The Nintendo Switch launched over two years ago now, and in that that time the home console / handheld hybrid has hosted a boatload of fantastic titles across every genre imaginable (well, maybe not strand games). As we head into the holiday buying season, those looking to gift a Switch or Switch Lite may be overwhelmed at the variety of potential games to pair with it. Fear not, prospective buyer! We’ve assembled a list of the best games on Nintendo Switch! You’ll find a list of 13 that are guaranteed to please any new owner (plus some bonus selections).
Each game is a can’t-miss experience: something that almost every type of player is sure to find entertaining. If you’re looking for software to package with a gift, or are just aiming to round out your collection, pick up something from this list! They’re all winners, and it’s impossible to go wrong with any one of them. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This open-world adventure turned the entire Legend of Zelda formula on its head. Equal parts beautiful and dynamic, Breath of the Wild revels in its lack of concrete goals outside of “Go to the castle and defeat Ganon.” It’s a sense of discovery that drives the experience, with hidden towns to visit and colorful characters to meet. The fact that it’s nearly all optional adds an indescribable depth to the land of Hyrule — this is a living, breathing world, and there’s something new to find around every corner. If there’s one game that defines the best Nintendo Switch games, it’s this one.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
A new 3D Mario game always feels like a momentous occasion. Super Mario Odyssey is no different. In the same way Breath of the Wild redefined what it means to be a Zelda game, Odyssey challenges what we expect out of a Super Mario experience. Unlike the linear, goal-driven formula of most Mario games, Odyssey presents players with a handful of small open-world levels with collectibles hidden in every conceivable nook and cranny. You’ll run, jump, and flip your way through each, while taking advantage of the novel capture mechanic that lets you become a Goomba, Bullet Bill, and even a T-Rex. Truly, every Switch owner needs to experience Super Mario Odyssey.
3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
It’s a testament to the quality of Mario Kart 8 that it’s the best-selling game on two different systems. Imaginative courses, a large stable of beloved Nintendo characters, and fun customization options combine into the best entry in the decades-old Mario Kart series. Nintendo has managed to refine the arcade racing formula into a masterclass in approachability, toeing that thin line between party game and strategic racer. It helps, of course, that Nintendo had a hand in creating that genre in the first place. Mario Kart 8 is yet another incredible reason to own a Nintendo Switch and easily one of the best games on the system.
4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Purists will tell you that Super Smash Bros. peaked with Melee on the GameCube, but they’re wrong. The ultimate form of fan service, the most recent entry in the series is also easily the most robust and absolutely bursting with love and care on the part of director Masahiro Sakurai and his team. Fighting games have a reputation for being complex, but the universal controls and roster of cherished characters — several belonging to non-Nintendo properties — make Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as accessible as any party game. Quite possibly one of the best time sinks in video game history, Ultimate truly lives up to its name.
5. Pokemon Sword & Shield
For the first time in franchise history a core Pokemon RPG has appeared on a home consoles. The debut is nothing short of spectacular! Collecting pocket monsters, battling gym leaders, and trading with friends has rarely been as engrossing as it is in Pokemon Sword & Shield. The Galar region is bursting with charm, and the design of all the new Pokemon shows that the two-decades-old property still has lots of life left in it. Although it doesn’t do much to push the series forward, it’s also one of the easiest to enjoy in the modern era. It’s hard not to recommend Pokemon Sword & Shield to new Switch owners.
6. Super Mario Maker 2
If you’re looking to flex your level design muscles, Super Mario Maker 2 can provide you with that opportunity. It includes all the tools you’ll need to craft your own Mario stages from scratch, with theming to match every iteration of the plumber’s adventures. An enormous community has sprung up around Super Mario Maker, turning the game into a hobby in itself, and a competition to see who can make the most difficult levels possible. The robust creation tools and the ability to share your work online provides a literally endless amount of replayability, ensuring that you’ll never be truly “done” with Super Mario Maker 2.
7. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
As a new instructor for an elite military academy, its up to you to teach the next generation of soldiers and navigate the growing conflict that threatens to embroil an entire continent in war. Fans of tactical RPGs are calling Fire Emblem: Three Houses one of the best genre entries of all time, if not the best Fire Emblem game to date. One of the biggest appeals, though, is getting to know your students through conversations and side stories. Three Houses features a colorful and varied cast of characters — which break beyond their initially one-note personalities, if you give them the chance — that you can’t help but come to love throughout the 80-plus hour story. If you’re looking to scratch your strategic itch on the Switch, this is easily your best best. Just make sure you bump up the difficulty a touch.
8. Into the Breach
If you don’t have the time to commit 80 hours to Fire Emblem, the bite-sized tactical battles of Into the Breach might appeal. It’s a roguelike, turn-based game set in a world overrun with bug-like monsters. You’re tasked with protecting what remains of humanity via a series of short combat encounters and digestible “runs.” Your three units attack in different ways, and can bounce enemies away from buildings or power plants, which are all vital to your victory. Into the Breach is as much a puzzle game as it is tactics game. The best part, though, is that each encounter is short, making this a great choice for Nintendo Switch owners on the go. Don’t let the brevity of each campaign fool you, though. Into the Breach is a game meant to be played for hundreds of hours (if you let it get its hooks into your life).
