Nobody expected the Nintendo Switch to be as huge a success as it has been, owing to the fact that Nintendo looked like they were in a bit of a pickle following the dismal performance of the Wii U. They needed to innovate rather than simply iterate, and the Switch has been exactly that: a console and handheld hybrid boasting an amazing array of exclusives and the best place to plenty of indies on the market. The best Nintendo Switch games run the gamut from Nintendo’s almost untouchable classic properties to third-party hits that feel custom-made for the platform.
It’s even more remarkable when you consider the fact that the console hasn’t been out that long with its release in 2017. Nintendo have clearly wasted no time in getting their priorities straight, delivering the first-party titles that they are known for and also leaning on other developers to port their games over. They’ve infamously failed to garner the full support of third-parties in the past, but the Switch’s astounding variety of games –whether that’s indie or AAA– from a lot of genres and publishers suggests that they know that it’s vital for the longevity of the console; the effort put into porting over DOOM and Wolfenstein suggests that others know how hot a property the Switch is too.
With thousands of titles already available, it’s no easy task to whittle it down to just the fifteen best Switch games. We’ve tried to opt for variety and include some that are supremely underrated in the mix with the already classics. We’re also denoting whether or not a game is exclusive to the platform and also will be adding to the line-up if a great new game is released up to a maximum of twenty-five Switch games. In the interest of maintaining sanity, we’ve also not put this in any definitive order or ranking.
The Best Nintendo Switch Games
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
What better way to start than with one of the most complete Switch games you’re ever likely to play? Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may be the ultimate Smash experience with an absolutely ridiculous well of content to keep players content for dozens of hours, though you get the feeling that it will be 2050 and there will still be people sticking by Melee.
Whether you’re playing solo or against others, Ultimate is a game that just gets better the more you play. Not only do you progressively earn more characters to play as, but you can also feel yourself growing better as you best what appears to be a simple fighter that actually has a surprising amount to learn. Casual and competitive players alike are bound to find something in Ultimate to latch on to.
“I know Smash has become sort of the modern day Monopoly as the game you play to lose friends to and it has a serious culture around it as perhaps the greatest fighting game of a generation, but above all, it is supposed to be a living gaming museum and Nintendo toy box that can do anything your imagination desires as long as it wants to have fun. Ultimate does all of that and more, providing one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had and almost certainly setting the bar for Game of the Year 2019.”
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
ARMS may not have been the most successful new IP Nintendo have launched in recent times, but that might be down to how poorly it was marketed. Instead of trying to pitch it as a fun party game, Nintendo went a little too hard on the competitive aspect of it with the game being difficult to get to grips with for many — a bit silly considering just how silly the game itself is as a concept.
Using the Joy-Cons, you punch your way through battles against the AI and other players with extendable arms being your main weapons. It’s inherently daft but also quite fun, so if you’re looking for some way of venting your anger from a Mario Party session gone awry, ARMS could do the job.
Developer: SFB Games Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
It’s a crying shame that SnipperClips came out when it did, early in the Switch’s life. While many people were busy with Breath of the Wild, a charming little co-op didn’t quite receive the recognition it deserved for promoting creativity and just generally being a lovely time.
SnipperClips is a platformer that seems you teaming up to cut shapes to help your avatar (which you can also cut up) make their way through levels with there being more than one route to complete a puzzle. It’ll have you laughing and maybe even pulling out your hair if your teamwork isn’t on-point, but you’ll definitely have fun no matter what.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? No (also on Wii U)
How’s this for a launch title? Breath of the Wild releasing with the Switch could be seen as a serious statement of intent from Nintendo as they were delivering the most ambitious Zelda game to date for day one. It’s almost a couple of years down the line and people are still finding weird and wonderful things to do in this wild game.
One of the oldest and best Switch games, view Breath of the Wild as The Phantom Pain of the franchise. While it takes a step back in terms of the story, it opens itself up massively to experimentation and exploration while also still being a quintessential Zelda game. See something huge in the distance? Make your way there and then try to climb it — you probably can.
“While you may find yourself intimidated by the scope and size of Breath of the Wild, persevere and you will find yourself playing perhaps one of the finest games you’ve ever laid your hands on. This game is truly something special and will be long remembered as the classic game it is destined to become.”
5. Splatoon 2
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
The cynics among us may suggest that Splatoon 2 really isn’t deserving of the two by its name as it isn’t different enough from the original game to warrant it. While you may argue that it’s more like a tweaked port of the Wii U game rather than a full-fat update, the simple fact of it being a tonne of fun remains the same.
In a bizarre post-apocalypse, players must fight each other with paint and decorate the surroundings to come out on top. Don’t expect Quake from Splatoon 2, it’s meant as a party shooter with social capabilities that is something only Nintendo could make. Plus, if you’re missing the Miiverse (like even the best of us are), Splatoon 2 has its own special version.
