Nintendo Switch Sports has been one of the biggest nostalgia throwbacks for me in a long time, and I can’t believe how far Nintendo has come since Wii Sports way back in 2006. The motion-control gameplay is still just as fun as ever, although its simplicity may limit appeal and longevity.
Nintendo Switch Sports is the successor to the now 16-year old Wii Sports, with three new sports alongside some old favourites that everyone should remember.
It’s important to note that not every mode has been available to play ahead of launch, so my take on the online play will be coming in a few days. My experiences here are all based on playing alone against the AI or playing locally with friends.
So, without wasting any more time, here’s how I got on playing Nintendo Switch Sports for the last week.
- Volleyball is too slow
- Leg strap mode for Football
- Badminton knocks it out of the park
In Nintendo Switch Sports there’s a collection of six sports games, with the option to play on your own, with people online or locally with friends. AI will get involved if you don’t have enough people, with the option to change their difficulty in every sport.
Switch Sports completely relies on motion controls, though a few games do require you to use the analogue stick. In every game, I needed to be holding at least one Joy-Con controller, with Football and a mode in Chambara requiring two controllers. This means you can’t really play Switch Sports on Switch Lite or via the Pro Controller which may frustrate some.
I’m starting off with the three new sports that have been added: Volleyball, Football and Badminton. Volleyball had the biggest learning curve since you need to learn the movements for specific Volleyball moves, such as blocking, bumping and spiking, and you need to do them in the right order.
Volleyball was my least favourite sport, even if I did enjoy it. Since it acts like the real-world game, it isn’t as fast-paced as the other sports, and I found that no matter how I played, my moves were usually ‘too early’ which stopped me from developing a smooth rally with my team member.
For example, when ‘bumping’ the ball, which is a basic pass to your teammate after reacting to the opponent’s attacks, I would quickly bring the Joy-Con controller towards my chest. A couple of times I even missed the cue completely, as I couldn’t manage to time the pass correctly. The poor timings and naturally slower pace of Volleyball are why I liked it the least, though I did still enjoy it, especially when I played with a friend against the AI on the hardest difficulty.
Football was another sport that ranks low on my list, though not for the same reasons. I only played Football with one person, and I believe that maxing out the player count (which is four players) would have been a lot more entertaining.
Football requires each player to hold two Joy-Cons. You move across the pitch using the analogue stick, and can swing either controller to kick the ball. You can also head the ball by swinging both controllers down at the same time, which not only fires the ball really far but comes with a funny animation that I really liked.
The motion controls here are a little unpredictable, but for the most part, I enjoyed taking a hard swing right and watching the ball soar across the field. I did like playing Football, but it isn’t as fast-paced as I would have liked.
Football also features Free Kick mode, which is where the Leg Strap comes in. You strap a Joy-Con to your thigh and can take free-kicks in the game by swinging your leg. The biggest hindrance of this mode is that you really need a big space, and I found that my smaller sized lounge didn’t really make the cut.
However, the novelty of kicking is fun and I think the motion controllers were more accurate than I expected. Nintendo has mentioned that the leg strap will have more uses in the future, such as being usable in matches following a a free software patch in the summer. I think this addition is necessary, as I wouldn’t recommend buying the leg strap with only Free Kick mode currently available.
Free Kick mode does make things more interesting by making the goal smaller each time you score a goal, but I still found this mode to get old quick, and I doubt I will be rushing back to it anytime soon.
Thankfully, Badminton is where Switch Sports really shines, usurping classic sports to become my favourite in the game. I only needed one controller and the simple motion controls makes this easier to pick up than the previous two sports. Badminton is really fast-paced, and unlike Volleyball, it was much easier to gauge when you should be swinging your racket.
You can also press ZL/ZR to perform a drop shot, which added some variety to the game and made it feel more natural and lifelike. I’m shocked that this game tops out at two players, meaning you can’t play doubles with four people, though I assume Nintendo wanted to keep Tennis as the four-player racket sport.
I played Badminton the most, and it was really fun slamming the shuttlecock to the back of the court. Watching your opponent make an early shot and fall over also made things interesting, and I found that keeping up a rally with a friend built up the tension, which made winning feel even better.
The three new sports in Switch Sports are a little hit and miss, and I do wish Nintendo skipped out on Football and made Volleyball a quicker game. I also believe that these two sports are harder to pick up, so I assume younger children and inexperienced gamers may be better off playing the other sports.
Tennis, Bowling and Chambara
- Great recreations of the original sports
- Multiple ways to play in Chambara
Tennis, Bowling and Chambara have been in the Sports series before and they function in a very similar way, while also featuring easier motion controls than the newer sports.
Tennis is similar to Badminton but slower paced, and it can be played with up to four friends instead of two. You don’t need the analogue stick and only use one controller to swing your racket.
