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Best Switch games: the most essential Nintendo Switch games right now

Best Switch games 2021
(Image credit: TechRadar)

If you only want the best Switch games (and why wouldn't you?), we’ve put together this comprehensive list to help you find them quicker than a game of 200cc Mario Kart.

In 2021, more than three years after the console’s first release, there’s now a wide range of truly excellent Nintendo Switch games, suitable for every taste and age group, from open-world adventures to contained puzzle games. But as great as that is, it can make it hard to narrow things down and find the best of the bunch. 

Fortunately, our carefully curated list is here to highlight the best games for Nintendo Switch out there so that you can spend more time playing and less time browsing the Nintendo eShop. 

Whether you’re playing on the original hybrid Nintendo Switch or you’ve picked up the smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite, there’ll be a game on this list that suits you. From Nintendo’s unbeatable first-party exclusives like Animal Crossing and Pokémon to third-party hits like Hades, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

If you’ve got company and you’d rather find out about multiplayer titles, then our separate guide for the best online multiplayer Switch games should solve your problem. Otherwise, read on to discover our list for the best Nintendo Switch games you can play right now.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The pinnacle of peaceful pursuits

Reasons to buy
+Crafting is an excellent addition+Best-looking Animal Crossing to date+More player control
Reasons to avoid
-One island per Switch-More clarity around data recovery needed

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the first new entry in the mainline Animal Crossing series for almost eight years and the first entry to be playable on the Nintendo Switch - and it was definitely worth the wait. 

New Horizons whisks you off to a deserted island through an exclusive Nook Inc package. Your job is to get the island to be a top resort, attracting new islanders by sprucing things up and making your island a tropical paradise. 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is packed with charm and the perfect game for those who want to kick back and just take things at their own pace. It’s familiar and fresh, deftly combining the old enjoyable parts of the series with some much-needed improvements and far greater depth than we’ve seen before. It just keeps giving, too, with regular seasonal updates to keep you invested.

Check out our full Animal Crossing review here.

Baldur's Gate 1 and 2: Enhanced Editions / Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Editions

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Baldur's Gate 1 and 2: Enhanced Editions / Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale Enhanced Editions

Classic RPG adventure

Reasons to buy
+Excellent optimization +Include all DLC packs+Hundreds of hours of content
Reasons to avoid
-Still better played on PC-Outdated mechanics

Cramming in hundreds upon hundreds of hours of RPG adventure, these double packs should not be missed. Pairing Planescape Torment with Icewind Dale, or the two Baldur's Gate games (plus all games' associated add-on packs) these enhanced editions for the Nintendo Switch make four classics PC role playing games playable on console for the first time.

Cleverly converting mouse and keyboard control to on-the-go gamepad play, you're now able to take four of the most epic D&D-inspired role playing games with you wherever you go, and then dock them for big-screen play at home.

The controls may take some getting used to, and the gameplay and visuals are of a certain slower vintage. But if you want an unmissable history lesson in role playing games, and want to settle into some unforgettable stories and choice-driven play, these excellent-value bundles are a must play.

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta (Image credit: PlatinumGames)

Bayonetta 2

Hack and slash staple

Reasons to buy
+Great story+Dumb fun+Stylish and fast-paced
Reasons to avoid
-Short story mode

Not everyone would have had the chance to enjoy Bayonetta 2 when it was first released back in 2014, thanks to its Wii U exclusivity. Fortunately, it's now a Nintendo Switch game too, finally giving it the reach it deserves. 

Bayonetta 2 is an excellent game, with fast-paced and satisfying combat, jaw-dropping animations and frankly outstanding fashion choices. Even better, when you purchase a physical copy of Bayonetta 2, you'll also receive a free download code for the original game.

More than anything, this is a great way to prepare for Bayonetta 3, which has been confirmed as being in development for the Switch. 

