The Nintendo Switch has an absolutely massive library filled with great games, including a stable of first-party exclusives and robust third-party support. The library has only grown in quality in 2021, which can make it hard to decide which games are worth your time and money. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best Nintendo Switch games–titles that we believe are essential for every Switch owner. The Nintendo Switch’s library became even more impressive in 2021 thanks to a wide variety of new exclusives. And 2022 looks to be one of the biggest years for the console yet, with Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Advance Wars, Bayonetta 3, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, and the Breath of the Wild sequel (hopefully) on the horizon.
If you own other consoles, be sure to check out our guides to the best PS5 games, best PS4 games, best Xbox Series X games, and best Xbox One games. While many of the games listed below are suitable for younger folks, we also have a dedicated list of the best Nintendo Switch games for kids, too.
The best Nintendo Switch games
In some ways, Animal Crossing: New Horizons defined 2020 in gaming. Just as lockdowns began happening across the world, Animal Crossing: New Horizons invited players to a tranquil island for a relaxing loop of activities like fishing, bug-catching, and perfecting the layout of their virtual homes. Nintendo has steadily introduced new features to New Horizons, adding fun new content such as the recently released Super Mario Bros. crossover. New Horizons also has robust customization features, including a new terraforming feature that gives you complete control over the terrain of your island. Whether you’re conversing with your fellow residents, trying to finish your museum catalog, or visiting your friends’ islands, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a constant charmer.
A wonderful platformer with an important message, Celeste feels right at home on Nintendo Switch. Madeline makes the trip to the treacherous Mount Celeste, a snow-covered mountain filled with perilous cliffs and interesting characters. Rendered in gorgeous pixelated graphics, Celeste plays like an old-school platformer and relies largely on well-timed jumps. It feels superb in motion, and the level design gradually grows more challenging as you acquire new abilities that cleverly expand the gameplay. It’s a difficult game, but you can tweak the settings to fit your skill level to enjoy the story. Celeste tells a moving tale about finding yourself and overcoming self-doubt that creeps into your mind. It’s one of the most poignant games in recent years as well as one of the best side-scrolling platformers on Switch.
Studio MDHR’s Cuphead is a glorious ode to classic cartoons and a tremendous run-and-gun. Cuphead originally released for Xbox One and PC before being ported to Nintendo Switch. It made a smooth transition and runs flawlessly on the Switch hardware whether you’re playing on your TV or in handheld mode. Cuphead’s art style immediately stands out. The hand-drawn characters and animations look ripped out of a 1930s cartoon, giving Cuphead a visual style that will always look great. The jazzy audio design rounds out the presentation, transporting players to a different time. Essentially, it’s a playable cartoon. Cuphead is far more than just a beautiful artistic triumph; it’s also an aptly designed run-and-gun filled with exciting boss fights and cleverly made side-scrolling levels. If you’re not afraid of a challenge, Cuphead is an absolute must-play game whether you play solo or cooperatively with a friend.
Dead Cells is an amalgamation of roguelikes and metroidvanias, and the result is a game that will likely be considered one of the best in both genres for years to come. Set in a procedurally generated castle, you play as a reanimated mass of cells taking hold of a prisoner’s body. The labyrinthine castle is crawling with dangerous enemies and littered with secrets waiting to be uncovered. Each time you die–which tends to happen fairly regularly–you have to start over again. Critically, there are permanent upgrades, which allow you to make progress and see new areas with each subsequent run. With finely tuned and stylish action combat, an array of cool abilities and weapons, and an expertly designed map that changes each time you play, Dead Cells compels you to see it through to the end. And like all good roguelikes, Dead Cells makes you want to play through it again and again.
One of the best and most inventive modern role-playing games, Disco Elysium performs pretty well on Nintendo Switch. Though there is slowdown–particularly in docked mode–and load times are lengthy, the positives outweigh the intermittent performance issues. Disco Elysium is an absolutely brilliant detective game that’s gameplay revolves around talking rather than action. But it’s far more riveting than most action-packed RPGs thanks to its exquisite and arguably unparalleled writing as well as its beautiful and mysterious world filled with all sorts of interesting characters and activities. Disco Elysium gives the player an incredible amount of freedom, and this allows the adventure to feel different each time you replay it. Disco Elysium is essentially the grandest point-and-click adventure ever made. If you remotely care about narrative in games, Disco Elysium is a must-play experience.
