SuperParent's 2019 Nintendo Switch Games Holiday Gift Guide
Nintendo had a powerhouse year for games, but with dozens of games released on the eShop every week, how do you filter out the ones that are worth bringing home to your kids? Don't worry, Super Parents, we've got you covered.
This year's cache of games for the Nintendo Switch has been unbelievably excellent. While most of the best games have been from Nintendo, many of them have come from smaller studios. All in all, it's been a great year to be a Nintendo Switch fan. We've gone ahead and rounded up our 10 favorite games for Nintendo Switch for little kids, older kids, and teens.
Best Nintendo Switch Games For Little Kids
What makes a game for a little kid versus an older kid? Well, the amount of reading is the biggest deciding factor for that. All of the games in the following section for older kids are also appropriate for little kids, but they might need a bit more assistance in reading.
Super Mario Maker 2
This is a huge hit with my sons (11 and 8 at the time of publishing) -- they're all about building their own levels. Neither of them had much interest in going through the game's limited narrative, but they've spent hours in the original Super Mario Maker and quite a bit of time playing around with Super Mario Maker 2.
I haven't had much experience with it on my own, mostly just watching my boys play the game. But check out this fantastic review from Polygon to read a much more in-depth review of what the game offers.
You can pick up Super Mario Maker 2 both physically and digitally for $59.99 from all major retailers. (Note: Amazon almost always has it on sale for $43.99.)
Yoshi's Crafted World
I absolutely adore Yoshi's Crafted World. I devoured the game almost in its entirety in two sittings because I just couldn't stop playing it. Yoshi's Crafted World is about as cute as you're imagining, with a multitude of candy-colored Yoshis to play as, both by yourself and with someone else. My youngest daughter and I have loved playing Yoshi's Crafted World together, although it's difficult to get her to stay on task if she sees something cute to run toward.
The aim of the game is to collect enough daisies to unlock all of the various zones that your Yoshi needs to travel through while rescuing Sundream Stone gems that Kamek and Baby Bowser have scattered throughout the world. Along the way, the Yoshis will need to overcome a number of puzzles and challenges (including finding Poochie pups!) and earn more daisies.
Yoshi gobbles up enemies and turns them into yarn, which you can "shoot" to unlock hidden coins, hit enemies and coins in the distance, and reveal hidden platforms, among other things. Each zone has a vending machine where you can exchange coins to buy eggs with fun cardboard costumes in them. My favorite is the Bullet Bill costume.
You can get really far in the game without needing to do a ton of extra work, but it's best to take your time in the early levels to earn as many daisies as you can. But, all in all, even if you get stuck needing more daisies, it's still enjoyable to go back to the earlier worlds and breeze through those daisies, especially if you have kiddo help.
You can pick up Yoshi's Crafted World digitally for $59.99 at all major retailers. You can also find it on Amazon.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Mario and Sonic have teamed up a number of times over the years, and this time they're headed to the 2020 Summer Olympics. I've played this game with friends, with competitors at the Kinda Funny Inter-Site Tournament during PAX West, and by myself -- but this game is infinitely more enjoyable with others.
There are a number of different modes to choose from, including Quick Match (which will allow you to play competitively with the computer AI), Story Mode (just as it sounds!), Local Play (competitive play with folks sitting in the same room), and Online Play (competitive play with folks over the internet).
Within these modes are a number of different events to play with, including the high dive (this mode cost me my tournament win), 110m hurdles (very hard to win this if you have no rhythm), skateboarding (infinitely fun to play alone), and surfing (extremely hard, no matter what). You can also play in "Tokyo 1964" mode, which will allow you to play as 16-bit versions of each of the characters.
If you're looking for a game to pick up and play during the winter holidays with your kids, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a ton of fun. Be prepared for a lot of shouting and giggle-fits along the way.
You can purchase both the physical and digital versions of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 for $59.99 at major retailers. Amazon has the physical version on sale for $49.94.
Our household can't get enough of Heave Ho. It's one of the best kid-friendly multiplayer games of 2019. We have a full review of Heave Ho available, but here's a small snippet:
Heave Ho is a (mostly) cooperative multiplayer party game that requires an immense amount of teamwork and dexterity to complete an array of increasingly difficult levels. Up to four players can join in on the frenetic action and customize their weird little paint balloons with all kinds of costumes (although I favor a Lady Gaga look alike). The aim is to get to the end of each level with absolutely everyone -- if you can't do it, you have to restart and try again.
Heave Ho is unforgiving… and yet, that's where the magic is.
You can pick up Heave Ho digitally for $9.99 on the Nintendo eShop.
