SwitchRPG Awards 2021 – Rich’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!
As Ben mentioned in his post, 2021 has been, to say the least, an interesting year both inside and outside of the gaming sphere, and I couldn’t agree more. With everything going on in the world and for the most part staying home, games have been great to both use as an escape and a way to bond with people. While 2021 may not have had a ton of mega releases, like a new Mario or Zelda game, we did get a new Metroid one – go play it, it’s fantastic! Regardless, there have been a lot of releases on the Switch RPG front, and here’s what resonated with me the most:
Honorable Mention #1: STAR WARS™: Knights of the Old Republic™ (KOTOR)
While the Switch might not have seen a port of Bioware’s remaster of Mass Effect, we did get the port of their legendary RPG KOTOR courtesy of the team over at Aspyr. I played KOTOR when it first released almost 20 years ago and playing through it again on Switch has made the ideal way to experience the game. The team at Aspyr did a phenomenal job porting the game, the frame rate is much more stable in this version and it has widescreen support. My only complaint is a nagging textbox you can’t shut off during combat sequences, but Aspyr has assured us that a patch is coming in early 2022 to address this issue (among others). KOTOR allows you to experience your own Star Wars story and play how you want to play; will you lean towards the dark side or the light side? I always want to do a dark side play, but I always end up being a good guy in the end.
Honorable Mention #2: The Legend of Zelda™: Skyward Sword HD
It wouldn’t be a Game of the Year list if I didn’t mention Zelda. While we didn’t get BOTW2 this year – hopefully next year – we did get a port of Skyward Sword. When Skyward Sword initially released on the Wii, I had already moved on from the platform and never experienced this game. It was great to play through this game on Switch and the port is well done. I like the change to button controls and once you get the hang of it (always keeping your finger on L to control the camera) it’s a blast to play. It tells a great story and has some of the best dungeons in the series, but the game suffers from some pacing issues. There are too many fetch quests in the back half of the game and the sky area aside from Skyloft seemed empty and meaningless. Having gone back to this game after playing BOTW, I do see how this game laid the foundation for BOTW and hopefully it ties into BOTW2.
5: Immortals: Fenyx Rising
When Ubisoft first revealed this game as Gods & Monsters, I was interested. And then when they announced it for the Switch, I was instantly sold. It looked like their take on BOTW set in a Greek mythology world. Ubisoft did a good job trying to take the BOTW formula and add their own twists to it to make it feel unique. The game is also one of the more ambitious games to come to Nintendo Switch. If you are looking for a game to fill the itch while we wait for BOTW2, don’t pass on Immortals. It does a great job of blending storytelling (some may not care for all of Zeus’s talking) and exploration with a hack-and-slash combat system inline with older God of War games. There are plenty of combat challenges and puzzles to solve in the various vaults you discover across the lands.
Eastward is a very charming action RPG that was released this past summer. The game looks amazing and has a beautiful sound track to go with it. While the story and gameplay for most part is very linear there is also an in-game RPG inspired by Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy called Earth Born. You can get lost in Earth Born and spend more time playing it than playing the main game of Eastward. In the most recent patch, the developers even added the option to access Earth Born from the main menu. Don’t skip the main campaign, though, as it tells a very charming and emotional story surrounding two main characters, John and Sam. You switch between them on the fly depending on the scenario. My only complaint with the campaign was there was no way to revisit past towns or chapters after completing them – supposedly this has been addressed in a patch, but I have not went back to check it myself.
3: Persona 5 Strikers
Persona 5 Strikers surprised me and surpassed all my expectations for a musou style game. Last year, Age of Calamity was, in my opinion, the best take on musou style game play mixed with telling a cohesive story…but Persona 5 Strikers far surpasses that. I wouldn’t even consider this a musou game as it plays like an action RPG to me. This was my first foray into the Persona series and while it’s not the ideal point of entry, I really enjoyed my time with it. The game is a direct sequel to Persona 5 (which sadly hasn’t come to Nintendo Switch) and if you are new to the series there are some events and story bits that might not make total sense unless you read or watch a recap on Persona 5. I really like how the game was structured with hub areas to shop, talk with party members, cook, and other side tasks and the ability to enter/exit the dungeons. The dungeons are where the musou inspired elements come into play as combat scenarios see you having to deal with waves of enemies. In addition to the waves of enemies there are some very challenging boss encounters that will force you to make sure you have the proper personas and level up accordingly.
2: Trigger Witch
Rainbite has done it again and created another absolute gem. Their debut game, Reverie, was a blast two play and did a great job putting their own twist on the 2D Zelda formula and the followup Trigger Witch didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Trigger Witch continues Rainbite’s style of doing wacky ideas both with story and weapons. This game while top down is actually a twin-stick shooter with some puzzle sequences and has an over-the-top story. With “trigger” being in the game’s title, this game ditches swords and magic for all gun-based weapons. Trigger Witch is the closest thing to a 2D Zelda bullet hell twin-stick shooter, and it’s awesome.
1: Death’s Door
Keeping with the trend of Zelda-inspired games sprinkled throughout my list is Death’s Door, which only slightly edges out Trigger Witch for the number one position on my list. If you like 2D Zelda games, Death’s Door is a must play. Acid Nerve have taken the tried-and-true formula while at the same time crafting an experience that feels fresh. The team at Acid Nerve have created a beautiful looking game with a wonderful soundtrack. It does a good job of balancing challenge and rewarding combat, especially when it comes to boss battles. Death’s Door is an example of a definitive indie game, taking inspiration from bigger AAA games that have come before while crafting a unique game all on its own that respects the player’s time.
BONUS – Most Disappointing: Cris Tales
Cris Tales was a game I was really looking forward to when it was shown in trailers and other presentations. The art style and time mechanics seemed very fascinating on paper and when presented in trailers. Sadly, when it came to sitting down and playing the game, while it looked pretty the time mechanic didn’t work well and the game became very sluggish to get through. When you build an RPG around turn-based combat, it has to be fun and addictive. With the turn-based combat and time mechanic not being engaging and the lack of a run button while traversing the overworld, Cris Tales sadly became a title I couldn’t recommend this year.
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!