The 9 Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2021

We've got the most addicting games for the newest Nintendo console

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"It gives players a charming virtual world to shape and explore as well as a chance to experience it with others."
"There's online, up to four-player split-screen on the same system, as well as through local wireless with multiple Switch consoles."
"The open world nature of the game is an exciting new twist on the franchise."
"Luigi gains other tools along the way as he solves various puzzles and has to defeat tricky boss ghosts."
"With over 150 hours worth of content and good reasons to replay it, it's a fantastic value for money."
"There's a story mode which has you gradually rebuilding Princess Peach's castle by using coins you earn from jobs."
"You can choose your weapon from a selection of blades and bows that allow you to try out noticeably different styles of play."
"Players must capture outposts and meet objectives by mostly button-mashing their way through enemies and fearsome bosses."
"Immortals Fenyx Rising offers dozens of puzzles to solve, mythological beasts to fight, and places to explore."

The best Nintendo Switch games highlight just how diverse, accessible, and fun the console can be. Thanks to the flexibility that comes from being able to play on your TV one minute before going portable with the touchscreen the next, the Nintendo Switch (and the Switch Lite) is a great way to enjoy games however you want. Even up against strong competition from Sony and Microsoft, it's a hugely popular console for understandable reasons.

Much of the Switch's success is thanks to a strong game lineup that features beloved Nintendo franchises such as Mario and Zelda, with many titles designed for the whole family to enjoy. Fans will like discovering familiar characters and nostalgic game environments all with a fresh twist to bring it into the modern world. Elsewhere, there's no shortage of original properties too, whether they're big name blockbuster titles or less-hyped but much-loved indie gems.

Best Overall: Nintendo Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Nintendo Animal Crossing: New Horizons
What We Like
  • Explore at your own pace

  • New content added regularly

  • Great for adults and kids alike

What We Don't Like
  • Only one island per Switch console supported

Released just as people all over the world found themselves stuck at home, Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out at a perfect time. It gives players a charming virtual world to shape and explore as well as a chance to experience it with others, all at a time when that felt less likely in real life.

It starts with your custom character flown to an initially deserted island, where you have the ability to guide the island's development, upgrade your home and furnishings, all while befriending colorful and quirky animal villagers.

The Animal Crossing series is known for a non-traditional type of gameplay that's not always for everyone, as it's very genteel compared to other games. However, that makes it immensely accessible as well as enjoyable for young and old, gamers and non-gamers alike. Dedicated players can find ways to grind out various aspects of New Horizons, while others can focus on the real-time, long-term experience it's designed for.

There are new things to do every day with new content regularly added. You can choose to gather fruits and resources to craft items, as well as catch fish and bugs for profit or to kit out your own museum. New furniture and apparel become available to purchase in-game each day too, plus there are opportunities to bring new visitors to your island. Limited-time events during holidays and different seasons enhance the vibrancy of the New Horizons world. 

Want to visit a friend's island? That's easily possible here with local and online multiplayer, giving you a chance to view friends' islands and houses, as well as meet their villagers or swap items. You can also generate one-time codes to invite over players you may have met via the online community. The only downside to New Horizons is that while multiple players can build homes and play together on the same island, you'll need separate consoles (and game cards) to have separate islands.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 6.2GB

Best Multiplayer: Nintendo Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
What We Like
  • Plenty of tracks to race

  • Great co-op gameplay

  • Lots of new characters and items

What We Don't Like
  • Limited number of tracks available for online play

  • Voice chat for friends only

When it comes to fun multiplayer mayhem, it's tough to beat Mario Kart. It's no surprise that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe quickly became one of the best-selling games in history. The Switch version enhances the original Wii U game by including new characters, arenas, and battle modes. This means a selection of 48 diverse and dazzling racecourses are available from the start, with revamped tracks from previous Mario Kart games almost making this feel like the best kind of greatest hits collection. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is ideal for all age groups, being very simple to pick up and play. It's well balanced too, adding features such as smart steering and auto-accelerate to assist newcomers and young players. For the experienced Mario Kart player, there's a wealth of shortcuts and ways to speed up your lap times too.

