On my brother’s 10th birthday, he wanted only one thing. I was too young to know what a console was; I had no idea what Nintendo was if I’m honest – so the concept of a Nintendo Wii was pretty irrelevant to me. Nonetheless, he was ecstatic as we got to the toy shop, and he got the gift he’d been after for months. So we set up the white box in our living room and chose two games – one of which being Wii Sports.
I’m sure you know how revolutionary this game and the Wii were when released. Implementing motion control for a household console and having controllers that didn’t leave wires draping over the carpet and savage tripping hazards for any blissfully unaware family member was a cultural reset for anything gaming.
I fell in love.
My brother and I played Wii sports almost religiously – and obviously, he was way better than me due to being older and having experience with video games beforehand. But Wii sports was something I could grasp and enjoy even after crying about losing at bowling for the sixth time in a row.
Many gamers are in the same boat when thinking about Wii Sports. It’s fondly referenced in conversation and is always a laugh when pulled out at a party. This is because it was revolutionary when it was released. But you can’t kid yourself into believing that the Wii isn’t outdated.
That’s not to say it isn’t still one of Nintendo’s best co-op games ever to be released. I still love it, and I will always be thankful for all the memories of getting up on a Saturday morning with my brother and watching him master the arts of a smash serve. Or fondly remember my Dad’s thorough coaching on flicking your wrist at the end of a bowl to get a strike. All of it feeds into how I became such a fan of video games, and they’re wholesome memories I probably share similarly with everyone who played them growing up.
So when Nintendo Switch Sports was announced in February 2022, it felt like my brother’s 10th birthday again. I watched the direct with bated breath, feeling like I’d walked into that big toy shop, but now I knew what gaming was.
Nintendo Switch Sports is now available via the Nintendo e-Shop.
How times have changed
I think many gamers were skeptical when we watched the trailer for this game. It’s been anticipated by such a vast audience since the Nintendo Switch was released, so it needed to be done right. With Wii sports holding such a firm place in our hearts, the release of something new that might replace that will need to be top tier even to be considered. We were after something just like the original game’s experience, but it needed to highlight everything positive about the Nintendo Switch and its capabilities. I don’t think any of us knew what we wanted, but we just knew we did.
It’s not you; it’s Mii.
The first thing that stood out to me was the difference in art style. Wii Sports allowed players to use their Miis rather than automatically generated characters, but Nintendo Switch Sports shakes things up. Sure, you can still use your Mii if that’s more your style. But Switch Sports is equipt with character creation as soon as you begin the game. Rather than the 2D appearance of Mii’s, there’s a more rounded and modern approach to characters called “sportsmates.” You can completely personalize your sportsmate to be the best representation of you, then give them a nickname and a title, and you’re good to go.
I love Mii’s. Any fan of Nintendo probably does. They’re hilarious and iconic to the brand – and there’s nothing like the joy of coming across a Mii created under the image of an obscure character. Which you definitely will. I played a volleyball match against a Monty Mole Mii, and yes – it was just as terrifying as you can imagine. But the Switch Sports character creation shows how times have changed and is a gentle reminder that this game is not just a copy of Wii Sports from the moment you start. The new characters are wide-eyed and eager to play – and incredibly expressive during tense matches, which I found particularly charming.
An incentive to exercise
As you progress through the game, you unlock more options to continue to customize your character. So rather than being limited to customizing your character once and never looking at it again, you continue to unlock hairstyles or outfits, or equipment as you earn more points from competing online. THIS is where my competitive side began to come out.
Unlockable rewards come as a set of three cards, each card hosting a handful of prizes and offering a complete outfit upon completion. To unlock a single award, you need to earn one hundred points. To earn points, you need to play games, and the more success you have, the more points you get (you probably know where this is headed now), so I rinsed through this game.
As a somewhat perfectionist, I needed every reward and, in turn, every outfit, but that meant hours of gameplay. I have never felt this eager to engage in any sort of exercise. Suddenly a match of badminton was a life or death deal. Bowling turned into a battle royale, and volleyball became a test of skill unmatched by anything I do in my day-to-day life. It has been hilarious.
An internet sensation
You can enter matches online with two players for tennis, volleyball, and bowling. I’ll preface now, you may end up in several backhanded remarks if said partner hits a ball that you claim would go out of the court, or they miss a spike in volleyball and hand a point to your competition. But if you fight through this tension, you are welcomed into a world of competitive team gaming that I haven’t found so fun in a while. These online games are the only way to unlock the points for cosmetics and rewards, so they will probably be the thing you spend the most time on.
Unlike Wii Sports, you can compete as a team against another random player and put your skills to the test. I adore this feature, and I think Switch Sports would be incredibly repetitive and boring without it. It’s what I found pulls the game together to make it a unique and refreshing experience for literally everyone involved. Of course, you never know who you’ll be paired with, and since ranked matches can’t be played in a team, you never know how hard your skills will be tested.
There’s no voice and no text chat either, so the only way you can communicate with the opposite team is by four stickers of characters showing different emotions. By default, you are given feelings of joy, applause, crying, and a thumbs up. But, if played correctly, you can pull out the competitive nature of any player. In Rocket League, when you miss a shot or are responsible for your team’s own goal, everyone spams you with ‘Nice Shot!’ It sends that guilt and anger and the need to prove yourself in the next match racing through your body?
