clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
illustration of the principle characters from Hyrule Warriors: The Age of Calamity Image: Koei Tecmo Games/Nintendo via Polygon

Filed under:

The 22 best Nintendo Switch games

Just got a Switch? Here are the games you should pick up

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Looking for the best games on the Nintendo Switch? What follows is a living list of the 22 Nintendo Switch games we recommend everyone play or watch, in case you’re new to the system or just want something new to play.

Why 22 games, though? Good question! It’s a solid number of titles, spread across a variety of genres, with selections for families, children, and adults. But 22 isn’t an overwhelming number, and we wanted to focus on the best of the best for this guide to the essential releases of the platform. Find something you like, and see what you think. And just in case you get stuck, we’ve included a link to our guide for each game when possible, just in case you need a little help.

And if the list of 22 games up top isn’t enough for you, check out a few extra recommendations we threw in at the bottom. The Switch is one of Nintendo’s most popular consoles in some time, with a game library to match. Take a look — we hope you find something you like.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a perfect re-creation of an imperfect batch of games. In the case of Super Mario Sunshine, those imperfections are far too consistent and devastating to recommend the game.

Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, though, are both fantastic. The quality of both titles is so high that some unfortunate drawbacks (dated visuals in the former, motion controls in the latter) aren’t enough to stymie the pure excellence on hand.

If anything, Super Mario 3D All-Stars shows the breadth of what a 3D Mario game can be, and much of that is truly excellent.

Though seriously, y’all, Mario Sunshine sucks.

-Russ Frushtick

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics

All of the games you can play in Clubhouse Games on Switch Image: NDCube/Nintendo

Yeah, you might have a bunch of these board games lying around your house, but the magic of Clubhouse Games on Switch is the sheer convenience of it. There’s no tracking down the missing rook from your chess set or trying to remember where you hid your poker chips. You won’t have to worry about stepping on a dart in the dark of night, either.

Better still, if you happen to have multiple Switches in the house, multiplayer is possible with just one copy of the game, thanks to a free Clubhouse Games multiplayer app in the eShop. Suddenly setting up an intense bout of mahjongg isn’t quite so intimidating!

Oh, there’s also a piano for some reason.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Burnout Paradise

A car crashes in Burnout Paradise on Switch Image: Criterion Games/Electronic Arts

You may be surprised to learn that there are very few great racing games on the Nintendo Switch. And if you’re looking for something a little more grounded in reality than Mario Kart, well, your options dwindle even further. Thankfully there’s Burnout Paradise.

Now granted, there’s nothing super realistic about Burnout Paradise, given the arcade-y physics, but you’re not dodging shells or bananas, so that’s something.

Paradise happens to be one of the finest racing games ever made and the port on Switch is stellar, with all of the features that the original had, including the mandatory 60 fps and online multiplayer. The open world, bite-sized races make it great for pick-up, put-down play in handheld mode, and it scales up nicely on the TV as well. It’s genuinely the only racing game on Switch that gives Mario Kart a run for its coins.

Get it here: Nintendo eShop

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Key art for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Image: Koei Tecmo/Nintendo

There are two things most people will tell you about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One, that the genre-defining open-world adventure is amazing, if not one of the best games of all time. And two, that they wish they could experience it all over again, fresh.

So far, Nintendo hasn’t yet perfected the mind-erasing tech necessary to make that happen, but Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity might be the next best thing. It’s like discovering the director’s cut of your favorite movie, or finding out that the author of a great book has a lot more where that came from. For dozens of hours, Age of Calamity allows you to spend more time with beloved characters in a world you may not have wanted to leave in the first place. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this is that Age of Calamity pays homage to everything that made Breath of the Wild great while also establishing its own distinct sense of grandeur.

I’m not sure you’ll get nearly as much out of Age of Calamity if you didn’t play Breath of the Wild, or if you are a hardcore “Musou” fan who is hoping that Koei Tecmo pushed its signature hack-and-slash series into new ground. If anything, Age of Calamity seems like a crossover game meant to introduce new people into the genre, which is known for its large-scale battles and flashy combat. In some ways, the game already assumes you’re invested in the characters from its epic story.

