Nintendo Switch Holiday Gift Guide 2018

The holiday season is here, and that means, for many of us, shopping for friends and loved ones to find that perfect gift to give a little extra holiday cheer. Or, perhaps, you’ve received some money or gift cards and are looking for some of the best Switch games and accessories to splurge on. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed gamer or not, shopping for gamers isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish. Even only looking at Nintendo Switch, 2018 has been a monumental year for games, both AAA and indie, and everything else imaginable in between. Our team has assembled a list (in no particular order) of some of the best games and accessories out on Switch this year that would make perfect items to cross off your holiday season wish list.

Check it out!

Quick jump:

Games

Valkyria Chronicles 4

($59.99 via Amazon)

The latest installment in the “World War 2 – but anime” strategy RPG doesn’t change much in the series, but probably doesn’t need to either. Set in a light-fantasy version of WWII Europe, you command a small squad of characters in not-quite turn-based, not-quite real-time combat.

Battles remain mostly the same as previous entries. Players spend Command Points to direct units. Doing so gives the player standard 3rd person control of that character until they attack or end their turn, with their movement range limited to their ability points. Both player units and enemies will fire at any opposition that moves through their field of view, meaning that quick reflexes can be useful, though tactics are still king with the rock-paper-scissors-etc., unit-versus-unit combat.

New to the series is the Grenadier class with mortar options, and the “Brave System” which gives a unit on death’s door a hail-mary opportunity to save themselves. Its implementation forces the player to make the decision of retreating the character or using a different unit to protect them, and this decision must be made before a timer runs out, adding some urgency and fast thinking to the mix.

The story is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The idea of light fantasy elements bolted onto a WWII game is interesting in the way most alternate-history fiction is, but a good deal of the character writing is generic anime tropes or just flat out clunky. The first mission of the game ends with the main character lamenting that the flowers of the picturesque landscape “didn’t stand a chance” in the battle that just transpired, a pretty silly sentiment considering the human fatalities involved.

That said, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is solid, and if you liked previous entries, you almost certainly will like this one. If you’re a newcomer to the series, the gameplay is intuitive enough to learn with plenty of nuance to keep you interested.

Super Mario Party

($56.90 via Amazon)

Super Mario Party course corrects from the ill-received “car-ride” gameplay of Mario Party 9 and 10 to something more traditional, but with enough of a spin to make it well worth you and your friends’ time.

If you’ve played a Mario Party title before, the basics are still the same. Players take turns rolling dice, progressing through a themed board full of traps and treasures on their way to collecting stars. After every player has their turn, the round is wrapped up with a mini-game awarding the winners with coins that are needed to purchase stars, or which can be spent at shops on items to give you an edge.

What’s most fascinating though is how Super Mario Party has tweaked this formula with new interesting mechanics and design changes. Most obvious is the inclusion of character-specific die. While the standard six-sided die of Mario Party is always available to players, every character has a special die loaded with unique rolls. While some, like Mario’s, simply load the dice with more middle-of-the-road rolls, others like Bowser go for high-risk, high-reward rolls with good changes of rolling 10s but also high chances of losing coins and going nowhere. This system is further fleshed out with “Buddy Spaces,” which are board-spaces that let the player collect a currently unused character to have access to their die, as well as awarding a small bonus die to their rolls. These collected buddies even show up to help in select mini-games, such as fleshing out your soccer team.

While there are only 4 boards in this game, they’re tightly designed and are much smaller than most previous entries, speeding up gameplay considerably. This is a mixed bag, and in truth, as interesting as the character-specific die concept is, it’s not well balanced with supposedly high-stakes characters like Donkey Kong and Wario simply being better than “safer” characters like Yoshi and Diddy Kong.

The game is great fun in local multiplayer, though, and a great addition to holiday get-togethers. Don’t purchase for the singleplayer content or online-multiplayer though—while some concessions have been made for those kinds of players, this game is meant to be played in the same room as your friends and family.

One final note: the game can only be played with the Switch’s Joy-Cons due to the variety of mini-games, so two sets of Joy-Cons are required to play this with 4 people.

