We’re all keenly aware that the Nintendo Switch isn’t as powerful as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but that hasn’t stopped it playing host to some incredible conversions throughout 2019. Some of these are ports which, when you really think about it, have absolutely no right whatsoever to be on a console that you can carry around in your rucksack. Developers have worked wonders to condense some of the most spectacular AAA experiences of recent memory onto what is, essentially, a portable gaming platform.
We think these achievements are worthy of praise, so we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 favourite Switch ports of 2019. You’ll find the list below, but we’d also like to hand out some honourable mentions to some of the other amazing ports we’ve seen this year. Downwell, while not technically impressive, plays best on Switch because you can rotate the screen vertically and use it with the Flip Grip accessory. NBA 2K20, despite having some questionable microtransactions, is an impressive technical achievement when you consider you’re getting the same game as your Xbox One and PS4-owning pals, while Return of the Obra Dinn is simply a remarkable video game full stop.
But enough of the also-rans; here are our 10 favourite Switch ports of the past 12 months.
On paper, the concept of taking an arcade machine from 1992 and porting it to a modern-day console might not seem like a big deal, but Virtua Racing is a unique case; created with cutting-edge bespoke hardware in the early ’90s, it laid the foundations for pretty much every 3D racing game since that time, combining sharp visuals with Yu Suzuki’s trademark gameplay. This Switch port improves things by increasing the resolution and offering multiplayer options and is a dream come true for diehard Sega fans and arcade lovers. It’s incredible that we even got this port when you really stop and think about it; the team at M2 has worked wonders here.
Publisher: Skybound Games / Developer: Beamdog
Baldur’s Gate and its sequel are two of the most acclaimed western-made RPGs of all time, and caused a considerable fuss when they were originally released. The fact that such epic, sprawling worlds can be contained on a portable console is nothing short of astounding, and the amount of gameplay on offer here is truly staggering. Sure, neither of these games push the envelope in technical terms, but the fact that they’ve been so perfectly ported to Switch is worthy of merit.
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Square Enix
Switch owners had to wait a little longer for the next entry in the famous Dragon Quest series, but those additional months didn’t matter much when the final product arrived. This is a gorgeous RPG, bursting with content and home to a story which keeps you engaged right to the end. The visuals are stunning, too, and precious little has been lost in the transition to Switch. We also got the definitive edition of the game, making this the perfect way to experience this legendary title; after falling in love with the excellent Dragon Quest releases on the DS, this feels like the ideal way to keep the legend alive.
Publisher: StudioMDHR / Developer: StudioMDHR
One of Microsoft’s big indie exclusives, Cuphead translates incredibly well to the Switch. When playing docked, there’s little difference between this and the Xbox One version – and that’s quite an achievement when you consider how much cool 2D stuff is going on in this title. However, it’s the ability to play on the move – as well as pull off those Joy-Con for two-player sessions on the road – that truly elevate this conversion. Cuphead is proof that some of the best titles in the market can be improved by being on Nintendo’s hybrid console.
Publisher: Microsoft / Developer: Moon Studios
Another Xbox One exclusive on Switch, Ori and the Blind Forest is like a painting in motion; it’s effortlessly one of the most gorgeous platformers on any system, and combines this visual splendour with challenging but accessible game design. It’s also a pretty flawless conversion job, which means you’re not missing out by playing this on Switch compared to the Xbox original. Like Cuphead, Ori feels entirely at home on Nintendo’s hardware.
Publisher: Playful Entertainment Inc. / Developer: Playful Entertainment Inc.
At first glance, Super Lucky’s Tale looks tailor-made for a Nintendo audience, so it’s rather surprising to learn that it began life on the Xbox One. New Super Lucky’s Tale takes the base game and enhances its dramatically, giving us a title that – while perhaps not quite in the same league as Mario’s best 3D adventures – is most definitely worthy of your attention if you’re a fan of the genre.
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Publisher: Ninja Theory / Developer: Ninja Theory
When it was announced that Ninja Theory’s ambitious phycological action title Hellblade was coming to Switch, there were serious doubts that the console was capable of doing it justice. On home consoles, Hellblade is a visual masterpiece, and it’s nothing short of remarkable that it has retained much of that visual fidelity on Nintendo’s system. A truly special technical feat, not to mention one of the most unique games of the past decade.
Publisher: Codemasters / Developer: Feral Interactive
Thanks to its clever visual system which allows you to tinker with graphical settings to get the level of performance that suits you, GRID Autosport is comfortably one of the best ‘serious’ racers on the Switch. All of the previously-available DLC is included, too, making this a serious solid speed-fest for those who prefer real-world cars to cartoon-style karts. Developer Feral Interactive clearly has a special talent for making the Switch hardware truly sing.
Publisher: SEGA / Developer: Creative Assembly
Another amazing port by Feral Interactive, Alien: Isolation takes Creative Assembly’s classic horror title and turns it into a game you can never truly escape from; trying to stay alive while an alien killer stalks you relentlessly is somehow made even more terrifying when you’re playing in portable mode with your headphones on. All of the DLC is bundled in, too, making this a fine conversion of one of the decade’s most nerve-wracking horror games.
Publisher: CD Projekt Red / Developer: CD Projekt Red
It was never really in doubt, right? Rumours that Witcher 3 was coming to Switch were met with derision earlier in the year; how could such a massive, technically demanding RPG possibly be crammed into a portable system? The announcement at E3 sent shockwaves through the industry, but few were prepared for the stunning quality of this port. Granted, concessions have been made to fit Witcher 3 onto Switch, but despite losing some of its visual impact, the game remains brilliantly playable and totally engrossing. Now, can Saber Interactive perform the same trick with Cyberpunk 2077? We can hope, right?
So there you have it, our 10 best Switch ports for 2019. Do you think we made the right call here? Did we get the order all wrong, or did we miss out a game that deserved a place? Tell us what you think with a comment below.