With its hybrid home console/portable form factor, the Switch is the most versatile console around right now, and so its best games feel equally at home on the big screen and on the bus.
Whether you have the original Nintendo Switch, the cheaper but portable-only Switch Lite, or the newly upgraded Switch OLED there’s plenty to keep you busy. Franchise favourites like Mario or The Legend of Zelda obviously appear, but deeper cuts include Splatoon 2 or the strangely captivating exercise game Ring Fit Adventure.
So without further ado, here are the Switch games we love so far – and don’t forget to check out our round-up of the best 3DS games while you’re at it.
Best Nintendo Switch games 2021
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The Switch’s Best Game
Originally set to come out on the Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not only a Switch launch title, but also the system’s flagship game. It’s a sprawling open-world adventure that’s undeniably the biggest Zelda title yet.
New additions to the series include loot drops, crafting, and cooking, while the expansive overworld stretches as far as you can see. The lush cel-shaded graphics feel like a natural evolution from the Wii’s Skyward Sword, while the audio boasts another franchise first: voice acting.
This is the best launch title on any console in years, and feels era-defining, reshaping what we expect from open-world games.
Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review
Super Mario Odyssey – Best Platformer
Super Mario Odyssey is easily one of the best Mario games in a decade and Nintendo has crafted a game full of fun and surprises.
It’s a beautiful balancing act of classic gameplay and new features that makes Odyssey feel fresh but familiar. Cappy could’ve been a gimmicky addition but is actually a stroke of genius. Super Mario Odyssey is a must for Switch owners, young and old, and will no doubt go down as a classic.
Read our full Super Mario Odyssey review
Mario Kart 8: Deluxe – Best Multiplayer Game
One of the best games for the Switch was actually already one of the best games on the Wii U. Mario Kart 8 was the best entry in the racing series in years, and this version is even better.
There are a few new additions to justify the re-purchase: courses and new characters from Splatoon and elsewhere, the return of Battle Mode, all of the original game’s DLC, and eight-player local multiplayer. There are also a few new items and the ability to carry two items at once.
It’s not a major update, and it might be tricky for anyone who already has Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U to justify the upgrade – but if you missed it the first time, this is a great way to get your hands on a brilliant game.
Read our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review
Ring Fit Adventure – Exercise While You Play
Ring Fit Adventure hits the sweet spot for an exercise title. There’s enough depth to the RPG elements to keep you coming back day-in, day-out, without ever becoming so inaccessibly deep as to put anyone who’s never touched Skyrim.
More importantly, it actually delivers a proper workout. You can work at your own pace, but if you’re committed you can push yourself hard, and the Ring-Con offers enough resistance for proper upper body sessions. If you want to, you will sweat, and you will get sore, which is more than you can say for every exercise game out there.
Ring Fit Adventure is a measurable step forward from Wii Fit, with enough complexity, depth, and progression to keep players coming back and hopefully save the Ring-Con from dusty relegation to the back of the cupboard – at least for a few months.
Read our full Ring Fit Adventure review
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Best Fighting Game
‘Ultimate’ is undoubtedly the word. Just about everything that every Smash game has ever offered is here once again in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with more characters, stages, modes, and hidden references than anyone will have the time to fully process.
Every fighter and stage from all the previous entries are back, joined by plenty of new faces, and extensive new singleplayer, and a whole new Spirit mechanic that adds RPG stats and buffs as an extra layer of complexity on top of it all.
If Smash Bros. Ultimate has a fault, it’s the same as its strength: there’s just so much here that it’s impossible for anyone to take in, and in the early hours especially it’s an overwhelming experience, with little work done to guide new players in. Maybe even Smash needs a little more editorial oversight than this, but at least you can’t ever accuse Nintendo of shortchanging its fans.
Read our full Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review
Metroid Dread – Stellar Single-Player
The first proper new 2D, mainline Metroid game since Metroid Fusion on the GBA in 2002, to call Metroid Dread ‘long-awaited’ would be a bit of an understatement.
Picking up where Fusion left off, this game wraps up the core Samus story, and along the way answers a few lingering questions about Metroid, the X Parasite, and the mysterious Chozo race – though leaves just as many unanswered.
More importantly, it’s a phenomenally good game. The classic Metroid exploration and combat are back, but bolstered by new stealth-horror sections where you must evade the detection of the E.M.M.I. robots that are hunting your bounty hunter across the planet ZDR.
Oozing in atmosphere and packed with secrets, this is one of the Switch’s best single-player titles – and a fine way to cap off one of Nintendo’s best and most beloved series.
Splatoon 2 – Best Multiplayer Shooter
Splatoon was one of the surprise hits for the Wii U, and a welcome reminder that for all of its reliance on big hitters like Zelda and Mario, Nintendo is still capable of creating brilliant original games when it wants to.
Nintendo’s take on the online multiplayer shooter is very… Nintendo. That means quirky character design, a fun setting, and a brilliant new twist on tired shooter mechanics. Instead of shooting bullets, you fire ink, which can hurt your foes, but more importantly covers the arena. The team with the most ink wins, but it also gives you advantages like faster travel and refilling your ammo as you go.
