Testing Nintendo Switch accessibility by introducing my mother to its video games

Last week, I decided it would be fun to get (force) my wonderful mum to play some Nintendo Switch games. Her knowledge of video games is extremely limited. There was a period of time where we would all play games as a family. This was of course during the mid-to-late 2000s, when Wii was at the height of its popularity. We would would play games such as Mario Kart Wii, Wii Sports, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, and my mother’s personal favorite, Just Dance. (She made me mention this.) Obviously, Wii was a system designed with a wider, more casual audience in mind. This got me thinking about Nintendo Switch, accessibility, and whether or not my poor mother would be able to cope with advancements in technology.

With this in mind, I came up with an odd experiment to test the accessibility of Switch as a platform. I had my mum select four different Nintendo Switch titles from my collection, play them a bit, and present me with her thoughts at the end. The four games in question are Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Each game will have a score based on difficulty, thoughts on accessibility, and any general comments from my mother. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Would she play it again?: Yes

We thought Mario Kart 8 Deluxe would be a good introduction, as my mother has some experience with this kind of game. My mum really likes Princess Peach, so she chose to play as her. Yoshi’s Circuit was the course she decided to play, primarily because she also has a soft spot for the green dinosaur. When asked about her thoughts on accessibility, she said, “The menus are simple and easy to understand. I like how the game offers motion controls, as I liked that about Mario Kart Wii. If I were to play again, I would probably start with 50cc as 100 was too much!”

At first she struggled to understand drifting but became proficient at it in the end. This was probably the game that she enjoyed the most, having a smile on her face for the entire session. However, this game doesn’t hold a candle to Mario Kart Wii. “I just prefer Mario Kart Wii because of the Wii Wheel and having fun as a family. I do miss those days.”

Would she play it again?: No

If you recall your first experiences with the Super Smash Bros. series, the chances are you’ll remember struggling with it, and I warned my mum accordingly. I explained the controls as best as I could, teaching her how to recover, defend, and attack proficiently. At first, it was difficult for her to understand the different inputs, especially because she decided to play as Jigglypuff, whom I find has some of the most unorthodox attacks.

The first couple matches were interesting to spectate. I noticed that with each round, she got more into it and wanted to succeed. My mum was playing against the CPU set at a lower difficulty and decided to give Joker from Persona 5 a whirl. My mum immediately recognized the character since she’s seen me playing Persona 5 dozens of times. Joker was seemingly the correct choice, as she beat her opponents with ease multiple times.

In terms of accessibility for the Nintendo Switch game, this is what my mum had to say, “There’s a lot going on and the game doesn’t really teach you how to play. I wish there was more tutorials, as I found the controls to be quite complicated.” Despite her frustration with the game, she said that she liked the art style and the different stages available to play. My mum was especially fond of the Wii Fit stage, as she spent a good chunk of time playing the game on the Wii many years ago.

Would she play it again?: Yes

Super Mario Odyssey is a great open-world 3D platformer. This was my mother’s first experience with such a game, so it was interesting to see how she controlled the camera. At first, she found it difficult to maneuver the camera and move Mario at the same time. This struggle quickly faded away, with the frequent tutorials being presented on screen. She played through the entirety of the introduction in the Cap Kingdom, defeating the first boss. After being explained how to defeat the first Broodal, she managed to beat him with ease.

One thing that she found particularly enjoyable was playing as a frog. This was mostly due to the introduction of the motion controls. Certain moments in Super Mario Odyssey will require you to shake the controller, and this reminded my mum of the Wii era, where most games tried to incorporate motion controls in one way or another. Speaking about accessibility for this Switch game, my mum said, “The controls are easy to understand, especially when you’re shaking the controller. I also found the level design to be interesting, and the pacing was steady enough for me to understand.”

Would she play it again?: Yes

This was the game that she struggled the most with, which I kind of expected diving in. I’ve being playing Zelda games for years, and it is a franchise I never seem to stop talking about. Therefore, when she chose her fourth game, Zelda was a no-brainer as she wanted to see why I loved it so much. Just like with Super Mario Odyssey, she had difficulty adjusting to the camera controls. An open-ended game such as Breath of the Wild was an interesting choice for this subject, as the game can be especially difficult earlier on.

We played up until the first shrine, to see how she approached exploration and puzzle-solving. After getting used to the controls, she said, “The visual style in this game is beautiful. I like bright colors, and the grass and scenery look amazing.” Fighting enemies was tricky for her, as most of the time she was battling the camera as opposed to the Bokoblins. The first shrine was where things got more interesting, as gyro controls are an essential part of using the various runes that Link acquires during his adventure. Unlike in Mario Odyssey, she wasn’t a fan of the use in this game. “I found it to be quite confusing; it should be explained a little bit more.”

Overall, she enjoyed what she played and said she’d want to play some more of it. “I liked how I could just wander around and explore. The game was quite difficult, but I want to play more and see how I improve.” She even jokingly said that she now understands why I love Zelda so much! In terms of accessibility as as Switch game, Breath of the Wild is leaning towards the more hardcore spectrum. However, the game does an excellent job at easing the player into its world, with the introduction taking place in the Great Plateau. Limiting the player to a specific area may seem a little bit counterintuitive, but for someone like my mother, it was a perfect opening.

Nintendo Switch is accessible

Nintendo Switch is probably one of Nintendo’s most accessible consoles. Compared to the other consoles on the market, the Switch is certainly the easiest to understand. Out of curiosity, I handed my mum a DualSense controller, and she had a quick go of PlayStation 5. “The PS5 is very confusing,” she said. “The menus were difficult to understand compared to the Switch’s more basic design.” Recently Nintendo revealed that Nintendo Switch had outsold Nintendo 3DS, so I informed her of that, and she said, “I can understand why the Switch has sold so well. It is a very inviting console, and I now kind of want one for myself.”

After a successful experiment with the Switch and accessibility, it looks like I’m buying her a Switch for Christmas.