The 10 Best Nintendo Switch Role-Playing Games of 2020

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The Rundown

Most Popular: The Witcher 3 at Amazon

"There’s no lack of content in The Witcher 3, for the Switch edition you’ll get the main game plus both DLC packages."

Best Overall: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at Amazon

"Once you're in it, you may understand why so many fans bought the Switch just to play this game."

Runner-Up, Best Overall: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at Amazon

"Players can virtually do anything and become anyone."

Best for Kids: Pokemon Sword/Shield at Amazon

"It’s time to pick your newest starter and prepare to hunt a slew of new Pokemon in the Galar region."

Best JRPG: Xenoblade Chronicles 2 at Amazon

"Beautiful, epic Japanese role-play with cinematic presentation."

Runner-Up, Best JRPG: Octopath Traveler at Amazon

"Combining elements of adventure, strategic problem-solving, and combat."

Best Casual: Stardew Valley at Amazon

"Fits perfectly into the category of wholesome, laid-back games that everybody needs in their collection."

Best Narrative: The Longest Five Minutes at Amazon

"You can alter characters’ memories in ways that ultimately change the present."

Best for Newbies: Battle Chasers: Nightwar at Amazon

"Gritty and straightforward; perfect for understanding role-playing games."

Best Action RPG: Diablo 3 Eternal Collection at Amazon

"The popular RPG from Blizzard makes its way to the Switch in a full collection and does not disappoint."

Most Popular: The Witcher 3

What We Like
  • Over 150 hours of dynamic gameplay

  • Engaging open-world

  • Compelling storyline

What We Don't Like
  • Long load times

  • Graphics don’t compare to PC or bigger consoles

  • Occasional performance drops

You’ve probably heard all about The Witcher thanks to the recent Netflix series and if you’re craving more monster-slaying content at a pace you can control, it’s time to pick up the game. The Witcher 3 is an open-world adventure that puts you in the reigns of one of the last known monster slayers. As you explore the massive world, you can fight monsters for a bit of coin or take the contract to track down the child of prophecy and experience a whole storyline of action and adventure. There’s no lack of content in The Witcher 3, for the Switch edition you’ll get the main game plus both DLC packages, giving you over 150 hours worth of gameplay to keep you hooked. Which makes it a perfect addition to the Switch family—monster fighting on the go.

While the awe-inspiring graphics don’t port over completely, The Witcher 3 is still a game that will turn heads with its character and world designs. Players can expect vibrant gameplay with the dynamic weather systems and day/night cycles which affect how NPCs and the monsters behave. Define your destine, collect powerful weapons, and slay the biggest, badest monsters from the comfort of wherever you are.

Best Overall: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

4.4
What We Like
  • Smooth controls

  • Excellent graphics

  • Tons of content

What We Don't Like
  • Light on narrative plot points

Over the last 30 years, Link has gone on dozens of adventures and captured the imaginations of gamers across generations. Whether you're a longtime fan or new to the Zelda universe, this latest installment for the Nintendo Switch is the best game (not just in the RPG category) that's currently available on the console. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is unparalleled in its variety of gameplay, its ways of rewarding exploration, and its beautiful open environments. And no RPG does a better job of showcasing the power of the Nintendo Switch platform.

True to the other Zelda game formats, there isn't a strict linear structure to Breath of the Wild. Your quest is to ultimately save the kingdom of Hyrule, but how and when you go about it is largely up to you. Go off the path to explore atmospheric natural environments, fight tenacious enemies with a variety of different weapons, and experiment with cooking to create revitalizing elixirs. The world of the game is yours to explore. And once you're in it, you may understand why so many fans bought the Switch just to play this game.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

3.8
What We Like
  • Huge, procedural world

  • Solid plot

  • Tons of content

What We Don't Like
  • Awkward controls

  • Graphics are outdated

Considered one of the best role-playing games of all time, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim finally comes to the Nintendo Switch, allowing for intense portable gameplay on the go. With over 200-plus Game of the Year Awards, Skyrim’s open-world adventure is one of the most immersive and brings to the Switch new features such as motion controls and items from the Legend of Zelda series.

