The 9 Best Nintendo Switch Role-Playing Games of 2019

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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.

Want to see more of our top picks outside the RPG genre? Check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch games.

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

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: Let's Go, Pikachu!

Pokémon has been an extremely popular franchise for over 20 years, and it's had an undeniable impact on the RPG genre. Let's Go, Pikachu! was released at the end of 2018 for the Nintendo Switch and is the latest game to join the Pokémon universe. Based on the Pokémon Yellow game that was released back in 1998, Let's Go, Pikachu! combines irresistible nostalgia with elements of the ultra-popular Pokémon Go mobile game.

Old-school fans, don't panic! This is still a full-fledged Pokemon game complete with collecting badges, gym battles and all the Pokemon-catching action a fan could desire — become a trainer, capture some Pokémon, and battle it out in the arena in beautiful 1080p resolution. But the nods to Pokémon Go make this especially appealing to kids who got caught up in the initial mobile game craze and now have a Switch to play on. It has the same combination of loveable characters and engaging gameplay that captivated kids in the '90s, and the Switch console's design allows for two-player mode so parents and kids can enjoy it together. Let's Go, Pikachu! is a great introduction to the franchise for the next generation of fans.

You can also check out our full list of the best Nintendo Switch games for kids.

Best JRPG: Xenoblade Chronicles 2

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

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

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

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 Crossover: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle - Nintendo Switch Standard Edition
Courtesy of Amazon.com

This list would hardly be complete without at least one Mario game. And Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is our pick for its fresh creative design and fun gameplay. The winner of over 50 E3 awards and nominations brings a brand new cross over role-playing game with tactical play style exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a turn-based tactical role-playing game that features Nintendo’s Mario alongside with Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids franchise. The game includes both a single and multiplayer campaign mode with each level consisting of a series of battles. Each side, both the player and enemy, take turns moving around a battlefield while taking shots at one another with laser guns. The easy-to-learn-but-hard-to-master game takes into consideration the player’s positioning and range, maximum movements, as well as other conditions that make for a fun and strategic gameplay.

Best for Newbies: Battle Chasers: Nightwar

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.

Need more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our recommendations for the best Nintendo Switch action/adventure games.