‘Arms’: Our first take

'Arms' is a modern-day 'Punch-Out!' that shows the limits of Nintendo's Joy-Con controllers

With Arms, Nintendo’s upcoming motion-control boxing game, Nintendo returns to its Wii-era focus on playing games by acting them out. Falling somewhere between Punch-Out! and Wii Boxing, both in terms of complexity and tone, Arms pits players in one-on-one brawls between cartoony characters, all of whom use extendable robot arms to punch each other from across long distances.

In addition to throwing punches by swinging the Switch’s detached Joy-Con mini controllers, you can alter the course of those punches after they’ve been thrown by twisting and moving your Joy-Con while your arm is extended. While you can play Arms with the Switch Pro Controller, or with the Joy-Cons slotted into the Joy-Con Grip, the concept is clearly made for motion controls. Twisting your arms to reach your enemies, or physically moving to avoid their blows, feels fast and frantic, but also strategic.

With the exception of virtual reality, the era of motion controllers seems over, but clever games like Arms may help the Switch pull it back from the brink of extinction.

Extend yourself…

Arms, as you might expect, revolves around the mechanical extensions that the characters wear in place of their…arms. While every character throws a bunch in a similar way, post-punch maneuverability can vary quite a bit. Generally speaking, quicker characters do less damage, but can control their punches more.

Arms is a game unlike anything else you can get on a console this year.

It’s a neat idea in theory, but in practice we ran into some issues. We tried a slow, but strong character named Master Mummy, whose ability to direct his fists was so limited we questioned the game’s mechanics. The issues didn’t completely drain the fun out of the match, but we definitely found the faster, more malleable characters enjoyable.

That said, a character like Master Mummy might make sense with a different set of arms. You can equip arms, as well as armor, and what you choose seems to not only affect your stats, but how you fight. A quick fighter named Ninjara used an arm that would swipe back and across, opening the door for feints and wild swings. We don’t know whether custom equipment will be restricted to specific characters, but these items could make for a wildly varied spectrum of character loadouts.

…But not too far

While the game feels tailor-made for motion controls at times, we can’t help but wonder if players will ultimately revert to using a gamepad.

Aside from the basic punch-and-swing mechanics, the Joy-Con controllers seem like they may be an impediment to truly competitive play. Players can move around the screen by tilting the Joy-Cons in the direction they want to move, but even quick characters feel unwieldy. Players block by pushing your arms together, and reach for a powerful throw move by punching with both arms at once. In the frantic fighting, we frequently used one or both of these moves by mistake. It’s easy to  accidentally expose yourself to attack.

There are also a lot of questions remaining that will affect whether Arms can maintain its appeal beyond the Switch’s honeymoon months. While Arms was fun to play against an AI, the meta-game that Arms’ encourages will only be fun when fighting other humans. Meanwhile, it isn’t entirely clear if the game supports online multiplayer. (We’ve reached out to Nintendo to clarify this). Assuming it does, we don’t know how playing online might affect the game. Fighting game fans are notorious for scrutinizing games’ connectivity, because when games move quickly, every frame of animation matters.

Arms seems like a fun trifle, and a game unlike anything else you can get on a console this year. Whether it has the depth and attention to detail necessary to attract an audience beyond Nintendo fanatics and Switch early adopters, however, remains a mystery. We’ll look forward to playing the full version of Arms when it launches on the Switch this Spring.


  • Frantic, fun combat
  • Good use of motion controls
  • Wide range of characters


  • Slow characters weren’t much fun
  • Motion control lacks precision

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.

You're not a true fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.

Grabbing a Switch for the holidays? Here's what you need to know to play online

If you want to play online multiplayer on Switch, you'll need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Here's what you need to know about Nintendo Switch Online, from price to features to the awesome library of NES games.

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.

Underwater survival game ‘Subnautica’ free on Epic Games’ online store

The award-winning underwater survival game Subnautica is currently available as a free download on the Epic Games store. The Steam challenger looks to attract players with a new free game every two weeks.

Kanye West wants to meet ‘Metal Gear Solid’ creator Hideo Kojima, for some reason

Rapper Kanye West wants to meet video game designer Hideo Kojima in New York. Nobody knows the reason behind the meeting, but fans are speculating that it may have something to do with Death Stranding for the PlayStation 4.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

‘Kingdom Hearts III’ out in the wild, director asks for support to stop spoilers

Kingdom Hearts III has been leaked, with several copies of the game out in the wild. The game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, responded to the situation, calling for help from gamers to stop spoilers from spreading online.

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.

Project Stream testers get to keep a free copy of ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Those who participated in Google's technical test of Project Stream won't be able to access the service to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey after January 15, but they'll get to keep the game on PC anyway.

Newest ‘Destiny 2’ raid already completed by two-person team

The latest raid in Destiny 2: Forsaken is Scourge of the Past, and a two-person team has already managed to complete it. The task took 15 hours of trial-and-error effort before the duo managed to take down the final boss.

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.

Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.