It’s something of a miracle that Divinity: Original Sin 2 plays so well on Nintendo Switch. While the resolution is worse than on other platforms, particularly in handheld mode, Original Sin 2 runs well. The massive turn-based CRPG from Larian Studios is a modern masterpiece in the genre, featuring a stunning fantasy world, rich writing, and a combat system with consummate depth. If you’re looking for an old-school CRPG to play at home or on the go, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of your best bets. It’s big and bold and manages to offer surprises and new layers even after dozens of hours of play.
Square Enix’s long-running Dragon Quest franchise has consistently stuck to its roots, and Dragon Quest 11 embraces its traditional JRPG identity. In an age where more and more JRPGs are injecting traditionally Western gameplay features into their systems, Dragon Quest 11 embraces what it has always done so well. It’s simply a fantastic turn-based role-playing game filled with charming characters, a beautiful world, and a deeply satisfying combat system. On Switch, you can switch between two distinct styles: modern 3D visuals and a classic 8-bit top-down presentation. The latter is especially intriguing for handheld mode. Dragon Quest 11 is the best JRPG on Nintendo Switch.
Eastward is a gorgeous Nintendo Switch console exclusive (also on PC) developed by Pixpil and published by Chuckefish. The top-down adventure stars a duo of adventurers–Sam and John–who are exiled from their subterranean mining world and forced to explore the outside world. As an action-adventure game with dungeons, puzzles, and a whole stable of interesting enemies and bosses, it’s easy to draw comparisons to classic The Legend of Zelda games. Eastward is also marked by great writing and a really unique world that’s a joy to explore. It also has a wild array of weapons, including a frying pan and flamethrower. While Eastward suffers a bit from uneven pacing across its lengthy 30-plus hour adventure, it’s a highly rewarding experience that’s worth sticking out until the end.
Relentlessly engaging and rife with variety, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the most impressive entry in the beloved strategy series. You play as a professor who oversees one of three houses at a mysterious monastery. There, you cultivate relationships and train your students to be prepared for the battles ahead. While recent Fire Emblem games have leaned more into social simulation, Three Houses takes this concept to the next level and includes some well-implemented management sim features. It strikes a wonderful balance between storytelling, preparation for the next battle, and the always-wonderful tactical combat scenarios the series is known for. With deftly written characters, an exceedingly good tale, and smart tweaks to the layered combat system, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is an astonishing experience from start to finish. And more than any other Fire Emblem game before it, Three Houses encourages multiple playthroughs to see the whole story, and each playthrough is different.
Influenced by Camelot’s RPG-infused Mario sports games, Golf Story is an endlessly charming role-playing game that perfectly suits the Nintendo Switch. After not playing the game for decades, the hero of this story embarks on a quest to recapture his love for golf using his dad’s old clubs. His first stop is a local country club where he tries to sign up for lessons. From there, Golf Story becomes a zany and peculiar little game filled with the unexpected. While it does feature traditional top-down golf with a three-click swing system, many of the activities you complete are more chaotic in nature and often not grounded in any semblance of reality. The writing is hilarious and the off-the-wall characters add color to what is ostensibly a fairly sad tale about one man’s midlife crisis. Golf Story is the most Game Boy-esque game on Switch, and its endearing visuals and wacky objectives make it one of the best and most unique exclusives on the platform.
Though escaping the Underworld is the goal in Hades, being sent back to it after each failed run isn’t a bad consolation prize. Hades, more than any other roguelike before it, intertwines its fast-paced action gameplay with its exquisite story in such a way that failure can be a good thing. You play as Hades’ son Zagreus, a charismatic hero in his own right, but it’s the supporting cast and all of their own interpersonal tales that make Hades such an enriching experience. Each attempt to escape the Underworld is a thrilling pursuit, one that relies on experimentation with your build to find the right balance for you. The combat has more depth than you’d initially expect, and after a few hours of futile escape attempts, Hades really starts to click. Even after you finally escape, Hades has a wonderful endgame that includes new storylines and challenging combat scenarios.
