In 2006, Wii Sports was released alongside the Wii and gaming would never be the same. Suddenly there was an entirely new audience of gamers being introduced to what video games were outside of their hyper violent misconceptions: simple engaging fun for the whole family. Over the Wii's life cycle and well beyond, Wii Sports would be played in hospitals, preschools, grandmas' houses and almost everywhere else, by a more diverse audience than probably any game ever made. Now, Nintendo is trying to recapture that magic with Nintendo Switch Sports in an era that has moved on from the novelty of motion controls, for better and for worse.
Right off the bat, Nintendo has captured what made Wii Sports work from a gameplay standpoint: casual, sport-adjacent fun with simple motion-based controls. There are six sports to choose from, three of which have been featured on either Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort: soccer, volleyball, badminton, tennis, bowling and chambara (a delightful cross between fencing and sumo).
Each sport has multiple configurations to tailor each game to your tastes, and they all make efficient use of the Joy-Con controllers. The controls are largely intuitive and find a lovely balance of activity and accessibility: each sport can be played while seated (with the exception of a soccer minigame) and all but soccer can be played with a single joy-con.
The fun in this game is easier to access than in most games, it's all up front. You can pick it up and put it down without worry. This might seem trivial but there's something so freeing about casual games like this that are becoming less common. Even comparable party style games, such as the new Mario Party Superstars, carry a certain itinerary that hampers the enjoyment. Nintendo Switch Sports is the most plug-and-play, digestible fun you can have on the Nintendo Switch right now.
The era of the Mii seems to have finally come to an end, thankfully. While they’re still available as an option, the character design in Nintendo Switch Sports has joined the 21st century by providing models that are very expressive and realistic instead of stoic eldritch horror. The new models are sleek, stylish and, most importantly, actually look like people. They have a sort of Splatoon meets Degrassi vibe that suits the game’s shopping mall-esque setting wonderfully.
- Simple fun
- Improved character models
- Classic meets innovation
There is one sport that thoroughly annoyed me, for multiple reasons: bowling. This Wii Sports staple should’ve been a slam dunk since it worked so well with the limited hardware of 2006, but is weirdly off the mark in 2022. I don’t think the technology has gotten worse, but the way it’s utilised feels off. Generally, I’m neutral to positive in regards to motion controls, but this particular sport is a good example of why they alienate so much of the potential audience: the ball would jump from frame-to-frame as you wind up, as if the more sophisticated sensor is having a harder time with this general movement than the more directionally based tennis or sword controls, for example. And then there's the release mechanic. Back in ye olde Wii Sports, you held down the trigger button until you wanted to release the ball, which could lead to some funny hijinks if you threw the ball back at the audience or dropped it at your feet (admit it, we’ve all done it), but in Nintendo Switch Sports, all of the humorous reactions from bystanders have been totally sterilised and you have to hold down the trigger throughout your throw. It releases the ball for you which takes away the feeling of control that you had before, best case, and triggers an annoying prompt reminding you to hold down the ZL/ZR button to throw the ball when you release “too early” (even if the ball is already moving down the lane) at worst. It really hurts me to say this, because bowling was the event I was looking forward to revisiting the most with this game, but now it’s the one I play the least. The amount of hassle to enjoyment has increasingly diminishing returns, especially since none of the other sports have these frustrating quirks. I really hope there’s a patch to at least address the temperamental release mechanic down the line, but as it is, I have a hard time having fun with bowling.
The other main problem I have is the music score. It is without a doubt the most boring score I’ve ever heard for a game, so much so that I think no music would’ve been an improvement. It feels like you’re waiting on a hold line for a pharmacy or stuck in a hotel elevator. I know this game doesn’t really need an epic score, but it needed something more substantial than this. Nintendo has some of the best composers in the industry, so for this to be so bland is extra disappointing. It’s not just a subtle score, like Breath of the Wild’s which ebbed and flowed depending on your gameplay; the music here actively sounds like the ambient music that plays in industrial safety videos. For your own enjoyment, play this game with your own music in the background, you won’t miss anything.
- Elevator muzak
Final Score: 8/10
Nintendo Switch Sports is nearly a home run. I probably had more pure fun playing this game than most of the games I’ve reviewed, because it has an in-person social component and physical activity that most games and developers have abandoned. One of the game series my wife and I play together is the Just Dance franchise, and this has the same sort of laugh out loud, high energy fun that most games just don’t have. If you’re looking to get your family interacting more or trying to stay active in this weird new era where going to the gym is more daunting than ever, Nintendo Switch Sports is a game that is reliably enjoyable. I’ll probably keep this in the regular rotation of games I’m playing, it’s very good for when you just want to unwind and not worry about anything. Despite its flaws, Nintendo Switch Sports is a game that pretty much anyone can enjoy.
Thank you for checking out our Nintendo Switch Sports Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: