8 Of The Nintendo Switch’s Most Impressive Ports

Despite its hardware, Switch players have been able to play countless modern classics thanks to "impossible" ports. These particular versions of games are so impressive in their construction, they probably shouldn't have been possible.

8 Of The Nintendo Switch's Most Impressive Ports

The Nintendo Switch isn’t the first underpowered console the company has released. There’s usually a trade-off like the Wii, for example, not being a graphics powerhouse but innovating in other areas such as with motion controls. The Switch is no different, offering the ability to play Triple-A caliber games wherever and whenever players want. While there are other options for high-fidelity on-the-go gaming such as the Steam Deck or the AYANEO 2, the Switch is still wildly popular and accessible. Plus it’s the only system one can (legally) enjoy the likes of Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon along with other high-profile 3rd party releases.

Considering the Switch is so underpowered compared to both its handheld and home console counterparts, it still houses some incredible ports. Below is a list of some of the most impressive ports the console has to offer. There are a few ground rules first. These are from 3rd party developers or publishers so no Wii U ports or remasters here. These also had to be Switch-specific ports and not day-in-date releases alongside other platforms. No Mortal Kombat 11s or Crisis Core Renuions. And finally, this list only includes ports of 8th-generational games meaning software that was directly developed for Xbox One, PS4, or PC. While the Switch contains some fantastic 7th gen ports like Skyrim, Bioshock, or Borderlands, those are less impressive than some of the system’s other titles. 

Otherwise…let’s get started!

Doom Eternal 

The Switch’s life started out with a bang from an unlikely partner in Bethesda when both Skyrim and Doom 2016 were announced for the system. While Doom 2016 was playable, it certainly had its issues on Switch including missing features and muddy visuals. Doom Eternal’s port took a few extra months in the oven but that additional time from developer Panic Button was well worth it.

Doom Eternal is the complete package on Switch including its Battlemode multiplayer portion as well as both DLC offerings. Where Eternal exceeds expectation is its stability. Doom 2016 had issues staying locked in at the reduced 30 FPS cap the Switch version ran at. That coupled with significantly hampered visuals made for a functional but flawed port. 

Doom Eternal / id Software & Panic Button / Bethesda

Doom Eternal / id Software & Panic Button / Bethesda

Thanks to Doom Eternal’s focus on a more arcade-like feel and art style as well as improvements in the porting process, Eternal’s Switch port stands head and shoulders above its predecessor. Not only is everything much more readable in general but a very stable frame rate makes the experience far more enjoyable. The lower resolution barely comes into play due in part to Eternal’s incredibly fast-paced arena shooter nature. Sacrificing a bit of visual fidelity and performance to slay demons on the go is well worth it. While it’s not the ideal way to play the game, Doom Eternal’s Switch offerings are one hell of a port and one of the best First Person Shooter experiences on the console to date. 

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is one of the most infamous success stories in recent gaming memory. What launched as an overhyped and barebones experience on PS4 has blossomed into one of the most impressive indie titles to date. A truly revolutionary open-world game, No Man’s Sky offers players a virtually seamless Science Fiction adventure.

Taking off from a planet’s surface, flying through its atmosphere into space, choosing from hundreds of procedurally generated worlds, and setting off on an adventure. All seamless and organic. And this innovation requires a lot of processing power. Something the Switch is incapable of…right?

No Man's Sky / Hello Games

No Man’s Sky / Hello Games

Hello Games seemed determined to make this happen and pulled it off as best as anyone could have expected. No Man’s Sky on Switch is undoubtedly the most compromised port on this list, missing features such as multiplayer, settlements, and cross-save. Visuals and frame rate take a hit as expected making this, objectively, the worse version of No Man’s Sky. But the trade-off seems clear. No Man’s Sky’s incredibly impressive sandbox, even alone, is well worth the downgraded visuals and performance when players are able to explore the final frontier on the go. And with Hello Games having plans for adding missing features in future free updates, No Man’s Sky on Switch looks to get better with age. 

