The Nintendo Switch has had a lot of mixed success in its short lifetime. The console-handheld hybrid has been on the market for over three years now, but a slew of promising ports in the first few months of the year gave early adopters a healthy diet of new titles to enjoy. Big first-party exclusives helped build the system’s success early on, though that momentum slowed in 2020 with a lighter release schedule. The prognosis is looking mixed for 2021. Much of Nintendo’s release schedule at the moment revolves around more niche RPGs like Bravely Default II and Monster Hunter Rise, which could mean that the year doesn’t have a global smash hit like Animal Crossing: New Horizons waiting in the wings.
Still, there’s plenty to enjoy on the Switch every month. Some 2020 highlights include Paper Mario: The Origami King, which retains the original look of Paper Mario and the quest to free Princess Peach’s castle, as well as the newly completed Kentucky Route Zero, which has something for those who like to settle down with a classic point-and-click adventure. This list of the best Nintendo Switch games also includes the best free Switch games if you’re on a budget.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Super Mario 3D World was already an excellent game before its Switch rerelease. The Wii U platformer was among the best games the system, and the franchise itself, had to offer. It features creative level design, chaotic multiplayer fun, and some of the best power-ups Mario has ever gotten his hands on. The downside was always that it was stuck on a console that few players bought. Nintendo could have simply ported this game onto Switch without making any tweaks and fans still would have been happy. On its own, it would have been one of the best games on the console.
Nintendo upped the ante, though, by bundling it with Bowser’s Fury. The pack-in game is a brand new adventure that’s a mini open-world game. Think Super Mario Odyssey on a smaller scale. Bowser’s Fury is a fantastic entry in the franchise that goes well above and beyond its freebie status. That makes Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury one of the absolute best values money can buy on Switch. Players are getting two excellent Mario games in one that bring over 50-hours of content between them. The package is every bit of a must-own as Breath of the Wild for Switch owners.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
When the first Hyrule Warriors game originally released on the Wii U, it didn’t seem like much more than a niche spinoff. The hack-and-slash game turned Zelda into Dynasty Warriors with larger-than-life battles. It wasn’t a replacement for mainline Zelda adventures, but it showed that the franchise had some untapped potential when it came to side games. Nintendo capitalized on that promise with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a more fully realized entry that opens the doors wide open for the series’ future.
Unlike the first game, Age of Calamity is part of the actual Zelda cannon. It acts as a pseudo-prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and tells the story of the Great Calamity. While the game presents itself as a Zelda version of Rogue One where you know that Hyrule is doomed, the story takes some unexpected twists that make for an exciting Zelda side story. With more characters, weapons, and secrets to uncover, Age of Calamity is a high-quality action game that sets a new bar for Nintendo spinoffs.
Ring Fit Adventure
When Ring Fit Adventure launched in 2019, Nintendo’s quirky fitness RPG was more of an oddity than anything. Critics praised it for its creative approach to exercise, but the peripheral-based game felt niche in comparison to holiday Switch releases like Pokémon Sword and Shield.
The perception of the game quickly changed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world into lockdown. It suddenly became a hot commodity, providing players a fun way to work out at home while gyms were closed down. Fortunately, it’s not just a game that’s popular because of circumstances. Ring Fit Adventure is a genuinely enjoyable spin on the fitness genre that makes clever use of its RPG components.
Read our full Ring Fit Adventure review
The latest from indie hit factory Supergiant Games, Hades is a rogue-lite action RPG that puts players in the shoes of the prince of Hades. As it turns out, you’re not so keen on the place. It’s dark, cramped, depressing, and your dad is a real peach. So, naturally, you want to do the impossible — escape.
Hades feels positively electric to play. You’ll often die, but you’ll also often feel like an absolute rock star. Even when you die, you’re swiftly returned to the start, giving you a chance to try again after only a brief pause to check out any upgrades you might’ve unlocked.
It doesn’t hurt that Hades, like past Supergiant Games efforts, has stellar production values. The art, voice acting, and music are without peer, and they give Hades a blinding sheen of polish that even big-budget AAA games often lack. That fact is especially apparent in Hades taking home the Game Award for Best Action game, beating out massive titles like Doom Eternal.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
The second game in the Ori franchise, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is a real stand-out platformer. It combines tough-but-fair difficulty with outstanding level design that will satisfy platformer fans who want real depth to their gameplay. Ori and the Will of the Wisps has plenty of competition on Switch, given the wide range of platformers on the console, but it manages to stand out.
