Nintendo Switch Sports: Preview and where to preorder

Even if you’re not a big gamer, you may have fond memories of flailing your arms around while bowling, golfing or playing tennis in the mega-popular Wii Sports. More than 15 years later, Nintendo is finally bringing that experience to the Switch in the aptly named Nintendo Switch Sports, which packs a mix of old and new minigames while throwing in some promising modern features.

I got to spend an hour playing all six games in the collection ahead of its April 29 release, and I’m already itching to pick up the Joy-Cons for another few rounds. You can currently preorder Nintendo Switch Sports for $49 physically or $39 digitally. And if you’re on the fence, here are some early impressions to help you decide.

Nintendo Switch Sports release date and preorders

Switch Sports launches on April 29 and is available in two variations: a $49 physical edition that comes with a Joy-Con Leg Strap, or a $39 digital edition that you can buy from the Nintendo eShop or various retailers. If you already have a Leg Strap from Ring Fit Adventure — or can live without the Soccer Shoot-Out minigame that uses it — you’re better off saving some cash and getting the digital version.

Wii Sports for a new generation

Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Sports immediately drew me in with its presentation, which adds a more modern sheen to the cutesy, colorful aesthetic you may remember from Wii Sports. The game’s many areas — from its outdoor bowling alley to an elevated swordplay arena surrounded by water — looked gorgeous, vibrant and on par with modern Switch classics like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I especially enjoyed the game’s new customizable avatars, which are more detailed and distinct than the limited Mii characters on previous games.

That said, you can absolutely still use your Mii in Nintendo Switch Sports — and Nintendo even made a pretty accurate one of me ahead of my play session. Once I selected my bearded, hat-wearing digital doppelgänger, it was time to play.

A good mix of old and new games

Mike Andronico/CNN

I started my Switch Sports session with Soccer, a new addition to the series and the one game in the package to take advantage of the Joy-Con Leg Strap (you’ll get a strap in the physical edition, or you can use the one you may already have from Ring Fit Adventure). We kicked things off (no pun intended) with a shootout contest, which was a fairly rudimentary experience of kicking a giant ball into a goal as it came my way. I found it fairly easy to time and aim my kicks with the Leg Strap attached, and even managed to pull out the win against a Nintendo rep.

But Soccer really opened up when we switched to a traditional full game mode, which offered a thrilling mix of controller-based gameplay and satisfying motion controls. With two Joy-Cons in hand, I guided my avatar up and down the field as I would in most video games, but I attacked the ball using a variety of arm swings — as well as a superman-like head dive that my teammate and I both got a kick out of. I felt like I was playing a modern sports game like Rocket League but with the added excitement (and exercise) of having to physically move around to hit the ball. I already want more.

Nintendo

Another major standout during my playtime was Chambara, a sword fighting game that may be familiar to folks who played 2009’s Wii Sports Resort. You can’t just recklessly flail around here, and precisely reading your opponent is the name of the game. I felt like a Jedi Knight as I parried my enemy’s attacks and followed up with big swings of my own, and was both satisfied and amused every time I won a round by knocking my opponent into the water. The Nintendo staff were complimentary of my skills here; it must be all the fighting games I play.

I had a good time with Volleyball, which allowed me to bump, set and spike the ball using natural hand motions. However, while these moves were satisfying and easy to do during the tutorial — there’s even a handy on-screen prompt that indicates the optimal time to hit — I found it much harder to apply them to a real game. I mostly chalk this up to forgetting which move to use in the heat of the moment, though the fact that we were playing high-difficulty AI opponents likely played a role as well. My teammate and I still had some exciting volleys (including a moment where I set him up for a big, powerful spike), but I’ll definitely need more practice time with this one.

The same can be said about Badminton, which plays like a simpler, more intense version of Wii Sports Tennis. Swinging felt intuitive, and you’ll get more powerful shots if you perform left, right and overhead hits in succession. I had some fast and fun exchanges with my opponent, but as with Volleyball, I was beaten pretty handily, and will need some more play time before I’m ready to take on competition online.

Nintendo

However, I felt right at home when we switched to Bowling, which felt exactly how I remembered it from the Wii Sports days. Using the Joy-Con to wind up and roll the ball feels just as intuitive now as it did with a Wiimote in 2007, and I especially loved the simultaneous play mode that allowed my three opponents and I to rapidly knock out pins without having to wait for one another. Tennis was similarly familiar, and I easily got up to speed serving, slicing and smashing during some fun back-and-forths with my group.

Promising online play and customization features

Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Sports felt great to pick up and play, but I’m just as impressed by how much of a complete package it’s shaping up to be.

Not only do the new customizable avatars look great compared to classic Miis (and deliver some hilarious mid-game facial expressions), but there are also a variety of cosmetic items you can unlock for them as you play online. Yep — Switch Sports finally brings online play to the series, with support for up to eight players for certain titles. This should be great for getting an impromptu Bowling or Volleyball session going with distant friends, or if you just want fresh competition after constantly beating your family members.

Speaking of which, there’s even an online Pro League that will allow you to work your way up the ranks and take on similarly skilled players, which is a level of competitive depth I wouldn’t expect from what’s historically been a casual party game. And if you miss hitting the links in Wii Sports Golf, fret not — a golf minigame is arriving this fall as part of a free update.

The takeaway

Nintendo

Once I put down my Joy-Cons and grabbed the complementary mango smoothie that was waiting for me on my way out (after all, this was a workout), all I wanted to do was play more Nintendo Switch Sports. Every game in Nintendo’s latest sports collection felt intuitive right away, and I get the sense that there are plenty of hidden tricks waiting to be discovered by competitive players.

It’s the first title in a while that the gamers and nongamers in my life have been universally excited about, and I’m eager to take on all of them both locally and online as I reclaim my throne as the world’s best Wii Bowler. We’ll have more to say about Nintendo Switch Sports when it launches, but those already set on bringing a copy home can preorder the game now.