Nintendo Switch Sports Review: Slightly hollow, but mostly fun

Played On: Nintendo Switch (Original)

Difficulty: N/A

Nintendo has finally brought the beloved Nintendo Sports franchise back for Switch with Nintendo Switch Sports and it’s exactly the kind of vamped up nostalgia fans will easily enjoy.

Wii Sports remains of Nintendo’s most iconic modern games for the impact it had on the Wii’s success and gaming becoming more mainstream. Although its sequel Wii Sports: Resort was an ambitious leap forward in terms of the variety of sports it offered, the follow-up entry Wii Sports Club felt like a step backwards with the gimmicky Wii U innovations and Nintendo hasn’t really tried to recapture that magic since, until now. Switch Sports might not have the robust catalogue of sports for players to dive into at launch like Wii Sports: Resort did, but the ones it does offer are both nostalgic and new.

Switch Sports comes equipped with six sports in total, three returning and three new, for players to dive into. Fans can once again enjoy playing bowling, tennis, and chambara, which is sword-fighting from Wii Sports: Resort, as well as check out new sports like soccer, volleyball, and badminton. Eventually with an upcoming free update, fans will be able to take swings on the golf course again, but what Switch Sports offers at the start is enough to make the wait bearable.

Chambara has players duke it out in 1v1 sword fights. PHOTO: IGN

As if there was any doubt, bowling is still the GOAT of this franchise. With the stronger movement capabilities of the Joy-Con, players can put a greater spin on the ball and there are different modes that let players test their skills. Along with a standard game of bowling in local mode, there is an obstacle mode that challenges players by adding in a variety of obstacles and changing the shape of the lane. There are three different difficulty modes players can choose from and they actually provide a pretty fun challenge in how they test your ability to move the ball.

With each sport, players can also go online to compete against players across the globe and bowling has a unique mode that’s kind of like bowling battle royale. The online mode basically divides every three frames into a round and sees a group of up to 16 bowlers try to outscore each other. The lowest scorers are knocked out and the goal is to keep your score up so that you can continue into each round and eventually be crowned the winner. The online mode for bowling is a great variation that creates a fun competitive atmosphere and makes you more determined to get strikes and spares to keep your score up. It’s incredibly consistent fun that truly tests your bowling skills and is the best place for Switch Sports’ online ranking and leveling to flourish.

Like the original Wii Sports, each sport comes with its own pro ranking system where players can improve their grade by playing better and better play also leads to greater rewards. By playing each game and making certain accomplishments like performing well or winning, players will earn experience points that can be used towards earning cosmetic items once they fully complete a player level. The range of cosmetic items that can be earned is pretty great as there are constant updates to new items players can choose from and earning new cosmetics happens often enough to keep playing. While it’s always fun to play as a Mii, Switch Sports’ own character designs feel like Mii 2.0s in the right way and have great, very versatile designs. Also, the designs of little in-game emotes and titles are awesome and add to the strong customization that Switch Sports offers.

Bowling’s online mode is the battle royale everyone can get in on and is incredibly competitive. PHOTO: Polygon

The only issue with the leveling and ranking progress is that local play doesn’t count towards it. For the ranking system it’s understandable, but not being able to earn points towards cosmetics in local play is a real bummer and there’s really no progression system within local mode at all meaning that there’s very little incentive to play unless you’re willing to check out some variation modes or play with friends. Local mode can be a good way to practice some of the sports, but tutorials are actually built into online as well so there’s no real reason to play local modes without friends.

Honestly though, there really isn’t much for players to find in local mode outside of bowling since the other sports don’t get much variation outside of difficulty. Soccer probably gets the most outside of bowling since there are 1v1 and 4v4 modes as well as a practice mode where you can test your skills on an open field and a shootout mode that utilizes the leg strap accessory, which is surprisingly comfortable. For chambara there are different sword variations that players can use fight, including dual-wielding twin swords, and it’s nice that players can pick what sword version they want to use regardless of what their opponent picks.

Outside of difficulty options though, there are no mode variations for tennis, volleyball, or badminton. It’s a shame that there isn’t a target attack mode for games like tennis or soccer or more arcade style minigames to at least expand on what these games offer. It’s honestly a bummer that there’s not even a 100-pin bowling mode since it’s a beloved staple of the franchise. Nintendo really should’ve put more effort into offering more for local play and expanding the game modes just for the sake of having more replayability and variety in the experience. Online mode is super fun and addictingly competitive, but that fun can only last for so long and an expanded local mode could’ve been a great way to extend the lifespan of Switch Sports. Thankfully though, the use of the Joy-Con in Switch Sports keeps you engaged enough to stick around as Switch Sports is just so much damn fun to play.

Volleyball features a great gameplay flow that constantly keeps you in the action. PHOTO: CNN

Volleyball was surprisingly a total blast to play because of how simplistic the movement is and how it puts you in every position smoothly. You and partner transition perfectly to the front and back of the court and the gameplay flow is very dynamic and engaging. Tennis is just as fun and intense as it was in the past and badminton is equally fun with the wider range of swing movement you can have with the Joy-Con. Soccer also utilizes the Joy-Con well with the directional movement of kicks being fluid and pulling off a hard-hitting header is super satisfying and is a great defensive move. Honestly, Nintendo did a great job with Soccer as it perfectly takes inspiration from Rocket League in its execution and utilizes the Joy-Con’s capabilities the best. Chambara is the most interesting though with the depth it has with its gameplay as it utilizes different swords, varying swinging direction, and versatile blocking to make for intense dueling and strong gameplay variety.

Nintendo could’ve and should’ve gone more all-out for Switch Sports but makes up for its lack of content and missed opportunities with local mode with an addictive online mode and engaging gameplay that ultimately makes Switch Sports both a nostalgic return to form and a solid step forward.


Watch the Trailer Here:

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