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of An Elusive Age – Definitive Edition

When Dragon Quest XI launched for PS4 and 3DS in 2017, it was well-received by critics and fans alike. But it wasn’t without its issues and omissions. Nearly all of which was fixed with the release of the then Switch exclusive Definitive Edition. While Dragon Quest XI might have one of the most elongated titles in the history of games it’s also one of the best JRPGs in recent memory.

While not a traditionally impressive port like some of these other entries, Dragon Quest XI S is such an upgraded version of the original release it’s worth a mention. It didn’t just add some new costumes or weapons but instead, game-changing additions that truly make the Definitive Edition moniker appropriate. 

Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition Limited Edition Switch

Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition Limited Edition Switch

A fully rescored soundtrack, a 2D mode from the 3DS version, multiple tweaks to quests across the entire game, new story segments and so much more. So much was added and improved it’s almost an entirely different game compared to the vanilla version. Dragon Quest XI was one of the first games ever announced for the Switch, formally known as the NX. Although the original release never saw its way to the Switch, for it to receive the best version of one of the best games in the series was a great consolation prize. Even though Dragon Quest XI S did come to all other consoles eventually, the Switch port was the best at the time as well as being on the best console for handheld JRPG experiences. 

Dying Light: Platinum Edition

Techland’s open-world zombie adventure was a highlight of 2015. Parkouring through a beautifully realized concrete jungle teeming with the undead elevated their previous work on Dead Island. So much so it would go on to be one of the company’s most successful games, selling around 20 million copies and being supported by the development team for years after its release.

One such avenue of support was a surprise Nintendo Switch port in 2021. Dubbed the Platinum Edition, Dying Light on Switch would launch with every major update to the game including The Following DLC, a vast amount of new items as well as additional game modes. It’s a genuinely huge port that Techland was able to somehow get running on inefficient hardware.   

Dying Light / Techland / Warner Bros. Interactive

Dying Light / Techland / Warner Bros. Interactive

Even though the game was an early 8th generational title, it’s still an impressive feat that Dying Light can run on Switch. More impressive still is how solid the port really is. Very little is lost in the translation from PS4/Xbox One to Nintendo Switch. Despite its scope and scale, Dying Light feels right at home on the go, with only a slight dip in visual fidelity. Couple with a solid 30FPS to match its console counterparts and Dying Light Platinum Edition is one of the best packages on Switch to date. There was real care and passion put into the Platinum Edition and it shows, being one of the best zombie experiences on Nintendo’s hybrid console. 

Alien Isolation 

The survival horror renaissance of today could be traced back to 2014. A slew of great horror titles were released, chief among them was Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation. An apt subtitle, Alien Isolation tasked the player to avoid and escape from one formidable Xenomorph. Sporting some impressive AI, the game of spooky cat-and-mouse showcased the best of the genre and the Alien franchise.

Flash forward 5 years later and SEGA had Alien Isolation ported to Switch. This entry is cheating just a bit. Creative Assembly’s surprise horror hit of 2014 actually received two separate versions for both the 7th and 8th console generation. But the sublime Switch port by Feral Interactive borders on identical to its PS4 and Xbox One variants.

Alien Isolation / Creative Assembly / Feral Interactive / SEGA

Alien Isolation / Creative Assembly / Feral Interactive / SEGA

Very little is lost when comparing the Switch version with its counterparts. The chilling and tense atmosphere remained intact thanks to some truly impressive work. Lighting, effects, performance, and visual fidelity remain on par with the original releases. The work done by Feral really shows what the Switch is capable of in the hands of someone other than Nintendo. Some might say with the added benefit of Handheld mode, the Switch version of Alien Isolation might be the definitive way to play this survival horror classic. 

Nier Automata: The End of the YoRHa Edition

Platinum Games is no stranger to the Nintendo Switch. Producing hit titles such as Astral Chain and Bayonetta 3, Platinum has carved out a niche for itself with over-the-top bombastic action titles. While they’ve seen success with many of their previous games, one of their standout titles was the surprise hit in Neir Automata back in 2017. 