One of the most engrossing metroidvanias ever made, Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight is a finely tuned experience that’s basically tailor made to play in handheld mode on Switch. Hollow Knight stars a nameless knight with a tiny nail to defend itself in the dreary and mysterious world of Hallownest. Where Hollow Knight truly stands out is in its world design and systems. The world of Hallownest is absolutely massive, with each region serving a distinct purpose in the overall flow of the story. Over the course of the adventure, you unlock different abilities that open up new areas. The challenging combat focuses on well-timed dodges and carefully placed strikes. With well-balanced mechanics, cool boss battles, and a world that’s wholly unique, Hollow Knight is a can’t-miss game for metroidvania enthusiasts.
Though first released in 2016, The House in Fata Morgana landed on Switch in April 2021 with its Dream of the Revenants Edition, which adds additional story content. The House in Fata Morgana is quite simply a masterpiece among visual novels, with a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack and suspenseful story that spans nearly a millennium, centering around an eerie mansion, a mysterious Maid, and the lives of those who once lived there. It’s one of the highest-rated video games of all time on Metacritic and once held a perfect 100 score, so whether you’re already a fan of visual novels or just appreciate a phenomenal story, this is one hidden gem on the Switch that’s worth experiencing.
Subset Games’ Into the Breach is a rare type of game that feels and plays like nothing before it. Developed by FTL studio Subset Games, Into the Breach is a roguelike tactics game that takes place on tiny grids. In the distant future, the monstrous Vek are threatening humanity. To save the world from monsters, you assemble a team of three mechs who take on the Vek in small-scale battles on eight-by-eight grids. Each battle only lasts several turns, and the goal isn’t to overpower the Vek; instead, you’re trying to deter their attacks and limit damage on critical infrastructure. You can also see a preview of each Vek’s next move at the start of every turn, allowing you to strategize for the best possible outcome. Into the Breach is more like chess than a traditional tactics game, and you’d be surprised at how involved the matches can get. Into the Breach innovates on the form more than any other game in recent memory.
Seven years passed between the release of the first act of Kentucky Route Zero and its final chapter. It was more than worth the wait to see this surrealist narrative reach its fitting conclusion. You play as Conway, a truck driver on the verge of retirement who finds himself on the Zero, a bizarre purgatory filled with memorable characters, breathtaking scenery, and a profound message that gets to the heart of what it means to live in America, warts and all. It’s also about life and death and all of the little pains and triumphs that fill the gap between our bookends. Kentucky Route Zero is a remarkable point-and-click adventure, and one of the rare games that can actually change the way you think about the world around you.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is arguably the best Nintendo Switch game. In fact, many would consider it the best entry in the storied series and one of the best games ever made. Breath of the Wild was Nintendo’s first real foray into open-world games, and it’s easily one of the best in class. Breath of the Wild provides a sense of exploration never before seen in the series. The sprawling open world of Hyrule is gorgeous and serves as Link’s personal playground. He can climb virtually anything, which creates an incredible sense of scale and freedom. This overarching change extends to the central progression as well. Replacing elaborate dungeons with tons of small-scale Shrines allows you to approach the adventure in your own way. Breath of the Wild is one of the few open-world games that isn’t littered with extraneous systems and objectives. It prides itself on offering a slower pace and a more scenic, desolate world that’s ripe for exploring, whether you’re on foot, horseback, or scaling a cliff searching for a new discovery. Breath of the Wild is a stunning, brilliant adventure.
An expanded port of the excellent Wii U game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best racing game on Nintendo Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe contains more than 40 racers and 48 tracks, including many of the best courses from Mario Kart history. Deluxe adds several notable features, including driving assistance settings for new players and two item slots. It also has an extended Battle mode, which winds up making Mario Kart 8 Deluxe the most content-rich and well-rounded entry in series history. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe released during the Switch’s launch window, but it remains one of the most popular multiplayer games on the console for good reason. It should be in every Nintendo Switch owner’s library.