Breath of the Wild takes place in a ravaged world a hundred years in the future, with many of its heroes of myth long dead by the time Link wakes up. You go on to save the day, of course, but there was a deep sense of melancholy and pathos in knowing the enormous price that was paid to ensure your eventual victory. Age of Calamity’s proposition as a prequel to that is a juicy one: What if I could play through all the events I heard about in Breath of the Wild?

-Patricia Hernandez

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Standing in flowers in Animal Crossing: New Horizons Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

You find yourself on a deserted island and a large raccoon presents you with a house mortgage. Welcome to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, one of the most bizarre — yet broadly appealing — games on the Nintendo Switch.

The series has always been about living among animal villagers while completing simple tasks like fishing and bug catching. But New Horizons, with its gorgeous graphics and incredible customization options, has really stepped the franchise up dramatically. The entire island is now open to customization, letting you place everything from the placement of rivers to the design printed on vendor stalls that line your streets.

New Horizons is also profoundly kid-friendly, allowing youngsters to create their own homes on a shared, family island. If you’re looking to connect with people outside of your family unit, there’s full online connectivity for up to eight players at once.

Looking for a chill experience to wind down after a rough day? There’s really no better option than Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | Walmart | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Pokémon Sword and Shield

A Pokémon trainer sends out her Raboot in Pokémon Sword and Shield Image: Game Freak, The Pokémon Company/Nintendo

Nintendo’s first Pokémon game on the Switch — Let’s Go! Eevee/Pikachu — was a solid remake of the original 1998 Pokémon adventure. But it wasn’t a brand-new game. Pokémon Sword and Shield is exactly that, with a new cast of monsters to catch and a new world to explore.

Granted, there’s been a lot of drama about the fact that not every single Pokémon from every previous game is available in Sword and Shield. But if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, you’ll find a really delightful journey here. The game’s new region, Galar, is inspired by the United Kingdom, with all its rolling hills, lakes, and forests just teeming with adorable beasties.

Hardcore Pokémon fans will appreciate enhanced endgame features like the Battle Tower and breeding functionality. But for everyone else, the 20- to 30-hour adventure is filled with fun characters and beautiful vistas, making it feel like a true trip abroad.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Luigi’s Mansion 3

King Boo chases Luigi in Luigi’s Mansion 3 Image: Next Level Games/Nintendo

Luigi’s capricious series has only seen three entries since 2001, but the latest on Switch is the strongest by far. Rather than a mansion, Luigi has to clear a haunted motel of ectoplasmic beasts in a quest to save Mario, Peach, and a handful of Toads.

Mechanically, the game hasn’t changed much over the last 19 years. Luigi still slowly creeps from room to room looking for levers to pull and ghosts to suck up in his vacuum. But thanks to the increased power of the Switch, the rooms are now filled with all sorts of fun junk to suck up and swing around, which is enormously satisfying.

Kid-friendly themes and co-op support throughout the campaign also make this a great pick if you’ve got a youngster in your life. Even kids as young as 5 should be able to handle the low-stakes role of Gooigi, Luigi’s bizarre, intangible alter ego.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | Nintendo eShop

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Geralt looking sad in the Switch version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Image: CD Projekt Red/CD Projekt

The announcement that The Witcher 3 was coming to Switch was greeted with shock and wonder. Even though the makers of another massive open-world RPG, Skyrim, had pulled off the feat, The Witcher 3 was even more visually ambitious than Bethesda’s game. Would it even be playable? Apparently so!

The Witcher 3 on Switch isn’t quite the stunner that it is on the PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox one. But it’s still quite playable, and having one of the greatest RPGs ever made in a portable format is a huge perk. Geralt’s main quest is easily 60 hours long, but with the added DLC, you’re looking at something that’s liable to take 100 hours to complete, if not more. With a game that big, it’s always nice to be able to chill on the couch while hunting for herbs.

If you’ve been fiending for something to fill the Breath of the Wild-sized hole in your heart, The Witcher 3 fits the bill admirably.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | Nintendo eShop

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Bernadetta aims a curved arrow shot at an enemy in Fire Emblem: Three Houses Image: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games/Nintendo

The Fire Emblem franchise is a bizarre amalgam of many genres, from strategy to relationship simulator. The first Switch installment, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, maintains the strong strategy roots while fleshing out the events between battles. There’s now a fully explorable school where players can interact with their units, give them presents, and even take them to tea! The academy succeeds in making players feel emotionally attached to these characters, which makes losing them in combat even more brutal.