Reinforcing its reputation as the ultimate multiplayer game, it's possible to play with friends through multiple routes. There's online, up to four-player split-screen on the same system, as well as through local wireless with multiple Switch consoles in handheld mode. A choice of conventional racing or Battle mode gives you plenty of variety with the latter proving particularly frantic.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 6.7GB

"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

Best Remake: Nintendo Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

What We Like
  • Clever use of Mario franchise

  • Bowser's Fury is a great new twist

  • Colorful, vibrant graphics

What We Don't Like
  • Some awkward camera work

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury may not be the sequel to Super Mario Odyssey that some hoped for, but it's a fantastic port of a much overlooked Wii U game and it adds plenty of new content too. Super Mario 3D World mashes up elements from Mario's 3D and 2D adventures with captivating results. It's a bit quirky and goofy at times but in an utterly charming way.

Alongside that is Bowser's Fury, a completely new 3D Mario mini-campaign that drops you into an open world of islands as you take on cat-themed challenges. As the name suggests, these endeavors are all in a bid to take on a super-sized and extra-angry Bowser. The open world nature of the game is an exciting new twist on the franchise, and potentially a suggestion of a new direction for future Mario games. Combined, it's a must-play experience.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 2.9GB

"It’s a fun hybrid that brings in the best of both 2D and 3D Mario games, and Nintendo puts it to great use in exploring lots of creative and sometimes downright goofy ideas." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best for Kids: Nintendo Luigi's Mansion 3

Nintendo Luigi's Mansion 3
What We Like
  • Both single and multiplayer

  • Light-hearted tone

  • New mechanics

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult for some young children

Despite the game's moody and mysterious atmosphere, Luigi's Mansion 3 is positively light-hearted in its attitude and it's an ideal game for the whole family. Centered around one of Nintendo's goofier characters, Luigi, the plumber must rescue his brother Mario and friends from a luxury hotel filled with ghosts. It sounds creepy but it's thoroughly charming. 

That's because Luigi's main tool is his trusty Poltergust vacuum cleaner, which sucks up ghosts as well as any other objects he sees. Combined with highly interactive and destructible environments, it's a (sometimes literal) blast figuring out what to do as you traverse the 15+ floors of the hotel.

Luigi gains other tools along the way as he solves various puzzles and has to defeat tricky boss ghosts. The sweetest addition is Gooigi, a green, oozy clone that can be summoned at will. A single player can swap between the two characters, or a second player can choose to take control for drop-in co-op play. 

Other game modes include online and local multiplayer, allowing players to work together to clear floors or choose to go head-to-head in the ScreamPark mode.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 6.36GB

Best RPG: Nintendo Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Nintendo Fire Emblem: Three Houses
What We Like
  • Lengthy campaign

  • Well-written story

  • Good voice acting

What We Don't Like
  • Needs more map variety

Much like the other best role-playing games for Switch, Fire Emblem: Three Houses immerses you in a sweeping story arc and never lets go. With over 150 hours worth of content and good reasons to replay it, it's a fantastic value for money, not least because it also offers a gripping experience every step of the way.

Your main player character is pulled into an officer's academy where they need to pick from one of three houses to teach. From there, you have branching paths, multiple endings, and so many reasons to replay the game thanks to your decisions affecting what happens. Free updates and downloadable content (DLC) further enhance the replayability. 

While the graphics aren't anything groundbreaking, they capture the anime style of the game well, and the fully animated action cutscenes look lavish. That's all backed up by impeccable voice acting, too. 

The core gameplay will be familiar to anyone who's played one of the 15 previous Fire Emblem games, or any other turn-based tactical RPG before. You command your deployed units around a grid-based battlefield, choosing to move, attack foes, or support one another. Further flexibility comes from the ability to wield multiple types of weapons or magic, as well as use extensive skills. A choice of difficulty modes ranging from casual to the perma-death infused classic mode offer plenty of challenge. 