Cadence of Hyrule

(Image credit: Brace Yourself Games)

Cadence of Hyrule

Rhythm-based adventure

Reasons to buy
+Groovy musical feel+Slick animations
Reasons to avoid
-Rhythm-based combat can make gameplay feel slow and restricting

Few games are as universally acclaimed as this brilliant indie hit. It's essentially a spin-off of Crypt of the Necrodancer, a rhythm-based rogue-like that sees you time your moves and attacks to the beat of the music. However, this Legend of Zelda Zelda-themed follow-up places the action in Hyrule itself – also allowing you to play as either Link or Zelda (Nintendo, take note).

Blending the best of classic top-down Legend of Zelda games with a groovy, musical feel, and slick animations to match, it is the rhythm-based Zelda game we never knew we needed.

Dark Souls: Remastered

Dark Souls: Remastered (Image credit: FromSoftware Games)

Dark Souls: Remastered

A well-aged fantasy RPG

Reasons to buy
+Immersive and haunting world+Challenging but rewarding
Reasons to avoid
-Notoriously difficult-Slight downgrade in some visuals

What's left to be said about Dark Souls that hasn't already been spat out in blood, frustration and pure, unfiltered joy? The daddy of tough-as-nails adventure games, it's spawned a thousand imitators and a zillion curse words as adventurers stalk the deadly land of Lodran.

Taking a methodical and precise approach to combat, it's as unforgiving as it is rewarding, making each hard-won victory against its monstrous foes a real achievement. Always fair, it's also a master of environmental story telling, revealing its secrets slowly as you gain command of its systems and best its enemies.

Dark Souls: Remastered isn't quite as pretty on the Switch as it is on PS4 or Xbox One, but it does have the added benefit of on the go play (just don't go swearing on the bus). And there's a whole new wave of players to engage with when you activate its online mode – a key component of the series, with a new community eking out their first bold steps into its cruel world.

Diablo 3

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Diablo 3: Eternal Collection

Battling hell's demons, while on the toilet

Reasons to buy
+Balance between simplicity and depth+Fantastic co-op multiplayer+Addictive loot system 
Reasons to avoid
-Drain on the Switch’s battery-Can be repetitive

It’s been quite a journey for Diablo 3. After a rocky start on PC way back in May of 2012 that saw online server crashes and criticism of the series’ famed addictive loot cycle, the game was overhauled in time for a last-gen console version in 2013 and a current-gen release on Xbox One and PS4 in 2014. Two excellent expansion packs and a host of game-improving tweaks later, Diablo 3 is not only a contender for the title of the greatest dungeon crawler of all time, but, somehow, it’s now portable, too.

The Switch has done it again, with developer Blizzard cramming every improvement and piece of added content into this handheld version of the game. It not only works, but looks and plays amazingly too. Diablo 3 has evolved into one of the greatest games of its genre, and the added portable factor here arguably makes this the best version to pick up, so long as you’re not a mouse-and-keyboard PC purist.

Check out our full Diablo 3 (Nintendo Switch) review.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition

Modern RPG classic

Reasons to buy
+Flexible and freeing systems+Classic RPG foundation+Multiple ways to progress
Reasons to avoid
-Optimization for Switch is lacking

From Doom to Skyrim, the Nintendo Switch is becoming known for the seemingly-impossible handheld port, and with the release of Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition, it's bagged itself not only a fantastic technical achievement, but one of the finest RPGs ever made, too.

Building on the foundations set by old-school RPG classics like Baldur's Gate, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has you on a literal quest for godhood, in a world where those with magical powers are marginalized.

So far, so standard for an RPG title. But Divinity: Original Sin 2 comes into its own with just how flexible and freeing its systems are. With turn-based combat that takes as much inspiration from XCOM as it does from tabletop RPG spellcasting, you'll always be given multiple ways to progress, letting you combine items and environmental modifiers to take on foes in increasingly creative ways.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 has more ideas in its first ten minutes than some games have in their entire duration: want to be an undead adventurer who can talk to skulls? Go for it. An animal-whisperer like Dr Doolittle? 100% go for it. Throw four-player online co-op into the mix, where anyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and you've a recipe for chaotic perfection.