Spamming the applaud sticker every time the opposing player does something similar is the Nintendo Switch Sports equivalent.
It was moments like this where I felt like sitting back and cracking my knuckles, ready to show the court who’s boss (even though I probably lost the match, which is why I got shamed in this way in the first place.) Don’t get me wrong; I’m a very competitive person in every game I play. But Nintendo Switch Sports is another level. I have no shame in saying it, but I put so much energy into the matches I pulled a muscle on my first day of playing. Did that put me out of business for the next day? NO! Should I have taken this as a sign to chill out and take it easy on the game? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
I adore how competitively people react in this game. Suddenly it’s not just a party game; it’s a trial to see if you’re Olympic-level worthy. Online play was one of the best things Nintendo could’ve added to encourage player interaction, and when I say they’ve done it right. I mean it.
Ready, set, match
Enough about what it feels like to play the game; let’s focus on what makes it so desirable to play and how things have changed since we all picked up Wii Sports.
Nintendo Switch Sports features old classics any player of Wii Sports will remember and introduces several new games. Football, chambara, volleyball, and badminton are all new additions. Of course, there’s still Tennis and bowling, but if you grew up playing these two and need something new – Switch Sports has you covered.
Sword swinging and shuttle sending
Chambara and badminton are single-player games, so it’s just you and your competition fighting it out. These can be played online or locally, and both are equally fun. One of my main concerns with badminton was that it might play the same as tennis since it follows the same concept of hitting the thing over the net and hoping your player misses a shot or hits it out of the court upon return.
But it’s far from being a carbon copy. Sure, it follows the same mechanics, but the Switch has utilized its rumble physics to make badminton feel lighter than tennis. The use of buttons on a single controller can also have you running around the court and making your competition lunge for a skillfully placed drop shot.
As for chambara, this game is not easy in the slightest. It relies heavily on you reading the next move of your competition, which is something I learned I was pretty poor at very quickly. There is a tiny gameplay window, so it’s got your hair standing on edge from the minute a match begins. Once you get into the rhythm of expecting your competition’s next move, you’ll be a chambara champion. I’m currently playing ranked, and the match is ridiculously good. What rank I’m playing at is classified information to protect my pride before you think about asking.
Let’s get ready to rumble.
I cannot emphasize how fantastic the game feels in terms of rumble. Tennis feels heavy, badminton is light, and you know when you’ve been hit in chambara. Of course, you need to hit the shuttlecock with some real beans if you want to make sure it goes over the net (hence why I pulled a muscle, I was swinging my arm so hard it hurt.) But in tennis, a light tap could result in an unexpected point. You can also judge how hard to send a shot by changing how hard you swing, which I think Wii Sports missed entirely.
Directional swinging is also pretty integral. It’s the best way to throw the competition off and go for gold in volleyball. I didn’t pick this up until a few days into playing, and suddenly I felt way more successful. The hints the game gives you during loading screens are pretty helpful; who would’ve thought?
It’s easy to say Nintendo Switch Sports makes the most of motion control and other tracking features the Nintendo Switch is capable of. But, as I mentioned, the Wii was pretty revolutionary for its time. The Switch honors many of these features while making them more up-to-date and appropriate for modern gameplay – encouraging that feeling of childlike glee again.
Spike and Score
Going back to team games, volleyball and football are two more new additions for this release. Football is split into teams of four players and has a Rocket League feel about it. Frankly, it may just have a football feel. It’s never been a game I played or watched growing up, so I can’t speak from any experience in that sense.
For this game, you need both joy-cons. You can play two players, but you’ll need a pair of controllers. If you have Ring Fit, you can use the leg strap to play for a more immersive experience. (And more strenuous as it involves jogging on the spot – blegh.) But holding both controllers works just as well. Football is an exhilarating chase with seven other players trying to score a goal. Except, your characters can hilariously dive halfway across a pitch to steal a ball.
These games require a few more buttons and swings to remember than a game like tennis. But it pays off once you get to grips with the controls. Volleyball is by far my favorite sport. It requires slightly more skill in terms of timing and remembering the pattern of setting up for a spike. Once you’ve got into your groove and you’re paired with some decent competition, these matches can be pretty intense.
I appreciate a challenge, and volleyball requires a lot of gambling your competition moves like chambara. However, getting a perfect run of actions and a spike leading to the destruction of your partner is another refreshing sense of pride Nintendo Switch Sports offers the average joe. (Meaning me. I am the average joe in question, and I like winning.)
My time with Nintendo Switch Sports has been one of the most fun experiences I have had with a co-op game. And frankly, the most fun I’ve had with anything sport-related ever. I adored Wii Sports, but Switch Sports has given us the breath of fresh air we needed. It has everything good about Wii Sports while adding its twist and charm to a new title.
If you are hunting for a new party game to whip out to get everyone excited and involved, I cannot emphasize how much I recommend this game. It’s so fun without needing a heavy story and tense gaming to enjoy. Plus, I’m sure it’ll make some memories you can reflect on in the future as Wii Sports did. How can it not?
Oh, by the way. The slide-on straps are vital if you want to have a TV by the end of your playthrough. Joycon controllers are surprisingly slidey if you’re throwing your arms around. Of course, maybe that’s just me.
See you on the pitch!