Ori is also well-known for its incredible art direction, and the second title doubles down on that. It takes the painterly, ethereal look of the original game and turns it up to 11. There’s a lot going on here, and while Switch owners won’t be able to enjoy the 4K HDR found on other versions (the Switch doesn’t support either), the game still looks great on the Switch’s built-in LCD.
Paper Mario: The Origami King
It didn’t take long for Paper Mario: The Origami King to take the Switch universe by storm. This Mario game features the traditional Paper Mario look and feel and is set in a world where Mario and his partner Olivia need to take on the Folded Soldiers. All the while, of course, the goal is to free Princess Peach’s castle and take down King Olly.
In his Paper Mario: The Origami King review, Digital Trends contributor Jon Silman called the game a “charming Mario adventure” but said that it suffers from “a difficult and tedious battle system.” Silman gave the game a score of 3.5 stars out of five.
Read our full Paper Mario: The Origami King review
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
If you’re in the mood for a new role-playing game that combines human and machine elements, Xenoblade Chronics Definitive Edition might be a good place to start. The game puts players in the position of Shulk, who attempts to understand his place in the world as he battles with others in his party against machine enemies.
The game, which is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, has an open-world feel but generally follows a traditional role-playing game feel with a variety of battle maneuvers, health points that grow with XP boosts, and more. Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition also features more than 90 music tracks.
The Outer Worlds
It has taken some time to find its way to the Nintendo Switch, but The Outer Worlds landed on the console in June. Like The Outer Worlds on other consoles, the Switch version is a single-player sci-fi role-playing game that places players inside a power struggle in a far-flung world colonized by space travelers. The game gives players the option to make their own choices and impact the story.
While anticipation was high for The Outer Worlds on the Nintendo Switch, Digital Trends Gaming Section editor Lisa Marie Segarra noted in her review that the title suffers from some problems, including a drop in frame rate, graphics woes, and long load times. And although Segarra says The Outer Worlds on Switch is still “a fun game,” she gave it just 2.5 stars out of five.
Read our full The Outer Worlds review
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons is nearly one year old, and it just might be the series’ best game yet. Set on a deserted island that players must develop from scratch as part of a vacation getaway package, New Horizons gives unprecedented freedom and customization options. Furniture and decorations can be placed anywhere on the island, and custom patterns can be created for flags and even face paint. It’s one of the best multiplayer games on the Switch and has already moved over 31 million units, making it one of the Switch’s top sellers.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons continues the series’ online multiplayer tradition with support for up to eight players, and players can still trade items such as fruit back and forth to help each other build up their homes. Tom Nook remains in charge and wants mortgage payments, but the joy of New Horizons gameplay means it won’t even seem like a big deal. With regular updates on the way and seasonal fish to catch, New Horizons is certain to stick around for a while.
Read our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review
Platinum Games has established itself as one of the best action game studios in the world, with critical darlings like Bayonetta 2 and the existential Nier: Automata. Automata lead designer Takahisa Taura got his first chance to direct with the Switch-exclusive Astral Chain, which doubles down on the insane action that Platinum Games has prided itself on for the last decade. Rather than the post-apocalypse, though, you’re in a bustling stylized sci-fi city that is under attack by mysterious interdimensional forces, and it’s up to you to stop it.
Astral Chain gives you simultaneous control of the protagonist and several Legion characters. This mix of direct and indirect combat is at the heart of the game, but you will also investigate mysteries and solve puzzles along the way. And you can pet the game’s dog-like Legion, so you know it’s good.
Exit the Gungeon
Developed by the action masters at Dodge Roll, Exit the Gungeon is a full sequel to Enter the Gungeon, but it doesn’t merely add more levels to the existing game structure. Instead, it’s a “dungeon climber” that tasks players with escaping and moving upward as they blast away at enemies in shifting rooms and find a variety of unique weapons.
