Few people expected the Nintendo Switch to be popular, let alone beloved. Its predecessor, the Wii U, was a disastrous misstep. Ahead of the Switch’s 2017 launch, Nintendo would have been forgiven if it had focused on the Nintendo 3DS and bringing games to smartphones. But the Switch, with its weird hybrid nature, has managed from its first week to offer the best of both handheld and console gaming.
What follows is a living list of the Nintendo Switch games we recommend everyone play or watch, in reverse-chronological order. We’ll be updating this page as we come across excellent new games.
If you’ve just purchased a Switch, this is a guide to start your collection. And if you’ve already played through Nintendo’s suite of first-party hits, this list should help you find the next game to check out.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
There’s really no telling what you’ll get from the SteamWorld franchise. It started with a tower defense game, but follow-ups have tackled the Metroidvania and turn-based strategy genres. The newest installment is SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech, a card-based RPG with a wild fantasy setting.
Like all of the SteamWorld games, Quest is impeccably designed. The mechanics seem simple at first, with basic physical and magic attacks to pick from. But the gameplay expands dramatically, allowing for complex combos and deck building. Paired with gorgeous hand-drawn art and light-hearted (if punny) dialog, it’s a great entry into RPGs, even for younger players.
In her review, Patricia Hernandez called SteamWorld Quest a “must-own Nintendo Switch game.”
Get it here: Nintendo eShop
Baba is You
Baba is You looks like it could have come out 30 years ago. Its graphics are easily within the scope of what the NES could pump out. Despite that, it’s an incredibly modern puzzle game, twisting established video game concepts on their year in incredible ways.
The basics: Baba is a rabbit. Move Baba to a flag to complete a map. But moving blocks of words on the map (like “Wall is Stop”) will change the parameters of what Baba is capable of (or even change Baba himself).
The best puzzle games seem incredibly simple at first glance, but beneath the surface Baba is You is a fascinating dissection of the genre. With just a handful of perimeters it manages create an approachable yet mindbending experience. There aren’t a ton of puzzle games on Switch, but Baba is You is one of the best.
Get it here: Nintendo eShop
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
The Wii U may have been Nintendo’s least successful console, but it was home to some truly excellent games. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is primarily a Switch port of one of these oft-forgotten Wii U games, but its revival highlights just how much of a 2D platforming masterclass it is. Mario veterans may find it starts out a bit too slow and easy, but later stages ramp up the difficulty and clever level design. This learning curve, along with the ability to play with up to four people, makes it one of the best Mario games to introduce to younger players.
For those looking for a true platforming challenge, Deluxe also includes New Super Luigi U, of the most challenging platformers Nintendo has ever made. Finally something for children and mascochists alike.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
There’s a kitchen-sink aspect to the latest installment of Super Smash Bros. Every single character, stage and item that has ever appeared in the franchise returns in this outrageously-scoped package.
Smash Bros. Ultimate is the most ambitious multiplayer game Nintendo has ever made, but despite the scale, it’s incredibly friendly to newcomers. You’ll start out with just eight characters to choose from, slowly building the gang up to over 70 contenders. A new single-player mode offers up a nice way to experiment with unplayed characters while collecting hundreds of artifacts from gaming history.
If you’re having friends over, this and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are must-haves for your Switch. Just make sure you have enough controllers.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Eevee!
A full-fledged Pokémon game on consoles has been the long-held dream of fans for more than two decades. Now, we have one — or at least, something close to it. Playing Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! feels like revisiting a childhood memory, but with everything modernized. The game arms players with either a Pikachu or an Eevee as their primary partner, and then sends them on their way to collect all 151 Pokémon of the Kanto region. They prove themselves against masters along the way, winning eight badges to try their hand at the Pokémon League.
Even though it’s essentially an enhanced remake of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow, the modernized gameplay mechanics (inspired by Pokémon Go) really help make it more playable. And just like those classics, Let’s Go! is instantly accessible, a revision of the franchise at its most pure.
Diablo 3: Eternal Collection
Blizzard first released Diablo 3 six years ago on Mac and Windows PC, and followed with ports on a variety of consoles. And yet, outside of dragging a laptop and mouse around, there’s never been a truly portable version of the game. The Switch release changes that with this masterful edition.
In addition to offering all of the content (both free and paid) that Blizzard has released for Diablo 3, the Switch version allows for frictionless multiplayer. Through single Joy-Con play, you and a friend can set up same-system co-op in seconds. Online multiplayer is also supported, if you’re looking for a crowd.
But even solo, Diablo 3 on Switch feels excellent, both in docked and handheld mode. While the developers made some visual concessions, Diablo 3 is able to maintain a stable 60 frames per second, which is crucial to the game’s smooth feel.
Diablo 3’s arrival on Switch is fantastic, filling a much-needed hack-and-slash hole in the console’s library.
