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Best Nintendo Switch Games Best Nintendo Switch Games

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The 60 Best Nintendo Switch Games

We’ve compiled a list of the best games released on the Nintendo Switch in honor of the console’s one year anniversary.

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Best Switch Games Guacamlee 2

40. Guacamelee! 2

The original Guacamelee is a game with a celebrated reputation as one of the best Metroidvanias in the history of the genre, so fans could be forgiven for expecting a lot from the long-awaited sequel. Luckily, Guacamelee 2 fires on all cylinders, delivering a worthy successor to its forebear. Nixing much of the bothersome side quests that dragged things out the first game, as well as adding in a string of new moves and upgrades, Guacamelee 2 doesn’t just match the quality of the original — it improves on it in nearly every conceivable way.

Fans of the more silly aspects of the original will be pleased to find that Guacamelee 2 is just as bananas as you’d expect, but the real surprise comes with the amount of depth and heart that it packs, especially in its ending. Even as there are more and more indie gems to pick from these days, Guacamelee 2 is still well worth your time. It stands apart from the pack as one of the best indies on the Swicth. (Mike Worby)

owlboy-story

39. Owlboy

Owlboy, a love letter to adventure platformers of gaming past, is a game almost a decade in the making. It actually took the five-man team at D-Pad Studio nine years to finish the game before it launched on PC, and while that may seem like an unusual amount of time to create an indie game (especially one that consists of roughly ten hours of gameplay), the hard work paid off in spades. For a retro 2D Metroidvania-style indie game that places a heavy focus on exploration and combat, you could be forgiven in thinking that Owlboy has nothing new to bring to the table, but in fact, the game boasts qualities that are usually missing in platformers: tingling observations, unforced comedy, an engaging story, and quirky, enduring charm.

While everything about Owlboy is done with extraordinary care, what really sets it apart is the story and writing. What we have here is an exceptionally well-crafted coming-of-age tale full of really dark moments, as well as some heart-wrenching scenes. It follows the story of young Otus, a mute protagonist who studies under his domineering mentor, Asio, a curmudgeonly owl who routinely criticizes our feathered hero and chastises his inability to speak. What at first seems like a simple 2D platformer quickly reveals an incredibly deep plot involving ancient owl societies, dark secrets, abuse, and a recurring theme of failure. When sky-pirates attack the peaceful surroundings of Otus’ world — threatening to destroy the city and steal powerful relics in the process — Otus teams up with a military mechanic, Geddy, and other trusty companions he meets along the way to put a stop to the pirates before their home is destroyed.

From its heartbreaking opening (a sequence of cold verbal abuse leaving Otus with his head bowed) to its equally devastating conclusion, Owlboy ends up being an extraordinarily intimate portrait of a life unfolding, and an exceptional, unconventional game in which a boy with a disability must overcome his insecurities, find courage, and more importantly, gain confidence to save those he loves. (Ricky D)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Grim Fandango

38. Grim Fandango

Grim Fandango remains one of an elite group of 90s games that don’t seem to age. Even after a remastering, it still manages to maintain a nostalgic atmosphere, smothered in witty humor and dark themes that ensure it’ll stay a masterpiece for as long as humans are gaming. So naturally, its introduction onto the Nintendo Switch was one of momentous applause, allowing another generation to explore the Eighth Underworld just like the generation before did.

This game is a reminder as to how clever story writing can immerse a player without the need for dynamic gameplay. There are so many different emotions sharing this tale — a story of hope being driven away by greed, lust, and reluctance, all tied together with a humor that makes the journey compelling. So many games deliver on their story, but none have had the potency that Grim Fandango manages to inject.

This might be a twenty-year-old game that’s been remastered and placed into the Nintendo library, but it’s such an amazing accomplishment that it could be re-released in twenty years on a future console and would undoubtedly still stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest. If you didn’t visit Grim Fandango in the 90s, now’s the time to do it. (James Baker)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Pokken Tournament

37. Pokken Tournament DX

Whether you’re in it to catch ‘em all, battle to be the best like no one ever was, or simply love the world, the lasting impact of the Pokémon series can’t be understated. However, the turn-based RPG nature of the games leaves a lot to the imagination when considering pokémon battles. Don’t get me wrong; I love the turn-based battle mechanics central to the main series titles. However, the concept of a fighting game where players can control their favorite pokémon in bouts for glory has long been dreamed of, and it’s surprising that it took so long for that to appear. The wait, however, was worth it. Pokkén Tournament, from the makers of the popular Tekken franchise, not only fulfills a long term wish of Poké-fanatics, but is a brilliantly novel new fighter all the more brilliant for its clever fan service and celebration of the franchise.

At the game’s core is a colorful cast of Pocket Monsters comprised of fan favorites, and a blend of the franchise’s many types of pokémon. Each pokémon has its own unique move set, despite being grouped into one of four categories of fighter — Standard, Power, Technical, or Speed — with types assigned to give a general impression of how the character will play. Despite having a roster of totally unique characters, as well as two variations of featured pokémon that play completely differently than the ones they’re based on, Pokkén is remarkable for its overall balance and ease of use. Mastery of its unique characteristics, however, will separate the simple trainer from the Pokémon Master.

