Happy 3rd Anniversary to this blog! I can’t believe I’ve been writing for you guys for 3 entire years. I’m baffled that Polygon hasn’t sent me an email begging me to write reviews and editorials for them. Tough luck, professional journalists! I write on my own time. My blog, my rules!
At first I thought maybe it would be fun to celebrate by talking about my 5 favorite Switch games (Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, and Super Mario Maker 2) but honestly, who hasn’t talked about these games to death already? I decided it would be better to talk about some underrated gems on the Switch, whose sales numbers so far don’t match up with how insanely good the game is. And even though Xenoblade Chronicles would technically land on this list, I just finished talking about it, so that means other games get the spotlight.
So in no particular order, here are 5 games that deserve a second look that aren’t Golden Sun or Xenoblade:
1. Pikmin 3 Deluxe
The poor Pikmin series is always the bridesmaid, never the bride, as other niche games from the GameCube like Animal Crossing and even Luigi’s Mansion get massive fanbases and large sales numbers on the Switch. As of January 2021, Pikmin 3 Deluxe has sold just under 2 million units, which under normal circumstances would be applauded, but when compared to other Nintendo games, it’s not much. That’s the kind of numbers that a AAA developer will publicly say they like, but behind closed doors they put the series on ice.
Why you should give it a second chance: Each level is like a large terrarium that you get to explore. The game’s atmosphere is incredibly relaxing, and I believe lots more people would enjoy its time management and multitasking mechanics. The environmental puzzles are fun to solve, and I love maximizing my productivity to see if I can get more done in a single in-game day. If you like the gameplay loop of Stardew Valley, then 99% I’m positive you’ll like Pikmin 3 Deluxe. It has a demo on the eshop, so you can try it out for yourself and see if the gameplay speaks to you.
2. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
As of June 2021, Sakuna has sold just over 1 million units. By all accounts, this indie darling is a success, and yet I don’t hear anyone talking about this game as much as other indie games like Hades and Hollow Knight. So on the list it goes!
Why you should give it a second chance: The rice farming is unlike anything else I’ve seen in a farming sim. Most farming sims end up copying Harvest Moon. And I mean, Harvest Moon is wonderful, but it shouldn’t be the only way to interpret farming. In Sakuna, have to manage the minute details of farming — planting rice seeds, managing the water level, maintaining the soil’s nutrients, threshing, drying, you begin to fall into this cycle of farming mechanics as the seasons pass. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… the years go by on your lonely hilltop farm… and with each rice harvest, you level up your stats. It’s a serene game with an innovative farming mechanic.
3. Starlink: Battle for Atlas
Technically, this is a multiplatform game, but the Switch-exclusive content make what I call a “soft Switch exclusive.” It’s unclear how many copies have sold exactly by this date, but Ubisoft has officially stated they were disappointed in its sales. I guess that’s what you get for going toys-to-life several years too late.
Why you should give it a second chance: It’s not the most meticulous open world out there, but there’s this special magic to seamlessly flying from one planet to another, entering its atmosphere, and slowly taking back the enemy outposts there. And on the way, I typically invade a few space pirate motherships and take their loot. No matter what enemy is in front of you, the space combat feels fluid and the ships are a joy to control. Furthermore, the toys are entirely optional — the digital version has all the content that you need. In fact, I’d recommend going digital unless you’re a big Star Fox geek like me and like having a miniature Arwing on your shelf.
4. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Technically another multiplatform game, which is good because last time I checked the Switch version is getting hard to find and expensive to buy. You can also find it on PS4 and PC. No matter where you buy it, I can’t recommend this game enough. As this game was made by Nihon Falcom, it probably passed under the radar of many people (If you read the name “Nihon Falcom” and mumbled, “Nihon who?” then I rest my case).
Why you should give it a second chance: Ys VIII offers some of the best action RPG combat I’ve ever seen. I loved learning to time dodges and parries perfectly, acquiring different special moves, and managing the party’s weapon types. The island is a semi-open world that gradually unlocks the more you explore. The absolute best parts of the game, though, are the base defense and assault modes. You only need to defend your base a few times in order to complete the game, but I ended up playing through all of the optional raids — I liked it that much.
5. Astral Chain
Astral Chain was made by Platinum, therefore it’s an amazing twitchy action game with an odd story that sold way under what it should have. Last time I checked, it sold just over 1 million units as of January 2020. For a game like this, that’s criminal. You see, that was a joke because you play as an… anime cop.
Why you should give it a second chance: Unlike other Platinum games, Astral Chain offers this dynamic gameplay loop where, between bombastic fights, you have quiet moments of police investigation and exploration. The atmosphere is dripping with cyberpunk melancholy. Once you accommodate yourself to the controls, it feels like second nature to backflip off your legion and pummel a monster with your police baton. Unfortunately, as the game progresses, the devs started adding mechanics that made both the gameplay and the story feel unfocused, but it’s still a game that I’ve been dying to play over again. Unfortunately I leant my copy to a friend before COVID and now I have to find a way to ask him to return it without sounding like a jerk…
And that’s my list! Hopefully you found a game that might catch your interest.