As we look forward to what 2020 holds, it's that time of year to take stock and to look back wistfully on 2019. It's been a busy one, that's for sure, and on reflection it's clear that the past twelve months have been particularly fine ones for Nintendo fans.
But which were the absolute tip-top Nintendo gaming highlights of 2019? Well, the staff and contributors that make up Team Nintendo Life have taken a long hard look at the year's finest releases and come up with the following Top 10 (ish) Switch games of the last 365 days. It involved blood, sweat, tears and an overly complicated Google Doc, but we've made it out the other side having voted for our personal favourites and whittled down the following ranked list of winners.
The reader-voted version of this GOTY 2019 (coming tomorrow) list goes up to a whopping 50 games and will obviously feature many of the titles bubbling under on this staff list, so be sure to check that out to get a look at the other great games released in 2019, ranked according to Nintendo Life readers. This here, though, is our personal Top 10 games for Nintendo Switch in 2019.
We start, naturally, at number 11. Why? Well, we simply had to squeeze in at least one of the great games bubbling under the top 10...
You know it's been a cracking year when Fire Emblem: Three Houses doesn't make the top 10. Bringing the SRPG to home console for the first time since the Wii, Three Houses brought with it a rich narrative through its Hogwarts-style school setting which gave series veterans something totally new, all the while retaining the brilliant grid-based battling you expect from a Fire Emblem game. The nuance of the characterisation and the freedom afforded you to mould and tutor your students gives Three Houses a special flavour which keeps you coming back for more, hour after hour.
With DLC to enjoy after you've exhausted the main game and plenty of replayability if you want to explore the road not taken, Three Houses is one of the year's best-value first-party offerings in sheer playtime terms. More to the point, though, is that every single one of those hours will be a tactics-bone-tickling treat.
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The original Yooka-Laylee captured the spirit and fun of old-school collectathon 3D platformers, although some might argue it brought a few too many of the dormant genre's flaws back with it, too. This year's sequel switched the main gameplay to 2D while evoking the Donkey Kong Country series' monkey business, but is also added a brilliant top-down overworld, some very clever stage design and the ability to go straight to the final boss, if you reckon you've got the chops for it.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair looks and sounds gorgeous, features ingenious design and the same mischievous spirit of our very favourite Rare-like platformers, and it was a pleasure to see them back in 2019.
Taking the genius of the original Super Mario Maker concept and transplanting it to Switch, Super Mario Maker 2 is a 2D Mario fan's dream. With updates having improved on the already-impressive launch experience, the Story mode made the game essential for people who weren't interested in the 'Maker' part of the title, but for players who really got into the game's mechanics it remains one of the most engrossing platforming experiences on the console. With updates still coming, there's plenty in the pipeline to look forward to.
Tetris 99 dropped onto Nintendo Switch Online when the service really needed a pick-me-up. Of course, the concept of a Battle Royale Tetris had been doing the rounds online as long as jokes about game series jumping on the BR wagon themselves had, but few could have predicted just what a great fit that melding of genres would be. The added tactical layer of attacking (and defending against) 98 other players adds a whole new dimension to a game you've probably sunk hundreds of hours into before.
Tetris 99 has since escaped the confines of Switch Online and released as a standalone product with DLC, so non-subscribers can get in on the action (although playing offline kind of defeats the purpose). Regardless of how you play, it's an absolutely essential puzzler and well worth dipping into whether you're new to Russian block-fallers or a three-decade tetromino veteran.
We just wish we weren't so rubbish at it. Given the countless hours we've played in our lifetime, we struggle to think of another game where the gulf between our skill level and hours-invested is quite so wide.
It always looked like a fun concept, but following on from the original Crypt of the NecroDancer, even fans of the original probably didn't expect just how well Cadence of Hyrule would turn out. It fuses Hyrule with the beat-based gameplay of Crypt brilliantly, but also manages to be an excellent Zelda game in its own right - no small feat for Brace Yourself Games, an indie outfit given the keys to one of Nintendo's most treasured franchises.The developers did the series - and the series' incredible music - proud. If you missed out on this earlier in the year, there's no time like the present to catch up.
If there was one game which spread its wings (a little aggressively, perhaps) and drew the attention of the non-gaming social media in 2019, it has to be Untitled Goose Game. The uncouth goose hijacked the internet for a month and you couldn't scroll through a feed without seeing the blighter popping up all over the place.
The game itself was a blessed tonic with just the right mix of charm, anarchy and childlike mischief which didn't outstay its welcome. Sometimes you just want to sit down for a few short hours and have a nice, concise and, most importantly, fun gaming experience. That's exactly what Untitled Goose Game provided - a guilt-free, bite-sized slice of fowl gaming that wouldn't be clogging up your backlog for months on end. Lovely.
Oh, and honk.