Outside of combat, Three Houses has several simulation-game elements new to the series, with players able to spend time teaching classes, farming, and establishing relationships with students at the school. It all forms together to make a more fresh and rounded experience than other RPGs like it.

ESRB: T (Teen) | Install Size: 10.9GB

“Three Houses is also a teaching simulator, and a fishing simulator, and a pet-feeding simulator, and a meal-eating simulator. Three Houses is a JRPG protagonist life simulator.” Emily Ramirez, Product Tester

Best Platformer: Nintendo Super Mario Maker 2

Nintendo Super Mario Maker 2
What We Like
  • Fun story mode

  • Online and local multiplayer

  • Plenty of level assets

What We Don't Like
  • Laggy multiplayer

More than just your standard side-scrolling platform game, Super Mario Maker 2 provides you with the freedom to create and edit as well as share 2D course creations of your own, much like Super Mario Maker for Wii U. That means you can place parts such as terrain, traps, blocks, baddies, and power-ups, creating levels just like stages you've seen in Mario's 2D adventures of the past.

You can even change up the background, add sound effects, adjust the scroll speed, and a lot more. Once created, simply upload them to the online community where up to four players can play them together locally or online, before rating their experience. 

As well as that, there's a story mode which has you gradually rebuilding Princess Peach's castle by using coins that you earn from jobs assigned by Toad and other characters. Through it, you can enjoy numerous 2D platforming levels which offer a distinct twist on a past game, ranging from the original Super Mario Bros. right up to the more "2.5D" style of New Super Mario Bros.

Returning to the Maker side of the game, a World Maker feature allows you to create world maps with up to five of your custom courses in each, with a Super World containing eight of those world maps. It's a rich set of features that offer a never-ending experience.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 2.8GB

Best Roguelike: Supergiant Games Hades

Supergiant Games Hades
What We Like
  • Rewarding replay loop that builds a story

  • Interesting mythology-based characters

  • Excellent visuals and music

What We Don't Like
  • Gameplay repetition can be annoying

A roguelike game is one that is defined by procedurally generated levels where if your character dies, you start over again. In Hades for the Nintendo Switch, you're an immortal prince, Zagreus, so dying is very much part of the story without permanent repercussions. Each death brings you back with new skills along with upgrades and abilities that will help you eventually battle your way out of the underworld.

It's possible to wield one of six primary weapons, choosing from a selection of blades and bows that allow you to try out noticeably different styles of play. It's also possible to earn items that can further enhance your experience during each new run. 

Where things get most interesting is how you encounter Gods and heroes from Greek mythology, such as Ares, Athena, Achilles, and more. By gaining their trust, you also gain their powers and support, with a little more of the story unlocked along the way.

Each character is voice acted and it's fascinating seeing how their backstories open up. It's an addictive process seeing how the story unfolds bit by bit, with the characters remembering a little about their past and making new comments each time. You'll find yourself returning again and again.

ESRB: T (Teen) | Install Size: 5.8GB

Best Action RPG: Nintendo Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

What We Like
  • Highly enjoyable

  • Diverse playable characters

  • Ties into Breath of the Wild and other Zelda games

What We Don't Like
  • Can get repetitive

  • Not traditional Legend of Zelda gameplay

Originally on the Wii U and ported across to the Switch with some added elements, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity takes its inspiration from the long-running Dynasty Warriors franchise, adding characters and settings from the Legend of Zelda's history timeline. The game serves as a spin-off/prequel to the Switch's acclaimed Breath of the Wild (BotW). It's not the same sort of open-world experience but it still captures the distinctive visual look and feel. It’s possible to take a glimpse into the events that would set BotW's story into motion 100 years later. 

Players must capture outposts and meet objectives by mostly button-mashing their way through hordes of enemies and fearsome bosses. It can get a little repetitive at times but tougher foes require some more strategic thinking, which helps with each Legend of Zelda character offering a speciality move to help you out. For instance, Link has his trusty sword and bow, and can also paraglide like in BotW, while Zelda can use Sheikh Slate runes to fight back.

