SwitchRPG Awards 2021 – Ben’s Picks
This year, SwitchRPG will be presenting the annual SwitchRPG Awards feature a bit differently. Instead of compiling a list of category-specific nominees and coming to an agreement on our favorites, we’re all going to present our own writeups on the games that impacted us the most this year, whether that results in a list of favorite Switch RPGs, “best” Switch RPGs by category, or something else entirely.
While this means that the community-based polls from previous years won’t be included (but still might happen – keep an eye out on Twitter), we encourage everyone to get involved however they see fit. As our SwitchRPG Awards unfold, tell us what you think about our choices and what you would have chosen differently!
2021 has been, to say the least, an interesting year both inside and outside of the gaming sphere. But what I truly appreciate about gaming, and especially RPGs, is that no matter what might be going on in everyday life, there’s always some world waiting for you to dive into when you need a break from it all. And this year, I’m more appreciative of that than I would normally be. For me, this year was almost all about the ports, remakes, and remasters…though one brand-new title did manage to break the mold.
Honorable Mention #1: Dying Light: Platinum Edition
This open-world zombie RPG with a parkour twist is arguably one of the most impressive ports to hit the Switch so far, and easily among the best to land this year. The heavy emphasis on RPG mechanics is appreciated, and the parkour system feels right at home in a landscape that constantly throws dangers your way. The story may be underwhelming and the combat may feel a bit off at times, but there’s an undeniable sense of joy that comes from making your way through the massive city, whether going head-first into the sea of infected or jumping around and firing your grappling hook towards distant rooftops.
While Dying Light: Platinum Edition wasn’t able to do enough to crack my personal top five for the year, it is comfortably sitting in an honorable mention seat.
Honorable Mention #2: Saviors of Sapphire Wings
My original plan was to only have a single honorable mention…but this game deserves its name thrown into the hat simply because DRPGs, let alone solid ones, are a rare sight. While it has some issues and the legitimacy of its remake moniker is up for debate, Saviors of Sapphire Wings remains a relatively newcomer-friendly DRPG experience that has only recently been made possible in the West. Its century-long darkness and heavy emphasis on bonding with your companions in order to surmount a truly nefarious villain is surprisingly refreshing, even if the individual characters aren’t overly memorable.
It’s not going to satisfy the most hardcore of DRPG players out there with its relatively low difficulty level and general no-frills dungeon design, but that conversely makes it a fantastic refresher for newcomers and returning vets that need to recover their “dungeoneering legs” before moving on to something a bit more daunting.
5: Boot Hill Heroes
Boot Hill Heroes is a shining example of transforming inspiration into something new and genuine, rather than simply trying to ride on its success. This “Mother in the Wild West” is a polished experience that very much does its own thing by combining a refreshing setting, engaging combat system, and intriguing characters with familiar elements that Mother fans may find comforting. Did I mention we need more RPGs in this setting?
4: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
The dormant Kingdoms of Amalur “franchise” received a second life after THQ Nordic swooped the rights up and surprised many with a “Re-Reckoning” release years later. Open-world adventures are a dime a dozen these days, but what Kingdoms of Amalur managed to do nearly a decade ago is still quite enjoyable today. While some of its luster has been lost to the sands of time, it very much remains an adventure worth taking, especially now that you can take it on the go!
At launch, the Switch port had some imperfections, but nothing so bad as to detract from the core experience. Despite its age, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is still an enchanting journey from start to finish.
3: Diablo II: Resurrected
In a time where remakes and remasters are not always well received – especially those of the Blizzard variety – Diablo II: Resurrected managed to mostly hit the mark. The new visual package is stunning despite the occasional performance hiccups. The core gameplay loop is as addicting as it was 20 years ago, and will easily appeal to anyone who enjoys grinding away for hours on end in hopes of finding bigger and better loot. The few quality-of-life adjustments here, like automatic gold pickup and the expanded/shared stash, help make things a bit more digestible in today’s environment without sacrificing the game’s identity in the process.
That said, Diablo II: Resurrected still feels like an older game, one that could easily be off-putting to those more accustomed to the many modern conveniences found in newer loot-based action RPGs. Is Diablo II: Resurrected for everyone? Absolutely not. But those craving a truly dark and difficult action RPG may find lots to enjoy. I certainly did, and ultimately dumped well over 100 hours into it since launch.
2: SaGa Frontier Remastered
Far too many remakes and remasters these days come across as simple cash grabs rather than genuine labors of love…but that is not the case with SaGa Frontier Remastered. If anything, the revitalized ‘90s classic RPG broke the status quo to become the new gold standard for remasters. Not only that, it is also living proof that the return of any RPG – no matter how quirky, old, or niche – is possible.
Make no mistake though, the core of SaGa Frontier Remastered is still very much a product of its time. It’s definitely NOT for everyone, but if you enjoy nonlinear gameplay, grinding, and don’t mind a little “jank” along the way, then there’s much to appreciate about it.
1: Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy
Is anyone really surprised that the latest entry in the long-running Atelier series ended up in my #1 spot? I’m not! Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy built upon the solid foundation laid by Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout and improved upon it in almost every way. I’m constantly amazed by how consistent the Atelier franchise is, and the modernized take – Ryza – has undoubtedly continued that trend. While it may be a while before we get another Ryza title – Sophie 2 is arriving in February – I cannot wait to see where Ryza’s alchemical adventures take her next.
BONUS – Most Disappointing: Legend of Mana
After thoroughly enjoying the Trials of Mana remake in 2020 (I more or less 100%ed it), I was primed and ready for the HD remaster of Legend of Mana. Unfortunately, Legend of Mana turned out little more than a game in desperate need of a full-on remake – not a remaster. While it is aesthetically pleasing, core mechanics are in dire need of change, especially when viewed under a modern lens. While I’m a huge supporter of remakes and remasters, this one just didn’t do it for me.
That’s it for my list! What did you think about my picks, and what are some of your own favorites from this year? Let us know!