Nintendo’s got a bit of a weird reputation in the world of RPGs. If you got into gaming in recent generations, you probably don’t think much of the company’s output. While they might have had a few good JRPGs that American gamers had to import here or there, it’s mostly been a company that’s skated by on handheld releases like Pokemon, The World Ends With You, or Monster Hunter. It’s not exactly a company that’s redefined RPGs in recent years.
If you’re an older gamer, though, you know that Nintendo is largely responsible for bringing RPGs west. This was the company that introduced The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, The Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger to a worldwide audience. It’s a company that didn’t mind taking risks like creating Super Mario RPG. In short, it’s the company that started it all – and that includes great RPG legends.
Nintendo’s latest console definitely feels like it’s going back to its roots. Not only are there some great RPGs on the horizon, but some of the best games available are actually RPGs. These games range from old-school classics to breathtaking AAA games, but they all have the spirit that pushed Nintendo forward during its earliest years. Below are some of the best RPG games for the Nintendo Switch available in 2018.
- Breath of the Wild
- Stardew Valley
- Nine Parchments
- Portal Knights
- Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
- I am Setsuna
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2
- Battle Chef Brigade
- Has Been Heroes
- Nintendo Switch RPG Games List 2018
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s really hard to overstate the impact of the Legend of Zelda games. While they’re not exactly the kind of games that JRPG purists lump in with RPGs, they truthfully introduced most of the mechanics to western gamers. They’re also the prototype for the action RPG, with some of the major building blocks of that genre being present even in the first entry in the game. While the series had largely gone silent since Skyward Sword, it came back in a huge way with the release of the Switch.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may well be the best game on the Nintendo Switch. With stunning visuals and a fantastic set of game play systems, it blows almost everything else out of the water. It feels like the natural evolution of the Zelda series, taking a few notes from recently released games and creating something that still feels entirely like a classic Nintendo product.
This is absolutely the game that every Switch owner needs to buy. It shows off everything the system can do and then some, all while being a fantastic continuation of a beloved series. Whether you’ve played Zelda before or you just want a good ARPG experience, this is the game for you.
Did you ever play Harvest Moon? If you haven’t, it’s a bit of a weird game to explain. The entire purpose of the game was to run a successful farm, raise a family, and generally live a well-rounded agrarian life. There have been a few games since that have tried to duplicate that series’ success, but nothing ever really struck that balance between time management sim and bucolic relaxation.
If you were to give Stardew Valley a cursory glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it was an SNES title. A deliberate throwback to older games, this is a farming simulator like no other. In addition to growing your crops, you can investigate a few minor mysteries, fight evil monsters in caves, and grow your relationships with the people in the nearby town. It’s a fiendishly addictive game that proves that not all RPG elements need to be related to combat.
There are a few key types of Action RPGs. Some are all about the combat, while others are all about the loot. What unites them all, though, is that they make use of key RPG systems in order to allow players a chance to progress. One game that does that particularly well is Nine Parchments, an isometric ARPG that puts players in the shoes of magical academy students on a quest to retrieve the titular nine magical parchments.
While Nine Parchments looks a lot like it wants to be Diablo, it honestly feels more like Gauntlet Legacy. It’s a game that is meant to be played with friends, to the point that it actually becomes a bit of a slog when you choose to play alone. There’s not a lot in the way of loot or other prestige items, but there are a ton of cool spells and some really great combat encounters. It’s really easy to imagine sitting around an old CRT television and yelling at the screen while playing this game with a friend.
Nine Parchments in a great RPG throwback that is more fun in multiplayer. If you’re looking for something simple but engaging, this is probably a good fit for you.
If there’s a game that proves that RPGs don’t have to have a compelling story, it’s Portal Knights. While there’s a little narrative thread running through the game, this one is really more about the systems. If you have ever wondered what a game like Minecraft would be like with better combat and more engaging graphics, this is the game for you.
Portal Knights has you fighting through some truly beautiful areas, working from one place to another to build portals and go to new adventure zones. There’s nothing really pushing you forward other than a desire to explore, which actually takes a lot of the pressure off the game. Instead of trying to cram a reason to play into the game, players get to discover it for themselves.
Portal Knights is great for players who want to discover worlds and have fun killing monsters. It’s not go much of a story, but it’s still a great experience.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
The Shantae series is one of those series that continually pumps out releases but manages to fly beneath the radar. A clever little 2D platforming series, it’s managed to stay alive when most of its predecessors and contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. With a good sense of humor and some truly gorgeous animation, it’s a series that seems to finally be getting some of the attention it deserves with the release of Half-Gene Hero on Switch.
This release is kind of a soft-reboot of the series, stripping away most of the story and putting the focus on the gameplay. Shantae is kind of a Metroidvania game, with most of the RPG elements restricted to learning new skills so you can explore more of the game. The combat is immensely satisfying, though, and you’ll get a lot of joy out of exploring all the new areas once you get the powers you need.
Shantae is a great game for people who love classic side-scrollers but who want a little bit more than the old games offered. It’s also a good game for those who really love upgrading powers and exploring beautifully-designed environments at the same time.
I am Setsuna
If most of the other games on this list represent modern takes on the RPG genre, I am Setsuna represents an attempt to get back to basics. Very much a game designed after classic JRPGs, the game really just updates the visuals while keeping most of the old systems in place. This is not a game for people who want to see how far JRPGs have come in the last two decades; it’s a game for people who want to remember what the genre was like in its heyday.
The game has everything you’d expect, from the archetypical characters to some truly fun monster battles. The star of the game really is the visuals, though, which are far lovelier than the budget of the game should have been able to pull off. This is a pretty game that masks an old core, something that some gamers will surely appreciate.
If you’re a fan of classic JRPGs, this one is for you. If you like pretty RPGs, you’re also in the right place. Simply put, this is a game for old-school fans who don’t mind new visuals.
There have always been a few games on Nintendo consoles that take advantage of the console’s unique set-up. Severed is one of the few RPGs that takes advantage of the Switch’s touch-screen, doing so in a manner that pulls the player deeply into the combat of the game. Yes, this is a game that uses combat in a form that could be best described as Fruit Ninja on steroids, but does so with enough clever puzzles and abilities that it still qualifies as an RPG.
Severed is probably best known for not being able to be played in docked mode, but that’s not much of a problem. As you go through this adventure, you’ll note that the touch controls actually make the experience much more visceral. Coupled with a very unique art style, it makes the game really stand out.
Severed is a great game for those who want a new RPG experience. It’s also a great choice for those who are still big fans of touch controls.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade is weird. It was weird and sprawling and overly ambitious twenty years ago, and it’s the same way now. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the kind of weird that makes RPGs so fun, with hundreds of hours of play time, a ton of great characters, and a story that only makes sense if you don’t look at it too closely. It is the most traditional RPG on a system full of throwbacks, which is saying something.
If you play this game, you need to be prepared for the fact that it is Xenoblade. It’s a game that will take you at least sixty hours to finish. The dialog is bad, but in a great way. The fights are fantastic when you get to them, but be prepared for a lot of stumbles along the way. The whole thing is broken in the most perfect sense.
Xenoblade is a great choice for fans of the series or those who like their RPGs weird. It’s also a good fit for fans of throwbacks.
Battle Chef Brigade
RPGs aren’t all swords and sorcery. Some of the best are gloriously weird in concept, and Battle Chef Brigade takes that idea and runs with it. It’s a game about the most hardcore, fantastic Iron Chef competition ever. You’ll equip recipes and items to impress judges, even though you’re really just going through a fairly standard match 3 game. It’s one part Candy Crush, one part Chopped, and one part visual novel.
It’s the weirdness that works here. Of course a match-3 game is perfect for a cooking competition. Of course you need to deal with fantastic ingredients to deal with fantasy judges. The melodrama is only a few degrees away from what you see on television anyway, so it makes sense here.
Battle Chef Brigade is perfect for fans of cooking shows, fans of visual novels, and match-3 fans. It’s also the best fit for those who want to play around with a supremely silly system that is taken quite seriously.
Has Been Heroes
Roguelikes are all about dying. You do your best to push through a dungeon, and then you die. When you come back, you might be a little stronger or a little wiser. You progress, but all of your progress is based on whether or not you can stay alive. Your goal is to make all of those deaths count long enough to win. That’s the basis of Has Been Heroes, and that’s about all there is to the game.
There are unique systems here, sure, but what you’re really looking at is a punishing roguelike. You are going to die quite a bit, and you’re going to get frustrated. At some point, though, the frustration turns to awe. You’ll begin to appreciate how quickly you die, and you’ll cheer win you actually win a fight. It’s a kind of subtle seduction that makes a short play session turn into hours.
This is a game for those who want a real roguelike on the Switch. It’s also a perfect game for anyone who likes to take a ton of punishment in the name of fun.
Nintendo Switch RPG Games List 2018
Perhaps the coolest thing about this list of RPG games for the Switch is that’s it’s essentially a launch-year list. These are only a handful of the games that are going to make it onto the platform, and Nintendo’s push for more RPGs and indie games means that the best is probably still yet to come. It’s a really good time to be a fan of RPGs if you’re a Switch owner and an even better time to get into the genre if you haven’t always been a fan. RPGs are a huge part of Nintendo’s roots and it’s great to see them come back in a big way on their most successful system to date.