4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
2020 | Nintendo
For a lot of people, Animal Crossing isn’t just a game. It’s life. New Horizons was always highly anticipated, but its release at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdowns made it a much-needed escape for millions of people. Birthdays, graduations, and weddings couldn’t be held in-person, so many were celebrated within New Horizons. Even President Biden and Hong Kong democracy activists set up their own islands.
Even without the specter of Covid-19, New Horizons would still be one of the best games on the Switch. Nintendo has been perfecting the franchise for two decades now, but this version of Animal Crossing is easily the best yet, allowing for near-limitless customization of your own little world. And yet you’re still free to play at your own pace, without any of the pressure of the outside world. The ultimate appeal of Animal Crossing continues to be that it allows us to live our ideal lives.
3. Super Mario Odyssey
2017 | Nintendo
Is Super Mario Odyssey the best 3D Mario game? It’s hard to argue otherwise. Odyssey borrows its level structure and progression system from the beloved Super Mario 64, which Nintendo had largely ignored for the last two decades. Several new twists on the traditional 3D platforming formula, like the ability to throw your new hat buddy Cappy at enemies to take control of them, make Super Mario Odyssey feel incredibly fresh. There probably won’t be another platformer this good on the Switch.
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
2018 | Nintendo
Super Smash Bros. has remained wildly popular since it debuted in 1999, and there’s always been a lively debate about which title is the best in the series. Melee arguably has the best mechanics, while Brawl’s Subspace Emissary boasts the most complete story mode. The Wii U game looks fantastic, but the Ice Climbers and Snake were sorely missed.
Ultimate tries to satisfy the fans of each game by including every character who’s ever appeared in the series (plus a few new ones), more than 100 stages from throughout the Nintendo universe, a deep adventure mode called World of Light, and interesting tweaks to even the oldest characters in the roster. If Ultimate isn’t the perfect installment of Smash Bros., we don’t know what is.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
2017 | Nintendo
Breath of the Wild is the perfect marriage of traditional Legend of Zelda 3D gameplay and innovative new systems. The world and story are unmistakably Hylian, yet the game puts a major focus on exploration and experimentation to an extent never before seen in the series.
Yes, the number of weapons have been cut down drastically, but the handful of abilities — like freezing time and creating ice blocks — create even more ways to complete the game’s challenges and traverse its world. And you will want to explore every last inch of Hyrule’s beautifully realized world.
For almost two decades, Zelda games closely following the formula established by Ocarina of Time, one of the greatest games ever made. Breath of the Wild throws out almost all of the concepts that Ocarina pioneered and redefines Zelda as something more open-ended and exciting that will hopefully continue to evolve over the next few years.