Hello gentle readers, and welcome to a special edition of the SwitchArcade. As part of our Best of 2020 coverage, I’ve decided to revisit last year’s Genre Awards with a new angle. Last time, I was at the mercy of Nintendo’s own categorization system. It produced some very strange results. This year, I’m just picking an assortment of popular genres and stating my favorite games in each of them. Let’s dive into those genres!
Best Platformer Game
This is a special game from many different angles. It tells an interesting story, it has a gorgeous presentation, and it’s a robust and challenging platformer on top of that. Horace caught me completely off-guard, and as soon as I finished it I simply had to go and tell as many people as I could about it. Give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s not to be missed.
Runner-Up: Pumpkin Jack ($29.99)
Best Role-Playing Game
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition ($59.99)
It’s Reyn time, again! This is the third release of Xenoblade Chronicles and I don’t blame anyone for being a little burnt out on it by now. At the same time, this is the game at its absolute finest, with improved graphics and interesting new content. The Switch saw a lot of excellent new RPGs release this year, so it really says something about the quality of Xenoblade Chronicles that I wanted to spend so much time with it again. Its impressive world may not feel as big as it once was, but the story, world-building, side-quests, and battle system are as amazing as ever. Is this the power of the Monado?
Runner-Up: Bug Fables: The Afterlasting Sapling ($24.99)
Best Puzzle Game
Pixel Puzzle Makeout League ($14.99)
Regular readers know I love Picross puzzles and devour them by the dozens. With that in mind, it takes a very special Picross-style game to excite me. That’s just what Pixel Puzzle Makeout League did, however. A mix of superheroes, bad jokes, dating simulation, surprisingly well-written drama, and of course picture-based puzzles, Pixel Puzzle Makeout League feels like a game that was made just for me. But being a generous soul I’m willing to share it with all of you, so make sure you give it a try.
Runner-Up: Superliminal ($19.99)
Best Action Game
Streets of Rage 4 ($24.99)
I’m not going to lie: even knowing the raw talent behind Streets of Rage 4, I didn’t have a lot of faith in it before I played it. I’m one of those people that keeps Streets of Rage 2 up on a very high pedestal, and if even SEGA couldn’t make another game on its level, what hope did some outsiders have? Oh how wrong I was, friends. Streets of Rage 4 is an astonishing beat-em-up, a faithful follow-up, and exactly the right mix of new and old that it needed to be. With plenty of unlockables and extra modes, this game will keep you playing for hours on end.
Runner-Up: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity ($59.99)
Best Sports Game
Super Mega Baseball 3 ($44.99)
Thanks to EA Sports largely sitting it out on the platform, Switch owners often have to settle for less-than-best representations of some sports. Baseball fans fortunately don’t have to deal with that, as Super Mega Baseball 3 is an exceptional game by any standard. I find one of the measures of a quality sports game is that it appeals even to people who aren’t into the sport it portrays, and this game certainly passes that test. At the same time, it offers enough depth to appease experts. An excellent showing for a series that just keeps on improving.
Runner-Up: Lonely Mountains: Downhill ($19.99)
Best Racing Game
Burnout Paradise Remastered ($49.99)
It took a while, but the Switch is finally starting to get a good selection of racing games beyond Mario Kart. Burnout Paradise Remastered may be a port, but it’s a great port of an awesome game. Essentially the swan song for the ridiculously fun Burnout series, Burnout Paradise Remastered gives you a massive city full of things to do and roads to race with all the over-the-top action the series is known for. Its visuals may not be as impressive as they were when the game originally released, but its presentation shines anyway. It’s a great game to play either on the big screen or in handheld mode.
Runner-Up: Hotshot Racing ($19.99)
Best Fighting Game
Samurai Shodown ($49.99)
While there was a lot of good DLC for fighting games this year, new releases were a bit thin on the ground. Even if there was more competition, however, Samurai Shodown would still have a good shot at the top spot. It’s a solid revival for the beloved franchise, and the Switch version is considerably better than the miserable effort we saw with SNK Heroines. As with most modern fighting games, the roster (and therefore the price) keeps on growing, but if you just want to engage in a few clashes of cold steel you’ll have plenty of good times even with the base purchase.
Runner-Up: Kirby Fighters 2 ($19.99)
Best Music/Rhythm Game
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory ($59.99)
I really love Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, so the minute I started Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory and realized it was that game applied to a new brand and played from a slightly different perspective, I was sold. Admittedly, this game doesn’t have quite the variety that some rhythm games offer. Most of the tunes in here are the work of a single composer, with a few Disney songs thrown in for good measure. But that composer has a fairly large range and writes music that suits button-tapping well, as you’ll find out when you play this game. With plenty of content and an attractive presentation, Melody of Memory kept me hitting the buttons for a long while.
Runner-Up: Mad Rat Dead ($39.99)
Best Board/Card Game
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics ($39.99)
The games may be pretty long in the tooth, but they’ve stayed popular as long as they have for a good reason. You get a ton of different classic board and card games to play here, and no matter what your tastes you’re sure to find a few things to spend some time with. It even throws in a few Wii Sports-style games and amusing extras like Air Hockey and a Toy Piano. You can enjoy this one playing solo, or play multiplayer in a variety of different ways. It’s unlikely you’ll play everything on here with any frequency, but there’s so much on offer that you could leave three-quarters of it untouched and still get your money’s worth out of it.