In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, players can do virtually anything and become anyone. The game is filled with tons of interactive characters that players can have conversations with, leading to friends, foes and even wars. Skyrim’s main story focuses on a dragon set to destroy the world, but players can take plenty of detours with side missions and subplots to gain new abilities, level up their character and postpone any obligation to save the world.

Best for Kids: Pokemon Sword/Shield

What We Like
  • New features

  • Easy to learn

  • Planned DLC

What We Don't Like
  • Lack of Team Rocket type villains

It’s time to pick your newest starter and prepare to hunt a slew of new Pokemon in the Galar region. The latest game from the multi-generational hit launched November 2019 and while the plot is similar to previous Pokemon games, it definitely has its share of exciting new features and great new characters (including a Champion that you may actually feel bad about beating). Players have the option to pick Sword or Shield, to determine which legendary they’ll pursue as well as a few other changes. Between different Pokemon variations and two different gym leaders, it’s tempting to want to buy both to experience every asset of the game. Along with the new addition of Dynamaxing Pokemon—essentially making a chosen Pokemon bigger with my dynamic attacks—this series of the Pokemon game has something different from any iteration before it: Downloadable Content. Coming this spring and summer, two new additional storylines and locations will be available for purchase.

Whether you just have fond nostalgia or you’re looking forward to new favorite Pokemon, Sword/Shield is a great addition to the Pokemon game line. Players have the opportunity to camp and cook with their Pokemon so they can grow closer bonds to get stronger Pokemon. Plus, the addition of the wild area and max raid battles makes for exciting new battles and a chance to play with friends or those online. All in all, there’s a lot of new, engaging content that will keep the kids busy and the nostalgic adults happy.

Best JRPG: Xenoblade Chronicles 2

What We Like
  • Massive, beautiful environments

  • Deep combat

  • Smart Balancing

What We Don't Like
  • Terrible plot

  • Poor voice-acting

  • Requires a wiki to get acclimated to the game's systems

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a beautiful epic Japanese role-playing game with a cinematic presentation. Its cut-scenes feel larger than life (often like watching a well-written anime movie) and include an optional original Japanese voiceover dub, giving the players the game’s original authentic form.

Players control one main character out of a party of three in an open world environment in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The action role-playing game includes a streamlined real-time action-based combat system that requires quick decision making for utilizing each character’s abilities such as magic, healing and blunt force attacks. Players have to keep a close eye on their companions, waiting for cool down periods and opportunities to attack. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 includes a soundtrack with performances by the Bratislava Symphony Choir, giving it a more epic and emotional feel with each choreographed action scene and quest.

Runner-Up, Best JRPG: Octopath Traveler

What We Like
  • Amazing presentation

  • Innovative combat

  • Engaging challenges

What We Don't Like
  • Story is a mile wide and an inch deep

Beautifully designed and supported by excellent gameplay, Octopath Traveler is easily one of the best JRPG games on the Nintendo Switch. At the start of the game, you are asked to pick from one of eight main characters, each outfitted with their own special abilities and backstory. Your choice will set you on a unique journey with its own plot, conflicts, and decisions to make through the lens of your character. It’s a nonlinear approach to be certain, but it adds up to a game that never tells you what to do or how to do it — and it's almost endlessly replayable. Combining elements of adventure, strategic problem-solving, and combat, Octopath Traveler has something for everyone.

Design-wise, the game has an unusual aesthetic that combines a nostalgic 16-bit style with modern game graphics. Fans of vintage JRPGs in particular will love the throwback feel.

