‘Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain’ review: satisfyingly cerebral

Simple yet entertaining for all the family

In recent times, the Nintendo Switch has gained a few well-made party games. WarioWare: Get It Together! offers the frantic side of things requiring lightning-fast reflexes at all times, while Mario Party Superstars made things a touch more friendly family, instantly making it the game to bust out during family gatherings. So, where does Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain fit into all this? It’s the more cerebral choice. Not a game you’ll ever really play solo (unlike the other two which just about work) but with some smart game design, it’s a title to play with all the family, no matter how young or old they may be.

That’s instantly helped by how cheap Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is. A budget-priced release, it’ll cost you around half the price of other first-party Nintendo games and that’s just the right amount. See, this is a bit of a lightweight title.

Big Brain Academy Brain vs. Brain.
Big Brain Academy Brain vs. Brain. Credit: NME.

While past Big Brain games might encourage you to dive in every day and work towards boosting your brain age, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is strictly for party gaming. It’s possible to practice one of the 20 activities on your own or to test your brain and gain an overall score but honestly? The fun comes from either online multiplayer where you duke it out with the ghosts of other players (saving any lag concerns) or you play against other players sitting next to you.


Whatever you do decide to do (play with your mates), the exercises are the same 20. They’re a varied bunch divided up into five categories – Identify, Memorize, Analyze, Compute, and Visualize. One activity might have you identifying an animal as it is slowly revealed to you while another might require you to memorise a series of numbers correctly. Some require simple arithmetic skills while others might need you to identify the silhouette of something. They’re all fairly simple at first but as you complete more of them while the clock ticks down, things get much tougher. The higher difficulty levels genuinely test adult brains quite well.

It’s all smartly designed though. For one thing, each activity is brief. You only get 60 seconds and the difficulty curve is nicely constructed so that you’re gradually more challenged. Best of all, the game rewards you for accuracy rather than speed. Make a mistake and you’ll be quite heavily penalised meaning it’s a smarter idea to be sure about your answer rather than button mash.

Big Brain Academy Brain vs. Brain
Big Brain Academy Brain vs. Brain. Credit: NME.

When playing against others, you can also choose different difficulty levels for each player. That means a 37 year old can go up against an 8 year old and both players can still be challenged without anyone at a disadvantage (or significant advantage). When it comes to ghost multiplayer for solo players though, you’ll still find yourself pitted against opponents much younger than you as you work your way up the international ranks.

Ultimately though, however you play, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is quick at rewarding you. With all activities bitesized in nature, it’s easy to dip into for quick sessions. Each time you play, you earn coins with extra coins gained for beating previous records. Those coins gradually unlock items for your avatar to wear. It’s simple stuff but reasonably satisfying in the kind of way you’re probably more used to seeing on mobile games. There are literally hundreds of pieces of clothing, hats, and eyewear to unlock too. If you’re keen to see it all, this is going to take you a while.

Is it fun? For the most part, yes. This truly isn’t a game for the solo player. While I enjoyed my time playing alone, it doesn’t take long until you get a bit bored of chasing your own high scores. The 20 activities are reasonably interesting if you don’t grind through them too frequently. Instead, the fun comes from online multiplayer score chasing and playing with others in person.

Big Brain Academy Brain vs. Brain.
Big Brain Academy Brain vs. Brain. Credit: NME.

This is why it’s such an ideal game for families to play. While other party games on the Nintendo Switch are frantically exciting, this one is a bit calmer, a bit more balanced for those without the fastest of reflexes. That kind of thing lends itself well to people keen to play games but not necessarily adept at doing so. It’s the kind of thing that Nintendo has always been good at doing.


A simple concept, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain keeps things consistently charming. Your avatar set up the moment you start the game can be updated with more than just new clothing. They can also gain new phrases through playing online that are included once you start competing with someone as a ghost. It might not be much but it’s all just so good natured, as you’d expect from the ever family friendly gaming giant.

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain isn’t the kind of game you’re likely to spend hundreds of hours with but it is the kind of game that will be pulled out any time you want something a bit more balanced for the family. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might be terrific but when you’re trying to find something to entertain the eight year old and Great Grandma, it’s rarely a big hit. That’s where Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain comes in – offering an alternative to what’s already out there. Simple to learn and fun to dip into, it’s a reliable budget treat.

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is out now for Nintendo Switch.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for something the whole family can play, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is a great option. It might lack some visual flair but it’s an entertaining way to test the old grey matter with the fun easily enhanced by playing alongside others.


  • Easy to learn
  • Well-designed multiplayer options
  • Ideal for quick bursts of gaming


    • Not the most exciting to look at
    • Limited solo options

More Stories:

Sponsored Stories: