From the return of a cult favorite Mario series and some exceptional indie action, 2020 has been a great year for Switch owners.
One game, however, became a legitimate social phenomenon – this is our pick for the best Nintendo console exclusive* of 2020.
Winner: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Not only was it exactly the kind of game everyone needed at the onset of an isolating pandemic, Animal Crossing: New Horizons took the laid back and comfortable town building simulator to the next degree with a level of customization unlike any that had come before it. New Horizons allowed players to shape their island getaway down to every last square inch, whether you wanted a bustling town filled with hand-crafted roads and parks, or a laid back island paradise full of waterfalls and bamboo forests.
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The new crafting and customization system let players not only decorate their dream house, but also welcome new villager friends to perfectly placed homes with as dazzling a front yard as you could dream up. And even though time spent at the airport will never not be a hassle, New Horizons’ ability to accommodate groups of players made for the perfect showcase of your hard work of making the perfect island community.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons was also the winner of IGN’s People’s Choice pick for the best Nintendo console exclusive! For more, check out our full Animal Crossing review here!
Below you’ll find our other favorite Nintendo console exclusives of 2020.
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Watch the video or click through the gallery above, or scroll down for the full list!
Supergiant Games has outdone itself with Hades, a roguelike with so much depth, heart, and incredible combat we haven’t been able to stop playing since it came to the Switch. The studio’s first foray into the genre, Supergiant has managed to find clever ways to make every run through the Underworld matter, as players take on the role of Hades’ son Zagreus hoping to escape Hell.
The expertly written and acted ensemble cast adds loads of personality to the world, offering new, sprawling personal quests and developments that players can take at their own pace. Sure, progress is made in unlocking new weapons, discovering new power-ups, and, yes, escaping Hell, but Hades makes new personality tidbits, evolutions in relationships, and even chances to upgrade Zagreus’ home feel just as meaningful. It’s a brilliant combination of Supergiant’s storytelling prowess, knack for snappy combat with loads of customizeable depth, and beautiful artistry in the look, sound, and feel of each of its new worlds with the studio’s best game yet.
For more, check out our full Hades review here!
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
The musuo genre has always been somewhat niche, but the latest Nintendo-infused entries from Koei Tecmo have only gotten better. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity might be the first game in the Warriors series that really appeals to the mainstream – mostly because of its obvious Breath of the Wild tie-in. What initially appeared to be a holdover for eager fans until Breath of the Wild 2 turned out to be a fantastic game that stands on its own, while celebrating the game that came before it (or after it technically, in lore).
Serving as a prequel to Breath of the Wild allowed us to experience more of Hyrule before the calamity. The roster contains many iconic characters including the four Champions: Zora, Daruk, Urbosa, and Revali. Every playable character has a unique set of abilities that genuinely feel different from one another, allowing for plenty of replayability across dozens of missions. While the gameplay is primarily your usual hacking-and-slashing that the genre is known for, it’s infused so perfectly with parts of Breath of the Wild such as the Sheikah Slate and cooking that it truly feels like a proper entry, rather than a spinoff.
For more, check out our full Hyrule Warriors AoC review here!
Paper Mario: The Origami King
As longtime fans of the Paper Mario franchise, it’s easy to write off any sequel since The Thousand-Year Door as a betrayal of what made the series’ first two entries so great. And, yes, The Origami King is not the ultimate return to form franchise fans may have wanted, but it is a journey well worth taking, with surprisingly touching character moments, hilarious writing, an inventive battle system, and a Legend of Zelda’s worth of fun puzzles to complete. In fact, this Paper Mario outing owes much of its success because of the clear inspiration it pulls from that other Nintendo stalwart series – the Zelda-fication of the world is used to craft some truly challenging and fun dungeon design. And it always finds clever uses for the many characters Mario meets along the way – we don’t think we’d ever have said before this a Bob-omb could make us cry, but here we are. That’s not even mentioning the unique combat system, that turns turn-based battles into geometric puzzles to solve as you race against the clock. It’s fresh, unique, and even if it’s not the Paper Mario we had hoped for before playing, it is absolutely one we’re so glad we got to play.
For more, check out our full Origami King review here!
Pikmin 3 Deluxe
The original Pikmin 3 may have debuted on the Wii U, but it truly gets the chance to shine it always deserved with Pikmin 3 Deluxe. Since most missions are relatively short, being able to play in bed or on-the-go make this the definitive version of Pikmin to-date. The different areas you’ll explore on planet PNF-404 are rich and detailed and teeming with life.
The core mechanic of managing multiple squads of Pikmin to solve puzzles before nightfall somehow toes the line perfectly between relaxing and stressful. Nintendo added a short prequel story and new side missions to this Deluxe version as well as introducing a Badge system that gives the player-specific challenges to tackle, giving you plenty more to do even after the main campaign is over.
For more, check out our full Pikmin 3 Deluxe review here!
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There are plenty of other awards beyond just the best Switch games! Check out all our platform, genre, and design winners – and, of course, our picks for this year’s GotY – below!
Best Games by Platform
Best Games by Genre
Game Development and Craft Awards
Be sure to check out all of our other Game of the Year award winners, as well as our picks for the best movies, TV shows, comics, and anime of 2020!
*note that this category represents our choices for the best games exclusively on each console platform – while Hades is also available on PC, it is a Switch console exclusive.