As a Nintendo DS collector with over 350 games in my collection, I’ve played a wide variety of offerings for Nintendo’s dual-screened handheld, from the big blockbusters, to the indie darlings, to the sleeper hits that most people have probably missed. And yet, one of my absolute favorite DS releases remains Clubhouse Games. Nintendo’s collection of card, board, and action games offered hours of entertainment across a selection of 42 choices, and was great for playing either solo or with friends.
So, when Nintendo revealed Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics for the Switch during a recent Nintendo Direct, I was excited to say the least. This time around, the team has crammed even more games into the package, covering not only those classic card, board, and action game categories like before, but also a wider selection of sports, competitive games, and recreations of retro toys.
Before we go any further, here’s the full list of what’s included:
|Mancala||✓||✓||Dots and Boxes||✓||✓|
|Hit and Blow||✓||✓||Nine Men’s Morris||✓||✓|
|Hare and Hounds||✓||✓||Gomoku||✓||✓|
|Texas Hold ’em||✓||President||✓|
|Toy Soccer||✓||✓||Toy Curling||✓||✓|
|Toy Boxing||✓||✓||Toy Baseball||✓||✓|
|Air Hockey||✓||✓||Slot Cars||✓|
|Team Tanks||✓||Shooting Gallery||✓||✓|
|6-Ball Puzzle||✓||✓||Sliding Puzzle|
|Mahjong Solitaire||Klondike Solitaire|
Please note: For the purposes of this review, online gameplay was not tested due to the pre-release nature of the game. As well, local play using multiple Switches could not be tested, as the free guest pass app is not yet available.
Not everything from the original Clubhouse Games made it over to the sequel, with games like Old Maid, Hearts, Rummy, Grid Attack (aka Battleship), and Field Tactics (aka Stratego) missing from the line-up. While there are a few that I’ll genuinely miss—I put way too much time into the sliding block puzzle Escape, and having no standard five-card draw poker is pretty surprising—most of what was removed would honestly be dead weight for a lot of players these days.
In their place, we get some really fantastic replacements. Games like Mancala, Carrom, and Hare & Hounds might seem like ancient history to younger players, but they’re timeless classics that are all still incredibly fun to play today. The selection of new “toy” games are by far the biggest addition by category, and while they aren’t the deepest experiences gameplay-wise, they’re a nice selection of new options for when you’re playing with people who prefer something simpler. Overall, the entire game list just feels so much smarter in its variety, providing a far better collection no matter if you’re playing alone or with others.
There is something really important to remember (or know) about Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics’ library, though: Its games are all more casual-focused in design. You simply can’t expect the same level of depth here as you’d get from more specialized releases. For example, Texas Hold ’em is only playable for a set number of rounds, and the options presented in Golf aren’t anywhere close to what you’d get from something like HB Studios’ The Golf Club series. None of that is in any way a negative, to be clear. The Clubhouse Games series exists to offer a wide variety of choices for those times when you want to relax both your body and your brain with some video games, or when you want options to play with family and friends no matter what their skill levels might be. In those ways, and more, both titles have totally succeeded.
Throughout my time with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, I only had a few minor complaints. While the limitations of what is playable in either local or online multiplayer make sense, I simply don’t get why Nintendo decided to have two outliers—Darts and Fishing—that are unplayable with a Pro Controller. There’s nothing special enough about either that they couldn’t have also provided more traditional control options. (And boy does it suck using my Joy-Cons when they’re both suffering from major drifting issues, but I suppose that goes for every Switch game that I own.) I also don’t understand Nintendo’s reluctance to offer both digital and analog movement for games like Dots and Boxes, Spider Solitaire, or Mahjong Solitaire. I kept wanting to just speed through possible move choices using the directional buttons, but was only ever given slower-moving analog controls. Finally, I wish Nintendo had rethought some of the games’ art assets for when they’re played on smaller screens. Given Clubhouse Games’ huge appeal to older gamers, certain elements like scores or numbers on cards can at times be harder to read—especially if you’re playing on a Switch Lite.
The other aspect to Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics that I was sure would end up being a negative turned out to be a huge positive: the game’s user interface and overall style. When things kick off, you’re presented with talking board game pieces who provide an introduction to the overall collection before ushering you off to customize your own piece. Once I’d placed my little figure on the game’s virtual globe and saw a selection of other NPCs to talk to, I started getting flashbacks to Rhythm Heaven Megamix and its dreadful story mode that locks everything away behind seemingly endless cutscenes.
Thankfully, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics has no intention of locking away any of its games until you jump through a series of hoops. Its living board game pieces exist simply to help you focus on smaller curated collections of games (should you want them), or to provide a way to connect with other real-world players around the world through their own customized figures. Those pieces and their short pregame conversations are set atop an overall interface that’s incredibly clean and stylish, providing a humorous yet welcoming way to access all of the games and their options.
I know there will be some who think I’m totally crazy for saying this, but I truly believe that Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is easily one of Nintendo’s best releases on the Switch. Unlike games like Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s not a “beat it then sell it” kind of experience, nor is it something like Splatoon 2 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate where constant updates are needed to keep things fresh. This latest chapter of the Clubhouse Games series legitimately has something for everyone in your household, and its collection of games will be just as relevant ten years from now as it is today. While the original Clubhouse Games will always have a special place in my heart, Nintendo really upped its effort in this sequel, and the result is something that stands apart from almost everything else on the Switch.
No matter if you want something to help pass the time, are looking for new ways to connect with family and friends, or simply wish you could finally learn how to play those classic card and board games you’ve yet to try, Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is a stellar collection that provides an extensive selection of games without ever feeling overwhelming.
E - Everyone
|Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is available on Nintendo Switch. Primary version played was for Switch. Code/hardware was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI.