While the Switch might not be able to compete with other platforms in pure processing terms, there’s certainly no shortage of beautiful-looking games on the console. Switch may not output at a native 4K at 120 fps, but Nintendo diminutive little hybrid can still pack a punch for the eyeballs. Couple clever programming with excellent art direction and Switch can deliver stunning visuals on a little console you can throw in a backpack. How far we’ve come since the Game Boy days!
Below we’ve put together a list of the best-looking games on Switch — titles that prove you don’t necessarily need a dozen teraflops, HDR lighting and fancy-pants liquid-cooling solutions to produce gorgeous visuals in a modern video game. Many cross-platform titles such as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Witcher 3, Warframe and Alien: Isolation look truly remarkable on Switch considering the console’s comparative power limitations, but the following list highlights games we believe stand alongside the very best visuals of the generation, regardless of platform — you’ll find no ‘considering the hardware’ caveats here.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in and swim in the graphical loveliness of the best-looking Switch games (in no particular order)…
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Next Level Games
There was perhaps an element of surprise to how lovely Luigi’s Mansion 3 looked which took us aback. Not that we expected it to be anything less than lovely–it is a top-tier Nintendo release–but we weren’t quite prepared for the prettiness of Luigi’s threequel. Developer Next Level Games really lived up to its name with this one and sucked every last big of graphical juice from the hardware.
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Publisher: Shin’en Multimedia / Developer: Shin’en Multimedia
With performance locked at a silky-smooth 60fps and the pixel count maxed out whether you’re playing in docked or handheld mode, The Touryst from developer Shin’en is an absolute treat for the eyes. With a colourful voxel art style and a bright island-based setting, it’s a wonderfully good-looking little adventure to embark on and we highly recommend giving it a try if this one passed you by.
While 2D pixel art games are ten-a-penny, few of them are quite as breathtaking as Kingdom Two Crowns. Performance might not be perfect, but one look at the wondrous reflections, subtle lighting and sheer detail in the ever-changing landscapes of this game is enough to forgive and forget any frame rate hiccups you might encounter.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Square Enix
With a style that the makers labelled ‘HD-2D’, Octopath Traveler features 16-bit-style sprites in a gorgeous 3D world and manages to fuse then into a coherent and quite stunning whole. Evocative depth-of-field and lighting effects give the impression of an intricate miniature model moving before your eyes. The gameplay was excellent, of course, but it was the way Octopath Traveler looks which still sticks in our memory.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: PlatinumGames
This Switch exclusive has all the easy style you’d expect from PlatinumGames, the studio that makes Bayonetta, but we were especially impressed at the world-building effect of Astral Chain’s cohesive art direction. Rich colours contrast against worn surfaces and tech of the Police department, with sharp character designs by Masakazu Katsura giving this dystopian future a unique look when it could so easily become another one-of-those.
Taking the blueprint of the original Game Boy game and dressing it up in a wonderful toy-like aesthetic, developer Grezzo did a fine job at reimagining a classic for modern hardware. Only some patchy performance issues take the shine off it, but Link’s Awakening on Switch is still one of the system’s graphical jewels.
This may be a leftover from the previous generation, but Rayman Legends remains one of the best-looking 2D platformers ever, and that’s no less true of the Definitive Edition on Switch. Its cartoon art style is timeless and stands up just as well in 2020 as it did when it first wowed us on Wii U back in 2013. This is frequently available at a vastly discounted price in the eShop sales, so if you haven’t taken the plunge, we highly recommend getting acquainted with Ubisoft’s limbless wonder.
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: Nomada Studio
A delicate little indie platformer, the watercolour art style of GRIS is just the ticket if you’re stressed and in need of a restorative, relaxing game. Coming from indie studio Nomada, it’s a magical little adventure where you bring pigmentation back to a colourless world. If you’re after something that will attract the attention of others as you play, GRIS is a captivating game.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a gorgeous reskin of a Master System classic that’s been reconstructed from the ground up. The visuals alone are enough to earn its place here, although the real ace up its sleeve is the ability to switch between Lizardcube’s incredible artwork and the original 8-bit graphics in real time. You don’t have to go into a menu, you press a button and the other style wipes across the screen. Scrubbing between the two became part of the game for us as we switched between styles and admired the artistic choices made in the updated version.
Publisher: Raw Fury / Developer: Oskar Stålberg
Less a game and more a relaxing (and thoroughly eye-catching) plaything, screenshots of indie curio Townscaper are responsible for taking up approximately half of the storage space on the micro SD card lodged in our Switch at present. With the ability to alter the time of day in real-time via the menu, we’ve lost many happy hours creating impossibly complex towns on the water and grabbing shots from all angles — a beautiful way to pass a few minutes or many hours with no goal beyond creating something aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, Townscaper makes that easy.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo SPD
Of course. Not much to say with this one really — Breath of the Wild is a majestic game that had us eyeing outcrops and scanning the horizon in real life when we ventured into the countryside. You can pick holes around individual aspects of the presentation–be it resolution or jaggies or occasional frame rate drops–but the cumulative effect of its systems and the strength of its art direction still make it one of the most beautiful Switch games over three years after release.
Publisher: Naps Team / Developer: Naps Team
Baldo‘s incredible Ghibli-esque art style caught the eyes of gamers the world over when it was first revealed and it’s probably the single aspect of a incredibly disappointing game which lives up to expectations. We described it in our review as “one of the most exquisite looking games on Switch” — hence its inclusion here — and we utterly stand by that. It’s just a shame that was pretty much the only praise we could give.