Since October 2011 Minecraft has released on more than a dozen platforms where it has reached 100+ million people. Earning a reputation for being fun for kids and adults alike, its world of cubes and materials has remained one of the hottest games through two console generations.
I've experienced Minecraft on several platforms over the years, each with its own pros and cons; while mobile might provide incredible accessibility, PC has the advantage of mod support and flexibility. Yet, no matter how much these versions have impressed me with their exclusive features, after spending a day in its new Nintendo Switch version, I might just consider it the best of the bunch.
Arriving with several platform exclusive DLC packs that add Mario themed skins and even a Mushroom Kingdom world, Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition seems quite ordinary. Controls, game modes, and mechanics have largely remain unchanged since the game's debut more than half a decade ago, lending the appearance that anyone purchasing the port is effectively "rebuying" the game to play it on their new console.
However, when you dig deeper you find that what's here is spectacular, made possible by the Switch's feature set.
Minecraft lends itself incredibly well to a portable experience. When you hop into the world, there is no time commitment; you can gather materials and build a small home in mere minutes, or dedicate an entire evening to recreating Goldshire from World of Warcraft. Thus, the Switch's handheld mode pairs wonderfully with Minecraft's structure.
In cases where you only have a few minutes to play, there are few games that are as great at the art of brevity as Minecraft. Within seconds you are in the game world, and you can immediately begin interacting with the environment around you. There are no lengthy cutscenes or long load times to deal with. So, if you're waiting in line somewhere or just looking to kill a couple minutes for whatever reason, what's here is incredibly satisfying.
It's fair to say that these are qualities that the mobile versions of Minecraft have enjoyed for several years. However, the Switch is equipped with a 6.2 inch screen and dedicated controller input, making it console-like even when on the go. These two factors play a vital part in making this a much better experience than on mobile, and most comparable to the PS Vita version.
That's not to say that the Switch's execution is flawless. The Joy-Con analog sticks are small, resulting in wonky camera movement that doesn't really get better with time. It's also slightly uncomfortable to hold in my experience, which is troublesome during longer sessions.
Making up for this is the accessibility of multiplayer. While online play is standard at this point across every platform, local multiplayer traditionally requires several parameters to be met: first you need a television, at least one friend, a few controllers, and heck, throw in some pizza. In the case of the Switch nearly all of these requirements—minus the pizza—are tossed out the window. With the screen capable of serving as your TV, and a set of Joy-Con controllers providing input for two players, you can set up shop and build alongside a friend at a moment's notice.
This isn't the first time the Switch has demonstrated such incredible potential. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was perhaps even a better example in some ways, but given its Nintendo exclusivity it couldn't reasonably be compared to what it is like to play on another ecosystem. But Minecraft is on many platforms, and with that its Switch version serves as a highlight for how great its portability is.
At $29.99, Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition comes across as a tough sell. So really, what it boils down to is whether or not you find yourself outside often with a desire to play games. If so, you might just want to carry this game on your Switch's storage knowing that when the time comes, you can explore your imagination in Minecraft with anyone, anywhere, at any time.