Platform: Nintendo Switch
Price: $39.99 / £30.99 (digital) or $49.99 / £39.99 (physical, with leg strap)
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Nintendo Switch Sports faces a daunting challenge. The original Wii Sports changed the face of gaming in 2006, reaching swathes of society that had never before engaged with the medium. The Wii's flagship title crossed into the mainstream in a way that few other games ever have. Oh, and it sold some 82 million copies, to boot.
However, as popular as it may be, Nintendo Switch Sports won't have the same impact. The world has moved on, and motion-controlled, arcade-style sports games are no longer the most exciting thing since sliced bread.
They're still fantastically good fun, however, and Nintendo Switch Sports still deserves to sell by the truckload. It may not change the world, but it will sure make a lot of Nintendo Switch owners very happy. It's also an easy inclusion in any best Nintendo Switch games list.
I spent four days putting the game through its paces, with some help from my 12-year-old daughters, and enjoyed almost every minute of it. Find out why in my full Nintendo Switch Sports review.
Nintendo Switch Sports review: Price and availability
Nintendo Switch Sports released on April 29 and costs $39.99 / £30.99 for the digital edition. The physical version, which includes a leg strap, is $49.99 / £39.99. You can also buy the leg strap on its own for $9.99 / £8.99.
That might sound like quite a lot, given that Nintendo Switch Sports only features six mini-games at launch. But the replay factor is high and Nintendo will add a seventh game (golf) this fall.
Just bear in mind that most sports require one half of a pair of Joy-Cons, rather than a Pro Controller. If more than two people want to play locally, you'll need a second set of Joy-Cons. A couple of games (soccer and one mode in chambara) also require dual Joy-Cons, so you could wind up needing even more sets.
Nintendo Switch Sports review: Gameplay
Nintendo Switch Sports is a bold reinvention of the party-sports genre, adding RPG and ultra-realistic sim elements into… no, of course not. The game plays almost exactly as you'd expect it to, which is essentially, "Wii Sports with bells on."
In the unlikely event you've never played Wii Sports (maybe you're under the age of 10), here's a primer: There are six mini-games, and each one represents a simplified take on a real sport. Tennis, bowling, soccer, volleyball, badminton and chambara (sword fighting) are all available at launch; golf will follow in a free update.
Each game is motion-controlled, meaning you hit the ball/shuttlecock/your opponent by wildly waving about one, or in some cases two, Joy-Con(s). Get the timing right, and you'll connect sweetly; get it wrong, and you'll look a fool.
The timing is especially important here, because the Switch's Joy-Cons have more advanced motion-tracking technology than Wiimotes did. There's no sensor bar glued to the top of the TV, of course, as Joy-Cons instead use a gyroscope and an accelerometer to map your stroke to the onscreen action.
I can't say for sure whether the Joy-Cons are more accurate, but I certainly felt like I had more control over each shot. My avatar seemed to genuinely recreate even minor movements. The smaller size of the Joy-Con also helps. You can almost forget you're holding anything as you slash and swipe.
While the increased accuracy is welcome, of course, it would be meaningless if Nintendo Switch Sports' mini-games didn't offer enough fun and variety to keep you coming back. Fortunately, they do.
Nintendo Switch Sports review: The sports
Six games isn't a lot to offer at launch, but the good news is that four of them are superb. The other two will doubtless have plenty of fans, too. None is an absolute stinker.
Tennis and bowling will be familiar to Wii Sports fans and haven't changed much, gameplay-wise. Tennis is a purely doubles-based affair. You can team up with another human, locally or online, or control both characters yourself. It's about as simple as gaming gets, as your player moves into position automatically, and your only task is to time your swing. But games zip along swiftly and the thrill of winning a long rally is undiminished 16 years after it first won us over.
Bowling is even more fun, even though it's much the same as it ever was. (If it ain't broke, and all that.) Here you have a little more control, with the ability to move sideways, change the angle of delivery and even put spin on the ball. There's also a new obstacle course mode which increases the difficulty level considerably. But chances are, you'll come back to the standard mode time and time again.
As you'd expect, badminton plays similarly to tennis. It's a one-on-one game that requires you to do little more than swipe your arm around at just the right moment to send the shuttlecock back over the net. You can also play drop shots with a trigger-press.
I found badminton to be the least interesting of the six sports, mainly because it's slower than tennis and volleyball without offering anything particularly novel to keep you coming back. Then again, that speed reduction makes it all the more forgiving for novice players. My kids both rated it among their favorites.
Volleyball, meanwhile, can tend towards the prescriptive, with the game even telling you when to spike and block. But there's more variety in the gameplay, and a welcome sense of unpredictability as the ball whizzes about. Trust me, timing a block just right, then setting up your teammate for a cross-court smash feels great.
It's also one of the best mini-games for multiplayer action. Like tennis, volleyball offers the chance to go two-on-two, but here, you're both equally involved. My kids and I had great fun with this one.
Chambara — the name is a nod to a Japanese genre of sword-fighting films — resembles Wii Sports' boxing in gameplay, as you alternately block and thrust your way to victory atop a small platform suspended over water.
The mini-game also owes a debt to rock paper scissors (hear me out), with the objective being to anticipate your opponent's move and do the opposite. So, if they're attacking vertically, you block horizontally; if they come at you diagonally, you block so as to form a cross from the other direction. Block successfully, and your opponent will be momentarily stunned, giving you a chance to attack and knock them back towards a watery failure.