Best Casual: Stardew Valley

What We Like
  • Regularly receives free content updates

  • Incredibly satisfying

  • Deceptively deep and engaging strategies

What We Don't Like
  • Casual aesthetic won't appeal to everyone

  • No real endgame once you figure out the systems

While life on an actual farm might not be for everyone, the idea of picking up and moving to the country can be an appealing fantasy. In Stardew Valley, you can do just that. This title fits perfectly into the category of wholesome, laid-back games that everybody needs in their collection. It's great for kids and adults alike and has such an open-ended storyline that it's almost impossible to get bored.

Stardew Valley begins when your character inherits a farm from his grandfather, leaving behind a tiresome corporate job and setting off to restore the property and make it his home. From that point on, you must build a new life from scratch, learning how to run the farm and live off what your character can cultivate. Every decision has the potential for long-term impacts on the prosperity of the farm, your character's personal relationships, and the community he has become a part of. Don't be fooled: this isn't a basic farm simulator. The world of Stardew Valley is vast and complex, with the potential for hours upon hours of casual gameplay. Explore your environment, meet new people, and of course, keep things running on the farm — you can build your wealth and even start a family in the virtual valley. Plus, the 16-bit graphics have a nostalgic charm that will captivate fans of classic games like Harvest Moon.

Best Narrative: The Longest Five Minutes

What We Like
  • Fantastic premise

  • Cute pixel art

What We Don't Like
  • Random encounters are annoying

  • Sidequests feel shallow

The Longest Five Minutes is unlike any other RPG on the list due to its risk-taking by providing a different style of gameplay. In this game, players make choices in their character’s memories that ultimately change the present, allowing multiple story paths and outcomes.

With its birds-eye-view camera and 16-bit art direction, The Longest Five Minutes pays tribute to the 1990s RPG games of the past. The charming heartwarming story aims to be a practical RPG style game, filled with light-hearted comedy, unique characters and emotional storytelling that makes it an instant classic. The game makers behind The Longest Five Minutes are RPG fans themselves and have made a game specifically for fans that grew up playing them during their most prevalent decades.

Best for Newbies: Battle Chasers: Nightwar

What We Like
  • Anime inspired JRPG aestheic

  • Strong tactics and strategy

What We Don't Like
  • Weak characters

Gritty and rough, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a role-playing game that’s straightforward in its turned based combat, taking elements from former JRPGS of the past and modernizing it into a solid RPG experience. For anyone who wants to understand the familiarities of how role-playing games work, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a good starting point for any beginner.

The game includes RPG staples with unique changes such as a dual mana system for super attacks, an active initiative bar for various strategies, as well as tons of collectible items that can be forged and crafted into awesome gear. The game includes randomly generated dungeons, so players can get used to the unpredictability of mazes, traps and spawns that help them develop situational awareness and vigilance. Naturally, when player’s progress, so do their character's development of their abilities, perks and other customizable traits.

Best Action RPG: Diablo 3 Eternal Collection

What We Like
  • Tons of content and seasonal updates

  • Couch co-op

  • Offline mode

What We Don't Like
  • Occasional performance issues

  • Long load times

  • Playing with a single joy-con can be clumsy

If you’re looking to raise some hell and gain ultimate power, look no further than Diablo 3. The popular RPG from Blizzard makes its way to the Switch in a full collection and does not disappoint. Bringing the same great graphics and engaging gameplay, this is a perfect way for fans to play their favorite game on the go. Plus, there’s an offline mode to keep you in the game no matter where you are.

For those unfamiliar with the Diablo franchise, the Diablo 3 Eternal Collection is a solid entry point. Pick your favorite class—crusader, barbarian, witch doctor, demon hunter, monk, wizard, or necromancer—and set forth on a mission to lay waste to legions of evil throughout five distinct acts. Or, just explore the open-world setting in adventure mode. You’ll have hours of action and content both online and offline to keep you playing and leveling up.

Going from PC controls to the switch is a bit of a change that can take some getting used to, but once you do it’s an easy adjustment. And this version comes with exclusive Nintendo Switch downloads so you can face some of your Nintendo villains—like Ganondorf! Diablo 3 Eternal Collection is a must for those who have a thirst for action and want to challenge themselves.

