After months of speculation, the world now knows the name and purpose of Nintendo's formerly top-secret console: The Nintendo Switch, a modular current-gen console that eliminates the line between home and mobile gaming by converting from a traditional TV unit to a handheld to an on-the-go "mini" unit for travel. It's an exciting piece of hardware, especially after the mixed-reception of the Wii U console, but now that the device and its capabilities are known, our attention turns to software. Where fellow current-generation console makers Sony and Microsoft have a head start of several years in terms of building up solid libraries of varied options for potential customers, we're still not entirely sure which titles the Switch will offer.
To succeed, The Switch will likely have to offer a solid lineup of existing current-generation hits at launch (not just the promise of big titles coming later), from both Nintendo and third-party partners, in order to be seen as a viable competitor to the Xbox and Playstation brands. Here are 20 titles that could help make the difference.
20 DARK SOULS III
Even with iconoclastic consoles like the Wii U, Nintendo never lost the bulk of the faithful fans who’ll turn out for each new hotly-anticipated Mario, Zelda or Pokemon release. But one major goal of The Switch will inevitably be to win over (or win back) gamers of other stripes who may be wary of a brand chiefly associated with retro-gaming, the family audience and casual gamers. A port of the most recent title in the cult-hit Dark Souls series, beloved by a niche audience of fanatically-devoted players for their punishing difficulty and minimal “hand-holding,” would be potent statement of purpose: The Nintendo Switch can be a home for so-called “hardcore” gamers, too – if they’ll give it a chance.
While no announcement has officially been made, developer From Software has already signed on as a software partner in support of the console. So while seeing Dark Souls on a Nintendo console would certainly be surprising, it’s not at all impossible.
19 NEW SUPER MARIO BROS U
Third-party support will absolutely be key to the Nintendo Switch’s success, but it can’t be denied that what tends to get people to buy Nintendo consoles over (or in addition to) their competitors are Nintendo-exclusive games. And while the Wii U had a solid share of extremely well-reviewed first-party titles, the console’s low install base meant that many of them were not nearly as widely played as they might otherwise have been – so it would only make sense to re-release them for The Switch.
New Super Mario Bros U wasn’t a major break from the New Super Mario Bros formula of marrying traditional 2D side-scrolling Mario gameplay with upgraded graphics and sound, but the Mario franchise is the most enduringly-popular in gaming because that formula remains a highly effective one. Beloved both by each new generation of kids that discovers them and nostalgic grownup gamers who can still remember their own first Mario game, this one is a no-brainer.
18 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
Technically, GTA V belongs to the previous generation of consoles, given that it made its debut on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. But the re-released version for their respective successor consoles is still a big seller (as befits one of the most iconic series in gaming history), making it the kind of big-name title that just simply “belongs” in the library of a serious home console.
Its presence would also go a long way toward making a statement that The Switch represents an evolution for Nintendo, which has not hosted a Grand Theft Auto title on one of its consoles in the past (apart from a smattering of handheld spin-offs). The game also features the kind of lengthy, in-depth play sessions that would handily demonstrate the usefulness of being able to bring your entire game experience on the road, rather than having to wait until you got home to pick your adventure back up.
17 MARIO KART 8
One of the Nintendo Switch’s other big (so far) advertised selling points? Multiplayer gaming, with the mobile unit’s “Joy-Con” control sticks able to be detached and used as to separate controllers. The idea is to take “party-gaming” mobile, and for that, one needs big-name games that almost everyone recognizes and might like to take a turn at. Few games fit that description better than Mario Kart.
The debut trailer for The Switch showed off a Mario Kart game running on the system, though it was not immediately clear if it was an actual to-be-announced new iteration of the franchise or a demonstration created for the spot. While it’s all-but inevitable that a new Mario Kart title would be created for the console eventually, a re-release of the exceptionally reviewed Wii U installment would be a welcome placeholder; especially considering how jam-packed it was with content, including a massive roster of characters, customizable vehicles and guest stars from the Zelda and Animal Crossing series.
