I’m holding no reservations about where my loyalties lie this year on Christmas. The PlayStation had a solid first half of 2017 with some fun sleeper hits, but with how the remainder of the year played out, Nintendo is clearly in the driver’s seat heading into the holiday season. It has the hottest gaming console on the market, which is being produced at a record-setting pace, and the two best-reviewed games of the year will forever remain exclusive in its library.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey capped off a very successful year for Nintendo. Both games have set records within their respective series, and they both prove Nintendo can hang in with the strictly home consoles after so many had written off Nintendo as a relic of the past. Evolving relations with third-party publishers, being the apple of every indie developer’s eye, and that all-important feature of portability make the Switch my ideal console.
I can’t recommend anything else, anymore. 2017 was owned by Nintendo, and this Holiday Gift Guide is dedicated to it.
Money is No Object
This is a category I can’t entirely dedicate to Nintendo though since the company has always produced cheap and efficient hardware. Since that is the case, I’ll stick to my annual recommendation of traveling abroad.
Just… get out. Break free from your comfort zone, go somewhere new, interact with humans who come from different cultures or have entirely different belief structures. Experience life through someone else’s eyes, and do so with an open mind. See the world for what it truly is, not for what you already believe it to be.
Never before has this recommendation been so important as the world is sadly turning in on itself. Humans are starting to shun those who disagree with them in unprecedented numbers, and this is a trend that simply can’t continue as our world shrinks. As my mother always tells me… “It takes all kinds of people, Ronald.” You’ll never learn anything by surrounding yourself with people who only affirm your beliefs. Get out, challenge, listen, learn, take what you can, and apply it to your everyday life.
You’ll be a better person for it.
Treat yourself to that dream vacation you’ve always wanted, and just go somewhere.
And luckily, the Nintendo Switch is portable, so you can bring it, Mario, and Link wherever your travels take you.
I’ve already made my case for the Switch in my introduction, so I don’t think it needs to be spelled out again. Nintendo has delivered the hottest console on the market, perfect for pick-up-and-play gaming as well as for that deep AAA experience you get from the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. You get it all in this little console that could.
As a new parent, I also find this perfect if I need to game in a room where my kid is no around. In fact, my Switch is used as a portable device far more often than it is used on my home television.
This holiday season, you can pick up the console itself for $299.99, or you can snag a handy bundle that comes packed with a digital version of Super Mario Odyssey and a carrying case, which I find to be absolutely essential to owning a Switch. I wouldn’t take mine anywhere without protection of some kind.
I have to include both the NES Classic Edition and the SNES Classic Edition in the “Under $250” category because despite their MSRP being under $100… you’re not likely to find either one for that price during the Holiday rush.
I wouldn’t pay over $100 for either of them since Nintendo says it will address their availability issues. However, I would recommend them as perfect presents for the holidays. I got the NES Classic last year, and I had a blast with mine. I’m only hoping that Santa is able to go camping in front of Best Buy at 2AM in the morning again for my sake to land an SNES Classic.
However, with the arrival of my son, these two devices have suddenly become far more valuable to me. Their convenience will allow me to introduce him to the games I played as a kid with far more ease than even the Wii U Virtual Console allowed.
Super Mario Odyssey is a superb video game that falls right in line with the series’ long tradition of delivering top-notch platforming experiences. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is also still one of the console’s premiere titles, and many have praised it for being a masterpiece of modern game design.
I’m more privy to Super Mario Odyssey because I’m not altogether into the kind of open-world “modern game design” that Breath of the Wild delivers. However, it would be wrong of me to deny that it has an audience and that both of these games coming out to such universal praise feels like a cultural milestone for video games in general.
The Nintendo Switch has plenty of full-priced titles that are worth your time, like Arms, Splatoon 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. However, if you can buy only two, look towards Nintendo’s two flagship franchises for the best experiences.
Nintendo’s games aren’t the only reason to buy the Nintendo Switch either. The big AAA publishers are starting to see its potential and are testing the waters, but it is in the indie scene where we see outside forces fully embracing the Switch. Indies help define the console’s strength as a portable machine, and the hours I’ve sunk into several of these games would not have been possible if I was attached to a television or a PC.
If you are on a budget of $50, I would ask that you expand that to $55. This will allow you to pick up the three premiere indie hits.
- Stardew Valley – $15
- Golf Story – $15
- Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove – $25
Those three should be enough to get your Switch indie collection off the ground. If you already own these, other games I can recommend are:
- Kamiko – $5
- Blaster Master Zero – $10
- Volgarr the Viking – $10
- Axiom Verge – $20
As for retro games on the Nintendo Switch, Hamster is the current king of the bunch with a handful of perfectly emulated NeoGeo and SNK classics available for $7.99 each. SNK’s reputation as an outlier of gaming history has changed dramatically since the rise of digital distribution, and Nintendo fans without much knowledge on the company can finally join in on all they have to offer.
At $7.99 each, I recommend the following games:
- Waku Waku 7 – a zany, colorful fighting game from Sunsoft that perfectly encapsulates the 90s
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves – generally regarded as one of the best and most technical fighters of all time
- Blue’s Journey – an awkwardly unique platforming gem
- Metal Slug 3 – the best in SNK’s classic run ‘n’ gun series
All of these should hold you over until Virtual Console comes around later in 2018.
The Switch isn’t without a free option! For the price of nothing, you can download a wonderful demo of the upcoming Square Enix RPG Octopath Traveler. This solid game uses a visually pleasing aesthetic that throws back to the glory days of 16-bit JRPGs, but it applies smart, modern-day mechanics similar to what you might find in games like Etrian Odyssey, Bravely Default, and Persona.
The result looks like it could be a wonderful game designed specifically for those who discovered JRPGs on the Super Nintendo and are desperately looking for that era to catch up to its modern day competition.
Again, the demo is absolutely free and is an amazing way to lose two hours of your life.