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This list of best Nintendo Switch games was originally published on March 5, 2018, but we're now adding ten new entries to the list!
The Nintendo Switch is still relatively new, considering other current-gen consoles. It just passed its one-year anniversary earlier this year after a stellar debut year that included new entries into The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Xenoblade, and Splatoon series, among others.
Similar to the best PlayStation games 4 list that we have floating around, we've decided to do the same for all the big consoles around at the moment. To properly celebrate the Switch, we put our heads together to choose the 25 best Nintendo Switch games; games that will rotate in and out of this list as more games release for the portable-home console. Unsurprisingly, considering the Switch's crazy first year, nailing this down to just 25 games was a tough task. But we did it.
Eventually, some titles may exit this list as others rise above them, and we'll keep a log of all the changes that are made as they come. In the meantime, here's our collective list of the 25 Best Nintendo Switch games. Enjoy!
While Bayonetta 2 made its debut on the Wii U and not the Nintendo Switch, it found itself buried alive on the console, gasping for one last breath. Luckily nothing held Bayonetta and her comrades back, as both games in the series were released on the Switch in early February 2018. The games run great too, with shorter load times than their counterparts on the Wii U. Even if the PC and Xbox One X Enhanced versions of the first Bayonetta are the best editions of it, the Switch version of the Nintendo-exclusive Bayonetta 2 is as good as it gets. Action, visuals, and ridiculous setpieces are left unrestrained by the hybrid-portable foray; if anything, the titular heroine is better for it. —Caty McCarthy
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, like a lot of Nintendo Switch games, is a port of a game that was formerly disgraced to the Wii U. Luckily, the Wii U was not its coffin, and Captain Toad and Toadette have been granted the chance to rise again, giving Switch players all around a dose of cute puzzle dioramas. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker doesn't pack much new features into the port, aside from a co-op mode and a handful of Super Mario Odyssey-inspired levels. It's one of the sorts of games that's great to play with kids too; so bundle up, grab your kids or nieces and nephews, and go on a nice little journey with your favorite mushroom characters from Mario. —Caty McCarthy
Celeste is a game about collecting strawberries and climbing a mountain. But not just any mountain: a mountain of one person's worst anxieties. Beyond that though, it's just an impeccably designed platformer. You jump, dash, and grab contraptions across every screen, with only the company of the ever-chilly Celeste mountain holding you back. It's a game that teaches you naturally over the course of the experience, and in an era where memorable platformers are so rare, Celeste's emotional and mechanical depth help it stand out in the crowd. —Caty McCarthy
Dead Cells is a painful game, but it's painful in a productive way. Kind of like ripping off a hangnail, I guess. Comparing any game to Dark Souls is a great way to earn mockery, but FromSoftware's influence on this 2D platforming adventure is undeniable. Dead Cells will kill you, but that's okay: Your character is literally engineered to die and revive again and again. Each death offers a lesson in how to dodge, how to weave, and how to best use the weapons available to you. In time, you should be able to earn permanent power-ups that let you get a little farther. Then farther still. Slowly up the ladder, catch the monkey. It's a satisfying, rewarding experience, and oh boy, will it ever try your patience. —Nadia Oxford
There's "Hey, this game is great on Switch!" and then there's "Hey, this game is great on Switch!" Diablo 3 is the latter. Not only does this classic top-down loot-collecting RPG run like magic on Nintendo's system, but its pick-up-and-play style of gameplay takes to the Switch like a demon takes to torture. In addition to its portability, Diablo 3 gives you all its content up-front (and a few extras, including a pet Cucoo from The Legend of Zelda; there's nothing like wandering through hellscapes accompanied by soft clucks). It's a smart purchase even if you own Diablo 3 on PC or other consoles. —Nadia Oxford
You may remember the golden era of when Mario sports games experimented, specifically when Mario got his own golf RPG. Golf Story, the indie game from developers Sidebar Games, is not only just a throwback to that very niche game, but to when sports games took themselves a little less seriously back in the day. With its cute pixelated art and endearing hero quest of an aspiring young golfer, Golf Story will make you laugh and feel challenged in equal measure. The Switch is quickly growing to be an indie powerhouse, and the exclusive Golf Story is only evidence of the platform's bright future. —Caty McCarthy
Hollow Knight was released in 2017, but it didn't really come into its own until 2018, when it finally released on Switch. Its style manages to be spooky yet vibrant, with insect-like protagonists and antagonists flitting about in the gloom. Its art style is apt to get most of the attention, but you shouldn't sleep on the gameplay, which is very challenging. The indie space isn't exactly lacking for Metroidvanias these days, but Hollow Knight's striking art and superb design helps it stand apart. Along with Celeste, Dead Cells, and Stardew Valley, it's one of the handful of indie games that every Switch owner should have. —Kat Bailey
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Into the Breach is hardcore. While gameplay is standard for a strategy RPG reminiscent of the Advance Wars-era, it takes a while to grasp Into the Breach's core mechanics. And even then the multiple mechs and mech team configurations make Into the Breach difficult to master. But once you get a hang of it, I promise it'll be hard to put down. While it's available on PC, the Switch version is definitely the most optimal way to take Into the Breach's short but addictive campaigns with you anywhere on the go. —Matt Kim