Most notably, Pokkén Tournament DX features two different styles of battle in a single match. The first, Field Phase, is a free-range, 3D arena mode where players can traverse the entire map. Dual Phase plays more like a standard 2D fighter. Both phases impact character move sets and play to character strengths differently, and only by landing a heavy hit can a player shift phases. Consequently, mastery means having a handle on a pokémon’s move set regardless of phase. Fairly unique to fighters, Pokkén Tournament also features Support Sets, duos of pokémon that can be summoned once a specific meter has been filled. These support pokémon feature varying charge times and abilities, and provide an interesting level of strategy, as only one pokémon can be selected per round, while the other will be fully ready for the following round, providing a decent amount of strategy and plotting on the part of the player.

The game also features a Synergy Meter that allows pokémon to unleash a special move or transformation when ready, and feature some fantastically designed cut scenes when these moves are pulled off. The result of all this is a diverse fighter featuring some of the most recognizable pokémon around, enjoyable fighting mechanics and gameplay — including a sort of rock, paper, scissors take on different move types — exciting special moves, fun supports, and an incredibly unique phase system to keep players on their toes. Pokkén Tournament DX is a fun fighting diversion for fans of the franchise, and a refreshing fighting escapade for fans of the genre craving something new. (Tim Maison)

Oxenfree Best Nintendo Switch Games

36. Oxenfree

Teens alone on an island squaring off against deadly forces is nothing new in the horror genre. One doesn’t need to look far to come up with a list of similar stories and truth be told, Sony’s Until Dawn quickly springs to mind when thinking of a comparison point. On paper, the premise of Oxenfree may seem like a clichéd thriller, but really, Oxenfree is a near masterpiece, a blend of mind-boggling sci-fi, and subjective storytelling that serves as a singular and timeless piece of gaming. These high school seniors aren’t just fodder — they’re three-dimensional characters with complex inner lives that you don’t often see in video games. The mystery that unravels as you explore every corner of the island is really just a MacGuffin, an excuse to navigate the heady dynamics inherent to a group of hormonal, troubled teens. The real charm in Oxenfree is the character development, and like the majority of great horror films, Oxenfree explores the theme of isolation, both in a literal sense and in a figurative sense.

Like most walking simulators, Oxenfree‘s story also branches depending on the choices you make, and it’s possible to get one of a few different endings. But no matter what ending you get, sacrifices must be made. And that’s the beauty of Oxenfree — by giving players the agency to tell the story they want and creating emotional connections to the characters, every ending comes with a heavy price to pay. While the horror elements are what grant Oxenfree its narrative urgency, the character interactions are the best part of the journey, and like most games that offer players a choice, the results of your decisions — much like with life itself — aren’t always satisfying.

In closing, Oxenfree is an astonishingly imaginative, poignant, genre-defying tale of loss, grief, guilt, revenge, and time travel wrapped in a ghostly mystery that’s just as dark and disturbing as adolescence. (Ricky D)

FURI Best Nintendo Switch Games

35. Furi

Released by French indie studio The Game Bakers, the fast-paced action game Furi is a combination of hack-and-slash swordplay, twin-stick shooting, and non-stop action. It’s also a game consisting entirely of boss fights of escalating difficulty. There are no levels to explore, no disposable cannon fodder, and no puzzles to solve. It’s essentially a series of extremely difficult boss fights strung together by extremely stylish animated cutscenes.

To note that Furi is not for everyone is to belabor the obvious. Not that any game will please everyone, but truth be told, Furi is one of those games that only a small percentage of gamers will appreciate. On the surface, Furi may seem like it’s all about style, but dig deeper and you’ll appreciate the level of craftsmanship that went into making this indie gem — that is, if you have the patience and skill to progress far enough.

Furi is a difficult game to enjoy because it’s so damn difficult. To enjoy Furi is to master your attack, a process that will involve having to start over again and again, causing immense frustration. Regardless, Furi is the product of a studio to watch out for, and may prove to be one of the more rewarding and rage-inducing gaming experiences in many a year. (Ricky D)

DarkestDungeon

34. Darkest Dungeon

Intense and oppressive, yet lacking any particular need for rhythm, Darkest Dungeon is a tactical, squad-based dungeon crawler with team management mechanics. It features permadeath, so your many heroes are always at risk, and there’s no save-scumming to pull them back, making it especially devastating to lose a high-level hero you’ve been with for some time. However, not only is mortality an issue, but so is sanity. A heavily Lovecraftian game, Darkest Dungeon inflicts all kinds of mental and emotional strain on your heroes, leaving you to manage who risks going back into the dungeon, and who sits the next one out.

With awesome Mignola-esque artwork, the actual best narration ever by Wayne June, and brutally tactical combat, Darkest Dungeon is not only one of the best indies in years, but one of the best games, period. (Michael Riser)

Best Switch Games The Messenger

33. The Messenger

Sabotage Studio’s debut game The Messenger was one of 2018’s breakout hits, garnering positive critical reception and even winning Best Debut Indie Game at The Game Awards. The game begins as an action-platformer that is very reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden on the NES, complete with a retro, 8-bit aesthetic and killer soundtrack.

Initially, the story presents itself as a generic quest requiring you to journey to the peak of a mountain and deliver a mythical scroll in order to save humanity. However, about halfway through you encounter a twist in the narrative that grants a special ability that not only changes the fundamental game design, but the graphics and music update to reflect a SNES-era 16-bit game!

Gameplay is very straightforward in The Messenger, and is centered around a ninja who wields a sword that can be used against a variety of enemies. As you progress, more abilities are unlocked that allow you to traverse levels differently. Though it’s mostly a solo experience, The Messenger does feature a small cast of memorable characters, including the incredibly funny Shopkeeper, who will undoubtedly give you a few good laughs.

