The strategy genre has most commonly found a home in PC gaming, but that doesn’t mean that the genre can’t thrive on other platforms. The advantage of consoles is that they accentuate one type of control scheme or approach strategy design from an unconventional angle. The Nintendo Switch has given strategy games a new handheld platform to thrive on.
For players interested in strategy gaming on Nintendo’s flagship console, we compiled a list of the best Nintendo Switch strategy games of all time, limiting ourselves to one entry per franchise. If you’re looking for a good place to get into strategy games on the Switch, these are your best options.
The Best Switch Strategy Games
Developer: Shiro Games Publisher: Shiro Games, Playdigious Release Date: September 26, 2019
Quite the rare sight on consoles, the classic RTS subset has found a way to thrive on the Switch with Northgard, a modern reimagining of this type of strategy game. The tropes of the classic RTS have been quite successfully ported over to the Switch, with all the main features, such as base building, resource gathering, and troop micromanagement successfully fitting into the console’s sensibilities.
From an innovation standpoint, Northgard introduces an interesting territory expansion system where players have to play around the limitations and special features of territory to gain an edge over their opponent. In addition, the developers included a variety of non-extermination victory conditions, giving players a chance to try different strategies, aside from the standard, albeit repetitive, military dominance win.
Northgard does have a couple of nagging issues that prevent it taking a higher spot, most importantly some UI customization issues and the game feeling too small and limiting. As one of the only few classic RTS games to make it to consoles, Northgard is still worth giving a go.
14. Two Point Hospital
Developer: Two Point Studios Publisher: SEGA Release Date: February 25, 2020
The logistics subgenre is also a relatively uncommon sight on consoles, due to the menu-intensive nature of the UI and clunkiness of the controls. Two Point Hospital is a game that escapes some of these disadvantages.
The game’s humor, charming aesthetic, and general hilarity does a lot of the heavy lifting in setting this management game apart from many of its brethren. In terms of gameplay features, there’s plenty of depth, varied scenarios, and challenges in Two Point Hospital for players to test their mettle and create a profitable medical institution.
Despite these positives, Two Point Studios’ management game can sometimes fall into grindy repetition or simple waiting periods that will slow down its pace and could lose some players. Luckily, when things fall into place and really get going in Two Point Hospital, the management experience can be hugely rewarding and well-worth your time.
Developer: Black Lab Games, Black Lab Games Pty. Ltd. Publisher: Slitherine Software Release Date: October 8, 2019
The first of the tactics games to make the list, Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock is also the only space combat game readily available on the Switch. The general rarity of this breed of strategy game alone makes Deadlock worth checking out.
One of the main selling points of Deadlock is its compelling sci-fi setting (it’s in the name) with a lengthy and fully-voiced narrative campaign that is canon to the most recent reimagined Battlestar Galactica universe. Gameplay wise, Deadlock includes two well-defined factions with a slew of unique abilities, weapons, starfighters, warships, and ordnance types that will keep players theorycrafting and coming up with new strategies and approaches to succeed in the steadily-paced and rewarding skirmishes.
But just like in any war story, there will be periods of slow downtime and Deadlock has plenty of it with a multitude of repetitive sections that can give the campaign a monotonous tone. Nonetheless, the depth of the tactical gameplay and the cinematic appeal of Battlestar Galactica’s explosive engagements make it one of the best strategy games on the Switch.
12. SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition
Developer: Image & Form Games, Thunderful Group Publisher: Image & Form Games, Nintendo, Thunderful Group, Rising Star Games Release Date: December 27, 2017
Staying on the sci-fi theme, SteamWorld Heist is a tactical RPG set in the SteamWorld universe, where players take the lead of a robot pirate crew and hornswoggle their way to space pirate infamy. Unlike many of the tactics games on this list, SteamWorld successfully utilizes 2D space to bring this compelling game to life for the Switch.
While the funky setting and vibrant aesthetic style do give SteamWorld Heist plenty of charm, the game truly shines in its gameplay. Taking a 2D approach to map design means each engagement has plenty of verticality and awesome potential for creative terrain interactions with destructible environments and fun weapons.
The game does falter a bit with a variety of balance issues, making some character progression unintuitive and puzzling. But if you’re looking for a focused and tight tactics game with great combat, then SteamWorld Heist is definitely your game.
11. Pikmin 3 Deluxe
Developer: Nintendo EAD, Eighting Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: October 30, 2020
One of Nintendo’s strong suits in video game design is their ability to find clever and inviting spins on a variety of game genres, with Pikmin 3 showing Nintendo’s creativity within the strategy genre. The Pikmin series in general is notable for being one of the most prominent minion tactics games in strategy gaming as a whole.
Pikmin 3’s main draw is the consistent challenge of puzzles, from gathering resources and fixing infrastructure to fighting off all manner of dangerous and silly beasties, all the while caring for the adorable and cutesy eponymous plant-based creatures. The colorful and charming visual design only helps to give the game an incredible sense of fun, despite some of the game’s darker moments.
Pikmin has a lot going for it, but it can be considered somewhat on the shorter side for a strategy game, meaning the fun won’t last for too long and will leave players wanting more. Nevertheless, the bright color palette and intriguing puzzles will pull players right in.
Developer: Firaxis Games, Aspyr Media Publisher: 2K Games Release Date: November 16, 2018
Another rare sight on consoles is the grand strategy subgenre. Since there’s such a vacuum, Civilization 6 fills it nicely for the Switch, more so by its own quality merits as a strategy game.
Civilization’s biggest draw is the massive scale and variety of mechanics that players can indulge in, including war, combat, research, city management, and resource exploitation. In broad strokes these systems also reflect major processes of human history, which by its nature is a fascinating topic that Civilization explores and models quite well.
The systems robustly work together and create an incredibly addictive experience, as players will be able to see how their decisions play out over the innumerable turns they will spend perfecting their strategies. It can certainly come across as overwhelming and some of the Switch’s controls can be clunky for such a game, but Civilization 6 still remains a solid strategy game in its own right from the sheer depth it brings and will leave players stuck to their controllers wanting to play more and more.
Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Klei Entertainment Release Date: June 15, 2020
Since tactics games are so common on the Switch, those that succeed at finding distinct angles or unique approaches to the subgenre will be counted as some of the best amongst their peers. Invisible Inc is such a game that subverts some established tropes, while accentuating others to create a one-of-a-kind experience.
Tactics games typically focus on combat and eliminating enemies with the resources immediately available. In Invisible Inc, the game incentivizes players to actually avoid combat, except when absolutely necessary and instead utilize the environment to overcome various challenges.
The cyberpunk aesthetic fits perfectly into this stealth tactics game, emphasizing themes of subterfuge and deception. The flipside is that Invisible Inc can become a bit too punishing and overly-reliant on stealth, but not enough to seriously hurt the game’s overall sheen.
8. The Banner Saga Trilogy
Developer: Stoic Studio Publisher: Versus Evil Release Date: September 20, 2018
Sometimes all it takes for a game to reach quality status is an epic story of survival in the face of an encroaching apocalypse and the Banner Saga Trilogy brings this in spades. If nothing else, there are very few games that can match Stoic Studio’s Norse mythology inspired tale.
Players will find that the most immediate positive of the Banner Saga is its incredible artstyle, harkening back to old school 2D animation, giving the game an unmistakable visage that only bolsters its awe-inspiring world-building. Alongside the excellent character interactions, events, writing, and development, the engaging and challenging tactical combat will keep players invested in the survival and performance of their characters throughout the entirety of this epic tale.
Unfortunately, the combat is also where players may find the game to be the most repetitive and frustrating, especially in the first installment of the trilogy. However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that The Banner Saga is quite a marvel of a video game trilogy that effectively marries narrative with strategy genre sensibilities.
Developer: 11 Bit Studios Publisher: 11 Bit Studios, Crunching Koalas Release Date: May 21, 2019
On the topic of survival, This War of Mine is a thematically important and subversive wargame looking at the lives of civilians, refugees, and victims of the horrors of war as they try to survive in the middle of a battleground country. The emotional weight and calls to empathy alone are enough to give This War of Mine at least one playthrough.
The distinct setting feeds into the game’s solid survival features and systems where players have to build a livable base of operations to outlive the ongoing conflict, all the while going out on scavenging missions for supplies. The game can get particularly tense in said missions as the player’s characters will need to avoid hostile soldiers and supply hoarders.
The relentless bleakness of the game’s setting can definitely take a toll on the game’s fun factor. Nevertheless, this harrowing tale of survival and perseverance against all odds is a worthy strategy game to have in your library.
Developer: Subset Games Publisher: Subset Games Release Date: August 28, 2018
The tension found in strategy games with survival elements usually makes the game all the more investing and exciting as players struggle against certain death. Into the Breach takes this premise and adds a helping of awesome tactical mech on kaiju combat action.
Into the Breach is probably the most chesslike out of all the tactics games on the Switch, but the devs added enough customization, enemy variance, and randomized maps to keep the experience fresh. The gameplay is quite simple as players need to protect civilians as they evacuate from the kaiju onslaught and this simplicity means the game is easy to pick up and learn.
