The 12 Best Games For The Nintendo Switch

Illustration by Sam Woolley

You just bought a new Nintendo Switch. Now it’s time to figure out what games you want to play. We’ve got you covered.

Since the Switch came out, Nintendo has managed to maintain a solid ratio of good games on their system. At this point there’s a healthy selection of fantastic Switch games to choose from.

Nintendo Switch: The Kotaku Review

The Nintendo Switch is a fascinating new game console built around a novel and well-executed central idea. It also has plenty of problems that will doubtless be improved upon in a future version. Nintendo is yet again trying something new, and here we are to take the plunge alongside them.

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As with all of our Bests lists, we’ll continue updating this one as long as people keep putting out new Switch games. Each game we add will need to replace an existing entry. This list in particular got really good relatively quickly, so expect it to become even better as more and more games come out.

Here are the 12 best games you can get for the Nintendo Switch.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a monumental artistic achievement, a video game so creative and full of surprises that we’ll be talking about it for years to come. It’s also unlike any Zelda game before it. For years, Zelda games were defined by “no.” You can’t reach this place until later; you can’t solve this puzzle until you get the right item. Breath of the Wild is the best Zelda game to date, and it accomplishes that simply by saying yes.

A Good Match For: Anyone who likes games that let you explore and make your own fun; horse lovers.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who preferred the strict structure of other recent Zelda games.

Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

Stardew Valley is an already-great game made indispensable by the Switch. The 2016 farming/dating/life sim lets you forget your worries and embrace a soothingly banal life in the countryside. You water your crops in the morning, and think about how you’re going to improve your farm. You head in to town and stop by the general store to get seeds and chat up the cute boy you’ve had your eye on. And if you want, you explore the mysterious mine, gather magical materials, and uncover the deeper secrets of the valley. It’s a game with a seemingly endless amount to do, and it fits perfectly onto a handheld.

A Good Match For: Fans of games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, or Minecraft. Anyone looking for a relaxing but terrifyingly addictive game.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a straightforward game. Stardew Valley is calming and low-key, but it’s also extremely complex and doesn’t alway explain itself that well.

Read our impressions of the Switch version.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the Nintendo eShop.

Look, we weren’t expecting much from Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle either. We were right there laughing along with the rest of the internet when we first saw those leaked promotional images of Ubisoft’s annoying Rabbid mascots dressed up as iconic Mario characters. But then Ubisoft showed the game itself, and… wait, a Mario-inspired take on XCOM tactics? One that looks like a first-party Nintendo game thanks to Nintendo’s developers lending a hand with production? As it turned out, yep, Mario + Rabbids is a fantastic game. It’s a smart, streamlined take on the XCOM style of turn-based, positional tactics. It’s beautiful looking, and has an excellent musical score. And it’s just really goofy and fun. Each fight is an unpredictable scrum between team Mario and a bunch of chittering, idiot Rabbids, and the constantly escalating challenge will force you to think on your toes. And its digestible, 5-10 minute battles and “just one more match!” addictiveness make it a perfect fit for the handheld Switch.

A Good Match For: Anyone waiting for a good Switch strategy game, XCOM fans, people who think they might like XCOM but are put off by how complicated it seems.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who just can’t stand Ubisoft’s Rabbids. The game is actually a lot more charming than the corny, Minions-like mascots on the cover might suggest, but if you really hate ‘em, you really hate ‘em.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

Hollow Knight is a tiny epic that jams an extraordinary amount of secrets, challenges, and rewards into its sprawling subterranean kingdom. It’s a little bit Castlevania and a little bit Metroid, with a roomy map and remote regions you can only access after unlocking one of many character upgrades. It’s a little bit Dark Souls, with its forsaken kingdom, tough bosses, shortcut-strewn maps, and threat of losing progress upon death. And it shares platforming DNA with games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Super Meat Boy, all wall-slides and air-dashes. It bakes up those ingredients before frosting on a layer of its own distinct vibe, and those who choose to brave the buried insect realm of Hallownest will be rewarded with one of gaming’s great spelunking expeditions. Surprising, challenging, rewarding, and unexpectedly funny, Hollow Knight is absolutely worth your time, and works particularly well on the Switch.

A Good Match For: Those who like a challenge, Metroidvania fans, anyone looking for a deep, rewarding game to really sink their teeth into.

Not A Good Match For: The easily frustrated. Hollow Knight can be a brutal, unforgiving game, and it throws players into the deep end early. It contains bosses and platforming challenges that may have you tearing your hair out.

Read our review.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the Nintendo eshop.

Ah, the blue shell. There may be no better metaphor for the bleakness of life. One minute you’re cruising along, on top of the world, and then… BAM, you’re totally hosed. Just when you thought you had it in the bag, life throws a blue shell.