The game is well-paced and features a challenging set of well-designed levels that contain many optional secrets to be uncovered. The second half of the game really opens things up to become an unforgettable experience, with boss fights that are fair, but will test your skill as a player. If you’re a fan of retro or indie gaming, or looking for a new game to sink your teeth into, The Messenger is one of the best indie platformers available on Nintendo Switch. (Matthew Adler)

FireEmblemWarriors

32. Fire Emblem Warriors

The Fire Emblem series has a lot to do with the overall success of Nintendo in 2018, thanks to Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for Nintendo 3DS (a faithful remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden) and Fire Emblem Heroes, the free to play mobile game that proved a financial hit for Nintendo. Warriors may not fully please hardcore fans, but it’s great for those new to the series. And while it may not be perfect in its execution, the charming cast, addictive gameplay, and various modes are reason enough to sink plenty of hours into this game.

In short, Fire Emblem Warriors is an orgy of frenetic combat, a blood-letting on a titanic scale, a ballet of butchery that moves in perfect harmony with its thunderous gameplay. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the game! (Ricky D)

31. Into the Breach

A turn-based strategy game from the makers of FTL: Faster Than LightInto the Breach pits players against the monstrous Vek in a fight over the future of mankind. Lest its narrative sheen seem superficial, Into the Breach is actually one of the deepest strategy games of the generation, but it’s the especially tight design that makes it stand out from other great TBS’s like X-COM 2 and Mario and Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

Here, battles take place across small eight-by-eight grids that ensure every nano-choice carries weight. Meanwhile, a broad swathe of deeply customizable characters and units add a personalized depth to every encounter. This is a game for people who love their systems intricate and deep, yet Into the Breach is somehow also a roguelike, meaning that despite its finely tuned pacing and balance, a wide array of randomized elements make every round unique. Along with its roguelike constitution and customizable combat units, Into the Breach also features multiple difficulty levels and an enjoyable in-game achievement system that make it endlessly replayable. For those Advance Wars fans left out in the cold or Fire Emblem devotees devastated by delays, rest assured there is already a strategy game on Switch whose bite-size matches pair especially well with Nintendo’s hybrid console. (Kyle Rentschler)

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30. Puyo Puyo Tetris

Puyo Puyo Tetris was released alongside the Switch in Japan when it launched, and within a few months everywhere else. It, like many early Switch games, was buried under the success and rave behind Breath of the Wild, but Puyo Tetris definitely deserves some time in the time spotlight for being one of the best multiplayer games on the console. While the game was released on just about everything prior to the Switch, it remained Japan-exclusive until the Switch port.

Puyo Puyo Tetris combines all the elements of its two namesake games into one chaos-induced puzzle game. There are five different game modes to play from, but the real draws are the Swap and Fusion modes that combine both Puyo Puyo and Tetris on the same grid, and force players to stay on their toes to rack up combos and clutter up their opponent’s field. There are bright colors, goofy looking characters, and funny sound effects to go along with a crazy amount of depth to the game thanks to how well the mechanics of both Puyo and Tetris mix.

The portability of the Switch also makes it really easy to play. You can very easily move and rotate pieces with just one joy-con, making it one of the few games you can comfortably play with just the two joy-con halves included with the Switch. There’s a somewhat healthy online community for the game, so you’re not stuck with only playing local if you can’t constantly round up a Puyo posse. There also a rather eccentric and funny story mode to the game that takes itself about as seriously as you would expect it to.

Cheap, fun, and great on-the-go are all reasons that Puyo Puyo Tetris should be in every Switch owner’s library. (Taylor Smith)

29. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!

Nostalgia is an addiction that the older generation is often powerless to resist. When Nintendo announced Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee!, they knew it was the children of the 90s that were going to buy into this charm offensive, with any doubts about the two games being quickly dispersed.

Curiously, the nostalgic elements of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! are merely a facade, with much of the gameplay mechanics drawing from Pokémon Go in one form or another. Notably, catching a pokémon is borrowed straight from that mobile title, with much of the gameplay centered around catching as many as possible. This is made easier by wild pokémon that appear visibly on the screen, with the tall grass acting as a loose spawn point. While it’s easy to argue that Pokémon: Let’s Go is an experiment by Game Freak, many of the mechanics introduced could easily be used in any future Pokémon adventure.

Creating addictive gameplay and wrapping it all up in memories of Pokémon Yellow is the best present we’ve had from Nintendo this year, and we didn’t even know we wanted it. Essentially, what has made Pokémon: Let’s Go such a raving success isn’t that it’s what we expected, but it’s everything we thought we didn’t want, but now do. We’ve been seduced by Nintendo, and now we’re craving more; the new generation can’t come soon enough. (James Baker)

28. The Binding of Isaac

From the brilliant mind of Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen, The Binding of Isaac could best be described as the perfect Nintendo paradox, both staying true to a classic Miyamoto formula while diverging into thematically dark territory. It is a game that seeks to explore religious fanaticism through a comical lens, offering both great surface gameplay and deep lore for longtime fans. Despite its controversial religious themes, The Binding of Isaac‘s core elements are as classic Nintendo as a game can get. Inspired by the dungeon crawling gameplay of The Legend of Zelda, developer McMillen combines the standard stage bosses, powerups, and treasure rooms with a modern procedurally generated level design to ensure that no playthrough is ever the same. By mixing the roguelike elements with a top-down viewpoint and twinstick gameplay, the game combines the stressful and fast-paced appeal of Ikaruga with the nostalgic charm of A Link to the Past.

