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Your Guide to Vacation Gaming

Here are The Switch must-plays that best suit the travel season.

vacation gaming guide
Illustration by Maddy Aykens

Gaming can be as divisive as any other form of entertainment. For years, I have researched and engaged with the world of gaming, so take this meticulously crafted list as you would a voice from the heavens. And of course, do not forget to have fun!

10. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Credit: Nintendo
  • Day/night cycle
  • Fishing minigame!
  • Low priority- check-in for as little or as long as you like!

9. Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds
Credit: Mobius Digital

The first time I entered the solar system within Outer Wilds, it overwhelmed me with curiosity. I wanted to explore every inch of each planet. This indie game tasks the player with flying to different planets, solving puzzles, and discovering the secrets of the previous inhabitants. The mystery of the universe is uncovered in bite-sized chunks as you follow clues soaring back and forth in space. The “A-ha!” moments are endless, and discoveries occur frequently, keeping boredom at bay.

Highlights:

  • Gorgeous visuals and an even better soundtrack
  • Unexpectedly emotional narrative
  • Each planet is unique

8. Cuphead

Cuphead
Credit: StudioMDHR

Cuphead made a deal with The Devil, and now he must fight through a world of tough bosses to get his revenge. With a hand-drawn art style akin to 30’s cartoons, this game is as fun to watch as it is to play. You will run, jump, and dodge the incoming attacks while keeping that finger on Cuphead’s shoot button. Each boss is distinct and will take many attempts to perfect and defeat. Loaded with a wide arsenal to accommodate every play style, Cuphead is a must-play for fans of 2D platformers.

Highlights

  • Jazzy, fun soundtrack
  • Play by yourself, or connect another controller for amusing co-op chaos!
  • Brutally difficult, but many offerings to help you squash that boss

7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Credit: Nintendo

Possibly the most fitting for a long car-t ride (get it), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an essential party game for any Switch owner. Boredom beware; the truckload of courses in this game could last you an entire vacation. The introduction of the DLC will keep you even busier, doubling the number of courses in the base game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might be one of the most fun couch co-op games, as nothing brings out your competitive spirit quite like Nintendo characters racing go-karts. Choose between Battle, Grand Prix, or Versus mode to change things up.

  • Infinite customization choices
  • Nostalgic courses from SNES to now
  • Motion controls to imitate actual driving!

6. Portal: Companion Collection

Portal: Companion Collection
Credit: Nintendo/Valve Software

When the Nintendo Direct aired in February of 2022, I was really pleased with the announced titles. A lot of really solid ports, some new first-party games, and Kirby swallowing a— cone? Anyways, Portal 1/2 was one of the announced titles, and I quite frankly forgot about it until late 2023. Regrettable, to say the least. Everybody has heard of Portal at least once and for very good reason. The sassy humor, stumping puzzles, and fascinating environment have written this game into the video game canon. Portal 1 and 2 are highly regarded and the ability to play them on the go is an opportunity I certainly would not pass up.

  • Going through portals is just so much fun.
  • Wheatley is hilarious
  • Co-op mode!

5. Metroid Prime Remastered

Metroid Prime Remastered
Credit: Nintendo
  • The Metroid formula feels like positive reinforcement. Every advancement feels like a massage on the brain.
  • Ambient, dynamic soundtrack
  • Collect countless optional upgrades. Some people have completed the game with as low as 22% of items obtained.

4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Credit: Nintendo

Following suit with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of the quintessential co-op games. Nothing beats the feeling of finally spiking your friend’s Ness into the ground after they’ve tormented you with PK Fire. The unforgettable moments of putting my Switch on the car’s center console and battling my friends in the back row undoubtedly make up some of my favorite memories. The controlled chaos of group Smash Bros. sessions will keep you at the edge of your seat, plane, or car.

  • An insane amount of characters, maps, and items will make every match completely different from the last.
  • Map your own control scheme to get an edge over your friends!
  • A fun story mode, so don’t feel afraid to play it alone.

3. Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey
Credit: Nintendo

Super Mario Odyssey is absolutely the BIGGEST Mario game out there. Each kingdom has a boatload of moons to collect, with challenges that will test your 3D platforming skills. Complete a jump-rope challenge? You get a moon. Climb a skyscraper in New Donk City? You get another moon. Throw your hat to play fetch with a dog? You get a moon! Your curiosity is rewarded every single time. Mario controls better than ever, and the host of things you can throw your cap on to control deepens the gameplay in an incredibly unique way. I have personally sunk more hours than I’d like to admit into Odyssey, and I still haven’t 100% completed it.

  • Diverse set of worlds to explore
  • Yet another all-timer soundtrack (Soundtracks are important to me, as you can tell)
  • That unmatched feeling of discovery and overcoming challenges

2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom.
Credit: Nintendo

Highlights:

  • Many ways to solve that difficult puzzle: try out different ideas!
  • Solves the BOTW weapon degradation problem. If you know, you know.
  • A great entry point to the Zelda franchise

1. Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo Switch Online offers Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, and Nintendo 64 games.
The Nintendo Switch Online Console Library. Credit: Nintendo

It might be a cop-out to include Nintendo Switch Online’s retro gaming titles, but the options are endless. My personal favorite set of retro games is locked on the Super Nintendo hardware, which can be an investment to access. Nintendo Switch Online is the perfect housing for many of those games you’ve heard in passing, some of which are the foundation of modern gaming conventions. Super Metroid, Earthbound, Super Mario Bros. 3, Ocarina of Time, and the list goes on! There is something for everyone on here, no matter what genre you consider your favorite. The first time I played Earthbound, it was on vacation, and my view of gaming was completely transformed after I played it. I would not have had that life-changing moment without Nintendo Switch Online.

Highlights:

  • Subscription-based: Try it out for a week before paying full price!
  • Solid offerings of couch co-op titles.
  • The sheer amount of everything!
The Nintendo Switch can be played in an airplane.
Offline gaming is a necessity for a plane ride. Image Credit: Shutterstock/slyellow
Written By

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Wills da beast

    April 5, 2024 at 1:47 am

    Great read but come on!! Smash at 4?!?

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