There are three modes here, including one that lets you wield both Joy-Cons, and it's tremendously enjoyable from start to finish. One game against my daughter got so heated that the dog thought we were really fighting and starting barking, while another bout ended with her striking me in the (real) stomach. Maybe leave a little distance between yourselves (and stay away from the TV, too).
Soccer is the most novel of the six games, but also the least successful. There's a distinct sense of Rocket League to it, as you kick or head a gargantuan ball towards a goal that spans almost one entire end of the pitch. FIFA fans are unlikely to be hooked by the realism.
It's not designed to be a simulation, of course. But to succeed as a fun party game, soccer would need to be much faster. The ball wafts around like a sad balloon, and the whole thing feels a little sluggish. Worse still, only two players can play locally at a time, so it's not a true party game, anyway.
The leg strap, into which you slot one Joy-Con, also feels like an unnecessary gimmick, as you can use it only in a "spot kick" mode. An update will apparently bring it to the full game later, and that might make the leg strap feel a little more worthwhile. But right now, I'd probably buy the digital edition and do without.
Golf should also be a great addition when it arrives later this year (it was always my second-favorite in the original Wii Sports, after bowling). While I'd have preferred another couple of selections, there's just enough variety that you never feel stuck for options.
Nintendo Switch Sports: Online multiplayer
If the six sports on offer represent only a minor upgrade over the five in Wii Sports (let alone the 12 in Wii Sports Resort), online gameplay is where Nintendo Switch Sports really earns its corn.
We've had online gameplay in a Wii Sports title before: Wii Sports Club on the Wii U offered multiplayer versions of all five games from the original entry in the series. But the Switch is a very different beast from the Wii U, not least because people actually own one. It was vital that Nintendo get online multiplayer right right.
And it has — and then some. Online play is easy to access, slick and robust in use, and adds a massive amount to the overall package.
All six games are available online, and matchmaking happens pretty quickly. A wait of about 20 seconds the longest I experienced. Nor is there any lag when playing — you wouldn't know this wasn't just local play. There's also a refreshing lack of the usual online staples of abuse, such as trolling and rage-quitting. You can indicate your emotions via cutesy emojis, but there's no chat and no way to contact other gamers.
Some of the sports fare better in online mode than others. Bowling, for instance, is superb, with 16 players competing simultaneously in a series of battle-royale-style eliminators. Volleyball also benefits from online play. You can team up with another player either locally or online, to take on one or two others. I played a thrilling game with one daughter that went to a tie-break, and ended with her teeing me up for a spike, which I hammered over the net — only to see it blocked, and returned back into an empty court. Can't win 'em all.
Tennis also has two-on-two options online, but in badminton and chambara, you're limited to one player against an online foe. Two players can team up locally for online soccer contests, but only if you have two sets of Joy-Cons.
Each online game earns you points that you can redeem for various customization items, from beanie hats and earrings, to emoji stamps and new monikers for your character. A Pro Mode is also available after you complete 10 games in a given sport. This is a league system, from E up to A, that matches you against similarly skilled opponents.
In short, Switch Sports has everything you'd hope for in an online version of a Wii Sports title, and my daughters and I spent more time playing against others online than we did competing against each other at home.
Also read: Nintendo Switch Sports has recently revealed a worrying trend.
Nintendo Switch Sports review: Visuals and sound
Nintendo has done a great job with Switch Sports' visuals, albeit without straying too far from the template established in Wii Sports. There are enough changes to freshen it up, though, with the new "Sportsmates" avatars chief among them. These are somehow more cartoony than your standard Switch Mii, and you can accessorize them with the items that you earn online. You can also compete as your Mii, but this feels strangely out of place — not least because few other people do so.
The action all takes place within the fictional Spocco Square, which is set up as an Olympic park-style sports complex. Each sport has its own distinct arena, and all of these are crisply rendered and atmospheric. Competitive action, meanwhile, is replete with attractive slow-motion replays and characterful animations when you win or lose a point.
To really get the best from Nintendo Switch Sports, you'll need to play it on a TV. While single-player mode is available in tabletop mode, local multiplayer works only in docked mode. Plus, the game is not really designed for small-screen play. Even when playing on the Nintendo Switch OLED, the action is just too zoomed-out for you to really see what's going on.
The aptly perky music, meanwhile, is mostly unobtrusive. But the in-game sound is fantastic, from the squeak of sneakers on the volleyball court, to the satisfying thwack as your racket connects with a shuttlecock. Close your eyes, and it could almost be the Olympics.
Nintendo Switch Sports review: Verdict
On paper, Nintendo Switch Sports looks like a slightly underwhelming entry in the Wii Sports canon. After all, a roster of six mini-games isn't exactly generous — particularly since two of them are not hugely different from the versions we all played 16 years ago, and that badminton is essentially tennis with a different shaped projectile.
Fortunately, Nintendo Switch Sports isn't played on paper, and a few minutes with th game will be enough to leave you hooked all over again. That's partially due to the increased accuracy of the Joy-Cons, which make the experience (slightly) more sim-like, even if it still tries hard to look anything but. It's partially due to the excellent online offering that gives you many, many more people to play against. It's also partially due to the overall slickness of the product, from its sound to its graphics to its interface.
But mostly it's because Wii Sports was such a great idea in the first place. To win here, all Nintendo really had to do was to spruce it up a little and make it playable on one of the bestselling consoles of all time. Playing motion-controlled, arcade-style sports games against friends and family will never not be fun — and now, you can do so against strangers, too.
Ultimately, Nintendo Switch Sports succeeds precisely because Nintendo hasn't messed with a winning formula. It worked 16 years ago and there's really no reason why it shouldn't do so again.