The staggering success of the Nintendo Switch has seen it enjoy the kind of third-party support is predecessor, the Wii U, could have only dreamed of. Nintendo’s primary offerings have kept its core audience happy with the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, be between first-party releases, developers big and small have filled in the cracks of the eShop and beyond. Rather than subject anyone to hundreds of pages of its dull eShop interface, we’ve conjured up a list of the best Nintendo Switch games to get your new toy prepped for even the longest flight.
PlatinumGames has established itself as one of the best action game studios in the world, with critical darlings like Bayonetta 2 and the existential Nier: Automata. Automata lead designer Takahisa Taura was given his first chance to direct with the Switch-exclusive Astral Chain, which doubles down on the insane action that PlatinumGames has prided itself on for the last decade. Rather than the post-apocalypse, you’re in a bustling city that is under attack by mysterious interdimensional forces, and it’s up to you to stop it.
You won’t work alone, however, as Astral Chain pairs the protagonist with several “Legion” characters who can attack in unison. This mix of direct and indirect combat is at the heart of the game, but you will also investigate mysteries and solve puzzles along the way. And you can pet the game’s dog-like Legion, so you know it’s good.
Hotline Miami Collection
One of the most stylish and innovative action games to release in the last decade, the original Hotline Miami was oozing with ’80s Miami Vice flair, but it was its ridiculously tough shooting combat that won players over. With death coming swiftly for both you and your enemies, it demands your full attention, and its bundled with the sequel Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number on Switch. Of course, as you play you will have to ask yourself a tough question: “Do you like hurting other people?”
The Switch itself is also an ideal platform for the game, as its simple control scheme doesn’t need a full-sized controller to be used effectively. All you need are your wits and your attention span, because failing to notice the positions of all the enemies in a building will be your downfall. If that happens at the end of a stage, it’s absolutely devastating, and will give you the angry burst of energy and drive you’ll need to beat it on the next try.
My Friend Pedro
What do you get when you combine the precision-shot action of Hotline Miami, the acrobatics of Trials, and the slow-motion bullet time effect from the Max Payne series? If that formula also includes one sentient banana, then you are either tripping on acid or playing My Friend Pedro. Split across several creative and perplexing levels, your goal is simple: Kill everyone and reach the exit. That’s easier said than done, of course, especially when turrets are locking onto your position to deliver a torrential downpour of bullets.
My Friend Pedro is the perfect game to play in the Switch’s handheld mode, too, because a level typically only takes a few minutes to complete. A surreal story gradually unravels as you progress, and special vehicular sections offer a nice burst of all-out action that differs from the methodical play of the rest of the game.
Enter the Gungeon
Developed by Dodge Roll and published by renowned indie studio Devolver Digital, Enter the Gungeon is one of the Switch’s absolute must-play indie titles. Enter the Gungeon is a challenging dungeon crawler with twitchy shooting mechanics and copious amounts of loot to uncover. It’s also a roguelike, though not in the traditional sense. All rooms stay the same, but the enemies, treasure, and location of the rooms are randomly generated.
Working your way deeper and deeper into the dungeon is a difficult task filled with worthwhile rewards. With great mechanics, entertaining lore, and mysteries to discover in every dark corner, Enter the Gungeon is an enthralling action experience. Although available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, the top-down retro aesthetic feels great when playing in handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch.
The original Splatoon reinvented the multiplayer shooter by taking the emphasis off of simply eliminating enemies, and its unique ink-spraying online matches were unlike anything we had ever seen before. The Switch sequel, Splatoon 2, largely sticks to the formula we saw previously, but its inventive new multiplayer maps and weapons make the game even more engaging. The game’s humor is also back in full force, with puns galore and user-created artwork that is both hilarious and terrifying.
For those more interested in playing cooperatively, the Salmon Run mode is a great addition to Splatoon 2. Groups of four players must collect golden eggs while fending off waves of evil Salmonids, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. Just make sure all your friends have their own systems, as the game doesn’t support split-screen multiplayer.
Read our full Splatoon 2 review
Ape Out is a top-down kill fest starring an ape that makes humans explode into a pile of blood-soaked limbs. The latest game from Devolver Digital is simplistic but wonderful. In each of the game’s four chapters, you’re tasked with navigating an ape from captivity to freedom. The road to freedom is paved with gun-wielding guards that will shoot rather than ask questions. Thankfully, you can turn every guard into mush by shoving them, or you can use them as body shields before tossing them aside.
