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Finding the best Nintendo Switch games has never been easier...or more complicated. As the breakthrough console of the last generation, the Switch's runaway success means that more and more developers are being tempted by the lure of a huge install base. This means a huge variety of fun multiplayer and party games, including some family-friendly fare, the sort of thing Nintendo historically excels at. But the Switch also has a huge catalog of titles to appeal to more hardcore gamers, everything from shooters (though perhaps not as deep a catalog as the best Playstation 4 shooters) to platformers and arcade classics.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the best titles on the Switch are the ones developed by Nintendo itself, but that doesn't mean there aren't some can't-miss games from other studios. We sifted through the hundreds of options and plucked out the cream of the crop, whether you're looking for compelling solo experiences or awesome multiplayer party games. And for ways to make your Switch experience as smooth and convenient as possible, check out our roundup of the best Switch accessories.
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A high point in open world design
Huge variety of interlocking systems
Nearly endless replayability
Little guidance or signposting
Zelda games have always been acclaimed as some of the best ever created, and it’s no surprise that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes the cake for best overall Nintendo Switch Game. Nintendo’s flagship masterpiece offers a rich and immersive open world of exploration filled with surprises. We spent hours testing Breath of the Wild, and the experience only improves and deepens as you progress and unlock new mechanics, find new items, and reveal the exotic corners of this beautifully realized world. Our reviewer particularly liked the art style, with its bright, saturated colors which gave a unique feeling to exploration.
Adventure waits in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Filled with lush green planes, ancient crumbling ruins and momentous mountains, players are encouraged to explore without obligation. Sometimes you’ll encounter pig-men relaxing by a campfire, and by impulse, you’ll shoot the beehive in the tree next to them – now you’ve angered both the pig-men and the bees, and must defend yourself with swipes of your sword. Every item you collect has a story to tell and dungeons await you whenever you’re ready to save the world.
"Nintendo took a lot of time and consideration when it came to the visual design of Breath of the Wild, making us love the game even more for it." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester
The best carting game available
Easy to jump into, even for newbies
Limited single player appeal
Possibly the best racing game of all time, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings the best of Mario Kart 8 with all previous DLC, including extra courses and characters. It’s an ideal game for multiplayer, where friends can race against each other in multiple breathtaking courses or engage in a classic balloon battle with multiple items. Our reviewer played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe both with friends and solo, and while it definitely excels as a party game, there's enough meat on these bones to be a fun diversion even when you're playing alone.
Mario Kart 8 is a fast-paced item-collecting-friendship-destroying racing game. The ported Wii U title comes to the Nintendo Switch with full 1080p HD and makes for a great addition to the system’s library. New characters from other Nintendo games join the fray along with new courses that pay tribute to the previous Mario Kart games. The Switch’s handheld mode makes Mario Kart 8 an ideal portable game that other Switch owners can play alongside with.
"The game is simple enough that even if you’ve never played a Mario Kart game before, you should be able to figure things out with some trial and error." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester
Awesome multiplayer shooter
Unique paint mechanics
Cool progression hooks
Cartoon aesthetic may turn off older players
Splatoon 2 is a major upgrade from its predecessor, thanks to an improved single-player experience and multitude of online game modes for all skill levels. It’s the best shooter on the Nintendo Switch, offering a charm and E rating that normally doesn’t come with the genre. Playing it, our reviewer was struck not just by the depth and staying power of the multiplayer modes, but also by the remarkable amount of quality single-player content as well.
Nintendo managed to make a shooter game without the violence, and it’s one of the most fun ones to play. Splatoon 2 offers a split-screen local and online multiplayer option where players compete head-to-head in four vs. four battles. The objective based game focuses on players splatting ink in an entire area, covering as much territory as possible, all while avoiding being blasted by opponents. Splatoon 2 is set for future relevancy with another year or more of promised updates like new game modes and events, so there will always be something to play.
"Splatoon 2 is a game that we felt was far more appropriate for a younger audience than an older one." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester
The peanut butter and jelly of puzzle games
Great multiplayer modes
Colorful and easy to jump into
Abysmal story mode
Puyo Puyo Tetris is a throwback to the pinnacle puzzle games in the golden years of gaming with the universally known Tetris and less known (but just as addicting and fun) Puyo Puyo. The best Nintendo Switch Puzzle game is just as intense and heart pounding as any other competitive game on the list, requiring quick-thinking players to make order from chaos and organize pieces together.
Puyo Puyo Tetris offers a ton of various arcade modes for one to four players, including versus, an online challenge mode and a fusion mode where both games can be played. In Puyo Puyo, players race to connect four or more slime-ball creatures (called Puyos) together to pop. Puyos drop from the sky, much like Tetris, and can be connected horizontally and vertically. The game encourages chain links to build combos and unleash devastating attacks against other players. This is the best game to get if you like heart-pounding brainteasers.
As fun for kids as adults
Inventive puzzle design
Drop-in, drop-out coop
Snipperclips makes for the best Nintendo Switch Kids' Game that doesn’t demand too much gaming skill, but cooperation and critical thinking. Snipperclips is a unique addition to the Nintendo Switch game catalog – a puzzle game that requires you and a friend to cut each other into the right shapes and figures to overcome tricky obstacles.
With up to four players, you and a few friends can compete head-to-head in two versus two battles to see who can complete each puzzle stage the fastest. Players have to work together in cutting each other out into different shapes like needles to pop balloons or cogs to turn wheels in order to progress. The game encourages imagination and logic in order to complete at each of its stages and isn’t just bound to one method in order to succeed. The game includes an expansive single-player World mode as well.
The best Sonic game in decades
Near perfect level design
Kinetic, frenetic action
May feel dated for modern players
Sonic Mania is the long-awaited Sonic game that finally returns to the former glory of its groundbreaking predecessors in the 90s. The side-scrolling, platform-based game brings back the magic with its old-school gameplay and jazzy R&B house style soundtrack, which is all packaged in an updated high definition delivery.
Running at 60fps with stunning HD retro-style graphics, Sonic Mania is a callback to what made Sonic The Hedgehog once a more popular icon than Mario. Players can choose between classic characters like Tails and Knuckles, using their unique abilities like flying and brute strength for different level play styles. Our reviewer who played with his six-year-old son thought younger players who missed out on the 1990s Sonic explosion era can enjoy it now, playing new twists on classic zones while fighting against former foes like Dr. Robotnik and his evil robot army. Players can even go head-to-head in a competition mode or play the main game in a co-op mode with a friend.
"Sonic Mania looks like a pixel-perfect 16-bit release from the early 1990s." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester
One of the best fighting games ever
Slick mechanics and presentation
Very multiplayer friendly
Not much content for solo players
The classic fighting game that put this genre on the map is back with Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers. The game is filled with all the classic characters you’d find in the original Street Fighter II, plus a load of new content and updates like a retro mode.
By now, most gamers are familiar with Street Fighter and its many iterations over the years. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers resurrects the 1990s hit game and allows players to choose between classic pixel-art graphics for a nostalgia trip or a refined modern updated look. Players can team up with friends in an exciting new co-op story mode and utilize synchronized attacks against CPU players. The game features its classic offline multiplayer versus mode, as well as online Ranked and Casual matches. There’s also a 250+ digital art book with over 1,500 illustrations showcasing the 30 years of Street Fighter’s history.
Smart evolution of the best 3D platformer
Huge gameplay variety
Modern with nods to the classics
Aimed squarely at Nintendo stalwarts
Super Mario Odyssey is unlike any other Mario game in history, as our favorite plumber sets out to explore various dimensional worlds with unique physiques and graphics where he’s able to possess objects and living things. We tested Odyssey for our full review (link below) and were charmed by the sheer volume of things to do and see. Even more remarkable than the amount of variety is that almost none of it feels like filler; quite the opposite, the majority of the gameplay on offer is inventive, playful, and fun.