Runner-Up: Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales ($19.99)
Best Roguelike/Roguelite Game
What can you say about Hades? Supergiant Games already has a very impressive resume, and this game somehow blows everything else it’s done out of the water. With great action, an excellent metagame, outstanding writing, and all-around slick visuals and audio, Hades is a game that’s easy to fall in love with no matter how you usually feel about the genre. While some fans of the more hardcore rogue-inspired games may bristle at some of the concessions it makes, the way Hades is set up really does drive you to keep on coming back again and again until you finally win.
Runner-Up: Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate ($19.99)
Best Metroidvania Game
Ori & the Will of the Wisps ($29.99)
It was a big enough surprise when the first game showed up on the Switch, but no one thought Ori & the Will of the Wisps would even run on our favorite hybrid console. Well, it not only runs but it runs very well indeed. And that means Switch owners got treated to one of the finest games of the year, an atmospheric and enjoyable return to the mysterious world Ori calls home. The combat is intense, the platforming is well-implemented, and the exploration is satisfying. It sure doesn’t hurt that it looks and sounds a treat, either. Really, it’s all you could ask for from a game of this genre.
Runner-Up: Alwa’s Legacy ($17.99)
Best Adventure Game
Perhaps I should have made things clearer in my review of this game: moon is not for everyone. It’s a brilliant piece of work, a game that asks a lot of questions that will get you thinking. It’s also incredibly obtuse at times, and isn’t particularly interested in helping you reach the end if you can’t sort things out yourself. But if you persevere and occasionally consult a guide where needed, you’ll find an unforgettable experience here. I’m glad that after 23 long years, players outside of Japan could finally get a chance to try this. Its message and morals may come from another era, but they still resonate strongly today.
Runner-Up: Immortals Fenyx Rising ($59.99)
Best Party Game
Among Us ($5.00)
What an amazing journey this game has taken. Released a few years ago on mobile and barely noticed, Among Us finally got its due in a year that perhaps needed it more than most. It plays perfectly on the deep-seated paranoia that seems to live in all of us, and also resonates with the absolute bastard residing in the darker corners of our hearts. It became a phenomenon with good reason, and this late-arriving Switch version is as good a way as any to appreciate its qualities.
Runner-Up: Phogs! ($24.99)
Best FPS/Shooting Game
DOOM Eternal ($59.99)
Kind of a fish in the explosive barrel situation here, but that’s how some of these go. Originally, DOOM Eternal was supposed to arrive last year on all platforms. Then the other versions launched and the Switch version was said to be coming soon. Then we thought it might be canceled. Then it finally came. Digital only, but it came just the same. Panic Button did an excellent job pulling off a near-impossible task, arguably better than it did with the first game. And so now we have a really great, absurdly over-the-top shooter we can rip and tear into wherever we are. Nice.
Runner-Up: Ion Fury ($24.99)
Best Narrative Adventure Game
A Short Hike ($7.99)
Just what it says on the tin, A Short Hike sees you taking a brief but memorable trip through the mountainside in a provincial park. Along the way you meet a bunch of interesting characters, and have a generally chill time. There were a lot of games with more impactful stories than this one, but something about this game felt fresh and satisfying in a way I think I needed this year. Give it a go and I think you’ll have a rather lovely time with it too.
Runner-Up: Paradise Killer ($19.99)
Best Strategy Game
Pikmin 3 Deluxe ($59.99)
Pikmin 3 doesn’t fit neatly into any genre, but it’s strategic enough so I’m running with it. Find and befriend little plant creatures and use them to solve puzzles and defeat enemies as you navigate an alien planet in search of food and supplies. While it’s fair to criticize this game for being a full-priced re-release of a Wii U game, anyone who didn’t play the game there (and the numbers tell me not many did) should look into giving this Switch version a go. It’s a truly excellent, full-fat game that is incredibly compelling. If you have someone to try the multiplayer mode with, you’ll get even more fun out of it.
Runner-Up: Brigandine The Legend of Runersia ($49.99)
Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle ($39.99)
There were a lot of collections released on the Switch this year, and most of them had plenty of merits. I’ve settled on Arc System Works’ Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle for a number of reasons. I think it has a lot of bang for your buck, a good variety of games, and a fair bit of extra content to enjoy. I also appreciate that the developers went as far as to present improved versions of some of the games that pushed the NES a little too far, and of course that they went ahead and translated a bunch of NES games that had never been released outside of Japan before. I wish every publisher would go digging in the archives for games to newly localize.
Runner-Up: Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection ($29.99)
Best Simulation Game
Animal Crossing: New Horizons ($59.99)
Well, of course. I don’t believe in fate, but if there has ever been a better case of the right game in the right place at the right time, it’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It felt a bit thin at launch when compared to the last game, but subsequent updates have brought the game up to speed quite a bit. At its core, it’s mostly the same thing that it is every time. A few new activities, certainly a lot of fresh customization options, and I sometimes enjoy the crafting stuff even if it’s a bit annoying at times. But I’m here to chill out in a home away from home, talking to weird animals, collecting furniture, redecorating my rooms, and amassing more bells than I’ll ever spend, and that has been just as good here as always.
Runner-Up: Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin ($39.99)
And that’s it for the Genre Awards, friends. Mikhail has his own Best of 2020 stuff that you may already have seen some of, and I’ll have the Ultimate Best Switch Games of 2020 list for you later today. I just made that name up now, but whatever, it’s cool. Hopefully this list will help you find a few new games to play, or at the very least give you a nice sense of validation for your fine taste in games. What are your favorites? Feel free to comment below with the games you liked best in some of these genres. I’d certainly like to see them. As always, thanks for reading!