In March 2023, less than three months from now, the Nintendo Switch will have been on store shelves and stacked in online retailers’ warehouses for six full years. When it arrived on the scene in 2017, its mobile chipset was already old news in technological terms, but its blistering success in the years that followed proved once again — as if it needed to be reiterated following the string of examples the games industry has seen over the last 40 years — that sheer horsepower doesn’t mean much on its own. If anyone has the gameplay design chops to make the most of ‘withered’ technology, it’s Nintendo.
More surprisingly, the console’s runaway success attracted the attention of third parties and we’ve seen some remarkable ports come to Switch, games which before they magically appeared were difficult to imagine running so beautifully on what is essentially a small, chunky tablet.
Of course, ‘magic’ has nothing to do with it. It’s the dedication and ingenuity of developers, and the appropriate resources being afforded them, that enables these ‘miracle ports’ to exist on Switch. Certainly, not all Switch ports are given the attention they desperately need, but here we’re celebrating — just as we did last year — 10 Switch ports from 2022 where the teams really knocked it out of the park.
Where available we’ve included our video review as a reminder of what these games look like in action. Enjoy!
We begin with an unfussy entry that we imagine may raise some eyebrows, but Capcom delivered a polished package to please purists, with excellent arcade ports of 10 titles, including the Darkstalkers games, all with online play and that all-important rollback netcode.
It’s easy to be blindsided by more modern games running against all odds on Switch, but given how some companies throw together ‘bare minimum’ retro compilations, it’s important to recognise when things are done right — and Capcom Fighting Collection did it right.
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Publisher: Konami / Developer: Digital Eclipse
The first but not the last Digital Eclipse joint on this list, TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection could have so easily been messed up in the hands of a lesser team. Digital Eclipse is one of those studios, like M2, that elicit a sigh of relief when you see its name attached to a project.
We’ve yet to be disappointed by one of the developer’s retro offerings, and this particular collection showcased some classics we hadn’t played in a while in the best possible light, with more refinements and features on the way.
More from DE to come further down…
Publisher: Valve Corporation / Developer: Valve
There would have been zero excuses for 2007’s Portal and 2011’s Portal 2 to run poorly on 2017’s Nintendo Switch, of course. Still, given the high esteem in which we hold these classics and the number of times we’ve replayed them, any tiny hiccups or discrepancies in Portal: Companion Collection would have stood out like a sore pollex.
Fortunately, there was nothing to worry about. It feels tremendous to have these all-timers on Switch, and if Valve wants to send over the Half-Life games too, the more the merrier.
What’s that? ‘Steam Deck’, you say? Never heard of it.
Publisher: Crows Crows Crows / Developer: Crows Crows Crows
Another one that had very little excuse to run badly given its vintage — or the vintage of the non-Ultra Deluxe version, at least — but that could be said about so many of the bad Switch ports we come across. So yes, we’re absolutely going to highlight Crows Crows Crows’ excellent work on this updated version of an off-the-wall classic. If you haven’t played The Stanley Parable before, the Switch is an excellent way to play. Chop chop.
And Alex’s review was a winner, too.
A wonderful hybrid-genre game with incredible style, 13 Sentinels launched in 2020 on PS4 (2019 in Japan) and works beautifully on Switch. It’s possible that the planned-and-canned PSP version might have helped keep developer Vanillaware mindful of how the game might play on a smaller handheld screen, but it fits so well it feels like it was made for Nintendo’s platform.
Sterling work, and not the only Atlus-published port on this list.
Publisher: Atari / Developer: Digital Eclipse
Digital Eclipse returns with a remarkable package that raises the bar for retro compilations. Not only is it filled with lovely hi-res supplementary materials, interview segments, and information broken out with a slick interactive exhibit-style presentation, but it also includes a selection of Lynx and Jaguar games available on modern consoles for the first time.
For anyone interested in video game preservation and education, the inclusion of these alone — emulated with the studio’s usual attention to detail — is enough to warrant a purchase. The aforementioned titles may lack the entertainment value of some of the other games in this collection, but their inclusion is nonetheless impressive, praiseworthy, and very much appreciated.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Atlus Persona Team
Atlus finally did it. And it was good!
Nothing more to say really. Finally!
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Square Enix
Here we have an example of what can be achieved with new multiplatform games if scaleability is considered from the start of development and the (necessary) compromises are sensible and sensitive. No, obviously 30 frames-per-second isn’t as good as the 60 frames-per-second available elsewhere, but Crisis Core keeps things running smoothly throughout whether you’re playing docked or handheld.
Given how the Kingdom Hearts games got thrown on Switch via the cloud, the quality of this port came as a most pleasant and welcome surprise. Plenty of give-a-damn from Square, right here. It’s great to see.
Publisher: Hello Games / Developer: Hello Games
News of the No Man’s Sky Switch port came with a huge question mark hanging over it. Just how could Hello Games squeeze this lonely, procedurally generated, open-galaxy epic onto such modest hardware without untenable compromises and drawbacks enough to make it unviable to all but the most desperate Switch-only final frontier lovers? We were sceptical but, lo and behold, the game arrived and it works! Not only does it work, it works remarkably well.
Multiplayer doesn’t feature here, but otherwise the necessary compromises of the Switch version feel carefully considered and, crucially, don’t impede your enjoyment of this enthralling game at any time. Top work.
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: PlatinumGames
Another looong-awaited port, if anything on this list warrants deployment of the classic ‘It blew us away’ line, it’s NieR:Automata. Virtuos did a fantastic job bringing this over with a port so impressive that we said “it feels like a truly native title” in our review.
When it comes to multiplatform titles coming to Nintendo’s handheld hybrid, you really can’t say fairer than that. This is a modern classic and the Switch version is nothing short of excellent.
Good year, good year. Think we’ve missed something? Let us know the ports you’ve enjoyed in 2022.
Also, though not included on the list, a shout out to Ark: Survival Evolved — or more accurately Ark: Ultimate Survival Edition. When it launched back in 2018 it was one of the worst Switch ports we’d seen (indeed, we called it “borderline unplayable” in our review), but it got a massive overhaul just recently. Although we haven’t been able to go back and test the new update ourselves, by all accounts it improves things dramatically, so credit where it’s due. It took four years, granted, but the patch did arrive. Eventually. Let us know below if you’ve sampled that one and how it compares to the launch version.
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