What to Look for in Nintendo Switch Role-Playing Games

Favorite franchises: If you love any fan-favorite franchises like Dragon Quest, Shin Megami Tensei, Tales, or even Elder Scrolls, you’re in luck. The huge popularity of the Nintendo Switch means that the people behind of many of your favorite RPG franchises are committed to developing for the system.

Exclusivity: A lot of Switch RPGs are ports of older games that originally appeared on other systems. If you want to get the most out of your Switch, look for exclusive games that really take advantage of the Switch’s hybrid nature and unique combination of joy-cons, traditional controllers, and touchscreen controls.

Joy-con co-op: The Switch is perfect for couch co-op games, and there are even some RPGs where you can team up with a friend with only the joy-cons. This is one of the best things about the Switch, so if you have any friends who love RPGs as much as you, games that support this type of play are hard to beat.

Test Results: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Most Popular)

4.8
What We Like
  • Fun graphics

  • Humorous plot

  • Well-balanced game play

  • Smooth controls

What We Don't Like
  • Long cut scenes

  • Occasionally repetitive

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle came highly recommended by our testers as an entertaining crossover game for both younger and older audiences. “The gameplay is fun and balanced, the graphics are clean and bright, and the plot is humorous,” explained one of our reviewers. In terms of negatives, one of our testers wished the cut scenes at the beginning were shorter and found some of the timed puzzles to be a bit “awkward.” Overall, though, our reviewers felt the plotline was well-written and captivating. “There is little to dislike about this game,” one of our testers summed up.

Test Results: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Best Overall)

4.4
What We Like
  • Beautiful graphics

  • Smooth controls

  • Tons of content

What We Don't Like
  • Plot is lacking

  • Puzzles can be extremely difficult

Our testers loved this game for its gameplay mechanics and eye-catching graphics. “Someone with an artistic eye took great care to create breathtaking landscapes and unique characters,” raved one of our reviewers. Plus, the game was designed with the Switch in mind. “The fighting is fun, and switching between melee to ranges is easy,” explained one of our testers. The negatives? “I would add more goals, such as specific quests and game achievements,” one of our reviewers said. “Sometimes one could get lost in the game, just wandering and yet not feeling like they were achieving much.” Still, our testers felt that Zelda fans and even those new to the franchise would find this game entertaining, making it a worthwhile purchase.

Test Results: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Runner-Up, Best Overall)

3.8
What We Like
  • Fully developed plot

  • Incredibly detailed characters

What We Don't Like
  • Graphics are dated

  • Awkward controls

“The amount of detail surrounding the character creation and development creates an in-depth role-playing experience, more than most role-playing games have to offer,” one of our testers said of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Our reviewers loved the detailed plot and the highly immersive world that can be explored. On the flip side, our testers noted the game’s age (it was released in 2011), which affects the graphics and controls. One of our reviewers explained, “The game Skyrim is a ported title from its original PC, Playstation, and XBOX versions, which means the controls for the fighting aren't the controls originally created for the Switch.” The takeaway, according to one of our testers, is simple: “If one is looking to take Skyrim on the go, then purchasing the Switch version is worth it. Otherwise, there's no reason to buy Skyrim on the Switch, buy it on another version instead, such as PC.”

Test Results: Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu! (Best for Kids)

4.2
What We Like
  • Gameplay is fun and casual

  • Cute graphics

  • Appropriate for younger kids

What We Don't Like
  • Not competitive

  • Overly simple plot

If you’re looking for fun, casual gameplay that’s appropriate for all ages, this Pokemon game is a solid choice, according to our reviewers. “It isn't necessarily the most competitive game, but it does grow addictive,” explained one of our testers, “and there is a lot of fun to be found catching pokemon and battling trainers.” One of our reviewers did wish for a little more variation in the gameplay and said the plot is “overly simply.” Overall? “The causal gameplay is fun and mild enough that you can almost brainlessly play, which is a nice way to get away from the stress of day to day, if you need it,” one of our testers declared.