Ape Out maintains an addictive rhythm thanks to its jazzy soundtrack that interacts with what is happening on screen. Snare drums beat continuously, picking up the pace when in danger, and cymbals crash to mark the deaths of enemies. Ape is challenging but never feels unfair. Randomization keeps each successive retry feel as intense as the last.
Dark Souls: Remastered
Although it came a bit later and isn’t as pretty as the Xbox One and PS4 versions, Dark Souls: Remastered on Switch is the only way to play the notoriously challenging action game on the go. It’s a big step up from the original in terms of performance.
Dark Souls is a modern classic for its unforgiving difficulty, meticulous design, and a gameplay loop that rewards only those who take the time to learn its intricate combat system. Yes, Dark Souls isn’t for everyone, but if you’re up for the challenge, it can provide a level of satisfaction rarely found in the genre.
A Rockstar game on a Nintendo platform? The developer hasn’t brought a game to Nintendo since Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars launched on the DS in 2009. The Switch, however, is quickly turning into the console for reintroducing modern hits to a new audience and a fresh, portable perspective. L.A. Noire might be the grittiest game available on the Switch to date. Thankfully, this under-appreciated gem holds up very well.
Set in the late 1940s on the heels of World War II, you play as Cole Phelps, a police officer who was promoted to detective after solving a murder. Each mission in L.A. Noire tasks Cole with solving a case by examining clues and interrogating witnesses and suspects. Everything doesn’t always go as planned, which leads to exciting car chases and shootouts. L.A. Noire offers a great detective story and fun gameplay that puts more focus on detective work than gunfights, though you will end up in a few serious scraps.
Read our full L.A. Noire review
Mortal Kombat 11
Nintendo is quickly shedding its image as the video game company for children and families alone, and bringing Mortal Kombat 11 to the console only reinforces that. NetherRealm’s latest ultra-violent fighting game is both deep and accessible, with easy-to-learn but hard-to-master combo attacks and special abilities that can dazzle bystanders. Longtime series favorites like Scorpion and Raiden are joined by several newcomers, including the matter-bending Geras, and the Fatalities you can pull off are as gory and ridiculous as ever.
What’s most impressive is that the game can run on the Switch at all. Despite a lowered resolution to fit the less powerful system, the framerate is still high and the action looks almost identical to what you’d get on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. The different, of course, is you can easily take the Switch version on the go for when you want to fight your friends in person.
Read our full Mortal Kombat 11 review
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The Nintendo Switch game that could become your sole obsession, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a fighter so comprehensive, it’s worth buying a Switch for it alone. The latest universe-melding fighter features every single character ever included in the series’ nearly 20-year history, and more than 100 stages are available as soon as you boot it up for the first time.
Nostalgic for Nintendo of the past without seeming dated, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate plays with the speed of a competitive fighting game, but it is easy enough for less-experienced players to enjoy, as well. The character roster has something for everyone, and newcomers like Incineroar and Simon Belmont feel perfect alongside classics like Mario and Jigglypuff. A hefty single-player campaign mode and new local multiplayer options are just icing on the cake.
Read our full Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best game based on the anime. Granted, that wasn’t a very hard feat for Arc System Works to accomplish, but FighterZ is genuinely amazing. Fights are tag-team style, with each player picking three characters to bring to the battlefield.
The fighting gameplay is ridiculously fast, with an emphasis on building combos and strategically knowing when to swap characters. It’s an easy game to jump in and play, and it looks gorgeous in action. You don’t have to be a Dragon Ball Z fan to enjoy this wonderfully made fighter (though it helps for sure). FighterZ is easily the best traditional fighting game on Switch.
Read our full Dragon Ball FighterZ review
Super. Hot. Super. Hot. It’s a line that has been burned into anyone’s brain who has played Superhot for more than a few minutes, and for good reason. The innovative shooter pauses time except when you’re moving, allowing you to strategize and pull of insanely complex attacks. When you finish a stage, you’re shown back a version of the events that look far more impressive than what you just did, and a unique IRC chat provides the narrative to glue it all together. There is really nothing else like Superhot, and it’s a must-play game for shooter fans.
