Friday, September 22, 2023

Nintendo Switch Sports hands-on: Reviving a surefire formula for fun

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It’s hard to believe Wii Sports came out over 15 years ago. But the strangest thing to me is that, despite being one of the most memorable Wii games of all time, Nintendo has never made an actual sequel, until now.

I got a chance to check out Nintendo Switch Sports ahead of its official release on April 29, and I’m so glad it’s back. Just like the original, Switch sports is a collection of virtual sports games that largely rely on motion control. In other words, it’s a game best played standing up, ideally with a bunch of friends or family members.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

Returning from the original are tennis and bowling, which are as fun as ever. And like all other sports, the game supports both online and local play (with up to four players on one TV). And for kids who might not have been there the first time Wii Sports craze, they are a great way to introduce motion controls. But for me the real stars are the four new arrivals: football, volleyball, badminton and chambara.

In volleyball, there are different gestures for things like punch, place and block, and the ability to play full 2v2 matches locally is a surefire formula for instant fun. The gestures felt surprisingly natural once I got the hang of the timing, to the point where I had flashbacks about high school gym class. Don’t forget to use your Joy-Con’s wristbands, because no one wants to see a controller-shaped crack on their big screen TV after trying a spike.

Bowling is one of two games returning from Wii Sports in Nintendo Switch Sports


Football takes a slightly different approach as it relies on controller inputs for now rather than swinging around wildly meaning it plays more like Rocket League than real football. There’s even a headbutt command which is tricky to land, but immensely rewarding when you do.

That said, in shootout mode you can attach a Joy-Con to your favorite kicking limb using Nintendo’s leg strap. The strap is included in the $50 physical version of the game, but is also available separately for $10 if you opt for the $40 digital edition. It’s the same strap that comes with Ring Fit Adventureso if you already have it, you don’t need to buy a new one.

For soccer, you can use Nintendo's leg strap accessory to enable motion controls in shootout mode (and in main game mode later this summer).

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

I found the timing in shootout mode to be the hardest of all the games, but even if I smelled bad, it was still great. And sometime later this summer, Nintendo will release a free update that will add motion-kicking controls to the main soccer mode.

Meanwhile chambara will make all your sword fighting dreams come true. It’s hectic, but still rewards quick responses to defense. You can hold your Joycon vertically, horizontally or diagonally to block incoming attacks, and if you’re successful, you can get a free riposte while your opponent is dazed.

Or you can just do what I did and pretend you Taz van Looney Tunes and try to overwhelm your opponent with a wave of swaying, which, pro tip, doesn’t really work. The goal is to knock your opponent off the platform into the water below, which can only take one or two hits in later rounds. There are even charging and twin sword modes to spice up the action, but I haven’t been able to try those out, which is probably a good thing as the default mode is already frenetic enough.

Badminton in Nintendo Switch Sports is fast paced and frenetic.


Finally, there’s my absolute favorite of the bunch: badminton. It feels twice as fast as tennis, and although I’ve only played one match, it was arguably the most fun workout I’ve had in weeks. Rallies are hectic and if you can get your opponent to change their timing, you’ll be rewarded with a soft lob (indicated by a wobbly birdie) that you can hit back with extra aggression. There’s even a dropshot command, which adds a nice bit of strategy.

For those who are thinking of becoming Switch sports pros, there is an online competitive mode that will help you move up the ranks as you develop your skills. Bowling is also getting a special survival mode where 16 players will play against each other at the same time. And in the fall, Nintendo will release a second free update that will put golf back on the map.

Honestly, Switch sports is so captivating that my only question is why such a thing wasn’t available at the Switch’s launch in 2017. 1-2 Switch was fine, but it often felt more like a tech demo than a collection of board games. And it didn’t really have the replayability or the pick-and-play appeal Wii Sports as long as. But it doesn’t matter, there’s a good sequel coming soon, and from what I’ve played so far, it will be even better than the original.

All products recommended by cafe-madrid have been selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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