The game’s three campaigns are massive, each taking around 50 hours to complete, with plenty of branching options and multiple endings. The sheer length of it makes it a perfect fit on Switch, where it’s easy to stop and start at a moment’s notice.

If you’re looking for a strategy epic with the scope of Game of Thrones (but with more tea parties), Fire Emblem: Three Houses succeeds mightily.

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Target | Nintendo eShop

Super Mario Maker 2

Mario jumping over water in Super Mario Maker 2 Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

When it comes to game design, you may think it’s best to leave it up to the professionals. But Super Mario Maker 2 proves that even the least capable among us have a level or two up their sleeves. The game’s approachable controls and interface make tossing together your own Mario creation a breeze. Plus, being able to do it all on the go with the Switch means you can utilize the touchscreen for faster placement and better precision.

If designing levels isn’t your thing, Super Mario Maker 2 comes with its own batch of Nintendo-made stages. It also allows you to play an unending supply of fan-created levels, siphoning only the best creations to the top of your list.

Fans of the 2D Mario era will love all the unique twists to classic mechanics, and a strong online community means there should be plenty of levels for years to come.

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Target | Nintendo eShop

Cadence of Hyrule

Link fighting enemies in a dungeon in Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer featuring The Legend of Zelda Image: Brace Yourself Games/Nintendo

Nintendo tends to be pretty cautious with its franchises, which makes the arrival of Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer featuring The Legend of Zelda such a nice surprise. Handing the reins of the Zelda franchise to an independent developer seems like a risky move, but when that indie has the proven chops of a game like Crypt of the NecroDancer, it’s a much safer bet.

Cadence adopts NecroDancer’s core gameplay mechanic: Movement and action can only happen on the beat of the soundtrack. Enemies are forced to obey these rules too, so you end up having a foot-tapping ballet where Zelda’s heroes are effortlessly bouncing around the screen, slicing moblins in time with some wicked remixed tracks. (You can also set it to ignore the music, making the enemies move only when you do.)

Gorgeous 2D artwork and that brilliantly remixed score make the package feel like it was made by an in-house Nintendo team. Toss in a fully randomized map, making each adventure feel fresh, and you begin to realize: There’s never been a better Zelda spinoff.

Get it here: Nintendo eShop

Baba Is You

‘Baba is You and Sink’ in Baba Is You Image: Hempuli Oy

Baba Is You looks like it could have come out 30 years ago. Its graphics are easily within the scope of what the NES could pump out. Despite that, it’s an incredibly modern puzzle game, turning established video game concepts on their ear in incredible ways.

The basics: Baba is a rabbit. Move Baba to a flag to complete a map. But moving blocks of words on the map (like “Wall is Stop”) will change the parameters of what Baba is capable of (or even change Baba himself).

The best puzzle games seem incredibly simple at first glance, but beneath the surface, Baba Is You is a fascinating dissection of the genre. With just a handful of parameters, it manages to create an approachable yet mind-bending experience. There aren’t a ton of puzzle games on Switch, but Baba Is You is one of the best.

Get it here: Amazon | Nintendo eShop

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Link fighting Ness in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Image: Bandai Namco Studios, Sora Ltd./Nintendo

There’s a kitchen-sink aspect to the latest installment of Super Smash Bros. Every single character, stage, and item that has ever appeared in the franchise returns in this outrageously scoped package.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the most ambitious multiplayer game Nintendo has ever made, but despite the scale, it’s incredibly friendly to newcomers. You’ll start out with just eight characters to choose from, slowly building the gang up to over 70 contenders. A new single-player mode offers up a nice way to experiment with unplayed characters while collecting hundreds of artifacts from gaming history.

If you’re having friends over, this and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are must-haves for your Switch. Just make sure you have enough controllers.

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Target | Nintendo eShop

Monster Hunter Rise

A hunter and palico celebrate in Monster Hunter Rise Image: Capcom via Polygon

The Monster Hunter series is known for being unfriendly to newcomers, with deliberate combat and loads of complex menus to navigate. Players gather resources, take on lengthy boss fights with energetic monsters, and skin their prey to make better gear for the next hunt. The series is slow-moving, a trait that offers finesse to players who master its timing, but can throw off newbies trying to survive their first hunt.