It's all wonderfully in keeping with the franchise's past and it's fun to see how each character fights differently. Familiar RPG progression mechanics including leveling up, looting chests, and collecting resources keep you coming back for more.

ESRB: T (Teen) | Install Size: 10.9GB

Best Story: Ubisoft Immortals Fenyx Rising

What We Like
  • Entertaining narration

  • Fun combat

  • Plenty of puzzles

What We Don't Like
  • Difficulty spikes

  • Ubisoft Connect account required

Think of a recent Assassin's Creed game with a splash of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and a hearty sense of humor, and you have Immortals Fenyx Rising. Set in mythological times, the main character discovers that an evil God named Typhon has conquered the Olympians and turned all mortals to stone. It sounds bleak but the main narrators are a couple of bickering old men in the form of Greek mythological figures, Zeus and Prometheus, instantly lightening the mood. Greek mythology nerds will love how things play out, while everyone else will appreciate the fun that can be had here. 

A story-focused game, Immortals Fenyx Rising offers dozens of puzzles to solve, mythological beasts to fight, and places to explore. Accurate controls make fights feel engaging and intuitive, even if you're not usually great at these kinds of games. With a difficulty curve suited to casual gamers and newbies, Immortals Fenyx Rising has something for everyone to enjoy.

ESRB: T (Teen) | Install Size: 15GB

"The night sky was so beautiful I stopped to take pictures every time I played. I can’t say enough good things about the graphics."Sandra Stafford, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (view at Amazon) is a wonderfully wholesome escape from life. Being able to create your own charming island and mold it to your liking is compelling and long lasting. If you're looking for a more fast-paced multiplayer session then you can't go wrong with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (view at Amazon). Players of all skill levels can have a great time thanks to a well-balanced game design and some brilliantly designed tracks.

How We Tested

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. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Jennifer Allen has been writing about technology and gaming since 2010. She specializes in iOS and Apple technology, as well as wearable technology and smart home devices. She's been a regular tech columnist for Paste Magazine, written for Wareable, TechRadar, Mashable, and PC World, as well as more diverse outlets including Playboy and ​Eurogamer.

Kelsey Simon works as both a tech writer and as a technology rep for her library. She combines her love of writing and video games in her game reviews, including testing out several Nintendo Switch games for Lifewire.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who's been covering video games and tech since 2006. He's previously been published by TechRadar, Stuff, Polygon, and Macworld.

Emily Ramirez has a degree in Comparative Media Studies (Game Design) from MIT and is always playing, making, or writing about video games. Her Lifewire reviews have covered a variety of games and other consumer electronics.

Sandra Stafford has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, and a casual gamer for much longer. She enjoys a variety of PC and Nintendo Switch games.

FAQs

Do these games work with the Nintendo Switch Lite?
The vast majority of games work with no issue on the Nintendo Switch Lite. There are a handful of titles that you can't play on Nintendo Switch Lite with the main distinction being whether the game supports handheld mode or not. You can check the back of the game box to confirm whether it's compatible with the Nintendo Switch Lite.


How do I know if this game is appropriate for my kids?

Each game has its own game rating that has been set by either the ESRB, PEGI or Australian Game Rating System, depending on the country you live in. Each system has different ratings for different intended audiences ranging from E for Everyone to Adults Only. It's possible to check the cover of the game for the rating or to look online so that you can be certain the title is appropriate for the age of the person you're buying it for.


Is it best to buy a digital copy of the game or a physical copy?

This mostly depends on personal taste. Typically, physical copies of games are cheaper as you can find many older games on sale at various stores, however sometimes Nintendo has sales on its digital eStore so you can buy such titles for less. Ultimately, it depends on your personal preference. Digital copies mean you don't have to worry about carrying a game cartridge with you but they also mean you can't swap games with friends or choose to resell them once you've finished playing them. Physical copies can be resold if you wish but they don't have the convenience of always being available on your console without needing to remember to take the cartridge with you.

Which Nintendo Switch Game is Best for You?

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.

Was this page helpful?