The Best Nintendo Switch Physical Releases of 2023 – SwitchArcade Special – TouchArcade

I said this last year as well, but I don’t think we’ve had a better year for the Switch than 2023 with how many quality first and third party releases hit the system. More and more games are released physically through boutique publishers, large scale retailers, and developers’ own storefronts. For this feature, I’m going to highlight my favorite physical releases including, and this will be a bit different since I’ve included a few additional import games that are worth showcasing. Note that not all the games featured are still available to buy physically. If you’ve been reading prior SwitchArcade Specials on physical releases, XSEED Games and NIS America are regulars who return for the feature in 2023 as well. Here are the top 10 physical releases on Nintendo Switch in no particular order.

The Best Nintendo Switch Physical Releases of 2023

The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie

NIS America continues to impress with its Trails standard releases on Switch and PlayStation. Trails into Reverie might not be an amazing experience on Switch compared to other platforms where it is top tier, but it is a massive JRPG that has been ported to Nintendo’s hybrid system intact. The physical standard release has a reversible cover, game on cartridge, bonus digital soundtrack code, and a small art booklet.

Dead Cells Return to Castlevania Edition

Dead Cells has gotten a few physical releases so far, but the Dead Cells Return to Castlevania Edition is notable for including all paid and free DLC on cartridge from the get go and having an amazing Castlevania-style reversible cover. Not only did it do a cool cover for Switch matching the original game, but the PS5 edition I also got aims for a cover themed after Symphony of the Night. They really went the extra mile for this physical release. It is still available quite readily if you want the best current version of Dead Cells and the superb Return to Castlevania DLC together.

Rune Factory 3 Special

Xseed Games and Marvelous’ Rune Factory 3 Special includes the game on cartridge, reversible art, and a booklet. The publisher also did a lovely limited edition, but the standard editions Xseed Games releases put most limited editions to shame. This also had a budget price.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure

Another Trails game? I almost included three Trails games on this list because NIS America absolutely nailed the physical releases. That game was The Legend of Nayuta, but I opted to include Trails to Azure here. It has a similar physical release to Trails into Reverie, but it completes one of the best duologies in gaming (Trails from Zero), and the Switch version is the best way to play it on console. It has the full game on cartridge, reversible cover, digital soundtrack code, and an art booklet.

Sea of Stars (Japan import)

I wasn’t going to wait till 2024 for Sea of Stars to get a local physical release, so I grabbed the Japanese release with English support a few weeks ago. This has the game on cartridge, acrylic stands, the soundtrack on CD, art cards, and more. It also somehow costs less than the standard game does on the eShop.

Ib and Drainus (Japan import)

Playism’s releases of Ib and Drainus in Japan from earlier this year had excellent bonuses like an artbook or soundtrack included, but I wanted to highlight both of these because more people need to start looking at how easy it is to buy Switch physical games with English support from places like Amazon Japan or AmiAmi for a lot less than they’d cost to buy locally. Both Ib and Drainus are two of my favorite indie games of the year as well, and I love the physical releases I got.

Drainus (Non import)

Shaun wrote about Strictly Limited Games’ recent sale already, but this version of Drainus is also quite cool. If you haven’t already figured it out, you need to play Drainus if you enjoy shmups, and I’m glad it got 2 lovely physical editions. This one is also available to buy from Strictly Limited Games, but the game hasn’t gotten a North American physical release yet if you were wondering.

Silent Hope

Silent Hope feels like a hidden gem right now given its bad release timing, but I’ve enjoyed dipping in and out of it ever since finishing it for review on Steam Deck and Switch. The Switch physical is called the Day One Edition. It has a booklet, game on cartridge, soundtrack, outer box, and reverse art for the standard case.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life

The Story of Seasons franchise has had quite a resurgence on Switch and other platforms lately, but Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is the best entry point available on modern platforms. The physical release from Xseed Games and Marvelous has the usual booklet, reverse art, and game on cartridge, but the publisher even did a bit more for the limited edition bundle pictured below. I really wish we either had more physical games released through Xseed Games, or had other publishers putting as much effort as they do.

Red Dead Redemption and Fashion Dreamer*

Red Dead Redemption’s physical release isn’t special compared to everything else on this list in its physical contents, but it is notable because Rockstar Games and Nintendo (they handled the physical release distribution) shipped a complete game on cartridge with no download required. The GTA release also handled by Nintendo at retail required a download just like LA Noire did a few years ago. Red Dead Redemption is a polished port that shipped complete on cartridge and is worth highlighting just for that. You might think this is a low bar, but we see too many publishers cheap out for retail releases on Switch time and time again.

Speaking of Nintendo handling distribution, Nintendo of America handled the retail release for Marvelous and Xseed Games’ Fashion Dreamer. This is notable because syn Sophia developed Fashion Dreamer and the developer previously did Nintendo’s Style Savvy games. Fashion Dreamer is basically a spiritual successor to Style Savvy in many ways. The downside to Nintendo distributing is that we didn’t end up getting a booklet like we do in Xseed Games and Marvelous’ other releases above. This is included here more to let readers know that Nintendo does handle physical releases for games they don’t publish once in a while. I do wish Fashion Dreamer got a nice booklet or poster as a bonus though.

Cuphead – Superdeluxe Games (Japan)

Last year, I featured Cuphead’s physical release because it was a lovely standard edition release with reversible art, DLC on cartridge, collectible art cards, and more from iam8bit. This year, I grabbed Superdeluxe Games’ Cuphead release from Japan, and I’m floored at how good the first print edition is. It includes a lovely soundtrack package in a hardcover case with artwork from the legendary Yoshitaka Amano, a premium outer slipcase, magazine included, and a trading card. Some of this might not still be available, but I was glad I could get this before it sold out.

Bonus: The Worst Switch Physical Release of 2023


While I love the METAL GEAR SOLID: MASTER COLLECTION Vol. 1 even with its flaws, the Switch physical release is embarrassing. It is just one step above having a code in box. You need to download just about everything, and it takes up a ton of space as you can see from the back of the case above. With everything installed, the games included take up 12.7GB (MGS1), 12.4GB (Bonus Content), 12.3GB (MGS2), 618MB (MG and MG2) and 17.8GB (MGS3). Obviously this wouldn’t fit on a 32GB cartridge either, but Konami could have at least included one complete game from the big ones on a cartridge given this was selling for $59.99.

With 2023 done and 2024 likely being the last year for the Switch before things move to the successor, I want to know what you thought of the Switch library this year across digital and physical releases. It feels like we are getting more physical releases than ever before despite many people claiming physical media is dead. With many interesting ports and retail releases, what were your favorite releases of the year and did you grab any of the physical releases highlighted in this feature?

(Special thanks to my friend @thoraxes for help with photographs for Silent Hope, Rune Factory 3 Special, Fashion Dreamer, and Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life.)

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