With over 1,000 games on the Nintendo Switch, there can be a daunting amount of titles to choose from - and often more than your poor wallet can handle. So where better to start than with some free games.
But, with just over 25 games that are actually free to play on the Switch, there’s considerably less garbage to sift through compared to say the smartphone market. Indeed, many either have pretty pristine production values or won't insidiously ask you to cough up cash every other minute, and we daresay a few stand out as some of the best games on the system, period. Who says the best things in life aren’t free?
From battle royales to MOBAs to a surprise RPG, we’ve rounded up a list of the best free Nintendo Switch games you can play right now.
Don't have space for all these games? See our pick of Nintendo Switch SD cards to expand your storage.
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The biggest gaming phenomenon in the world, Fortnite needs no introduction. This battle royale sees 100 players dropping onto an island where you'll to fight to the death alone, in pairs, groups or in an epic 50 vs 50.
Its vibrant, wacky personality makes it a great fit for Switch, while all the hidden challenges and building mechanics make it more than just a game about running around killing people.
While forking out for a Battle Pass nets you the coolest cosmetics and silly dances, each new season of free content is constantly reshaping the island and bringing fresh surprises. Even better, its new Creative mode is also free.
A super-fast and slick PvE game whether you’re playing solo or with friends, Warframe is one of those Switch ports that looked almost impossible. Indeed, the port was handled by Panic Button, the studio behind the miraculous ports of Doom, Wolfenstein 2 and Rocket League for Nintendo’s hybrid.
There may be some visual downgrades from its PC counterpart, but its locked 30fps frame rate still ensures your titular space ninjas are swift in combat whether you’re using melee weapons or guns (motion controls are also supported for aiming).
Most importantly you’re getting all the content and updates that this game has seen on all other platforms in the six years it’s existed.
Arena of Valor
Arena of Valor is an arcadey take on the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre, but also an example of how a game originally made for mobile can shine on Switch, with huge visual improvements and controls intuitively mapped to sticks and buttons.
You can play from 1v1 to the full traditional 5v5 battles that include the MOBA staple of fighting your way through a three-lane map in an effort to get past the opposing team’s towers and destroy their core.
However, unlike other free-to-play MOBAs like DOTA2, you only get to play with a limited number of free heroes on weekly rotation, so if you want to experiment with all the available classes and unique abilities, you’re either going to have to play a lot or pay real money to unlock them.
Despite initially launching on Switch with the paid Founder’s Pack, the free version of Paladins is just as worth looking into. The next best thing to Overwatch, it’s a hero shooter you can play in first or third-person, supporting motion controls, and unlike Fortnite or Warframe, it actually runs at a smooth 60fps.
It’ll take a lot of play time to unlock all 40 playable champions, though it’s at least good to know that everything can be accessed eventually just by playing the game. But even if you’re just dropping in to casually play matches, you’ll still get a chance to experiment with the roster as its champions are also available on a free weekly rotation.
Your favorite Pokémon get the Minecraft treatment in this relaxing game where you explore an island befriending cuboid versions of the adorable critters. For some, it might be too relaxing, especially as you can opt to just have the game running in auto-play during the very simplistic battles.
Since arriving on Switch last year, its appeal may have waned in light of the Let’s Go games. Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable distraction that’s surprisingly generous with its freemium systems, while the island is made of 12 different areas that can keep you exploring for some time. It just might be better to enjoy in the background while you’re catching up on Netflix.
Yes, Brawlhalla may be an unabashed Smash clone, but it’s also one that you can play for free, and the only entry in this list that you can gather some mates around to play together. As a platform fighter, the principles of damaging your opponents until they’re weak enough to be knocked off the stage remain intact, as is the simple and accessible control scheme.
For a clone, Brawlhalla has its own personality thanks its vibrant Saturday morning cartoon art style. And if it kind of reminds you of Rayman, then you’ll be pleased to know you can actually play as Rayman too! While you can either grind or pay up to unlock its 40+ character roster, Brawlhalla generously provides eight free characters on rotation.
Galak-Z: Variant S
An anime-inspired sci-fi shooter that began life on PS4 and PC, Galak-Z: Variant S is both a sequel and an overhaul of the original’s roguelike mechanics, adapted instead into a freemium experience.
Piloting both a mech and a fighter jet, you’re on the search for rare upgrades while taking on genuinely tough enemies and hazardous environments. The freemium system means you can expect timers for just about everything from decrypting relics to repairing your ship when you lose all your health unless you fast-track them with some premium currency. But if you can patiently play it in short bursts, there’s a lot Galak-Z has to offer.
Deltarune: Chapter 1
From Undertale creator Toby Fox comes the mysterious Deltarune. Technically, it’s only the first chapter and is being released as a free work-in-progress demo, while future episodes will cost money. We’re going to make an exception with this 'demo' because a) these episodes could be years from happening, and b) this is a pretty meaty first taste, lasting as long as some of the best indie games out there.
While it’ll naturally benefit players who have already played and finished Undertale, on its own it’s still a fascinating and charming old-school turn-based RPG. Like its predecessor, it employs an innovative twist to its battle system, which is party-based this time round.
OK, so Tetris 99 is only available to paying members of the Switch Online Service. But you know what, we’re going to make another exception because it’s just brilliant!
Tetris, but battle royale, might sound like an early April Fools joke, however, the classic drop puzzler works absolute wonders when played against 98 other players. Your rivals will appear in miniaturized forms around your screen in real-time, as you frantically drop blocks and clear as many lines as you can to send garbage blocks to your opponents, all while the game speed and a remixed Tetris theme get faster.
Tetris 99 is a beautiful subversion of what a battle royale and a Tetris game can be, and for those hooked to crack the final 10 and win, get ready to learn about back-to-backs, T-spins and tumble down a rabbit hole of competitive Tetris pro strats.
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Alan Wen is a freelance journalist writing about video games in the form of features, interview, previews, reviews and op-eds. His work has appeared in print including Edge, Official Playstation Magazine, GamesMaster, Games TM, Wireframe, Stuff, and online including Kotaku UK, TechRadar, FANDOM, Rock Paper Shotgun, Digital Spy, The Guardian, and The Telegraph.