The Switch is now within its 5th year, and I got to thinking about just what it had to offer so far within its time on the market. This is a topic that is often divided due to misinformation about the Switch being mostly "WiiU ports", but I want to give my take on it based on my experience with the device from launch till now year by year.
So first I will establish how I view each year. For the most part, WiiU ports will not be included in how I rate each year due to the above stigma I want to avoid. I will give honorable mentions, but they will only serve as padding between releases for games that stand out to me. The only acception to this rule is Fire Emblem Warriors and Breath of the Wild, as they are classified as cross gen releases rather than old ports. I will also only be mentioning games that stood out to me in some way, so if I do not mention a game it is because it did nothing for me.
Next I will say that 3rd party exclusives WILL be included. These are games Nintendo has either invested in or flat out owns the IP, and therefore are used to further bolster the Switch library. There is no reason not to include them. Also I will be including timed exclusives as well, since this is a year by year breakdown. The idea here is to look at the flow of exclusive content delivered, and what they do for the library at the time. Going to other platforms a year later when new Switch games have already been released to maintain that flow do not take away from their initial impact.
And finally, I WILL NOT be including 3rd party multiplat ports. These games exist for one main reason when it comes to bigger games...to be able to play them on the go. Yes they do help pad out time between releases, but if you have another console and you are not using the portablity of the Switch at the time...you will likely want it on another console. I get a lot of use out the hybrid functionality of the Switch, so more often than not Switch is my 1st choice for most multiplat games. However this is not the case for everyone, so they will not be included.
So will will start off with year 1...year 1 was FIRE. I cannot recall another console ever launching with a line up this strong. We have Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade 2, Mario Odyssey, and Mario Plus Rabbids as the most notable exclusives. There were more, like Fire Emblem Warriors or ARMs, but these are what I consider to be the highlights of the year. There is a reason that there are people that still feel year 1 was the strongest year of Switch. Honorable mention goes to Mario Kart 8 Delux, which is still selling like crazy to this day.
Now we move into year 2...and TBH...it was a bit of a lull. Not because it is being compared to year 1, but because it was a slow year. It happens, especially after a big line up from the year prior. But that does not change what it is...a lull. There were some worthwhile ports and Mario Tennis Aces, but for the most part there was not anything huge to play. What stood out to me was Smash Ultimate and Octopath Traveler. I will give honorable mention to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate for holding over MH fans, but this is a port that I did not even bother with (though retrospectively I wish I had). By far, this is the Switch's weakest year and sold largely on the back of what year 1 had to offer.
Now we move on to year 3...and year 3 was just as fire as year 1. We had Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Astral Chain, Pokemon Sword/Shield, Luigi's Mansion 3, and a remake of Link's Awakening leading the charge. They were also released in a steady flow from spring through the holiday, which was nice. I want to give honorable mention to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Daemon X Machina as well. They are not as big as the other games, but I enjoyed them myself. If you did not feel year 1 was the strongest year for Switch, odds are your vote goes to year 3 instead.
Year 4 was...pretty good. Not great, not a lull like year 2...but pretty good. There are two big parts of year 4 that keep it well above year 2 IMO. The first should be obvious...Animal Crossing New Horizons. A game that I never thought would hook me into investing 400+ hours into, and no one would think could become the sales MONSTER it is to this day. Another reason this game is so relevant, is the regular content updates it receives to keep things fresh. This early year release is one that impacts much more of year 4 than just the release window alone. The other big factor is Mario's 35th anniversary. Mario 35 was fun and the anniversary collection, while a collection of old games, remains relevant due to what they represent.
Also lets talk about Origami King. This game was a solid game, and a joy for me to play. It is divided, but I am giving it credit anyway. Do not expect Thousand Year Door 2, as OK needs to be looked at as its own thing. It plays more like a traditional 3D Zelda game with turn based battles TBH, and stomps Sticker Star and Color Splash IMO. It may not be the game some people wanted, but it is still a solid game that gets credit for me. Later we also had Hyrule Warriors Age of Calamity. This game was also great, and one of the best Warriors games around. The battle system is varied enough to keep each character feeling unique, and therefore the game as a whole fresh. My only real problem with the game is a particular cringy plot point that was used to shoehorn 4 more characters into the game, which cheapened an otherwise decent story. I also want to give an honorable mention to Xenoblade Definitive Edition as it was my first experience with the game and I loved it. Had it been a new game, this year would be closer to fire. But at the end of the day, it is still just a very enhanced Wii port (I changed my mind, fk off =P). So while the game is great, and many experienced it for the first time...it does not save year 4 from being just "pretty good" overall.
A look into the future...year 5 and 6 are both looking to be fire. Confirmed or already released major games for year 5 alone include Monster Hunter Rise, Monster Hunter Stories 2, Bravely Default 2, SMTV, New Pokemon Snap, Disgaea 6 (in the west) and what appears to look like an excellent Mario Golf game. In the rumor mill, we have Resident Evil Outrage and a potential release of BotW2 this year. There is also the strong possibility of more Zelda love for its anniversary year as well on top of all that. E3 is right around the corner, and Nintendo is likely to have even more surprises to drop there. Maybe even a Switch "Pro" reveal.
But that does not mean everything is being dumped into year 5. Because what I feel is already slated for year 6 includes Bayonetta 3, Metroid Prime 4, and Splatoon 3. Even if BotW2 comes next year rather than this year, this would only bolster year 6 even more while year 5 would still be huge.
So in summation, the Switch has been amazing for Nintendo fans both new and old. With only one truly lull of a year, the pacing has been pretty decent when it comes to exclusive content (and remember there is more than what I mentioned). But even more importantly, both the near and further out future look very bright for Switch moving forward IMO. Even as a side console, the Switch has a lot of quality content to offer. If we get into the Switch's viability as a main/primary console, it does a great job here as well. But this would entail getting into the amazing Japanese and indie support to go along with other 3rd party multiplat ports, and that is another discussion entirely.Last edited by Shiken - on 05 May 2021