It's one of the few games where, if you can dream it up, you can probably do it in the game. A massive PC title, the fact its been squeezed onto the Switch at all is impressive alone. That it works so well as an on-the-go handheld title is testament to just how engrossing a game it was in the first place. A must play.

Fortnite

Fortnite (Image credit: Epic Games)

Fortnite Battle Royale

All aboard the battle bus

Reasons to buy
+Vibrant world+Fun combat+Unique building mechanic+Excellent monetization
Reasons to avoid
-Can be hard to keep up

It's not often you get to put a free game on the Nintendo Switch list but Fortnite Battle Royale is giving us this chance. We'd be amazed if you hadn't heard of it, but Fortnite: Battle Royale is the free-to-play hit from Epic Games which throws you into an online Battle Royale where you must fight and build to be the last person standing. 

The game was announced and launched on the Nintendo eShop during E3 2018. If you've not had the chance to play the Battle Royale phenomenon, the Nintendo Switch offers one of the most convenient ways to do it – especially if you find a smartphone screen just a little bit too small to truly play at your best. And if you already have an account you can move seamlessly between your Nintendo Switch, smartphone, PC and Xbox console. 

Check out our full Fortnite Battle Royale review.

Hades

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Hades

Endless hours of stylish fun

Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous art style+Combat is extremely fun+You can pet the two-headed dog
Reasons to avoid
-The music won't be for everyone-Too much going on at once becomes overwhelming

This excellent action RPG will look incredibly familiar to you if you've played Transistor, another game made by the same studio: Supergiant Games.

Where Transistor was more of a straight cut experience, Hades is rogue-like, which means the levels are all procedurally generated, and no single area will be the same each time you enter it keeping the map fresh and exciting.

With a killer soundtrack, hack-n-slash combat, interesting story and stellar RPG systems, Hades is extremely fun to play and will stave off any pangs of boredom.

Suffice it to say, if you have an interest in Greek mythology, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much research Supergiant has put into this one, offering a truly exceptional experience.

Sometimes there's far too much going on while you're playing which does make it all a bit hectic, but if you can get past the chaos you'll have hours of fun playing this game.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight (Image credit: Team Cherry)

Hollow Knight

Masterful Metroidvania

Reasons to buy
+Dark and beautiful+Challenging but fun+Memorable characters+Lots of replay value
Reasons to avoid
-Quite difficult

While we're all waiting for a new Metroid Prime game to land on the Nintendo Switch, you can still get your side-scrolling Metroidvania fix with the superb Hollow Knight.

You know the score – you're placed in the center of a sprawling map that slowly reveals its scale as you unlock new abilities to traverse increasingly difficult traps, and take on ever-more monstrous foes. Secrets sit around every corner, and the sense of satisfaction you get when you backtrack to a previously-inaccessible location once armed with the right skills is unsurpassed in all of gaming.

Hollow Knight separates itself from other Metroidvania titles with its distinct art style (mysterious underground bug city? Count us in), and its nods to the Dark Souls series, with tough boss fights and the strangely aloof citizens of its subterranean setting. Easily one of the best Nintendo Switch games around.

Luigi's Mansion 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Luigi's Mansion 3

Spooky spectacular

Reasons to buy
+Family-friendly fun+New abilities and Gooigi feature+Lots of puzzles to solve
Reasons to avoid
-Can be a bit repetitive 

It had been many years since Nintendo last released a game in the Luigi’s Mansion series and, just as fans were beginning to give up hope of another, the announcement that a sequel was coming to Nintendo Switch was very welcome news indeed.

Luigi's Mansion 3 sees Luigi and pals taking a much needed vacation in a high-rise hotel. But, as luck would have it, it seems the hotel is haunted and the ghostly residents have captured Luigi's friends. You know what that means. It's time to get the Poltergust out again and vacuum up some ghosts in a bigger, more action-packed adventure than ever before.

A fun-filled game for the whole family, Luigi's Mansion 3 is a must-have for the Switch.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Image credit: Nintendo)

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Racing royalty

Reasons to buy
+Revised battle mode+Fantastic multiplayer fun+Includes old and new tracks
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty much like every other Mario Kart game

Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was already one of the best entries in the franchise, and the Nintendo Switch version is no different.

At its core the game offers the same excellent racing as the Wii U original, but there are also a number of new additions for this version of the arcade racer. 

You've got the return of battle mode, new characters, all the previously released DLC tracks, and the ability to hold two special items at a time to add an extra layer of strategy to your racing.

The new game is also a great way of playing the game in multiplayer. You can play online, in split-screen with up to four players, or link up to eight consoles together to play multiplayer wirelessly (where you can also play with up to two players per console). 

It's a versatile release, and well worth picking up for anyone who missed out on Mario Kart 8 the first time around.

Pokémon Sword and Shield

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon Sword and Shield

Close to being the very best

Reasons to buy
+Fantastic Pokémon designs+Immersive new region+Effective gameplay improvements
Reasons to avoid
-Dynamaxing doesn't quite hit the mark-Not very graphically accomplished

Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first core Pokémon games to make their way to the Switch. Full of charm and fun, Sword and Shield bring some much-needed gameplay optimizations to the franchise alongside some fantastic new features such as the Wild Area. 

Set in the UK-inspired Galar region, Sword and Shield introduce a whole new world to investigate and new Pokémon to capture. And, while we can't help but feel they don't quite live up to some of the better predecessors, it's definitely worth picking up on Switch. Since the release of Sword and Shield we've also seen two very worthwhile expansions released: Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra. These are sold-separately but add a lot to your Galar experience. 

Still not sure? Then check out our full Pokémon Sword and Shield review. More uncertain on whether you want Sword or Shield? Let us take you through the differences.

Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 (Image credit: Nintendo)

Splatoon 2

Ink-splatting action

Reasons to buy
+Fast-paced and fun+Great to play solo or with others+A unique shooter
Reasons to avoid
-Matchmaking can be a pain

Splatoon was the closest Nintendo has ever allowed itself to get to an online shooter, and it did so by fundamentally turning the genre on its head. 

That means no guns, no bullets, and ultimately no death. Instead, you play as characters with paint guns tasked with covering the map in your team's colors. 

You can kill (well, 'splat') your enemies, but you do so only in service of buying yourself time to paint more of the map without your opponents (and their painting) getting in the way. 

While Splatoon 2 is technically a sequel, in truth it's more of the same. 

That's not necessarily a bad thing. The original game was tightly designed and well-balanced, and while the sequel makes some minor tweaks to the gameplay, the same Nintendo charm is still present in spades. 

If you never played the original then Splatoon 2 is an easy game to recommend, but even if you did then it might be worth jumping in again to revisit it on Nintendo's portable system. For our money it's certainly one of the best Nintendo Switch games you can pick up.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley (Image credit: Chucklefish) (Image credit: ConcernedApe)

Stardew Valley

Charming pixelated sim

Reasons to buy
+Relatable, well-written characters+Lots to explore+Farm sim and dungeon crawler hybrid+Relaxing and laid back
Reasons to avoid
-No actual ending

Stardew Valley is one of those games that always felt like it was supposed to be on a Nintendo console, and we couldn't have been happier when it was released recently for the Switch.

If you've ever played a Harvest Moon game, you’re already familiar with the premise of Stardew Valley: it's an addictive farming simulator which sees you interact with townees to the point where you can literally marry them.

Stardew Valley isn't just one thing though, it's a whole bunch of things at once. You can engage in crafting, fishing, cooking and even exploring procedurally-generated caves to mine for items and even take on monstrous enemies. 

