9 of the Best (and Worst) Switch Ports of AAA Games

Over the last few years, I’ve tried to stop saying that certain games would be a “good fit” for the Nintendo Switch, realizing that, in an ideal world, I would be playing a one-to-one port of every game on Nintendo’s portable device. The gimmick of seeing a AAA title running on the system peaked with the incredible port of The Witcher 3 — a port of a big title only excites me now if it’s good, and if it makes sense as a Switch game. 

As ambitious titles continue to come to Switch, I’ve found myself wondering what a “good fit” for the machine really looks like. The Switch is probably my favorite console ever made, and a system that I inherently enjoy using far more than any other, but what are its limits?

I’ve tested these games in the play conditions I tend to enjoy all of my Switch games, checking them out on my TV but mostly playing them in bed before sleep, during work lunch breaks, and occasionally on lazy weekend mornings. Some felt perfectly at home on Switch, while others I cannot see myself returning to. Through this, a clearer picture of what sort of bigger budget, non-exclusive titles work best on Switch, even if you have the option of playing on much more powerful hardware. I’ve also included the file size of each game, so you can get a sense of how big a MicroSD card you’re going to need for them.

Blair Witch

Blair Witch

File size: 5.8 GB

To work well on Switch, Blair Witch would have essentially needed to have been remade. At its best, this port occasionally feels like it is swinging above its weight, but a mix of constant pop-in, severe blur, and murky darkness makes you wonder why a game so reliant on pristine visuals was ported to the Switch in the first place. This kind of Switch port — the kind that feels like it was made mostly to prove that it could, technically, be done — can go either way, but Blair Witch is a reminder that there are, in fact, limits. It’s not just less scary — it was often so hard to parse what, exactly, was happening on the screen that it made me queasy.

Is it a good fit for the Switch? Not at all. 

the outer worlds ellie

The Outer Worlds

File size: 13.7GB

I had a nightmare about the Switch port of The Outer Worlds. My subconscious rendered a world of recognizable sludge, a smeared vision of a landscape pulled right from this port, and while I don’t remember many specifics it chilled me enough that launching the game afterwards spooked me. When Switch games try to replicate a PS4/Xbox One experience, rather than building something with the Switch’s abilities in mind, you can end up with a game that looks and feels much worse than an equivalent game on Xbox 360 (like Fallout 3). The Outer Worlds is likable and well-written enough that it’s difficult to dislike, but it’s also not a game so essential that it demands to be played if the Switch version is all you have access to. The motion controls are nice, though.

Is the Switch a good platform for this space adventure? Not really.

BioShock Infinite

File size: 20.7GB

First impressions of BioShock Infinite’s Switch port are very strong. The game’s introduction remains compelling, and visually it’s a gorgeous port. The first sights of Columbia are stunning, and like many good ports the novelty of a gorgeous game running in handheld mode is strong. The problem is that once the initial awe wears off, you’re stuck with a game that is showing its age (and was, let’s be honest, never that good to begin with), stuck on a portable system that does not feel like a good fit for an FPS. The sticks on the Joy-Cons are a little too imprecise for this sort of game, and the hectic action sequences are really better suited to a larger screen — which, yes, is fine in docked mode, but odds are high that you own another system better suited to BioShock Infinite. Doom and Wolfenstein II remain the system’s “look what the Switch can do” FPS highpoints; if the port had launched sooner and had served as the de facto Switch FPS tech demo, it would perhaps fare better.

Is it worth revisiting the world of BioShock Infinite on the Switch? Ehhhh.

XCOM 2 Collection

File size: 24.3GB

XCOM 2, a game initially released as a PC exclusive and touted as a title that would push a PS4 too hard to port across, has made its way to Nintendo’s handheld intact despite some startling visual downgrades. This is a smart port, in that the moments that look really awful mostly happen in menus or outside of combat, and while there are long load times and some ropey performance issues to deal with, this is still a version of XCOM 2 I can see myself coming back to over and over. It’s easy to forgive the faults of this port simply because XCOM 2 is a turn-based game, and games that don’t require constant attention, and aren’t reliant on frame rate or total stability, always feel right at home on Switch. The compromises XCOM 2 makes are easier to accept because of the kind of game it is — and because, let’s be honest, it’s a good game to play on the toilet. 

