My poor Wayfair coffee table will never be the same.
I’d taken all the proper precautions — scrounging through my original Nintendo Switch box to find the never-used wrist straps, pushing furniture aside to allow plenty of room for daring feats of athleticism, tidying up dozens of stumbling-hazard dog toys. Yet it wasn’t enough to stop my eager friend from launching a Birkenstock far across the living room during a heated free-kick tie-breaker, the metal buckle taking a sizeable chunk out of my “mid-century” particleboard.
These kinds of goofy accidents are an essential part of the Nintendo Switch Sports experience, a successor to the much-loved pack-ins for the Wii, 2006’s Wii Sports, and 2009’s Wii Sports Resort. There are six sports to choose from — soccer, tennis, bowling, badminton, volleyball, and chanbara sword fighting — though you’ll probably spend most of your time with just a couple of those. Many sports allow up to four players, some limit you to two.
Intuitive, responsive motion controls successfully recapture the easygoing magic of the Wii’s heyday, and will likely make Switch Sports a family game night staple and chart-topper for years to come. That said, the experience is held back slightly by the absence of golf at launch and a lack of accessibility options. (We know updates will address the former in the coming months — the latter is less certain.) Still, Switch Sports is a fun, low-key way to make silly memories with your friends and loved ones.
Having already spent a bit of time with Switch Sports at a preview event earlier this month, I had a pretty clear idea of which games I was going to enjoy most. Bowling and the racquet sports remain my standouts here, and the hours flit by in clouds of laughter all too quickly. Rounds of every sport last only a couple of minutes, making it easy to keep saying yes to a rematch.
As with its Wii predecessors, Switch Sports shines brightest when it keeps things simple. Soccer matches with two or more players can feel a little too fussy, as you’ll need to angle your shots and control the camera while managing your stingy stamina gauge, which leaves you spending more time catching your breath than actually making shots. It’s easy to imagine older folks and younger kids getting frustrated by this one — eliminating stamina entirely would go a long way toward making soccer more fun.
Conversely, free kicks are one of the simple joys of Switch Sports. All you’ve got to do is time your kick properly and whomp the ball into the goal — couldn’t be more straightforward. The more you score back-to-back, the narrower the opening becomes. At present, it’s the one mode that makes use of the leg strap, and it’s easy for even the greenest of newbies to grasp quickly.
One of the best parts of Nintendo Switch Sports is all too easy to miss — a hidden-gem mode called “special” bowling. This variant adds a mini-golf twist to each frame, including a randomized array of bumpers, obstacles, ramps, pitfalls, and timing-based challenges. It helps keep the gameplay from growing stale once you’re consistently hammering down strikes and spares.
The Wii was a smash hit because it appealed to an audience beyond the stereotypical Mountain Dew-swilling, pizza roll-popping console gamers. These truly are cross-generational games, and Switch Sports is a reminder that no other company can design these kinds of experiences as well as Nintendo.
Across all sports, motion controls are generous on normal difficulty. In badminton and volleyball, on-screen prompts will alert you if your timing is “a little early” or “late,” but your rally will still continue. It encourages you to learn by doing, without the flow-busting pop-ups of the original Wii Sports. But the game won’t be so forgiving once you up the challenge to strong or powerhouse difficulty.
Nintendo clearly wants Switch Sports to be enjoyed by players of all ages and ability levels. And that’s great — in theory. In practice, some players will find themselves left out of the fun. Though many of the games can be played seated, all utilize motion controls exclusively. Switch Sports doesn’t offer alternate control schemes, or the option to use a Switch Pro Controller or another input device. That means players with mobility or motor skill differences may not be able to play Switch Sports at all. While generous difficulty settings do help make Switch Sports feel slightly more accessible than its predecessors, offering more ways to customize the experience would go a long way here.
Switch Sports is simultaneously a throwback to the artful gimmickry of the Wii and a fascinating insight into Nintendo’s strategy going forward. Since launching the Switch back in 2017, the company has pivoted toward extending the longevity of its best-selling titles through paid or free updates, instead of releasing games in their final state. (Smash Ultimate is probably the best example of this, but you can also see this strategy at play in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Golf: Super Rush, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.) Hopefully, this means Switch Sports will continue to see enhancements, improvements, and expansions over time.
At $39.99 for the digital edition (a physical copy that includes a leg strap will cost you an extra $10), Switch Sports is roughly the cost of taking your sweetheart to see Morbius, and infinitely more entertaining. Even if you only play it a few times a year, it’s an essential addition to most Switch libraries.
Nintendo Switch Sports launches April 29.
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