Nintendo Switch Sports was released last week, and by most accounts, it's a fun party game. Just like its predecessors on the Wii and Wii U, it offers an accessible pick-up-and-play experience that is particularly appealing to more casual players.
While I’m pretty pleased to see the beloved series return — especially as it’s a title my gaming-agnostic partner has shown some interest in — it’s yet another example of a problem that is becoming increasingly common with Nintendo titles: a serious lack of content.
Of course, games light on content aren’t in any way exclusive to Nintendo — just about every publisher is guilty of releasing them on occasion — but Nintendo is making a concerning habit of releasing titles that can be fully experienced in little more than a weekend. And this trend has got me pretty worried about the future of Nintendo games.
Nintendo Switch Sports is seriously sparse
At launch, Nintendo Switch Sports offers six sports: Tennis, bowling, sword fighting, soccer, volleyball and badminton. That’s a relatively trim selection of mini-games for a full-priced $50 release (albeit one that comes with a leg-strap).
Granted, this is one more event than the original Wii Sports offered, but that game was packed in with every Wii console in the U.S. and Europe. It was essentially a freebie designed to showcase the potential of the system’s motion controls.
Nintendo Switch Sports’ current amount of content looks particularly stingy when compared to 2009’s Wii Sports Resort, which included a dozen options. This list was further augmented by several sports having alternative play modes that really shook up the formula.
Granted, Switch Sports does include an obstacle-course version of bowling, three slight variations on chambara sword-fighting and a soccer mode called spot-kick that makes use of the Joy-Con leg strap included with physical copies of the game, but compared to its direct predecessor it offers significantly less content out of the box.
Nintendo Switch Sports does at least offer the series' most robust online suite to date. However, you’re still playing the same six sports, even if you're doing so against players from around the world. Online play adds novelty, not to mention more challenging opponents to face than your family members, but it’s hardly a groundbreaking inclusion that excuses the game’s small selection of core events.
Nintendo is making a habit of this
Switch Sports is far from an isolated case when it comes to Nintendo Switch games that are lacking in significant content. In fact, it’s starting to become a worrying trend with the company's first-party exclusives.
Last year’s Mario Golf Super Rush is another great example. While the core gameplay was pretty engaging, not to mention highly polished, there simply wasn’t enough content at launch. The game offered a mere six courses, no customization options and there wasn’t even an online tournament function. Not to mention the single-player story mode could be completed in around four hours.
Another Nintendo sports title that suffered from a lack of content was Mario Tennis Aces, which had pretty much all the same problems as its golfing counterpart. These two games have me pretty worried about how much content Mario Strikers Battle League will launch with this summer.
In fact, a recent Japanese trailer (opens in new tab) for the upcoming Mario soccer game has confirmed the game will have just 10 playable characters at launch. This is a fairly small roster when you consider matches are 4v4, and would certainly suggest Battle League will be yet another Mario sports game lacking in the content department.
It’s not just Nintendo sports games suffering from this problem, either. Splatoon 2 received similar criticism at launch in 2017, and so did Super Mario Party when it was released in 2018 — although, its sequel, Mario Party Superstars, enjoyed a warmer reception on that front.
Release now, patch later
During the last two console generations, Nintendo received a lot of well-deserved praise for consistently releasing feature-complete games that didn’t really require post-launch patches as they were highly polished from day one.
This approach stood in stark contrast to that of many other game publishers, who seemed content to release games in poor states, safe in the knowledge that they could be patched into a more acceptable condition down the road.
Unfortunately, Nintendo now seems to have reverted to a similar strategy with some of its games. During the Switch’s lifecycle, as noted above, multiple half-baked games have been released, with the promise of improvements coming later via post-launch updates — the only difference being that these updates have added content rather than fixed bugs.
For example, it’s already been announced that Nintendo Switch Sports will grow its roster of sports. Golf is confirmed to be launching this fall, and a summer update will allow the leg-strap to be used in regular soccer matches (it’s currently exclusive to the aforementioned shoot-out mode).
This is welcome news, but I can’t help but wonder why the game wasn't released with these already included. If that meant the release date needed to be shifted several months, then so be it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, after all.
Nintendo also took a similar approach with Mario Golf Super Rush: in the months after launch, three new courses were added to the game. These free updates were appreciated, but I’d argue they didn’t do anything but get the game into the shape it should have been at release. It's already looking like history will repeat itself with Nintendo Switch Sports.
Nintendo still has plenty of full-featured games
It’s important to note that games such as Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Golf Rush are arguably the exceptions, not the rule. Over the past five years, Nintendo has released plenty of feature-rich games that have become some of my favorite gaming experiences of all time.
Nobody was marking down The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey for not offering enough content. In fact, both games will keep completionists busy for dozens of hours. Similarly, recent Switch titles like Metroid Dread, Pokemon Legends: Arceus and Kirby and the Forgotten Land could not be considered anything but full-featured at launch.
I do, however, find it disappointing that Nintendo doesn’t seem to take the same approach when it comes to other titles in its stable. I also fear that players accepting a lack of content in smaller games could eventually see the issue bleed into flagship titles like Breath of the Wild 2 or the next mainline Mario entry, which would really suck.
Even if that fear ultimately proves to be unfounded, it's still disappointing that titles like Nintendo Switch Sports aren't reaching their full potential at launch. Ultimately, no game should require post-launch patches in order to feel like a complete product.