 42, Fez, Hotline Miami, Antichamber, Spelunky, and Westerado: Double Barreled.

Patch Linkle into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I mean, come on.

3DS, 2011-2017
Alright, this one’s selfish. But the Switch, to me, fulfils every duty I previously looked at the 3DS for, and in more spectacular fashion. I’ve returned to the 3DS for two games this year – Layton’s Mystery Journey and Pokémon Ultra Sun, and it really did feel like I was going back in time for them. Ultra Sun in particular came out on the same day as Skyrim – as much as I loved the original Pokémon Sun, now I have a massive sprawling open world gorgeous RPG sitting next to it, I’m struggling to drum up any enthusiasm for Pokémon. At the very least, I hope for all future major 3DS releases to get Switch versions at the same time.

Larger available cartridge sizes
I obviously don’t know the practicality of this. But a couple of games, namely Doom, 2K’s loot box sporting games and LA Noire (not Skyrim!), have required the download and installation of extra game data to “complete” them. LA Noire for example, the only one I have first hand experience of, stops after a certain number of cases if you haven’t downloaded this – thankfully, you get plenty of gameplay prior. With the Nintendo Switch’s limited space, something that will only be solved once higher capacity Micro SDXC cards are commonplace, it would be nice if every game could be squeezed onto the size of an appropriate cartridge – even if it meant paying a little extra for physical copies of the games. I just have this fear that, like with how PS4 and Xbox One are nowadays, certain games will start taking more and more liberties with the drive space I have – at the moment, I can play far more games without managing space usage on Switch than I can my other consoles despite it only having 160GB of space total, because so many PS4 and Xbox games treat my hard drive like a toilet.

Improbable

Super Mario Odyssey 2, or significant content DLC for Odyssey 1
Unlikely this will happen any time soon even if it’s on the cards. But no game has ever captivated me quite in the way that Odyssey achieved. Put simply, I want more of it. I want more things to boomerang Cappy at. I want new levels to explore. I want that sense of entering a kingdom or even just an area within a kingdom for the first time and the game having yet another brand new trick up its sleeve. Whether it came in the form of a sequel a la Galaxy 2, content DLC a la the original plan for what became Galaxy 2, or something else, more Odyssey will be in my dreams.

Tomodachi 3
I swore I would never play a Tomodachi game again after accidentally becoming a junkie for Tomodachi Life for 3DS. And yet now I find myself with a desire to play one again, but on the Switch. The Tomodachi series has continued in varying forms since Tomodachi Life came out, with social networking mobile spinoff Miitomo and the RPG-based spinoff Miitopia, suggesting Nintendo still has interest in bringing out games. But the de-emphasising of Miis on the Switch could be this one’s downfall.

WarioWare and Rhythm Paradise
In my humble opinion, one of Nintendo’s best 21st century creations, the WarioWare series features a unique barrage of microgames that pay homage to classic Nintendo works as well as producing hundreds of fresh new little ideas, all in a frantic, hilarious package. The original was a highlight of the GameBoy Advance library that also saw a Virtual Console release on 3DS. Later instalments graced the DS, Wii and Wii U, although the latter was the weaker Game & Wario. It’s another game that would work well in portable and party modes with single Joy-Cons alike and could easily be a console highlight again with a new version. Preferrably one without a game-limiting gimmick like some of the WarioWare games (DIY, Twisted) were known for. In a similar vein,  due to the quick-fire, simple but brilliant gameplay that would work brilliantly with Switch, Rhythm Paradise (aka Rhythm Heaven) deserves another look too.

A Mii hub, or something similar for Switch’s front end
Speaking of Miis, perhaps my biggest complaint with the Switch is that it’s a lot less fun than Wii U was. When you booted up Wii U, you saw your Mii in the “Miiverse”, a place populated by other real life people. You could pop into Miiverse, draw little pictures and share them, write messages, it was all good fun. And these messages and drawings would then occasionally pop up in the Wii U’s menu. The Switch’s menu is a flat single colour, with monotone buttons and a line of your games for you to pick from. In a realistic world, I’d love to see Miiverse come back. In a fantasy one, I’d like to see them go “PlayStation Home” – let you, as your Mii, wander through ad-filled but wonderful places filled with other people to chat to and little activities to do. I’m not sure why consoles released since 2013 have been forced to flatten their front ends into clean nothingness, but if anyone has a chance of reversing that, surely it’s Ninty.

Switch equivalents of NES/SNES Classic Mini game anthologies
This one feels like it should be a no brainer to me. By Nintendo’s accounts, these two units are fairly pricey to manufacture. They’re almost impossible to get hold of without paying through the nose to scummy scalpers on eBay… or CeX. And realistically, all I want is to give Nintendo some money for a nicer official way to play the games I grew up with as a child. For the same price as the original units’ RRPs (£50 and £80), why can’t we have NES and SNES anthology releases with the same classic game lineups, that I can slot into my Switch and play on the go? Even if the standalone console anthologies were readily available, I’d strongly prefer this method to eating up an HDMI on my already crowded television with a unit that has no room for expansion.

Fantasy

A new F-Zero
It’s been 13 years since this franchise got a look in, and that wasn’t even a home console game – it was on GameBoy Advance. F-Zero was my introduction, alongside Stunt Racer FX (of all things), to the racing genre of gaming – as a kid, I was car-mad, and my love for racing games that peaked with Gran Turismo started there. This seems doubly unlikely with Fast RMX on Switch filling in for it, but Fast RMX doesn’t have Mute City or Big Blue, or the iconic music that went with them. It just has… colour switching. Captain Falcon has been in three Smash Bros games since he last got behind the wheel of a hover car – give him another go!

A good extreme sports boarding game
It’s been a long time. Tony Hawk’s last properly good game was Project 8 in 2006. Activision appears to have let their license on that lapse now, following the disastrous Pro Skater HD and Pro Skater 5. EA had newer great games, in 2007-2010 with the Skate series and 2012 with a reboot of SSX that worked perfectly well, but both of those franchises have since remained dormant. And both companies seem more interested in making casino games than fun ones nowadays, so even if either announced a new boarding game, I’d be hard pressed to trust it. But I’d kill for a good game in that genre on Switch. The closest it seems the console might get is Ubisoft’s Steep, which wasn’t terrible but was disappointing. Maybe they’ll make an improved Steep 2 – I’m open to it, especially as it seems like there’s sod all chance of anything else kickflipping its way into my life any time soon. Back to American Wasteland on Xbox 360 for me.

Patch in backwards compatibility
I don’t expect Nintendo to release a disc drive that gives the Switch back compatibility with Wii U, Wii and Gamecube, sure. But you know what I would love? Digital game support. If the Switch can emulate the Wii, then great – several superb Wii games got digital releases, and it would be great to have those (especially without re-buying digital copies). Old eShop and Virtual Console releases would be wonderful too, I have a lot of GBC, GBA, NES and SNES games downloaded to my Wii U and 3DS, and getting them on Switch would be beautiful. One of the saving graces of the PlayStation Vita for me was that I could take all of the old PS1 games I had bought digitally on PS3 and PSP, throw them straight onto the Vita without further payment, and play them on it. (And if they do release that disc drive… my god.)

For Pokémon’s Switch debut to have Bank support on day 1
Less likely than me winning the lottery. I don’t even enter the lottery.

Allison James

Independent game developer, font creator and occasional casual writer.

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