The summer’s not over for several weeks still, but we’re calling it: this has been the summer of the Switch. Way to go, videogame machine: you’ve really got some games on you.
Nintendo might’ve been looking to the future with the Switch, a console/handheld hybrid designed in part to make everybody forget about the Wii U, but it’s been so vital this summer because it’s been squarely looking to the past. And not just with the mascot-heavy franchise nostalgia you might expect from Nintendo. The last few weeks have seen one good game after another arrive on the Switch, and the common denominator is that they’ve all been transported over from other platforms. Some of them are decades old (Another World), others were originally released just last year (The Mooseman, Wolfenstein II), but all of them have gotten a new lease on life on the Switch, while also giving us a litany of reasons to hook back into Nintendo’s versatile system.
Here’s a brief rundown of all the recent rereleases worth downloading onto your Switch and taking with you wherever you might go this year.
Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker
Nintendo’s adorable puzzler is the latest in a growing series of great Wii U games getting a second chance on the far more successful Switch. Its tightly regimented isometric levels host a variety of puzzles that need to be solved, and between those sometimes tough brainteasers, the discrete segmentation of levels, and the sheer amount of Mario references that the name trains you to expect, Captain Toad feels like a fancy throwback to puzzle games from Nintendo’s early videogame systems. It’s a minor modern Nintendo classic, and a must-play on the Switch if you’ve never experienced it before.
Based on the myths of the ancient Finnic people of Estonia and Northwestern Russia, The Mooseman aesthetically resembles Limbo and Inside, the ominous and austere adventures of the Danish studio Playdead. The Mooseman is more interested in folklore than horror, though, which can lead to surprising moments of serene beauty with few other analogues in videogames. In a sign of its pristine starkness, this is a color-swapping game made up entirely of two colors, black and white, with objects and obstacles of certain colors becoming visible depending on if you’re wearing a mask or not. Its puzzles are a little routine and repetitive, but the music and art design are impeccable. When I stumbled into a certain holy cave, slipped on my mask and saw glowing pictographs suddenly appear above me like a constellation, all while an ambient drone hummed in my headphones, I realized it didn’t matter how sharp the game design was: The Mooseman revealed itself to be capable of true glory.
The venerable music puzzle game always works best as a portable, which makes it perfect for the Switch. If you haven’t played it before, imagine a Tetris-style block dropper with a dance beat, where every block is a square made up of four smaller squares of two different colors, with a goal of lining up four or more same-colored squares into bigger squares. A line constantly scrolls over the screen in rhythm with the song’s dance beat, and as it crosses over those color-matched squares it makes them disappear. It’s a compulsively playable propulsive puzzler, chugging along to a robot beat and with pulsing colors and an old cyber aesthetic that’s part Tron and part warehouse rave. There’s also a great variety of modes and minigames built around that one basic concept, making this already endlessly replayable game one of the best things you’ll ever put on your Switch.
The Lion’s Song
At first this 2016 point-and-clicker about a loosely connected trio of artists and academics living in Austria in the early 20th century feels like the videogame equivalent of a Merchant Ivory costume drama: beautifully detailed but perhaps a little too stately and studious to truly resonate with the player. As you proceed through its four episodes, though, and see how its characters and threads start to converge, and how it wrings not just an increasingly elaborate form of interaction out of its format, but a genuinely touching and human story, you’ll realize there’s bountiful heart and insight in its period piece evocations. It’s a game that aspires to literature and works well as both.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Sure, the Switch version of this alternate reality Nazi dystopia can’t quite match the technical performance of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC original from last year, but it amazingly packs the same first-person shooting, fascist-slaughtering thrills into a portable package. Like last year’s Switch version of Doom, this isn’t the best iteration of this game, but it’s maybe the most crucial, as you can line these Nazis up in your iron sights anywhere you go.
Eric Chahi’s classic platformer was a pivotal step in the development of cinematic games when it was released in 1991. Games today still seem to be catching up to its immersive tricks, such as the lack of any kind of HUD, and an alien language that can’t be understood. Its difficulty level might feel archaic today—despite its narrative aspirations, it is very much a game made for the skills-first mindset of the ‘80s and early ‘90s—but at least this anniversary edition (originally released in 2011, ported to consoles in 2014, and then released for the Switch last month) has a legitimate save function. The game’s elegant art design and aesthetic might work best on the big screen, but it’s still another game whose new-found portability on the Switch is more than welcome.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections and also writes about theme parks. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.