So, you've got yourself or a family member a new Switch and you're curious about all those little figures that supposedly interact with the games. If you’re new to Switch and fancy dipping your toe in the amiibo pool, it can be difficult to know where to start. The full roster is pretty daunting and nobody wants to get stuck with a dud which only works in a game or two.
Fear not – we’re here to help you wade through the dozens of available figures with a selection which will not only look great on the shelf, but also give decent value in terms of NFC functionality.
Nintendo’s take on the toys-to-life genre launched in 2014 into a frenzy which saw scalpers reselling the little Near-Field Communication figurines for huge profits. Nintendo eventually sorted the supply issues and did another run on some of the rarer characters, meaning you can generally get hold of the one you want these days without resorting to ludicrous prices on eBay.
The release cadence has calmed down, too, with a handful of new amiibo dropping every few months. The latest batch of Smash Bros. figures includes Piranha Plant, King K. Rool and Ice Climbers, and there’s a whole load more coming this year including Pokémon Trainer, Squirtle, Ivysaur and Snake, to name a few.
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A Word On Compatibility
While certain games have bespoke unlocks tied to a specific amiibo, there are a great many games with more general compatibility that'll reward you with a nominal bonus by tapping any figure, even if the game doesn't register them specifically. By far the largest amiibo collection is the Smash Bros. series, and that game enables you to save (or 'write') fighter data to the amiibo itself. Other titles such as Super Mario Odyssey simply 'read' the figures and unlock, say, a costume or a consumable item.
Many games have broad compatibility, even if the rewards tend to be less exciting. Unlocks vary from one-time, daily or unlimited bonuses depending on the game and there are far too many to list here. This is not an appendix – Nintendo’s own list will give you the rundown of every single compatible title – this is more a nudge in the right direction for those starting out.
So, the following are a handful of winners to get you started - with some alternatives to suit all tastes - for the next time you’re faced with a display wall of options and no clue what to pick…
1. Pick a Mario, Any Mario
But of course! It’s a no-brainer that the plumber is a great all-rounder, offering functionality with a wide range of games on Switch, 3DS and Wii U. Very sensibly, any Mario figure should work similarly for most titles, so you’re free to choose your favourite from the five main figures. Gold and Silver (or 'Metal', if you prefer) versions exist for the 'Super Mario' variant, although they’re tough to find and you’ll pay a hefty premium. Personally, we’re fans of Dr Mario, although 8-Bit Mario is pretty spiffy (though bigger than your average amiibo) and Super Mario Odyssey’s Wedding Suit variant works very well with Bowser and Peach from the same series (and unlocks the suit immediately in-game).
Alternative: Luigi – While the taller Mario brother comes in only two variants, he has very similar compatibility, so going green is a great option if red is too mainstream. Speaking of which, if you’re a fan of green, you’ll love our next pick…
2. A Link To Your Bank Balance
The hero of Hyrule has more variations than any other amiibo – a staggering twelve if you include Wolf Link and the upcoming Young Link. While they’ll all serve the general purpose of unlocking Link-based items in many titles, their use is a little more fragmented in compatible Zelda games. They’ll unlock corresponding costumes in Breath of the Wild, for example, and Wolf Link is used to access the exclusive Cave of Shadows challenge dungeon in Twilight Princess HD on Wii U (the completion of which gets you the Colossal Wallet upgrade). Using it in Breath of the Wild will spawn the wolf as a AI companion who’ll attack enemies alongside you. The Smash or Twilight Princess variants are the only way to unlock Epona in Breath of the Wild, too.
Of all the available options, we’d personally avoid his first Smash version, one of the initial batch of amiibo with the infamous ‘pee-coloured’ plastic support, but there’s more than enough to choose from. We’re suckers who couldn’t resist unlocking the costumes in Breath of the Wild, so we tracked down several of them, including a second-hand Ocarina Link for *mumbles an exorbitant amount of money under breath*. Totally worth it if you’re a fan, less so if you just want to unlock Link’s Mii suit in Mario Kart 8. Check out this guide for more information on the convoluted unlocks for all the Zelda series amiibo.
Alternative: Princess Zelda – Link’s muse isn’t a bad choice, although she doesn’t offer costume changes or such broad compatibility. She has three distinct variants (four, if – SPOILERS – you include Sheik) and offers some variety if you’re sick of the green elf, but if you’re after a Nintendo princess, you’re probably better off with our next pick…
3. A Princess In Every Castle
As the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, you’d be correct in assuming Princess Toadstool would be a handy ally to have. Not only does she function with Smash and Mario Kart, etc, but she also unlocks a special 'Mushroom Kingdom Princess' costume in Bayonetta 2 (likewise Link, Daisy, Samus, Fox or Falco for their respective outfits – Bayonetta 2 has some excellent little easter eggs for most amiibo). She’s also extremely handy in Super Mario Odyssey, where she’ll top you up with a special heart with every tap.
She has three variations to choose from – we’d avoid the early Smash Bros. iteration because she looks a bit weird, no? The Wedding Dress variant unlocks that costume in Mario Odyssey without the need to collect 480 Power Moons and pay coins for the privilege.
Alternative: Daisy or Rosalina - Both Daisy and Rosalina are available if you want to complete the Princess collection, although they’re not as versatile as Peach. Daisy also unlocks the 'Sarasaland Princess' costume in Bayonetta 2, although Nintendo Life contributor and general top bloke Chris Scullion wouldn’t approve.
4. Dial Up The Cuteness With a Yoshi
Mario’s trusty steed is an excellent choice if you’re after a versatile amiibo, and it also offers perhaps the cutest variation of them all. While the standard Smash or Super Mario series versions are perfectly lovely, it’s the Yarn Yoshi from Yoshi’s Woolly World that’s the real head-turner. With three colours available (and the giant Mega Yarn Yoshi, if you can find it and you’ve got the space), it’s a great option - doubly great if you’ve got small children, less so if you've got cats. They love Yarn Yoshi a little too much.
Alternative: Bowser – If Yoshi is too sickly sweet for your tastes, Mario’s arch nemesis has similarly wide-ranging compatibility with a bit more bite.
5. Go Simple And Classic With a Kirby
Finally, it’s everyone’s favourite ball of…, er… pink? Yep, Kirby’s simple design makes him one of the very best-looking amiibo of the bunch, with two variants – one from Smash and the other from his own series. With compatibility for Smash, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Party, Hyrule Warriors, Picross 3D Round 2, Pokkén and loads more, it’s a pretty sure bet he’ll work with something in your library.
Alternative: Pac-Man – If you’re into your spherical video game legends, Pac-Man is a decent choice, too. Though he lacks the wide compatibility of the pink one, his unlocks have a great retro flavour – who wouldn’t take a Pac-Man themed jet in Ace Combat?
And Finally, Just Some Really Good-Looking Ones!
You won’t go too far wrong with any of those listed above, with a good balance of aesthetics and in-game usefulness. Of course, while NFC functionality is fun, the figures will be sitting on the shelf for 99.99% of the time; once you've tapped them for that one-time unlock and bagged the costume or whatever, you’d better like the look of the thing.
The following are a handful that we love, even if they’re most useful in just a single game. Just look at them, though!
The Metroid figure is unique in that it's got a squidgy, rubbery 'skin'. It marks the location of the closest Metroid on your map in Metroid: Samus Returns, as well as unlocking the ultra-hard Fusion difficulty after you finish the game. Squeezing aside, you'll really need to own that 3DS title to get the most out of it.
The same goes for Chibi-Robo – he's not particularly handy unless you have Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash. Piranha Plant is from a recent batch and has quickly become one of our favourites; there's something about its matte head against those shining teeth and glossy tongue which makes it stand out in the lineup.
R.O.B., the Robotic Operating Buddy from the old days, is an awesome retro curio that comes in both NES and Famicom colours, though he's not massively useful outside of Smash - looks fantastic next to your NES Classic Mini, though. The brilliantly oversized Detective Pikachu will likely become popular again with the release of the film later this year.
And speaking of 'oversized', the Guardian from Breath of the Wild is an absolute beast which we wish did a little more than drop a few high-level items – surely giving you immediate access to a fully pilot-able Guardian wouldn't be too much to ask?
Yes, we could go on. We could talk about Olimar or Ness or the cute Animal Crossing series – who wouldn’t want a K.K. Slider? – but that's more than enough to begin with. With upcoming games very likely to have amiibo support (we’re thinking of Super Mario Maker 2, Animal Crossing and Luigi’s Mansion 3 in particular), the functionality of the figures only increases. Ultimately, you should just go with your gut and get whatever you think looks nice – the in-game bonuses are just that: bonuses.
Be warned, though: the first one might be innocent, but it will lead to more if you’re not careful. They’re great little figures, so by all means, dive in and start a collection, but if you’re short on space, be careful; these things are addictive.
Hopefully that's helped get you on the right track if you're just starting out. If you're a veteran, what was your first amiibo? Has your collection ballooned or were you able to control yourself (unlike us)? Let us know with a comment.