Developer: id Software/Panic Button Publisher: Bethesda Exclusive? No
The port of DOOM to what is, admittedly, not the strongest of consoles is a technical marvel. While it obviously doesn’t match up to its peers in terms of presentation or perfromance, the core of a phenomenal FPS remains intact, meaning that players can now rip and tear as they rip and (hopefully not) tear one out on the porcelain throne.
The most recent DOOM is pure FPS nirvana, a whirlwind of blood and guts that plays like the perfect marriage of the old and new styles of shooting. It’s breathless and no-nonsense as well as surprisingly funny at points. This isn’t the last time Panic Button will be on this list, who should probably be in charge of all Switch ports from here on out.
7. Octopath Traveler
Developer: Square Enix/Acquire Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
Judging by how much many developers are publishers are trying to pivot away from the “traditional” RPG, you may think that the demand for them is one the wane. Octopath Traveler, which feels like it comes from the SNES era in all the best ways, proves that you don’t need to make your RPG an open world action hybrid to stand out.
You control many different characters in a bulging party with their stories unfolding the deeper into you go; you’ll no doubt be tossing and turning trying to pick your favourites. While this may be the most basic looking on this list of the best Switch games, Octopath Traveler is a deep and rewarding adventure that will endear itself to you the more you play.
“Above all else, Octopath Traveler never ceases to be a game that entertains. Whether it’s the quirky look, the excellent soundtrack, the hours upon hours upon hours of content, or the core gameplay, everybody should find something to appreciate with this game. And for a brand new JRPG, that’s a pretty special success.”
8. Super Mario Odyssey
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
With so many games over so many decades, it’s a wonder that Nintendo are still able to innovate with each new Mario game. Super Mario Odyssey is one of the franchise’s most original and downright fun games, tasking the player with using a sentient cap to take over people and objects. It’s not as morbid as it sounds, don’t worry.
Cappy can allow Mario to reach places he never could and to overcome difficult obstacles with each new possession making Odyssey feel like a different game. There’s also a staggering amount of moons to track down and collect, so once you’ve beaten Mario’s old nemesis (shock horror), the game is only really just beginning to open up. There’s more than a hatful (hueue) of things to love about this one.
“For the second time this year, Nintendo have blasted one of their flagship franchises to dizzying new heights. Totally sublime from start to finish, Super Mario Odyssey is an essential Nintendo Switch title. It’s genuinely one of the greatest games ever made and you owe it to yourself to experience it.”
9. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Developer: Monolith Soft Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a massive JRPG that plays like a dream on hardware that shouldn’t be able to handle its scope as well as it does. A massive journey that will soak up dozens of hours of your life, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 boasts a gigantic open world to explore and a party of characters that you can’t help but grow enamoured by.
We don’t wish to overwhelm you when we say that you will need almost 200 hours of gameplay to reach 100% completion, which isn’t even considering the game’s DLC. There’s a lot to learn from here, but as with any good JRPG, you will be so absorbed in it all that you will be able to distinguish your Blades from your Drivers pretty quickly. As a small/huge bonus, there’s a talking tiger.
10. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Exclusive? Yes (though technically it’s just a different package to the Wii U version)
One of the best Switch games at ruining everything, this. Many relationships and families have been ripped apart thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: a chaotic evil video game if ever there was one. If you’re in a bad mood or are perhaps too competitive for your own good, playing Mario Kart is not recommended as it will prey on you and turn you into a fire-breathing vengeful dragon whenever you see a blue shell making its way to your pole position.
Easy to pick up and play, even the most incompetent of non-gamers will be able to get to grips with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 8 with no fuss, but being able to win comes down to a combination of sheer luck and staying away from first place as long as possible — it just puts a target on your back. Don’t trip on a banana peel if you have company and need something to break the ice.
11. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Developer: MachineGames/Panic Button Publisher: Bethesda Exclusive? No
Another port from Panic Button, another success. While your opinion may vary on whether The New Colossus or The New Order is the better Wolfenstein game, the newest entry is the more technically intensive, which makes this almost perfect conversion just that much more impressive.
Leaning heavily on its B movie inspirations, The New Colossus is an absurd and joyously violent return to behind the wheel of B.J. Blazkowicz that sees you as a rebel on the run from the Nazis in a submarine in an alternate universe in which they won the war. It starts off serious with a gripping wheelchair section (trust us) before devolving into what feels like a fever dream brought on by insanity. You also get to kill Nazis, if we didn’t mention.
“Shed some blood, save the world. It’s a long hard road but the journey is incredible and fun, while the big advantage here is being able to take the slaughter on the go. It isn’t the best version visually, but for Switch owners who haven’t experienced the glorious bullet-bath, it’s a pure thrill.”
12. Fortnite: Battle Royale
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games Exclusive? No
Odds are that you’ve heard of this little indie hit. Fortnite is a phenomenon that has seeped into mainstream culture everywhere you look. Instead of going against the grain and avoiding the hivemind, you may as well give in and download it on your Switch to see what all the fuss is about — it helps that it’s completely free and doesn’t take up much memory.
