It has been just over nine months since Nintendo’s seventh console (and sixth handheld) hit the market. It is less than a year old and the Switch has already cemented itself as a force to be reckoned with. The hybrid has many wheels turning around the industry as developers and publishers are flocking to get onto what is already a massive hit.
One of the reasons for the Switch doing so well is because of what has been an incredible first year. Nintendo has made the Switch a must-own because of the big releases they have been pushing. From right out the gates with a new Zelda, to hitting the summer drought with Splatoon 2, a brand new true 3D Mario and ending it all off with a strong JRPG – it might only be a few months old, but the Switch lineup is spectacular.
All this said, picking the one shining gem of Nintendo’s hot new item is a tough one. Of the games listed above, there are much more that could have made the cut. So which game takes the honour as SA Gamer’s first Nintendo Switch Exclusive award? Well, sometimes it is the first knockout that makes the biggest impact.
A quick disclaimer: We as a team came to the decision that despite some games having versions on previous generations, these do not remove them from consideration. As such, exclusivity is based on the contemporary systems so previous generational versions (as long as they are still company exclusives) do not void consideration.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Lo and behold a launch title, actually THE launch title, takes the coveted prize. The Legend of Zelda franchise for many has been in a state of stagnation for some time. While this is not a knock on quality, the structure formulated in Ocarina of Time back in 1998 has never quite changed enough to make a serious impact. So leave it to the swan song of the Wii U and the introductory Switch version to blow those conventions sky high.
Breath of the Wild, for lack of a better term, is breathtaking. While there is always that old joke of the developer pointing at a mountain in game and saying “you can climb that” – Breath of the Wild makes good on that promise. This is not a game that holds your hand or treats you with the kiddie gloves. The world is your oyster and yours to rip through and explore. There was an incredible sense of adventure following the Great Plateau that opened up a world where there was no arrow, just your own sense of direction with a plucky young Link.
From engaging combat that required quick thinking and reflexes, to logic and creativity being valuable tools in the world, to the dozens of puzzles all serving great treats for those wanting the most – Breath of the Wild is special. As for the system level inclusions, Breath of the Wild works incredibly well in both handheld and docked modes. It utilises all the Switch has to offer right out the gate and gave new owners all the furnishings they would need to get to grips with their new machine.
Breath of the Wild is phenomenal as are all the other nominees below. The Switch boomed right out the gate and the new and open Zelda was a big reason for that. Running through Hyrule gave us a sense of adventure lost to maps and overblown systems. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild caused us to start sharing tips and secrets and edging closer to the final goal. It was special and absolutely stands as the best game of the Nintendo Switch’s first year.
Runner-Up: Super Mario Odyssey
Honourable Mentions: Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Golf Story, ARMS, Snipperclips