4 Nintendo Switch Games for Food Lovers

When lockdown started, I spent hours in my kitchen playing games on my Nintendo Switch. In handheld mode, I could pass the time while soups simmered and bread doughs doubled in size by running laps in Mario Kart, exploring the world of Skyrim, or rehearsing Super Smash Bros combos to unleash on my roommates. I’d always loved video games and cooking as separate hobbies, but enjoying both at once left me with a lingering question: Why does the food in video games pretty much always suck?

To be clear, I don’t mean that food mechanics aren’t realistic enough. Like, in a medium where just about anything is possible, I don’t need to spend my time peeling potatoes and mincing garlic for a stew. My problem is that food and its associated pleasures almost always feel like an afterthought. In action games, food is usually the slow, crappy way to heal your character—the last resort when you’re out of medical kits or potions—and in survival games, eating is usually more of a resource management problem than a part of the game meant to surprise and delight. Almost universally, it feels like video game developers view food as nourishment and nothing more, dooming their characters to exist on pixelated meal replacement bars and nutrition shakes.

Luckily, even if boring food in video games is a pattern, it’s not a rule. Some developers, both indie and triple-A, have found ways to make in-game eating feel exciting and worthwhile, proving that food-centric video games were possible all along. Just in time for the bigger, brighter OLED version of the Switch that’s due October 8, these are a few of the titles that bridge the divide between my two favorite hobbies, each in their own special way. There’s something for everyone: Maybe they’ll get a gamer in your life more engaged around dinner time. Maybe they’ll spark the same joy you experienced while playing Cooking Mama on your old DS. Maybe you need a game other than Animal Crossing to justify pre-ordering Nintendo’s newest gadget. Whatever the case, to quote a famous plumber and Chris Pratt, apparently—Let’s-a-Go!

Four Player Co-op in Overcooked 2 from Team17 Studio and Ghost Town Games.

When I look for a new co-op game (for non-gamers, that’s a multiplayer game where everyone works together, short for “cooperative”), I have a few basic criteria. First and foremost is communication. Whether my friends and I are strategizing, adding commentary, or straight up yelling at each other, I want a game that gets us talking. Second, I love easy-to-learn controls, so we can spend less time on tutorials and more time actually enjoying ourselves. Lastly, it needs to be more fun than just booting up Mario Kart, because, let’s be honest, that game is perfect. On this scale, I’m happy to report that all three of the Overcooked games receive a perfect score.

Overcooked places you in a series of cartoon kitchens, where you and your friends work together to fill customers’ orders as quickly as possible. You can choose an avatar from a list of adorable chefs, including anthropomorphic cats, sharks, birds, mice, and more. Like in a real restaurant, one player might be in charge of preparing meat while another chops veggies, cleans dishes, or plates each finished course. (All these tasks are accomplished by pressing and holding ‘X’ in front of the appropriate station and ingredient—shallow learning curve: Check). Tickets come in too quickly for anyone to work alone, and the game ups the difficulty for each additional player you add, so teamwork and constant communication are essential for success. After 15 minutes or so, you’ll find yourself using kitchen lingo out of pure convenience: “Hot behind!” I say, dashing past my friend with a saucepan. “You call that a julienne, you fucking donkey?” she says, checking my knife skills. What fun!

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