The original Ace Attorney is – dare we say it – almost 20 years old, which is remarkable when you consider just how well it holds up 2019. Sure, it’s been ported plenty of times and the jump to Nintendo DS certainly helped shake off the retro cobwebs, but as a piece of interactive history, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is as utterly addictive and truly rewarding as it was back at the turn of the millennium. Whether you’re brand new to the world of virtual defence law or a veteran attorney, Phoenix Wright’s first adventures are still a fine set of cases to undertake.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a technical marvel when it first arrived on the scene back in 1993. Easily one of the great Game Boy releases, it was a first bash at a handheld Zelda that took the formula as perfected by A Link to the Past, jammed it all onto a tiny portable console and, somehow, managed to make it all work while adding a host of new features and concepts to the mix. This beautiful Switch remake rebuilds all of this from the ground up in fine style. It adds modern conveniences, a dungeon creator, amiibo support and lots of little quality of life improvements whilst infusing every single square inch of Koholint – every secret passage, Piranha, Pokey and Pig Warrior – with a level of detail and depth that totally reinvigorates both its timeless story and classic Zelda gameplay for a whole new generation of gamers.
What we have here is a flawless port of a game which absolutely deserves all of the praise it has received. From start to finish, Ori and the Blind Forest is a real joy to play. Challenging yet never feeling unfair or discouraging, and almost relaxing to control. The mesmerising art style and musical score are the icing on the cake that makes the player actually care about the protagonist and want to keep playing to the game’s conclusion. It is a bit of a surprise to see this game make its way to the Nintendo Switch, but we’re glad that it has. An unmissable experience.
Put in as simple a manner as possible, Super Mario Maker 2 is likely to be the last 2D Mario game you’ll need. It’s Super Mario Maker but with more of everything that made the original so phenomenal. Enemies, themes, game styles, gizmos, powerups, the Story Mode having an actual story, multiplayer, the list of additional gubbins is truly massive when you take a step back. There are a few small issues here and there, but they're overwhelmingly dwarfed by the sheer joy and unbridled freedom that exceeds the original in spades. Realistically this game poses the question as to whether this is the future for 2D Mario as a whole. For any fan of Mario who owns a Switch – heck, for any Switch owner full stop – buying this game is an absolute necessity.
It takes a surprising amount of effort to beat Minecraft at its own game, but we’d argue that Dragon Quest Builders 2 in many ways surpasses its inspiration in fun factor and replayability. The melding of JRPG conventions with the open-ended and creatively focused sentiments of sandbox gameplay proves to go over much smoother than you’d expect, especially now that Square Enix seems to know what it’s doing with this sub-series. Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a much more confident game than its predecessor, boldly expanding on its concepts, fixing many of its flaws, and providing an overall more robust adventure experience that fans won’t want to miss out on. Charming characters, a well-tuned gameplay loop, and near endless replayability ensure that you’ll be coming back to this one for quite some time, and though the performance issues are disappointing, we’d still highly recommend you pick up Dragon Quest Builders 2.
With its amazing visuals, fantastic presentation, varied gameplay and deep, rewarding combat, Astral Chain could well be PlatinumGames' most accomplished game yet. It mixes detective work with exhilarating battle sequences that are inventive, challenging and – perhaps most importantly – breathtakingly cool. The complexity of the game's myriad systems may prove intimidating for some players, but the inclusion of a co-op play and the ability to automate many of the mechanics via the 'Unchained' mode means that even complete newcomers can still enjoy the ride. Astral Chain isn't just one of the Switch's stand-out hits – it's one of Platinum's best video games.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is not only a graphical powerhouse and showcase for Next Level Games’ unrivalled mastery of video game animation, it’s also an immense helping of spooky fun as well. The amount of care and consideration poured into every facet of the game is abundantly clear, and it all results in one of the most enjoyable and attractive Switch titles of the year. It's also the undisputed high point of a franchise which – following this sterling release – will hopefully get even more love and attention from Nintendo fandom, and the gaming community as a whole.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt remains a masterpiece, and being able to take such a grand and engrossing adventure on the go is something well worth celebrating. The Switch's Complete Edition is a truly impressive achievement, and although performance isn't perfect, it's still an incredible and impactful role-playing experience. The Witcher 3 set the bar for modern RPGs back in 2015, and this port is a startling reminder that it has yet to be bettered.
There was a lot riding on it, but Fire Emblem: Three Houses managed to live up to the hype and will stand as a highlight in the series for years to come. The expanded gameplay styles, retooled combat, lovable characters, and in-depth character customisation hook you fast and are almost guaranteed to keep you engaged for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours as you come to understand this enormous game in its entirety. Fans both new and old won’t want to miss out on what Fire Emblem: Three Houses has to offer; this sets a new standard for what a strategy RPG can be and proved itself to be a must-have release for the Nintendo Switch.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition is an achievement that Square should be proud of; this is one of the best games they’ve put out in years. A heartwarming, well-paced narrative supported by a cast of fantastic characters, a dense and interesting overworld packed with dozens of hours of content, and one of the finest soundtracks we’ve heard in a JRPG combine to make this an unforgettable modern classic. Whether you’re a newcomer to the JRPG genre or a returning vet, do yourself a favor and buy Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age as soon as you’re able. This is the epitome of a gift that keeps on giving, and it more than deserves a spot in your Switch library.
There's a huge amount of quality on this list - arguably enough to rival even Switch's stellar launch year! Do you disagree with this ranking? Remember, this is a fluid, ever-changing list governed by each game's Nintendo Life user rating, so rate your favourites and perhaps they'll pop up. Head to our library of Switch games for 2019 and get rating your personal favourites. You can also check out the best Switch games of the 2017 and the best Switch games of 2018, too.
What were your best games of 2019? Did they make this top 50 (yet)? Feel free to share your thoughts below, and have an excellent Christmas and a marvellous New Year.