16 STREET FIGHTER V
Speaking of multiplayer, at least one good fighting game is a must for a console’s library integrity. The simple pleasures of challenging one’s friends to a (virtual) beatdown transcends a lot of different boundaries in the various subcultures of game consumers, and having a lineup of colorful opponents to use as digital punching bags can make for a great built-in stress-reliever on the single-player side. And if you’re going to have a fighting game, you might as well go with the mother of them all.
While some Street Fighter fans were mixed on the merits of SFV versus its widely-celebrated predecessor, Street Fighter remains Street Fighter. Customers who may have sat out prior recent installments but opt to pick a copy up to flesh out their newly-purchased Switch library would find many of the series’ most popular characters waiting for them, as well as a robust set of fully implemented features that will be good to go by the time the system launches next March.
15 MORTAL KOMBAT X
Speaking of classic fighting franchises, even folks who’ve never picked up a controller (or have, but not for one of these games) know about Mortal Kombat. The infamous series mixed retro kung-fu craziness with horror movie splatter to create one of the most popular and controversial properties the medium has ever seen, and after a long stretch of widely-disliked sequels, the franchise seems to have regained its footing with its two most recent titles.
All of the same benefits offered by porting Street Fighter V apply to Mortal Kombat X, but the MK series also offers players the option of a different approach to the fighting genre – not only in terms of lurid ultra-violence, but a combat system that emphasizes strategy and move-set-memorization over reactive reflex. Plus, by the time it would arrive on Switch, the full roster of fan favorites, bonus characters and balance fixes will have been released, allowing players immediate access to the best version of the game.
The Wii U’s killer-app in terms of original Nintendo IP, Splatoon preceded Overwatch and Battleborn in upending the gray/brown military-angst aesthetic previously dominant in the multiplayer shooter genre with a novel scenario based around teams of half-human/half-squid youths attempting to dominate each other’s territory with squirt-guns full of colorful ink. It’s all very silly -- as befits the very idea of a team-shooter developed by Nintendo -- but it connected and quickly became one of the Wii U’s biggest hits.
Unfortunately, “big on the Wii U” means that most gamers still never got a chance to play it. But a re-release for Switch (which was teased, or seemed to be teased, in the console’s trailer) could mean that curious consumers who never took the plunge before could opt to do so now, providing yet another reason to give the new console a chance and find out what they’d been missing all this time.
13 MADDEN NFL 2017
A certain subset of gamers still turns its nose up at the Madden series, but the top-selling American football franchise has proven time and again that it doesn’t need to care about what they think. If you love NFL football and you’re a gamer, Madden is pretty much a must-buy every year, and now that Nintendo is focusing on a console that features (at least in part) a traditional controller scheme and comparable power to competing consoles, it’s time for the series to become part of the regular lineup again.
Madden may not be for everyone, but its absolutely true that there’s a substantial audience for whom it’s the only reason to buy a console. The opportunity for them to squeeze in a few plays during lunch or on their daily commute with the same version they’ve been playing at home would be a profound selling-point for The Nintendo Switch with those gamers.
12 2K SPORTS SERIES
2K Sports may not be have the license for every major athletics league in the U.S. (the top-selling titles for professional baseball, hockey, and soccer all are owned by other companies), but they certainly pull their weight in the sporting world. And if Nintendo is going to market The Switch to fans of professional sports, they’re going to need 2K on board to make that happen. Fortunately, 2K Sports’ whole model is to make each title as universal as possible, so porting the current installments to Switch shouldn’t prove too difficult or expensive.
The benefits to courting sports gaming fans are myriad, but it’s especially useful in showing off the Switch’s portability and multiplayer potency while winning over converts in the public sphere. “You can bring NBA2K to a party” is a consumer-to-consumer sales pitch that makes a lot more visceral sense than “modular console variability” ever could, and the obvious multiplayer benefits can’t hurt either. The Switch trailer showed off an unnamed basketball title, so this could already be underway.
11 HYRULE WARRIORS
Another well-reviewed Wii U release that could finally get its due as a Nintendo Switch launch port, Hyrule Warriors combined the joyfully absurd button-mashing gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series with reimagined characters and settings from throughout the Legend of Zelda franchise. In doing so, it also won high praise for the diversity of its character roster; specifically, featuring a greater variety of female player options than most other games could even conceive of doing. It would also give the Zelda franchise a presence on the Switch while players await the yet-to-be-released main series installment, Breath of The Wild.