Warframe

(Free via Switch eShop)

After your first hour of playing Warframe, you will come to one of two conclusions: either you are hooked and ready for hundreds of hours of gameplay, or you drop it. It’s unlikely that a middle ground exists for most people. It’s obtuse, it doesn’t explain itself, and it is very grindy, but it understands how to make that grind satisfying, and its moment-to-moment gameplay holds up against most any AAA experience.

A possible point of comparison for Warframe is Monster Hunter. Both games are action RPGs, both games feature significant (but targeted) grinding for components for gear, and both do little to onboard a new player. If you like one, chances are you will like the other.

Gameplay is primarily focused on third-person shooter gameplay with heavy amounts of melee combat and Warframe-specific ability usage. However, stealth and parkour are also important elements of what make the gameplay fast and unique for an online action RPG. This isn’t a cover shooter—you are constantly incentivized to be zipping about the battlefield grabbing enemy drops and taking advantage of the terrain.

The game may appear to lack much of a story at first, however players who stick around long enough to complete “The Second Dream” quest will be richly rewarded with a twist that has not just story implications, but opens up entirely new gameplay mechanics with far-reaching effects.

Warframe’s free-to-play status is understandably a turn-off for potential new players worried about being short-changed, but the game is remarkably fair in this regard. Premium currency is rarely necessary, and while crafting new gear and frames is done on a timer, the constant influx of new things to craft ensures that most players will constantly be getting new toys to play with while never spending a dime. Even brand new players have access to missions that drop component parts valuable enough to be traded to other players for premium currency, ensuring that you can earn platinum without ever spending a dime.

With 5+ years of new content and a brand new open-world in the Fortuna update—coming soon to Switch—it’s a great time to jump into a title that routinely impresses not simply as a free-to-play game, but as a great game all around. Check back soon for our full review of Warframe for Nintendo Switch.

Sonic Mania Plus

($29.99 via Amazon)

For the first time in nearly two decades, Sonic returns to his console roots! Thanks to freelance 3D animator Christian Whitehead, we’re treated to this glorious game developed in a similar style to the original Sonic 1-3 games. The first few levels are basically remixes of levels from the original games, but extended, complete with their original or slightly remixed music. Once the theme to Green Hills Zone plays, it’s like nostalgia is directly injected into your veins. Make no mistake about it, Sonic Mania Plus is a return to the series’ roots, and it’s the game fans have been begging Sega to make for years.

Bonus games from previous entries in the franchise return, as well as the past and future mechanic from Sonic CD in one level. It’s not just remixed levels, however, as this game also features brand -new levels and boss fights. Unlike the boss fights from Sonic 1-3, these are actually challenging, and more often than not, you’ll find yourself on the losing end of an attack from Dr. Robotnik.  

With Sonic Mania Plus, two new characters, Mighty and Ray, join the fray. There’s also a multiplayer mode where you can go head to head, as well as co-op, which is perfect for the Nintendo Switch. Each Joy-Con acts as a controller, so two players can play off of one system.

Sonic Mania Plus is the premier sidescrolling experience on the Nintendo Switch. From the sense of speed to the level design, Sega finally got it right, and it’s a must-own for every Switch owner, especially those of us that grew up with Sonic.

LEGO DC Super-Villains

($31.99 via Amazon)

Traveler’s Tales takes everything to love about the LEGO games and wraps it all up in a fresh, villainous, DC Comics package in LEGO DC Super-Villains. A new feature present in DC Super-Villains not seen in previous titles is the ability to create your own character, replete with custom colors, gear, emblems, and super powers. Running through locales DC fans will surely recognize as a blue, Flash-esque character named Azure who could shoot lightning from his fingertips was immensely satisfying in a way never felt before in other LEGO titles.

The game’s story sees the Justice League missing in action, and a newly formed group of baddies known as the Justice Syndicate reign terror over the world to see the evil Darkseid’s plans through to fruition. The usual LEGO trappings, such as currency aplenty and simple and straightforward combat and puzzle-solving, are all here, but the DC branding really sets this game apart from previous titles in a way relative to my interests.

