The Nintendo Switch has become somewhat of a dumping ground for both old and new games, but there are still gaps to be filled. Everyone has their wishlist of things they’d like to be able to play in handheld mode on Nintendo’s portable, so here are a few of ours.
Part idle game, part action RPG, the horribly addictive Vampire Survivors took Steam by storm in late 2021 and since then its popularity has only grown. Visually, the game looks a bit drab but the core gameplay loop of earning XP and leveling up your character is what makes it so addictive.
You only need to move your character in Vampire Survivors to take out hordes of enemies. Your attacks are passive and on cooldowns, which means they recharge and trigger automatically. You’re able to pick different characters that employ different starting attacks, which you can improve and add to as your character gets stronger.
It’s easy to pick up but hard to put down and works great in short bursts. The game would likely need some tweaks to better suit the smaller 16:9 display on the Switch, particularly as the game can get hectic in later levels. You can currently play Vampire Survivors for free on itch.io, or grab the fully-featured version for Windows and Mac on Steam.
In 2011 Techland released Dead Island for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. This sun-soaked zombie action RPG places great emphasis on melee combat and features an innovative analog stick-based attack scheme on consoles (with the option of defaulting to the right trigger instead).
Weapons would degrade, so careful maintenance was essential. These weapons could also be modified to add different damage types, like bleeding and shock damage. The game made quite an impact for its ability to curate a creeping sense of dread through its narrative, foreboding musical score, and the juxtaposition of a tropical paradise and zombie apocalypse.
The game is at its best when tackled with up to three friends in co-op mode. The ability to play over a local wireless connection would be a unique selling point for Nintendo’s console. Dead Island already had a definitive edition release in 2016 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 that included the Riptide DLC, so let’s hope a Switch port is on the way.
After all, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger has already made a splash on the Switch and is powered by the same engine as Dead Island.
Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas
Bethesda’s epic fantasy RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released early in the Switch’s life cycle and still holds up today. But before Skyrim Bethesda developed Fallout 3 and published Obsidian’s sequel Fallout: New Vegas, neither of which have received the smorgasbord of special editions or re-releases that Skyrim has seen.
If Skyrim‘s success is anything to go by, both of these titles could see a new lease of life on a portable system with a Switch release. Set in the post-apocalyptic wastes of North America, both games present the player with something of a mystery to solve, countless sidequests, and plenty of downloadable content to keep the adventure rolling.
There are aspects of the game design that haven’t aged too well, the difficulty can spike unpredictably, and the engine is known for its bugs and (at times, hilarious) glitches. Falling deep down the rabbit hole of Fallout lore is core to the experience, and being able to do that on a portable system like the Switch sounds like a real treat.
You can grab Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas on Steam where both versions work well on Valve’s portable Steam Deck (as does Fallout 4, apparently). You can also play with Game Pass, or dig out your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 and play there instead.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Director’s Cut)
Flawed upon release in 2011 for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 but greatly improved in 2013 with the arrival of the Director’s Cut, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a cyberpunk RPG that blends stealth, exploration, shooting, social interactions, giving the player a lot of freedom to decide how events play out.
The game takes place in the year 2027 in a world ravaged by climate change and widespread inequality, where powerful megacorporations hold sway over governments and fierce debates erupt over the rights of humans who have been augmented with technology. You take on the role of Adam Jensen, a security manager at a company that leads the charge in terms of cybernetics, biotechnology, and augmentations.
Throughout the game, you’ll move between Detroit, Montreal, and Shanghai to shoot, sneak, and hack your way through the main quest and sub-quests that reward you with points to spend on better abilities. Human Revolution‘s immersive gameplay is flavored by its contrasting cyberpunk aesthetics, atmospheric soundtrack, and transhumanist themes.
You can still play it using the Director’s Cut on Steam, which fixes boss battles and makes other enhancements. Otherwise, you can break out the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii U (but try to avoid the original 2011 release).
Mother 3 is the sequel that Nintendo has so far refused to release in the west, despite the chorus of critics who routinely sing its praises. The game was only ever released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan, in 2006 and never received an official English translation or localization.
The game, like its sequels, takes the form of an RPG with turn-based combat inspired largely by the Dragon Quest series. The game is played from a top-down perspective and involves controlling a party of characters as they explore a seamless overworld, engage in battles, and converse with non-player characters.
The Mother series has a somewhat complicated past. The original game was never released in the west either, but the sequel known as EarthBound made a big impact in the west with its US release on the Super Nintendo in 1995. In early 2022 Nintendo brought the original game, titled EarthBound Beginnings, to the Nintendo Entertainment System collection for Switch, accessible as part of Nintendo Switch Online.
If you want to play this classic Japanese RPG, you’ll need to hunt down a fan translation and use an emulator.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess
Almost everyone has a favorite Zelda game. If your favorites happen to be The Wind Waker or Twilight Princess then you’re probably wondering where the Switch versions are. Despite rumblings that Nintendo is working on ports, the company hasn’t announced anything concrete yet.
