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Wild Card Football (Switch) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - October 10, 2023, 8:00 am EDT
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Baffling play calls in a second-half collapse keep this from being a first ballot Hall of Famer.

The last time a Nintendo platform had an NFL football game, current reigning league MVP and Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes was a 17-year-old high-schooler. Hundreds of NFL players had their careers begin and end without ever appearing on a game for a Nintendo system. Even if Saber Interactive’s Wild Card Football only has the NFL Player’s Association license (so it has real players and no real teams or stadiums), this is an important release on Nintendo Switch as it’s the first time America’s most popular sport has appeared on America’s most popular gaming platform. It might not be the simulation-heavy experience that a Madden provides, but it’s a fun stab at bringing football to a Nintendo system after all these years, even if it doesn’t totally stick the landing.

First and foremost, this is purebred arcade sports, with 7-on-7 games in lieu of football’s traditional 11-on-11. Players are cartoony and impossibly bulky. Playbooks and mechanics are simplified. Quarters are two minutes long. At times, it feels NFL Blitz-esque, with over-the-top bomb passing plays and vicious tackles. The big twist is the “wild card” part of the game. In most games, you have a deck of game-changing cards that can speed up your players, make your opponents more susceptible to drops, or do even wilder stuff like push the opposing team back five yards or make them lose a down. Some of them even unleash player abilities, like making the ball carrier invisible or have them turn into a giant for a few seconds. It adds a high-key chaotic aspect to the proceedings, layering in a good dose of strategy as you and your opponent both have cards that you can use to try to cancel out the other one’s hand.

With how fun the card manipulation can be at times, it’s a shame the actual football it supports doesn’t land. I enjoy the passing part of the game, as it does a good job of taking the tried-and-true controls of football games through time and distills them into a pleasant arcade form. Timing passing routes and trying to outsmart defenders is good. Unfortunately the running game boils down to a timing-based button press. Land it, and you’ll bust through the crowd. Miss it, and you’re more or less doomed to lose yards. It’s especially maddening because in my experience, the CPU - even on lower difficulties - seems to nail the timing every time. Also the AI for the CPU seems busted overall, making baffling decisions with regularity, ranging from not calling timeouts near the end of a half to not going for two when down by two.

Beyond the gameplay, there just isn’t a whole hell of a lot to do in Wild Card Football. Offline, a basic season mode with the built-in teams (collected by their real-life teams but named for their starting quarterback) is the only non-multiplayer experience. Two player local matches are enjoyable, though at this point, I can’t fully vouch for the longevity. The meat is found online in the Dream Squad mode, which is Wild Card Football’s Ultimate Team mode. You unlock packs of cards to build up your custom team of NFL players, taking them to compete online against other humans or the computer. The full breadth of the online competition and micro-transaction elements aren’t accessible yet, but I have spent a lot of time in the Tour mode, which allows you to unlock new cards by playing the CPU. This isn’t a mode I would play much of if it weren’t for the fact there is almost literally nothing else to do, but I’ll admit it’s been fun. The Tour mode puts you into different game variants, whether it’s with or without Wild Cards or even a race to a specific score total.

The pressure put on Wild Card Football to be the one single NFL game on Nintendo Switch might be undue, but regardless, this opening kickoff for a potential sports franchise fades down the stretch after a promising start. Parts of the game are good, making for a decent multiplayer game and a lacking solo experience due to limited modes, a borderline worthless running game, and janky computer-controlled opponents. If you’re hard up for playing as your favorite NFL players on your favorite Nintendo platform, this is an acceptable placebo, but here’s hoping Nintendo gets a high first-round draft pick for their next console so they can pick a more well-rounded football game.


  • Endearing cartoony visual style
  • Interesting Wild Card game mechanic
  • NFL players on a Nintendo platform for the first time since 2012
  • Confounding CPU play
  • Light on modes
  • Timing-based running game

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Game Profile

Genre Sports
Developer Saber Interactive
Players1 - 4
Online1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Wild Card Football
Release Oct 10, 2023
PublisherSaber Interactive
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