The Nintendo Switch may be nearing the end of its lifespan, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a great collection of games coming to the system on a regular basis. 2023 has arguably been one of the biggest years in the history of the Switch so far, with many high-profile games arriving on the hybrid console in addition to a whole host of announcements about upcoming titles.
Whether you love Nintendo’s first-party offerings from some of its oldest and most successful franchises or enjoy the indie hits that have found a home on the system in recent years, there’s been something for everybody in 2023. That includes outstanding single-player games such as “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” as well as multilayer games that can be enjoyed with your friends.
With 2023 showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to great games, here’s a look back at some of the very best of the year — in no particular order — that every Switch owner will want to check out.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe
As the name might suggest, “Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe” isn’t actually a brand new entry in the long-running Nintendo franchise. In fact, it’s a remake of the 2011 Nintendo Wii game that sees Kirby and his allies attempting to find the missing parts of his spaceship on a strange alien planet. Able to be played as a single-player game or with others cooperatively, the original release was praised for its colorful visual style and fun gameplay, although some noted that it lacked much of a challenge for veterans of the series.
The remake was first revealed in 2022 before hitting store shelves on February 24, 2023. The developers revamped the graphics to make it resemble a comic book style with 2.5D visuals while also adding some extra mechanics, such as the Sand and Mecha abilities. These were joined by a wide array of extra mini-games from earlier “Kirby” games that were previously unavailable on the Switch. Critics and fans largely agreed that these are welcome changes that elevate what was already a charming game.
Fire Emblem Engage
Intelligent Systems’ “Fire Emblem Engage” was one of the first releases on the Switch in 2023 and certainly got the ball rolling in a positive direction. Like other entries in the franchise, it is a tactical role-playing game where players have to control the protagonist and their allies in party battles against groups of enemies. As with its predecessors, combat is turn-based and takes place on a marked grid that all participants can move around. The bulk of the challenge comes from having to strategically maneuver units on the battlefield to get into the best position to defeat the opposition while also considering unit classes and abilities on top of obstacles placed on the map.
Perhaps the most important addition to “Fire Emblem Engage” is the ability to utilize Emblem Rings. These magical items allow characters to fuse with powerful figures from previous “Fire Emblem” games to use devastating attacks and to learn new skills. While this feature was widely praised alongside the main gameplay and strong cast of characters, the game received some criticism over its story but not enough to spoil what is otherwise a very good entry in the franchise.
“Nuclear Blaze” is not a new game. After all, it was initially released on PC in 2021. However, the 2D action-adventure game arrived on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 in April of 2023, marking the first time it has been available on consoles. Developed by Deepnight Games, the title puts players into the shoes of a lone firefighter investigating a series of fires at a secret military base. Using a hose to tackle the flames he comes across, the game plays like a side-scrolling Metroidvania game as players extinguish fires and dodge potential threats.
Managing the constantly expanding flames is a major element of “Nuclear Blaze,” as allowing the fire to get out of control will make progressing through the level almost impossible. But players also have to carefully manage their water supply, which can only be refilled at specific points. This causes a dilemma you have to consider every move you make to stay safe.
Where “Nuclear Blaze” really excels, though, is with its story. The exact nature of the military base and the source of the fire are slowly revealed as you progress further into the facility. Rescuing survivors and discovering notes reveals exactly what went on. With a relatively short playtime, a great soundtrack, and plenty of difficulty options, “Nuclear Blaze” is a game that can be enjoyed by players of all ages.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
The “Bayonetta” series might seem like an odd fit for Nintendo. The PlatinumGames series is known for its gruesome violence, over-the-top action, and sexualized themes. This makes it very much an adult series that isn’t suitable for children, yet every title in the series with the exception of the original game has been exclusive to Nintendo consoles. “Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon” is no different in that regard and the 2023 game is currently only available on Nintendo Switch.
As the name indicates, “Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon” is a prequel to the series, telling the origin story of Cereza and how she became the powerful witch known as Bayonetta. Having inadvertently summoned a demon to help protect her from a faerie attack, 15-year-old Cereza teams up with Cheshire, who has possessed the body of Cereza’s stuffed toy.
With players given control over both Cereza and Cheshire, “Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon” is a very different game from other entries in the series. The action is less frenzied and more thoughtful, as the two have to work together using their own abilities to solve puzzles and overcome enemies in what is a surprising but welcome change of pace from what fans have come to expect from the franchise.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
The original “Coffee Talk” was released in 2020 for a variety of platforms and drew widespread praise for its chilled-out atmosphere, interesting subplots, and charming presentation. The reaction to the visual novel game quickly led to the announcement of a sequel, which became available on Switch and other systems in April 2023. “Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly” once again puts players in the role of a barista who owns a late-night coffee shop.
Each night, the store is visited by a diverse group of characters from non-human races that all have their own personal problems and tales of woe. It is your job to talk to these individuals while also providing them with the perfect drink to match their personalities and moods. This can be done by gleaning insights into what they like through conversations or researching them through the in-game social media options.
While the second game in this series doesn’t exactly have many new ideas, it refines what worked from the original to produce a relaxing and compelling experience. You’ll want to learn everything there is to know about the interesting cast of characters and their interwoven stories after just a few minutes of playing.
Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp
“Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp” is another remake of classic Nintendo games that have come to the Switch in 2023. This compilation brings together the first two games in the “Advance Wars” series into one package while also adding a variety of extras. The turn-based strategy game has been ported by WayForward rather than the original developer Intelligent Systems and sees players controlling a large number of units across different stages. The ultimate aim is to defeat the enemy by destroying all of their units or capturing certain objectives.
Gameplay in “Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp” revolves around positioning units and using each of their relative strengths to your own advantage. Each different unit has its own advantages and disadvantages, such as tanks being heavily armored but slow to move through certain types of terrain while infantry are vulnerable to attack but can move more freely through areas.
The sheer amount of content included in “Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp” makes it a perfect way to experience the franchise for the first time or jump back into the action after a long absence.
One of the smaller games to release on the Switch that still managed to attract a lot of critical acclaim is “DREDGE.” Published by Team17 and developed by Black Salt Games, “DREDGE” is a fishing game where the player assumes the role of an unnamed fisherman who begins a new job at Greater Marrow and the surrounding archipelago to provide fish for the local residents. The job is not as easy as it seems at first, though, as Lovecraftian nightmares and bizarre hallucinations begin to appear out in the open world.
Gameplay in “DREDGE” revolves around trying to catch underwater creatures by completing a set minigame while also collecting enough in-game currency to upgrade your boat to make it more effective by selling the fish you have caught or completing side quests. With a day-night cycle in operation, the Lovecraftian elements come into play after dark, adding a sense of despair and vulnerability to what at first appears to be simply another life simulation game.
“DREDGE” certainly has some drawbacks, including the length of its campaign and the way that the late-stage progression is not as satisfying as ship upgrades remove much of the challenge. However, none of that should stop you from trying it out to experience the horror elements it has to offer players.
Octopath Traveler II
Square Enix is one the most respected names in the world of role-playing games and one of the studio’s newest additions to gaming is “Octopath Traveler II”. Fans of the original “Octopath Traveler” might be upset to find that the sequel features an entirely new cast of characters and largely takes place in previously unseen locations. But this opens up the possibilities when it comes to telling fresh stories and expanding the world, something that might not have been possible if the developers had been completely constrained by what had come before. None of that means that “Octopath Traveler II” won’t be very familiar to those who have played the first game or its prequel.
With its traditional JRPG gameplay and interconnected story featuring eight narratives, “Octopath Traveler II” received similar praise to its predecessor. Many were thankful for the way it took what worked from the first game and improved upon it, with engaging gameplay, an interesting plot, and compelling characters that keep the action moving forward. In particular, the combat system has received a number of quality-of-life tweaks and added strategy options that make it far more enjoyable than it was the first time around.