Superhot first released on traditional systems like Xbox One and PC, and there has even been a VR version, but its unique time-pausing approach lends itself to the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, as well. Because individual stages are so short, you can easily play a few while riding the bus to work and then put the system away, but it’s addictive enough that you’ll find yourself coming back for more as soon as you have free time.
Doom is the greatest portable first-person shooter of all time. No, the bar for that title isn’t too high, but the 2016 Doom reboot that wowed us for its fast-paced action, precise shooting mechanics, and engaging level design. Surprisingly, it didn’t miss a step when ported to the less powerful Nintendo Switch. Doom runs like a charm on Switch, even on the go.
If you haven’t played it, Doom‘s campaign is a chaotic and action-packed romp across the fiery terrain of Mars populated with bloodthirsty enemies. On the Nintendo Switch, the game remains one of the best shooters in years. The fact that the incredibly quick gameplay runs so smoothly in handheld mode makes Doom all the more impressive.
Read our full Doom review
Nintendo has been neglecting the Advance Wars series over the last few console generations, not releasing a new game in the tactical role-playing series for more than a decade. Wargroove is being embraced as the game that filled that strategy-obsessed void, giving players access to one of four warring factions to control in classic grid-based combat.
Rather than embrace the military technology themes of Advance Wars, however, Wargroove leans into the weird with a bizarre mix of characters and classes. As you capture towns and increase your resources, you can grow the size of your army and battle enemies, and even alter the environments themselves — all is fair in love and war! If you get tired of the pre-designed maps, you can even create your own and share them with your friends online.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
When you think of Mario and his pals, the first thought that comes to your mind probably isn’t “XCOM.” It’s even less likely that you’ll want to add Ubisoft’s crazy Rabbids into the mix — but that’s exactly what the French company did with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
Combining the fun of exploring different Mushroom Kingdom levels with the tactical combat of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the game is unlike anything else on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s genuinely challenging without ever becoming stressful.
In 2018, the game received a Donkey Kong-themed DLC that adds Nintendo’s giant gorilla as a playable character, along with a new set of campaign levels.
Read our full Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review
Super Mario Maker 2
The original Super Mario Maker was one of the best games on the Wii U, and practically defined the system before also making its move to the 3DS. With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo has improved the level-creating formula with new items and tricks like sloping platforms. Players have quickly embraced the game and have created some truly dastardly and innovative courses.
Though the Switch doesn’t include a stylus, you can purchase capacitive styluses for very little cash to make designing easier in handheld mode. If you’re more in the mood to play levels than make them, the new story mode is perfect. Filled with Nintendo-designed courses that are far weirder and more puzzle-based than traditional Mario levels, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn just what is possible in Super Mario Maker 2.
Read our full Super Mario Maker 2 review
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
The Nintendo Switch got its first Mario platforming game in 2017 with Super Mario Odyssey, but the system was lacking a classic 2D game that focused solely on timing jumps and collecting items. That changed in 2019 when the Wii U game New Super Mario Bros. U made the figurative jump to the Switch, complete with the New Super Luigi U expansion and extra characters aimed at younger players.
It doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to platforming, but New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe understands what had made the series so successful for so long. The stage design is excellent, testing every trick you’ve learned along the way, and there are enough secrets to keep even the most dedicated players busy for days. With cooperative play and multiple control options, it’s the perfect game for long car rides, too.
Read our full New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe review
Yoshi’s Crafted World
Yoshi’s Crafted World follows in the tradition of previous Yoshi platformers. Yoshi can swallow enemies, turn them into eggs, and use said eggs to nab collectibles and take out other enemies. Where it differs is scope. Each level is longer than the traditional Mario platformer, and the set pieces are adorably crafted out of cardboard and paper. Levels have more depth, too, meaning that Yoshi periodically travels into the backdrop and routinely interacts with objects both far away and close to the player.
It’s a leisurely platforming experience that focuses heavily on uncovering all of the many secrets scattered throughout each level. Cute costumes let Yoshi turn into a cow or truck or even a juice box. Local co-op lets two Yoshis scour the levels together, making it a great choice for parents who want to play with their youngsters.