Also available on Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
The Switch was designed with multiplayer in mind. Outside of first-party Nintendo releases, few games take better advantage of same-system multiplayer than TowerFall. At first glance, TowerFall appears to be a 2D clone of Super Smash Bros. In truth, it’s even more approachable than Nintendo’s brawler. Heroes equipped with arrows engage in minutelong battles to the death, using stomps, dodges and jump pads to slaughter their competition.
The bright, colorful graphics pop so well that a group of four players crowded around a tiny Switch screen can play easily, enjoying a range of multiplayer matches without losing sight of their own character and their competitors. Dollar for dollar, TowerFall may be the best competitive multiplayer game on Switch, so if you’re looking to make some enemies, look no further.
Also available on Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Into the Breach
The Switch’s portable nature makes it a perfect fit for turn-based strategy games, which let you take a break at just about any time. Into the Breach is unquestionably one of the best the genre has seen in recent years. This 2D isometric strategy game has you commanding mechs as they battle against a force of giant bugs.
Despite the simple graphics, there’s an incredible amount of depth and strategy in Into the Breach, with every single decision requiring a cost/benefit analysis. And yet, none of this ever feels overwhelming or frustrating. It’s a master class in presentation, giving you just the information you need at any given time.
The 2D graphics also mean you’ll get plenty of juice out of your Switch, which can be a little iffy in terms of battery life for 3D games. If you’re looking to erase a long flight or commute, look no further than Into the Breach.
Also available on Mac and Windows PC.
The so-called masocore genre consists of games that require you to die over and over again until you’re able to best a stage. These games are rarely inviting, but Celeste breaks that mold with gorgeous 2D artwork and a heartfelt storyline to pull you through. It also features an “assist mode,” letting players select from a variety of modifiers to make the game easier.
Despite its welcoming nature, it’s also incredibly punishing, if that’s what you’re looking for. The game’s main campaign isn’t too brutal, but upon completion, it unlocks a handful of levels that would challenge even the most dedicated platformer vets.
In that way, Celeste manages to be all things to all people: a casual, story-centric adventure and a super intense, hardcore platformer, all in one.
Also available on Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Particularly challenging games are slightly less daunting on Switch thanks to its portability. They can be played passively and repeatedly in those spare minutes of a subway ride or while watching Parks and Rec on Netflix for the third time. Dead Cells fits neatly into this category with its brutal difficulty and gradual progression system. And yet it manages to become almost Zen-like when played for long enough. As with most good roguelikes, all of the blended mechanics begin to feel familiar and navigating the world becomes second nature.
Very few games manage to pull off the incredible feat of genre blending that Dead Cells nails, and while it’s tough to recommend to a casual audience, hardcore platforming and action-RPG fans will find a hearty, satisfying challenge here. And being able to master this challenge on the go makes it far more palatable than having to do so while slouched at a monitor.
Also available on Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
It took a little while for Hollow Knight to finally arrive on Switch after a successful launch on PC, but that delay paid off. It may be the greatest Metroidvania ever made, and it has found a perfect home, especially when played in handheld mode.
There’s a level of copy-and-paste roteness to games of this genre, but Hollow Knight manages to create a handcrafted world that is massive, eerie and beautiful, all the while adding to the Metroidvania formula in a number of unexpected ways. And thanks to being a 2D game, you can explore this world for lengthy play sessions without worrying that your Switch’s battery will die within an hour or two.
Also available on Linux, Mac and Windows PC.
Get it here: Nintendo eShop
There is no platform under the sun that’s safe from Fortnite’s wrath, but few are a better fit than the Nintendo Switch. While you won’t get the same visual fidelity that you would on a PC, PS4 or Xbox One, the Switch’s portability makes it easy to squad up at a friend’s house. And it has an edge on the other portable version of Fortnite (on mobile), as you’re not forced to use touch controls.
A big word of warning though: There is currently a lot of justified drama surrounding Fortnite accounts. Specifically: if you’ve ever played on a Switch, it will lock you out of playing with that account on a PS4 and vice versa. Until this gets squared away between Nintendo and Sony, you should be mindful of which platform you favor.
Also available Android, iOS, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Get it here: Nintendo eShop
Super Mario Odyssey
Using the building blocks of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, Super Mario Odyssey layers in a new range of movements for our favorite plumber. By combining jumps, dodges and a springboard-esque hat named Cappy, Mario is as nimble as ever. By far our favorite bit of acrobatics involves Mario tucking up in a tight ball and tumbling through the world like a small boulder.
But the real twist to Mario Odyssey is the take command of enemies, including the deviously satisfying Pokio, a bird that uses its nose to stab into surfaces before flinging itself upward. It feels so good that I’d fully support a Pokio-led spin-off.
Odyssey is a reminder that Nintendo can still reinvent Mario in interesting ways, more than 35 years since he first battled Donkey Kong.
The hardest part of Stardew Valley is getting over the hump that you’re paying money for a farming game. Once you do that, you will quickly find yourself and your hours melting away.