One thing that cannot be short-changed is the star-studded cast lending absolutely superb voice acting to such iconic roles. Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, Brandon Routh as The Atom, Mark Hamill as both The Joker and Trickster, and Nolan North as Ultraman are only a few of the celebs to fill out the game’s voice acting cast which really bring LEGO DC Super-Villains to life unlike any other LEGO game before it.

Diablo III: Eternal Collection

($39.99 via Amazon)

From our review of Diablo III on Switch:

Diablo III: Eternal Collection on Nintendo Switch takes the greatness of Diablo III and all its expanded content and wraps it up in a single, portable package that never buckles under its own weight. Despite increasing difficulty levels feeling somewhat arbitrary, this is the absolute definitive way to experience Diablo III and take hell on the go.

Over a month later, Diablo III still holds up as one of the best Switch releases of 2018 and beyond, and the newly released Loot Goblin amiibo adds a new layer of content to the already robust package from Blizzard. The game looks simply amazing in handheld mode, and the steadfast 60 frames per second never falters and provides one of the smoothest experiences on Nintendo Switch to date.

In addition to the Switch-exclusive goodies—including amiibo support as well as exclusive Ganondorf transmogs, a Cuccoo pet, and a Triforce portrait frame—Diablo III on Switch also offers the Rise of the Necromancer Pack, a DLC pack introduced in 2017 which brought the return of the Necromancer class from previous series iterations. It’s massively OP, but it perfectly aligns with the absolute annihilation series fans have come to expect from the likes of Diablo.

As with other games on this list, Diablo III on Switch is a perfect fit for couch co-op, and this is made even better by the ability to play using a single Joy-Con for instant multiplayer on the go. Be sure to check out our review of Diablo III: Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch for our full thoughts on the game.

Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Let’s Go, Eevee!

(Pikachu $57.90, Eevee $50.28 via Amazon)

A reboot of 1998’s Pokémon Yellow, whether you choose Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, the Let’s Go games reinvigorate the Pokémon franchise in new and fresh ways. While not everyone is a fan of the Pokémon GO-esque capture mechanics and the loss of wild Pokémon battles, little argument can be made that they don’t change up the tried-and-true formula we’ve seen since 1996. Playing through Let’s Go, Pikachu! was as nostalgic as it was breathtaking, but Gen 1 fanatics aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the original Kanto adventure.

New or budding Pokémon fans can also enjoy the adventures of Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Eevee! The ability to see wild Pokémon in the overworld as well as the ability to use motion controls for capturing wild Pokémon provide fresh an intuitive ways to capture the Pokémon you want, and new fans (or even kids!) who were caught by the Pokémon GO craze will feel right at home with the Let’s Go games.

Speaking of kids—the game might be a cakewalk for Pokémon masters, but it’s perfect for kids who might still be grasping at the rock-paper-scissors typing mechanics of the game or who might be lacking in strategy. The goods news here is that the Let’s Go games allow for two-player cooperative play, where one person essentially leads the party, and the other can tag along to assist in battles and capturing Pokémon. It’s a great way for more experienced Trainers to lend a hand to those new or perhaps not quite ready for their own Pokémon adventure.

Additionally, features such as full Pokémon GO integration, the Poké Ball Plus peripheral, as well as the ability to transfer or trade for Alolan-form Pokémon, along with stunning HD, 3D visuals, ensure that this is one Pokémon title you shouldn’t miss.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

($59.88 via Amazon)

As what can only be considered the “ultimate” Nintendo Switch release of 2018, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally here and is our top game recommendation on this unnumbered, in-no-particular-order list. Not only does this game contain all characters ever released in a Smash title to date (74 total—including thirteen newcomers, with five more on the way as DLC fighters), a plethora of stages, and a nearly countless number of musical tracks, but it also packs in an insane amount of single-player content, brings the return of 8-player Smash, and gives the player access to a mind-boggling amount of customization and permutation power to play the way you want.