Super Mario Odyssey
Not since Super Mario 64 came out more than two decades ago have we seen a Mario game as fun and whimsical as Super Mario Odyssey. Taking place across several unique kingdoms, Mario’s adventure to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser and his gang of wedding planners offers something unexpected at practically every turn. From zippers that open up to reveal secrets in walls to retro-style 2D platforming sections, the game is always only a few minutes away from amazing you with something.
Read our full Super Mario Odyssey review
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker can be described as the close cousin of Super Mario 3D World. It stars Toad and his adorable gal-pal Toadette in an action-adventure puzzle game where you explore vivid three-dimensional landscapes. Gameplay centers around collecting treasure, eating mushrooms to stay alive, and throwing turnips at enemies.
If you’re unfamiliar with this style of game, think of your favorite Nintendo platformer plastered onto the surface of a Rubik’s cube. The pixel-shaped terrain adds a different kind of challenge to gameplay since Toad and Toadette can’t jump, and you’ll have to use different camera angles and some puzzle-solving skills to successfully navigate your way through the levels.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is quietly one of the deepest and most rewarding games on Switch. Like the quirky original, Builders 2 combines Minecraft-style building with action RPG combat and riveting exploration. The sequel expands on everything the original did right, virtually perfecting the formula. Building your town from scratch is an enthralling experience, but defending that town and venturing out to new areas gives Builders 2 a purpose-driven sense of adventure that not all sandbox games achieve.
Charming and cutesy, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is an approachable RPG that slowly reveals its many layers the more you build and explore.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
The sequel to one of the Wii’s very best games, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 tells an epic story in the open world of Alrest, a water world where people live and travel on the backs of large creatures called Titans. You play as Rex, a young orphan who finds himself embroiled in the legendary history of Alrest. As Rex, you wield the power of the Blade, a sentient weapon used in combat. Rex’s Blade, Pyra, is one of the most powerful in the world. Naturally, he puts a target on his back because of this.
With deep real-time, action-based combat mechanics that are rife with possible strategies, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 expands on the system from the first game. The game is massive, and features hundreds of quests and events to complete. Beating the story alone takes more than 60 hours, and seeing everything in the game takes much longer. But if you’re a fan of Japanese role-playing games, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is sure to keep you playing to the credits.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
SteamWorld Quest remixes Image & Forms fantasy steampunk franchise once again. This time, Image & Form has injected this beautiful world with a traditional turn-based RPG format laced with card-battling. Composed of small areas comparable to Darkest Dungeon, SteamWorld Quest gets its legs from its battle system. Each party member has a set of cards that when combined, create unique 24-card decks. It’s easy to learn, but there’s tons of strategy involved when it comes to picking party members to bring into battle.
Throughout the roughly 10-hour adventure, you’ll explore dungeons, take on giant mushrooms, and meet a cast of charming characters. This is traditional JRPG combat with a delightful, modernized spin.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Like Doom, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been available on several platforms. That makes sense, as it has been around for eight years. None of them was a portable console though, and that’s the difference here. There’s something about playing old games again on a handheld system that feels much more new than say, making the jump from playing Skyrim on an Xbox 360 to playing it on Xbox One.
Revisiting the lush open world of Tamriel in handheld mode feels surreal. A few years ago, the thought of a game as large as Skyrim in the palms of our hands seemed impossible. And even if it was possible, surely it wouldn’t run well. Skyrim looks and plays the part of the brilliant RPG that many have sunk hundreds of hours into already. Now you can take it with you wherever you go.
Read our full Skyrim review
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
While Switch owners can’t play the masterful Monster Hunter: World, they can get their hands on the next best thing: Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. An enhanced and expanded port of the 2016 3DS game, Generations Ultimate features a collection of the monsters and places seen throughout the series’ history. It’s pretty close to being comprehensive, too. All told, there are more than 90 big monsters to hunt in Generations Ultimate.
A deep and ultimately rewarding experience, Generations Ultimate is best played with friends either online or through a local wireless co-op. There’s still fun to be had solo, though, as Generations Ultimate retains a separate solo mission set to get you warmed up for the more challenging hunts.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
The Nintendo Switch got the Pokémon: Let’s Go games in 2018, which remade Pokémon Yellow in a modern engine and with streamlined gameplay that would be familiar to Pokémon Go players. It wasn’t a full-fledged role-playing game, however, and it would be another year before Game Freak deliver that in the form of Pokémon Sword and Shield. The two games include hundreds of monsters, gorgeous environments, the new Dynamax transformation type, and plenty of options for playing with your friends. It’s also the first Pokémon role-playing game to release for a home console, and looks just as gorgeous on a television as it does in handheld mode.
