Addressing the elephant in the room; yes, I’m one of those people who mostly plays their Switch in docked mode. So much, that the idea of a ‘Switch Home’ non-portable version, which started as a Twitter joke, to compliment the Switch Lite ‘portable only’ console is starting to sound pretty good. Especially if ol’Ninty offered seamless sync between Switch devices and a highly compact home console design…
Hang on… I need to get a pen and write this all down. If the giant ‘N’ can release the 2DS as a legitimate console then I could be on to marketing gold here…
I’d also be the first to admit that a combination of circumstances over the past few years have shifted my gaming allegiances from the realm of PC way more toward the Switch. Whether it’s being able to muster the effort to grab the pro-controller whilst collapsing in to the couch after a long day, catching a sneaky few minutes handheld gaming whilst the TV is otherwise engaged, or quickly bundling the whole thing up in to a backpack when travelling for a weekend; the Switch just seems to be working for me at the moment.
And sure, whilst I’m happy to fly the flag for this brave li’l teapot of a console, I would be the first to admit that the system under the hood is no heavyweight… or even middleweight compared to its contemporaries, which kind of brings me around to the topic of ports. The Switch is home to a heck of a lot of ports of older games, and even some ambitious ports of more recent games, but one thing tends to universal; whenever I check out reviews of a Switch port it often ends with the characteristic tagline of “.. this is the least good way to play this title”. It’s a phrase that is sometimes entirely justified, but almost as often only ‘technically’ justified as it may not take in to account the other benefits that Switch owners enjoy such as portability, smaller electricity bills, teenytiny terrible tasting cartridges, and the joy of snapping their fingers along with every Nintendo Direct.
With this in mind I decided to break my blogging silence and pull together a list of the ‘5 Best Ports I’ve Played on the Switch’ from my own experience (i.e. I’m not saying these are the best on the console, just the ones that I’ve played).
It’s not the prettiest, and it’s not the smoothest, but Overwatch on Switch gets the job done; especially compared to other fast-paced shooters on the system (oh, I’m looking at you Apex Legends). Back in the heady days of lockdown 1.0 I sunk a good number of hours in to this version of the game, which is solid praise as I’ve more than once been known to drop a game for bugs of port issues. Not only is it all ‘there’, Overwatch on Switch feels like a game that the developers took some time over to really get the most of out Ninty’s little trooper of a console. There’s a sense that they tweaked the sliders to within an inch of their life to maximise the visuals whilst holding performance. Of course you could sit and study the polygon count of each ingame model and suck the air in through your teeth, but in the midst of a skirmish it holds framerate, feels smooth, and doesn’t look like someone is puppeting a box full of badly cut-out magazine clippings infront of the TV.
4. Hard West
Small disclaimer here, I’ve been looking for an excuse to mention Hard West in a blog post for some time, and have leapt on this as my opportunity. That being said, I’ve played this game through on the PC and the Switch, and would be hard pressed (get it? Hard West? Hard Pressed….) to choose between them. The Switch version comes with the bonus scenario bundled along with the full game and does an admirable job of maintaining the look and feel of the PC release. What’s more it also manages to pull together a control scheme which keeps things about as fluid as possible for a game clearly design my a mouse interface in mind (that being said there is a bit of a learning curve to remember what each button does). If you like your west a little on the supernatural side, turn based, and tactical, then this is a great way to soak it up.
3. Sniper Elite 3
It was a tough shout to pick between Sniper Elite 3 or 4 for this list but, whilst the more open landscapes of the latter are an impressive achievement on Switch, I probably had more fun with 3… plus 4 had an annoying bug where the auto-save stopped working correctly midway through a mission. I’ve said it before, but the Sniper Elite games aren’t sophisticated titles, but they are good guilty pleasure gaming. What’s more Snipey-snipey-3 looks and plays really well on the Switch demonstrating that a bit of system optimisation goes a long way and putting many other shooters to shame by comparison.
2. Bioshock Infinite
Whilst the undersea city Rapture remains for me one of the best game locations ever devised, the floating city of Columbia is nevertheless the more impressive visual spectacle which still looks amazing in the opening scenes of this port of Bioshock Infinite. All three Bioshock titles have very solid Switch ports, but the faster pace and detailed visuals of Infinite tips it above the others for me. You could argue that the stylised graphics help it keep its sheen, but regardless I’ve played this version through twice since picking it up on a whim some time ago. Not only that, but it comes complete with both halves of the Burial at Sea DLC which are essential playing if you’re a fan of the series.
1. Alien Isolation
Sitting head an shoulders above the competition in Switch ports is Alien Isolation; it’s the inspiration for this post and the undoubted underdog story when it comes to what you can do with limited hardware. I played this port earlier in the year having originally undertaken the game several years ago on PC, but never quite making it to the credits. Back then I recall watching a video that was just panning shots of the various ingame locations and being amazed by the way this game’s visuals capture the look of the original movie. The Switch port once again makes the Sevastopol Space Station a place of dark beauty with some arguing that it outshines its contemporaries. Even if you don’t agree, it’s hard to deny that this game is a stunning achievement for a console that’s synonymous with graphical downgrades. The gloop on the top of the proverbial egg-sac is that it also includes both DLC packs with scenarios inspired by the original movie. My only complaint is that a physical version has never been released to grace my game collection shelf.
What do you think? Did I get this entirely wrong? Any favourite Switch Ports out there?