Drawing inspiration from a biblical tale, the game places the titular Isaac on the run in his basement from the fervent Mom. Convinced that God is testing her faith, Isaac’s mother seeks to sacrifice her son because of her religious devotion. Over the course of a single playthrough, players will battle skeletons, monsters, embodiments of sin, literal poop, and much more, eventually having a bullet-hell showdown with a very powerful Mom in one of many possible final boss fights. Along the way, Isaac will power up his shots and abilities with a plethora of different items, taking various morbid and comical goods to increase his damage, health, and stats.

The eventual Switch release of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is truly the definitive edition of the adventure. The title boasts numerous unlockable characters, hundreds of additional powerups, and a variety of different game modes, ensuring that plays will continue descending through the basement, battling Mom and more in increasingly various ways for countless hours. A favorite of speed runners and Let’s Play streamers, The Binding of Isaac is easy to pick up yet almost impossible to master, offering a steady challenge for players of all skill types, and guaranteeing the ‘just one more run’ level of addiction. (Ty Davidson)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Salt and Sanctuary

27. Salt & Sanctuary

Salt & Sanctuary wears its inspirations on its sleeve. It borrows the lore, character progression, class system, and even checkpoint system of the Dark Souls series along with the world progression, level design and the non-linear landscape of the earliest Castlevania games. Paying homage to two of the most beloved video game franchise while still finding your own voice is no easy task, yet the two-person team at Ska Studios made not only one of the best indie games in recent memory, but arguably the best couch co-op game available on the Nintendo Switch. After sixty-five hours exploring every nook and cranny, fighting every beast and villain, collecting every weapon and item, and memorizing the labyrinth of environments you must journey through, all I wanted to do was play the game all over again. Salt and Sanctuary is so good, I honestly think this might be one of the most under-rated games ever made.

The game may not be original, but it’s undeniably exciting and at times awe-inspiring. From the electric guitar/synth soundtrack to the predominantly hand-drawn animation to the gratifying combat, as well as local cooperative play, Salt and Sanctuary puts a lot of triple-a titles to shame. (Ricky D)

26. Katamari Damacy ReRoll

Katamari Damacy is the ultimate video game safe space. Imagine you could take all your worries and annoyances, then roll them up into a giant ball and shoot it into space — sounds good, right? Then imagine if you could also roll up almost literally everything else in the world, causing absolute chaos to help your dad — the giant King of All Cosmos — repair the galaxy, all while listening to a funky Japanese soundtrack. No matter the mood, Katamari Damacy will make you smile, and a port to the Switch must have been an absolute no-brainer to maximize its addictive ‘one more go’ appeal.

There’s very little to the game: you start off with a small katamari ball, collecting small objects like sushi and paper clips, and gradually increase its size to eventually collect enormous things like giraffes and cars. To assume there is no challenge in Katamari Damacy is foolish, however, as there are numerous levels that add a puzzle element to rein in reckless rolling. Sometimes you might have to collect as many swans as possible (don’t even think about collecting more ducks than swans — that’s just not graceful), while other times you might have to collect the biggest bear you can find. The game can be made more difficult if players fail to grasp what is a pretty bespoke control system that exclusively consists of different combinations using both analog sticks simultaneously (don’t bother with the motion controls), but perseverance can make it second nature in no time.

Being a remake of a cult classic, many will already know the appeal of this beautiful, chilled-out game, but it retains a niche appeal today, and there’s no better time or place to get into the series than with this faithful hi-res remake of where it all began — one that you can take with you anywhere. (Alex Aldridge)

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Games

Microsoft Might be Ready to Dominate the Next Generation

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Microsoft Next Gen

Playing Catch-Up

As the current generation of consoles winds down in preparation for the transition to new hardware in 2020, it’s safe to say that Sony has come out on top through the past six years. While we don’t have Xbox sales numbers since Microsoft stopped releasing them earlier this generation, right from the console reveals the going has been rough for Xbox, and while the Xbox One family is by no means a failure it certainly isn’t on par with the PS4 in terms of success.

But the winds may be changing. Sony hasn’t made any major missteps à la Xbox’s showing at E3 2013, but Microsoft has been taking recent steps to make the choice between the two console manufacturers more and more difficult. Without further ado, let’s look at what might give Xbox the edge in 2020 and beyond.

Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud

Arguably the most enticing reason to own an Xbox today, particularly if you don’t own a gaming PC, is Xbox Game Pass. The subscription service gives users access to a catalogue of over 200 titles with games ranging from the first Xbox to the One with more being added regularly. Microsoft has even stated that every one of their first-party releases going forward will be available on Game Pass on release day, with the upcoming Gear 5 even releasing 3 days early for subscribers. At E3, Microsoft released Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, bundling together Game Pass for Xbox, Game Pass for PC, and Xbox Live Gold, and with it, there’s no question that it is the best-value games subscription service available today.

With such a large library of titles available for download, the subscription service completely outclasses Sony’s own, PS Now. Sony’s service touts streaming as its way to play (though recently has started allowing its PS4 games to be downloaded). But in case of streaming catches the mainstream quicker than expected, Microsoft is prepping their own streaming service, the mysterious Project xCloud. For now, much of the world (in particular, its bandwidth) isn’t quite up to the task to make streaming games, but Microsoft isn’t taking any chances on keeping up for the next generation.

Games with Gold reaches parity with PS Plus

For years, Sony’s PlayStation Plus appeared to consistently beat out Microsoft’s Games with Gold month-to-month, especially considering PS Plus offered more titles every month. Since the launch of the PS4, Sony’s online service had included not only two free PS4 games every month, but also PS3 and PS Vita titles. But last March, Sony announced a sizeable shake-up to the service by way of axing the monthly PS3 and Vita offerings, and this March they followed through, with only two PS4 titles now available each month.