Mario Kart 8 isn’t really all that philosophical, of course. It’s the same Mario Kart formula re-tuned and polished to an absurd degree, easily one of the most fun party games you can play on the Switch or any other console. Best of all, the Deluxe version on Switch includes all the DLC maps and characters from the Wii U game and also completely overhauls that version’s woebegone battle mode. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of an already great game.

A Good Match For: People who like moving really fast, people who like seeing Luigi look really mean.

Not a Good Match For: People who don’t like Mario Kart? Do those people exist?

Read our review of the Wii U version, and of the Deluxe Switch version.

Watch a tournament that we staged at company HQ. 

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

Bright lights, loud music, and a towering dominatrix beating the living hell out of a bunch of monsters: Bayonetta gets the sequel she deserves. Everything the first game did, the second game does just as well, while throwing in a bunch of new weapons and abilities in on top. If you’ve ever wanted to whip a massive angel into submission using your hair, this is your game. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the first Bayonetta, which is also a fantastic game and which you can get for a discount if you buy it along with the sequel.

A Good Match For: Fans of fast-moving action games like Devil May Cry and, well, the first Bayonetta.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for something relaxed to play, people who prefer games with a more subtle, low-key aesthetic.

Read our review of the Wii U version, and our take on the Switch port.

Watch the Switch version in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a fantastic platforming game that had one major drawback when it was released on Wii U in 2014: true to the series’ tradition, it was very difficult. It could be hard to appreciate the abundance of verve and creativity jammed into each of the game’s levels when you were constantly dying. Tropical Freeze’s Switch port addresses that problem with a new “Funky Mode” that offers a couple of ways to make everything easier, all without losing the colourful playfulness that makes it such an unusually appealing game. There are a lot of good platforming series out there, but none quite like Donkey Kong Country. Tropical Freeze is a more than worthy entry in the series.

A Good Match For: Fans of the DKC series, people who like a challenge, those who love really good music.

Not A Good Match For: Those who hate difficult games. Even on its easiest setting, Tropical Freeze can still be challenging. Expect to die a lot.

Read our review of the Wii U version, and some thoughts on the port.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop 

Undertale might look like a retro-style JRPG, but it’s unusually forward-thinking. As a human stuck in a world of monsters, you decide whether you want to win encounters with wanton violence or clever context-based interactions (talking, joking, petting, etc). Undertale keeps track of everything you do; it’s paying very close attention, and will often express that attention in surprising ways. Every life you take ultimately has consequences. Despite those grim trappings, Undertale can be an incredibly warm, fuzzy, and funny game. Whether you slaughter or befriend everyone (or walk a middle path), the writing in this game is top-tier, the soundtrack is second-to-none, and the plot hides a treasure trove of secrets that players still haven’t fully uncovered.

A Good Match For: Lovers of smart video game stories, fans of games that subvert expectations, people who’ve ever felt even a single pang of loneliness.

Not A Good Match For: People who hate shoot-’em-ups and tough boss battles (Undertale’s combat system has elements of both), those who aren’t fond of reading dialogue, haters of lo-fi pixel art.

Read our review, and our thoughts on the Switch version.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the Nintendo eShop.

Splatoon 2 builds on the foundation laid by its fantastic Wii U predecessor with a more fleshed-out singleplayer mode, an addictive new co-op mode, and league play at launch. At its core, though, it’s the same brilliant mix of fine-tuned gameplay, Nickelodeon slime and J-pop dazzle that made the original great. It’s a simple idea: you paint the floors, then swim through your paint to move faster and reload your gun, and it works beautifully. It’s easy to get sucked into the grind for the freshest fashion and the highest ranks, but none of that would work if the game weren’t fun, which it most certainly is.

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for an online shooting game that’s a little bit different from the rest. People who like colourful style, fashion, and goofy memes.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a more traditional online shooter to play with friends. Splatoon’s party and chat systems are pretty terrible, and it’s way too difficult to casually play with a group.

Read our review.

Study or tips for inking your spawn, motion controls, and drawing good art.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

Celeste is a difficult game, but it’s just so gentle about it. As you help your character mantle and warp-jump her way to the top of the eponymous mountain, you’ll find that no matter how complex a room looks, the underlying solution is simple: jump. That purity of design combines with fine-tuned controls and a charming story to make Celeste into a winning, joyful experience. The music is fantastic, too.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the Nintendo eShop.

Into The Breach is basically chess, except with mechs and Kaiju in place of rooks and knights. The latest game from the makers of FTL: Faster Than Light mixes tactical turn-based combat with randomised encounters to make every playthrough challenging in a different way. Your time-travelling commander can always see one enemy turn ahead, which makes the game as much about careful planning as it is about resourceful reacting. Everything is so well-designed and presented so clearly that before too long, you’ll be developing complex strategies in your sleep.

Read our review.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the Nintendo eShop.

