Switch Turns Four – Part Three
When looking back over the last four years of Gaming on Nintendo Switch, I have to admit I am impressed. I’m impressed that Nintendo pulled off a hit system seemingly this late in the game. I had believed for a while they should give up making consoles. Remember those years when being a Nintendo fan felt like being relegated to some niche role (Hufflepuff) during a console war between Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Then the Wii happened and relevance was reborn – albeit quirky and still walled off from the “blockbuster” games typically only released on those consoles. So I, mistakenly, figured it was their last gasp. And when the Wii U arrived, I sprained my metaphorical arm patting myself on the back for being right. But to be clear – I was raised on NES, SNES, and Gameboy RPGs, so I was never happy about what I saw as the demise of a childhood hero.
Turns out I knew nothing (no one is surprised by that). And now, I have to admit that instead of disappearing from the console market, I’m highly impressed with the Nintendo Switch for its resurgence and newfound relevance as a console with the “blockbuster” ports that would have never existed on the Wii. Nintendo – brilliantly I might add – found a way to double-down on their quirky niche while also shedding it entirely at the same time by becoming the first company to pull off the hand-held “blockbuster.” Bravo, Mario.
So I have two top-four lists to offer in celebration of the success that has been and continues to be the Nintendo Switch lineup, starting with a list of RPG Ports that you could never have guessed would end up on a Nintendo console before the Switch:
The Top Four Biggest Surprise RPG Ports to the Nintendo Switch
When I say “blockbuster,” I mean the kind of game that we used not to associate with Nintendo. This is a stigma they shed right out of the gate with the first game on this list:
Most Surprising Port #1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Now I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the game itself because it’s part of our collective unconscious at this point. However, I think we were all blown away when we first saw the ads for the Switch and they showed people playing Skyrim on the go. It was mind boggling to me at the time, and remains that way to this day if I really sit and think about it. There is something that changes when you are able to take your previously big screen gaming experiences with you on the go in your hands. They feel more personable, and often, more fun. Thankfully for us – a lot of other people were paying attention to the success of Skyrim.
Most Surprising Port #2: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
If I thought an Xbox 360-generation game being ported onto the Switch with Skyrim was impressive, you can bet I was dumbfounded they pulled off The Witcher 3. This is a much smaller studio on a much more technically ambitious title from a newer generation. And it works. What’s more – it helps show that games do not always need the most spectacular graphical presentation in order to retain what makes them fun. This, IMHO, is central to all successful Switch ports: they focus on the fun, not never-ending graphics debate that seems to consume other consoles. Again – well done, Nintendo. Your Geralt may not be the sexiest, but I can take him with me anywhere and get that unforgettable sense of adventure on an epic scale while my daughter is asleep in my lap in the bedroom.
Most Surprising Port #3: Dark Souls Remastered
I can remember a specific moment in party chat one day on my PS4 when Dark Souls Remastered for Switch arrived in my mail. I simply announced to my friends I was going to log off and go lay in bed and play Dark Souls in handheld mode on my Switch and the entire chat fell silent. I asked if they were still there and one of my buddies replied, “I think you just blew all of our minds.” Again – these moments used to never happen for Nintendo. Not since the days when SNES ruled the world at least. The Switch is a paradigm shift for Nintendo. It turns out, the Wii was not a happy accident at the end of a good run. Unexpectedly good things are still coming, including a refund and well-deserved relevancy as a legitimate console for blockbuster RPGs like Dark Souls.
Most Surprising Port #4: Diablo: III
I think we all wasted at least a year or two of our lives into the Diablo series. If not, you’re a better human than I. But, let’s stay on point: do you see a theme here? These are four of the biggest RPGs released anywhere on any system or PC. Each has spawned huge “hardcore” PC-based communities. And here they all are on Switch in its first four years. Before Switch, if you told me I could play these four games while flying across the country or laying in bed, or while sitting at a bar to escape from my child for an afternoon, or on a NINTENDO console, I’d have laughed. But now, hardcore gaming on the go has become reality. It wasn’t Sega’s Game Gear. It wasn’t Sony’s Vita. It was Nintendo’s Switch that made such blockbuster RPGs feel as at home in the palm of our hands as generations of DS/3DS games have felt.