Many had hoped Sony would quickly up the number of PS4 games given monthly, or that the reduction in the number of games would mean a large increase in the quality of the two PS4 games each month. Sadly, neither of these seem to have come to pass. Games with Gold, on the other hand, still releases two Xbox One games and an Xbox 360 title every month.

The release of the next consoles will likely see some changes to the makeup of the monthly PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold lineups, but for now, Microsoft holds at least a slight advantage after PS Plus having the edge for most of the generation.

Recent Studio Acquisitions

In this day and age, it shouldn’t be controversial to say that the PS4 has better exclusives than the Xbox One. Unless you’re a diehard Halo or Gears fan, it’s difficult to resist brilliant Sony exclusives like Uncharted, God of War, Spider-Man, and Bloodborne, to name just a few.

Microsoft seems to have recognized this and have been reacting by purchasing some major studios. Double Fine, Ninja Theory, Obsidian, and more have been acquired by Microsoft over the past few years. Sony still appears to have more and better-announced exclusives for the near future (The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima, etc.), but in the next year or two, we should expect a pretty massive explosion of announcements and releases from Microsoft as their new studios kick into gear.

PC Compatibility

The Xbox Play Anywhere program launched in 2016, allowing players to purchase participating games for either Xbox One or Window 10 and to receive copies for both platforms. Play Anywhere titles share progress and achievements and often support cross-play. The program is part of Microsoft’s hope to more closely integrate Xbox with PC, and could reasonably result in PC players to purchase an Xbox by easing them in with a preexisting library of their own games.

Also in their bid for more PC players, Microsoft has begun moving away from the oft-maligned Microsoft Store. Rather than attempting to salvage the store and turn it into something more welcoming for gamers, they launched a totally new Xbox app at E3 2019 alongside Xbox Game Pass PC. The app lets players access their games library, Game Pass, and a store for games, thankfully cutting out the need for the unwieldy Microsoft Store when it comes to buying and playing.

Just because Sony is on top right now, doesn’t mean they will continue to be in the era of the PS5 and Project Scarlett. We’ve seen the big dog fall before, with the Xbox 360 holding the upper hand over the PS3 throughout last gen. And Microsoft has been doing a number of things right over the past few years, to the point where it looks as if they really could have a shot at being the dominant player in the next generation of consoles.

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Games

10 Years Later: ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ Is Still The Apex of Comic Book Video Games

Batman: Arkham Asylum was the twenty-first-century masterpiece that revolutionized the video game adaptation genre through its phenomenal voice cast, character diversity, challenging detective work, and gothic setpieces.

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“Ah, it’s always nice to return to my sweet little ha-ha-hacienda.”

When diving through the deep rabbit hole that is comic book video game adaptations, finding something above decent can be quite troublesome. The Batman license has been used to create video games based off of its various forms of entertainment media since the early days of the Amstrad Colour Personal Computer, however, the caped crusader could never exactly crack the case on how to make the perfect video game adaptation- then again, neither could any other superhero. It was not until Eidos Interactive obtained the license to the Batman franchise in 2007, where the pinnacle point of comic book video games would be created under the roof of British developer Rocksteady Studios. 

Batman: Arkham Asylum was the twenty-first-century masterpiece that revolutionized the video game adaptation genre through its phenomenal voice cast, character diversity, challenging detective work, and gothic setpieces that shined as if they were oozing out of the pages of a fresh official DC Comics graphic novel. Although it has been ten years since its original release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, Arkham Asylum still stands the test of time as not only one of the best comic book video games to date but as one of the best video games ever created.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

The story begins as Batman rushes to Gotham’s insane asylum in the batmobile while an uninjured, hand-cuffed, cackling Joker rides shotgun. Shortly after our hero meets up with Commissioner James Gordon and Warden Quincy Sharp, the Joker begins the first phase of his big homecoming trap by escaping custody through the help of Harley Quinn. Throughout the game, players are tasked with re-establishing order over the out of control island by infiltrating its various districts, saving allies, and taking down a top tier rogue that resides inside each building one by one.

While the plot may seem like your ordinary comicbook one-shot, the writing of Arkham Asylum is a storytelling work of art. Characters constantly bicker and banter to each other through words penned by none other than legendary Batman writer Paul Dini; creator of the critically acclaimed Batman The Animated Series and comics such as Dark Night: A True Batman Story and Batman: Harley Quinn. Every character talks and acts as if they were pulled directly from the source material — just as they should due to Dini’s impeccable recurring work on the franchise. 

To further emphasize creating an authentic recreation of Batman’s world, Rocksteady worked tirelessly to bring back fan-favorite recognizable voice actors for the majority of the characters who had been previously featured in Dini’s work such as Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn. The combination of both Dini and the outstanding voice cast culminate into what is often viewed today as the definitive interpretation of the world’s greatest detective. 

Batman: Arkham Asylum

The characters are what became the defining aspect of Arkham Asylum and the most notable talking point by critics at the time of its release. As the game consistently jumps from villain to villain through its more than stellar pacing, nothing ever seems to grow stale. While the main heroes such as Batman, Gordon, and Oracle are always a pleasure to listen to, the rogues are the true stars of the show. Characters like the Joker, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and Poison Ivy never disappoint. Each villain brings surprising throw downs to the table, leaving players to truly test their skill-sets against Gotham’s finest. It was always — and still is — a thrilling experience to see who you will have to go toe to toe with next, as you experiment with different mechanics to defeat each boss.