However, do keep in mind your health and energy, as you'll need to make sure your character is in tip-top shape in order to avoid suffering from exhaustion – lose health and you lose a considerable amount of money and items you’ve worked hard to attained. Stardew Valley will have you hooked for hours on end, for better or worse. (Better, definitely better.)

Super Mario Maker 2

(Image credit: Nintendo / TechRadar)

Super Mario Maker 2

Makes us appreciate how hard level design is

Reasons to buy
+Incredible customization tools+New 3D world option+Vertical levels
Reasons to avoid
-Menus crammed into one screen-Capacitive touchscreen

At heart, Super Mario Maker 2 has a simple premise: let players design their own Mario levels. But even that single aim provides near-endless amounts of fun and creation with Nintendo’s joyful and chaotic level editor.

A follow-up from the original Super Mario Maker game on Wii U, and its eventual 3DS port, this sequel / reboot on the Nintendo Switch manages to avoid several pitfalls from the previous entry, making for a more widely accessible title that still retains the joy of giving you the keys to Mario’s inner workings. Whether those keys are literally keys, or rather Chain-Chomps and flying Goombas, is completely up to you.

The addition of a Luigi Assist mode, and a willingness to give you all the tools you need from the outset, make this a vastly more accessible entry, and one that has something for any budding designer out there – or simply someone wanting to understand the workings of their favorite Mario games a little better.

Read the full Super Mario Maker 2 review

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey (Image credit: Nintendo) (Image credit: Nintendo)

Super Mario Odyssey

One of Mario's finest adventures

Reasons to buy
+Doesn't discard the core mechanics+Game world full of intriguing surprises+Instantly familiar
Reasons to avoid
-Can be a bit tedious

Super Mario Odyssey is Mario's first real outing on the Nintendo Switch and he makes his debut in style. Odyssey is a 3D sandbox adventure that sees Mario travel between a wide range of worlds to save Princess Peach from the nefarious and maritally-minded Bowser. 

Giving the old formula a bit of a refresh, this game sees the traditional Power Ups replaced with a new companion for Mario called Cappy. This sentient hat is Mario's weapon and friend and he can be used to possess enemies and objects to solve puzzles and defeat foes.

In our full Super Mario Odyssey review we called this game "one of Mario's finest adventures in recent memory" and recommend that you play it now – it's instantly one of the best Nintendo Switch games out there.

If you decide to pick the game up for yourself, don't forget to check out our tips and tricks guide to help you get started.  

Super Mario Bros. 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Super Mario Bros. 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

Majora's Mario

Reasons to buy
+Excellent, comedic multiplayer+Constantly inventive+New online multiplayer option+Bowser’s Fury is a blast
Reasons to avoid
-Visuals are showing their age-Repetition in Bowser’s Fury endgame

Super Mario Bros. 3D World gets a deserved second opportunity to shine in this Nintendo Switch port, offering up the best-realized Mario multiplayer experience Nintendo has created yet. The addition of Bower’s Fury, a short but sweet Mario game in its own right, seals the deal on making this one of the best Switch games on the market.

Nintendo is often accused of being a bit stingy with its re-releases – the barebones offering of Super Mario 3D All-Stars didn’t go unnoticed. But this Super Mario Bros. 3D World rerelease, packaged as it is with the Bowser’s Fury adventure, is a generous joy.

Bowser’s Fury is a treat – the topping you didn’t know would work on your favorite ice cream flavor. Its conceit shouldn’t work, but does, with the looping Fury mechanic surely now set to be revived in a full-size, full-fat, wholly-original adventure of its own. It’s definitely worthy of one.

Check out our full Super Mario Bros. 3D World + Bowser’s Fury review.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Image credit: Nintendo) (Image credit: Nintendo)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The ultimate brawler

Reasons to buy
+Exciting and inclusive roster+A mode for every occasion+Great fun to play solo or with others
Reasons to avoid
-Online play can stumble

Super Smash Bros. is back and the party game that sees friends turn into enemies has definitely found its home on the Nintendo Switch.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate packs in more fighters, more stages, more gameplay modes, and more tactical elements of any game in the franchise. This is, for all intents and purposes, the definitive Super Smash Bros., with everything that entails – and plenty of juicy Smash Bros DLC (Joker! Piranha Plant! Banjo-Kazooie!) to keep you occupied after you've unlocked the main roster of fighters.

