Pentiment is a fantastic adventure RPG that revels in a studious approach to history and immaculate recreations of the styles and traditions of 16th-century Bavaria. There's a super smart, funny, and engaging murder mystery to investigate here, but it's how that mystery is so fully rooted in the world that's been lovingly crafted around it that really elevates this experience. It's one of the best games of the past decade, hands down, and to have that experience running and performing perfectly on Switch is a joyous thing - it feels like it was made for Nintendo's console. This is about as essential as games get.
Balatro is an incredibly clever indie gem that uses the bones of regular poker to build an incredibly approachable and fiendishly addictive new experience. There's a wonderfully slick core to this one, building decks and taking on dealers as you add wild special cards and variables to your pack is trance-inducing stuff and, backed by a fantastically understated soundtrack and perfect visuals, it makes for one of the first proper, actual, absolute must-play games of 2024.
Mario vs Donkey Kong serves up a slick return to the 2004 GBA adventure that finds fresh fun in cooperative play. Yep, the new co-op mode really is the star of the show this time out and, alongside two new worlds, 'Plus' versions of each level, a Time Attack mode, and fancy new looks and sounds, there's plenty to dig into and enjoy with a core puzzle/platforming setup that has aged quite well. Just be aware that, if you're a more seasoned player looking for platforming challenges, this game finds its strengths as an experience for younger gamers or as a co-op title to enjoy with your kids. Taken as such, it absolutely earns a recommendation.
Rocksteady's Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, despite all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth pre-release, has arrived in perfectly fine form. This is, at launch, one of the most polished looter shooters we've played, an action-packed superhero adventure that dishes up top-notch combat, tons of fan-service, excellent traversal (important for superheroes!), addicting loot, and plenty of surprises and shocks to boot. Yes, the story is artificially dragged out, mission types are repetitive and the store is a right royal rip-off, but the writing, the performances, core mechanics and incredible attention to detail here ensure that this is one squad of misfits who've managed to take the heat and survive intact.
Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes is a cracking sequel that brings meaningful change to the series' core combat, adds rollback netcode and three strong new characters to an already enthralling roster, and all looks, sounds, and plays every bit as good as its dazzling predecessor. Chronicle mode has been axed, and it's a shame it hasn't been replaced with something else, but this remains a top-notch effort, a deep and addictive anime fighter that should please long-time fans and interested newbies alike.
Tekken 8 is a little light on single-player content in comparison to some of the other big fighters out there right now, and it does give off the initial impression of being super-slick over strategically balanced early on. Stick with it though, dig down beneath all the fancy new heat moves and screen-shaking rage attacks, and you'll find a classic fighting system that feels better now than it ever has. Once you're in the zone, pulling off Phoenix smashers, dashing fists and sandwich claps whilst side-stepping like a pro, any slight shortcomings this game may have are left at the entrance to the arena.
Another Code: Recollection's biggest addition to the original DS and Wii experiences, besides the slick new graphics and fully explorable 3D environs, is its all-new navigation and puzzle aids. With the obtuse nature of some puzzles now a triviality - should you find yourself stumped - there's now no difficulty spikes or annoying moments to hold you back from a two-part tale that's very much worth diving into for fans of slow-burn point-and-click titles. Their pacing could have done with some more work, but this collection is as good a return to Ashley's world as fans could have hoped for.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a slick return to the roots of this franchise that serves up clever 2.5D action wrapped up in a delightful art style and satisfying story. There's a smart balance here between old-school levels of action and challenge, moreish combat, and neat puzzles, all mixed with accessibility options and fine-tuning that open things up to newcomers and casual players. We knew Ubisoft Montpellier was a pair of safe hands and the team hasn't let us down, serving up the first must-play of 2024 in a Switch port that absolutely does the business.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a fantastically clever return to the franchise that serves up slick 2.5D action wrapped up in a delightful art style and satisfying story. There's a smart balance here between old-school levels of action and challenge, moreish combat and neat puzzles, mixed with accessibility options and fine-tuning that open this traditionally tough genre up to newcomers. We knew Ubisoft Montpellier was a pair of safe hands, and it's not let us down here, serving up the first must-play of 2024, and we're only just getting started.