At least one issue that needs to be addressed is whether or not to incorporate features from the 3DS sibling Hyrule Warriors Legends. The Switch is, in part, meant to obliterate the divide between handheld and console gaming, so this could provide an opportunity to “unify” the previously separate sides of the Hyrule Warriors coin. But would development costs be prohibitive?
10 RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER
It’s not just Wii U games that could benefit from a second shot at the bigtime with a Nintendo Switch port. Rise of The Tomb Raider earned some of the highest scores and most effusive reviews of any major title this generation, but sales were sluggish because of poor release scheduling by its publisher and a timed-exclusivity arrangement with the relatively underperforming Xbox One. And while sales have picked up now that the game has gone multi-platform, what might finally help the title finally break out might be some time as a big fish in the small pond of a newly-launched console’s library.
After all, individual sequel sales or not, the Tomb Raider name still carries major pop-culture cache, and with a new movie adaptation in the offing, that’s only likely to increase. New Switch owners craving a big-scale action/exploration game would have not only an option, but one of the genre’s best efforts ever at their disposal.
9 SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD
It’s Nintendo, it’s Mario, it’s not complicated.
The Switch debut trailer showed off what looked to be a new single-player 3D Super Mario title in the vein of Super Mario Sunshine or Mario Galaxy, and the eventual arrival of just such a game for the console almost doesn’t need to be noted. But until then, there are certainly worse substitutions than a port of this decidedly neo-retro Wii U hit that offers the additional benefits of a robust four-player simultaneous multiplayer mode that feels tailor-made for the Switch’s travel-centric Joy-Con functionality. After all, one would be hard pressed to find the gamer who’d buy a Nintendo console but isn’t interested in picking up at least one Mario game, particularly one that featured a plus-sized selection of levels and power-ups, including now-iconic cat costumes for Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach – all of whom were together again (and playable!) for the first time since Super Mario Bros. 2 in the mid-1980s.
8 STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT
If Disney and the new incarnation of Lucasfilm have their way, Star Wars is never going away again. And if that’s indeed true, any major game console library worth its salt is going to want a healthy bank of Star Wars titles – and the biggest one to get in on right now remains the relaunched version of Battlefront by a landslide.
As with several other older titles on this list, one of the most obvious benefits to such a port would be that by this point in its lifespan, Battlefront has seen the bulk of its fixes and add-ons already released, meaning that the Switch version could be offering the most robust version of the game, ready-to-go for consumers who didn’t yet own a previous release. That’s a big out-of-the-box benefit for the discerning game customer, and it would make the game an even more welcome presence on a freshly-launched Nintendo Switch console.
7 CALL OF DUTY: INFINITE WARFARE
Has the glimmer come off the Call of Duty jewel in recent years? Probably, but the best-known name in military first-person shooters is still a console mainstay, and the first name most audiences think of when the idea of the multiplayer shooter comes up. The annual Activision franchise is a mainstay of the medium, and a console library that doesn’t boast at least one on-shelf when launching this late into a cycle is simply going to look incomplete.
Plus, even for fans who’ve increasingly checked out of the futuristic angle that Infinite Warfare looks to continue are excited for this release, as it includes the remastered version of the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. That makes this an opportunity for one of the most iconic entries ever in a genre that’s been historically underrepresented on Nintendo consoles to get a featured showing on The Switch – and maybe even make use of that built-in local multiplayer.
You could practically feel the air-pressure change in early 2016 as the gaming community let out a sigh of relief that the long-awaited revival of the genre-defining scifi/horror shooter Doom turned out to be pretty darn good. The reintroduction of hellfire and over-the-top splatter to a genre that had spent much of the 21st Century in slick outer-space settings or grim military simulations was certainly a welcome one.
Does Doom necessary “belong” on a Nintendo console? Maybe, maybe not, but like several other big-name M-rated titles listed here, the angle would be all about expanding that image and making it clear that The Switch is a full-blown mainstream console, as opposed to the latest unit the Nintendo faithful have to buy to access their next few Mario and Zelda fixes. Plus, with part of the Switch’s marketing focus being young professionals who may have felt gaming no longer fit into an active lifestyle, a nostalgic brand name like Doom could easily stand out.
