Nintendo Switch Sports Review: a simple, formulaic celebration of nostalgia – and one of the funniest games of the year

Let’s not mince our words. Wii sports is one of the best and most important games of all time. Sure, over time it’s become a poster child for “waggle,” a type of motion control that often makes it feel like your movements don’t really matter as long as you shake the controller – but for a few years there, In the mid 2000s, this was the little game that could.

In addition, it decided. There was a reason people were over-the-top tossing their controllers through their expensive new 720p flat-screen TVs so often, that Nintendo had to invent silly little flak vests for the Wii Remote – it was addicting. People got so used to it that they moved their bodies a lot more than they needed to, and then the grip loosened slightly and… whoops!

However, fatigue quickly built up. There was a veritable cavalcade of junk aimed at siphoning off this huge Wii Sports audience; So we’ve got hoots like Wii Play and Wii Party, 2K’s Carnival games, and a whole lot more. Then the actual successor, Wii Sports Resort, pulled a classic Nintendo move and required a silly, expensive accessory to play with. That’s what killed this game for me; Wii Sports was the best multiplayer and there’s no way I would buy four of those things. A trip to the Wii U is as forgotten as the Wii U itself.

But time has passed. Those missteps feel far in the rearview mirror, and I now feel a great deal of nostalgia for Wii Sports. I realize how good it was. I’ve been hungry for another for a while. It feels like just the right time has passed for a sequel. And so here we are – with Nintendo Switch Sports.

Of course, this nostalgia also means that the pressure is increasing. The Switch is a very different system to the Wii, but it has what it takes. The Joy-Cons are every bit as good at motion control as the Wii Remote — they’re easy to forget considering you’ll be using them as more traditional controllers most of the time. That’s important, because control has always been the most important thing that makes Wii Sports good and fun. That’s the headline here: it works. I love it.

it’s brilliant It’s not a revelation, but it will probably be one of my favorite games of the year nonetheless.

In a way, Switch Sports feels like it was designed by robots. The sports selection, for example, has an almost algorithmic quality – a little bit old, a little bit new and a little bit modified; a carefully curated selection of sports that will appeal to both Wii veterans and those for whom the Switch is their first console. It feels very safe – which some might criticize – but I feel like it’s exactly what this sequel needed to be. It stays on track.

Two sports return from the original Wii Sports (tennis and bowling), one returns from Wii Sports Resort (sword fighting, depicted here as chambara, a Japanese word typically used to describe samurai movies), and three brand new sports. As more sports are added via DLC, I’d say the core starter pack really has everything you could want.

The content works, mainly because the method of control is as satisfactory today as it was then. The Joy-Cons are as good as the Wii Remote, although for sports with finer motor control like swordplay it feels like they need to be calibrated a little more often than a “MotionPlus” remote. This is a mild pain, but calibration can be done without pausing even during gameplay, so it’s pretty easy to forgive. The most important thing is that the illusion of these games is intact.

Games are always fog and mirrors, but the execution of the illusion is what made Wii Sports truly great and what sets it apart from many of its later imitators. Although the movements you perform are only basic approximations of reality, they basically are feel legitimate and natural. Some sports have more sophistication than others – bowling, for example, where spin is applied surprisingly realistically (and I know it as a former league bowler) – but ultimately it always feels right, making play exciting and believable for kids and adults alike does like.

To a certain extent, the games split into categories that are larger than their actual sports. Bowling is about pretty subtle movements in your moves, but tennis is more about speed and timing. Badminton and volleyball seem to lean more heavily on rhythm, while sword fighting is all about reading your opponent and making moves that match in a system that’s basically like a casual-friendly version of Zelda Skyward Sword’s combat. Football is the most abstract of the group – more on that in a moment.


Anyway, all of this is to say that the magic is still intact. This magic is why people smashed their TVs and punched holes in the walls because of the game; You’d get so addicted to tennis that you’d stumble to stretch to reach the ball for a desperate lob throw—even though you don’t have to move your feet. In bowling, you can use the full-blown movements of a throw to add the desired spin to the ball. All of that is still present here, even in the brand new sports.

However, football will probably be the most talked about sport and will likely form a really competitive community online. And here’s why: It’s basically Rocket League. I hadn’t really made that connection just by looking at the footage, but the 2v2 format in a walled arena where jumping is as important as shots on target is very reminiscent of that game. It’s Rocket League… without the cars! It sounds lame when you put it that way, but it’s anything but. It’s a lot of fun – and actually quite fast-paced and exciting, like Rocket League.

It’s also the most traditional controls of the group, with player movements handled using the analog stick. Kicks and ridiculous all-in headers are executed with movement. I can see this is very popular and competitive online. On top of that, Ring Fit Adventure’s leg strap lets you throw some serious kicks – which is fun, but admittedly a bit of a gimmick. Kids will love it, however, and physical versions of the game come with a leg strap.


Last but not least, the new trio’s game that probably has the most of that over-the-top, jump-promoting energy is volleyball. It consists of a handful of movements; Flip the ball up for your teammate, jump and spike the ball to score, and jump up to block. You don’t actually have to jump – you could play this while seated if you wanted to, just by making whatever hand motions you want – but you’ll inevitably get in and find your feet off the ground. Because of the way you can tip your teammate in this sport, I think it will be the new four-player king – much more engaging and team-oriented than tennis doubles.

This feeling, which is exemplified in volleyball, carries these games. I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s that X factor – that magic. That’s the sort of thing Nintendo is exceptional at. The design of each of these sports inspires a subtly larger-than-life exposure to disbelief – and that’s what kicks in the door to feeling competitive in these goofy, simple little mini-games. Other changes are downright smart, like doing away with Miis for equally caricatured, much better-looking avatar characters (you can still import a Mii to be converted) – but what drives this game, what seals the deal, is that nebulous feeling . Nintendo has once again brought this to the point.


When I looked at Nintendo Switch Sports, I said the biggest compliment I could give the game is that I immediately understood how it would fit into my life. After experiencing the last game both in local multiplayer and online, this impression has reinforced. This is a rare game that my partner will ask to play with me for a round or two just because. It will be an integral part of multiplayer when we have guests. We’ve booked a summer vacation with friends – and that will inevitably be played a lot as we join ARMS and Smash Bros in this rotation. This is a strong society.

When Nintendo gets these types of lifestyle event games right, they always hit the spot. Sometimes the accuracy of MotionPlus is missed. You can see how Nintendo could have done more new things and incorporated more brand new stuff. And yet…Nintendo Switch Sports is pretty much what I wanted it to be. I can see it was going to be one of my all time favorite games of the year. That’s the magic of Nintendo. Nintendo Switch Sports Review: a simple, formulaic celebration of nostalgia – and one of the funniest games of the year

Fry Electronics Team

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