Does this game need any explanation for its inclusion on this list? The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the first reason to buy a Nintendo Switch. It swept pretty much all gaming awards for 2017, including the 2017 Game Awards and this year's DICE Awards. It also landed at the top of our list of the Best Games of 2017. Nintendo stepped up and threw Link into a ruined, lost Hyrule that also represented a wide open world for players to discover. What makes it work is the game's systemic nature, allowing players to mix and match weapons and abilities to find new solutions to problems and new ways to fight. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild offers an amazing sense of freedom and in doing so, climbs to the highest mountaintop on any list of the best Switch games, before jumping off to glide over the rest. —Mike Williams
When you're at a party, usually the fun comes down to two options: Smash Bros. or Mario Kart. I've always been firmly in the Mario Kart camp, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a slightly-rehashed port of the Wii U game of the same number, solidifies why. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is simply just endless fun. It's the ideal kart racing game, with beautifully designed tracks, high-speed 200cc racing, dozens of characters and kart combinations, and a revamped battle mode, which makes popping the balloons of your friends fun again. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an essential game for any Switch owner, just trust us the next time someone's pining for a party game. —Caty McCarthy
On paper, bringing Nintendo's marquee Mario franchise together with Ubisoft's Rabbids seems like a pure cash-in. Instead, it's a streamlined version of the gameplay found in the XCOM franchise: isometric turn-based strategy. Despite these changes, Mario + Rabbids isn't easy. It'll still kick your teeth in, even if the presentation is bright, colorful, and family-friendly. This is still a top-notch strategy experience, it just happens to be one that stars Mario and the Rabbids. —Mike Williams
What starts off like a throwback to Ninja Gaiden on NES ends up opening into far more. The Messenger isn't a love letter to a single game, it's an homage to an entire era of games, jumping from 8-bit to 16-bit, and from action-platformer to Metroidvania. And it works in the same way Shovel Knight does, by focusing on tight gameplay first and aesthetic second. The Messenger does nail both though, adding up to a wonderful experience that will remind you why you loved gaming in the first place, if you're old like some of us. —Mike Williams
Night in the Woods is a game about very real anxieties filtered through a modern visual style. While cute animal avatars give the impression that the world in Night in the Woods is something akin to perhaps a game like Animal Crossing, the characters that inhabit it are instead straight out of newspaper headlines of small towns hit hard by the country's economic crisis. It's a game about the collapse of rural America, the drug crisis, of poverty, and depression. It is, in other words, a game about real-life abstracted through the lens of video games. It is easily one of the best games to play on the Nintendo Switch. —Matt Kim
Octopath Traveler is the Switch's surprise 2018 hit. This unique RPG takes cues from the Bravely Default and SaGa series, then enshrouds them in an unforgettable "2D HD" art style. The game isn't for everyone: Some people weren't fond of the game's general lack of a central narrative. Octopath Traveler's strengths lie in the individual stories it tells about its characters, not to mention a battle system that's heavily based around pumping yourself up strategically (which sounds like what happens when tacticians hit the gym or something). Octopath Traveler isn't an RPG about blundering through fights: You need to think carefully about your moves, and take your companions' strengths and weaknesses into consideration, too. I can't wait to see what Square Enix has planned next for Octopath. P.S. Snow leopards rule. —Nadia Oxford
Every console needs a good party game. For the Nintendo Switch: it's Overcooked 2. (Also a Jackbox Party Pack or two, but mostly Overcooked 2.) Overcooked 2 isn't a huge step forward from its excellent predecessor, but it adds just what's necessary for the cooking co-op game: food throwing. That tiny addition changes everything, shockingly. While some levels are more of a nuisance than others, breaking out Overcooked 2 is guaranteed to get your house excited, whether your guests play games often or not. Remember the golden rule: in this kitchen, there's no such thing as a five-second rule. —Caty McCarthy
If you glance at a game of Puyo Puyo, you may not think it's all that different from Tetris. But actually, the two require complete opposite strategies. In Tetris, your goal is to clear as many lines as possible; in Puyo Puyo, your goal is to perfectly plot chains of the little matching bubbles to rack up as many points as you can in a row to devastate your opponent. Both games require opposite strategies, and when combined, create the perfect arcade puzzle game. So the next time you're caught in an argument deciding where to eat for dinner or something, break out Puyo Puyo Tetris to settle a winner. —Caty McCarthy
Shovel Knight might be the best throwback to the classic 16-bit action-platformer era of games. Yet, to say that suggests that what Shovel Knight excels at is only a mastery of old-school gameplay tropes. Instead, Shovel Knight innovates on tradition, introducing creative and modern new sensibilities to the 16-bit platformer in a way that's closer to WayForward than say, Mighty No. 9. The Switch version debuted with the most complete version of Shovel Knight anywhere, which is why we've included it in our list. —Matt Kim