“PowerWash Simulator” first arrived on most platforms in 2022 but the Nintendo Switch version was delayed until January of this year. Adding to the ever-growing list of simulator games on the market, this release gives players the opportunity to see what it would be like to own a jet-washing business all of your own. Starting off with simple equipment and just a few accessories, your arsenal grows as you complete jobs to earn enough cash to upgrade your gear and get access to additional tools.
Although it may seem like a rather basic game, “PowerWash Simulator” quickly developed a reputation for being relaxing and incredibly satisfying. Without time limits and additional objectives, players can focus entirely on cleaning every surface and area, giving their minds a valuable rest as this is far from a taxing game to play. For those who want a bit more excitement, it does come with time trials and challenges, but these are not part of the main campaign. “PowerWash Simulator” also has some impressive multiplayer options, allowing up to six players to work together to tackle jobs and get through challenges quicker than ever before.
Persona 4 Golden
“Persona 4 Golden” is another Nintendo Switch game that is actually based on an older title rather than being a completely new experience. Initially, “Persona 4” was a PlayStation 2 title that was first available in 2008. Since that time, there have been ports and remakes for various platforms, including a notable PlayStation 3 release in 2014. However, the game has now come to current-generation systems. Based on the PS Vita version of the game, it includes a number of enhancements and additional features, from new characters to extra story chapters as well as online multiplayer.
The fifth mainline installment in the “Persona” series, it follows a high school student who becomes embroiled in a series of murders and supernatural events after moving from his home in the city to the countryside. Like other games in the series, players are given the freedom to choose how to approach each day and can carry out a variety of tasks and everyday activities in addition to advancing the plot. Widely regarded as one of the best games of all time, this upgraded version of the game is the perfect way to play it if you missed out on the chance all those years ago.
Metroid Prime Remastered
Despite being one of Nintendo’s oldest and most successful franchises, the “Metroid” series has somewhat fallen away in recent times. Yet, the company is seemingly setting about changing that with the release of “Metroid Dread” in 2022 and now “Metroid Prime Remastered” at the start of this year. It’s a high-definition remake of the 2002 game, which itself marked a shift in genre and direction for the series by switching to a first-person perspective rather than the side-scrolling action of earlier games in the series. Although that doesn’t mean that it has completely forgotten its Metroidvania roots.
In terms of upgrades, “Metroid Prime Remastered” has clearly benefited from remade visuals and a reworked soundtrack. Everything looks stunning and the sound design is brilliant. The striking designs and creepy atmosphere from the original have been carefully maintained and even enhanced by the high-definition graphics. Few would argue that this is easily among the best-looking games on the Switch and the fact that the gameplay holds up so well makes this a must-play for any fans of the series. Especially when you consider the many quality-of-life tweaks that now allow for motion controls and easier navigation of the world.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
No list of great Nintendo Switch games this year would be complete without what has arguably been the biggest video game release of 2023 this far. A direct sequel to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” the first-party action-adventure game follows Link and Princess Zelda in their attempts to prevent series villain Ganondorf from destroying the ancient land of Hyrule.
Those familiar with the series and its direct predecessor will find that “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” has many of the same ideas and mechanics. There is a vast open world and the same basic premise but the game has been significantly expanded. Along with two new areas to explore, which include the Depths and a new threat known as the Gloom, it also features new abilities such as Ultrahand and Fuse. These open a huge number of possibilities, allowing players to experiment in innovative ways to solve puzzles and navigate the world. Even the story breaks new ground in how it approaches the standard narrative usually told in the series.
Receiving critical acclaim for the ambitious ways that this sequel managed to improve upon its predecessor in almost every respect, it is very much a game that every Nintendo Switch owner should at least try.