Exit the Gungeon‘s new format hasn’t changed the difficulty or bullet hell inspiration in tricky shooting segments, nor has it changed the game’s goofy characters and sense of humor. It may not be exactly what Enter the Gungeon players expected, but being surprised isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to sequels.
The original Splatoon reinvented the multiplayer shooter by taking the emphasis off of simply eliminating enemies, and its unique ink-spraying online matches were unlike anything we had ever seen before. The Switch sequel, Splatoon 2, largely sticks to the formula we saw previously, but its inventive new multiplayer maps and weapons make the game even more engaging. The game’s humor is also back in full force, with puns galore and user-created artwork that is both hilarious and terrifying.
For those more interested in playing cooperatively, the Salmon Run mode is an excellent addition to Splatoon 2. Groups of four players must collect golden eggs while fending off waves of evil Salmonids, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Just make sure all your friends have their own systems, as the game doesn’t support split-screen multiplayer.
Read our full Splatoon 2 review
Overcooked 2 is the sequel to the hectic cooking co-op game, Overcooked. It doesn’t change much of the stress-inducing yet deeply satisfying formula we saw in the first game, but it does refine it. Added features include a new throwing ability, more chefs, different recipes, and online multiplayer. If you enjoyed the first game, then you’ll likely love Overcooked 2. If you didn’t play the original game, then starting with Overcooked 2 will ease you into what you missed since it’s not as frustratingly difficult and has less wonky controls.
This time around, you’ll be facing a new foe called the “Unbread” (zombie bread — get it?), and the only way to save the Onion Kingdom is to don your tallest chef hat, travel to crazy locations, and cook up complex recipes in really impractical kitchens. Overall, we’d say Overcooked 2 is one of the best Nintendo Switch games to bring to a party. The kind that will bring you closer to your friends or have you hurling insults at each other.
Taking a look at the sidescrolling gameplay and dark 2D art style of Dead Cells may stir up some memories of times spent playing Metroid or Castlevania. Motion Twin, the developers of this highly rated indie game on the Switch, call it a Roguevania due to the inspiration it takes from those games. For a clearer picture of what to expect, add in a Dark Souls-level of combat difficulty, roguelike castle setting, and unforgiving permadeath (short for permanent death), and you get Dead Cells.
When you combine themes like roguelike and permadeath, you’ll know that every playthrough of Dead Cells is different. But that doesn’t mean you have to die to have some fun. There’s an endless amount of weapons, hidden rooms, and passageways that will require a bit of work and skill to find. Did we forget to mention the punishing boss battles that will have you searching for the closest save point? Spoiler alert — there are none!
Read our full Dead Cells review
Cuphead‘s 1930s cartoon visuals dazzled Xbox One and PC players when it launched in 2017. Amazingly, StudioMDHR produced a flawless port for Switch, allowing gamers to take the adventures of Cuphead and Mugman on the go as well.
Cuphead is an immaculately designed action game that focuses heavily on boss battles. Though six run-and-gun platforming levels exist, the brunt of your time with Cuphead is spent squaring off in grand battles against wondrously designed and challenging bosses.
Cuphead is punishing but fair, and the art and sound design help to keep you engaged even when you’ve been fighting the same boss for hours on end. There is nothing quite like Cuphead. If you own a Switch, you shouldn’t miss out on this ambitious and sublime experience.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
The original Luigi’s Mansion for GameCube didn’t seem to understand what its best ideas were but by the time Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon was released more than a decade later, new developer Next Level Games had a firm grasp on what made the spooky adventure so charming. In Luigi’s Mansion 3, our titular anxious hero must rescue his brother and friends from a haunted hotel, using his trusty Poltergust G-00 vacuum and new viscous pal Gooigi.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 mixes environmental puzzles with creative combat against several different types of ghosts, and the themed floors vary from a botany-themed area to a medieval arena. All of them are hilarious, and the game’s self-referential jokes and zany animations only make it more entertaining.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Phoenix Wright is a beloved series of visual novel adventures that found a dedicated following on Nintendo handhelds. Now the Ace Attorney Trilogy has found new life on consoles, including the Nintendo Switch. The Ace Attorney Trilogy is one of the best visual novel series’ of all time and arguably one of the best video game trilogies period.
