Credit to: Nintendo

Nintendo systems have been home to fitness games for decades, dating back to the days of Track & Field on NES. More recent hardware created by Nintendo itself, like the Wii Fit Balance Board, have blurred the lines between gaming and exercise. The issue with many of these games and devices, however, is they don’t sufficiently encourage continued use, either because the games aren’t engaging enough or they don’t offer enough variety in the workouts. With Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo seems to have cracked the code. The Nintendo Switch exclusive is both an exciting role-playing game and a great workout. It isn’t VR, but it uses the Switch technology in ways we didn’t know were possible.

An innovative approach to gaming fitness

Over the last week, I’ve been playing Ring Fit Adventure in place of my usual BoxVR routine on Oculus Quest, and have found it to be every bit as intense and exciting. It is limited by the lack of cameras on the Switch itself, however, as well as a somewhat finicky leg strap. For just $80, these are pretty small grievances, and the titular Ring is seriously impressive.

Ring Fit Adventure includes two different peripherals which are used in tandem for the majority of the game. The first is a leg strap that serves only to hold the left Joy-Con controller against your thigh. The second is the Ring itself, which connects to the right Joy-Con controller. By pressing in or pulling on the Ring, it can sense how much force you’re applying. Through the Joy-Con’s motion sensors, it can also determine if you are turning the Ring or moving it up and down. That makes it work with a wide array of exercises, despite there not actually being any tracking hardware on the Switch. The system doesn’t even have a camera, but Ring Fit Adventure makes do.

It’s simple hardware, but it works remarkably well for Ring Fit Adventure’s role-playing gameplay. As a new hero attempting to restore peace to the land, you’ll face off against the dragon Dragaux and his minions. Beating them is, naturally, down to how well you can exercise. In the game’s main adventure mode, you jog or even sprint in place to move from one location to the next. As you come across coins or collectibles, you squish and stretch the Ring to collect them, all while keeping up the pace. Even before you’re faced an enemy, Ring Fit Adventure can get your heartrate up. This is further intensified when you come across water or stairs, and must bring your knees up to meet the ring in order to move faster.

Ring Fit caught me slippin’

Credit to: Nintendo

It’s here that I did encounter my main issue with Ring Fit Adventure: leg strap slipping. Several times during each of my play sessions, the elastic-and-Velcro leg strap slipped down to my knee. I have pretty large thighs and was tightening it as much as possible, but was unable to avoid this. It happened both with shorts and on bare skin, but it only occurred when jogging in place – not when fighting monsters. Still, more friction padding would have potentially helped avoid this problem. Because the strap is just cloth and padding, however, you could make your own alternative and the game should still be completely playable.

When you do finally come across monsters, the real fun begins. Ring Fit Adventure plays out like a bizarre fitness-themed turn-based RPG. To attack, you select an exercise and then must perform it properly in order to deal damage. These range from overhand presses using the Ring to squats and even knee lifts sitting on the floor. Your trusty Ring companion gives you tips on your form, and I actually found them to be quite helpful. If you are not squatting down low enough or are moving too quickly, the game will tell you.

Despite being a fairly simple piece of plastic and rubber, much like a Pilates ring, the Ring peripheral really does get your muscles burning. Against even the weaker enemies, you have complete at least a few attacks. They can work out nearly every part of your body, and several require you to squeeze and hold the Ring for several seconds. After doing a few reps, I felt it in my pectorals, and later in my quadriceps after doing the squat attacks. To defend against attacks, you must squeeze the Ring against your abdominals for a few seconds. It’s a little silly, but ensures you’re never playing the game passively.

Put your skills to the test

Credit to: Nintendo

Boss battles are where your endurance and physical training really get put to the test. You face off against Dragaux when you reach the end of a world, and he means business. You’ll need to complete several exercises in order to get his health bar down to zero and defend against attacks. Depending on the attacks you have equipped, this could mean performing dozens of overhead presses and squats in a few minutes. If a boss battle is how you end your workout, you’ll feel especially good about the progress you made. And if it’s too challenging, you can always replay a level in order to gain more experience. You’ll do a little extra damage with each exercise.

The Switch Joy-Con controller’s infrared sensor has gone relatively unused for most games thus far. In classic Nintendo fashion, the company found a way to make it work in Ring Fit Adventure. After a workout, you’re given the option to put your thumb over it and have it measure your heartrate. We found it to be fairly accurate, and it provides information on what type of workout you completed. If it’s below a certain threshold, you’ll know to increase the difficulty or work out more intensely.

Other options

If you are not in the mood to play a role-playing game but still need to get your workout in, Ring Fit Adventure also offers quick-play exercises. These can also work to supplement your Adventure mode workout if you just want a little more time with the game. You can even keep working out after you’ve put your Switch to sleep. Just connect the Ring to the Joy-Con controller and press the analog stick in. It will count every rep you make squeezing or pulling. This total will then give you extra experience in the game itself. The only downside is that it beeps to let you know it’s recording each action. If you live with other people, that could get annoying.

I’m still relatively early in my time with Ring Fit Adventure, but I’m finding it to be an easy addition to my workout routines. It’s easy to set up, and if you keep your controllers attached to your Switch between play sessions, it will always be charged and ready to go. Those looking for something a little different in between VR sessions could do a whole lot worse than Ring Fit Adventure.