Nintendo's new Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics provides a very polished platform for a number of classic board games, but none of which can really justify the game's surprisingly high price tag. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is a collection of 51 different card and board games from around the world, almost all of which can be played through in a matter of minutes. Everything from Shogi to Solitaire is included, and players will even find generic versions of classic games like Yahtzee (Yacht Dice) and Connect 4 (Four-in-a-row). Each game comes with a brief tutorial that explains the game's basic concepts, and many of the more complex games have hints or additional assistance that players can turn on or off at their leisure.
Digital versions of board games tend to move a lot quicker than their analog counterparts, and Clubhouse Games is no exception. Many of the games take less than 10 minutes to play through, even when playing with another person as opposed to AI opponents. That's the first major issue with Clubhouse Games is that, despite the breadth of games available to play, there's surprisingly very little substance. The game only comes with a few basic stat trackers, and the overarching single player "metagame" is limited to unlocking harder AIs or unlocking new trivia facts about the different types of games. Outside of the games themselves, there's just not very much to do in Clubhouse Games, which is a bit of a surprise given that games nowadays seemed to be almost overstuffed with features.
The good news is that Clubhouse Games is very well made. All 51 games look very polished and come with nice little touches like realistic sounds and decent in-game physics. Tossing stones in Clubhouse Games' Curling will wipe away the thin level of condensation that rests on the ice, while the clatter of glass beads in Mancala varies based on the number of beads in a given space. It's all very nice to look at, and there are a few little details that will likely elicit a smile. Clubhouse Games is clearly superior to the different Mahjong or Chess games available on the Nintendo Switch, and I can't help but wonder whether this is Nintendo's way to compete in that space.
There are a few odd choices in Clubhouse Games that don't really match the general board game theme. War (a game that's arguably not a game) is in here, as is a strange Fishing game that feels really out of place. There's a Golf game that's... fine, but not actually a board game, and there's a "Six Ball Puzzle" game that's basically a more complicated match-em mobile game. The Battle Tanks and Team Tanks are both pretty fun, but are also horrifically out of place with the general theme of the game, and there's even a Bowling game that's basically Wii Sports: Bowling that uses only Joy-Cons. Luckily, there's enough diversity in games that everyone should find something they like, which should help it appeal as a party game.
My real struggle with Clubhouse Games is its price point. It's not that Clubhouse Games is a poorly made game, but at the end of the day, it's just a hodge-podge of digitized public domain board games that only take a few moments to play. I struggle to justify it's $39.99 price point, even if it's nice to look at and is technically well-made. Would people be willing to pay $40 for Mario Party without the overarching themes linking together its minigames, or for a chance to play Chess with a friend online? The Mosaic Mode where you can connect multiple Switches together to form a bigger board seems like it might have some novelty to it, but I don't think that it'll have any real sticking power or would justify paying full price for its game.
Nintendo describes Clubhouse Games as "eclectic" in their official description of the game on their website, and honestly, that's the best description of the game that I could come up with. Clubhouse Games looks good but lacks any real substance beyond its large catalog of games, many of which offer little more than the most basic of strategies. It's as if Nintendo decided to collect free games put out for Windows 98 and then give them an HD render, offering some idle amusement. Once Clubhouse Games gets discounted (and I'm sure that it won't be long), it might be worth the price tag, but I wouldn't invest in a full-price version right out of the gate.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics is set to release on June 5thfor $39.99. This game was reviewed on a base model Nintendo Switch, and a retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.