Best RPG games for Nintendo Switch iMore 2021
Role-playing games deliver a different experience than many other games you can expect to find on Nintendo Switch. Instead of a game that revels in violence, you're put into the world of a character and expected to fulfill an epic quest of one kind or another. Whether this means roving the wilds chasing down dragons, finding the story behind eight different travelers, or bringing a farm back to its former glory, the best RPGs for Nintendo Switch gives you some great options. Out of all of them, Fire Emblem: Three Houses delivers the best experience by embodying the mix of strategy and story that makes the genre so compelling.
- Best overall: Fire Emblem: Three Houses for Nintendo Switch
- Best for beginners: Pokémon Let's Go, Eevee!
- Best for beginners: Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu!
- Best JRPG: Octopath Traveler (Nintendo Switch)
- Best open world: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for Nintendo Switch
- Best platformer: Child of Light & Valiant Hearts
- Best farm sim: Stardew Valley (Nintendo Switch)
- Best remastered: Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age
- Best DLC: Pokémon Sword for Nintendo Switch
- Best DLC: Pokémon Shield for Nintendo Switch
Best overall: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The long-running Fire Emblem series is better than ever in its first iteration on the Nintendo Switch. However, it features a new setting, characters, and plot, so you don't have to worry about playing any previous games. You'll play as a mercenary recruited to teach in an academy for military officers, guiding a class of students in battle to try to keep the peace between three kingdoms.
This is a massive game, and the story changes based on which of the three houses you join and what choices you make. If you want to get to know all the characters and experience the multiple endings, you're going to have to complete the game multiple times, and a single playthrough can take 80 hours. If that's not enough, there's also an Expansion Pass that adds on costumes and a fourth house.
Much of the game is driven by intense tactical combats where you'll need to position your forces on a grid with a keen awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the classes you're fielding. Between fights, you'll have conversations with various characters that will build your relationships and change the story. No matter what you love about RPGs, Fire Emblem: Three Houses will deliver.
- Huge replayability
- Complex tactics
- DLC offers even more gameplay
- Memorable characters
- Combats can be very tough
Best for beginners: Pokemon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Eevee!
Returning to the Kanto region to capture Pokemon has never been as much fun as it is with Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! Finally, we get a bigger screen filled with green grass or rock paths filled with various Pokemon just waiting for you to capture them. Since Kanto was the first region many Pokémon players ever experienced, this game is a nostalgia trip that will appeal to old fans and new alike.
Catching Pokémon in these games is similar to that of Pokémon Go. You also don't ever have to wonder whether a certain type of Pokémon is nearby since to capture them, you'll trigger the combat by walking into them on screen. This means you can avoid the pokemon you don't want to capture or trigger bonuses by capturing several of the same species in a row. When you chain together a combo of captures, you can also get rarer pokemon to spawn or snag candies that will help you boost the stats of the Pokémon you already own.
Unlike previous games, it's very clear that you aren't alone in this journey from the onset. When you are playing Let's Go, Pikachu! and Eevee!, your sidekicks have their own strengths and personality to aid you in your travels. They react to the things you do and are seriously powerful beasties in adorable pastel colors. If you do a good job training your little buddy, they can easily mow through just about anything thrown at them, including teams of other Pokémon, along with learning fierce new moves for battle.
- Awesome graphics
- Adorable sidekick of Eevee or Pikachu
- Excellent gameplay mechanics
- Turn-based battles become monotonous
- Capturing erratic Pokémon can be quite difficult due to controls
Best JRPG: Octopath Traveler
Eight very different people come together for an epic quest across the world. Each one has its own skills, personality, and goals, but they've come together somehow. It doesn't matter why they're working together, only that you're willing to help them succeed at the tasks that drive them. Eight characters, eight stories; this is Octopath Traveller.
In many ways, JRPG games have lost the popularity that they once held with American gamers. Octopath Traveller attempts to recapture the magic of games like Chrono Trigger with retro graphics, a cute story, and time-based combat systems. While they aren't entirely successful due to a disjointed story, there is a certain charm in Octopath Traveller that will speak to many longtime RPG fans. A lot of this is simply due to the graphics and sound design, which work well together to invoke a sense of nostalgia, making it feel like you've played the game in the past, even when it is brand new.
Each of the eight characters has its own narrative that brings them to life. You'll play out joy, tragedy, betrayal, and victory alike as you game through the stories of a pious cleric, a murderous dancer, an idealistic trader, and more. Combat is a significant part of gameplay, and it's a mixture of older time-based mechanics and newer tweaks that add to the gameplay to keep it from feeling stale. You'll want to capitalize on enemies' weaknesses and think strategically to win out in battles, especially since you'll be stuck waiting for your action gauge to refill itself.
- Fun combat system
- Great character design
- Awesome throwback look and feel
- Story seems disjointed
- Grinding becomes necessary in late game
Best open world: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim was originally released way back in 2011 to third-gen consoles; since then, it's gotten several different updates that brought it to current-gen systems. Those updates and tweaks mean that one of the best open-world RPGs ever to be released is available on Nintendo Switch, and it looks better than ever before. Aside from some small issues with frame rate drops, it's easy to fall into a world that includes icy peaks, green forests, big cities, and small towns alike. It's also a truly massive game with hundreds of hours of content that includes optional dungeons, side quests, main quests, and even quests specific to certain professions, like being a thief or an assassin.
