Last week we ran down the best games of 2022 so far. That one article didn’t satiate our bottomless digital media thirst for lists and rankings, so let’s break it all down by console, starting with the Switch. If a Switch is the only system you own, this is the only “best of” list you need to read. Note that this was compiled before last Friday’s release of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, the new musou game based on Nintendo’s popular tactics series, and thus it wasn’t considered; if it’s really good, it might make our year-end list.
From big name Nintendo franchises to small studio wonders, here are the best Nintendo Switch games of 2022 so far.
10. Nintendo Switch Sports
No remake of Wii Sports could ever match the massive pop cultural impact of the original, but it doesn’t have to. All a game like Nintendo Switch Sports has to be is fun, and it pulls that off in spades. Bowling and tennis will sink their hooks into you as much as the Wii versions did 15 years ago, and new additions like volleyball and soccer bring a bit of mechanical depth not found in the classics. It’s not really a game you’ll sit around and play by yourself, but with a group it’s almost as entertaining as the Wii was back in the ‘00s.
9. Card Shark
Card Shark is less a card game and more a game about cheating at cards. The first tricks I learned outlined the necessity of a rhythm, since trickery takes confidence, not luck. Once I began nailing the pedestrian magic tricks, though, the world of Card Shark’s tricks exploded. I never knew parlor tricks could be so complicated, but Card Shark boasts a whopping 28 of them, and they build atop one another once you start reaching the double digits. To add to the tension, you’re always under the watchful eye of your opponents, who will eventually see enough to call your bluffs, incarcerate you, or even have you killed, which is its own whimsical in-game delight.—Moises Taveras
8. Sol Cresta
I need to remind y’all that I write an irregular column about shoot ‘em ups, aka shmups—those old-fashioned games where players pilot some sort of craft or creature or vaguely Barbarella-inspired angel across the screen while shooting as many enemies as they possibly can. A core staple of any gaming diet in the ‘80s, the genre gradually fell out of favor with the masses, and exists today primarily as a cult curiosity or nostalgic throwback. Sol Cresta, the latest heir to the inexplicably difficult 1985 shooter Terra Cresta, probably won’t restore the shmup to the top of the gaming pyramid, but it’s not like it’s trying to. It’s a shoot ‘em up solidly for shoot ‘em up fans, and the latest high-energy action game from Platinum, the studio behind Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Nier: Automata. Terra Cresta’s defining feature is the ability to expand and contract the power-ups collected throughout the game; instead of just beefing up the ship’s weapons, they can be used as pods that orbit the ship and provide a wider range of fire. Sol Cresta pays tribute to that concept by letting players dock multiple ships together. It’s an exciting new entry in a largely overlooked genre, and while everybody else was venturing forth into Elden Ring for the first time, I was shooting up space again like I’ve done a million times before.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
This loving tribute to the multiplayer beat ‘em ups of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s focuses like a laser on the nostalgia of a certain generation. It’s not just that it’s based on the version of the Turtles from the first cartoon and toy series (complete with the original voice actors), the same era that inspired the beloved arcade brawler from 1989; the entire genre is so inherently old-fashioned that it can’t help but feel like some long-lost game from 30 years ago. If you miss teaming up with your friends to bash generic punks and thugs in a cartoonish version of New York City, Shredder’s Revenge will wind back the clock for you. It wouldn’t make this list if it was just nostalgia, though; Shredder’s Revenge adds enough modern tweaks to drag that formula into the 21st century. It’s an example of a game that does what it sets out to do about as well as it possibly could.
6. Triangle Strategy
Tactics fans have been chasing the buzz of Final Fantasy Tactics for over two decades. Some games have come close (hey, Jeanne D’Arc), and although Triangle Strategy doesn’t quite make it all the way there, it’s still the closest we’ve returned to those heights in many years. It has all the political intrigue, vivid characters, and plot twists you’d expect from a game in the Tactics mold, along with the kind of strategic action that’ll give your brain a work out. It’s a fine introduction to the genre and a solid tribute to one of the greatest games ever made.
5. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Pokémon Legends: Arceus turns over a new leaf for the Pokémon franchise. Not only does it prove that a new game doesn’t need a hundred or so new Pokémon and a shiny new region to feel fresh, but it also shows that Game Freak and The Pokémon Company are actually willing to experiment within core Pokémon games. It defies fan skepticism to deliver a truly rare thing: an ambitious Pokémon game that realizes so many players’ dreams of bringing everyone’s favorite pocket-sized monsters to life in an open world.—Charlie Wacholz
4. OlliOlli World
The third in Roll7’s series of arty, lo-fi skateboard games follows the typical trajectory of a videogame series: everything is bigger, longer, deeper. Beefier, even. It has characters. A whole story, even. At its heart it’s still the thumb-aching, quick-twitch trick machine that OlliOlli has always been, but with the narrative and world-building elements expanded so thoroughly that it doesn’t always feel like the elegant puzzle engine it used to be. That’s neither good nor bad—it comes down to your personal tastes—but it’s all done with the same charm and the same cool aesthetic that the series is known for. And given that it’s been seven years since the last time we dipped into a new OlliOlli, this is very cool World is a welcome one indeed.
3. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
I am no great lover of Kirby, Nintendo’s adorable little fluff ball who seems to star in a brand new videogame every single year. Kirby and the Forgotten Land shouldn’t be missed, though. It can be difficult for a non-Kirby diehard to tell the difference between a “mainline” Kirby game and all the various spinoffs he stars in, but just as Mario’s central platformers are a notable cut above the miscellaneous games he pops in, Kirby’s main entries are where the series truly shines. Forgotten Land innovates by dragging Kirby into the third dimension, and also by introducing a new skill that recalibrates how Kirby interacts with his world but that also feels perfectly in character for him and the series. After years of inhaling his enemies and stealing their abilities, Kirby can now swallow all manner of objects and assume their qualities for himself. Forgotten Land feels like no Kirby game we’ve played before, but it’s still purely, unmistakably Kirby, with all of its colorful charm and the flexible difficulty that makes it rewarding for both young beginners and stalwart veterans. It’s another successful Switch reinvention of a classic Nintendo series.
2. Citizen Sleeper
You can think of Citizen Sleeper as a sort of digital board game set in a sci-fi dystopia beset by end-stage capitalism and all the rampant dehumanization that entails. It’s a game about work and death where the only levity comes from the relationships we make with others—yes, the friends we made along the way, but not nearly as banal or obvious as that sounds. It questions what it means to be a person in a system that inherently subjugates personhood to corporations and wealth, and it probably won’t surprise you that the answers it lands on aren’t always the most optimistic or uplifting. Here at Paste Cameron Kunzelman described its “melancholy realism” as part of a trend alongside other story-driven games that are largely hostile to the dominance of capitalism, and it echoes the impossibility of thinking seriously about this medium, this industry, and, well, every aspect of society today without discussing the impersonal economic system that drives it all. It’s a heady RPG that respects your time and intelligence, and one of this year’s must-play games.
1. Neon White
Neon White is pure motion. It might look like a first-person shooter—it’s in first person and you shoot a lot—but it’s all in service of the constant heedless rush at the game’s heart. Almost every time you shoot a demon it’ll be to acquire whatever kinetic ability it gives you, which you will almost immediately use to jump a little higher or rush forward a little faster or to literally grenade yourself dozens of feet into the sky to reach the next platform. You’re not here to shoot, per se, but to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, and the shooting merely facilitates that. When you fully tap into its flow Neon White is about as exhilarating as videogames get, becoming an extension of your own nervous system as you effortlessly string moves together while trying to shave microseconds off your best time. And on top of its mechanical excellence it also has a story and cast of characters so well-written that I’m able to overlook its unfortunate reliance on an aesthetic and character tropes right out of anime. Neon White combines arcade elegance and extreme replayability with a genuinely thoughtful and surprising story, making it almost the best game of 2022 so far. It’s the only game that finally, fully broke Elden Ring’s hold over me; I haven’t set foot in the Lands Between since my first time sprinting through Heaven.