The 3D platform sandbox game is a staple to the Nintendo Switch library and has been well received by critics who claim it’s one of the best Mario games ever created. The gameplay is similar to previous Mario games like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine and introduces a new Mario power where he can control almost everything by throwing his hat on it. Players are able to use this power to possess everything from businessmen and dogs to electricity and tanks in order to complete levels. There are some pretty cool cheat codes, too. Bowser is set on marrying Princess Peach, and it’s up to you to stop him in this new humongous creative dynamic Mario adventure.
"There’s also an amazing balance, where the game combines the new visuals of these worlds with the old visuals of previous Mario games for a bit of nostalgic flair." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester
Tense moment-to-moment action
Dearth of single player content
Super Bomberman R is by far the perfect party game for the Nintendo Switch because of its simplicity and large multiplayer option. With up to eight players, the easy-to-follow battle royale game has you planting bombs and constantly escaping explosions.
Sure, it may look like a cute game, but Super Bomberman R will have your heart pumping with its intense battle modes and dangerous gameplay. You and everyone else will be dropped in a brick-filled maze until the last person standing is declared the winner. Along the way, you’ll blast through walls, collect power-ups (and power-downs) like increased bomb output, explosion range and speed, so you can have a leg up in the competition. It’s not all bomb-lust: Players can work together in saving the universe in the game’s story mode filled with 50 different stages.
The best Nintendo Switch game depends a lot on your personal use case. If you're looking for a deep open-world game to dive into by your lonesome, Breath of the Wild is one of the best ever made. Or, if you only pull the Switch out at parties or when you've got a bunch of friends over, you can't go wrong with Mario Kart 8, or one of the many other multiplayer games on our list, a category where the Switch is undeniably king.
Our expert reviewers and testers use several factors to evaluate the quality of Nintendo Switch games. We play through each game, judging the game based off the coherence of its plot, the quality of its graphics, and the overall enjoyment of its key gameplay loop. We balance the subjective elements of personal likes and dislikes, with an overall view of the genre as a whole and the value proposition offered by the games in terms of length and payoff. We also compare each game to a similar rival to help us make a final evaluation. Lifewire purchases each game; we do not accept review codes.
Andrew Hayward has been writing about games since 2006 and playing them even longer. He's previously written for publications like TechRadar, Stuff, Polygon, and Macworld. He reviewed Sonic Mania with his six-year-old son and particularly enjoyed the game's nostalgic gameplay elements.
Kelsey Simon, who reviewed four of the picks on our list, is a lifelong gamer and tech advocate for libraries, with a master's degree in library information and science. She loved the gorgeous, immersive open world of our top choice, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the snappy controls and engaging multiplayer of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2, and the creative settings and addictive gameplay of Super Mario Odyssey.
Genre - The main thing you need to consider when you're shopping for any game is what kind of experiences you enjoy most. It doesn't matter how well designed a game is if it's the sort of thing you're never going to play, so if you love first-person shooters, it's possible that flight sims just aren't for you. We've picked some of the best of every genre and tried to be as inclusive as possible, with an emphasis on the things Nintendo historically does best: platformers, multiplayer, and games for younger players.
Length - Sure, a 100-hour JRPG might seem like a great value proposition for your $60, but if you're a busy professional you might actually get more fun out of a short linear shooter (and more satisfaction when you're actually able to finish it). There are also a growing number of games-as-a-service that offer a continually evolving suite of systems and gameplay that you can dip into whenever you like, often for one flat fee; while a lot of these have yet to make their way to a Nintendo platform, more and more of them are popping up as developers realize what a long tail the Switch has.
Narrative - If you're the sort of gamer that loves a rich story and a fully developed, immersive world, you may take as much (or more) satisfaction from an adventure game or visual novel as from the latest Activision FPS. On the other hand, if you get your story kicks from books, films, and/or TV, maybe an addictive little puzzle game or a MOBA is the best gaming investment for you.