Nintendo Switch Sports is 2022’s most enjoyable game to play with friends, and it’s only likely to get better.
Nintendo has long held a reputation for family-friendly fun, and the Wii Sports successor for the Switch, aptly titled Nintendo Switch Sports is perhaps the best example of that so far on the console.
What it lacks in enjoyment from solo play, it more than makes up for by being a sensational, sports-focused multiplayer toolbox that’s akin to rounding up your friends and batting, kicking, or hitting a ball around until dark. It’s also an excellent showcase for the Joy-Con controllers, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the tepidly received 1-2 Switch all the way back in 2017.
Nintendo Switch Sports – Key details
- Price: $39.99/£39.99
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: April 29, 2022
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch Sports trailer
Depth, not breadth
If you spent any time with a Wii back in 2007, you’ll know the hold it had on family rooms, college roommates, and pretty much anyone else that played. I’m pleased to report that, yes, that competitive spirit is back, and it’s deepened by some much more nuanced mechanics.
The Wii remote may have felt cutting edge back in the day, but it’s eye-opening to see just how the Switch’s Joy-Cons have surpassed them. Sure, they’re a little different to hold, and there are more buttons, but they much more accurately convey the weight of swinging a tennis racket or bowling a ball — and the HD Rumble that felt like a buzzword all those years ago really shines.
Still, there’s no denying that those coming from Wii Sports resort may, at least initially, feel a little disappointed; this compendium packs six core sports (albeit with alternate modes), while that game offered over a dozen. Look past that, though, and there’s not a weak one in the bunch.
As I said when I previewed Nintendo Switch Sports a few weeks ago, it was tricky at the end of an hour-long play session to pick a favorite and the highest compliment I can give now is that I’m still struggling to pinpoint which ones are better or worse than the others.
Much of that comes down to impressive layers of depth that only reveal themselves once you’re already in the midst of a rivalry with a friend or loved one. As detailed as each sport’s initial tutorial is, there’s something to be said for finding what works just through playing.
Take Bowling, for example. A favorite in households across the globe, this iteration has been revitalized with more consistent spin mechanics that reward more subtle wrist movements. Anyone can pick up and play, but there’s a skill ceiling now that feels just that little bit more deliberate.
The same can be said for fellow Wii Sports alumnus Tennis, which now more accurately rewards backhands, lobs, smashes, and more. It feels less like “hit and hope” and presents a place where you can try out the kind of strategies you’ve learned from watching Wimbledon.
On the pitch/court/field
Those two Wii Sports mainstays aside, there’s a lot to love with Nintendo Switch Sports’ new additions. Soccer (or football) is a very pleasant surprise. Offered both as team-based and solo matches, players move with the left stick but kick using gesture controls that are impressively accurate.
Dribbling is enjoyably clumsy, but the game rewards positional discipline. This, combined with walls instead of touchlines, give it a Rocket League-style feel, and it’s not uncommon to clear the ball from your own goal only to see it fall to a teammate for a fluid counterattack. And yet, the best part is still being able to launch your avatar like a ball-seeking missile with a diving header.
As an added bonus, Shootout mode is a volleys-only contest that uses the Ring Fit Adventure leg strap to track your limb as your fling it at the ball. Adding to the pressure is a constantly shrinking goal that gets smaller and smaller, resulting in some tense finishes.
Badminton, despite the obvious surface-level comparisons to Tennis, manages to feel like its own beast with more of a focus on shot type selection and positioning. What begins as trying to get the shuttlecock over the net soon becomes an exercise in patience, with a push and pull towards and away from the net that can result in some stellar rallies.
Another net-based sport, Volleyball is technical and arcadey in equal measure. Players pass, set, and spike the ball in tandem with an AI companion or another human player, and timing is everything. Again, what initially seems like pulling off a few coordinated motions in succession soon reveals additional depth, whether it’s denying an opponent by blocking at the net with a well-timed jump, or chaining perfectly timed passes and sets to unleash a more powerful spike that’s tougher to stop.
Prepare to duel
You’ll note that we’ve left the final sport, Chambara, until now and that’s for good reason. Originally included in Wii Sports Resort, Chambara (swordfighting) is a tense battle of wits and coordination.
Players select their weapon, including the dual swords for those who fancy swinging both Joy-Cons and work to knock their opponent off of a platform and into the water below. Block, and you’ll open up a chance to retaliate, while you can also use powerful charge attacks by building up a meter.
It’s silly, and is likely to be the least accessible of the sports for many gaming newcomers, but it’s great fun — particularly when the platform you’re fighting on becomes smaller in the final round.
Outside of the sports themselves, you’ll be able to play using new Sportsmates avatars. Think of them as Mii’s, only with a lot more detail and customization. They’re fun to experiment with, and Nintendo has promised certain unlockables just by playing the game weekly and receiving rewards for playing online.
On the subject of online functionality, we sadly weren’t able to put Nintendo Switch Sports through its paces by handing out Chambara smackdowns across the globe. If you have enough people to play with locally, though, we have no trouble in recommending it as the pinnacle of party games for all ages.
Finally, a note on the game’s visuals and soundtrack. Spocco Square, the region housing each of the individual sports, is truly gorgeous to look at. While we wish we could explore it in a little more detail (maybe we’ll get the chance when Golf is added via DLC later this year), it offers the kind of bright colors and laid-back atmosphere that fans of Splatoon will recognize.
And then there’s the soundtrack, which masterfully remixes and modernizes the Wii Sports soundtrack while adding additional flair and new pieces to the mix. It’s like coming home to find an old friend you haven’t seen for years is waiting on the doorstep, ready to catch up.
Nintendo Switch Sports does the impossible — it builds on Wii Sports in clever ways, creating a new version for a new generation while also breathing life into dormant rivalries over a decade on.
It’s a great showpiece for the Switch, and is easily one of the platform’s finest games — if you have friends to play it with.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Where to buy Nintendo Switch Sports
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