Everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch launch line up

So you just bought yourself a shiny new Nintendo Switch. Congratulations! Thing is, your several hundred dollar purchase doesn't come with any games, so you're going to have to buy the actual software separately. There's the obvious choice, of course (Do I need to say it? I need to say it, huh? It's Zelda. You're going to buy Zelda), but all told, there are about a dozen games you'll be able to pick up on launch day, either at retail or on Nintendo's digital eShop. And some are obviously going to be better than others.

We've been putting the Switch and its launch line-up through the paces as we've been getting them in, and while we've got our full review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild up now, we're still playing and testing everything else as they're being made available. Heck, the eShop has only just gone live hours before publication. As such, consider this a living guide. Keep this page bookmarked and come back periodically as we update it with our thoughts and recommendations on the launch line-up. And as more Switch games come out in the coming months, we'll continue to update this list to let you know which ones you absolutely need to own. Now, let's get to it.

The games you absolutely, positively need to own

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Action RPG
Price: $59.99/£49.99

What is it? The latest entry in Nintendo's venerable fantasy franchise, which embraces its own history as often as it upends it

Why should you buy it? This is, perhaps more than anything, the biggest showpiece for what the Nintendo Switch can do. Breath of the Wild takes ideas originally introduced in the first Legend of Zelda game along with concepts expanded on by Skyrim and other modern open-world RPGs and Nintendoizes them, distilling them into purest parts, and polishes the hell out of them. It's a world of wonder, and for the first time what feels like ages, it actually lets you experience that wonder without beating you over the head with hours of tutorials and incessant text boxes re-explaining everything you already know. Playing it on the TV is a treat, but being able to lift the Switch from the dock and take a game of this size and scope wherever you want is a perfect summation of the Switch's potential.

David Roberts

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Platformer
Price: $24.99/£19.99

What is it? A collection containing the excellent Shovel Knight and every expansion to date, including the brand new Specter of Torment and the upcoming King Knight expansion

Why should you buy it? Shovel Knight (PC review here) may look and sound like a game from the 1980s, but it so much more than simple nostalgia. Featuring inventive level design and action that echoes some of the best elements from Mega Man, Mario, and Ducktales, along with a few tricks of its own, Shovel Knight still stands as one of the best modern 2D platformers out there. The Treasure Trove edition compiles every bit of shovelry released to date: the base campaign, the previously released Plague of Shadows expansion, the brand-new Specter of Torment expansion, the upcoming King Knight expansion, and a brand-new four-player battle mode.

David Roberts

Games worth picking up if you can

(Image: © Nintendo)

1-2 Switch

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Party game
Price: $49.99/£34.99

What is it? A 28-strong collection of minute-long multiplayer games designed around the Nintendo’s Switches novel features. 

Why should you buy it? There’s a surprising amount of tech packed into Nintendo Switch’s tiny Joy-Con, and this quickfire minigame carousel is a great introduction. Making use of the IR camera on the bottom of each Joy-Con, for instance, are the likes of Shaver, which sees you pass the controller under your chin to chop away the whiskers before your opponent, and Eating Contest, which gauges the number of chicken subs you chomp by how quickly your jaws open and close. 

Motion control gets a run out with Zen, which is all about holding yoga poses and attempting to keep your Joy-Con as still as possible, Telephone, which revolves around setting your Joy-Con down and racing to grab it when you hear ringing, and Treasure Chest, in which you rotate the Joy-Con to wriggle the iron chains off a chest before your opponent. And HD rumble is demonstrated by Ball Count and Safe Crack, the former tasking you with trying to guess how many virtual balls are shifting around in your controller by tilting it, the latter about rotating the Joy-Con and holding it in place when it vibrates to unlock the safe. 

1-2-Switch’s most novel trick is using each Joy-Con’s textured audio to power games you don’t even need to look at the screen to play. Table Tennis, for example, has you listening to the thwacks emanating from your controller and timing swings accordingly, and the same goes for Baseball, in which the batter aims to strike a whistling ball pitched by player two. Expect a touch of insubstantiality alongside it, mind. You’re never completely sure what the metrics are, especially without visual feedback, and victory often seems random. Soda Pop is literally about shaking the Joy-Con until you hear fizzing liquid. However, the presentation is appealing and the tutorial videos slick enough to cover most shortcomings, provided your friends aren't the sort to balk at competitive milking games.

Ben Griffin

Super Bomberman R

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Action maze game
Price: $49.99/£59.99

What is it? The first new entry in five years, this once again sees you outmanoeuvre opponents in a 2D grid in attempts to trap them with bombs.

Why should you buy it? After five long years and a huge Bomberman-shaped hole in our hearts, the combustible icon is back. The rules are simple: drop bombs to trap opponents in cul-de-sacs while avoiding those dropped by others. Explosions fan out up, down, left, and right - never diagonally or through objects - making this is a tense game of angles and evasion. Some puzzles don’t age, and Bomberman is one.

It gets a lot more manic when there’s eight characters on screen simultaneously. Setting up a match is simple: you can play locally, each of the up-to-eight players using half a Joy-Con or pro controller; against others online; or scan the surrounding area for nearby Switch owners. Bots are available to fill up the rest of player count, and rules are brilliantly freeform. You can, for instance, turn on the ability for dead players to spawn on the sidelines and throw bombs into the field to cause remaining players havoc, or turn off power-ups triggering bigger explosions or speedier movement. 