This sequel is mostly like more of the same (though boasts a new co-op horde mode), but that’s no bad thing, and it includes new weapons, maps, outfits, and music. We’re sold.
Read our full Splatoon 2 review
Hades – Best Indie Game
Hades isn’t exclusive to the Switch, but thanks to the console’s portability this is arguably the best place to play the 2020 indie darling.
A roguelike for people who don’t like roguelikes (including myself), Hades lets you step into the sandals of the lesser-known Greek god Zagreus as you fight to escape the titular underworld and reunite with your long-lost mother in the mortal realm.
You’ll find yourself attempting to escape again, and again, and again, but each randomised run feels different thanks to impressive variety in the enemies, environments, weapons, and upgrades you can pick up.
Even more remarkable is how well written and voice-acted the game is, with enough material that you’ll rarely (if ever) encounter repeats, interwoven into a carefully assembled story that develops slowly as you hurl yourself into the undead meat-grinder again and again.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Best Strategy Game
It might not be as exciting as Super Mario Odyssey but Mario teaming up with those pesky Rabbids makes for a lot of fun on the Switch.
In this game you create a team mixed from Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and Rabbid versions of each of them, to take on enemies in various levels. The core gameplay is turn-based strategy – similar to the XCOM series – with a variety of movement options, unlockable weapons, and special abilities.
At first the strategy is simple and accessible, but before too long it amps up, using environmental obstacles and tools like Chain Chomps and pipes to create a fast-paced, refreshing strategy title that should appeal to gamers of every level. By the end it gets seriously tough, and you’ll need your wits – and smart use of the skill tree – to make it to the end.
There’s also a huge amount of replayability, with extra challenges and secret sections for each of the game’s worlds, and silly in-jokes hidden everywhere you look.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – A Meditative Experience
Animal Crossing: New Horizons will take its place as one of the Nintendo Switch staples, with its gentle pace, positive gameplay and beautiful surroundings.
The desert island offers players the chance to build something literally from nothing, and go at whatever speed they feel comfortable with. The new rewards system – Nook Miles – also encourages you to get involved in all aspects that the game offers.
The multiplayer gameplay is a bit of a faff, and having cloud saves wouldn’t go amiss. Nonetheless, this is still an addictive title that will keep you hooked for months to come.
Read our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury – Multiplayer Mario
This Mario two-fer packages a port of the excellent Wii U title Super Mario 3D World with a new single-player Switch expansion called Bowser’s Fury.
3D World remains one of the most under-appreciated gems in Mario’s history. Beloved by critics, this multiplayer Mario platformers was let down by launching on the flawed Wii U hardware, so it’s great to see it get a new lease of life here. This is the best 3D Mario around if you want to play with friends, supporting up to four players and packed with power-ups and inventive level design.
The new Bowser’s Fury is essentially a mini-Mario game in its own right. This is a standalone single-player title that tries something new to the series: an open-world. You explore one larger area completing challenges, occasionally interrupted by a giant (and grumpy) Bowser that you can only defeat by turning into an equally giant Cat Mario for the closest Mario will ever get to a kaiju throwdown.
Both bits of this package are excellent – together, they’re unmissable.
Nintendo Labo – Play Games With Inventive Cardboard Controllers
Nintendo Labo is unlike any game we’ve played before. It’s like taking Google Cardboard and multiplying it by 100.
The game comes in two kits, the variety kit and a robot kit. We’ve played the former which will be the best place to start for most people.
Essentially the game gives you instructions to build elaborate contraptions made almost entirely of cardboard. In the variety kit, there are five so called Toy-Cons to make including a piano, motorbike and fishing rod.
Once you’ve made them, you can play sort of mini games. The Toy-Cons have moving parts and are mind-bogglingly clever.
Beyond playing the associated games, which can get old quite quickly, you can mess around in garage mode. Here you can do simple graphic coding to make the Toy-Cons do different things. You could make reeling on the fishing rod make the car move forward.
You can even use the motorbike to play Mario Kart 8: Deluxe.
It might be quite pricey, but you need to remember that the fun of Labo lies in the building as well as the games themselves.
Read our full Nintendo Labo Variety Kit review
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Best Retro Fun
This old-school Game Boy title was long considered one of the stranger titles in an admittedly odd videogame series, so it’s a real treat that Nintendo decided to give it a comprehensive – yet faithful – overhaul for its latest portable system
Link’s Awakening on Switch is an accurate recreation of the original game’s world, puzzles, and dungeons with just a few tweaks. The extra Color Dungeon from the game’s first re-release is included here, item switching controls have been streamlined, and there’s a new dungeon building mode too – but beyond that, it’s all authentic.
Except for the visuals of course. They’ve been overhauled from the ground-up in the latest reinvention of the Zelda franchise, this time in its most tactile yet. The world is rendered in a visual style that sits somewhere been plastic and porcelain, a reflective sheen coating every chunky little character or delicate blade of grass.
The result is an utterly beautiful game balanced by devious, old-school gameplay and puzzles that’s an absolute treat whether this is your first visit to Koholint Island or your tenth.