The Vooks Awards – The Best of Switch, Indies, the highs and lows of Nintendo in 2022
The year is gone, and before we can think of what’s to come next we must once again look back upon the year and review it – because if we don’t bad things will happen?
2022 was an interesting year for Nintendo, two big Pokémon games, more RPGs than letters in role-playing games and the return of some big names. How did it all go, who was the best?
The below was decided by the entire Vooks team.
Pokémon Legends Arceus & Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (tie)
There’s some 3000 words in my Xenoblade Chronicles 3 review, but I could probably talk about it for days and days and days… okay, maybe not the best idea, there are plenty of other games that were released this year, and a lot of them are great. But none really hit that right balance of familiarity, freshness, and refinement to the point of perfection quite like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 did.
Going into Xenoblade 3, it was really difficult to know what we were gonna get. Xenoblade 1 was great, but kinda tacky and cheesy with some frustrating mechanics. Xenoblade 2 had an incredible combat system, and its characterisation was very good, but its storytelling was… goofy, I guess.
Xenoblade 3 took the best parts of 1 and 2, discarded all the bad parts, and added a whole bunch more. Its characters and storytelling are almost flawless, and its combat systems are about as close to perfect as you can get for a game like this. It helps, too, that it looks and sounds better than pretty much anything else on the Switch — Monolith are absolute wizards.
Sure, it’s better if you’ve played through the first two games, a 200-hour commitment before Xenoblade 3’s own 80+ hour runtime, but even played by itself, it’s nothing short of spectacular. – Ollie
Honourable mentions: Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder’s Revenge and Cult of the Lamb (tie)
There is always something so welcoming about seeing old games get a new lease on life, but when we get new games in beloved series, that is even more special and that was the case with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. The game was created by replicating the look of the original arcade titles but adding in a few modern touches, like more colours. The major change for this title though, was the inclusion of online multiplayer, meaning you could play the game with friends, no matter where you were, a far cry from the need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the arcade.
The game was also a nostalgia trip from start to finish, at least for those who grew up in the 80s, complete with a remade intro sequence. The resurgence of side-scrolling beat ‘em ups has been a wonderful ride and this game, is perhaps the best of them all and if you wanted to keep the Turtle Power strong, there was also that great collection. 2022 was truly a wonderful year to be a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Shredder’s Revenge shows just where the series can go from here. – Luke
Depending on what you first saw of Cult of the Lamb, you were likely given the idea that it was an Animal Crossing type game or a generic rogue-lite actioner. When you loaded into the game both aspects sort of came front and center, but then the game took a darker turn. The games entire premise is that you are in charge of growing a cult, complete with sacrificing folks when needed, all in the hopes of unleashing the one who saved your life.
Where the game shined was in combining all those aspects together, you could devote yourself to helping your followers grow, but when it came time to sacrifice, the hard choices came into play. Of course, when you left the safety (and pooped filled) village and started to explore the world, combat played a big part. It offered a real challenge the further you went and as you had to keep going to get big rewards, the risk would keep growing for you. Some players enjoyed one aspect more than the other, but the real charm was in the relationships that you built with your followers and as you could end any of them at any given time, it was something many hated to do. Not me, when it came to offering up someone, I served them up, of course then having to deal with their ghost was a pain, but hey when you run a popular cult, you have to make the hard decisions. – Luke
Cult of the Lamb
Locally made games are always good and there is a reason why Cult of the Lamb was so well received and it ain’t just because we Aussies love our lamb. See above for why this was a game that captured our hearts. – Luke
Runners up: Wylde Flowers, Wayward Strand
Nintendo Switch Sports
It’s not that Nintendo Switch Sports is a bad game at all. It works, it’s fun with a bunch of people, and you can play it online (when it’s not down because an update went askew). There are new things to unlock weekly.
So what’s the problem?
Following up on Wii Sports should be a home run (even if you don’t include Baseball). Instead, Nintendo Switch Sports is just alright, but you can tell, and Nintendo has told us that getting it to the state it is in has been challenging.
Nintendo Switch Sports features a lack of variety in sports. A roadmap of only one to be added, which took months to be added, is reusing content from older games. We also talk about how Wii Sports had Boxing and Baseball but forget Nintendo also had Wii Sports Resort, and while we got one sport from that – there’s plenty more that could be there too.
The development of this game seems particularly cursed, and the development Q&A is wild. The team seemingly tried to reinvent the game entirely and took a long time to do it – then just threw it all away. It’s a fantastic read, and while it’s great to see honesty from developers, Nintendo’s drive for innovating and changing things up sometimes clouds them from just doing what we all know needs to be done – the same thing, just better. Sometimes that’s alright too. – VOOK
Runner up: Advance Wars Reboot being delayed again
Goldeneye 007 comes to modern consoles
In a feat of modern licensing, the Nintendo 64 original Goldeneye 007 is not only coming to the Switch but the Xbox as well. Not only is the king coming back, but the Nintendo Switch version ended up being the only one with online – how does that even work?