Into the Breach can get repetitive and punishing, especially as players get close to finishing a playthrough, but that only feeds into the game’s setting, charm, and tactical soundness. For a bite-sized tactics game with plenty of challenge and a great pixelated aesthetic, Into the Breach is one of the best out there.
5. Slay the Spire
Developer: Mega Crit Games Publisher: Mega Crit Games, Humble Bundle, Humble Games Release Date: June 6, 2019
A kind of Darkest Dungeon with cards and deck-building, Slay the Spire is quite the intriguing smash hit. The secret to Slay the Spire’s solid quality lies in its tone and tight action-packed combat.
While the deck-building core of the game’s combat may give consternation to some, such a system really does wonders for the combat, as players must optimize their character’s deck-building for various challenges, while at the same time executing effective combos and actions to defeat whatever opponent is barring their path. Not to mention, Slay the Spire provides excellent visual and audio feedback, giving every encounter a satisfying punchiness and energy that’ll easily keep players engaged.
There are some minor annoyances, such as control awkwardness and UI inefficiencies, but it’s definitely not enough to majorly affect Slay the Spire’s overall quality. All-in-all, Mega Crit Games’ masterpiece is a dynamic, compelling, and energetic romp that’s worth every moment of your time.
Developer: Red Hook Studios, Sickhead Games Publisher: Red Hook Studios, Merge Games, Degica Release Date: January 18, 2018
The game that would eventually lead to Slay the Spire’s success, Darkest Dungeon shares a similar grueling feeling as This War of Mine, replacing the horrifying relatability of 11 Bit Studios’ subversive wargame with a fantastical dread and sense of insignificance. Of all the games on the list, it has the most striking aesthetic that will be immediately recognizable to strategy and non-strategy fans alike.
Darkest Dungeon is what can be called a true war simulator, where the veneer of light role-playing elements barely conceal the game’s true message where any one soldier doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and it’s their long-term impact that has any sort of effect on the narrative. On the tactical level, Darkest Dungeon has an excellent combat system that will test player skill and creativity as new terrifying creatures make themselves known and throw curveballs at the player.
Such relentless horror and cynicism can grind on the player and the game’s length does lend itself to a repetitive experience. However, the Lovecraftian narrative, one-of-a-kind visual design, and punchy combat make Darkest Dungeon a must-own for any strategy fan on the Switch.
One of the most influential modern strategy games is also one of the best strategy games of all time for the Switch. XCOM 2 hones in on what makes the tactics genre so compelling and crafts a near-perfect experience that is challenging, rewarding, and engaging.
XCOM’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its combat system where players will fight back against an ever-evolving alien enemy programmed with solid AI, customize their squads of soldiers to tackle different scenarios, and utilize the terrain to maximize both offensive and defensive abilities. The combat is also wrapped up in an awesome and lengthy narrative campaign that will take the players from being the underdog to a true threat to the dominating alien forces as you try to liberate Earth.
XCOM is famous (or infamous) for its general difficulty and it can come across as too punishing at times, which may lead to frustration and a temptation to simply drop it. However, this is very much part of the game’s charm and after players learn to accept and overcome XCOM’s challenge, they’ll find an incredibly exciting and deep game that upholds its timeless status.
If you take XCOM a few steps further and exchange a linear narrative for an open sandbox you will inevitably get Overhype Studios’ masterpiece of a game, Battle Brothers. It’s a low-fantasy mercenary management tactical role-playing game that happens to be the ultimate rags to riches strategy game out there.
If you thought XCOM 2 was difficult, then Battle Brothers takes that up a notch without being unfair by adding plenty of equipment, enemy types, and world-changing events. The game has an incredible character system where players can pretty much do anything and everything with the mercenaries they hire in their search for fame and glory.
Battle Brothers’ difficulty can be quite intimidating, however, as players may find themselves in unwinnable situations or death spirals, which have no exit out of. Nevertheless, Battle Brothers’ potential for emergent story-telling, deep combat, and flexible character progression makes it an incredible strategy game to own for the Switch.
1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Developer: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: July 26, 2019
Hands down the best strategy game of all time for the Nintendo Switch is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This game combines what makes XCOM and Battle Brothers so great and adds yet more to create a timeless strategy experience.
The combat system is solid in itself, but what really sets Fire Emblem apart is the character relation system on top of the highly-detailed progression system, letting players customize and develop their forces in any which way they desire. It’s still up for debate which of open-ended sandbox-style emergent storytelling or directed narratives with established character relationships is better, but Three Houses makes an incredible case for the latter by including so much overall content and activities for players to utilize.
There’s very little to fault Fire Emblem over as it continues the series’ near spotless record of delivering engaging and robust tactical combat and role-playing mechanics. Three Houses fully utilizes the Switch to its potential and as such is the best strategy game for the platform.
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