5 BATTLEFIELD 1
Battlefield 1 made headlines by eschewing the predominant “outer space, World War II, and nothing else” formula of the shooter genre by taking gamers back to World War I with a diverse variety of gameplay and character options. The series may not be as well known to mainstream audiences as Call of Duty, but many fans have always preferred EA’s take on military sims, and Great War history buffs have never had nearly enough games aimed specifically at them.
The argument for Battlefield on the Switch is basically the same as the argument for any other major shooter: bulk up the library with the games that one expects to find on a next-gen console and provide players who might not typically consider a Nintendo platform to take a second look. The prospect of playing their favorite AAA title both at home and on the go, thanks to the new device’s modular capabilities, will surely be an attractive one.
There were a lot of big moments in the video game world in 2016, but only two genuine pop-culture phenomena. One was Pokemon Go, the mobile gaming smash that caught fire bigger than even its developers were expecting. The other was Overwatch.
A fresh class-based team multiplayer shooter with a vibrant sci-fi superhero design theme and finely-balanced gameplay courtesy of Blizzard, Overwatch exploded onto the gaming scene and became a meme-generating, team-building, character-obsessing global sensation faster than you could spell “Bastion.” That alone should make a Switch release something Nintendo should aggressively pursue, but it’s also the rare (for the last two generations, anyway) big-ticket shooter that actually compliments and fits right in with the colorful opulence that’s thought of as the “Nintendo aesthetic.” That means built-in audience-crossover appeal, and the Overwatch faithful would likely relish the chance to take it on the road with those built-in handheld and travel features.
3 SUPER MARIO MAKER
Possibly the Wii U’s signature title in terms of being built around the console’s dual screen and touch-stylus interface to maximum potential, Mario Maker combined generations of gamers’ shared nostalgia for the original Super Mario Bros games with many fans’ long dreamt-of chance to build and play video game levels of their very own. For a seemingly niche title, it was a big deal that will almost certainly be a featured part of the “origin story” for a multitude of future game developers.
The only thing keeping it from being even bigger? Being “stuck” on the underselling Wii U (with a subsequent port to the 3DS arriving significantly later). A re-release for Nintendo Switch could give the game a second lease on life, bringing its creativity-encouraging tools to a bigger audience and showing off a near-ideal use of modular portability: make games in your spare time, play them when you get home.
2 SUPER SMASH BROS
Where Nintendo goes, Super Smash Bros will follow. The multiplayer fighting game continues to be a near-perfect balance of strategy-heavy core gameplay for the devoted and wild button-mashing abandon for casual fans and newcomers – a potent alchemy that many have attempted to copy, with nobody yet coming close. Whether you play to dominate the online rankings or if you just want to see the likes of Mega Man, Sonic The Hedgehog and the Mario Bros improbably throw down with the Wii Fit Trainer, Pac-Man and Kirby, chances are good that if you own a Nintendo console, Smash Bros is somewhere in your rotation.
A possible move of the current-gen version of the title to Switch carries with it the same tantalizing potential previously discussed in regard to Hyrule Warriors. With The Switch aiming to unify Nintendo’s handheld and console product lines, would it not make sense for a Switch Smash Bros to combine the Wii U and 3DS versions for even more content? Either way, this would be a big release for fans and newcomers alike.
Nintendo has always lived and died by their ability to win over gamers as kids and keep them as devoted fans for life. But while Mario and company remain as ubiquitous as ever, the youth-gaming phenomenon of the moment continues to be Minecraft. And if ever there was a format that looked overwhelmingly welcoming to the omnipresent mineral-stacking creation game, it’s a console that can transform into a handheld.
It may not be the prime-necessity release that hardcore gamers or old school Nintendo fans would prefer, but Minecraft is one of the biggest dogs in the yard now. There's even a movie adaptation in the works.
A robust version taking advantage of The Switch’s special capabilities could well be a first-wave killer-app for the new console, potentially offering a generation of ‘Craft junkies a whole new way to interact with a creation tool that’s become as foundational as the classical building-blocks it resembles for the on-the-go digital generation.
What games would you like to see on the Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments.
The Nintendo Switch will be made available for purchase in March of 2017.