Baldur's Gate 3 is a genuine all-timer, this really is as good as RPGs get, and it's an all-timer that's arrived on Series X in fine form aside from a pesky issue with deleted saves. Returning to Baldur's Gate and successfully serving up the best entry in the series to date must have been an absolutely monumental task, but Larian Studios has managed it with style to spare. With top class combat, writing, acting and world-building hiding all of the terrifying intricacies of a refreshed D&D rulebook, letting us players just get on with the fun stuff, there really is no finer adventure to take in 2023. What an absolute belter, and a perfect way to wrap up this most problematic of years in the industry.
Honestly, it's hard to see how they can fix Batman: Arkham Knight to a satisfactory degree, and it feels like a step too far to have even included this final chapter in the collection for Switch. A great ending to an amazing trilogy, but just completely broken for now.
Rocksteady's phenomenal Arkham series needs no introduction at this stage - three of the finest superhero games you'll ever play with a top-notch cast and writing, and sublime gameplay that put you right into the bat-boots of the Dark Knight. Asylum is an all-timer, City still stands up as one of the best open-world games we've ever played and Knight, although slightly less successful, is still a strong final chapter. It's a shame that Knight is completely unplayable on Switch. Very little TLC has been shown to any of these games and better decisions weren't made when it became clear just how poorly one of the games here ran on Nintendo's console. If you only have a Switch and have never played the first two games, Batman: Arkham Trilogy is still a decent way to play those two titles, at least.
It may not have a great big open world to play around in like Arkham City, but Batman: Arkham Asylum is still our favourite game of the bunch. It introduced everything that's great about the trilogy; the combat, the dark tone, the endless Riddler puzzles and detective work, whilst also serving up a story that didn't waste any time. Asylum is a tight and taut thrill ride, one of the all-time great superhero games and, over a decade later, it's still a must-play.
Arkham City can still stand shoulder to shoulder with any modern AAA open-world game, and even though you've got to contend with some unfortunate stutters from time to time, and it doesn't look nearly as good here as it does on other platforms, this is still the full-fat experience running rather well all things considered. If you've yet to experience this one it's another must-play.
SteamWorld Build is yet another triumph from the maestros at Thunderful. Here we have a slick and addictive addition to a wonderful steampunk franchise that manages to meld elements from across the entire series into one cohesive whole. You've got wonderfully detailed city-building, addictive mining action and intense tower-defense aspects all in the mix here, and it tells you everything you need to know about this one that all of these elements work in harmony. Xbox Game Pass just netted itself another banger.
The Jurassic Park: Classic Games Collection serves up seven slices of old-school dino action in a package that suffers from its focus on the 8- and 16-bit eras. Yes, it's great to have these old games all gathered up and available to play with some quality-of-life additions, you can't knock them too hard for being clunky by today's standards, and nostalgia may add a few points to the overall score below if you're an Isla Nublar mega-fan, but there's no avoiding the fact that the experiences here haven't aged particularly well.
Persona 5 Tactica is another very solid and self-assured spin-off for Atlus' stellar RPG franchise. Placing the Phantom Thieves in tactical turn-based battles works a treat here, with addictive and challenging strategy complimented by a slick sense of style, strong writing and a campaign narrative that will keep fans happy. Whether you're here for Persona specifically or you're just wanting a solid slice of tactical action to dig into, this one has got you well and truly covered.
Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name is another fine slice of Yakuza action from Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio thart serves up a little bit of everything over the course of 15 or so hours. This may be a shorter affair than usual by quite some margin, but what's here still manages to deliver lots of exciting action, very silly gadgets, drama and deep cuts for the fans. If the intent was to whet our appetites for Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, then consider that mission well and truly complete. Roll on January 2024.
WarioWare: Move It! is another great entry in this long-running franchise that brings back the motion-controlled mayhem whilst giving you plenty of ways to enjoy its loony fun with family and friends. There are lots of fun modes to dig into and unlock here, the microgames are as daft and colourful as ever, and, as long as you can make peace with things not being quite as fun solo, it's really hard to knock the chaotically silly vibe of this most excellent party game.
Where Alan Wake was a very good idea executed with a few too many flaws, its sequel serves up a survival horror masterclass. Yes, the combat is still not 100% there, but this one slight misstep aside, what we've got with Alan Wake 2 is superlative stuff. This is an incredibly clever, refreshingly grown-up and wonderfully well-made slice of psychological horror. The acting, writing, sound design, graphics... every aspect has been nailed in a game that makes for another addition to 2023's incredibly long list of absolute bangers.