Playing as the titular defense attorney, you work your way through a series of courtroom cases. Gameplay revolves largely around narrative choices that come from collecting and examining evidence and interviewing witnesses. Thanks to great writing, a cast of interesting characters, and a well-made anime art style, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is consistently gripping.
Kentucky Route Zero
In a similar vein to the game above, Kentucky Route Zero is another legendary title that focuses more on story than gameplay. Also originally released in 2011, Kentucky Route Zero finally reached its conclusion in January 2020 when the last of its promised five acts arrived alongside a complete edition port to other machines.
Through a traditional point-and-click adventure game style, Kentucky Route Zero follows truck driver Conway as he attempts to make one final trip for his antique company. Losing his way while traversing the fictitious highway running through the mountains of Kentucky, Conway befriends a gaggle of eccentric characters who accompany him on this weird and wonderful journey.
Eight years of development across sporadically-released acts means there’s a good chance player reception ultimately played a part in the conclusion of the story. So if you’re sick of a game’s ending going against the grain, know that Kentucky Route Zero‘s parting gift likely took many years of feedback into account.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The Nintendo Switch game that could become your sole obsession, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of those fighting games so comprehensive that it’s worth buying a Switch for it alone. The latest universe-melding fighting game features every character ever included in the series’ nearly 20-year history, and more than 100 stages are available as soon as you boot it up for the first time.
Nostalgic for Nintendo of the past without seeming dated, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate plays with the speed of a competitive fighting game, but it is easy enough for less-experienced players to enjoy, as well. The character roster has something for everyone, and newcomers like Incineroar and Simon Belmont feel perfect alongside classics like Mario and Jigglypuff. A hefty single-player campaign mode and new local multiplayer options are just icing on the cake.
Read our full Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best games based on the phenomenal manga and anime series. Granted, that wasn’t a tough feat for Arc System Works to accomplish given the competition, but FighterZ is genuinely fantastic in both its gameplay and striking art style. Fights are tag-team style, with each player picking three characters to bring to the battlefield.
The fighting gameplay is ridiculously fast, with an emphasis on building combos and strategically knowing when to swap characters. It’s an easy game to jump in and play, and it looks gorgeous in action. You don’t have to be a Dragon Ball Z fan to enjoy this wonderfully made fighter (though it helps for sure). Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best traditional fighting games on Switch.
Read our full Dragon Ball FighterZ review
Doom is the greatest portable first-person shooter of all time. No, the bar for that title isn’t too high, but the 2016 Doom reboot wowed us for its fast-paced action, precise shooting mechanics, and engaging level design. Surprisingly, it didn’t miss a step when ported to the less powerful Nintendo Switch. Doom runs like a charm on Switch, even on the go.
If you haven’t played it, Doom‘s campaign is a chaotic and action-packed romp across the fiery terrain of Mars populated with bloodthirsty enemies. On the Nintendo Switch, the game remains one of the best shooters in years. The fact that the incredibly quick gameplay runs so smoothly in handheld mode makes Doom all the more impressive. Plus, it’s only a matter of time until its highly praised sequel lands on Switch as well.
Read our full Doom review
Fortnite is one of the biggest games in the world. The full battle royale game is available on the console, and it supports cross-play with PC, PS4, Xbox One, Mac, Android, and iOS.
Unlike the virtual analog sticks on the mobile version, however, you’ll be able to play it on the Switch with a traditional control scheme and compete against skilled players, and if you want to pop it on the big screen, you’re free to do so like you can with almost every Switch game.
Read our full Fortnite: Battle Royale review
One of the most influential and culturally significant games ever made, Mojang’s Minecraft is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s console. The Switch version contains both the building-focused Creative mode as well as the traditional Survival mode, which tasks you with building shelter to survive nature’s most dangerous elements, all while digging deeper into the planet’s surface.
The Bedrock Edition update lets Switch players connect to friends on Xbox, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and even VR platforms. You’ll also be able to earn Xbox Gamerscore for any achievements you earn in Minecraft on Switch, and you can purchase additional skins or maps from the game’s marketplace.
Few indie games have ever been as successful as Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley. The first-time developer spent five years creating a spiritual successor to the farming RPG Harvest Moon, and when he finally completed the game, what he had made was even more impressive than its influences. Mixing classic farming mechanics with exploration, relationships, and even some combat, Stardew Valley is much more ambitious than its 16-bit visuals indicate.
It also happens to be one of the best Nintendo Switch games to play in handheld mode during commutes, as there is always something you can do to pass the time. Whether you’re interested in fishing, finding a husband or wife, or mining for minerals, it’s possible in Stardew Valley, and you can just feel the love that went into the game’s development.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The first traditional entry in the series to hit Nintendo Switch, Fire Emblem: Three Houses manages to improve just about every element, ranging from combat to character development. Taking a page out of the Path of Radiance playbook, the game stars a mercenary-turned-professor rather than the endless number of princes we’ve seen in other games. It’s your responsibility to pick one of the titular three houses and train them, building relationships and learning about the situations that brought them to the game’s central monastery.
When things pop off, however, the Three Houses is classic Fire Emblem game goodness. Turn-based strategy combat has rarely been this polished, providing you with numerous options in how you approach any scenario based on the way you have developed your roster. Special “Combat Arts” and the new Battalion system are two more tools in your chest, and the normal difficulty strikes a balance between challenging and accessible.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
When you think of Mario and his pals, the first thought that comes to your mind probably isn’t likely “XCOM.” It’s even less likely that you’ll want to add Ubisoft’s crazy Rabbids into the mix — but that’s exactly what the French company did with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
Combining the fun of exploring different Mushroom Kingdom levels with the tactical combat of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the game is unlike anything else on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s genuinely challenging without ever becoming stressful.
In 2018, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle received a Donkey Kong-themed DLC that adds Nintendo’s giant gorilla as a playable character, along with a new set of campaign levels.
Read our full Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review
Into the Breach
Into the Breach is a Pacific Rim-themed turn-based tactics game played on an eight-by-eight grid with changing environments. It comes from the same developer who brought us FTL: Faster Than Light, a roguelike spaceship sim that’s a critical hit in the gaming community.
You’ll spearhead a three-person mech squad and save cities from inbound groups of monsters. The Into the Breach‘s gameplay doesn’t center around walking up and directly attacking your opponents. On the contrary, you’ll have to be creative in your strategy if you want to walk away from levels still alive (though you will die… a lot.)
Read our full Into The Breach review
Super Mario Maker 2
The original Super Mario Maker was one of the best games on the Wii U and practically defined the system before also making its move to the 3DS. With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo has improved the level-creating formula with new items and tricks like sloping platforms. Players have quickly embraced the game and have created some truly dastardly and innovative courses.
Though the Switch doesn’t include a stylus, you can purchase capacitive styluses for very little cash to make designing easier in handheld mode. If you’re more in the mood to play levels than make them, the new story mode is perfect. Filled with Nintendo-designed courses that are far weirder and more puzzle-based than traditional Mario levels, it’s the ideal opportunity to learn just what is possible in Super Mario Maker 2.
Read our full Super Mario Maker 2 review
Yoshi’s Crafted World
Yoshi’s Crafted World follows in the tradition of previous Yoshi platformers. Yoshi can swallow enemies, turn them into eggs, and use said eggs to capture collectibles and take out other enemies. Where it differs is scope. Each level is longer than the traditional Mario platformer, and the set pieces are adorably crafted out of cardboard and paper. Levels have more depth, too, meaning that Yoshi periodically travels into the backdrop and routinely interacts with objects both far away and close to the player.
Yoshi’s Crafted World is leisurely platforming experience that focuses heavily on uncovering all of the many secrets scattered throughout each level. Cute costumes let Yoshi turn into a cow or truck or even a juice box. Local co-op lets two Yoshis scour the levels together, making it a great choice for parents who want to play with their youngsters.
Read our Yoshi’s Crafted World review
Super Mario Odyssey
Not since Super Mario 64 came out more than two decades ago have we seen a Mario game as fun and whimsical as Super Mario Odyssey. Taking place across several unique kingdoms, Mario’s adventure to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser and his gang of wedding planners offers something unexpected at practically every turn. From zippers that open up to reveal secrets in walls to retro-style 2D platforming sections, the game is always only a few minutes away from amazing you with something.
Read our full Super Mario Odyssey review
Sonic Mania Plus
Sega’s once-revered mascot has had a rough go at it over the last few console generations. Besides a couple of rare gems like Sonic Generations, Sega has stumbled in its attempt to modernize the speedy hedgehog. Sonic Mania found its footing by returning to the series’ blast processing roots.
Designed in the style of like the original Sega Genesis Sonic trilogy, Sonic Mania Plus heads back to strict 2D, side-scrolling action. The game’s 12 zones hark back to the past with remixed versions of the series’ iconic locales with mixed and matched enemies, abilities, and mechanics you loved from Sonic’s heyday. Mania includes entirely new zones as well, along with the ability to play as Tails and Knuckles. Think of it as a Sonic greatest hits game with completely new levels. With the overwhelming success of the Sonic film, we hope that Sega can provide another experience like Mania soon.
SteamWorld Dig 2
Image & Form’s SteamWorld Dig featured a wonderful blend of steampunk and Western when it launched in 2013. Fans have been clamoring for a true sequel that expanded on the mechanics and game world. That feeling was only exacerbated by 2015’s SteamWorld Heist — a great strategy game in its own right — but not a true follow-up. SteamWorld Dig 2 was worth the wait, though, as it amplified everything that made the original so great.
Rusty was replaced by Dorothy in the sequel, but don’t worry, Dorothy still has a trusty pickaxe to create paths in the mines and uncover hidden rooms and objects. The main difference between the two games comes with the level design. The original was randomly generated, while the sequel has a fixed format. That allows for more intriguing level designs, more varied exploration, and better platforming elements.
In addition to the better design, the game’s puzzles have been refined and increased in prevalence, and the game hinges more on RPG progression. As a side-scroller, SteamWorld Dig 2 is best played in the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Yacht Club Games’ crowdfunded platform game Shovel Knight has done quite well for itself since its original launch for Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and PC in 2014. The 16-bit indie title has sold well over a million copies across all platforms, and for good reason — it’s simply incredible. Unlike other games that have used nostalgic 16-bit visuals for the mere sake of it, Shovel Knight captures what made side-scrollers of the early ’90s so special. It’s a classic good versus evil tale with detailed level design, fun platforming sequences, and tough yet varied boss fights.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove earns its name. Beyond the original Shovel of Hope campaign, you’ll gain access to an alternate storyline starring Plague Knight dubbed Plague of Shadows, the prequel DLC, Specter of Torment, and the final expansion King of Cards expansion starring King Knight. If you’re yearning for a well-made platformer that makes ’90s games feel new again, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is one the best Nintendo Switch games for satisfying that desire.
The Nintendo Switch’s portability makes it ideal for “pick up and play” games you can start and stop at a moment’s notice, and few titles meet that bill better than Celeste. A tremendously well-designed platformer with simple controls that feel ideal on the Joy-Cons, it’s a game that continually surprises you with new level design decisions. This forces you to think on (and off) your feet and attempt maneuvers that seem impossible at first glance.
Don’t worry, though, if the going gets too tough, you can turn on the comprehensive “assist” function that lets you take complete control of the difficulty to get through particularly grueling sections. And did we mention that Celeste is frequently laugh-out-loud funny?
With fantastic, hand-drawn character designs during dialogue scenes and surprisingly deep storytelling, Celeste bucks the trend of platformers focusing exclusively on gameplay, and it gives you more motivation to keep playing than seeing “just one more level.”
In Hollow Knight, you play as a beetle-like knight wielding a nail, exploring an underground labyrinth known as Hallownest. Like many Metroidvania-style games, Hollow Knight has an emphasis on player discovery and secrets. Each section in Hollow Knight requires a map purchased from the mapmaker, typically located in a hard-to-find spot. That means you stumble into new biomes and encounter new enemies without much sense of direction. It’s thrilling, and ups the sense of discovery.
