The 12 Best Games For The Nintendo Switch

Illustration by Sam Woolley

You just bought a Nintendo Switch, or maybe a Switch Lite. 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 the system. There’s always been a healthy selection of fantastic Switch games to play, and it just keeps getting better and better.

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 | EB Games | Big W

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.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate perfects the long-beloved Super Smash Bros. formula for both the button-mashing seven-year-old and the single-minded competitive gamer. It’s the old platform fighter we’ve been obsessed with since 1999, but this time, with a leviathan roster of 76 fighters. Mastering one could eat up a year, but it’s more fun to sample them all. Smash Ultimate is a museum of Nintendo celebrities, a gaming fandom WrestleMania. Everything is customisable: the rulesets, fighter balancing, stage hazards. With all that stuff, and so many ways to manipulate it, Smash Ultimate is a crowd-pleaser that doesn’t discriminate between a middle school birthday party and a stadium of screaming pros.

A Good Match For: Anyone with a competitive bone in their body, people who have at any point loved Nintendo, anyone who hosts parties or fans of any of the previous Smash games.

Not A Good Match For: People who hate conflict or primarily enjoy gaming alone.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | EB Games | Big W

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 | EB Games | Big W

In the far-flung future, the only thing standing between the world and pan-dimensional invasion is an elite squad of sexy anime cops and their leashed demon companions. There’s also a woman in a dog costume. It’s a tale as old as time, really. Platinum Games has a reputation for creating sharp, stylish, over-the-top action games, a rep that once earned its Bayonetta 2 a regular spot on this list. Astral Chain combines that same frantic, satisfying action with outstanding world-building, creating a deep post-apocalyptic adventure unlike anything else on Switch.

A Good Match For: Anime lovers, action game fans who like having their performance scored, people who enjoy exploration and hunting for hidden things.

Not A Good Match For: People averse to sexy anime demon police.

Read our review.

Check out our tips for playing.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | EB Games

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical RPG by way of Dawson’s Creek, as much a challenging game of chess as a matchmaking service for a camp of teenaged anime screw-ups. As much as Three Houses plays close to Fire Emblem traditions and plays tropes of Japanese role playing games straight, it also takes necessary departures in its plot and mechanics. By the end of the game you’ll want to play it again immediately—not just to replay the puzzles, but to see the narrative and characters from a new perspective.

A Good Match For: Anyone who loves romance and brain-tingling logic puzzles.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who hates anime, heartbreak, and playing a game three times.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | EB Games | Big W

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.

You’ve never played anything like Baba Is You. You might never play anything like it again. It’s a simple block-pushing puzzle game, except the blocks you’re pushing are actually the rules of the game themselves. Push blocks reading “Door,” “Is,” and “Open” together, and all the doors in the level open up. The puzzles quickly scale up in difficulty, and you have to wrap your brain around the concept that everything, including you, can be redefined on the fly. A triumphant puzzle masterpiece.

A Good Match For: People who, in the words of Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder, “solve puzzles because they like pain, and they like being released from pain, and they like most of all that they find within themselves the power to release themselves from their own pain.”

Not A Good Match For: People who immediately run to GameFAQs every time Nathan Drake has to align three spinning wheels or whatever.

Read our impressions.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the Nintendo eShop.

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.

There weren’t that many reasons to buy a Wii U, but Super Mario Maker was definitely one of the biggest ones. Whether you wanted to make your own Mario levels or just play an infinite number of fan-created ones, it was a delight. The Switch sequel is packed with quality-of-life upgrades for makers and players both, like the ability to make Super Mario 3D World-themed levels with unique gameplay. It also brought online multiplayer to Mario, and it’s a rollicking good time. From nearly-impossible kaizo levels to creative fun-for-all levels that twist around old Mario tropes, Super Mario Maker is only as limited as the imaginations of a few million people.

A Good Match For: Armchair game designers who want to try to out-Miyamoto Miyamoto, and Mario players who crave the most exquisite of challenges.

Not A Good Match For: Those who are looking for a lengthy, grand Mario experience on the order of Odyssey.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | EB Games | Big W/a>

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 | EB Games | Big W

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

12/9/2019: Switch had a huge 2019, which means it’s time for a huge update. We’ve added Super Mario Maker 2, Baba Is You, Astral Chain, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and removed Splatoon 2, Into the Breach, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Bayonetta 2.

1/14/2019: We’ve added Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and taken off Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

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?

    Still think XC2 deserves to be on here easily ahead of some currently listed titles. And no DQXIS?!?! That is a glaring omission.

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