The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are upon us, but with stock in short supply, many of us are left playing our PS4 copies of Spider-Man: Miles Morales. The new (dystopian) future has arrived alongside the new consoles, and as frame rates and loading times improve, it’s hard not to wonder — how many good Switch ports do we have left? Is Nintendo’s handheld hybrid going to get left behind?
It seems unlikely. As 2020 ends, I still can’t put my Switch down, and even when a game is available on other systems, I’d still rather have the portable version if it’s not a trainwreck. Over the past month I’ve tested several recent Switch versions of big games to try and better grasp at what makes a game a good fit for Nintendo’s console, and which ones are still worth picking up on Nintendo’s less-powerful machine.
In theory, this is the sort of game I’d like to be able to take on the go, or play in bed — Two Point Hospital got its hooks into me good on Switch earlier this year, and generally speaking I prefer my addictive planner games to be portable. Unfortunately, the line’s got to be drawn somewhere regarding loss of fidelity on a portable screen, and Tropico 6 goes so far past it that the line’s no longer visible. Docked, the game looks okay, albeit not as good as it does elsewhere. In handheld mode, it’s maybe the worst-looking game I’ve seen on Switch, blurred to the point of being unreadable. It reminds me of the over-ambitious ports we used to see on the Nintendo DS — and while there’s some charm in that, it’s hard to recommend anyone buy it.
ElPresidente on the go? No go.
Sniper Elite 4
Sniper Elite 4 is a game that I was very fond of on other consoles, and that fondness has only increased with this Switch port. A slow, methodical stealth shooter might not be suited to casual bedtime and bus trip gaming, but this is such a strong port that I’ve found myself keenly enjoying the game in my home office, on the toilet, and on the couch while my partner watches TV. Is it better on Switch than it is elsewhere? Not really, unless you love motion controls and paying a bit more money — but it’s a good reminder that a strong port still lets you wring a bit of “I can’t believe this is running on a portable system” magic out of Nintendo’s machine.
Worth a shot? Yes, if you want a portable shooter — it’s an excellent port of a great game.
I think I accidentally offended the PR dude responsible for Fuser when I asked for a Switch code for this article. “Just want to understand what you consider to be a ‘Switch port?’,” he asked. “Fuser is releasing day and date on the Switch with other platforms and tons of work has been put into this version of the game.” And look, all power to him: this is a damn good Switch version. Playing a music creation game on Switch makes so much sense to me, because it mirrors how I listen to music – often on the go, as a quick distraction or to help me get to sleep, but sometimes I’ll pick something out from my vinyl collection, and really take the time to enjoy it. Having the music pumping out of a device in my hands through some budget range Sony earphones feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Never gonna give it up? Fuser on Switch is never gonna let you down.
Descenders is a game that I’ve always enjoyed, but had a hard time truly engaging with, and because of that I’ve very much enjoyed picking away at the Switch version while doing something else. This odd little downhill biking game makes excellent use of HD Rumble to make your controller rattle and shake as you build up speed, and there’s something about the intimacy of a console in your hands that makes each bone-crunching spills feel all the more, uh, bone-crunching. Visually it’s not the best, with shadows loading late and some pop-in, but I can live with that. Hurtling down a hill fast sure is enjoyable on Switch, especially when you can rewatch old episodes of Nailed It! on Netflix at the same time and wonder if they’ll ever get to film another season.
Downhill run or uphill climb? Uhhh, the good one. This game is good on Switch.
Serious Sam Collection
If there’s one genre of game that absolutely does not fit on the Switch, it’s “ports of twitchy old cult PC FPS games.” This is exacerbated horribly by Serious Sam Collection’s horrible port of Serious Sam 3, which makes a 9-year-old game feel so much older. The first two games fare better, but this is a “sit down with a Red Bull and think about your teen years” game if ever there was one, and the Switch is not the place to be doing that. The Switch Joy-Cons are never going to be the best for ultra-precise shooting, and Serious Sam doesn’t have enough else going for it.
Worth getting serious with on Switch? No – stick with the PC for this sort of thing.
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered
Look. Has the half of this game you spend playing as a cop, ramming people off the road and being awarded extra points for excessive force aged weirdly? Yes. Did my tiny friends leaderboard remind me a bit too much of the glory days of the Xbox 360, and how disconnected I have become from the “gamer” communities I once felt a part of? Yes. Despite all that, is Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit still a damn excellent arcade racer, and a beautiful Switch port? That’s a triple yes.
Part of the appeal of the Switch version of Hot Pursuit Remastered is — and excuse me for some weird logical leaps here — the fact that it’s not a very good remaster on any system, which is much more forgivable on a portable system than it is on PS4 or Xbox One. Being able to take a game I loved nearly 10 years ago to bed with me is a treat, and it runs like a dream on Nintendo’s console.
Worth another lap on Switch? Worth a bunch of extra laps on Switch.
Empire of Sin
I’ve been looking forward to Empire of Sin all year, and actually playing it has highlighted the potential drawback of loving a system as much as I love the Switch — even once I’ve heard a Switch version of a game is bad, usually I’ll want to try it anyway. I ignored a lot of red flashing lights because I love strategy games on Switch. I love observing a battlefield in my hands, taking my time, putting the system down between turns if I want a break, not worrying that the game might look dull or awkward to my partner or anyone else passing by.
But Empire of Sin is no Fire Emblem. I knew I was in trouble in the first cutscene, when a character’s tie appeared as a painted texture over a shirt rather than getting its own model on the jittery, jaggy character it was wrapped around the neck of. As I awkwardly combated the controls and tried to make sense of its thin premise and mechanics, I couldn’t help but wonder – does this play better on PC? Do the other versions also contain these mission-ruining bugs? Should I free some space on my SD card up and reinstall XCOM? It was a relief when the game froze.
An offer you can’t refuse? No! Refuse this offer!
Doom (2016) and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus on Switch both felt like proof-of-concept flexes: games like this could be crammed onto Nintendo’s system with acceptable compromises. Doom Eternal feels like another step entirely, taking one of the most visually intensive games of 2020, one that benefits enormously from a beefy set-up, and squeezing it down. In a post Witcher 3-port world, with the seemingly impossible already proved possible, can we still be really wowed by a PS4 game running on Switch – so wowed that the game is worth playing, when it’s clearly and obviously better elsewhere?
As it turns out, yes. The Doom Eternal port on Switch is extraordinary, making up for its toned-down graphics and reduced frame rate by being super-stable and incredibly well optimized. I turned the difficulty down and spent a breezy few hours slaying demons, which is, I believe, the exact right way to play it on Switch. This version also has motion controls and playing with two Joy-Cons is surprisingly precise and fun (aiming is otherwise much harder than on other systems thanks to those tiny sticks).
This won’t be anyone’s favorite way of playing Doom Eternal, if they have the option to play it elsewhere. Unless you only own a Switch and really want to play Doom Eternal, this is best thought of as a luxury purchase for fans who own it elsewhere. It reminds me of the excellent Game Boy Advance port of Doom (1993). This is more than just a tech demo – it’s an excellent portable experience, in part because it’s extremely cool that it works at all.
Rip and Tear? Yes, this is a fantastic port. Just make sure you know why you’re buying it.