Whereas all Batman games before Arkham Asylum had a strong emphasis on fighting, Rocksteady decided to shift its gameplay focus on a variety of playstyles to both accommodate for the detective’s vast set of expertise while also remaining true to the character originally depicted in print. Calculated quick-stealth action combat with added forensic science work used to solve puzzles became the groundwork for Batman: Arkham Asylum and the future of the series on top of its already compact control scheme. 

Every gameplay feature did not come with one singular purpose; the core mechanics were built on a multi-functional philosophy that would constantly test players to improve their skills, while also finding various ways to utilize their arsenal. Combat and puzzle-solving became intertwined, leaving players with more than one route on how they choose to approach any given situation.

For example, the new ‘detective mode’ feature allowed Batman: Arkham Asylum to open a floodgate of strategic play-styles and genre variations through the eyes of Batman. A simple game mechanic that changed the view of your surroundings to a wireframed breakdown would serve three main purposes; planning well thought out infiltrations, solving mysteries, and providing an in-game hinting system that could guide players through the asylum. The same can be said for gadgets — such as the Batarang and explosive gel — as they are given to the player for puzzles, but those who experimented while fighting found these tools had multiple purposes.

For those looking to explore deeper into Batman lore, the Riddler provided hundreds of different easter eggs for players to find through his cryptic enigma challenges. Longtime comic fans may be able to solve these puzzles with ease, but for casual audiences, these challenges can often be teeth grinding without background knowledge of what you may need to look out for. The mere text print bios, patient interview tapes, and art cards awarded through finding Riddler trophies and scanning objects associated with riddles made the game’s world seem enormous, as the majority of the characters referenced in these rewards are never present in the flesh. Batman’s world kept growing the deeper a player investigated into the growing crevasse that was Riddler’s optional story arc.

While the game blew away expectations with its extensive gameplay and faithful characters, the most important piece of any Batman media is the look; that mesmerizing gritty atmosphere only Batman comics can present. The character’s world has always been attached to a stylized look that resembles the art-deco years blended with dark noir and realism. It is a recognizable feature that makes the character’s world design stand apart from anyone else in the business. Arkham Asylum flawlessly recreated the look of the modern Batman comics through its heavily inspired gothic imagery with contrasting colors that instinctively pop leaving characters and environments looking prominent from one another. Typically, games that take a more ‘realistic’ approach do not age well, but the entire Arkham series still holds up due to its timeless art style, one that is incomparable to any other game to this day.

Batman: Arkham Asylum will forever stand as one of the most impactful games of its century for redefining what it meant to be an adaptation. It was thanks to the outstanding work Rocksteady Studios put into a faithful recreation of the dark knight that allowed developers to pave the way for a future of video games featuring comic book characters on par with the quality of major triple-A title releases. Batman has always redefined entertainment media in various aspects, but he may never have had an impact quite as unappreciated as Arkham Asylum on the industry. The caped crusader once again revived the feeling of hope, but this time for a medium of gaming that seemingly was going nowhere at the time. The dark knight led the charge to the era of the golden age of comic book games. “Long Live The Bat.”

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Games

25 Years Later: ‘EarthBound’ Continues to Bring Smiles and Tears

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“I Miss You.”

Nearly unrecognized by a company, almost canceled multiple times, saved by an industry icon, a soundtrack present in children’s textbooks, a passionate fanbase, fan-translations for the unreleased entries in the west, a Super Smash Bros. presence, and a three-sixty of a legacy. EarthBound– or rather the Mother series in Japan- has by far one of the strangest yet most fascinating histories out of all of Nintendo’s most known series.

EarthBound went on to become a cult classic in Nintendo’s history and one of the most renowned games of the fourth console generation for Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Through its troubled history in both production and early reception, it still has withstood the test of time to go on as one of Nintendo’s underdog franchises created by the mastermind Japanese copywriter, director, game designer, and actor Shigesato Itoi.

What better time to look back on the games strikingly different legacies across the globe than on the day of its initial Japanese release 25 years ago today. Despite EarthBound being looked upon as one of the greatest role-playing-games today, you would be surprised over how different the game was viewed back in 1994.

Itoi’s Saving Grace

After the completion of Mother in 1989- known to players as EarthBound Beginnings outside of Japan today- Shigesato Itoi began working on a direct sequel to the surprise phenomenon for the next generation of Nintendo hardware. Rather than working with the same development team, however, Itoi decided to allow Ape Incorporated to solely work on the project; a decision that would later lead to an unforeseeable disaster spanning over the course of five years.

Itoi was under significant pressure from Nintendo in 1993 due to time constraints and funding for Earthbound falling through on multiple occasions over the last four years. EarthBound escaped cancellation by the skin of its teeth several times throughout development. Out of fear of a final cancellation, Itoi knew he needed help from an outside source who can help save the project. In the last resort ditch, he took a trip to HAL Laboratory seeking out the starman of the industry; a close friend, young breakthrough coder, and President of the company, Satoru Iwata.

Shigesato Itoi, Satoru Iwata, and Shigeru Miyamoto- December 2011.

Satoru Iwata meticulously analyzed the coding of the game and gave the team at Ape Inc. two options; take what they had and finish development in two years or start from scratch and finish in six months- the ladder was the only plausible option for Itoi to choose. Iwata and his colleagues at HAL mustered up tools that Ape Inc. could use to finish the game in his predicted time frame; to which they did and less than one year later, EarthBound was ready to hit store shelves and became the first entry in the Mother series to make land outside of its home turf.

A Different Past

During its initial release, EarthBound was met with mixed to favorable reception outside of Japan and did not make sales expectations with the higher-ups at Nintendo. Although certainly not a flop, the game was deemed unsuccessful by the publisher everywhere but Japan. Critics in the west often compared the game to several other RPGs released at the time- specifically Square’s acclaimed Final Fantasy III– citing that the game felt dated compared to what the hardware was capable of. Back on its home turf, the game went on to receive a mostly positive reception. EarthBound and Mother 2 were practically two separate entities in the east and west.

Even in its marketing, EarthBound was a whole different kind of weird depending on territory. Nintendo of America gave the franchise its bizarre and infamously known marketing campaign in the United States, however, in its home territory, the Mother series was advertised as a family-friendly game that was for everyone. The line “this game stinks” was heavily used in Nintendo Power Magazine along with several attached repulsive-smelling scratch and sniff cards. Meanwhile, in Japan, phrases such as “for adults, children, and even young women” were often used in live-action advertisements along with friendlier simplistic informational posters such as the one below.

Going Contemporary

Unlike the majority of other RPGs at the time that focused on the common fantasy and medieval settings, EarthBound took a major curveball and placed itself in a relatable modern American themed country called Eagleland where rather than characters wielding blades or firearms, weapons consist of baseball bats, slingshots, PSI, bottle rockets, and frying pans. Convenience stores and hospitals are used rather than your typical wandering merchants or magic users. Enemies could range to anything from cars, speed limit signs, and clocks, to vomit, tents, and robots. Even a genre staple such as the battle system remains consistently different from any other RPG. The game uses a ‘slot machine’ health and psychic points mechanic where your numbers roll down slowly as you attempt to counterattack, revive, and defend with quick thinking moves before the digits can hit zero.

The contemporary inspired atmosphere blended with fantasy elements is a setting that no other game has tried to exactly replicate. It is still one of EarthBound’s most unique aspects, however, what makes the game so memorable are the characters placed in the deranged setting. Every single entity you come across on your adventure has unique dialogue that can range from poetically charming to outrageously ridiculous. A fan favorite species that has gone on to become what can be considered the series mascots are the iconic Mr. Saturns; notably for being the face of much of the available merchandise through Itoi’s personal company in Japan, having a unique in-game text font, and appearing as an item in Super Smash Bros. series (starting with Melee on the Nintendo GameCube).

A Change In Legacy

Today EarthBound is a Nintendo cult classic. Did it fail to become part of the big leagues at the time of its release because of the puzzling advertisement campaign? Was it to out of the norm for the general public and mainstream media? We may never know the definitive answer, but today EarthBound is regarded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time and a must-play game for the Super Nintendo. In its 25 years since it first released, it certainly has managed to draw in a captivating legacy that has continually become more loved over time.

The Mother series- whether it will ever receive a new entry or not- lives on through its dedicated fans, spiritual successors, and digital re-releases. No matter where you scatter for EarthBound related content on the internet, you are bound to find some dedicated fans or even entire websites such as the widely known Starmen.net that are packed to the brim with fan content.

If you have never played EarthBound, it is currently available for purchase on the Wii U and 3DS Virtual Consoles and it is also one of the twenty-two pack-in games included on the Super Nintendo Classic Mini console.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 4 Review – “Faith”: A Journey Through Trump’s America

Life is Strange 2 continues its strong trajectory from the previous episode, weaving a complex and troubling tale of faith gone mad.

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Life is Strange 2 has returned for its penultimate episode, a dense and troubling exploration of faith, prejudice and family in a time and place that has never been more divided: modern America. Following the events of Life is Strange 2‘s stellar third entryEpisode 4: “Faith” sees Sean attempting to pick up the pieces of his shattered life after Daniel’s violent outburst at Merrill’s farm.

Though the story of Faith” begins in a hospital, with Sean working to recover from his injuries, the trajectory of the tale explores more settings and environments than any previous episode of the series. From wandering the highways of Nevada, to exploring a dusty motel, to sneaking into a remote church, Life is Strange 2‘s 4th entry never lacks for something new to see, or someone new to interact with.

Life is Strange 2
However, the cynical bent of the story is the new centerpiece of Episode 4. Though Life is Strange 2 has never sidestepped the controversy and division of Trump’s America, Faith” leans into these ideas with renewed fervor. Violence is committed more than once against our Mexican protagonist, and his skin color often sees him at odds with the more conservative denizens of the highways he journeys down. In a particularly telling exchange, Sean even finds himself beaten and placed on the other side of a closed compound, with a gun-toting guard glaring at him from the other side. Metaphors don’t really get much clearer than that.

This will, no doubt, lead to more calls of keeping politics out of games and other entertainment by the president’s more ardent supporters, but as other writers have pointed out, gaming has never been apolitical. Further, it would be categorically irresponsible to tell a story like this without addressing the elephant in the room. With these elements in mind, the politics of Life is Strange 2 have never been clearer than in Episode 4: “Faith”, and they account for some of the strongest storytelling fuel the series has found yet.

Life Is Strange 2, Episode 4: Faith
Politics aside, Life is Strange 2 also puts Sean at a variety of other disadvantages. His starting injuries include a lost eye that must be tended to medically throughout the episode, and the various beatings he takes throughout Episode 4 more than leave their mark. This leaves Faith as the typical darkest, and most troubling, episode of this second series, where we find our protagonist at his absolute lowest point, and must continue on with him in hopes of finding a better future. It’s a common enough trope, but one that is used to great effect here.