The Wirebug — a living creature that gives you the ability to dash through the sky like Spider-Man — changes that. The X button takes me straight into the air, and A dashes me forward while holding the ZL trigger on my Switch. I can also hold ZL to aim my Wirebug more precisely, hitting ZR when I’m ready to fly a short distance. I can press A in midair to hang from a Wirebug indefinitely, or B after getting hit by a monster to get myself back on my feet. The variety in movement options offers a level of finesse I’ve never had in a Monster Hunter game before.

The Wirebug is not a tool you need to equip in Monster Hunter Rise; it’s an unlimited system with a short cooldown, and it’s always with you, even back in town when you’re crafting weapons. I have two Wirebugs when I start a hunt. I can use them back to back to dash twice as far, or just one at a time to get myself in the air for a quick strike. I can climb a mountain by alternating between zipping and running up the side. The Wirebug opens up the entire map as playable space, instead of the prebuilt alleyways and arenas from previous games where I can battle beasts and collect mushrooms.

This mobility helps give Rise a more modern feel than its predecessors. Instead of lying on the ground after a big hit, I can use my Wirebug to recover in midair. It lets me pull myself to safety and heal before the monster can catch me again. I don’t only have to choose between dodging left or right; I can also dodge up. I can escape a fight by scaling a mountain, or follow a retreating monster by zipping over some buildings. I have more chances to save myself from the often brutal enemy AI.

But that mobility cuts both ways. As it lowers Rise’s skill floor, it also raises the skill ceiling, allowing for incredible plays. I started Rise using the Wirebug just to dodge and recover, but it didn’t take me long to learn how to zip around fights and bash on the monster from creative angles. I can zip to dodge an attack, dodge again in midair, and bring my hammer down on the monster’s head with a crack. -Ryan Gilliam

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | GameStop | Best Buy


TowerFall on Nintendo Switch Image: Matt Makes Games

The Switch was designed with multiplayer in mind. Outside of first-party Nintendo releases, few games take better advantage of same-system multiplayer than TowerFall. At first glance, TowerFall appears to be a 2D clone of Super Smash Bros. In truth, it’s even more approachable than Nintendo’s brawler. Heroes equipped with arrows engage in minutelong battles to the death, using stomps, dodges, and jump pads to slaughter their competition.

The bright, colorful graphics pop so well that a group of four players crowded around a tiny Switch screen can still play easily, enjoying a range of multiplayer matches without losing sight of their own character and their competitors. Dollar for dollar, TowerFall may be the best competitive multiplayer game on Switch, so if you’re looking to make some enemies, look no further.

Get it here: Best Buy | Nintendo eShop

Into the Breach

Into the Breach - laser attack Image: Subset Games

The Switch’s portable nature makes it a perfect fit for turn-based strategy games, which let you take a break at just about any time. Into the Breach is unquestionably one of the best the genre has seen in recent years. This 2D isometric strategy game has you commanding mechs as they battle against a force of giant bugs.

Despite the simple graphics, there’s an incredible amount of depth and strategy in Into the Breach, with every single decision requiring a cost-benefit analysis. And yet, none of this ever feels overwhelming or frustrating. It’s a master class in presentation, giving you just the information you need at any given time.

The 2D graphics also mean you’ll get plenty of juice out of your Switch, which can be a little iffy in terms of battery life for 3D games. If you’re looking to erase a long flight or commute, Into the Breach has you covered.

Get it here: Amazon | Nintendo eShop


Celeste - pink and purple background Image: Matt Makes Games

The so-called masocore genre consists of games that require you to die over and over again until you’re able to best a stage. These games are rarely inviting, but Celeste breaks that mold with gorgeous 2D artwork and a heartfelt storyline to pull you through. It also features an “assist mode,” letting players select from a variety of modifiers to make the game easier.

Despite its welcoming nature, it’s also incredibly punishing, if that’s what you’re looking for. The game’s main campaign isn’t too brutal, but upon completion, it unlocks a handful of levels that would challenge even the most dedicated platforming veterans.