Hallownest is a sprawling world that takes dozens of hours to fully uncover. With great, minimalistic platforming mechanics, and tough boss fights galore, Hollow Knight is as fun to look at and explore as it is a great combat experience.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s one of the best Zelda games of all time — do we need to say more? The flagship launch is undoubtedly one of the best games on Switch and any system period. While the Zelda name alone is enough to intrigue most buyers, Breath of the Wild still seeks to innovate the series’ classic formula and bring Link’s adventures into the modern era. The lands of Hyrule have opened up, giving you the freedom to explore and complete quests as you please. Weapons and items now have temporary lifespans, meaning you will have to search for and craft items to assist you on your adventure.
The game’s physics — from Link’s movements to his weapons — has also received a drastic overhaul, so expect actions to have increased fluidity and realism. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes the series in a welcome new direction without shedding the iconic Zelda charm. It should be one of the first titles you pick up for your shiny new system.
Read our full Breath of the Wild review
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Throwback Zelda with an overhauled art style, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is an exemplary remake of the 1993 Game Boy classic. As the weirdest game in the franchise, Link’s Awakening taps into its mysterious personality even more with the cutesy art style that makes everyone and everything look like toys in a playset.
Koholint Island remains the best setting not named Hyrule in franchise history thanks to fun characters and a mysterious story revolving around a giant egg. Nintendo thoroughly improved Link’s Awakening in the remake, tweaking the inventory system to make gameplay better, adding map pins for exploration, and significantly increasing the number of Heart Pieces, Secret Seashells, and other collectibles scattered across the island.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening holds up remarkably well and is arguably one of the best top-down Zelda games ever made. Excellent dungeon design and a brilliantly conceived overworld make it an absolute joy to revisit more than 25 years after its initial launch.
Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening review
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is quietly one of the most profound and rewarding games on Switch. Like the quirky original, Builders 2 combines Minecraft-style building with action RPG combat and riveting exploration. The sequel expands on everything the original did right, virtually perfecting the formula. Building your town from scratch is an enthralling experience, but defending that town and venturing out to new areas gives Builders 2 a purpose-driven sense of adventure that not all sandbox games achieve.
Charming and cutesy, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an approachable RPG that slowly reveals its many layers the more you build and explore.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Like Doom, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been available on several platforms. That makes sense, as it has been around for eight years. None of them was a portable console, though, and that’s the difference here. There’s something about playing old games again on a handheld system that feels much more new than say, making the jump from playing Skyrim on an Xbox 360 to playing it on Xbox One.
Revisiting the lush open world of Tamriel in handheld mode feels surreal. A few years ago, the thought of a game as large as Skyrim in the palms of our hands seemed impossible. And even if it were possible, surely it wouldn’t run well. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks and plays the part of the brilliant RPG that many have sunk hundreds of hours into already. Now you can take it with you wherever you go.
Read our full Skyrim review
Diablo 3: Eternal Collection
Diablo 3 is the gift that keeps on giving seven years after its original launch. On Switch, the dungeon crawler is as addictive as ever and includes the full stable of Diablo 3 content, including Reaper of Souls and the Necromancer character DLC. Diablo 3 excels in handheld mode, playing as if it was designed with the Switch in mind.
For the first time, you can jump straight into the endless Adventure mode to scour for loot without having to run through the campaign. It supports offline gameplay for everything but the online-only Seasons content. The one downside of Diablo 3: Eternal Collection on Switch is that it doesn’t support Battle.net, so you can’t transfer your characters from other versions of the game. Starting from scratch, however, isn’t so bad in a game as consistently rewarding as Diablo 3.
Undertale is not what it seems. The heralded and emotional indie looks like an old-school JRPG with blocky visuals, minimalist character models, and a rudimentary combat system. Then you start talking to the monsters in the world, and everything changes. You begin to see the strange underworld you’re trapped in a bit differently, and you begin to wonder what Undertale is all about.
The beauty of Undertale is in its writing. Often funny with undertones of solemn sadness, the conversations you have with the monsters around you will stick with you. As with other indie games on this list, Undertale‘s top-down look makes it a perfect game to play in handheld mode on Switch.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
The Nintendo Switch got the Pokémon: Let’s Go games in 2018, which remade Pokémon Yellow in a modern engine and with streamlined gameplay that would be familiar to Pokémon Go players. It wasn’t a full-fledged role-playing game, however, and it would be another year before Game Freak deliver that in the form of Pokémon Sword and Shield.
