The Nintendo Switch has no shortage of great old games, or even just ports of fantastic titles from other platforms that were released in the past few years. In this list, we thought we'd spotlight a selection of our favorite retro games and ports on Switch, to give you a little steer on which older titles are worth picking up.
Not all games are better on Switch, as our experience with Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast's PC-friendly precise controls taught us. And some more recent titles simply play better on more powerful platforms, which is to be expected. Still, when it comes to indie games, the Switch is frequently the way to go.
Here are a few suggestions, then, if your library of games is starting to dry up.
Capcom's Zelda-like cel-shaded adventure was considered a flop when it released on the PS2 in 2006, but surely by now the game is a success, after being ported to every format imaginable. It's a particularly good fit for the Switch, where its unique, painterly art style pops on that screen. No PS2 game should still look this nice almost 14 years after its release.
The entire Doom series is available on Switch, now, minus Doom Eternal, which is coming later. Given that the console is still oddly underserved when it comes to first-person shooters, it's pretty cool that you can enjoy them here, including Doom 64 and 2016's Doom. Some of the ports weren't considered great at launch, but subsequent patches have kicked them into shape on Switch. Wait for a sale, then hoover them up.
Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Originally released on PS4 and PC, Square Enix went all out in bringing the latest, gorgeous entry in its traditional RPG series to Switch. As well as adding a full orchestral soundtrack, Square Enix offered players the chance to play the entire game with SNES-style 2D visuals. While Dragon Quest doesn't get the attention outside of Japan that Final Fantasy does, this is worth picking up if you need another hour-eating RPG in your life.
Stardew Valley got huge on PC, then made the move to Switch at exactly the right moment for the right price. It's primarily a farming management game, but also an RPG and life sim with a lot of depth, brought to life with gorgeous 2D pixel art. Stardew Valley has received significant updates since launch, and you can enjoy it with three other players, too.
Rockstar Games hasn't taken that much interest in the Switch so far, but it did release this extremely impressive port of the cinematic adventure game LA Noire. Even nine years after its initial console release, the period detail of the game's '50s LA setting is dazzling, and the motion-captured performances from a cast of well-known actors remain great. Not everything about the story or mystery solving in LA Noire works, but if you love James Ellroy novels and their various adaptations, this is pretty much your perfect game.
Resident Evil 4
Somehow the novelty of playing an all-time classic home console game on a handheld never gets old, even when the title in question was released a decade-and-a-half ago. Resident Evil 4 looks and plays great on Switch, even if those textures are starting to look dated all these years later. It's still a best-in-class action game, with absurdly inventive set pieces and a clever combat system that balances gunplay and well-timed melee attacks.
Final Fantasy XII
All of the mainline Final Fantasy games on Switch are over a decade old and therefore dated in some way, but FFXII has aged the best. That's because it's a real-time game, where you program your characters to perform actions in battle then watch the results of your careful strategizing pay off, pausing to change tack if needed. It lacks a certain personality next to other entries in the series like FF VII, VIII, IX and X, but this is perhaps the series' best ever combat system, and it still feels fresh today.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Link's Awakening is a full remake of the Game Boy classic rather than just a port, but we couldn't miss it off this list. This Zelda game is set on a dreamy island, where Link washes up after his raft is hit by lightning. To get home, he needs to wake an entity called the Wind Fish, which sleeps in a giant egg at the top of the island's highest mount.
At the time, Link's Awakening was a miraculous feat for the Game Boy, replicating pretty much all of the basics of A Link to the Past on the SNES without many compromises. This new version of the game keeps the 2D top-down style of Link's Awakening, but gives this classic a lovely toybox-style art upgrade, as well a new orchestral soundtrack and quality-of-life changes to Link's inventory.
Hotline Miami Collection
Hotline Miami was only released back in 2012, but as repackaged Switch versions of older games go, this collection is well worth picking up. These extremely violent top-down games recall Nicolas Winding-Refn's 2011 film Drive, with a memorable electro soundtrack.
It's a tough game at first, since you die in Hotline Miami by taking a single hit. The instant resets, though, allow you to quickly plot strategies of how you'll take out whole rooms of enemies with guns, melee weapons and projectiles. On subsequent playthroughs, you go from barely struggling through a level to becoming a John Wick-like demon figure, confidently chaining together kills and leaving levels full of dead goons.
The second game is harder and the levels aren't quite as tightly designed, but the music is even better, and the first game certainly leaves you with a strong appetite for more.
ACA NEOGEO Metal Slug 2
An arcade coin-op classic that’s still incredibly difficult to beat in one sitting, Metal Slug 2 is a nostalgic blast from the past that is a must for any retro gamers. Originally released in 1998 for the Neo-Geo MVS arcade platform, Metal Slug 2’s run-and-gun gameplay is just as iconic as its wonderful 2D art style, which has aged remarkably well. Repackaged as part of the ACA NEOGEO series, Metal Slug 2 comes with online leaderboards and the option to switch between the family-friendly English version or more mature Japanese version. It’s a great game to play with a friend, too, as it’s drop-in and drop-out gameplay make it the perfect couch co-op game.
Diablo 3: Eternal Collection
Diablo 3 had a long, torrid journey on PC before it turned things around with updates and a major expansion, but Switch players got to bypass that drama entirely by receiving a complete version of the game. Port specialists Iron Galaxy Studios translated Blizzard's mega-selling loot-'em-up in perfect fashion. You've now got all the hack-and-slash combat you can ask for in a single handheld game.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
You can play Skyrim on any modern console, but the Switch version is the only way you can take it on the go. On the small screen, it looks roughly the same as we remember it on Xbox 360, and the feat of having a 3D RPG this expansive on a handheld console is impressive in itself. You also get all the expansions thrown in with this version.
Blaster Master Zero
A sublime remake of the classic 1988 NES title, Blaster Master Zero recaptures the magic of the original game with aplomb. It comes with many new additions and improvements, too, such as gorgeous new 8-bit graphics, challenging bosses, and reworked gameplay elements, which makes it comfortingly familiar. Blaster Master Zero also makes clever use of the Nintendo Switch’s ailing HD Rumble feature, as you feel your vehicle tires tear up the terrain in a surprisingly convincing way. All in all, it’s a crackling little retro game that every Nintendo Switch owner should play.
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