After a nearly two-decade wait, Metroid has returned to its side-scrolling roots for an adventure that closes out the current Metroid saga. Remarkably, Metroid Dread lives up to the high expectations set by longtime fans. Developed by Mercury Steam (Metroid: Samus Returns), Metroid Dread is a wonderful adventure that sticks to its roots. Dread shines mechanically, with fast-paced combat, a wide range of upgrades to acquire, and a stable of bosses that test your fortitude and counterattack skills. Dread also introduces the EMMI, creepy robots who patrol designated zones and cause instant game overs if you’re caught. It’s an absolute joy to explore the maze-like locales, and Dread’s huge swath of secrets to uncover encourages multiple playthroughs. Metroid Dread is easily one of the best side-scrollers on Switch, and it’s a reminder that going back to your roots can be a truly excellent idea.
The Monster Hunter series has a long history on Nintendo platforms dating back nearly a decade, and though Monster Hunter World didn’t release for the Switch, Capcom rectified that with the excellent Monster Hunter Rise. Currently available as a Switch exclusive–but coming to PC in the future–Monster Hunter Rise takes the open-world action-RPG gameplay the series is famous for and adds a level of verticality through the Wirebug tool. Though perfect for shorter gameplay sessions, it also fits comfortably as a mainline entry with a big map, online multiplayer action, and a ton of depth in the various weapon types for players looking to experiment. With a mix of classic monsters and newcomers, it’s a great entry point and perfect for the series’ veterans.
Released more than 20 years after the original Nintendo 64 game, New Pokemon Snap oozes charm. The on-rail photography “shooter” remains unlike anything else after all this time, and in New Pokemon Snap, the Switch’s considerably higher power means that every Pokemon you see is bright, vibrant, and ready to put a smile on your face. Though it’s not exactly the most challenging game in the world, New Pokemon Snap knows what it is: a virtual amusement park filled with Pokemon to discover. Catching the perfect shot and getting it scored by the Professor is super fun, especially as you discover the ways you can increase that score through framing, catching certain actions on camera, and getting other Pokemon in the shot. It all has that classic Pokemon game lighthearted friendliness that makes it the perfect chaser after playing something more violent.
Pokemon Sword & Shield ushers in the Galar region, an expansive new locale filled with new Pokemon and a familiar but refined loop. Once again, you’re working to be the best that ever was, starting off with one Pokemon and no badges and slowly working your way to filling out your Pokedex and becoming the Pokemon League Champion. The Galar region has several Wild Areas (including DLC areas), new open sections filled with different species of Pokemon roaming in plain sight. These sections offer a nice change of pace to the streamlined journeys of previous games, and the new Dynamax mechanic and rotating raids add more continuous content to enjoy. With a great collection of new Pokemon, more customization options available at your fingertips, and a wealth of content that only gets more substantial when you factor in the pair of expansions, Pokemon Sword & Shield is a worthy addition to the beloved franchise.
As a Wii Fit successor, Ring Fit Adventure offers a smart, inviting, and compelling approach to fitness. In the realm of Nintendo-weird creations, Ring Fit Adventure isn’t the quirkiest, but it does feel like something only Nintendo would think of. There’s an evil bodybuilding dragon terrorizing the kingdom, and with the help of the magical pilates ring (the bendable ring that comes with the game), you work to take him down. Ring Fit Adventure is a fitness RPG where movement and combat are performed by exercising your core, arms, and legs using the ring. It works quite well as both a workout and a role-playing game. Ring Fit Adventure, most importantly, encourages you to work out at your own pace. The world you explore is well-designed and there’s a lot of charm on display in every area. Plus, you’re getting a workout while playing. It’s a unique experience on Switch and a solid source of exercise.
In Spiritfarer, you play as a woman named Stella whose job is to transport spirits to the afterlife. Spiritfarer tells a moving story revolving around empathy and love, and its themes gloriously shine through in its rich gameplay, too. A hybrid resource management sim and platformer, Spiritfarer features a gorgeous art style and memorable characters whom you help by making them comfortable for the journey to the beyond. It’s a lengthy trip to the afterlife, but Spiritfarer’s loop never tires before you reach its affecting conclusion.
Splatoon 2 is one of the best online multiplayer games on Nintendo Switch. In Splatoon 2, you play a Squid Kid who uses ink as ammo. Along with your teammates, you fight both to eliminate your opponents and cover a greater portion of the map with your team’s color of ink. In addition to the great suite of competitive multiplayer modes, Splatoon 2 also has a fun co-op mode and a solo campaign that shows you the ropes. We also recommend the Octo Expansion, which adds more than 80 levels of single-player content and a more robust narrative.