Best are the varied levels. Slippery Garden features columns of ice that send you barreling unstoppably in one direction; The Great Wall has a raised central walkway to open up flanking or ambushing opportunities; and Junkyard contains a moat that you can only cross by timing rushes onto a floating platform.

Somewhat meagrely, there’s only one other mode besides multiplayer, and that’s a story in which Bomberman joins forces with seven other Bombers to foil an evil wizard and his Five Dastardly Bombers. You journey between planets clearing progressively harder stages by, say, activating a series of switches, or destroying all AI enemies in the level. A friend can drop in seamlessly, which is ace. Although a little bare, get a crew together and Super Bomberman R is fun, frantic, and absolutely timeless.

Ben Griffin

Skylanders Imaginators

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Adventure
Price: $59.99/£49.99

What is it? The next entry in the hit toys-to-life franchise with special options available that take advantage of the Switch's unique portability

Why should you buy it? Skylanders is an expensive proposition, no matter how you slice it - so if you want to see everything Imaginators has to offer, know that you're going to be spending a ton of cash on top of the starter pack. But if you're cool with that, you'll find a really swell, kid-friendly action/adventure game (PS4 review here) with a ton of customizability and a colorful, cartoony cast of characters. While the base game is more or less the same as what's been around on other platforms since late last year, the Switch version allows you to store a small database of your own purchased figurines, allowing you to swap them out in-game at the push of a button. While it kinda defeats the whole point of plopping a physical toy down on a light-up portal, it's nice that Skylanders knows you're probably not going to have room in your satchel for a boatload of toys, and is more than happy to accommodate you.

David Roberts

Just Dance 2017

Release date: March 3, 2017  
Genre: Dance game
Price: $49.99/£49.99

What is it? The game that originally launched in October 2016. This is Ubisoft’s latest in their popular series of rhythm actioners seeing you attempting to mimic an on-screen dancer.

Why should you buy it? The Switch incarnation of Ubisoft’s rhythm action game asks each player to hold a left or right Joy-Con vertically and match poses as they scroll along the screen. Groove on the go! Just Dance Machine is by far the best mode. Here, after being abducted by aliens, you’re forced to dance for them in order to refill their spaceship drives. Cosmic jig juice is clearly a powerful commodity. Every 30 seconds the aliens shuffle songs and prompt new dance styles, from Flamenco, to Charleston, to that knee-separately difficult Russian kicking thing. It’s breathlessly bonkers, and this madcap energy permeates the entire game. 

In Dance Quest you take on the AI in themed battles with crazy background videos, like Japanese idol Hatsune Miku and her cascading broccoli. Even the usually tortuous prospect of working out is made more winsome thanks to Sweat+ mode, with its customizable playlists and calorie tracker (although that tracking is pretty much guesswork). Online-wise, World Dance Floor lets you boogie with players around the world, and there’s a spectator mode, but neither were available at the time of review.

Just Dance is very much a game that gives out what you put in. Since it’s only monitoring the positioning of the Joy-Con it has to be forgiving, and resultingly you can often just vaguely waggle the controller. Poses are also hard to read and therefore emulate, making this feel like one of those parties that wouldn’t even care if you left. But why would you buy Just Dance to game the system? It’s about going all in on Single Ladies, spotty point-scoring be damned.

The 40-strong tracklist is outstanding, and includes Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd, Lean On by Major Lazer and DJ Snake, Cake By The Ocean by DNCE, and Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira. You also get a three-month subscription to the Just Dance Unlimited service and its extra 200 songs in the box.

Ben Griffin

Games you should avoid

I Am Setsuna

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: RPG
Price: $39.99/£26.99

What is it? A modern JRPG from Square-Enix made in the mold of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger

Why should you avoid it? It's just not very good. I Am Setsuna was originally released on PS4 (you can read our review here), and while on paper it hits all the notes you want it to, it's uninspired and rote. It borrows liberally from other, much better games - story beats from Final Fantasy 10, combat almost completely lifted from Chrono Trigger - while doing nothing to improve on these concepts or forge its own identity. Combined with an obtuse UI and loads of backtracking, I Am Setsuna is only for those who are desperate for a JRPG to play on their Switch; all others, you're better off waiting for something else.

David Roberts

Games we haven't had a chance to play yet

Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! 

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Puzzle
Price: $19.99/£17.99

What is it? A co-op focused puzzle game where you cut out bits of your friend to shape them into objects you can use to solve a variety of puzzles

Why should you buy it? Well, it certainly looks like a ton of fun, especially judging from our hands-on time at preview events. This one seems like a must-buy, but we just haven't had a chance to dig into the full game to give a definitive verdict one way or the other.

David Roberts

Fast RMX 

Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Racing
Price: $19.99/£17.99

What is it? A racing game in the key of Wipeout and F-Zero

Why should you buy it? If it's anything like its predecessor Fast Racing Neo, it's a blisteringly speedy futuristic racer with a handful of tracks and not much else, but without having had a chance to play it, it's hard to say for sure.

David Roberts

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 2012 Ben began his perilous journey in the games industry as a mostly competent writer, later backflipping into the hallowed halls of GamesRadar+ where his purple prose and beige prose combine to form a new type of prose he likes to call ‘brown prose’.
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