[Review] Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 Complete Edition – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Frontier Developments
  • Publisher: FRONTIER
  • Release date: 24/9/2020
  • Price: £19.99 / $29.99
  • Review code provided by FRONTIER

Introducing Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 Switch Review

One of the biggest disappointments of my childhood was that I never got to play Rollercoaster Tycoon. Sure, I played a lot of Zoo Tycoon and I played a lot of games that rode the wave Rollercoaster Tycoon created, such as Simcoaster. It was just one that my family never got for me, and by the time I had the money to be buying my own video games, my computer was too new to run the game and I didn’t yet know about emulators. Sure, the games I had played let me manage a theme park, but I had never been able to actually delete part of a coaster track to catastrophic results. Now that I am an adult who can make even more decisions about what games I play, I’m finally getting a chance to give the third game in the series a shot.

Up, Up, Up

I will admit that the first thing I did was, in fact, go into the sandbox mode and build a roller coaster that was going to launch people off into nowhere. However, that was something that wore thin after just a few times of doing it, especially since you have to reopen the rollercoaster again every time there is an “accident”, meaning that I was unable to watch my death machine just endlessly shoot the riders into the sky. However, once I was away from that I was able to look at the actual campaign of this game and get a feel for what was going on here. 

There isn’t really any story beyond “Here is a theme park. It’s yours. Run it.” This is one of your games where if you want a deeper story then you’re going to have to make it up for yourself. Is your park the local death trap or the local Disneyland? It’s all up to you. The available scenarios in this game are plentiful and give a lot of little basic parks that you can use as a jumping off point, with some unlocking with you doing well in the ones that came before. I’ll admit that I have not put an extensive amount of time into every scenario, but I was never disappointed in all the ones that I gave a shot. The addition of more water focused and animal focused scenarios was also a really nice touch that allowed me to build up different varieties of theme parks, much like how these parks in reality can be exceptionally varied.

Sharp bank Turn

This is a management game through and through. You can manage things about your park down to how much it costs to go on a each ride and how much it costs for someone to buy a balloon from one of your little shops. It’s something that if you are willing to get deep into it, there’s a lot of micromanaging you can do to make things as optimal as possible. But, if you’re someone like me who might not be so much into that micromanaging, the game is not going to punish you for not being willing to do so. There’s little prompts that the game gives you, letting you know when something in your shop is considered to be too cheap, or when your visitors aren’t satisfied with the state of the park. This allows you to get by just fine without having to fuss about every penny. It might not get you to the highest rank possible in a scenario, but it will allow you to at least keep your park operational.

It’s worth reminding everyone that this game initially came out in 2004, so it is a little bit dated in some respects, but the ability to both play it on the tv and on the go more than makes up for it. The coaster building still holds up really well, despite the fact that some aspects of your coaster might get limited by what the game is capable of handling. You’re not going to be able to build an accurate replica of today’s cutting edge roller coasters, but you can still get in those dips, banks, and drops that make them so much fun and see your creation actually go. 

Screaming Loud

The only big issue I have with how the game plays is that the controls just don’t really translate well to the switch controller from a mouse and keyboard. Instead of just selecting your options from a menu, you now have to hold L or R and then point with the left stick, then press A to select. It feels a lot clunkier and slower. There are a few menus that pop up, but those are navigated with the directional buttons instead, which is how I kind of wish it all could have been navigated. There’s two of these round menus, one for each side, but you have to hold either L or R to access just one of them at a time and if you hold L when you meant to hold R, the R menu will vanish, leading you to have to select a ride to pull up the R menu again. It just all feels very very slow.

Worse yet, a lot of these menus are layered and nested rings rather than the full layout that could be seen in the PC version of the game. This sometimes leads to the feeling that things just aren’t quite as customizable because you have to go searching through these nested menus in order to find the options that you want, rather than them being available with just a few clicks. It’s not unworkable by any means, but it is frustrating enough that I would think about how much better the controls might be if I was playing them on PC.

There’s also some other weird quirks that the game has when you’re just building the park that have nothing to do with the controls. Every time you place something, you have to manually open it for business. For things such as rides, this makes total sense. Things such as shops and toilets though, you still have to, even if this is something that you will be placing a lot of.

The Wizzer Zipler

Since this is a port of an older game and there hasn’t been any visual updates to it, I’d be lying if I said that it was jaw droppingly gorgeous, but it’s certainly appealing to look at and there is a life to seeing the little people moving around the park and the rides spinning and running. A lot of the rides are really appealingly designed and the base coasters that you can place if you don’t feel like building your own are always really fun looking. Of course, if you zoom in close, you get to see just how terrifying your park’s guests are up close, but 99% of the time you’re going to be looking at them from a bird’s eye view so it’s not important that they look realistic.

The sounds are basic. Nothing special, but not grating either. I didn’t pay all that much attention to them most of the time ad opted to play the game muted whenever I was in handheld since they were not critical to the experience. There are some games that I consider to be good games to listen to a podcast while playing and this would be one of them.

But wait, the money

Welcome to Potty Plaza

In terms of technical problems, the ones that I had were pretty rare. The only one that I can remember off the top of my head was that at one point the staff menu got stuck on my screen and just would not go away, despite the game playing behind it as though it was not there. However, every time that I ran into a problem, it was easily fixed by saving and then loading the game, so I don’t consider these to be major issues that are worth much consideration.

Managerial duties

Overall, we have to acknowledge the fact that while Rollercoaster Tycoon was once the end all and be all of these sort of theme park and roller coaster games, they are not that anymore. They are dated in some respects and others have risen up to overtake them. However, that doesn’t mean that these aren’t fun, just that they’re not the top of the line anymore. If you’re someone who has nostalgia for these titles, having them on the go like this will be a huge blessing and give you a ton of fun, just so long as you are willing to learn a whole new way of controlling that’s a bit harder than what you are used to.


  • Same great coaster creating action
  • Same great management gameplay
  • Game doesn’t outright punish you for not micromanaging


  • Controls that did not translate well
  • Menu system leaves a lot to be desired


Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 is a classic, but controlling this console version can make it hard to see it as such.

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