The Nintendo Switch is one of the best selling game consoles of all time, incorporating an innovative form factor plus control elements that make gaming more fun for more people. It’s the only major gaming system out there that allows you to play a game on your TV then bring that same game with you to your commute.
The best Switch games allow you to enjoy your Switch or Switch Lite to the fullest and find out just how great the console can be.
Our list below includes some of the most popular and critically acclaimed Switch titles ever, carefully curated to cover multiple genres and playstyles.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
No list of Nintendo Switch games would be complete without talking about Breath of the Wild. It released with the console and set the tone for what could be done on the Switch. Set in a vast open-world full of rich characters and engaging gameplay, it allows the player to tell Link’s story and his struggles against the evil Ganon in a way previous Zelda titles couldn’t. It also set new standards for video game art, storytelling, and character design.
Why we like it: BotW is the seminal Switch game. From the breathtaking open-world environment to the compelling stories it tells, everything about Breath of the Wild sets it up as not just one of the best Switch games but one of the greatest video games of all time. The gameplay and item systems were noticeable departures from previous Zelda titles, allowing a free-form method of solving problems. It took a franchise beloved by gamers everywhere and caused them to fall in love with it all over again.
Flaws: There are almost no technical or gameplay flaws with BotW, but it’s not for everyone. It’s an RPG in the truest sense, and some people report feeling overwhelmed by how much there is to do and how many different things (armor, weapons, consumables, rune powers, etc.) you have to juggle to play most effectively.
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the first flagship entry in the Animal Crossing series in years. It takes the player to a deserted island and ostensibly sets them the task of building a top-flight resort. For most, though, it ends up being more of a vacation in and of itself.
Why we like it: There’s only one word to describe New Horizons: Charming. In a world with too many crazy things going on, something is refreshing about just spending time in a beautiful place with people you care about. The gameplay, especially the new crafting system, gives you a level of control that wasn’t there in previous games without losing that special something the series is famous for. In many ways, the game became something of a ‘life’ simulator where you could build your perfect home, shape your ideal community and escape from whatever might be bothering you for a few delightful hours. If that’s not the definition of a wonderful video game, we don’t know what is.
Flaws: New Horizons has a slow buildup. The first few hours of the game can feel too much like you’ve actually been dropped on a desert island and one whose full borders you can’t yet explore.
3. Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Bros is quite possibly the most iconic video game series in history. Mario himself is undeniably the most recognizable video game character in the world and a mainstay of many people’s childhood gaming experience. Super Mario Odyssey ably carries the torch for the games that came before it and blazes new trails in gameplay and storytelling. The introduction of Cappy, Mario’s anthropomorphized bright red hat, changed the gameplay far more than we expected in a good direction.
Why we like it: Odyssey is everything we expect from a Mario game and things we didn’t know we needed. It’s a love letter to the series that put Nintendo on the map 30 odd years ago and combines elements and settings from previous Mario games with exciting new gameplay and challenging puzzles. We’d have sworn you couldn’t mix 2D and 3D gameplay, yet somehow Odyssey pulls it off seamlessly. If you’ve ever played a Mario game and liked it, you’ll enjoy Super Mario Odyssey.
Flaws: The Joy Con motion controls aren’t as precise as we’d like to see. There were many times where we’d make the same motion and get a significantly different result from Cappy onscreen.
4. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Nintendo has some of the best first-party exclusive games out there, but none that can beat the iconic status of Mario. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the latest and arguably greatest entry in the souped-up go-karting franchise that lets you race your friends and family across a wide range of maps and modes.
Why we like it: If you have any experience as a gamer, you’re familiar with Mario Kart. It’s one of the games that people cite when they talk about why they bought their Switch. It takes the classic gameplay and themes of old-school Mario Kart and adds better graphics and a few other little changes. The maps are fun, the battle mode is downright amazing, and the ability to customize your character, kart and other options give it a lot of staying power.
Flaws: At its core, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t much of a change from the original Wii U Mario Kart 8. The gameplay is virtually identical, and there are only a few noticeable differences. On the bright side, most folks who’re picking up a Mario Kart game are looking for a burst of nostalgia and recognizable gameplay.
5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Gaming studios love to throw around phrases like ‘deluxe,’ ‘mega,’ and ‘ultimate,’ but in the case of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we think it’s an accurate description. As far as fighting games go, Smash is the cream of the crop, combining a vast roster of beloved video game characters with well-balanced combat mechanics that make every single one of those characters worth playing.