The Top Four Co-op “Soulslike” RPGs on Nintendo Switch
The Switch is all about gaming together. Hands down all of my favorite experiences on Switch are co-op or multiplayer in some way and I want to celebrate a little bit of this success by listing out the four best co-op soulslike RPGs on Switch. One thing about RPGs is that they tend to be single-player or MMO experiences. It’s genuinely hard to find a good co-op game that is also primarily an RPG. Soulslike titles are one of the few exceptions to this rule and that’s why some of my favorite co-op experiences in the past 10 years have come from this subgenre. So to encourage you to both play with your friends as well as maybe check out a title you’ve been eyeing but wondered if it was maybe too hard, here are my top four choices for soulslike co-op RPGs on the Nintendo Switch:
Best Soulslike co-op Experience #1: Dark Souls: Remastered
Let’s get the obligatory original out of the way. Dark Souls first launched back in 2009 with a very limited co-op system that made it incredibly hard to play with your friends. Thankfully, this was revised later on and by the time the Remastered version of the game landed on Switch, you could simply use a password to easily match with your friends and play together. This makes the Switch version of Dark Souls one of the best places to play the game co-op. The community on Switch isn’t as large as on PC and current gen consoles, so there are typically fewer people around wanting to invade. I was only invaded in popular spots in my playthroughs and you’ll learn those well enough once you get into the game. Bottom line: the reputation that the souls games hold as overly difficult isn’t exactly true. They literally allow you to team up with a friend and provide you NPCs to cooperate with if you cannot find anyone else to help you out. The game may be hard, but you don’t have to go at it alone.
Best Soulslike co-op Experience #2: Ashen
Ashen is unique in that the entire game is played in co-op mode. IF you aren’t online, you’ll simply have an NPC companion to help you out. Once online, however, seamless co-op takes place as real players take over the role of your NPC companion. As you journey together, you each remain in your own game – so unlike Dark Souls – if you co-op and beat a boss, it’s dead for both of you and there is no need to “go kill it in the other player’s world.” Ashen also uses a passcode system that allows you to match with a friend, so as long as you stick together, you can journey across the land and even revive each other when downed (this is extremely helpful). Ashen has a different vibe than Dark Souls. Instead of being about the end of all things, it’s about what comes next – about a rebirth and rebuilding when hope returns for the first time in a long time. This is a great journey to take with a friend who also enjoys action-based RPGs. I wish I had spent more time in co-op with a friend in this one. I feel like I’ve not uncovered all of its nuances yet.
Best Souslike co-op Experience #3: Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary is the only 2D soulslike game on my list – and it’s also the only one that offers couch co-op on the Nintendo Switch. While you cannot play any online multiplayer, you only need one copy of the game and two full controllers to invite someone over for a gaming session. The variety of builds and weapons allows you to create complimentary characters and experience the game by working together. It’s a blast and a great way to play some co-op with a friend or family member if stuck in quarantine. Since the Switch doesn’t offer online party chat, Salt and Sanctuary‘s ability for couch co-op seems like a bigger win than the miss of not having multiplayer via online play. Besides, the game was made by a husband and wife team, so you are supporting a true indie developer here (if you are into that kind of thing).
Best Soulslike co-op Experience #4: Hellpoint
Cradle Games went out of their way to make Hellpoint as fun to play in co-op as possible. They literally decided that they didn’t care if it made the game too easy – they just wanted you to have fun with your friends. That means you can co-op from the beginning to the end and never get kicked out after beating a boss, etc. Explore all you want – go wherever over and over and do it from the beginning. Seeing as how Irid Novo, the game’s setting, is so twisted and confusing, exploring it with a friend is a great way to tackle the mysteries at the center of the galaxy. The game plays much like Dark Souls and was made by an indie team of just 11 – astoundingly small for the size of the game. Don’t expect AAA polish, but do expect one of the more creative and fun-to-explore worlds the soulslike subgenre has produced to date.
Here’s to many, many more years of fun on the Switch
Really, looking back over the last four years, the progress is simply incredible. I cannot wait to see what comes next. I hope it’s a Switch Pro and that Elden Ring is a launch title. That would have sounded stupid 4 years ago, but now it just sounds a little far-fetched. Okay, maybe more than a little. Well done, Nintendo. Keep it up!