Super Mario Odyssey is all about freedom, and it is glorious. Unlike recent Mario games, the red-hatted plumber no longer must move forward in a straight line. The timer is gone , and each level is a toybox filled with platforming challenges, surprising secrets, and all kinds of goofy fun. It’s one of the best feeling, most charming, freshest games we’ve played in ages, and a cinch to recommend on the Switch.

A Good Match For: Platforming fans, Mario 64 and Sunshine fans, people who like hats.

Not A Good Match For: People who hate 3D platforming, people who hate hats.

Read our review.

Study our tips for how to jump really, really far.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | Gamestop

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

11/7/2018: We’ve added Into the Breach and Undertale and taken off Dragon Quest Builders and Darkest Dungeon.

6/28/2018: We’ve added Hollow Knight and taken off Steamworld Dig 2.

5/17/2018: We’ve added Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and removed Golf Story.

3/1/2018: We’ve added Celeste, Dragon Quest: Builders, Darkest Dungeon and Bayonetta 2 while removing Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, Overcooked, Skyrim, and Arms.  

12/6/2017: We’ve added Super Mario Odyssey, Overcooked, and Skyrim and taken off The Binding of Isaac, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Thumper.

10/12/2017: We’ve added Golf Story, SteamWorld Dig 2 and Stardew Valley and taken off Jackbox Party Pack 3, Minecraft, and Snipperclips.

9/14/2017: We’ve added Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and removed Cave Story +.

8/9/2017: We’ve added Splatoon 2 and bumped off Disgaea 5.

6/28/2017: Time for our first update, and it’s a big one. We’ve added Minecraft, Arms, Cave Story+, Disgaea 5, Jackbox Party Pack 3 and Thumper, and removed I Am Setsuna and Mr. Shifty. The list will remain capped at 12 games from here on out.

5/3/2017: And lo, the Switch Bests list was created! No updates yet. Expect more in the near future as we add more games, eventually capping the list at 12.

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best PC Virtual Reality GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

Note: If you buy any of these games through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.


As Kotaku editors we write about stuff we like and think you'll like too. Kotaku often has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.


Comments

    Skyrim is a great game and all, but the Switch port still has tons of known bugs and issues in it that have been fixed for literally years by fan mods etc. Bethesda shouldn't be getting a free pass on this.

    Agree with others that Xenoblade probably belongs on this list.

    Realise that it's a bit niche & far too divisive to ever make this list but for anyone on the fence i've been having a blast with Fire Emblem: Warriors.

    Given that there's absolutely jack-all else coming out soon that interests me, I may give in, turn to the darkside & finally try Stardew, waving goodbye to the inevitable hours i'll never get back.

    I work as sales person for a large retail chain and although many retailers have had sales in the PS4 and the XBOX One the system my store always seems to be low on inventory or is sold out of is the Nintendo Switch. I get that some of the features may feel gimmicky I even understand that competitively it is below the average system in in terms of graphics performance. I just think that it fills a niche spot in the gaming community of systems. It's a console when I want to chill in the couch and it's a handheld when I'm on the go. I cant think of another system that fills that spot or ever has.

    I dont mind reposts especially really great articles from kotakus past... but really?

    An article thats barely 5 months old AND NO WARNING ITS A REPOST?

    You guys must be getting utterly desperate for content that your recycling old content and masquerading it as a new one and no you cant pull that were on holidays excuse either for this one =/

    Welcome back everyone! Grab a drink and mingle. Family reunion is on!

    Without even looking: BotW, Skyrim, Hyrule Warriors, Xenoblade, Battle Chef Brigade, Golf Story, Stardew, Dark Souls (give it a minute). (Plus whatever the 'cool kids' are playing. Like... a billion different Mario games, probably.) OK, let's look. Ah, of course. A billion different fucking Mario games. Enh? Dig? Heist is better. Splatoon? No online games allowed - the switch is for travel.

      I play splatoon 2 on the go

    Traded my switch in 2 weeks ago after finishing Zelda and Mario. I have to say it was worth buying and super enjoyable, but I'm happy to wait a few years when there's some more exclusive stuff and buy it again. Great console and it is worth it just for Zelda and Mario.

    I cannot believe Xenoblade Chronicles 2 isn’t on this list.

    12 best games for the switch and only 3 are exclusive. seems like its still not worth shelling out yet :/

    Plenty of good games out there for the Switch and it's impossible to put together a list like this without criticism. I know plenty of people love it but I'm not sure Splatoon 2 should be on a list of best Switch games. It's one of the best exclusives but that's not enough to get XC2 a spot (criminal that XC2 has never even been on the list). Also not sure that Darkest Dungeon deserved the boot. I also think Dragon Ball FighterZ and Diablo 3 must have only just missed out on a spot in this update though Undertale is deserving of a place.

    In addition to Splatoon 2, I'd probably also not have put Into The Breach on the list. Both excellent games (I especially love ITB) but probably not top 12 on the console. Mario + Rabbids and Tropical Freeze are probably also no longer top 12. The big question is, which game loses it's place for Smash Ultimate?

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