Pokémon: Let’s Go
On paper, it seems like Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee would not work, as the games combine the exploration, role-playing elements, and battle system of the core Pokémon games with the catching system from Pokémon Go. Game Freak did not disappoint, however, managing to deliver a faithful remake of Pokémon Yellow that is more accessible to players unfamiliar with the main series.
With either a Joy-Con controller, your Switch in handheld mode, or the new Poké Ball Plus, you can throw Poké Balls and catch any monster you come across, building up your collection and giving you more options for fighting trainers. Once you get into a battle against another trainer, it’s the same turn-based combat longtime fans know and love, with gorgeous animation that takes advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s power compared to traditional handheld systems.
More than anything, the Pokémon: Let’s Go games feel like a promise finally delivered after two decades. The Kanto region finally looks like it did on the animated series, and characters like Brock and Misty bring on a wave of nostalgic emotions. Even for those too young to remember Pokémon in its infancy, however, the games’ sheer charm is enough to win you over.
Read our full Pokémon: Let’s Go review
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
You can only play Mario Kart games on Nintendo systems, but after you’ve looped around Rainbow Road about 364 times, you might be looking to play a different take on the genre. That’s where Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled comes in. A remade version of the original PlayStation game, it includes bonus content from Crash Nitro Kart as well as online multiplayer for the most skilled players.
Better yet, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled has added additional content via post-launch updates, and you can make your kart and racer your own with skins and other items.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The original Wii U version of Mario Kart 8 is one of the best games in the entire series, with inventive, gravity-defying courses, beautiful graphics, and a surprisingly competent online multiplayer mode. The game also launched with a “Battle” mode that did away with open-ended maps in favor of more race-oriented ones, rendering the mode significantly less fun than it was in games like Mario Kart 64.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe not only brings with it a revamped Battle mode, but also every single character and map released as downloadable content — for the Wii U version. A few new characters, like the Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl from Splatoon, also join the fun this time around. In addition to using the Joy-Con Grip and Switch Pro Controller to race, each player can also use one Joy-Con, and up to eight Switch owners can connect their systems for a local multiplayer party, even if they’re on the go.
Read our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review
Mario Tennis Aces
Nintendo served up another great Mario sports game with Mario Tennis Aces. Aces is simple enough to pick-up-and-play with no knowledge of the sport while also offering enough depth to make developing new strategies a must when playing online. The story mode, although short, is filled with hilarious writing and a series of increasingly challenging tennis mini-games and numerous engaging boss fights.
This time around, Nintendo added zone shots and special shots, both of which use up your special meter but are hard for your opponent to return. You can also get knocked out if all of your rackets break from failing to return powerful shots properly. Mario Tennis Aces has a wide cast of characters and online support to give it legs. There’s no denying it’s somewhat light on content, but it’s one of the best Nintendo Switch games for casual gamers that want something they can pick it up every couple weeks and enjoy a few matches online.
Read our full Mario Tennis Aces review
Sports games are rarely able to attract an audience beyond those who already enjoy the real-world version of a particular sport, but Golf Story is different. The lighthearted golfing game is a full-fledged retro-style role-playing game, with a cast of memorable characters, diverse environments similar to the Mario Golf series, and challenges for not just traditional golf, but also putt-putt and disc golf.
Golf Story has drawn some comparisons to Stardew Valley, which also made it onto our list, but it’s more comparable to something like Mario Tennis on Game Boy Color, as the focus is still first and foremost on the sport of golf. But with the game’s charm and beautiful visuals, even those with no interest in golf will find something to love in Golf Story.
When you think of Nintendo, you typically don’t correlate the platform with hyper-realistic sports simulators, but just like its competitors, you can jump into a basketball career with NBA 2K19. It refines offense, defense, and overall gameplay making it a more balanced iteration to the series and prioritizing skill above everything else.
Players will also be happy to know that MyCareer has an improved progression system with less of an emphasis on money and that alone makes it worth the upgrade.
Read our full NBA 2K19 review