“Nintendo Switch Sports”: An imperfect but gratifying sequel


Matthew Kim

“Nintendo Switch Sports” does the hard job of modernizing one of the most beloved games in history through a continued focus on intuitive yet energizing gameplay.

Crafting a decent follow-up to one of the most successful, nostalgic and iconic video games of all time is no small feat. Few games are more successful, nostalgic or iconic than “Wii Sports,” and “Nintendo Switch Sports,” released last Friday, April 29, has big shoes to fill. Over a decade after the initial game’s release, “Nintendo Switch Sports” aims to capture the same qualities that made “Wii Sports” so great. Everything, from the game’s menu theme to its design cues, is designed to evoke the memory of the original and its ability to connect countless people over digital sports. While “Nintendo Switch Sports” lacks the groundbreaking inventiveness of its predecessor, it retains its ability to bring people together over simple yet invigorating matches, and it’s a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest titles in video game history.

“Nintendo Switch Sports” features six games at launch, three of which — bowling, tennis and a sword-fighting game named chambara — also appear in “Wii Sports.” Bowling and tennis are nearly identical to their original versions, maintaining many of the elements that made them so fun. Rolling virtual bowling balls and smashing virtual tennis balls is just as gratifying: In-game movements are natural and intuitive, making for enjoyable and simple gameplay. Chambara, reminiscent of Swordplay from Wii Sports Resort, is also a hit. Its strategic but simple controls make it a great challenge.

The new sports — volleyball, badminton and soccer — are slightly more variable in quality, even though they are generally exciting and easy to understand. Unlike the original sports, many new games feature somewhat-steep learning curves. Volleyball is hampered by an oddly complex set of movements that are easy to forget in-game while soccer (which feels like a replica of the vehicle-soccer game “Rocket League”) suffers from counterintuitive kicking controls and slow movement that make the ball difficult to control. (I’d stay away from the physical version of “Nintendo Switch Sports”: The extra cost for a gimmicky leg strap to play the soccer minigame just isn’t worth it.) However, once these games’ controls are nailed down, rounds become significantly more enjoyable. The true winner of the three games is badminton, a game as immediately intuitive as it is challenging and energizing: Like the sport itself, timing is everything, and the rapid, back-and-forth pace keeps players on their feet.

Unlike Wii Sports, the game also features multiple methods of play. The game highlights online functionality, which pairs players up with friends or other random gamers. Playing games online is an enjoyable addition, especially with the inclusion of a ranked tournament mode. Unfortunately, the online modes require a paid subscription, advertised throughout the game to a sometimes irritating extent.

An offline party mode, which allows multiple players to game on the same Switch console in-person, is also available. Despite the game’s new online features, the game is still played best in a group. Trying out a few of the games with friends made my matches infinitely more dynamic, and even the most repetitive games became interesting. There’s nothing like gathering around a TV, flailing your arms wildly and yelling at friends. Any complaint I can muster — slow gameplay, unnecessary complexity, a lack of creativity — feels negated by the fact that, in parties, “Nintendo Switch Sports” is some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my Switch.

Although “Nintendo Switch Sports” is far from groundbreaking, it maintains much of what worked about “Wii Sports,” and it’s better for it. Its simplicity makes it highly accessible, even if the learning curve for some games is slightly steeper. While the novelty of the Wii’s motion controls is gone, it’s made up for by the game’s new offerings and design, and it’s guaranteed to evoke unreasonable amounts of frustration and joy. If you have any childhood nostalgia for “Wii Sports,” “Nintendo Switch Sports” is certain to evoke its predecessor’s magic.