Runners up: Microsoft intending to acquire Activision-Blizzard, Zelda dated and named at the same time.
Pokémon Legends Arceus
There hasn’t been a year where two mainline Pokémon games hit both in the same year since 2004. Sure there have been spin-offs galore, but two big open-world games promising a new type of gameplay and a new Pokémon story? Unheard of.
Still out of the two, despite Pokémon Scarlet and Violet still being very fun – just technically problematic, Pokémon Legends Arceus is the better game, we feel. It’s not just because it was the first, but because it took the perfect Pokémon game we’ve had in our heads for years and just let us do it. Walk around, throw a ball, catch something, fly, drop in battle, or run away. There was even a change to the battling system with the Agile and Strong attack styles, which was fun – and a new strategy in battles.
It was glorious! Then Pokémon Scarlet and Violet get announced. It’s an open world, a “proper” Pokémon game to kick off the next generation, a massive story and platform for the years to come – and woof. We find out that you can still walk around in an open area. But now it’s possibly too open, you can’t just catch things randomly, and the battle system is back to being traditional (which… is fine), but not only that – the game just runs like a wet dog. Pokémon Legends Acreus wasn’t the prettiest Switch game (aside from the skyboxes, wow), but it ran somewhat competently. Also crystal Pokemon? Meh.
Perhaps the reaction to Arceus from fans was too late to change the direction of Scarlet and Violet. Perhaps two big Pokémon games in one year are just too much. – VOOK
Between having a kid, having to review so many Switch games and playing a wrist-injury-causing amount of Apex Legends, I didn’t play that many games this year – but I did play Stray, and I loved it.
Yes, it has a super cute cat, and you can leap, bound and play with that cat, but also, the post-apocalyptic universe of Stray was entirely its own fantastic thing. The gloomy depths, the neon-lit cities and the robots who once served humans with no idea what to do anymore and an enemy picking them off slowly? Great stuff (not so great for the robots).
People called the game short. I thought it was perfect, it did all it could do and be in its run time, and now I have that experience of that game, without the grind or hustle of something that goes on too long. – VOOK
Runners up: God of War Ragnarok, Elden Ring
Hollow Knight Silksong
Let’s face it, if Sports Story hadn’t released, there is a chance it might have been included here, but with that game finally out, we had to pick the other game. Hollow Knight Silksong has been highly desired by fans of the series, since it was officially confirmed. If you can believe it, it was over three years ago when there was a playable demo at PAX Australia, something we made sure to play and since then the game has been mostly silent. With the game showing up in the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2022, many are hoping it is almost done as all the games in that showcase were noted to be releasing before the end of June 2023. – Luke
Runners up: Fire Emblem Engage, Pikmin 4
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
It is the sequel to Breath of the Wild, a game we kinda love so what more could you possibly need to know. After the traditional multiple delays that all major Zelda titles go through we have the date and name, so now it is just a matter of waiting until release day. – Luke
I mean every Nintendo site’s award is going to be this for most anticipated, so we just made its own thing and then did an award without. Hopefully no more delays on this one huh – VOOK
Very insulting to have a game like Legend Arceus put in the same high tier as Xenoblade 3. Legend Arceus is the very definition of average. Very lackluster story, no voice acting, extremelly subpar graphics, somewhat basic gameplay compared to other turn based RPGs on the switch (Shin Megami Tensei V for instance is quite above it on this aspect), and feels like a low budget effort, which is egregious coming from the most powerful brand there is. A game that still feels generations behind and that is only perceived as good because it is a big jump in relation to other Pokemon, which is a very low bar, a game that is only perceived as god because all other pokemon switch games are abysmal, with Game freak cementing themselves as the worst developers making games for Nintendo.
On the other hand we have Xenoblade 3, an extremelly ambitious game, pushing the limits of the switch in several ways, with a story to top off a huge narrative that has been built for year, with the best cutscenes and best side quests (the hero quests) to ever come out of a Nintendo game (had Zelda presented something of this level, people would be praising it to infinitum), with one of the most deep battle system to ever come out of a modern RPG, to the stellar soundtrack by Mitsuda, Ace and Anúna, with a world that dwarfs Zelda BOTW hyrule, in a game where Monolith Soft even developed a temporal upscalling tech just to make the game the best it could be on the switch, all while Monolith was also supporting Splatoon 3 and the upcoming new Zelda, cementing Monolith Soft as the best developers making games for Nintendo.
Xenoblade 3 is LEAGUES above Legend Arceus.