Why we like it: The latest entry in a storied line of fighting games stretching back to the venerable Nintendo 64, Ultimate brings the fighting game to its zenith. You can choose from close to 100 different characters hailing from some of the most iconic video games in history and battle it out for supremacy. Even though every character has a wildly different range of strengths, weaknesses, and skills, Ultimate manages to make a fight between them entertaining. It’s the perfect game if you’ve always wanted to find out what would happen in a bare-knuckle brawl between an Italian plumber, an anthropomorphic fox fighter pilot, and an alien bounty hunter.
Flaws: It’s easy to get confused with the spirit system. There are nearly 1,300 different spirits and a whole range of ways to upgrade, combine, and unlock them.
In the roguelike world, studio Supergiant lives up to its name. They’ve come out with some of the most critically acclaimed titles in the genre and put everything they learned to work in creating Hades. Its combination of engaging story-telling, relatable character AIs, and easy-to-learn but difficult to master gameplay set it apart from other roguelikes.
Why we like it: If you’ve always wanted to try out a roguelike but weren’t sure you had the commitment for it, Hades is the game for you. It’s a reimagining of ancient Greek mythology packaged in a fast-paced and exciting adventure that’s never quite the same between two playthroughs. Unlike many more traditional roguelikes, Hades has a deep and compelling story that keeps you locked in right from the start. The persistence of certain aspects of the world help makes every attempt to escape the underworld feel like you’re truly growing in power, perception, and skill. The refreshingly intuitive gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and slightly less brutal consequences make it a great introduction to the roguelike genre.
Flaws: For a roguelike, Hades is near-perfect. The combat is balanced but challenging, the story is shockingly deep, and the persistence and real consequences of each attempt to escape the underworld keep you hooked. If we had to pick something to criticize, it would be that the graphics and top-down only view may not appeal to every gamer.
7. Pokemon: Sword and Shield
Pokemon: Sword and Shield are the first entries in the storied franchise explicitly made for the Nintendo Switch. They released to intense anticipation but weren’t without their share of controversy.
Why we like it: If you’re a fan of previous Pokemon games, you’re going to enjoy Sword and Shield. It offers a familiar (some might even say iconic) story of a young Pokemon trainer setting out with one of three starter Pokemon to make their way in the world. The story itself is refreshingly original after the expected start and the gameplay itself, including the ability to breed your own Pokemon, is sure to excite even the most jaded Pokemon enthusiast. It has the best graphics of any Pokemon game and some delightfully energetic battles.
Flaws: That controversy we mentioned? Yeah, for the first time in mainline Pokemon game history the developers of Sword and Shield choose not to include the full 893 strong Pokedex. This decision was met with plenty of reactions from players but wasn’t a deal-breaker for most gamers.
8. Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a delightful break from most games out there. Instead of shooting, smashing, or racing something, you’re helping hapless Luigi save Mario and friends from a haunted hotel filled with spooky sights and ghostly frights. Like many Mario-related games, the actual plot is highly-familiar to anyone who’s played a previous version, but that’s a good thing in our book.
Why we like it: We strongly feel that the third installment marks the current high point of the Luigi’s Mansion series. It takes everything that was done right in the first two games and adds a unique spin on it. The atmosphere is done perfectly to evoke (family-friendly) terror, and Luigi’s own skittish reaction to every bump in the night never gets old. The story will be familiar to anyone who’s played the first two games, but the developers did a great job making the levels stand out. Every floor opens up to new surprises and just enough fresh challenges to keep you enthralled till the very end.
Flaws: It’s not for everyone. The gameplay is pretty much unique among video games, combining a range of puzzles with the tools Luigi has used to effect over the past two games.
9. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is hard to describe to someone who isn’t familiar with JRPGs and the Fire Emblem series itself. It’s a combination relationship simulator, teaching tool, war story, and tactical role-playing game that somehow manages to mix all four elements together.
Why we like it: At its core, Three Houses focuses on tactical control of multiple units in battle. It does this exceptionally well and incorporates the relationship building and mentorship elements of the early game (which, let’s be honest, can drag a bit if you just want to lead an army) in a way we haven’t seen before. The characters leading your troops are ones you trained and taught yourself, and their deaths matter in a way few games can accomplish. If you’re looking for the experience of being a medieval level leader, with everything that comes with it, this is a great way to do it.
Flaws: Three Houses, like a lot of Japanese games in general, has some tropey moments. Think mysterious and silent girls, a protagonist with inexplicable amnesia, and dating sim elements that can seem out of place in what’s ostensibly a tactical combat game. It mixes them into the mix of gameplay and story better than most other games, but if you aren’t ready for them, they can be a bit different.
