The Switch Lite steals great Nintendo Party games from us
In the mid-2000s, I played a lot of WarioWare: smooth movements. The Nintendo Wii game was the best local multiplayer experience on the scene at the time. Whether I was catching up with friends at home or playing the occasional game at a college night, it was a social staple for at least two years. This was in large part thanks to his heavy use of the Wiimote’s motion controls, which turned gaming sessions into a slapstick comedy routine. I have fond memories of a room full of friends playing hot potato on a Wiimote, frantically trying to complete mini-games in seconds.
When Nintendo first unveiled the Nintendo Switch, I thought we were going back to that time. While the Wii U’s dual-screen setup was too conceptual for casual board games, the Joy-Cons had a lot of potential. The gyro controls and infrared sensors seemed ripe for a slew of wild board games, which would be perfect given the console’s portability. In the early Switch trailers, we saw “Karen” take her to a rooftop party and hand out Joy-Cons to her friends. I really wanted this absurd scene to happen.
But more than four years later, the Switch is still lacking when it comes to must-have board games. For my part, I blame the Switch Lite for this.
To move back
Look back at the first two years of Nintendo Switch in the market and it’s clear that the unique features of the Joy-Cons have been a major part of Nintendo’s strategy. The console launched with 1-2 Switch, a mediocre (but indeed absurd) board game that took full advantage of the controllers. This is one of the few games to actually use IR sensors, which were quickly phased out. Nintendo followed up over the next year with games like ARMS and Super mario party, which has a strong emphasis on multiplayer motion play.
The console quickly hit a turning point in 2019. This was the year Nintendo released the Switch Lite, a cheaper model designed as a handheld console only. The Lite cannot connect to a TV, but more importantly, its Joy-Cons cannot be detached. If you’re playing on one, you can’t use the motion controls at all, making some older titles unplayable on it.
Since then, Switch’s library has been much lighter on games that take advantage of Joy-Cons technology. Big hitters like Animal crossing: new horizons and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity don’t use any of its gadgets, which makes them particularly user-friendly no matter what version of the console you have. Same The Legend of Zelda: Sky Sword has been revamped for its HD remaster, adding a motionless option to the game with mixed results. It’s a necessary change, but one that has forced Nintendo to go back on one of the console’s defining gadgets.
Kill the party
This philosophical turnaround has taken its toll when it comes to the genre of board games. The console is sorely lacking in this area, which is far from the heyday of the Wii. It is most noticeable when you play WarioWare: unite! – who trades Fluid movementsintuitive movement for a weak character swap gimmick that only requires one button and a joystick. This makes the game playable on Switch Lite, but undermines all of the absurd multiplayer charm of its better predecessors.
The next Mario Party Superstars takes a similar approach, abandoning Super mario partyrelies entirely on Joy-con’s silliness. Nintendo’s list for the game goes so far as to deliberately point out the lack of motion controls: system. “
Motion controls have always been a polarizing experience with varying degrees of success. Their forced implementation in some Wii games made them frustrating, but they were great for board games. In particular, the minigame collections have had a day in the field finding creative ways for players to wave around a Wiimote. There is a unique joy in a room full of people laughing together as they make fun of each other.
Currently, the Switch lacks this experience and it is a real missed opportunity. While 1-2 Switch isn’t a very good game, it showed the potential of the console as a party platform. I had a blast playing with a room full of chuckling friends as they slammed Joy-Cons against their chests like a gorilla. By comparison, my recent multiplayer session with WarioWare: unite! was a much more tame experience. We sat on the buttons on the sofa until we were bored. While 1-2 Switch maybe a worse game, I will remember the joy of playing it much more vividly.
It’s hard to say that more Switch games should make better use of Joy-Cons, as there are a lot of positives to Nintendo deprioritizing their functionality. As long as the Switch Lite is around, no one should miss a game just because they chose to buy a more affordable model. Motion controls can also limit who can actually play games, presenting accessibility challenges. It is important to be selective with special controls and to offer alternatives for those who do not want to engage with them (as is the case in games like Mario Golf: Super Rush).
Still, I find myself missing the best part of the Wiimote era. I desperately want to be Karen, pull out my Switch at a party, and load up a collection of absurd mini-games. I want to see my friends fidget as they pass Joy-Cons back and forth. I just wish Nintendo were as involved as I was with the weird Joy-Cons quirks.