2022 may have been a slow year for big AAA video game releases, but it was a great year for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo itself released a bunch of excellent games (including two great Pokémon titles), third-party developers ported some phenomenal RPGs, and indies launched some of my sleeper hits of the year.
Yes, it’s a bummer that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was delayed to May 2023. But if you’re looking for some games to play in the meantime, here are some of my favorite Switch games from 2022.
I’m an awful liar, but in Card Shark, I can pretend I can cheat at cards. You’ll pull off the tricks themselves in a variety of different ways: some have you glance at an opponent’s hand while pouring wine, while others ask you to shuffle the cards in a certain way to give your partner an advantage. The tricks all serve a story with some exciting turns, and by the end of the game, you’ll actually feel like you’re a master of the cards.
My colleague Andrew Webster wrote that indie game Neon White “turns you into a demon-hunting speedrunner,” and I don’t think I can come up with a more concise description. In Neon White, you’ll race through tightly designed levels with the help of cards that give you special movement and attack powers. I understand if that doesn’t make much sense on its face, but trust me when I say it works; I frequently fell into a flow state as I tried to shave seconds off my times. Take all that with a ridiculous story told largely in the form of a visual novel, and you get, as creative director Ben Esposito told me, “the most video games game possible.”
Nier: Automata’s Switch port, subtitled The End of Yorha Edition, is an excellent way to play the strange but satisfying action RPG. First released in 2017, this Switch port brings the game to a portable console and, from the few hours that I played, with very few downgrades. The graphics aren’t as nice as other platforms, but the wildly varied game styles, deep story, and haunting music are all present.
The best thing about Nintendo Switch Sports is that it has another Nintendo-made bowling game. Like the versions I played in Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, it’s an excellent approximation of the real thing, and this new Switch version even includes an awesome battle royale-style multiplayer mode. If bowling’s not your thing, Nintendo Switch Sports also includes soccer, volleyball, tennis, badminton, chambara, and, as part of a recent update, golf.
Persona 5 Royal, one of the best role-playing games of all time, finally came to Nintendo Switch this year, and in the nine or so hours I’ve played, it seems like everything that made the game great on PlayStation is intact. The game is packed with charming characters, trippy dungeons, and incredible music, and while the game doesn’t look quite as good as it does on other platforms, I think the luxury of playing it on a portable device makes up for some occasionally bad visuals. And if you’re looking for a game to really sink into, Persona 5 Royal should tide you over; my original playthrough took more than 100 hours.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus actually made me want to catch ‘em all. An offshoot from the mainline Pokémon series, Arceus rethinks a lot of the mechanics that have stayed largely unchanged since the beginning of the series. Catching pokémon got a big upgrade: I found myself constantly sneaking up on unsuspecting ‘mons and tossing a pokéball, only to turn around and try and catch another moments after. There are a lot of other changes that make Arceus different from typical Pokémon games, and many of them are for the better.
Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet introduce a vast open world to mainline Pokémon titles, and I couldn’t get enough of it when I played Scarlet for myself last month. I loved exploring the continent of Paldea to capture pokémon and complete the game’s three main storylines at my own pace. And unlike most Pokémon games, the game’s final act was its best: instead of a merciless stomp through the Elite Four, you’ll explore an exciting and mysterious new area with secrets I won’t spoil here.
Rogue Legacy 2 is a delightful 2D indie roguelite that lets you play wildly different characters that can have some annoying flaws. In addition to standard classes like knights and mages and less traditional ones like pirates, boxers, and even chefs, you’ll often have to pick from one of many bad traits (like hard-to-see enemies) that offer some kind of bonus, meaning each run is a balancing act of risk and reward. The game’s recent Nintendo Switch release also includes the major Fabled Heroes update, which adds new weapons, options, bug fixes, and more.
Splatoon 3 doesn’t do much to change the Splatoon formula, but I’d argue that’s a good thing. Vying to paint the most ground in Turf War is still a thrill. Thanks to some new clothes you can buy, you’ll look fresh doing it. The soundtrack absolutely rocks, so you’ll be jamming the whole time you play. And the game has already gotten a fresh batch of new content since its September release. See you on the battlefield.