So, is XCOM 2 a solid strategy option for Switch players? It is!

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spongebob squarepants battle for bikini bottom

SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated

File size: 11GB

Of all the games on this list, Battle For Bikini Bottom Rehydrated is the one that most feels like a traditional mid-2000s portable game — the sort of title that could have gotten a so-so Nintendo DS port, or an okay PSP version, back when the PS2 game first released. There’s a nostalgic whiff of a Game Boy Advance era licensed game to it. This carries over into how the game looks, and I was surprised at just how dramatic a downgrade the Switch version is — adding in a cartoony effect to the pop-in does not disguise just how abundant it is. You’re always aware that you’re getting a slightly inferior experience with this port, but it’s also the only one you can hand off to your SpongeBob-loving kid during a road trip, which feels like the true purpose of a game like this.

Should you take your Switch under the sea? Probably not — but SpongeBob is a decent port.

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2

File size: 21.5GB

On paper, Borderlands 2 looks like a worse fit for Switch than BioShock Infinite, and I’ve spent a lot of time puzzling through why I think, in fact, it’s actually much more suited to Nintendo’s portable system. Port developers Turn Me Up Games reportedly developed proprietary technology to get the Unreal Engine working well on Switch, and that work has paid off. Borderlands, as a series, scales well both visually and in terms of player investment. I’ve always struggled to get into this series, but now that I can jump in and casually take on missions or hunt for loot in quick little chunks throughout my day, I’m finding myself enjoying it much more. The motion controls are, unfortunately, a bad fit for Borderlands (guns with recoil become useless), but it’s otherwise my preferred way of playing — in single-player, at least. The Switch will never be an ideal platform for serious co-op, and I’ve found few other players online, but as a casual 20-minutes-at-a-time experience Borderlands 2 on Switch is a delight.

Can the Switch handle Randy’s world of guns and cussing? Yes, but only for casual players (like me).

Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV: Re-Elected

File size: 8.3GB

I’ve been jumping between Saints Row IV on Switch and Saints Row 3 Remastered on PS4, and between the two of them it’s the gaudy superheroics of IV that have aged better. It is, I think, the game’s irreverence that makes it feel timely (it no longer feels unreasonable that the leader of the Saints would be declared president), and this helps make the game a good fit for modern audiences on Switch. It doesn’t look or run as good as it would on PC, yes, but it’s easier to forgive some blurred visuals and pop-in when you’re racing around town at super-speed, not lingering long enough to take anything in. The series’ most frivolous entry is the one that fits best on Switch because a game that does not take itself at all seriously suits being played in 20-minute chunks, and I’ve enjoyed picking it up and quickly zipping around the city nabbing collectables in my down-time. It also has some pretty nice motion controls, which is a good little bonus.

Can the Saints hang on the Switch? Yes.

Burnout: Paradise

Burnout Paradise Remastered

File size: 3.9GB

Burnout Paradise never clicked with me, but the Switch version brings me a little closer to enjoying the game’s Extreme EA Energy than the PS4 or earlier Xbox 360 version did. Part of me feels like the thrills of speeding along the city are just a bit more thrilling when the screen is closer to my face. I often find myself turning the controller along with the stick while playing racing games, and doing this with the full system is no more helpful but just as fun. Burnout is also a game suited to quick sessions, and the slightly updated last-gen graphics are a good fit for what the Switch is capable of. The important takeaway from all of this, of course, is that Burnout 3 on Switch would be the greatest racing experience imaginable.

Is Burnout a paradise on the Switch? It sure is.

Catherine: Full Body

File size: 14.2GB

Ahead of its launch, I saw someone tweet about Catherine: Full Body being an ideal game for Switch because you can now play it without anyone else seeing what you’re up to. And honestly, yes, that’s part of it — this is an interesting, enjoyable game, but it’s also a bit of a private experience. It’s not going to be much fun for anyone else to watch you play, and it’s a difficult game to explain if you’re easily embarrassed. Beyond all of that, though, this is an ideal fit for Switch in many ways. It’s an excellent port, it translates well visually, and — importantly — the Switch is the only damn console with a true, reliable “suspend” button, so you can stop it and walk away during the sequences that don’t let you pause.

Does the Switch work for this prurient puzzler? Yes!