9. Luigi’s Mansion 3
After exploring several haunted houses you’d think Luigi would quit jumping and cowering at the sight of specter that floats his way. His adorable cries of fear only add to the incredible charm Luigi’s Mansion 3, though. In this latest outing, Luigi, Mario, Peach, and a handful of Toads check into a swanky hotel. Naturally, they discover it’s actually a poltergeist-ridden nightmare tower. With his friends captured, it’s up to Luigi and his ghost-busting vacuum to explore each of the hotel’s 15-plus floors. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is one of the most charming games on the Switch, and is filled with clever puzzles and smart boss battles, earning it a glowing recommendation from us. It’s also great for families! Two-cooperative play with the viscous “Gooigi” lets two players interact for low-impact fun.
10. Cadence of Hyrule
Rhythm is key in this Zelda-themed version of Crypt of the NecroDancer. In order to save the world, you’ve got to move to the beat of one of the best video game soundtracks in recent years. This surprising collaboration between Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games features novel music-based gameplay, centered on puzzle-like combat and exploration. It also boasts an incredible track list care of composer Danny Baranowsky. Songs riff on classic Zelda tunes in exciting ways, and the appreciation Baranowsky has for one of Nintendo’s most-beloved properties is strongly apparent. If you’re looking for a unique experience on your new Switch, Cadence of Hyrule will have you dancing to it’s stellar tunes. It’s a little bit short, but it’s also cheap!
11. Diablo III
Blizzard’s addictive action-RPG made its Switch debut in late 2018. It remains one of the best ways to kill time on the platform today. The formerly PC exclusive Diablo franchise plays great on the Switch, and the kill-loot-kill formula has made the console transition flawlessly. This version includes all the post-launch content from the PC version, including the Reaper of Souls expansion and the Necromancer character class. The Switch port also boasts some Nintendo-themed exclusive features, such as Legend of Zelda-themed cosmetics and support for Amiibo functionality. It also helps that you can play Adventure Mode on this version from the start. There’s no need to beat the campaign first, as on other platforms!
12. Dead Cells
A procedurally-generated sidescroller in the vein of Castlevania, Dead Cells uses the same one-more-run appeal you can find in many roguelikes. Then it sprinkles on some of the most satisfying, reactive 2D combat you’ve ever seen. Take on hordes of enemies and monsters with a huge assortment of random weapons that remain unlocked between attempts. Dead Cells features just enough persistence that dying near the end of a particularly good run is more motivational than discouraging. The air-tight controls also help in that regard. Another good choice for bite-sized gameplay sessions, Dead Cells offers up impressive variety and satisfying combat. The developers are constantly updating it, too, so you never know what surprises are in store next.
A tough-as-nails platformer brimming with heart, Celeste tells a tale of self-discovery and overcoming anxieties. Incredible level design, beautiful music, and a retro-inspired art style all combine into an unforgettable experience. It also boasts a thriving community of speedrunners, which is an audience that developer Matt Makes Games was looking to tap into from the beginning. Celeste is a great option for Switch owners looking for a rewarding challenge, as well as a touching story. If the difficulty is too high, however, you can always adjust it with a frankly ridiculous number of options that don’t admonish you for tweaking things to your liking.
13 More Honorable Mentions
- AI: The Somnium Files is a murder mystery visual novel from the makers of 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward. It features a similarly high-concept sci-fi story and sense of pithy humor.
- If you prefer your portable Metroidvania games less action-oriented than Dead Cells, with more of an eerie story, Hollow Knight is for you.
- Bayonetta 2 is an all-time great “character action game” — a representative of a genre that doesn’t get see a lot of play these days. It’s stylish and charming and a helluva lot of fun.
- Dragon Quest Builders 2 scratches a lot of itches. It has the charming farming of Stardew Valley, the 3D building of Minecraft, and the classic style of, well, Dragon Quest. It’s also a tremendous improvement on the first game.
- You make a small trade-off by playing Darkest Dungeon on the Switch. Portability comes at the cost of controls that take a lot of people time to get used to. Muscle through it, though, and you get one of the best (and most brutal) RPGs of the decade on the go. Get the Ancestral Edition for some first-rate DLC.
- The Picross S series is pure puzzle solving at its finest. There’s no story or abstract justification. It’s just endless number puzzles that produce cute pictures. Plus they make a new batch every few months.
- It’s impressive that Divinity: Original Sin 2 runs on the Nintendo Switch at all. But the funny, deep, and incredibly immersive RPG performs smoothly, where other sizable games make compromises.
- Rocket League is fun, accessible “car soccer” on whatever platform you choose. Something about the Switch just feels like a perfectly suited home for the scrappy competitive game, though.
- Monster Hunter World is an all-time classic. But its predecessor, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, was a worthy sendoff to the “old” era of the series. It lacks the quality-of-life improvements introduced in World, but has a nearly endless supply of monsters you can’t find in the modern game to make up for it.
- Final Fantasy 12 is an often overlooked entry in the classic JRPG franchise. If you missed it before, though, it’s best on Switch. Features like the ability to fast-forward combat and rejigger your characters’ classes make it the definitive version of a forgotten gem.
- Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen isn’t for everybody. The action-RPG is inscrutable at times, but tremendously rewarding for those that stick to it past its initially slow start.
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2 gets tacky at times, especially with its female character designs, but it buys itself some leeway with one of the most unique combat systems in any JRPG.
- Because you just can’t get enough roguelikes on Switch, we recommend Slay the Spire. Its unique spin on the subgenre is blending it with deckbuilding mechanics for a match truly made in heaven.
And there you have the 13 best games on the Nintendo Switch. Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments section!