The motion controllers were pretty accurate, though the only strange thing about Tennis is sometimes your avatar will jump to catch a shot, which could be annoying since I had no control over it, and it usually ended up with me missing.
Ignoring the strange jump mechanics, Tennis worked well and it was really fun to build up a rally. Plus, the easy controls make it easy for anyone to play, while also allowing me to easily jump in and out of Tennis between other sports.
Bowling has two modes: Normal and Special. In both modes, you use one Joy-Con to bowl the ball, and you can twist your wrist as you release to change the direction the ball goes in. The motion controls are simple in theory but can be hard to master, which I think makes Bowling a great sport for anyone to play. In Special mode, each lane has a new obstacle, which gives it a lot more variety than normal mode.
Obstacles include moving blocks, dips in the lane, bridges to cross and spinning disks. It was really fun navigating the new lanes, and I think this mode actually got me more familiar with the motion controls since there is more emphasis on aiming and curving the ball. Anyone who played Wii Bowling as a kid will love this mode, and it comes in as possibly my second favourite activity to Badminton.
Finally, Chambara. Also known as Sword Play in Wii Sports Resort, Chambara has three modes: Swords, Charge Swords and Double Swords. In the first two, you play with one controller and you can press ZL/ZR to block, using the motion controls to swing.
The aim is to knock your opponent off the platform by hitting them, though you can block their attacks if you angle your sword correctly. For example, if someone is swinging at your vertically, a horizontal block will make them stumble, giving you an opening to attack. Charge Swords adds another layer of strategy, as when I blocked effectively I could hit back even harder.
Double Swords is exactly what it sounds like, and allows you to wield two swords with two Joy-Con controllers. The motion controls here were impressive and I really liked swinging back and forth to knock my opponent away. My only bugbear here is that it’s best out of three, but since the rounds can sometimes last less than 10 seconds, the sport can be over within minutes. An option to play more rounds would be ideal.
Even though we have seen these three sports before, Nintendo has brought them back with better motion controls and in the case of Chambara and Bowling, more modes. The nostalgia aspect can’t be ignored, but I think that the simplicity of these sports will also make them ideal for younger players that never got the chance to Bowl back in 2006.
All of the sports mentioned will be available to play at launch, while Golf will arrive in an update in Autumn 2022. I haven’t been able to test out Golf, but I would hope it functions similar to its first iteration in Wii Sports, potentially with more modes.
- No graph to track progress
- Online multiplayer isn’t available just yet
Touching on the features of Switch Sports, I noticed that there is no way to track how good you are at any sport. In Wii Sports, you could see a graph of how well you were doing in certain sports, and you could see your progress over time.
As of right now, I can’t find any way to see how well you play each sport and what progress you have made, though I hope that Nintendo includes something like this in the future, as I remember the Wii Sports graph adding a lot of incentive to get better.
Right now, there is no online mode for Switch Sports, though there will be at launch. We will be updating this review in a few days to reflect on how I got on with the online modes of the game, and if the online modes add any extra features to the game overall.
Graphics and character customisation
- Vibrant and interesting backgrounds
- More personality than ever
- More customisation options can be unlocked
In Switch Sports, each sport is set in a vibrant world, with characters bustling in the background and watching you play. The colours are lively and make the world feel a lot bigger; I felt like I was in a virtual gym for most of the game, which added a level of immersion to the game that Wii Sports never created.
You need to create your own avatar to play and Nintendo has given a couple of options, with multiple choices in terms of hairstyle, face shape and clothing. While there aren’t a lot of choices right now, Nintendo has said that you can unlock more customisation options after playing online, which offers up a great incentive to keep playing.
Since Nintendo is now so synonymous with beautiful game design, with titles like Breath of the Wild coming to mind, it’s great to see those ideals moving over to what could be a simplistic game. It adds to the overall tone and makes the game feel much bigger than it would with blank and beige backgrounds.
Should you buy it?
You want a party game for all ages: The simplistic controls, combined with the nostalgia, should make this an easy title no matter how old you are. This is a great party title for almost any group.
You want a hard or fast-paced game: If you’re after a harder sports game, or one that has more depth to the sports, you may be best looking elsewhere.
Nintendo Switch Sports fell slightly short of my expectations, failing to reach the same heights as Wii Sports back in 2006. That being said, I still had a lot of fun playing almost all the sports, with Volleyball being the only one I likely wouldn’t revisit again, since that pace is just a little too slow.
I think that younger children will likely find the most fun here due to the simplistic motion controls. For older players, I would recommend playing in a big group, as Switch Sports is at its best when you’re playing with and against friends.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Tested on Nintendo Switch
Played single player and multiplayer