There are many returns of characters from previous episodes, some through letters and other communications, and others through surprising reveals and revelations. A particularly shocking character joins the story with zero preamble, and emerges as one of Life is Strange 2‘s finest editions yet. To spoil who, or how, would be criminal, but rest assured that Episode 4 is more full of surprises than any of the previous entries.

Life Is Strange 2, Episode 4: Faith
Though the main conflict that eventually reveals itself, that of Daniel being used as a messianic figure for an isolated Nevada church, feels contrived initially, the layers that are eventually revealed, and Daniel’s reason for joining the church, make a lot of sense in the overall scheme of things. Due to this strength of narrative, it really feels like all bets are off during the climax of Life is Strange 2: Episode 4, and that’s a good thing for a game so centered around the notion of interactive storytelling.

Fresh, prescient, and altogether rewarding, Life is Strange 2: Episode 4 — “Faith”, is a welcome piece of fiction in a society that has become so increasingly fragmented. It illustrates the horrors of the modern American landscape, but always remembers to remind us that there are good people out there, even when hope has never seemed so far away.

Strongly Recommended

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Games

I Still Don’t Understand ‘Death Stranding’ (and That’s a Good Thing)

Death Stranding could create an experience unlike any game before it, and while I can’t claim to understand it, I’m certainly excited for it.

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It may only be a few months until launch, but Death Stranding remains shrouded in mystery. This first independent project from gaming auteur Hideo Kojima has been an enigma ever since it was first announced. When the world first saw Norman Reedus standing on a foggy shoreline with a weeping fetus in his arms, many questions naturally arose. Why is a celebrity actor cradling an unborn child on a beach? What kind of gameplay could we expect from this? And what does “Death Stranding” even mean, anyway?

Years may have passed since that initial reveal, but in my view at least, these questions still haven’t been fully answered. I simply do not understand Death Stranding. It’s confounded me like few games before it have – and yet, that may be the very best thing about it. There’s something enticing about that mystery. Death Stranding could create an experience unlike any game before it, and while I can’t claim to understand it, I’m certainly excited for it.

Between trailers, interviews, and a fairly hefty amount of gameplay footage, there’s been an increasingly constant stream of information about Death Stranding for over a year now. This is especially true at Gamescom 2019, where the game has had an extensive presence with two full trailers and a live gameplay demonstration. For most games, this extensive amount of coverage should eliminate all the biggest questions, presenting a relatively clear idea of what the final product should be. But consider the content of Death Stranding’s most recent trailers: one consists entirely of an exposition dump about the power and proper maintenance of jarred fetuses, while another opens with Norman Reedus urinating in a field to create a giant mushroom before dropping off a package for Geoff Keighley. Previous trailers show ruined cities overflowing with tar, gold-masked lion monsters, and levitating shadow creatures. If you can make heads or tails of all that, then you’re certainly cleverer than I.

With every new piece of information, I find it more difficult to wrap my head around the game. Even with the few concrete details known about it, Death Stranding continues to defy simple categorization. Although it features stealth elements, it certainly doesn’t seem like another Metal Gear; while it will have a massive open world, it doesn’t look like it will follow in the footsteps of signature modern open worlds like Horizon Zero Dawn or Breath of the Wild; and though it tells a story about reconnecting the broken cities of a post-apocalyptic United States, its mixture of stealth, politics, and the supernatural make it distinct from most other narrative-focused games out there. Each trailer introduces another wrinkle to the perplexing web of Kojima’s latest vision.

It is this very ambiguity that makes Death Stranding so enticing. With most games, it’s easy to understand them based on a quick glance at their trailer alone. This will reveal their genre, their personality, any unique gimmicks – all the usual culprits. But with Death Stranding, the more we learn about it, the more the mystery grows. At this point, it’s even difficult to pin the game into a single genre. Only the most ambitious games manage to create genres of their own, but from what we’ve seen so far, Death Stranding looks like it could be one of them. It could simply be little more than excellent marketing, but knowing that Kojima’s unbridled imagination is behind it, my hopes are high.

Death Stranding

It would make sense for Death Stranding to be so inventive given the circumstances behind its creation. For years, Kojima’s corporate overlords at Konami had stifled his creativity as they moved the company’s focus away from Kojima’s traditional titles like Metal Gear and Silent Hill towards more immediately lucrative pursuits such as mobile platforms and pachinko machines. Now that Kojima has freed himself from those restrictions and formed an independent studio of his own, his vision can run more freely than ever before. It’s to be expected that, finally presented with the opportunity to fully express his vision, he’d do so by creating something truly daring, something never seen before.

Of course, as attractive as the intrigue around Death Stranding may be, it doesn’t change that it’s difficult to really judge a game without knowing much about it at all. With so many important details remaining unspecified, there’s no telling whether Death Stranding will actually achieve its clear ambitions. If I were to view things pessimistically, I’d posit that the game’s ambiguity could be nothing more than an elaborate marketing scheme meant to mask the lackluster game beneath it. While I’m certainly much more optimistic about the game than that, I can’t deny the very real possibility that it could be the case.

But at the end of the day, I simply cannot resist the romantic allure of a game so surrounded by mystery. The core of Death Stranding may be wrapped in an inscrutable fog, but Kojima uses this layer of secrecy to invite players to experience a game that is truly new, an all-too-rare commodity in games today. Kojima hasn’t been free to express his vision so fully for years now, but at long last he has his chance. I cannot comprehend Death Stranding, and that’s exactly why I’m so excited for it.

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Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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