Arguably, there hasn't been a good Sonic game in quite some time. Some may even argue there's never been a good Sonic game. But I digress, at the very least, Sonic Mania is the first great Sonic game in quite awhile. With the Sonic Team handing the series off to Western fans who adore the blue hedgehog, a marriage of modern attitude and Sega Genesis-like pixel art was born. Sonic Mania doesn't mince the difficulty of old-school platformers either, with some of the most challenging levels and bosses in the entire series. Its Switch version allows you to take your favorite speedy pals on-the-go when you gotta go fast on that commute of yours. —Caty McCarthy
Nintendo never seemed to be too big on multiplayer beyond the couch variety. That is, until Splatoon. The Splatoon series pins players as adorable (and stylish) Inklings, perhaps better known as squids who can turn into kids. You're armed with guns that shoot ink, rather than guns that shoot bullets and inflict violence. There are no kills, only "splats" and painting turf as your primary goal. Splatoon 2 perfects the Splatoon formula laid out by the game before it, adding more depth to random rolls on items, having a more replayable single-player campaign, and in implementing a shockingly great PvE mode called Salmon Run. Even if the multiplayer infrastructure in buddying up with friends is still a tad broken, Splatoon 2 quenches more than enough for your multiplayer shooter thirst. —Caty McCarthy
It's been gratifying to watch Stardew Valley blossom into a phenomenon. I've been an on-and-off fan of cartoonish farming sims since the original Harvest Moon for the SNES baffled the general public, and Stardew Valley feels like the genre finally grew into something grand, something very much worth sharing. Like a seed finally bearing fruit, if you will. Heeey, similes.
Stardew Valley isn't just about farming, though, and that might be the reason behind its mass appeal. It's a game about animal husbandry. It's a fishing game. It's a hack-and-slash adventure game. It's a dating simulator. It's an episode of The Young and the Restless. Whenever you feel like wandering off the farm, Stardew Valley has something for you to do. It's also just the perfect portable game, ideal for long plane or train rides. The Switch and Stardew Valley are soulmates, even if it took us a couple of years to learn as much. —Nadia Oxford
Steamworld Dig 2 is the game listed here, but you owe it to yourself to play the other games in the Steamworld Trilogy (Steamworld Dig, Steamworld Heist) alongside it. All three are on Nintendo Switch. Adopt them together, like a litter of brass puppies.
As with the first Steamworld Dig, Steamworld Dig 2's feedback loop is engineered to make you proud of your progress. You dig big holes to find minerals, sell those minerals, upgrade your equipment, then return to your dig site to burrow for more valuable materials. While you dig, you encounter mysterious characters and stories that urge you ever-onward. There's never a dull moment, even when you're grinding for gear. Steamworld Dig 2 is a wholesome gaming experience all-around. —Nadia Oxford
Super Mario Odyssey sometimes gets overshadowed by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when we talk about the best Switch games. And while Mario's Switch outing doesn't appear at first glance to innovate as completely as Breath of the Wild does, take a closer look. The 3D Mario formula has never been static, but it's never been as wild as it is in Mario Odyssey. The only close cousin I can think of in Mario's history that comes close to being as abstract and strange as Mario Odyssey is Super Mario Sunshine. Only Mario Odyssey sticks its ambitious landing. —Matt Kim
After the lackluster Valkyria Revolution, the Valkyria Chronicles series was overdue for some course correction. Luckily, that ended up coming in Valkyria Chronicles 4, which looks, plays, and feels like a throwback to its watercolored origins on PlayStation 3. Valkyria Chronicles 4 ushers in new conflict, new characters, and new strategy to wrap your head around, and it's easily at its best on Nintendo Switch. Also one of the members of its eclectic cast is a dog who wears a hat and runs in for support sometimes in battle, what's not to love? —Caty McCarthy
Good old Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I ultimately clocked in over 200 hours with this goof, and I loved every minute. As with the first Xenoblade game, I immediately found myself drawn in by the weird world surrounding me. I've had enough of RPG stereotypes like castles and mountains. Put me on the back of a stone titan that never stops walking ponderously around an enormous tree of mysterious origin.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 isn't for everyone. Its battle system takes some getting used to, though you come to appreciate the depth when you run into the game's harder challenges. There's just so much to do, and it's truly staggering. Even the main story will take you close to the 100 hour mark. If you've an open mind about long, long RPGs, give Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a try. It's a haul, but you're accompanied by one of the best soundtracks on the Switch, guaranteed. —Nadia Oxford
Metroid-and-Castlevania-likes are common nowadays, but every now and then, one captures our hearts. Yoku's Island Express is a charming open-world-ish platformer with one core conceit that Samus and the Belmonts don't have: pinball. Yes, you play as a bug who rolls around a little ball, delivering mail to an entire world on the brink of destruction. The art's cute, and the playstyle is cuter, as you fling the bug around using omnipresent bumpers. It's one of the most clever blends of a platformer and another genre that I've ever seen, making it just the perfect game to complete your library on Switch. —Caty McCarthy
You can find our other rotating Best Of lists for current-generation platforms below:
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