A year ago, if you had told me I’d be spending my evenings playing Payday 2 on a tablet, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here I am, plugging away at a heist game that came out five years ago. Such is the power of the Nintendo Switch.
As I’ve written multiple times before, the Switch is a device that fits into my life more than any gaming system before it. It seamlessly shifts from being a home console to a portable device, essentially eliminating the distinction between the two. Super Mario Odyssey isn’t a game I can play either at home or on the go; it’s just a game, and I can play it however I want. This benefits a lot of different kinds of experiences, whether it’s a sprawling epic like Breath of the Wild or a competitive multiplayer shooter about teen squids.
But it has also had an unintended side effect: games that I would otherwise have very little interest in suddenly become a lot more appealing on the Switch.
Payday 2, which is available on Nintendo’s tablet next week, is just the latest example. I played the original Payday when it first came out way back in 2011, and I enjoyed its Michael Mann-esque take on co-operative heists. It was unique and challenging, but I felt pretty satisfied with the one game. A sequel didn’t seem necessary, so I never dabbled in the follow-up. But on the Switch, the idea of more Payday is much more enticing. The games are divided into a series of missions, as you work as part of a criminal group to pull off increasingly daring heists. Each one is like a thrilling, self-contained story. I’ve been playing through a single one by myself in the game’s offline mode each night before bed this week. Yes, it’s an older version of an already old game, but the freedom to play it wherever makes it a pretty fair trade-off for me.
Other games that similarly weren’t on my radar have since become experiences I’ve really enjoyed on the Switch, like the paranormal point-and-click adventure game Darkside Detective or the stylish Metroid-style adventure Dandara. I’ve even found myself playing games a second time just because they’re on the Switch, most recently with Dragon Quest Builders, a Minecraft-esque take on the classic role-playing series. Before that, it was LA Noire and Skyrim.
This behavior reminds me a lot of when the original Nintendo DS came out. Over the course of that handheld’s life, it was home to a huge range of strange, unexpected experiences. And I played just about all of them. I took virtual pets for walks in Nintendogs and ventured through multiple iterations of Dracula’s castle in Castlevania. I played games about singing secret agents, unqualified defense attorneys, and I caught an unhealthy number of pokémon. I even managed to turn sudoku into a daily habit for almost a year, thanks to Brain Training.
These games weren’t all amazing, though many of them were. (Seriously, where is my Elite Beat Agents sequel, Nintendo?) But they had the benefit of being on a system that I absolutely loved to play and that I took with me just about everywhere. The same is increasingly becoming true of the Switch. Its games aren’t as wildly inventive as the best DS releases, but because of the flexibility of the Switch, I have so many more opportunities to explore so many different kinds of games. Sure, I’ll usually default to finding a few more moons in Odyssey, but sometimes it’s nice to put on a clown mask and rob a few banks.
Update, February 23rd, 7:00PM: A previous version of this article said Payday 2 is out on the Switch today; it actually launches on February 27th.