Nintendo Switch 2018 Report Card: A Solid Sophomore Effort

The Nintendo Switch set the gaming world on fire when it debuted in early 2017, breaking all kinds of sales records and earning tons of critical praise thanks to its unique hybrid design and a pair of stellar exclusives in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

So, how did Nintendo carry that momentum into 2018? Fairly well, actually. While the Switch's 2018 exclusive lineup took a while to heat up, the system became an indie games powerhouse, gained an all-new online service and served up the best Smash Bros. and Pokemon titles we've gotten in years.

From games to services, here's how the Nintendo Switch stacked up in 2018.

What's Changed

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On the hardware and software side of things, the Nintendo Switch remained largely unchanged in 2018. The biggest new capability Nintendo's system received was cloud saves, which launched alongside the company's Nintendo Switch Online service in September (more on that later). The system could get a new model with an improved display in 2019, but for now, the Switch that hit shelves in 2017 is the same Switch you can buy now.

The Switch also got an official YouTube app in November, bringing the number of entertainment apps on Nintendo's console to a whopping two (the only other option is Hulu). While the Switch's overall user experience didn't need much fixing, it would have been nice to see some more options for folks who want to do more than play games on it.

Grade: C+

Games: A Slow But Strong Burn

In terms of sheer quantity, 2018 was a fantastic year for Switch games. But while Nintendo released a ton of notable exclusives, none of them quite reached the genre-defining tentpole status of last year's Breath of the Wild.

Games such as Kirby: Star Allies, Mario Tennis Aces and Super Mario Party all delighted in their own ways, while Octopath Traveler tugged at the heartstrings of nostalgic JRPG fans. But Nintendo's lineup didn't really heat up until the end of the year.

November's Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eeeve delivered a charming and streamlined reimagining of the original Pokemon titles, while December's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate gave us the definitive version of Nintendo's all-star fighting game. With more than 70 fighters, 100-plus stages, varied modes and oodles of fan service, Ultimate is arguably the system's best exclusive since Zelda.

Credit: Matt Makes Games

(Image credit: Matt Makes Games)

Perhaps even more important, 2018 was the year the Switch became the definitive place to play indie games. Titles such as Celeste, The Messenger, Dead Cells, Undertale and Hollow Knight headlined a year of phenomenal Switch indies — some of these debuted on Nintendo's system, while others were long-awaited ports that finally let us play these fantastic titles on the go.

MORE: The Best Nintendo Switch Accessories So Far

The Switch wasn't too shabby on the third-party AAA front either, gaining ports of popular blockbusters such as Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Diablo III, Dark Souls: Remastered and Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Grade: A-

Services: Nintendo's Premium Online Debut

Nintendo finally jumped into the world of paid online with Nintendo Switch Online, a $20-per- year service that's required for online multiplayer in most titles and also grants access to cloud saves, special offers and a growing library of NES games.

In its current state, the service leaves a bit to be desired. The Nintendo Switch Online app that's required for voice chat is incredibly cumbersome, and there's still no way to send messages to friends or send them a game invite via the console. And while it's great that the Switch finally has cloud- save support, it's a bummer that the feature is locked behind a paywall (the Xbox One saves to the cloud regardless of whether you're a paid subscriber or not).

MORE: Nintendo Switch Online Review: Here's What $20 Gets You

The Nintendo Entertainment System - Nintendo Switch Online app (yes, that's the full name) is off to a solid start, providing access to a Netflix-style library of 20-plus NES classics such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong. The service has received new titles such as Metroid and Ninja Gaiden every month since launch, though we would like to see Nintendo eventually fold in titles from other consoles such as the SNES and N64.

Grade: B-

Bottom Line

The Nintendo Switch had an impressively sound sophomore year, delivering a high volume of fun exclusives and a boatload of incredible indies — even if none of those games set the world on fire quite like Breath of the Wild did in 2017.

Nintendo Switch Online could still use a bit of fleshing out, as could the system's paltry selection of non-gaming apps. But the Switch delivered where it mattered most by playing host to tons of great games that you can play anywhere, and by ending the year on a bang with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it seems poised to go into 2019 with plenty of momentum.

Overall Grade: B+

Credit: Nintendo

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.