Tired of the hustle and bustle of city life, you move to your grandfather’s farm in Stardew Valley, a picturesque rural community where life moves slower than you’re used to. Stardew Valley is both a relaxing farming sim and a wonderful social sim filled with relatable characters. Though it lets you make your own fun, Stardew Valley does have a clever loop that slowly builds as you develop relationships, acquire new gear, and uncover the game’s many secrets. It’s easy to pour hundreds of hours into Stardew Valley. There’s so much to see and do, and after a while, Stardew Valley has the familiarity of home, one that’s always a pleasure to return to.
Super Mario 3D World was one of the best Wii U games, and the recently released expanded port takes the platforming magic to new heights. Super Mario 3D World is a great blend of 3D Mario platforming and the classic Mario course structure. The sheer inventiveness on display across its 12 worlds (including four challenging bonus worlds) is enough to make this one of the better modern Mario games, and the fact you can play the entire campaign with up to four players makes it a great pick for families. Bowser’s Fury brings something entirely different to the table with an open-world design with a series of mini levels that gradually unlock as you collect Cat Shines and square off against a very large and angry Bowser. Overall, the package includes a staggering amount of variety and demonstrates how Nintendo’s trusty mascot still has tricks up his sleeve all these years later.
Whether you fashion yourself as an amateur game designer or just want to play thousands of diabolical side-scrolling levels, Super Mario Maker 2 offers a near endless stream of engaging content. The drag-and-drop course creator is intuitive and lets you easily design levels with a controller or touchscreen based on five different Super Mario platformers. From classic 8-bit courses to modern romps with colorful visuals and lively animations, Super Mario Maker 2 is essentially a toolbox filled with the greatest hits of Super Mario trappings. The robust online hub hosts the many thousands of user-created levels, and there are also competitive and cooperative game modes to dive into online. A lengthy 100-plus-level solo campaign designed by Nintendo rounds out this superb sequel. We recommend getting a stylus for your Switch for Super Mario Maker 2, as designing levels is best done in handheld mode.
See our Super Mario Maker 2 review.
Super Mario Odyssey is a relentlessly joyful 3D platformer that gives players far more freedom than they’ve had in previous 3D Mario games. Super Mario Odyssey has a series of large, open levels, each of which is chock-full of Power Moons to find by completing tricky platforming sequences, besting foes, and solving puzzles. It also introduces a new array of moves thanks to Mario’s sentient hat Cappy. If you’re playing Super Mario Odyssey with young children, the cooperative mode is excellent, as it allows one player to take control of Cappy, who can’t take damage. Super Mario Odyssey is Mario’s biggest adventure yet, with more to see and do than ever before in a 3D Mario game.
With more than 80 fighters so far, more than 100 stages, and a wide variety of content whether you’re playing multiplayer or refining your skills against the CPU, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the most comprehensive and plentiful brawler in franchise history. The expansive roster of characters with totally different playstyles is impressive enough to keep you playing for the long haul, but Smash Bros. Ultimate is far more than just a collection of Nintendo characters and anime characters with swords hitting each other repeatedly; it’s a deeply satisfying brawler that refines the overall gameplay to make the most technically sound Smash Bros. to date. It’s full of video game history, too, from unlockable trinkets to iconic music. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best fighting game on Nintendo Switch. We’d also recommend the first and second Fighter Passes, which grant access to additional characters and stages.
See our Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review.
Tetris and the Nintendo Switch are a perfect match, so it’s no surprise that the best iteration of the classic puzzle game has found its way on this list. Tetris Effect: Connected has been around for a few years, delighting fans with its jaw-dropping mix of special effects, catchy music, and block-stacking, but it only just arrived on Switch in 2021. This is pure Tetris, but it adds heaps of style that creates an entrancing experience that’s easy to get captivated by. Tetris Effect has a great single-player campaign mode as well as a slew of game variants in its Effects mode. The “Connected” portion of the experience lets three players join up to fight increasingly challenging CPU-controlled bosses. Whether you’re primarily playing solo or dropping garbage blocks with friends, Tetris Effect: Connected is the best way to play Tetris…so far at least.
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