Six Nintendo Switch console exclusives have been nominated for gaming’s ultimate prize since the console launched in 2017.
Switch-exclusive Game of the Year nominees & winners
Two Switch launch titles were nominated for Game of the Year at The Game Awards in 2017, marking an impressive return to form for Nintendo following the disappointment of its Wii U console.
2018 was a barren year, but at least one Switch exclusive has been nominated for the award – widely considered the most prestigious in the video games industry – each year since.
This article lists every Switch console exclusive to be nominated for Game of the Year and speculates on potential future nominations.
If you have a Nintendo Switch but don’t own at least one of these launch titles, my official advice is to drop everything you are doing immediately and run to the nearest store to buy one.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Winner)
The Legend of Zelda series is no stranger to an award or two. Breath of the Wild blew away the stiff competition in 2017 from the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn and PUBG, the daddy of all battle royale games, to take the title.
Breath of the Wild is a stunning reinvention of one of gaming’s most iconic franchises.
It simultaneously captures the same magical feel as the original top-down 2D games and expands on the trademark puzzle-solving adventures with an enormous, rich open world.
I accidentally ruined some of it by inadvertently watching some backseating on Twitch just after the game was released, but there is so much to see and do and I am still discovering new things every time I return to Breath of the Wild, half a decade after I first played it.
Breath of the Wild has been nominated for more than 40 awards and has been a huge inspiration to developers since it dropped in 2017. Fenyx Rising has a very similar art style and plenty of crossover on game mechanics, while the influence also shines through on smaller Switch projects like Lil Gator Game.
You’ll drain many a battery charge on this game – good thing, then, that you can play Switch while charging.
Super Mario Odyssey
In any other year, I think Super Mario Odyssey would have been nailed on to win the Game of the Year award and it’s unlucky that a certain elf boy and his princess got in the way in 2017.
Some of my favorite gaming memories are bouncing around Isle Delfino in Super Mario Sunshine. Super Mario 64 and Galaxy are great too, but Odyssey is levels above them all.
Challenging and accessible in equal measure, Odyssey is a joy from start to finish.
The greatest 3D platformer of all time. There, I said it.
It’s totally captivating and was the perfect launch title to demonstrate the innovative tech packed into the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers.
Odyssey did win in the Best Family Game category, contributing to a very successful night all around for Nintendo (Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle also won Best Strategy Game).
2018 is the only year so far that a Switch exclusive has not been nominated for the Game Award’s Game of the Year award.
That’s no great shame in what was a truly rich year for gaming: God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Monster Hunter: World are but a few of the huge releases from 2018.
Super Mario Party got a lot of playtime in my house and was nominated in the Best Family Game category. However, it still lacked in certain areas (most notably the disappointing online multiplayer experience).
Also nominated for Best Family Game in 2018 were Nintendo Labo and Mario Tennis Aces. The latter also scored a nomination for Best Sports/Racing Game.
I would have voted for Tennis Aces – it’s been one of my favorite franchises since Mario Tennis came out on Game Boy Advance in 2001.
The Switch exclusive that I think was most unlucky to miss out on a nomination for the main award in 2018 is the beautiful 2.5D RPG Octopath Traveler.
It received nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Score/Music, and Best Role Playing Game and has since become a cross-platform hit following releases on PC, Stadia (lol), and Xbox.
Switch owners were treated to another feast of exclusives in 2019: Pokemon Sword & Shield, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses were all hits but arguably none hit as hard as that year’s Switch exclusive Game of the Year nominee.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s basic gameplay is pretty much the same as previous iterations – which is definitely a good thing because it’s comfortably the best brawler around.
Each round is pure chaos from start to finish and the best thing about Ultimate is that it remains as accessible as ever to new and inexperienced players while also presenting seasoned pros with a tough challenge.
There is way more content here than I first thought, too, with a lengthy single-player campaign and a metric ton of collectibles to gather and stages to unlock.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate remains the go-to Switch couch coop game for me and my partner.
2020: The year that sucked pretty much unequivocally worldwide. A year that would have been magnitudes worse without some excellent video game releases.
I put more hours into Hades than anything else in 2020 and it was understandably nominated for Game of the Year. As for Switch exclusives, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity was a big hit in our house, as was the following game:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
This game came at the perfect time. It’s what I needed. It’s what everyone needed in 2020.
But, having said that, New Horizons would have been a smash hit whenever it was released. Never has cottagecore aesthetic paradise building been so engrossing and so addictive.
A great cast of villagers, a plethora of design and crafting possibilities plus enjoyable multiplayer modes are but a few of the features that make Animal Crossing: New Horizons so popular.
If you’re new to the series, don’t get put off by the relatively slow start while the island kicks into gear during the first few days. Trust me, it’s worth hanging around.
I’m a big fan of couch co-op so I was as pleased as anyone to see It Takes Two scoop the Game of the Year award in 2021.
It was another decent year for Switch owners, with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, Monster Hunter Rise, and Shin Megami Tensei V hitting the shelves, yet only one Switch exclusive received a Game of the Year nomination.
Metroid is another of Nintendo’s most important franchises, yet it went 11 years without a new home console entry after the critically panned Metroid: Other M almost killed the series in 2010.
(Quick shout out to Metroid: Samus Returns, though, which I really enjoyed on 3DS. It’s a shame you can’t – officially – play 3DS games on Switch.)
Enter Metroid Dread – a revival of a concept originally conceived for the DS and a glorious return to what made Metroid great in the first place.
Dread features some of the smoothest gameplay I’ve ever seen in any game, let alone within the Metroidvania genre. It’s a gorgeous game and it doesn’t take long to get totally immersed.
No surprise that Dread is the best-selling Metroid game ever, given the decade-long drought was ended by such an excellent final product delivered by Nintendo and MercurySteam.
At the time of writing, it seems unlikely that anyone other than Kratos and Atreus will take home the 2022 Game of the Year award (remember Elden Ring, anyone…?).
That’s more a reflection of the success of God of War Ragnarök than a dismissal of everything else that came out in 2022 – plenty more quality dropped on Switch and elsewhere.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
The first two Xenoblade Chronicles games are utterly bizarre and outlandish. The third is the most peculiar (and best) yet.
Xenoblade Chronicles improves on its predecessors on basically all fronts: the combat is significantly better, the open-world environments are more ludicrous than ever and the quests are well-designed and fulfilling.
Even if you struggle sometimes to understand what’s going on in the story (join the club), it’s still easy to appreciate what a fantastic achievement Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 definitely pushes the console to its limits at points (hardly a surprise given that some smartphones are now more powerful than the Switch), but I find these performance issues rarely – if ever – detract from the overall experience.
The digital download weighs in at just under 15GB which is impressively small given the scope of the game, but you still may need to archive or delete other content from your Switch to make space.
The Nintendo Switch might be starting to show its age, but there is plenty of life left in the old dog yet.
2023 is already shaping up to be one of the biggest years yet for Switch exclusives.
The second in the series of Front Mission remakes is due to land in 2023 and, if the finished product is anything like the gameplay videos, this tactical classic will quickly make its way onto my list of casual turn-based games.
There are also new Metroid, Fire Emblem, Pikmin, and Kirby titles in the pipeline – not to mention games like Pokemon Scarlet & Violet and Harvestella which released toward the end of 2022.
All that’s well and good. But, let’s be honest, there’s really only one game that will matter on Switch next year if it lives up to the hype – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
Switch Game of the Year nominees – Summary
To date, the Switch exclusives that have been nominated for Game of the Year at The Game Awards are:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
- Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2019)
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)
- Metroid Dread (2021)
- Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (2022)