10. Untitled Goose Game
Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be a goose? And not just any goose, but a goose that just wants to see grown men cry? Untitled Goose Game gives you the chance to do just that, running through an idyllic English countryside village and wreaking havoc on everyone around you.
Why we like it: It’s honestly one of the funniest games we’ve ever played. You don’t do much of anything in the grand scheme of things, but the hilariously naughty behavior of the titular goose you play will have you in stitches as you pull off prank after prank in finest goose fashion. The gameplay is reminiscent of a stealth game, with plenty of sneaking, misdirection, and theft mechanics, but all done while a goose. You can move through multiple areas pulling off ever more elaborate pranks, stunts, and inconveniences for everyone around you. Few games can say they’re completely unique, but Untitled Goose Game comes exceptionally close.
Flaws: Untitled Goose Game isn’t for everyone. The very concept is almost ridiculous, and even for those who absolutely love it, you’ll find yourself looking for more after its relatively short runtime is exhausted.
Who should buy a Nintendo Switch game?
Obviously, someone who owns a Nintendo Switch. All joking aside, there’s good reason to consider picking up a Switch just for the games we ranked above.
Couch Coop enthusiasts – The Switch itself is one of the best consoles for those who yearn for a little couch coop action. It doesn’t have much in the way of FPS ala Call of Duty, but it does offer some great and storied titles that will keep your whole family entertained racing, partying, and smashing.
Families – Families of all sizes are sure to love the many different ways the Switch offers to keep your kids entertained. They can play multiplayer at home with their friends or siblings, pack it up, take it on a long drive or flight, and even set it up at a restaurant or other stop to keep them entertained.
How we ranked
We used four key metrics to rank our list. These were gameplay and story, graphics, replayability, and genre.
Gameplay and story – How you play the game and your motivations for taking those actions were by far the most important factor in our decision. We looked for games that were fun to play and that made you feel things you didn’t realize you could feel for a video game.
Some offered next-level gameplay elements, engaging storylines, or a combination of the two. In either case, they needed to stand out enough to really wow us.
Graphics – The Switch isn’t a graphical powerhouse of a console. Switch games aren’t designed to have the same level of stunning realism you can get on a high-end gaming PC or even a current generation Playstation or Xbox.
For Switch graphics, we looked more at their inventiveness, attractiveness, and consistency. Many Switch games offer some of the most artistic graphics you can find.
Replayability – One of the measures of a great game is the ability to enjoy going through it again and again. Some heavily story-driven titles don’t have this, but many games rely entirely on their engaging gameplay and ability to while away hours of fun.
Genre – AAA titles these days tend to skew towards the epic side of things, but we worked to include various genres and game types in our list. You’ll find everything from RPGs, platform games, fighting games, roguelikes, and even racing games.
Price – Video games can get expensive, especially if you want to pick up multiple titles. Our list includes a range of games at different price points, from pricey first-party and AAA titles down to bargain-priced indie games and even ports from older systems.
Q: What’s the difference between the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite?
A: The Nintendo Switch is the full featured original version of the Switch that includes detachable Joy Cons, the ability to dock with your TV, and support for multiple controller types. The Switch lite is a slightly smaller version of the Switch designed strictly for handheld use.
You can’t dock it or detach the Joy Cons for use as controllers like you can with the Switch, but you can still play it in the car, at school, or anywhere else you wish to.
Q: Will Nintendo Switch games work on Switch Lite?
A: Yes. The Nintendo Switch Lite can play every game that supports Switch handheld play (1). All the games on our list are available for both the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Q: What Nintendo Switch Games are multiplayer?
A: The Switch was designed from the ground up for multiplayer play. The detachable Joy Cons will work as a pair of controllers for instant multiplayer capability and you can pick up additional Joy Cons or controllers.
Our top pick for the best multiplayer Nintendo Switch game is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Q: When do Nintendo Switch games go on sale?
A: Nintendo is notorious in the gaming community for rarely ever putting their first-party titles on sale. If you’re looking to pick up titles such as Zelda or Mario, it’s not generally worth waiting for a deal as you’re unlikely to find one.
Q: Do I need a spare controller for Nintendo Switch games?
A: The Switch comes with two Joy Cons that can each be used as a controller for many games. If you need more than two controllers you can pick up either more Joy Cons or specific Switch controllers that don’t attach to your Switch.
The Nintendo Switch offers a vast selection of first-party, AAA, and indie game titles. You can choose from iconic franchises or pick up games on the cutting edge of mechanics, gameplay, and storytelling.
For Hastings #1 Nintendo Switch game recommendation, click here.