Growing up as a Nintendo fanboy, playing RPGs was always a struggle. RPGs weren't exactly plentiful on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, and with limited time on my console during school nights, I had to make the most of my time, and grinding for experience wasn't necessarily how I wanted to unwind after school. In those days, it was nigh impossible to be an RPG fan with just a Nintendo console.
Fast forward a couple of console generations, and the Nintendo Switch has become my go-to console for RPGs and is responsible for reviving my interest in the genre. So how did Nintendo go from an RPG wasteland to one bubbling with one of the most diverse RPG catalogs on the market, with hardly a AAA RPG insight? Thanks to a combination of ports, a focus on smaller, more niche RPGs, and some stellar output from the Big N themselves has positioned the Nintendo Switch as an RPG heavy hitter.
Nintendo levels up
Once upon a time, an RPG on a Nintendo console was as rare as a legit Star Fox sequel, but since those dark days, Nintendo has made a full 180, and its output on the Switch has been nothing short of amazing. Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Paper Mario: Origami King, and Xenoblade 2 are some of the best entries in their respective franchises, while Nintendo made efforts to publish Square Enix's Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age, Octopath Traveler, and the upcoming Bravely Default 2.
While Nintendo has historically received support from its fellow developers in the east, it was often ignored by Western developers, a trend that has changed for the better on the Nintendo Switch. While they didn't deliver new experiences per se, games like Diablo III, Witcher 3, Skyrim, and Outer Worlds saw solid ports that delivered a complete game experience whether you're playing docked and not.
The Switch's portability made these games so accessible to me, as I'm sure others are in the same boat. Sure, the games may not have looked as good as they did on other consoles, but being able to play on the go without sacrificing any of the gameplay helped me sink hours into games I would abandon if I had to play normally.
Smaller games take center stage
While first-party Nintendo titles are almost always worth Switch owners' time and attention, I'd hesitate to call their RPGs AAA titles. That's not a dig at their quality; oftentimes, Nintendo doesn't necessarily blow the budget on high-profile marketing or exceptionally high-end graphics. But not having a huge RPG at the forefront allows a lot of smaller RPGs to breathe and find an audience they wouldn't normally reach.
Many low-budget niche RPGs have their way onto the Switch and into my library. Games I'd normally ignore on other consoles, either because of outdated visuals or a niche publisher, stand out on the system. I never would've played Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana if not for the Switch, and now I'm a fan of the series. The same can be said for games like Disgaea, Rune Factory, or The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. Without a high profile RPG in the way, I found a bounty of smaller RPGs to enjoy. Finally seeing the forest for the trees, in a way.
Remasters, remakes, and ports
Nintendo's first-party output might propel the Nintendo Switch's success, but it's the ports for the console that bolster it. The Switch allowed me to catch up on many of the RPGs I missed during the Wii era, like Ni No Kuni and Tales of Vesperia, while also delivering full-blown remakes like Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. When I tire of the modern conveniences of today's RPGs, There are many old school RPGs to sink into, not to mention almost every modern Final Fantasy game is available.
The Switch became the perfect console for those who may have taken a break from gaming or missed out on certain games because of their console of choice.
Reunited, and it feels so good
Thanks to the Switch, I was able to finally finish Final Fantasy X, a game that alluded me for years, and in the same breath, sink over 270 hours into Xenoblade 2, a feat I probably would've never accomplished if it wasn't for the Switch's portability. I wouldn't have been able to get into Dragon Quest if I couldn't pick away at the story from my bed, putting the system on sleep mode when I was too tired to continue. The Switch is perfectly made for playing RPGs, and there's no doubt about it.
With both Joy-Cons planted against my chest like a Nintendo-branded defibrillator, my love for RPGs sprang to life. Playing an RPG on the Switch feels almost like settling into a good book. There's something so appealing and so comfy about laying on the couch with your Switch and digging into a new RPG, and when Shin Megami Tensai V, Cris Tales, and Bravely Default 2 arrive this year, that's exactly what I'm gonna do.