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Since its release in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has become one of the best-selling home game consoles of all time as well as one of the best-selling Nintendo consoles. As of March 2020, both the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite have sold more than 55million units worldwide. The Switch is considered a hybrid system; it uses a dock to allow play on a larger screen, and the Joy-Con controllers can be attached to the smaller screen for handheld or tabletop play. The mobile screen produces 720p resolution and the Switch can support full 1080p HD when docked and playing on a television, providing more detail and clarity than previous Nintendo consoles. It's also capable of running games at up to 60 frames per second for smoother, more realistic motion and action.
Along with a strong library of first-party games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, the Switch also has a robust selection of indie and third-party titles to entice players. No matter if you're into first-person shooters, complex RPGs, or action-platformers, the Switch has something to offer for everyone. We've rounded up our top picks from popular genres to help you decide which to add to your library.
Progress at your own pace
Great for kids and adults
Only one island per Switch console is supported
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a life simulator game where players can customize a character to work with Tom Nook in order to develop a deserted island into a vacation destination and village paradise. A lot of familiar Animal Crossing mechanics make a return, such as: upgrading your home, customizing outfits and character appearance, and gathering items to sell for bells (the in-game currency). New mechanics include the Nook Miles system where players can complete daily challenges or hit in-game milestones to earn miles that are used to purchase special items.
The game progresses in real-time, meaning that players must be patient when upgrading island buildings and infrastructure. New Horizons also supports local and online multiplayer so players can send each other items or visit one another's islands. If players have ambiibo cards or figures from the Animal Crossing series, they can invite villagers to spend a few days at their island campsite or to move to the island. Players can progress at their own pace, meaning you can spend days catching fish and bugs to fill out the museum or invest time improving the island's appearance at your leisure. Both kids and adults will love the bright, colorful environments and laidback gameplay that provides a decent escape from everyday life.
Plenty of tracks
Only 10 tracks available for online play
Voice chat for friends only
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a Switch port of a Wii U game that was released in 2017 and has gone on to become one of the best selling games of all time as well as one of the best selling Switch games. It features 32 tracks spread across 8 cup tournaments with another 16 tracks and four cups available as DLC. It supports local multiplayer for up to four people and online multiplayer for up to 12 as well as voice chat with friends. Players can choose from a bevy of familiar Mario and Nintendo characters including the new Koopalings and Pink Gold Peach. You can also select a variety of vehicles including traditional karts and motorbikes.
Familiar items make a comeback along with new ones like a Boomerang Flower to throw at other players, Piranha Plant that attacks other players, Super Horn that can be used to both attack others and defend from hazards and items, and the Crazy Eight that gives you eight items. Some tracks feature anti-gravity sections where players can drive on walls and ceilings in order to get ahead or avoid obstacles. With both local and on-line multiplayer, it's a great game for parties or playing with the kids.
"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.
Single and Multiplayer
Plenty of environments
Controlling both Luigi and Gooigi may be difficult for some young children
Luigi's Mansion 3 is a sequel to the GameCube and Nintendo 3DS titles and plops players in a familiar, slightly spooky setting. Players must explore a haunted hotel after being tricked into visiting for vacation, saving Luigi's friends from ghosts along the way. A lot of the same mechanics from previous titles are implemented along with a new ectoplasmic assistant named Gooigi, more moves for catching ghosts, and expanded multiplayer functions for co-op and competitive play.
While adults may find the setting to be silly, kids will love the mild thrills of exploring a dark building and running into ghosts and other spirits. Each area of the hotel features a different theme like a shopping area where players can upgrade items and buy hints, a medieval castle, and a plant conservatory. With 15 different environments to explore, the game continuously feels fresh and exciting and prevents little ones from getting bored. Each room also provides plenty of different ways to use Luigi's items and gadgets, letting players take multiple approaches to obstacles.
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.
High replay value
Good voice acting
Difficulty may be too low for some players
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the 16th title in the series and the first released for home consoles since 2007. Players create their own main character, choosing a name and gender, and are sent to teach at the Garreg Mach Monastery. You then choose which of the three school houses to teach: Black Eagles, Blue Lions, or Golden Deer. The narrative is impacted by which house you choose as well as the outcome of story-based battles. The gameplay centers on social simulation to build relationships and alliances as well as turn-based tactical combat.
During combat, players can hire additional troops to support different units with character buffs and special moves that can heal units or stun enemies. Depending on the difficulty chosen, players can either experience permanent death for characters who are killed in battle or have them resurrected after each fight. With the story dependent on player actions and choices, there are several different endings that can be reached, giving the game a high replay value to see which ending you can get with different choices.
Tons of items and power-ups
Input lag and frame rate issues
The development of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was helmed by former Castlevania producer, Koji Igarashi, and is considered to be a spiritual successor to Castlevania. The game progresses in a Metroidvania style, with new areas opening up as players gain different items and abilities as well as new secrets to find in previously-visited areas. Players take on the role of Miriam, a human infused with demonic power, as she takes on a quest to stop another demon-infused human from unleashing monsters to destroy England.
Miriam has a variety of weapons at her disposal for ranged and melee attacks against enemies and special abilities that let her perform magical attacks. Equipment can be changed on-the-fly as players encounter new monsters and areas in order to progress through the game. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was nominated for Best Original Action Game at the NAVGTR Awards and Best Indie Game at the New York Game Awards.
Great level design
Gunfights can be repetitive
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus takes place in an alternate version of the United States in 1961 where Nazi Germany won WWII and have occupied the US. Players take on the role of war veteran William "B.J." Blazkowicz as he leads the resistance and recruits characters to help. It's played in first-person, and players can dual wield a variety of weapons like rifles, pistols, and machine guns. The story is broken up into chapters, letting players progress through the game in chunks if they don't like marathon sessions.
At the beginning of the game, players have to make a choice that affects the entire story from then on. The choice adds replay value for anyone who is curious about what a different selection would add or remove from the narrative. Wolfenstein II also has DLC available with The Freedom Chronicles story. In the DLC, players take on the role of various characters working to resist Nazi occupation in America. The entire game does a great job of blending iconic American imagery with the horrors of war and enemy occupation as well as building a sense of urgency for the resistance.
Online and local multiplayer
New level assets
Multiplayer has lag issues
Super Mario Maker 2 is the follow-up to its wildly popular predecessor. It combines classic side-scrolling platform mechanics essential to the Super Mario franchise with level editing and game creation features to let players put together truly unique levels. Each user-created level is assigned a code that can be used to publicly share your creation with friends and other Super Mario Maker 2 players for feedback and rating. Players have access to assets from almost every Super Mario game, including Super Mario 3D World and New Super Mario Bros. U. SMM2 also introduces local and online cooperative multiplayer for up to two players to create stages together or four players to work together to complete stages or race against one another for the best completion time.
There is a story-based single-player story mode that follows Mario, Toadette, and other familiar characters as they help to rebuild Princess Peach's castle. Traversing over 100 courses, players have to collect enough coins to purchase new stages of construction for the castle; players will also encounter characters that offer side quests and optional tasks throughout the game to earn extra coins or special items. At the 23rd D.I.C.E. Awards, Super Mario Maker 2 won the award for Best Family Game of the Year.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a wonderfully colorful and laid-back escape from everyday life, letting you create and manage your own island paradise. Players gain the ability to build pathways and move buildings along with crafting items to grow flower gardens, fruit tree orchards, or provide public spaces for island residents. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe combines it's classic, party game, feel with modern multiplayer needs. Four players can race on the same console, while online multiplayer has room for up to 12 players in a race and allows for voice chat with friends.
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.
Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for IndieHangover, GameSkinny, TechRadar and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.
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.