Additionally, there are tons of awesome customization options. The game is exactly what you make of it. This starts at character creation, where you decide exactly what you want to look like, and it continues from there. Weapons, armor, clothing, sidekicks...all of it is up to you. Later in the game, you'll even acquire houses that can be decorated, and if you choose, you can take a partner or have kids. Everything comes together to deliver a world that feels alive and open to any possibility you stumble across.
- Hundreds of hours of gameplay
- Tons of different quest lines
- Great customization options
- Gameplay is still buggy
- Occasional frame rate drops are frustrating
- Combat can be hard to get the hang of
Best platformer: Child of Light
Child of Light is the story of Princess Aurora, who dies and awakens in the misty gray land of Lemuria. All she truly wants to do is to return home to her grieving father but to do that, she will have to complete a quest. She must track down the sun, moon, and stars, all stolen out of the sky by the wicked Queen of the Night. Child of Light feels like an old-school JRPG while taking advantage of newer graphics and mechanics to deliver an experience any RPG fan can fall in love with.
The art style of Child of Light is particularly compelling. It's a 2D world hand-painted in whirls of gray and blue that make Aurora, with her red hair, pop against the background. Similarly, the audio design is fantastic, with a score that draws you into the world and involves you in the emotional story.
Child of Light uses a time-based battle system that takes some getting used to in our world of real-time fights, but it doesn't take too long. You'll be able to attack, defend, or use magic and be strategic when you do. After all, you won't be able to do anything as you wait for the action gauge to refill. As you level up, you can make these gauges fill faster by opting for specific spells or abilities that boost both Aurora and the allies she meets along her journey.
- Gorgeous graphics
- Great story
- Awesome JRPG gameplay mechanics
- Puzzles can be tricky
- Spells and monsters lack variety
Best farm sim: Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a simple story: your grandfather has left you a farm in the town of Stardew Valley. Upon arrival, the farm has seen better days with an overgrown field and ruins. In fact, the entire town seems to be in a bit of a slump, but with some help, it can return to being an excellent place to live and work.
The main gameplay of Stardew Valley is about bringing your farm back to its glory days. You can plant a variety of different plants for each season (except for winter), as well as taking advantage of foraging, mining, and fishing. As you play, you'll meet many other people in town, go to town events, and maybe even fall in love.
Starting requires clearing away rocks, stumps, trees, and grass so that you have room to plant your crops. Once you've got that handled, you're able to explore the town, discovering places to fish, people to befriend, an old community center filled with sprites, and even a cave to be explored.
The choices you make affect gameplay directly. Depending on your choice, your farm will grow and change. Gameplay emphasizes choice in how you manage your farm, and it uses simple graphics to do it. By collecting wood and stone, you can build expansions to your house, along with a barn and chicken coops. You can raise animals, plant different crops each season, and even create an orchard of fruit trees. The decisions are all yours to make.
- Cute graphics
- Tons of options for how you manage your farm
- Fun story
- Gameplay can become repetitive
- Planning is required
Best remastered: Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age
There are plenty of awesome remastered games that have hit Nintendo Switch, and if you're a fan of the Final Fantasy series, this is one you definitely don't want to miss. The story revolves around a group of unlikely heroes thrust into the middle of a political war when the gigantic Archadian Empire conquers the small country of Dalmasca.
Originally a PS2 release, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age has gotten a pretty significant update to the graphics. You won't notice nearly as many hard edges as most remasters have, although the graphics suffer a bit in handheld mode, which is a bummer. A major update adds the ability to speed up gameplay to 4x or 8x speeds, making it easier to roam through the world, which is welcome considering how slow movement seemed previously.
The combat system is also solid, and it uses a combination of real-time and ATB gauges. When wandering the world, you'll be able to see enemies and decide whether you want to engage with them or avoid them at all costs. You also only control one member of your party in combat, using predetermined gambits to tell other party members how to react in the heat of battle. Each character also gets access to two license boards that allow you to customize their progression to build characters with the specific skills you want them to acquire.
- Awesome graphics
- Interesting story
- New ability to speed up gameplay
- Graphics suffer in handheld mode
- Combat takes some getting used to
Best DLC: Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield
Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield released on November 19, 2019, bringing players to the new Galar region. The game features new Pokémon, a wild area to explore, and the Dynamax phenomenon, making Pokémon grow to a stupendous size. It's one of the best Nintendo Switch games out there.
The adventure didn't stop with the base games. The Pokémon Expansion Pass added two new locations: the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra. These brought 200 more Pokémon to the game, making it even more challenging to find and catch them all. You'll also test your skills against other trainers and even a new rival.
If your friends also love Pokémon, you can team up with them in the Crown Tundra with a new co-op Dynamax Adventures mode. You'll explore caverns using borrowed Pokémon and work together to try to catch a Legendary Pokémon. With so much content available, these games will keep you busy until the next Pokémon title releases.
- Huge number of Pokémon to catch
- New region to explore
- Addition of the Dynamax phenomenon
- DLC costs an extra $30
- Some elements require Nintendo Switch Online membership
Role-playing games allow you to inhabit a world that is completely different from the life you live. This might mean farming or adventuring, and Nintendo Switch offers various games that can get just about any gamer excited to play. We think the absolute best experience is Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a reminder of why the Fire Emblem series is beloved by RPG fans. It's got tough combats that make you really think about how each of your units attacks and moves, and a mistake could change the course of a battle. Similarly, you also have to watch your words since conversations with your allies will affect your relationships and which of the game's multiple endings you earn. With huge replayability, this is a game that will prove well worth the price tag.
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