A quirky combo of bullet hell and hack and slash, Nier Automata quickly became one of the most popular games of its release year. That popularity had led to several re-releases and ports of the game including a Game of The Year Edition hitting Xbox One and PC and most recently The End of the YoRHa Edition on Switch. This port included some neat extra consumes as well as the very well-named “3C3C1D119440927” DLC.  

Nier Automata: The End of the YoRHa Edition / Platinum Games / Virtuos / Square Enix

Nier Automata: The End of the YoRHa Edition / Platinum Games / Virtuos / Square Enix

While the original release was lauded for its gameplay and narrative, one of its main issues was lacking visual quality and inconsistent performance. While these issues were eventually ironed out, they were still a point of contention. This is why a Switch port was both surprising and impressive. Virtuos handled this “impossible port”, and it showcases the best of what Nier Automata has to offer with very few drawbacks. With a stable frame rate and visuals that still manage to impress on the Switch’s aging hardware, Nier Automata on the go is more than an acceptable way to enjoy a modern classic. 

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was one of the standout titles of 2017. With an emotional narrative and beautiful graphics, Hellblade tackled the tough subject of mental health through its protagonist Senua. Dotted throughout its story were enjoyable puzzles and hack-and-slash combat which all came together to form a powerful title and one of Ninja Theory’s best.

While its structure and design weren’t as involved as their previous titles, Hellblade’s visuals were one of its most impressive features especially compared to its budget. It was on par with most Triple-A titles of the time and still looks spectacular to this day. It showcased how powerful Unreal Engine 4 still was and how talented those in Ninja Theroy’s art department are.  

Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice / Ninja Theory / QLOC

Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice / Ninja Theory / QLOC

The question that arose when Hellblade was announced to be coming to Switch was a resounding: How? Developer QLOC tackled Hellblade’s port and did a wonderful job, emulating its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts about as well as one could hope for. While there are sacrifices in model and texture quality, the game’s oppressive atmosphere and depressing tone aren’t hindered by what was lost. Senua’s tale looks and plays great on Switch and the fact it runs on what amounts to a suped-up Nook is incredibly impressive. In Handheld or Docked mode, Hellblade on Switch is still as enjoyable an experience as any other console.  

The Witcher 3: Complete Edition

Possibly one of the most famous ports to Nintendo’s little hybrid that could, The Witcher 3 Switch port genuinely shouldn’t exist. The shocking announcement at E3 2019 took the industry by surprise. The wizards at Saber Interactive were able to cram 2015’s greatest open-world RPG onto Switch and the results were surprisingly impressive. 

A game as massive as The Witcher 3 has no right running or looking as good as it does on Switch. For as dense an experience as Wild Hunt is, nothing is lost as the moniker “Complete Edition” implies. The full base game plus both of its heafty DLCs, Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine, are included as well. An impressive amount of game for a small system. 

The Witcher 3: Complete / CD Project RED / Saber Interactive / WB Games

The Witcher 3: Complete / CD Project RED / Saber Interactive / WB Games

While some performance issues do crop up in more involved battles, Gearlt’s adventure also looks fairly good comparatively. The titular protagonist retains a fair bit of detail from his PS4/Xbox One iteration with NPCs and enemies not as much. One of the standout features of Saber’s port is the impressive amount of options at players’ disposal when adjusting elements such as Anti-Aliasing, Level of Detail, Bloom and so much more. This allows players to take an already impressive port and tweak it to their liking. While it’s not the ideal way to experience one of the best RPG’s of the last generation, it’s certainly the most unique, being able to take Gearlt and Ciri from home to out on the road. 

What the Switch lacks in high-end hardware, it more than makes up for it with its ease of use and portability. While there are many more ports that don’t quite hit the mark, it’s still impressive that many 3rd party developers and publishers are so eager to get their projects running on what is ostensibly a tablet. For those whose only option is the Switch or who just like to game on the go, players can’t go wrong with some of the above ports. 

What do you think? Are there any other “impossible” ports that deserve a mention? Let us know in the comments!

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