In that way, Celeste manages to be all things to all people: a casual, story-centric adventure and a super intense, hardcore platformer, all in one.

Get it here: GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Hollow Knight

leaping to a platform above purple crystals in Hollow Knight Image: Team Cherry

It took a little while for Hollow Knight to finally arrive on Switch after a successful launch on PC, but that delay paid off. It may be the greatest Metroidvania ever made, and it has found a perfect home, especially when played in handheld mode.

There’s a level of copy-and-paste roteness to games of this genre, but Hollow Knight manages to create a handcrafted world that is massive, eerie, and beautiful, all the while adding to the Metroidvania formula in a number of unexpected ways. And since it’s a 2D game, you can explore this world for lengthy play sessions without worrying that your Switch’s battery will die within an hour or two.

Get it here: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey - Bowser with Tiara in his hand Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

Using the building blocks of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, and its sequel, Super Mario Odyssey layers in a new range of movements for our favorite plumber. By combining jumps, dodges, and a springboard-esque hat named Cappy, Mario is as nimble as ever. By far our favorite bit of acrobatics involves Mario tucking up in a tight ball and tumbling through the world like a small boulder.

But the real twist to Mario Odyssey is the ability to take command of enemies, including the deviously satisfying Pokio, a bird that uses its nose to stab into surfaces before flinging itself upward. It feels so good that I’d fully support a Pokio-led spinoff.

Odyssey is a reminder that Nintendo can still reinvent Mario in interesting ways, more than 35 years since he first battled Donkey Kong.

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Stardew Valley

A typical scene from Stardew Valley, including a barn and coop area and a field of crops. A duck, chicken, and goat are outside in a fenced-in area. Image: ConcernedApe/Chucklefish

The hardest part of Stardew Valley is getting over the hump that you’re paying money for a farming game. Once you do that, you will quickly find yourself and your hours melting away.

Created almost entirely by a single designer, Stardew Valley places you in the role of a new farm owner on the edge of a small town. What starts simple (hoeing the dirt, planting seeds, watering seeds), slowly unravels into a far bigger experience, as you build relationships, explore dungeons, and participate in events that bring the world to life.

The experience has found no better home than on the Switch, where basic duties can be performed on a mass-transit commute with no loss of fidelity or satisfaction. It’s soothing and Zen-like, a perfect way to wind down after a long day. And yet, at higher levels of play, it can be surprisingly strategic and challenging.

Get it here: Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario aiming a green shell at Bowser Jr. in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Image: Nintendo

It’s obviously a point of contention, but I believe Mario Kart 8 is the greatest installment of the franchise thus far. Unfortunately, it came out on the Wii U, a console that barely anybody owned.

Its arrival on Switch ensures that the most important aspect of Mario Kart is maintained: easy multiplayer. While there are plenty of single-player challenges to keep people busy, Mario Kart has always been a party game franchise, and the fact that every Switch is already packing two controllers is an instant boon.

If you happen to have a few more controllers (or better yet, friends with a Switch or two), it’s remarkably easy to get a squad of four, six, or even eight people in the same tournament together. All without the hassle of having wires strewn about your living room.

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Link on horseback riding toward two horses Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

This is the best Zelda game ever made, and unquestionably the best game on the Nintendo Switch. Tomes could be filled with the glories levied upon Breath of the Wild, so rather than repeat those, I wanted to focus on one specific thing that’s remarkable. You can run in a straight line from one end of the map to the other without stopping or seeing a load screen (assuming you’re well-equipped and don’t hit, say, a patch of lava).

Why is this a big deal? Because it offers players the incredible freedom to climb over anything in their way — including entire mountain ranges. Most games don’t trust players enough to let them run roughshod over a carefully designed game world, but Nintendo gives you the reins with the first hour.

This freedom persists throughout Breath of the Wild, giving players a toolkit to interact with the world in wild, unpredictable ways. Folks have spent hours coming up with ways to abuse the physics of the world, but they all work within the ruleset that Nintendo laid out. In short, it’s all part of the plan. And that plan is masterfully executed.

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Other recommended Switch games

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | GameStop | Best Buy | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Amazon | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Walmart | GameStop | Target | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | GameStop | Best Buy | Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Nintendo eShop

Get it here: Walmart | Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Nintendo eShop

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon