Best online multiplayer Switch games: top co-op and versus titles

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe showing Mario racing Bowser
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Want to play the best online multiplayer Switch games? Since Nintendo's online service kicked off in 2018, gamers have been able to access a host of features such as online play, cloud saves, and retro game emulators for just a small monthly (or annual) fee.

You don't need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play any of best Nintendo Switch games solo. However, when it comes to playing with a friend – or just anyone who owns the same game as you online – you may not know the best Nintendo Switch Online games for competitive or cooperative play. 

That's where this guide comes in – with our 10 favorite games on the Switch for playing local co-op or online multiplayer.

If you've been through our Nintendo Switch review and bought the console already – possibly the smaller Nintendo Switch Lite or more recent Nintendo Switch OLED – you might be looking at why you should join the online service too. With that in mind, these are the local co-op and online multiplayer games that get all the better for having a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.

If you need more storage space before you buy any more games, then check out these deals on the best micro SD cards for Nintendo Switch too. You can also check out our Nintendo Switch Online vs Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack guide, which compares the two tiers of Nintendo's online service. 

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros Ultimate screenshot - Terry Bogard punching leftwards

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Easy to play, hard to master, Super Smash Bros has always been a Nintendo stalwart: a mad fighting game brawler that pits video game characters from across Nintendo’s extensive catalogue against each other in battle. Pikachu vs Luigi. Kirby vs Ice Climbers. Toon Link vs Samus. The chaos knows no ends.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate is the closest thing to a definitive Smash Bros we’ve seen, with every single character ever to have appeared across the franchise – with some fun new ones bundled in, including Metroid’s Ridley and Donkey Kong Country’s King K. Rule. There's now a host of Smash Bros Ultimate DLC characters that have joined the roster, too, meaning it's very hard to run out of fighters to play with.

Add to that over 100 stages, countless gameplay improvements and a bunch of new modes to jump into, and you have a Smash Bros entry making a strong case for signing up to Nintendo Switch Online.

Play for: online multiplayer, local co-op

2. NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis emulators

Donkey Kong (1980) screenshot, showing DK and Pauline

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Let's be honest, the main selling point of Nintendo Switch Online is probably the NES and SNES collection that comes bundled in. If you're going for the Expansion Pack tier, there's also N64 and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games too, alongside a few other extras.

There's no Virtual Console this time around, meaning you're reliant on Nintendo leasing you the retro classics, rather than buying what you want at any time. 

Even so, these games have been lovingly remastered with plenty of pleasingly modern features to let you pause, save, and reload each NES game at any point during play. Not to mention different viewing options if you want that more authentic arcade machine feel.

Actual two-player games here Ice Climbers or Balloon Fight are perfect for a nostalgia trip with your buddies. And even the solo titles – Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and so on – have been updated for more connected play, meaning you can swap between Joy-Con controllers with a friend or enjoy voice chat over the Switch smartphone app while you take a trip down memory lane. 

There's now a huge number of retro titles titles, including Super Mario Bros 3, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Excitebike, Tecmo Bowl, Star Fox 2, Kirby Super Star, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Star Fox 64, Super Mario 64, and many more.

Play for: local co-op

3. Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 yellow team of four, readying to fight

(Image credit: Nintendo)

We couldn’t make a list of the best online games without this: a beautifully Nintendo take on team-based shooters with teenage squids splaying maps with colored ink.

Splatoon 2's fun, cartoony art style and fluid gameplay are exactly what you expect from Nintendo, with a sharply competitive streak and quick-fire matches that make it perfect for short play sessions. The first game did the impressive job of pulling players to the struggling Wii U console, and while the loss of a second screen on the Nintendo Switch entry is mourned, this is still a wonderfully fun game.

The single player offering has got stronger with the recent Octo expansion, but don’t be mistaken: this is a masterful multiplayer game through and through. There are local co-op options if you have more than one Switch to hand, though the game doesn’t support split-screen play on a television. It's good prep while you're waiting for Splatoon 3 this September.

Play for: online multiplayer

4. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Lovers in a dangerous spacetime key art - two of the main characters, colored green and yellow, are standing on a pink surface

(Image credit: Asteroid Base)

Weapons, shields, engines, and... love? Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a funky 2D shooter that sees you pilot a spaceship across the galaxy to help restore love to the universe. 

The popping visuals and bumping soundtrack are what make this game, though the cooperative elements also aim to bring you and your other players closer together – you won't make it through the game without them. There's technically a single-player mode, but for the full force of this lovingly-made indie game, you'll want to find someone to share it with.

Play for: local co-op

5. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe key art

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is in a sense of repackaging of the Wii U entry – but is still well worth your time and money.

Accessible with plenty of modes, vehicles, and on-track madness, Nintendo's iconic arcade racer is always one of the best multiplayer games out there, while this entry comes with a set of new characters and all the previously released DLC included from the starting line. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe caters for four players in split-screen co-op, or up to eight consoles linked up wirelessly – or against anyone you like online. 

Better still, we're now getting Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC five years after the original game launched. Calling this the Booster Course Pass, that's launching in eight waves until the end of 2023, and the first one's already available. If you subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, that DLC's included.

Play for: online multiplayer or local co-op

6. Rocket League

Rocket League still

(Image credit: Psyonix)

How to improve on ‘the beautiful game’ of football? By replacing humans with cars, obviously.

Rocket League is that wonderfully simple premise that everyone can get behind: haphazardly zooming across a pitch and occasionally knocking a giant ball into the goal. It’s on pretty much every gaming system out there by now, where it's also free-to-play and supports cross-platform progression. So, even if you own it on another console already, this is worth going for on Switch.

Play for: online multiplayer and local co-op

7. Overcooked! 2

Overcooked 2 co-op screenshot

(Image credit: Team17 Digital Limited,)

A casual co-op game about the most stressful restaurant kitchen imaginable.

Overcooked 2 supports up to four players in couch co-op – though you'll need a joy-con for each one of you – and will see you cooking up a storm as you all try to keep your kitchen running in increasingly madcap and unstable environments (hot air balloons, anyone?).

Cue flaming dinners, furious customers, and shifting stages that faithfully recreate the stress of being a working chef (not really). It’s simple but chaotic, and perfect for a quiet / loud night in after actually making yourself dinner.

Play for: local co-op or online multiplayer

8. Fortnite

A bunch of Fortnite characters in a line

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Ok, so, technically Fortnite doesn’t require Nintendo Switch Online – like any free-to-play game on the console – but it’s a must-have for anyone into online competitive gaming.

Fortnite is a stupidly successful take on the battle royale genre, which drops 100 players into a shrinking map and lets the chaos ensure, with neat building mechanics and plenty of llama-based humor to make it stand out from the crowd. Publisher Epic Games constantly tweaks and improves the service, bringing in new modes and items to make sure there’s always something new to try out too.

And it’s played by everyone from 10-year-olds to full-grown adults, and apparently the Canadian rapper Drake, so don’t worry about not fitting in. Cross-play also means you can compete with players on their Xbox One, PC, PS4, or on mobile.

The game makes its fortunes selling cosmetic items or letting you choose your own character – rather than randomly selecting one – but there’s no obligation to fork out. The Nintendo Switch version even supports motion controls, if you fancy setting yourself more of a challenge in the online arena.

Play for: online multiplayer

9. Minecraft

A handful of Minecraft characters walking in a forest

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Minecraft on Nintendo Switch? The second best-selling video game of all time (after Tetris) has come far since it first launched in beta over a decade ago. The mining and building mechanics offer near-endless scope for creation, combining the fun and freedom of Lego with the possibilities of virtual sandbox game. 

Make the castle of your dreams, create to-scale replicas of the Millenium Falcon, or wander around the countless creations of friends and strangers across the globe. There's even exclusive Super Mario themed content for this edition.

It's well suited to the Switch's pick-up-and-play mentality, even if it's playable on pretty much everything by now – notably in VR – with plenty of cross-play between platforms. There are various modes for different styles of play, including a Creative Mode that lets you focus on building, or an Adventure Mode more geared towards exploring other user-created maps and areas.

Play for: online multiplayer or local co-op

10. Super Mario Party

Super Mario Party mini-game

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Is this the Nintendo Switch's definitive party game? The Mario Party franchise has been running for 20 years and almost as many entries, pitting an eclectic mix of Mario characters against each other as they compete in a virtual board game.

The eleventh in the series, Super Mario Party undoes some of the missteps of recent years and brings back the competitive edge, with a bunch of new modes, fresh new minigames, and added layers of strategy to bring the party all over again. If you have two Switch consoles between you, you can even link them up to fire cannons or splice together fruit from one screen to another – a neat addition that shows how much potential the Switch has for new kinds of play.

The only place you'll be playing online will be Toad's Rec Room, where you can compete in four-person minigames for those prized leaderboard places – rather than risking strangers dropping out of a 20-turn board game mid-way. But whether you're playing online or just chilling on the sofa with some friends, this should be at the top of your multiplayer list. There's also Mario Party Superstars, which released back in 2021.

Play for: online multiplayer or local co-op

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.

With contributions from