The Wind Waker made its debut on the GameCube in 2002 in Japan, with localized versions arriving the following year. The game featured a fresh new cel-shaded art style and placed great emphasis on exploring the world by sailboat. Though the visuals proved divisive for some, The Wind Waker received critical acclaim for its minute-to-minute gameplay, puzzle design, combat, and similarities to Ocarina of Time.
Twilight Princess released on both the Wii (as a launch title) and the GameCube in 2006. The game features a more traditional art style and setting than The Wind Waker, and sees protagonist Link taking the form of both a Hylian and a wolf. It too was bathed in praise upon release, becoming the best-selling Zelda game of all time (a title since claimed by Breath of the Wild).
Both games received HD remasters for the Wii U and are available for download, but neither has seen the light of day on the Switch. Nintendo has announced that the Wii U eShop will be closing as of March 27, 2023, after which you’ll need to rely on physical media to play these remasters.
Half-Life 2 is the epic sequel to Valve’s critically acclaimed 1998 shooter that took the world by storm, originally released for Windows in 2004. The game is set around 20 years after the events of the prequel and sees you take control of former protagonist Gordon Freeman who arrives in the dystopian Eastern European City 17 to take the fight to the Combine, an invading force that has enslaved the planet.
Valve even went as far as optimizing Half-Life 2 for the Steam Deck with a UI refresh right before the portable’s launch in early 2022. On the Deck, the game makes use of analog sticks and gyro controls, both of which the Switch could take advantage of. The game may not run with the same level of detail as it does on the Steam Deck, but there’s plenty of reason to have faith in a possible port.
In June 2022 Valve released Portal: Companion Collection for Switch, which runs on the same Source engine used for Half-Life 2. The release was well-received by both reviewers and Switch owners, running at a solid 60 frames per second. This should be enough to have Switch owners shouting “Half-Life 2 when?” from the rooftops, but as we’ve learned with Valve: don’t get your hopes up.
You can grab Half-Life 2 on Steam, or dig up an old console version for the Xbox, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3 (be warned, they’re not great).
Jet Set Radio and Future
Skating around Neo Tokyo, painting the streets, and outrunning the police has never been as stylish as it was in Jet Set Radio, released in 2000 for Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast. The sequel, Jet Set Radio Future arrived on the Xbox in 2002, building on what made the original so much fun while removing some of the fiddlier aspects of the game’s emphasis on graffiti.
Known also as Jet Grind Radio in the US, the game features a timeless art style that still holds up today. You can see this for yourself by emulating one of the titles and turning up the internal render resolution. We did this using Xbox emulator xemu by boosting the internal resolution three-fold, with no performance penalty to speak of.
The soundtrack in particular is worth a mention, featuring an eclectic mix of J-Pop, hip hop, funk, rock, and acid jazz from artists like Hideki Naganuma, B.B. Rights, and Jurassic 5. Ironically, this may be what is stopping Sega from porting the game to Nintendo’s portable since licensing could prove expensive and difficult.
You can play both games on their original platforms, with original media. Sega also re-released the original game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, Android, and PlayStation Vita. For a better experience, grab an emulator and pump up the internal resolution instead.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
If you don’t remember Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, you’re probably not alone. Capcom’s detective ’em up was released for the Nintendo DS in 2010, with localized versions arriving a year later. The game was written and directed by Shu Takumi of Ace Attorney fame, and gives you control of a character called Sissel shortly after his death in the opening moments of the game.
From here on out you must use your ghostly powers to save lives and understand what happened to you. Swap between the living world and the ghost world, possessing bodies and moving back in time to change the events of the past. The plot is peppered with humor, unexpected twists and turns, and a slight sense of unease that accompanies scenes where someone has recently been killed.
The game received a warm reception upon release and was praised for its interesting puzzle design, suspenseful plot, and ability to keep the player guessing. The game was released for iOS worldwide in 2012, and is still available for purchase on the App Store. It would be great to see a Nintendo Switch re-release, remaster, or full remake so more people can discover this gem of a game (especially since detective games have fallen out of vogue in recent years).
Shenmue I and II
So many of the games on this list are long-tail RPGs, and our final suggestion doesn’t break that mold. Originally released for the Dreamcast in 1999, Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue was hailed a masterpiece for its open-world design, epic story, the inclusion of arcade classics like Space Harrier, and the way the game blends Virtua Fighter-esque brawling with immersive RPG and life-simulation gameplay.
The sequel that arrived in 2001 upped the ante and placed greater emphasis on action gameplay and set pieces, and includes an arguably more engrossing story and setting. This is a series that encourages you to experience the world at your own pace, soak in the atmosphere and detailed locations, and experience all the soundscapes, amenities, conversations, and optional activities the game has to offer.
While there are elements of Shenmue that have aged rather poorly (like a day-night cycle with no time-skip option), the series laid so much of the groundwork for the open world games that came after it. Being able to chip away at this adventure in handheld mode on the Switch would be a real treat.
You can experience both games with the Shenmue I & II collection on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Insert Your Favorite Game Here
The Switch has an ever-expanding library of games as the platform grows in popularity. The good news is that the more Switch consoles sold, the more viable the platform becomes for publishers and developers. That means we’re more likely to see gaps filled as time goes on.
While you wait for some of these to arrive, why not try some top-notch Switch games that are already out?