Five Nintendo esports to play on the Switch’s fifth birthday
The Nintendo Switch and Joy-Con controller, which celerbate their fifth birthday today.
Provided by Nintendo

Five Nintendo esports to play on the Switch’s fifth birthday

If you can tolerate a little Joy-Con drift, these esports are for you

Today marks five years since the Nintendo Switch launched in 2017 and, on the console’s fifth birthday, it’s strange to recognize that the Wii really might be a retro console at this point.

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During the past half-decade, the Switch has hosted numerous competitive video games. Sure, there have been ports of successful third-party titles like Fortnite and Overwatch. Yet, despite Nintendo’s embattled history with its competitive communities, the Switch is still the exclusive home to plenty of esports.

Here’s five Switch-exclusive esports you can play to celebrate the Nintendo Switch’s fifth birthday.

Celebrate Nintendo Switch’s fifth birthday with ARMS

Only three months younger than the Nintendo Switch itself, ARMS is a fitting pick for the console’s fifth birthday. Competitors can play singles or doubles matches in this unique twist on the fighting game genre.

In ARMS, players challenge opponents using an efficient pair of weaponized boxing gloves (called “ARMS”). Then, they use their characters’ stretchy arms to beat up on opponents from afar. While it is fairly niche, as far as Nintendo esports go, ARMS did attract a dedicated competitive community and even appeared at Evo Japan 2018.

Kirby Fighters 2

While Kirby Fighters 2 has seen less official esports competition than other games on this list, it still has plenty of competitive appeal. After all, who wouldn’t want to play a fighting game where (almost) every character is Kirby?

Kirby Fighters 2 may lack the depth of similar two-dimensional fighting games, but it’s still a fun twist on the series’ traditional platforming mechanics and allows players to beat up one another with Kirby’s copy abilities. The eShop-exclusive title also features an extensive story mode where players can unlock new characters and hone their in-game skills.

Splatoon 2

With Splatoon 3 set to release this summer, there’s no better time to get some practice with the Splatoon series than on the fifth birthday of the Nintendo Switch. Though Splatoon 2 launched in July of 2017, the announcement of the next game in the series brought new life to its competitive community.

This third-person shooter requires players to consider map control using their team’s respective ink color. In the meantime, they must net kills and gain a positional advantage on the map to achieve certain objectives. With four competitive modes in Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker and Clam Blitz, Splatoon 2 presents competitive players with a variety of unique challenges to overcome.

Pokémon Sword and Shield

While the overall experience of Pokémon Sword and Shield may be more casual than games like Pokémon UNITE or Pokkén Tournament DX, there’s no denying their significance to the competitive Pokémon scene. Sword and Shield made the Video Game Championship format more accessible than ever before through various quality of life-changes.

For example, Sword and Shield introduced mints that effectively allow trainers to change a Pokémon’s nature. In addition, they allow players to practice the VGC format using other players’ rental teams. Thus, they can jump into playing without putting forth the effort required to train up all of their own Pokémon. As trainers look forward to the upcoming Generation 9 releases, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, Sword and Shield present the perfect opportunity to try out the competitive doubles format.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Of course, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the crown jewel of the Nintendo Switch’s exclusive esports library. This makes it the perfect game for anyone looking to celebrate the console’s fifth anniversary. Since it launched in December of 2018, Smash Ultimate has had a robust competitive community. It even boasts the largest Smash tournament of all time, with Evo 2019 attracting 3,534 entrants for Ultimate Singles.

Although competitive Smash, in general, has survived all these years through grassroots support, Ultimate and Melee are slated to receive their first Nintendo-sponsored North American circuits this year. With information about another independent circuit — the 2022 Smash World Tour scheduled for next week — there’s no better time than the Nintendo Switch’s fifth birthday to get into competitive Smash Ultimate.

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Dylan Tate
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.