Both Pokémon Sword and Shield include hundreds of monsters, gorgeous environments, the new Dynamax transformation type, and plenty of options for playing with your friends. It’s also the first mainline Pokémon role-playing game to release only for a home console and looks just as gorgeous on television as it does in handheld mode.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition
With Dungeons & Dragons suddenly feeling more popular than ever before, having a solid RPG in your pocket for long commutes and lazy days on the sofa is pure bliss. Technically a couple of years old now, 2019 saw Larian Studio’s utterly humongous role-playing game leap to the small screen. The power of the Nintendo Switch doesn’t leave it looking quite so beautiful as the other platforms you’ll find this game on, but you’ll be spinning its tall tales all the same.
At its core, Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition is a vast and varied RPG. Just as you’re free to play as one of its many preset characters in the main story, you’re free to make your own if you’re OK missing out on some of the character-specific fables the developers wove deep into the lore. That means current or past tabletop RPG original characters can come for the ride, or you can make something entirely new for the journey. Once you’re off, you’re free to explore its deep world of rich, overarching lore, recruit new characters, and utilize their skills in turn-based tactical battles along the way.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The original Wii U version of Mario Kart 8 is one of the best games in the entire series, with inventive, gravity-defying courses, beautiful graphics, and a surprisingly competent online multiplayer mode. The game also launched with a Battle mode that did away with open-ended maps in favor of more race-oriented ones, rendering the style significantly less fun than it was in games like Mario Kart 64.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings with it not only a revamped Battle mode but also every single character and map released as downloadable content — for the Wii U version. A few new characters, like the Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl from Splatoon, also join the fun this time around. In addition to using the Joy-Con Grip and Switch Pro Controller to race, each player can also use one Joy-Con, and up to eight Switch owners can connect their systems for a local multiplayer party, even if they’re on the go.
Read our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review
Cadence of Hyrule
It’s amazing that Cadence of Hyrule even exists. Indie studio Brace Yourself Games somehow convinced Nintendo to let it use The Legend of Zelda license. The result is a novel adventure inside the Kingdom of Hyrule that blends the rhythm gameplay from Crypt of the NecroDancer with the tried-and-true exploration of The Legend of Zelda.
Playing as either Link or Zelda, you have to bounce to the rhythm of remixed Zelda songs to vanquish enemies across the overworld and in five unique dungeons. Cadence of Hyrule uses roguelike elements such as enemy randomization and the loss of particular items and rupees after each death. But it still retains the magical feeling of gradually building your character by letting your hero keep their essential things and map progress with each demise.
Challenging and incredibly rewarding, Cadence of Hyrule is both an ode to top-down Zelda classics and a refreshing spin on one of the most iconic franchises of all time.
Read our Cadence of Hyrule review
No one could’ve predicted Rocket League‘s runaway success. After all, its premise — soccer with cars — seemed like an odd experiment that would be cool to try out, but would likely fizzle shortly thereafter. Instead, Rocket League became an instant success when it launched in 2015. It has remained popular ever since, and the Switch version offers perhaps the greatest asset of all: Portability.
Though you need to be connected to Wi-Fi to experience Rocket League how it’s meant to be played, with broadband access popping up on transits, in businesses, and elsewhere, it’s not so much of a problem to find a place to get an exciting match in on Switch. Couple that with the fact that Switch users are playing with both Xbox One and PC user bases, and you’re unlikely ever to have a hard time finding a game. Plus, the Switch version has Nintendo-themed vehicles and decorations. Pretty cool, right?
On paper, Tetris 99 sounds ridiculous. It’s a puzzle battle royale game where 99 strangers try to out-Tetris one another in a massively-multiplayer versus round. Players can eliminate one another by targeting struggling players and dumping trash into their Tetris well. It has many of the basic principles of an elimination game like Fortnite, but boiled down into a completely different genre.
The weird thing about Tetris 99? It absolutely works. In fact, it’s one of the tensest battle royale games available today thanks to its fast-paced gameplay that ramps up as players get closer to the number one spot. The best part about it is that it’s free to all Nintendo Online subscribers, so anyone can start playing today. Those who want to sharpen their skills further can purchase additional single-player content for the game, adding more traditional modes into the game.
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