Best Nintendo Switch Games For Older Kids
If you have older children that are fluent readers, then these are some of the best Nintendo Switch games to pick up for them.
Pokemon Sword and Shield
Before we dive into our mini-review of Pokemon Sword and Shield (yes, they're two games, but they're mostly the same), we need to preface this with: these games are awesome, especially for older kids.
If you picked up Pokemon Let's Go (Pikachu, Eevee, or both) last year, this is a whole new ballgame. Sword and Shield are full-fledged Pokemon RPG games, which are more in-line with older Pokemon games, whereas the Pokemon Let's Go games were more focused on capturing and transferring Pokemon back and forth across Pokemon Go.
You can read our full review of Pokemon Sword and Shield here, but these are the most relevant bits if you want a quick synopsis of the games:
Pokemon Sword and Shield are the latest installments in the main series of Pokemon role-playing games. While previous games, such as Pokemon Sun and Moon, were released for handheld devices (like the Nintendo 3DS), Pokemon Sword and Shield are on Nintendo Switch, so you can play them both on the TV (unless you have a Switch Lite) and on the go.
While both Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield feature this same basic storyline, the games do differ in a few ways. For one, players will take on a couple of different gym leaders depending on the game they’re playing. Plus, a variety of different Pokemon are exclusive to each of the two games. For a more in-depth look at the differences between Sword and Shield, check out our guide.
Players start by choosing one of three adorable Pokemon to be their first partner. You can pick Scorbunny, the Fire-type Rabbit Pokemon; Grookey, the Grass-type Chimp Pokemon; or Sobble, the Water-type Water Lizard Pokemon.
From there, you’ll begin your journey across the Galar region. You’ll need to take on each of the game’s eight Gyms in a particular order, and the game unfolds in a linear fashion so you know exactly where to go next. In between Gyms, you can battle and capture Wild Pokemon to add them to your collection, compete against other Pokemon trainers that are scattered throughout the game’s paths (called “routes”), and visit a variety of towns that are inspired by locations in England.
You can pick up Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield separately for $59.99 each at all major retailers, including Amazon. You can also opt to purchase the Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield Double Pack for $119.99 on Amazon.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link's Awakening isn't anything like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the first games to be released on Nintendo Switch. Instead, Link's Awakening is far more reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: TheWind Waker, the Zelda game that was released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002.
This Legend of Zelda looks like a brand new game, but it's actually a remake of the original Link's Awakening, which was released on Game Boy in 1993. It doesn't look much like the original, mind you, because it's been upgraded and updated with beautiful graphics, a remastered soundtrack, and improved controls.
Now, full disclosure: The Legend of Zelda games have never really been my jam, namely because I find them obtuse and frustrating just for the sake of being obtuse and frustrating.
I've only played a few hours of Link's Awakening, but I've enjoyed my stay in this adventure with Link so far. The dungeons are challenging, but not frustrating. (I'm looking at you, Water Temple from Ocarina of Time circa Nintendo 64.) The controls take some getting used to, namely because you have to unlock the ability to jump and it's mapped to a button that isn't typically used for jumping (X or Y, as opposed to B).
But minus those minor control nitpicks and a somewhat unfriendly landscape for Link to explore (there are a lot of enemies and obstacles to overcome), there are some great features, including the ability to mark treasure chests and heart pieces -- you collect heart pieces so that Link can have more health -- on the map so you can come back once you've unlocked the right gear.
Yes, you will likely fall down and lose all of your hearts a number of times. The game is difficult. It's not "Nintendo Hard," but it's certainly reminiscent of those early, punishing Nintendo games that required a lot of practice and muscle memory. But the consequences of losing all of your hearts is fairly minimal, so it won't cause thrown controllers or prolonged aggravation. All in all, a good choice for little Zelda fans that have solid reading skills.
You can purchase The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening at most major retailers for $59.99. The physical version is also available on Amazon for $48.96.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi's Mansion 3 may be my family-friendly "game of the year" because it is that good. I've always liked the Luigi's Mansion serioes, especially Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for Nintendo 3DS, which came out in 2013. The variety of enemies, strategies, levels, and even gameplay modes (because yes, you can play Luigi's Mansion multiplayer, even going back to Dark Moon) keep the game fresh even after the credits roll.
Luigi's Mansion 3 takes a different approach to the "haunted mansion" theme. Luigi (and his pet, PolterPup), Mario, Princess Peach, and the Toads are invited to a hotel as VIP guests. Who would turn that kind of luxe opportunity down? Holidays are expensive, especially if you have to bring a bus full of people and luggage with you. (As a mom of four, I feel this deep in my bones.) But it turns out that Luigi, his family, and friends were lured there on false pretenses and the hotel's proprietor, Hellen Graveley, unleashes her ghastly ghouls and Luigi's spooky nemesis, King Boo.
