Why Astral Chain Might Be the Year's Biggest Surprise for the Nintendo Switch

Why Astral Chain Might Be the Year's Biggest Surprise for the Nintendo Switch

In a year of Fire Emblem and Pokemon, PlatinumGames has found success on the Switch.

Astral Chain looked like it might get lost in the undertow of big name Nintendo releases this summer. But between critical reception and strong sales numbers, it looks like it might be one of the biggest breakouts of 2019.

August's NPD reports place it in the top 10 best-selling games of the month, securing a fifth Nintendo exclusive in a dominant August for the Switch.

With a release date of August 30, only two days of sales were tracked for Astral Chain. Additionally, the NPD Group could only track physical sales of Astral Chain within that window; as a representative of the group told USgamer, its physical sales in a 48-hour span still managed to break into the top 10 of the overall month.

While an NPD spokesperson says it tracked fifth amongst Platinum Games' best launch months, that came with some caveats; namely being some of those games did track digital, and had more than two days in a month for tracking numbers.

In the critical realm, Astral Chain saw a lot of love too. At an 87 MetaCritic average, it's the third highest rated Switch exclusive of the year, and sixth overall on the Nintendo Switch for 2019. In our own review, we praised PlatinumGames' mix of teamwork and action. As a directorial debut for Nier: Automata designer Takahisa Taura, it certainly stood out among the rest of PlatinumGames' catalog. It's hard not to wonder if that fresh perspective brought something extra to the table where previous games from the studio have sometimes faltered or failed to grab mainstream attention.

Beyond just a new director, Astral Chain is also an original IP, an area where PlatinumGames has struggled in the past. While some of its best-selling games hearken from established properties, like Nier and Metal Gear, original titles have had trouble establishing a similar foothold. Bayonetta only just cracked the top 20 in 2010, and other games like Vanquish have struggled.

Next month's results will give us a greater idea of whether Astral Chain carries the same staying power that major Nintendo launches like Fire Emblem: Three Houses or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate have. It has, however, succeeded in terms of both reception and immediate impact, even as an exclusive title. What seemed like one of the lesser anticipated games of 2019 has ended up being one of the Switch's biggest surprises.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Eric Van Allen

News Editor

Eric is a writer and Texan. He's a former contributor to sites including Compete, Polygon, Waypoint, and the Washington Post. He loves competitive games, live music, and travel.

Read this next

What Game Are You Playing Over the Long Labor Day Weekend?

COMMUNITY QUESTION | It's a three-day weekend for most people out there, and a lot of games came out this week.

Abuse Accusations and "Censorship" Drama Were at the Forefront of a Busy Week in Games

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | A series of accusations of abusive behavior dominated the industry during a week full of new releases.

Astral Chain Review

PlatinumGames veteran Takahisa Taura steps into the director's chair for this Switch exclusive.

PlatinumGames Studio Head Thinks Battle Royale Genre "Would Be Interesting" to Explore

"We wouldn't want to make something that was just shooting."

Control's New PC Patch Forces You to Launch Through the Epic Games Store

An Epic representative tells USG that DRM and store authentication decisions are up to developers and publishers.

More News

Control's New PC Patch Forces You to Launch Through the Epic Games Store

An Epic representative tells USG that DRM and store authentication decisions are up to developers and publishers.

Okami Sequel Teased By Noted Twitter Troll Hideki Kamiya

I mean, it'd be nice if it were true.

Microsoft Claims Xbox Game Pass Subscribers Play More Games and More Genres

The average Game Pass user is apparently playing—and buying—more games than they used to.

More on Switch

Okami Sequel Teased By Noted Twitter Troll Hideki Kamiya

I mean, it'd be nice if it were true.

The Witcher 3 Modders Manage to Hit 60 FPS on the Nintendo Switch

It'll just really heat your Switch up in the process.

Nintendo Switch's North American Sales Have Surpassed the Wii U's Global Lifetime Sales

The Switch has solidly outsold its console predecessor.

Obsidian Developer Says Studio Can Focus on Games, Not Pitches, After Microsoft Buyout

Designer Brian Hines says Microsoft wants Obsidian to keep doing what's been working.

Luigi's Mansion 3 References One of the Best Horror Films of All Time

Crazy things can happen when your back is turned.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Ditches the Trainer School, Much to Everyone's Relief

I learned how to catch Pokemon from a drunk old man, and that's good enough for me.

More Action Games

Control's New PC Patch Forces You to Launch Through the Epic Games Store

An Epic representative tells USG that DRM and store authentication decisions are up to developers and publishers.

Microsoft Claims Xbox Game Pass Subscribers Play More Games and More Genres

The average Game Pass user is apparently playing—and buying—more games than they used to.