The Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s portable (console) hybrid, is one of the most popular video gaming machines on the market. Launched in 2017, the Nintendo Switch quickly became a best seller, and naturally, it has featured a high number of PlayStation 3/ Xbox 360 ports in its gaming catalogue.
Today, we are rating the top five ‘open world’ (sorry, no Tales of Vesperia) Role-Playing games on Nintendo’s handheld, according to our own reviews.
Editor’s note: The List is not based solely on the overall rating of our reviews for each particular game. I used my own preference as the ultimate factor in the placement (as it is an opinion article after all), but I also explained why I felt a particular game deserved a certain spot on the list over another.
5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning – NER Score: 80
Original Release Year: 2012
Nintendo Switch Release Year: 2021
In terms of options within this genre, Kingdoms of Amalur’s remaster (All DLC content has been included) is the Switch’s newest entry in this segment. However, the game remains a 12 year old product, and it shows its age with middle of the pack visuals, an unrefined combat system, and an “open world” that is large in real estate, but limited by walls, and solid boundaries.
Apart from that, of all of the games listed here, Kingdoms of Amalur might be the most accessible. By this, I mean that anyone, regardless of experience as a role-player, can pick it up and find quick and rewarding experiences within the many side quests that are openly available early in the game.
Character progression is fairly streamlined, and it is not necessary to delve deep into the game’s smithing and crafting systems in order to equip your avatar with powerful weapons. Weapons, and all types of armor, are widely available throughout the game’s world by way of loot (from enemies defeated), shops, chests, and secret treasure spots.
Kingdoms of Amalur has a decent storyline that is complemented by quests in which the player is encouraged to make impactful choices, and a deeper than expected lore. Unlike, the other games on this list, Amalur is not spectacular in any one area, instead, it is a well rounded high fantasy adventure.
If long (60-80 hours) adventures with plenty of monsters to kill and loot to find are your thing, you can’t go wrong with Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.
4. Dark Souls: Remastered – NER Score: 9.0
Original Release Year: 2011
Nintendo Switch Release Year: 2018
Dark Souls is an open world game. Not in a conventional manner, as there no huge sprawling plains for you to ride a horse as the wind smashes your character’s face while you contemplate the game world’s beauty.
Instead, Dark Souls’ world is open because it allows players to tackle it in whatever manner they see fit. In fact, exploration is hugely encouraged by the game’s flawless level design. The only limitation that will keep you from fully exploring this world (Lordran) from the get go, is your skill level.
Prepare to die time after time, and time again, in order to get a little bit stronger (and better), so that you can die all over again. It is a vicious cycle, but it is incredibly satisfying, and therefore, addictive.
However, this is not a game for the mainstream masses. Even some hardcore gamers (RPG gamers and otherwise) will find the game’s pace to be too slow, its world to be too “empty”, and the game’s difficulty to be too jarring to keep pushing beyond the first few hours.
For those who (masochistically) stick with this adventure, an incredible journey awaits. Dark Souls’ incredibly intricate, and interconnected world is the type of interactive puzzle that only a Japanese mind could have conceived.
Many times, I spent hours on end battling my way through large, and hellish areas that appeared to be a considerable distance away from an area that I had explored hours before. The realization that all that time I was being guided (by the designers) to a pathway that quickly led me back to said earlier area, always brought a smile to my face.
Combat, and the clever use of bonfires are Dark Souls’ driving force, but I would argue that its near flawless (truly, on par with The Legend of Zelda) world design is what impresses the most.
Unlike Kingdoms of Amalur, I found Dark Souls to be a richer experience visually, despite being the slightly older game. The game’s artwork, and monster design is fantastic, truly, a one of a kind experience.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – NER Score: 9.5
Original Release Year: 2015
Nintendo Switch Release Year: 2019
Let’s get this out of the way: The Witcher 3 could very well be the best Action-RPG on the Switch right now. It is a miracle port, and I still wonder how Saber Interactive managed to fit this game within the limited Nintendo Switch Hardware.
However, as amazing as this game was on my PS4 play-through (and now is on Xbox One X at 60fps), the tremendous visual hit that it takes in its translation to the Switch hardware makes it a less appealing experience than the home console versions, and the other two games topping this list.
Quite simply, Skyrim features the more vertical (and seemly endless) world to explore, and Breath of the Wild offers a larger more varied journey (in terms of gameplay) from beginning to end. Both of these games also look better in the portable device, as they are basically a generation behind The Witcher 3 in terms of visuals, and the Switch does a better job in matching and even exceeding the original experience in one (Skyrim) of them.
The Witcher 3, however, has both former games beaten in terms of storytelling, and the overall experience of the main quest line (at this point I can’t even remember Skyrim’s main quest line). This is the closest that video games have gotten to the Game of Thrones (in setting, violence, sex, and engrossing storyline) experience.
The Witcher 3, on the Switch, offers a large 100 plus hour quest (all of the paid DLC is here), full of great characters, difficult fights, and incredible world building.
If story is of upmost importance to you, then hands down, The Witcher 3 is a must buy, and possibly the best (RPG) game on the system right now. I just happen to find the other two to be more engrossing experiences.
I must stress – again – that the console version (even base PS4, and Xbox One) is vastly superior to the Switch’s port, and at this point a much cheaper one. Unless portability is a must for you, stick with those versions, instead.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – NER Score: 10
Original Release Year: 2017
Nintendo Switch Release Year: 2017
Out of all the games featured here, perhaps, Breath of the Wild is the one that is most fit for the Switch (as a portable platform). This is due to the fact that it is the only title that isn’t a third party port (even though it remains a Wii U port of sorts), and it seems that during part of its development the actual Switch hardware was taken into consideration.
Unlike the other games on this list, Nintendo crafted BotW with stylized cel-shaded visuals, though some of the world’s texture work, and water rendering looks fairly modern. This particular style makes BotW look quite impressive on the Switch’s little screen, but at 900p it also looks extremely sharp when hooked up to a TV (as opposed to the Witcher 3 which looks terrible in docked mode).
With Skyward Sword, Nintendo ran into a wall, as Zelda’s 3-D formula (which hadn’t changed much from Ocarina of Time’s days) was beginning to grow stale. Nintendo was forced to take a strong look at Skyrim, and other western open world games (and perhaps even Dark Souls who had also taken a few pages from Zelda itself), and crafted its own masterpiece, while adding its own wrinkles to the “open world” formula.
Breath of the Wild is gigantic, beautiful, challenging, and as ‘open’ a game can get. For all intents and purposes, you can literally walk to the last boss (Ganon) right at the start of the game. It will take an inordinate amount of skill, and strategy just to get to him, but you can try it (and maybe even succeed) if you go for it. Like Dark Souls (and Skyrim) before it, you can tackle the game world in any way that you see fit.
Unlike previous Zeldas, where quests were mostly linear affairs, and key sections of their worlds were blocked off to keep you away from them until the proper line of steps had been performed, Breath of the Wild is truly open.
While themed dungeons were ditched (this is the only sensible complaint against the game), the Shrine system allows for greater exploration, and a higher degree of challenge. Since these shrines (over 100) are of optional nature, Nintendo had no qualms about designing some of the toughest (by far) puzzles that the series has ever featured. The developers were freed from the shackles of trying to tone down the difficulty to accommodate younger (and less skilled) audiences.
Fishing, snowboarding, bike riding (yes, bike riding), sky gliding, boat Sailing, and more, is now possible as Breath of the Wild’s world is not only huge (and full of possibilities), but also powered by an amazing physics engine that factors into traversal and puzzle solving.
Thin on story (even if you search for all of the memories), Breath of the Wild falters in storytelling when compared to every other game on this list, but it beats them all (save for Dark Souls maybe) in terms of gameplay. This latest Zelda entry is a must own for any Nintendo Switch owner.
1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Metascore: 90
Original Release Year: 2011
Nintendo Switch Release Year: 2017
I know what you are thinking, “This idiot has lost all of his credibility in this list. He rated Skyrim with an ‘overall’ lower score than he did other games, but rated it as the number one game.” If you are in this camp, then you are right, partially.
I did score Skyrim lower, but it was the PS4 (not the Switch’s) Remastered version that I reviewed, and my biggest complaint was that the remaster had minimal graphical improvements, and the 30fps frame-rate cap showed that Bethesda had made little – to no effort – in ‘remastering’ this game for last generation platforms.
On Switch, however, I have to say that I was (and remain) quite impressed. Portably, it looks just as good as the Xbox 360 version did, but it runs (mostly) without a hitch.
Skyrim was made for portable play. This is a game you can easily boot up (from sleep mode) and play 10-20 minutes at lunch break, or anywhere really. Within that span of time much can be accomplished, as smaller grottoes and caves could be cleared with relative ease.
You could, just as well, bring down a towering dragon within the span of a few minutes (depending on your level, equipment, etc). The Switch and Skyrim are a match made in heaven, in my opinion.
Skyrim is, along with The Witcher 3, the highest selling (over 30 million units) single player RPG of the last decade (and maybe all time). Skyrim features a gigantic world full of mountain ranges, impossibly deep caves and ruins, underwater mysteries, uncountable side quests, and never ending appeal.
The main reason why I rated this game on top of this list, is that while I logged in about 90 hours of Dark Souls (finished all of the DLC), 110 of the Witcher 3, and 150 of BotW. No game, however, has ever come close to the time that I have spent (and continue to spend nearly 10 years later) on Skyrim (over 500 hours). This is a game that I keep coming back to, and it keeps on giving joy back, even without mods (The Switch version has none).
If you are one of the two people left in this world that hasn’t played Skyrim yet, I am jelaous. Truly, this is a 10/10 game on the Switch for new comers, and an 8-9/10 game for 500+ hour veterans coming into it from other platforms. As a man who has bought Skyrim 5 times ( I think that was my last count), I fully endorse another purchase on the Switch if you haven’t bought it already.
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