If you're looking for a Nintendo Switch game that is fun for the whole family, then you definitely can't go wrong with Smash.

Read our full Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review.

Tetris 99 (Image credit: Nintendo)

Tetris 99 (Image credit: Nintendo) (Image credit: Nintendo)

Tetris 99

Block-rocking freebie

Reasons to buy
+A great spin on a classic+Hugely addictive+It's Tetris
Reasons to avoid
-Local multiplayer sold separately

When you've got a game as near-perfect as Tetris already is, how can you put a fresh spin on it to keep a new generation of players hooked? By tapping into the latest modern gaming crazes, that's how.

Tetris 99 takes the classic block-building, line-making formula, and fuses it with a battle-royale multiplayer system. You and 99 other Tetris fans go head to head, making lines as quickly as possible and sending screen-filling blocks to each other's screens to knock each other out. The last person standing wins. 

One quick five minute game soon becomes a two hour session, and with regular challenges and additional modes to purchase, it's great fun. As a free download to those who subscribe to Nintendo Online, it's the best reason to sign up for the service, too.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Image credit: Nintendo) (Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A compelling adventure

Reasons to buy
+Hours of gameplay+Plenty to explore and secrets to find+Engaging narrative
Reasons to avoid
-Can be overwhelming in size

Even for a series like The Legend of Zelda which rarely puts a foot wrong, Breath of the Wild is an absolutely phenomenal game on the Nintendo Switch (with an upcoming sequel, Breath of the Wild 2, currently in the works).

While past Zelda games have stuck pretty closely to the formula established by Ocarina of Time (the series' 3D debut), Breath of the Wild throws much of the established wisdom away. 

Rather than having a pre-defined order you must use to approach each major mission, Breath of the Wild opens the entire map up to you almost immediately, allowing you to approach the game in whatever order you see fit. You can spend hours just climbing trees and brewing elixirs, or you can even head straight to the game’s final boss if you're feeling a little more confident. 

Away from Breath of the Wild's unique structure, it's the puzzles themselves that make the game feel the most satisfying. While previous games rigidly allow for a single solution to each puzzle, BotW's physics-based problem solving means that there are often multiple solutions to each challenge depending on how you combine your various skills. 

The result is a game that feels incredibly broad in scope, with so many little touches to discover that it’s hard not to fall in love with this long-running series all over again.

Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review.

Untitled Goose Game

(Image credit: House House)

Untitled Goose Game

Honk! Honk!

Reasons to buy
+Hilarious slapstick fun+Incredibly charming+Simple to pick up
Reasons to avoid
-Quite short

Who knew an untitled game about a goose could be so fun? A bit of surprise hit, Untitled Goose Game quickly went viral after its brand of avian nuisance-making was unveiled to the world.

Set in a dopey village in the English countryside, you play as a goose tasked with terrorizing your human neighbours: stealing their crops, locking them in closets, and honking all the way through. Inspired by the stealth action series Hitman, but with its own charm, Untitled Goose Game is a must-play game in 2019. You'll zip through the game in a handful of hours, but it's very much work the journey.

Best Nintendo Switch games at a glance

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Baldur's Gate 1 and 2: Enhanced Editions
  • Bayonetta 2
  • Cadence of Hyrule
  • Dark Souls: Remastered
  • Diablo 3: Eternal Collection
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition
  • Fortnite
  • Hades
  • Hollow Knight
  • Luigi's Mansion 3
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield
  • Splatoon 2 
  • Stardew Valley
  • Super Mario Maker 2
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Super Mario Bros. 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Tetris 99
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Untitled Goose Game