Playing Fortnite on the Switch may actually be the most painless way of learning the ins and outs of the behemoth. Why? Simply because the players on Switch aren’t as good or as well-versed in the game as it hit their console a lot later, as well as the fact that a lot of people play in handheld with the tiny Joy-Con sticks not being that great for aiming. Don’t be surprised when you get trounced by a small child who builds the pyramids of Giza on your corpse, though.
13. Dead Cells
Developer: Motion Twin Publisher: Motion Twin Exclusive? No
A self-styled “Roguevania” with more going for it than meets the eye, Dead Cells started life as an Early Access game on Steam before making its way to most platforms and receiving widespread acclaim. It’s brutal, but not so brutal that you can’t eventually break through hurdles and shriek like a wild banshee the first time you beat The Concierge, only to discover that you will have to beat him many, may more times to the point where he’s like any other enemy. Dead Cells is fantastic at making you feel like you’re truly improving.
You assume control of, um, a bunch of worms (maybe?) as they take control of a suit of armour and look for their sweet revenge across the grounds of a dangerous castle. Don’t sweat that too much: it’s the combat that you’re here for. There’s a fantastic array of ways to approach any sticky situation, but the random nature of each run means that you can never been too comfortable. Perhaps the best game of its ilk.
I’ve had to continuously go back in my review and add in mechanics I’ve missed, the little details that make Dead Cells such an essential experience — and I’m sure I’ve still not covered everything. There’s still a little ways to go in 2018, but Dead Cells is a dead cert to find its way onto many GOTY lists, mine included.”
Developer: Nomada Studio Publisher: Devolver Digital Exclusive? No
Gris is probably the most quaint game we’ve covered so far, so those looking with guts and glory may want to steer clear. However, if you want a minimalist story with stunning visuals and a gorgeous soundtrack that may suddenly make your eyes wet, Gris is one of the best Switch games for just that. We’re getting choked up just thinking about.
A young girl must find her voice in a watercolour dream turned into a nightmare with you steering her in the right direction through some puzzles and lovely landscapes. There’s not a great deal of detail to go into with Gris: it’s a simple game that’s perhaps more of an experience that will give back to you as much as you put in. Just don’t blame us for our recommendation when you break down in tears on the train.
“Critiques aside, Gris is just about the best way I could finish off my year. I’ve played a lot of games this year, some bad, some good, but nothing quite like Gris. I have no doubt that I will remember it long into 2019 and almost definitely even beyond that.”
Nintendo are famously clingy when it comes to their most famous properties, so it would a bit of a surprise to see them lease Mario to Ubisoft, even more so when it was announced as a crossover between he and Rabbids: basically gaming’s Minions. That’s still a sentence that doesn’t make any sense, and it also doesn’t make sense just how good Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle somehow turned out to be.
Effectively XCOM for a younger audience, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle gives Mario a gun and some very insistent sidekicks as they take part in turn-based combats where the odds may never be in your favour. Sure, it’s not revolutionary, but it proves just how malleable Mario is and also somehow completed the impossible mission of making Rabbids seem less awful in general. Now that’s impressive.
Developer: Moppin/Red Phantom Games Publisher: Devolver Digital Exclusive? No
An utter gem on whichever platform’s it on, Downwell simply does not lose its appeal despite originally launching in 2015. Its Switch port is one of the only games which makes effective use of “tate mode”, which orientates the handheld into portrait mode. Adding to that, Downwell is also a game pretty much anyone can pick up and play thanks to it needing barely any inputs, though mastering it is another task entirely.
Rock hard and punishing, Downwell casts you down a well with only gun-boots for company. Procedurally generated levels ensure no two runs are ever the same, so you can never be too comfortable with it. It’s not so much a game that you will beat in quick time, rather one that will make every inch of progress feel like a mile. It’s never unfair, it’s just asking you to grow and learn the more you play.
“Pound-for-pound (or dollar-for-dollar), Downwell is one of the Switch’s best games in its price bracket and just generally one of the system’s best games, which applies to every system that Downwell has appeared on to date. Despite being four years old this year, Downwell is still as maddeningly enticing as ever and, thanks to the multitude of ways of playing, might be at its most compelling on Switch.”
Where To Find The Best Nintendo Switch Games
The most obvious place to find Switch games is through the eShop as that’s the only place where you will be able to find everything the console has to offer, including indies that will never get a physical release. You can easily change your region to look up listings for other regions as well.
Alternatively, Humble Bundle have also launched a digital storefront (but only in certain territories) for Switch games, though the prices are a bit high at this time of writing.
That mainly comes down to the fact that Nintendo games very rarely drops down in price — it’s still hard to find Breath of the Wild for less than $50/£40. Your best bet, then, is to go physical during a sale from somewhere like Amazon.
Not only will you be able to find physical copies that little bit cheaper, but you will also be able to save some of the Switch’s limited memory thanks to the cartridges. There’s also the resell value to consider.
No matter how you buy Switch games, don’t forget that you will be able to earn My Nintendo points to put towards other purchases; you get a decent amount of “money” to spend on something else after buying a big game.