While most of the new characters introduced in Ultimate are newly coined echo fighters (i.e., Dr. Mario is an echo fighter of Mario), the all-new additions to the roster are some of the most diverse characters we’ve seen debut in a Smash game to date. Newcomers such as King K Rool, Ridley, and Incineroar flesh out the Smash cast into one where there really is a fighter for everyone, and many of the returning fighters from past titles have been rebalanced to fit in with the gargantuan lineup.

While online play is more or less a joke at this point, the true strength of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lies in its local multiplayer. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better couch multiplayer game this year, and Smash Ultimate has our glowing recommendation.

Accessories

Satisfye Pro Gaming Grip

($23.00 via Amazon)

Do the Switch’s Joy-Cons feel small in your hands? Do your hands tend to cramp up when playing in handheld mode? If so, look no further than the Satisfye Pro Gaming Grip. While the angled right handle might look odd at first blush, according to Satisfye, it’s a “rigid, ergonomic design” which “places your hands in the perfect position for the Nintendo Switch.”

The Satisfye Pro Gaming Grip is of durable quality, and rubber grips on the inside track ensure your Switch console will never slip or slide out of the Satisfye grip. Many titles, including several on this list, benefit greatly from the added bulk of the grip, and first-person shooters feel especially “Satisfye”ing.

What originated as a Kickstarter darling is now a fully fledged shop of its own, and since their Kickstarter success, Satisfye has gone on to sell several bundles and new products, including cases to hold both the grip and your Switch (and some games!) as well as a mini grip, akin to the packed-in Switch Joy-Con grip.

PDP Wired Smash Pad Pro

($24.99-$34.95 via Amazon)

Many Smash fans are of the opinion that the GameCube controller is the best way to play any Super Smash Bros. title, Melee or later, and we here at SwitchJoy agree. That’s why, if you’re in the market for a GameCube-style controller for Switch but don’t want to break the bank, PDP’s Wired Smash Pad Pro should be on your radar. It features a classic GameCube-inspired design, right down to its shape, the color, placement, and size of the buttons, and shape of the control sticks.

The Wired Smash Pad Pro also features some more modern-day improvements, including the Switch-specific plus, minus, home, and screen capture buttons, and the right control stick (which comes out-of-the-box as the classic yellow C-Stick) can be swapped out for the generic control stick at your leisure. The controller also features a ZL button, whereas the original GameCube controller only had the ZR shoulder button. One minor downside to the Wired Smash Pad Pro is that the triggers don’t feel as clicky or responsive as on the original GameCube controller, but they are more than serviceable for your Smash Ultimate needs.

Even better, the Wired Smash Pad Pro functions as a normal Switch Pro controller, so you can plug it in via USB and play it with your favorite Switch titles, and with color and emblem designs ranging from The Legend of Zelda to Pokémon to Mario, there really is a controller for everyone. Be sure to check back soon for our full review of PDP’s Wired Smash Pad Pro.

Poké Ball Plus

($49.99 via GameStop)

Anyone who picks up Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Eevee! should at least give the Poké Ball Plus a try, if possible. While it does take some getting used to in terms of playing the game with such a simplified control scheme, it just…works. Using the control stick to move around, clicking the control stick in to “press A,” and shaking the controller to interact with your partner Pokémon wind up feeling intuitive before long. The real joy of using the Poké Ball Plus, however, comes when catching Pokémon. Using motion controls to catch wild Pokémon is immersive in a way that has yet to be matched, and the haptic feedback with each shake of the Poké Ball—and the cry of a Pokémon when you capture it—makes one feel as close as ever to embarking on his or her own Pokémon adventure.

Not only can you really feel like a true Pokémon master by throwing a Poké Ball, but you can even use the Poké Ball Plus to take your Pokémon along with you in the real world. By taking your Pokémon for a stroll, you can load a Pokémon of your choice onto your Poké Ball Plus and, depending on how many steps you take with your Poké Ball Plus, your Pokémon will gain experience and even grant you certain in-game rewards, such as berries, once they’re brought back into either of the Let’s Go titles.

Also, each brand-new Poké Ball Plus will grant each player a special Mystery Gift in the form of a Mew—and, currently, this is the only way to obtain Mew in the Let’s Go games. But you’d better hurry—the Mew gift may be discontinued at some point in the future!

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