The Nintendo Switch has continued to go from strength to strength through 2020. Where others have been gearing up to make a generational leap, the canny little hybrid is in the prime of its life, enjoying month after month of chart-topping sales and pitching its tent in the mainstream consciousness as a go-to device for family friendly gaming.
Of course, that hasn’t always led to the most thrillingly new gaming experiences for the device – well, outside of Mario Kart Live’s augmented reality RC racing. 2020 saw Nintendo lean on its most bankable of gaming mascots quite a lot, but in truth, the most important Nintendo Switch game of this year was one that arrived at exactly the right time.
While many will dismiss Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ success as a freak occurrence, arriving as it did just as the world was locking down for the first time to try and combat the Covid-19 pandemic. With so many more idle thumbs and the sudden removal of any feeling of control over our lives, Animal Crossing’s carefree charms could shine through. The game fuelled months-long shortages of Nintendo Switch consoles, and is destined to officially become the Switch’s top selling game when Nintendo next report their financials.
Yet that would be to ignore just how good Animal Crossing: New Horizons actually is and how big a step forward for the series it has been. You have so much more control over the island, should you want it, deciding where new villagers can build their homes, letting you place all manner of items and objects to decorate the landscape, and eventually being let loose to reshape the island itself. The creativity that this has unleashed through the Animal Crossing community is truly staggering.
Sure, it’s still full of traditional Nintendo quirks, like locking an island down to a console and not a user account, and the achingly slow and overly restrictive online island visits, but Nintendo have improved the game and added features through the year.
A game that’s inextricably linked to 2020, this might be, but not one that will be defined by it.
Runner Up – Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Any excuse to wax lyrical about the Xenoblade universe is one I will joyfully jump on, and this year’s Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition was a welcome relief from the drudgery of 2020. It was already one of the best JRPGs of all time, but its place as a Wii exclusive amongst all of the waggling tennis action probably kept it from many hardcore RPG fan’s eyes. It also never really looked as good as it could, thanks to the hardware’s plucky, but not very powerful chipset. All in all, it meant that it was ripe for a return on the people’s console champion: the Nintendo Switch.
It’s pretty much as good as anyone could have hoped for. The graphics took a considerable sprucing, but alongside that they added a meaningful epilogue in the shape of Future Connected, bringing us to a new area, and allowing for a touch more closure to the original’s epic tale. Shulk and his friends have never looked or sounded better, and for once this was a definitive edition in the truest sense.
– Dom L
Runner Up – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
While we all wait patiently for Nintendo to create a worthy sequel to Breath of the Wild, they surprised us this year with a follow up to the Hyrule Warriors spin-off that simultaneously acts as a prequel within Breath of the Wild’s corner of the Legend of Zelda universe.
As a sequel to Hyrule Warriors, it’s an all-round improvement, retaining the core musou gameplay and epic battles, but making the combat more flexible through the cast of returning BOTW characters and their abilities, integrating elements like the Sheikah Slate and the Divine Beasts, and refining smaller elements throughout.
It’s also a perfect fit with the story it seeks to tell, with Breath of the Wild having left so much of the Age of Calamity and the epic battles it featured up to your imagination. Where the first game was a love letter to the Zelda series as a whole, this is all the better for being able to home in on a specific period and tap into one of the best Zelda games of all time. It gets to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best Legend of Zelda games in its own right.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Mario Kart Live
- Super Mario Bros. 35
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list!
- Best VR Game
- Best PC Game
- Best Single Player Game
- Best Narrative
- Best Gameplay
- Best Independent Game
- Best Visual Design
- Best Original Soundtrack
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Remaster/Remake
Did the Nintendo Switch have a place in your gaming habits this year? Which games really grabbed you and wouldn’t let go? Let us know below.