King Boo traps each of Luigi's loved ones in portraits, and it's only through quick thinking (and running away) that Luigi escapes and begins the work of freeing folks from their well-framed prisons. Along the way, Luigi will free his partner in spookums, Professor E. Gadd, who upgrades Luigi's ghost-capturing gadget, the Poltergust 3000, and helps Luigi find the game's missing elevator keys. The elevator keys are important because Luigi won't be able to reach all of the hotel's floors until he's found all of the keys.
You can read our full review here.
You can pick up Luigi's Mansion 3 for $59.99 digitally and physically at all major retailers.
Best Nintendo Switch Games For Teens
Ring Fit Adventure
If you owned a Nintendo Wii, you may remember Wii Fit and its balance board. I spent hours with Wii Fit, trying to perfect my balance in yoga poses, holding myself in plank for as long as I could, and desperately holding onto my Wiimotes while trying not to fall off and bonk my head on the wall.
Ring Fit Adventure is exactly what I've been waiting for on the Switch. Yes, Just Dance (both 2019 and 2020) are great workouts and they're a ton of fun. But Ring Fit Adventure takes it one step further than Wii Fit was able to with its limited technology. Instead of a board, you have a leg strap that you slide a Joy-Con into and attach to your thigh, and you couple that with a Joy-Con-powered tension ring that acts as a weapon, weight, and resistance trainer.
There's a story mode in Ring Fit Adventure that will require you to jog in place -- the whole game is "on rails," which means that it's not about exploring. It's about exercising, of course.
If the story isn't interesting to you (or some folks in your home aren't keen on gamifying their workouts), there are ways to set up workouts that target specific parts of the body, and you can customize those workouts, too.
All in all, Ring Fit Adventure is a ton of fun as a weird little adventure and as a fitness game. I'm looking forward to continuing my Ring Fit journey throughout the holiday season, especially.
You can purchase Ring Fit Adventure at all major retailers for $79.99.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I love Fire Emblem games. I'm a late-comer to the franchise, as I only picked up my first Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo 3DS, Fire Emblem Awakening. I'm such a nerd for strategy roleplaying games that it was a natural fit for me.
What I love about Fire Emblem: Three Houses is how it's more than a traditional Fire Emblem game. It's like getting your letter to Hogwarts, being sorted into your House, and then finding out that Hogwarts is actually a school for battle magic only.
There's quite a bit of magic in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, of course, but there's so much more going on. This game is so large, so robust, with so much to do (and four endings to see) that you'll be hard pressed to find a better investment for your dollars during the holidays, especially for your RPG-loving teen.
For an excellent full review of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, check out The Verge's coverage.
You can pick up your copy of Fire Emblem: Three Houses at all major retailers and on Amazon for $59.99.
The World Next Door
The World Next Door is easily one of my favorite games of 2019. When I look back at all of the games that I played this year -- and there have been a lot -- The World Next Door still stands out as an exceptional experience. You can read our full review here, but here's a short snippet:
The World Next Door is part visual novel and part adventure with a match-three style combat system that allows players to move glyphs, cascade matches, and cast powerful spells against a small sampling of creepy enemies in a fast-paced environment. The story follows Jun, a rebellious teenager from Earth, on her 24-hour journey (that is suspiciously extended) to the "world next door:" Emrys. Jun's Emryn friends -- Liza, Horace, Rainy, and Cerisse -- show her magic and how to control the elements in combat.
The World Next Door is rated T for content, not for violent gameplay. When an enemy is defeated, it keels over and lays there until it disappears. It's pretty simple. However, there is strong language that some parents may object to their older child or teen consuming. Personally, I don't see a problem with my teen daughter playing this game and seeing the odd curse word here and there, but information matters in making smart content decisions for our families.
It's also important to note that there is a reference to alcohol at the beginning of the game (teenage antics in Emrys, I suppose) and the enemies range from creepy to downright scary-looking.
For the teen in your life that loves adventures, creepy characters, a good mystery, and an amiable "coming of age" tale that's approachable for teenagers of all personalities and walks of life, The World Next Door is an excellent find.
You can pick up The World Next Door on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99.
Disclosure: SuperParent was provided with copies of Super Mario Maker 2, Yoshi's Crafted World, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Heave Ho, Pokemon Sword & Shield, Luigi's Mansion 3, and The World Next Door for coverage purposes. Our coverage remains objective.
Top image © Robert Kneschke / Adobe Stock