Created almost entirely by a single designer, Stardew Valley places you in the role of a new farm owner on the edge of a small town. What starts simple (hoeing the dirt, planting seeds, watering seeds), slowly unravels into a far bigger experience, as you build relationships, explore dungeons and participate in events that bring the world to life.
The experience has found no better home than on the Switch, where basic duties can be performed on a mass transit commute with no loss of fidelity or satisfaction. It’s soothing and zen-like, a perfect way to wind down after a long day. And yet, at higher levels of play, it can be surprisingly strategic and challenging.
Better still, a multiplayer update is planned to come to Switch, allowing you and a loved one to create the pixelated farm of your dreams, all without having to worry about gross monetization or pestering Facebook notifications. This is the closest you’ll get to a digital vacation.
Also available on Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows PC and Xbox One.
Nintendo continues to produce Mario sports titles, but a couple aspects of the series have fallen by the wayside: story and character growth. The original Mario Golf and Mario Tennis on Game Boy Color offered a satisfying tale of a burgeoning sports star working their way up the ranks, finding new gear and deciding which abilities to enhance. Sadly there haven’t seen any Mario sports games to follow that formula since the GBA era.
Rather than wait for Nintendo to come back around, a small indie team decided to make their own story-driven golf game, predictably called Golf Story. Like the original Mario Golf, you’re a rookie just trying to get respect, and that entails adventuring across six courses filled with weird challenges and kooky characters.
Golf Story has all the charm of a Nintendo game, even if the polish is not quite there, with some of the golf mechanics feeling a little clunky. Thankfully the rest of the game’s strengths win out.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Fair to say that no one ever expected a turn-based tactical strategy game featuring the Mario cast teaming up with Ubisoft’s wacky Rabbids. Even more shocking, the game is good!
Kingdom Battle boils down the trickiest mechanics of games like XCOM (cover, suppressing fire and support abilities) into manageable, easy-to-understand chunks that make this game a perfect entry into the genre.
And even though guns and explosives do play a part, this is a Mario game, so there’s nothing here you wouldn’t see in an episode of Looney Tunes, making it a fine option for the entire family. That’s assuming you can stomach the Rabbids, of course.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
It’s obviously a point of contention, but I believe Mario Kart 8 is the greatest installment of the franchise thus far. Unfortunately it came out on the Wii U, a console that barely anybody owned.
Its arrival on Switch ensures the most important aspect of Mario Kart is maintained: easy multiplayer. While there are plenty of single-player challenges to keep people busy, Mario Kart has always been a party game franchise, and the fact that every Switch is already packing two controllers is an instant boon.
If you happen to have a few more controllers (or better yet, friends with a Switch or two), it’s remarkably easy to get a squad of four, six or even eight people in the same tournament together. And all without the hassle of having wires strewn about your living room.
The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth+
I’m including this entry on the list with a huge caveat: The Binding of Isaac is not for everyone. This top-down action rogue-like is punishingly hard and pretty unfriendly for newcomers, so if you’re one to bounce off games quickly, look elsewhere.
But if this game does manage to grab you, it does so with vigor. As of this writing, my Switch reports that I have spent 175 hours playing this game, and there’s still plenty more to do.
Why? Simply because every time you start, the potential in endless. There’s always a new combination of weapons and items that will result in an incredible or disastrous run through Isaac’s twisted basement. There’s always something to work for as you attempt to complete each of the game’s challenges with its 15 playable characters.
The Switch handles the game’s 2D graphics wonderfully, even when the screen is filled with practical effects and, yes, piles of poop. It’s also the perfect experience if you’re just looking to play for 5 or 10 minutes, as each room takes mere seconds and offers an ideal place to activate sleep mode.
90% of you will probably never get there. For those readers, this game might be better enjoyed through a stream produced by a superfan, or condensed by a video essay on its most novel ideas.
To the remaining 10%: you’re welcome.
Also available on iOS, Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows PC and Xbox One.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This is the best Zelda game ever made and unquestionably the best game on the Nintendo Switch. Tomes could be filled with the glories levied upon Breath of the Wild, so rather than repeat those, I wanted to focus on one specific thing that’s damn remarkable. You can run in a straight line from one end of the map to the other without stopping or seeing a load screen (assuming you’re well equipped and don’t, say, hit a patch of lava).
Why is this a big deal? Because it offers players the incredible freedom to climb over anything in their way — including entire mountain ranges. Most games don’t trust players enough to let them run roughshod over a carefully-designed game world, but Nintendo gives you the reigns with the first hour.
This freedom persists throughout Breath of the Wild, giving players a toolkit to interact with the world in wild, unpredictable ways. Folks have spent hours coming up with ways to abuse the physics of the world, but they all work within the ruleset that Nintendo laid out. In short it’s all part of the plan. And that plan is masterfully executed.
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