As 2020 draws to a close (finally!) and the fresh-faced 2021 peeks at us from over the horizon, it’s time to look back at the best Switch games to release over the past 360-odd days.
In what ended up being an extremely tough year for many people, there were positives to be found — at least in the field of video games! A release schedule that at the start of the year was essentially Animal Crossing and a bunch of blank spaces belied a host of top-quality games that were released within a matter of weeks after their surprise announcement.
But which were the absolute best games of 2020? Well, we’ve asked you that very question and tomorrow we’ll publish the top 50 picks according to Nintendo Life readers. Today, however, we of Team Nintendo Life shall be sharing our picks of the best Switch games of 2020. It wasn’t easy — the shortlist we drew up certainly wasn’t very short! — but after each nominating our personal top 10s with points assigned, we’ve whittled down the following ten Switch games that cumulatively represent our absolute favourites of 2020.
As for the reader-voted Switch GOTY 2020 list, there’s still time to squeeze in ratings before publication tomorrow, although remember that as with our other reader-ranked lists you’ll also be able to rate your favourites and influence that ranking after it goes live, too — perhaps the perfect activity for sitting on the sofa of a Christmas Day afternoon, bloated with turkey and regret.
The one below, though? This one’s set in stone eternally. Let’s take a look at NL staff’s top 10 Switch games of 2020…
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Two Point Studios
25th Feb 2020 (UK/EU)
Just sneaking into the top ten thanks to very enthusiastic voting from two team members, Two Point Hospital is one of the Switch games this year we’ve had the most fun with. It’s a great port which loses nothing in the transition to Nintendo’s console and captures the zany spirit of Bullfrog’s Theme Hospital. Other games had us pondering the existential abyss Werner Herzog-style, or weeping as we took a deeply emotional journey — Two Point Hospital gave us a very welcome shot of pure fun and comedy.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Koei Tecmo
20th Nov 2020 (UK/EU)
In a year when we’re eager to both escape to a kingdom filled with natural wonder and beauty and also channel our impotent rage into giving hordes of ne’er-do-wells a thrashing with the Master Sword, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity managed to hit two birds with one stone. It may stumble performance-wise but that never got in the way of our enjoyment of this prequel/side-story Zelda title and its blend of Dynasty Warriors hack-and-slash action with the characters and kingdom from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A satisfying and irresistible aperitif while we await the full Breath of the Wild sequel which, we hope to hear more about in the coming year.
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Publisher: Whippoorwill / Developer: Adam Robinson-Yu
18th Aug 2020 (UK/EU)
A Short Hike offered a beautifully brief respite from everything else in our sizeable backlogs. Combining the charm of an Animal Crossing with the explorative spirit of a bite-sized Breath of the Wild (not to mention a dollop of 32-bit nostalgia with its visual-style), there was much left to do after you’d scaled the mountain, but developer Adam Robinson-Yu produced a feel-good mini masterpiece that came along at just the right time. One of the finest indie games of the year, or any year, and thoroughly deserving of the 10/10 we awarded it.
“It’s Tetris 99, but with Mario.”
We imagine the pitch for Super Mario Bros. 35 was a short one, but the fact that everything hangs together so well belies the complexity of design and the thought that’s gone into this online multiplayer take on the granddaddy of platform games. For Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, Super Mario Bros. 35 is a timely and fitting tribute to the plumber’s legacy. The worst thing we can say is that we’re disappointed that Nintendo plans to shutter servers on 31st March 2021 (presumably to make way for ‘The Legend of Zelda 35’ or something like that). Then again, perhaps its fleeting nature makes us savour it all the more…
Only joking. Leave it up, Nintendo. You know it makes sense.
Publisher: iam8bit / Developer: Moon Studios
17th Sep 2020 (UK/EU)
Our hearts might belong to Nintendo, but we’re avid fans of video games regardless of their home platforms and while we loved Ori and the Will of the Wisps on XBox One, the chances of it following its predecessor to Switch seemed exceedingly unlikely to us. 2D Metroidvanias might be ten-a-penny on Switch, but this one does things on a technical level which put it seemingly out of reach of Switch’s comparatively modest specs.
And yet it came. Moon Studios went above and beyond to get this running at 60fps on Nintendo’s console, and the fact that it doesn’t feel like a truncated or compromised version in the slightest is testament to the developer’s skill and desire to reach as large an audience as possible with this gorgeous game. Play it.