I’m saying it right here: if you can’t afford a personal trainer, Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is the next best thing. This exercise-focused game is the next in a long line of Nintendo products intended to better your body and mind. I’d heard a lot about it since its release, but as someone who prefers outdoor running, I never really gave it a chance – plus, it’s a little expensive, since you have to buy the Ring-Con peripheral for the game to work. After moving to a new place where outdoor running is harder, though, I decided to steal my partner’s copy of the game and give it a try.
A little bit of exercise background on me: I’m a 5’4″ chunky girl. I’ve been running for about a year now, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic took away many of my other usual activities. I ran pretty solidly from roughly August 2020 – April 2021, but in May, I got a job that took away a lot of the time I’d previously used to run. Coming home late and exhausted from work meant that I wasn’t particularly motivated to work out, either, and gradually I fell out of the habits I’d made. Even after I quit that job, life remained so busy that I didn’t keep up my exercise routines. All this is to say that I’m approaching Ring Fit from the perspective of someone who is used to working out, but I’m not in particularly great shape at the moment. While using Ring Fit, I haven’t changed my (pretty junky) eating habits at all, but I have been drinking a lot more water.
The first time I booted up Ring Fit, I kept my partner around to show me how to get started. (He’s played it a little bit, but not for any extended period of time.) It turns out that I didn’t really need him: the game is great about helping you set up a profile and get started in the game world. You can even skip the opening cutscene if you just want to start running, which I chose to do. Ring Fit‘s defeat-the-big-bad-guy story won’t win any narrative awards, but it’s enough to keep you interested, and it did make me laugh a few times.
After learning a little about the game world, I was off through the first level. The game is different from a lot of Nintendo’s previous workout games. Unlike titles like Wii Fit, which were more tools than games, Ring Fit is an actual game. You run through levels and use movements to gather coins and other power-ups, and you attack enemies by performing real-life workout moves in turn-based battles. I chose the medium difficulty, and it seemed about right for me; you can change the difficulty at any time, which is nice. I think the game also dynamically adjusts the difficulty over time based on your performance, but I’m not entirely sure. (That would be cool!) I worked out for about 20 minutes and defeated the first boss, after which the game prompted me to call it a day so I could be ready for tomorrow. I was tired, but in a good way.
On the second day, I continued the main story. The game has a variety of other modes, like a build-your-own-workout mode and a rhythm game, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. I wanted to get a feel for the base game before I tried any variations.
In continuing the main story, I passed my partner’s and our roommate’s scores, which was intensely gratifying. Each profile on your Switch can have their own game file and progress on a single cartridge, which is really convenient. If you’re really competitive like me, you’ll likely enjoy the fact that you can compare your overall time, reps, and other data to other people in your household. Even if you’re not the competitive type, seeing others increase their scores and make progress each day can act as motivation for when you’re tired or sore.
Likewise, progression and difficulty are done in such a way that you always feel like you’re making progress, which is one of the most difficult parts about getting in shape. In the first few days or even weeks, it can be difficult to see measurable progress in yourself. Ring Fit makes it easy by keeping track of a wealth of data that shows you exactly how far you’ve come. For someone who’s never done a squat in their life, it’s pretty cool to see my number of reps go up each day. By the end of day 2, I was more tired than before, but still feeling good.
By day 3, I was already feeling a difference in my endurance. I could run in place longer and do more reps of each exercise than I could on the previous two days. As on the previous day, seeing that number of reps tick up was extremely gratifying. It made me want to do more and see how far I could go, which in turn translates to more time spent working out and better health overall. It’s a positive cycle that Ring Fit helps you put into place.
Outside of the reps themselves, the game also provides instructions and visual demonstrations for warm-ups and cool-downs, which are also vital parts of exercising. I had a general idea of how to stretch before and after workouts, but Ring Fit‘s prompting and examples really helped me improve my technique. (Also, you get bonus XP for warming up, which puts me even further ahead of my roommates. >:) )
I attempted a boss fight on this day, but I actually lost. The game tells you what level the enemies are in each area, and I went in slightly underleveled. You can play previous levels as much as you want and use them to grind XP, which of course means more reps. I was pretty exhausted after the boss fight, which was an extended session with a lot more reps than your usual enemy battle, so I decided to call it a day and attempt it the next day. I drank an entire glass of water over the 15-20 minutes I worked out, which is pretty impressive for me.
I’d been feeling pretty good for the previous three days, but on day 4, the soreness started to catch up to me. I’d been doing a lot of squats and the chair yoga pose, so I felt it most in my knees and thighs. The game never requires you to do a certain kind of exercise, but certain exercises do bonus damage to certain kinds of enemies. This in turn encourages you to not use your favorite (or the easiest) type of exercise all the time and keeps things fresh.
After grinding a previous area and gaining two levels, I took on the boss again and toasted him. I did another two areas after the boss level, which ended up taking me about 25 minutes. I was pretty sore afterwards, but it was a good kind of sore: thanks to the game’s huge amount of tips and demonstrations, I knew I was doing the exercises the right way and minimizing my risk for injury. The Ring-Con is a lot more user-friendly than some of the more obtuse gym machines and workout equipment out there, which I really appreciated.
Ring Fit is also user-friendly in that it constantly reminds you of your limits. This is a good thing, I promise. The game frequently reminds and encourages you to take breaks, drink water, stay within your limits, and stop for the day when you’ve completed an area or two. Rather than trying to work you into a flow state, like many video games do, Ring Fit always keeps you conscious of how much you’ve done. It’s a refreshing change of pace and a great way to approach exercise in a video game.
My experience so far with Ring Fit has been really good. The unlockables, customizable elements, and quantified data keep things interesting, and it’s easy to see the progress you’ve made. It’s great for people who are competitive, but even if you’re not, it’s a very positive motivating tool. As a huge fan of video game music, I plan on trying out the rhythm game on days when I’m tired of the main story. The main story announcer does get a little annoying after a while, and I wish I could listen to my own music instead of having to listen to audio cues and bits all the time, but those are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. It’s official: Ring Fit Adventure has won me over. Check back soon for part 2!