Best Nintendo Switch games in 2021: Must-have Nintendo Switch games
Updated: Sing an ode to Joy-Cons with the best Nintendo Switch games.
In our 21st century world of stern black boxes sitting under TVs, the Nintendo Switch – and the best Nintendo Switch games – are a shining light of hope. Sure it is available in grey, but of course you went for the neon variety to brighten up those commutes with those happy making colourful Joy-Cons.
Breaking down the best Nintendo Switch games is an almost impossible task given the sheer quality of Nintendo titles alone, let alone all of the hordes of indie games that now call the handheld and console hybrid home.
Below then are the Heavy Hitters, the very best Nintendo Switch games to tick off your must-have list when you first get your console. From farming sims to catching ‘em alls, read on for the best Nintendo Switch games.
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Best Nintendo Switch games
1. Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Here it is. The master sword of Switch games. Whether you’ve never played a Zelda game before or slogged through every entry, the Breath of the Wild is a dazzlingly fresh sandbox. Hyrule is open in front of you from the get go, making whichever direction you go in a true adventure. Taming a horse for the first time, uncovering a shrine, cooking a new dish, big or small, everything you do here feels incredible. A masterpiece.
2. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
There’s no getting around it. Mario Kart 8 is perfect on Nintendo Switch. There’s nothing like handing a friend (or indeed enemy) a single Joy Con before huddling around the Switch screen together, loading up Sunshine Airport or Baby Park, and trying not to swear in public when the shells come out to play. Eye-meltingly pretty on the big screen as well as the small, Mario Kart 8 defines the joy of the console with its perfect racing experience.
3. Super Mario Odyssey
Everyone’s favourite Italian plumber got some new headwear for his first multi-dimensional adventure since Super Mario 3D World. The adorable Cappy lifts Super Mario Odyssey to, errr, heady new heights for the series as Mario possesses enemies with a throw of his hat. Bowser has nabbed Princess Peach again but with all new locations like New Donk City and a raft of new moves Odyssey effortlessly keeps Mario the King of the 3D platformers.
4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
For the fighting game’s first entry on Switch, Nintendo took a Pokemon approach and just played catch ‘em all with game characters. From Metal Gear’s Solid Snake to Final Fantasy’s Cloud, this is a chaotic brawler to scratch every pop culture face-off itch. Importantly, Smash Bros. Ultimate is accessible for new players, but peer beneath the surface and the granularity on offer for the competitive set hands over a different game altogether.
5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
This is the game the world needs right now. Continuing a franchise that's some 18 years old now, New Horizons sees you go on a Deserted Island Getaway Package, courtesy of Nook Inc. This means you are whisked off to an island and from there you slowly but surely build a life for yourself. It's such a warming, lovely game to play. It is deceptively easy as well - the beauty of it is interacting with others who are all trying to create their own, peaceful lives (a far cry from where we are right now IRL. Wonderful stuff.
6. Luigi Mansion 3
And there was you thinking that Mario was the key brother - play this game and it will make you reconsider. This game involves teamwork. While you might not have someone to play with (your mate is a gooey doppelganger) don't worry as the computer does a brilliant job as you race through a haunted mansion sucking up ghouls.
7. Splatoon 2
The closest that Nintendo gets to a bonafide multiplayer shooter, this follow-up to the Wii U exclusive Splatoon is a colourful delight. You play as what’s known as an Inkling. Your aim is to coat as much of the map as possible in your team’s colour while the opposing team tries to do the same. Complete with a single player mode and some fiendish challenge options, Splatoon 2 constantly keeps the simple concept fresh and addictive.
8. Hollow Knight
If all the bright colours of this list have been giving you a headache, don’t worry. Hollow Knight has a “one Tim Burton drew earlier” flavour. It is a beautifully atmospheric 2D Metroidvania full of charming characters and dexterity-testing wall jumps. The hand-drawn setting of Hallowsnest is incredible to explore, and constantly challenging for your tiny bug hero armed with a mere nail instead of a sword. D’awwww
9. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
One of the best RPGs ever made has made an impressive transition to the Switch and a resurgence in people's minds, thanks to the successful Netflix sho. Yes, the graphics have reduced but if you get the complete edition then there is so much packed into this game that you will have trouble finding time for any other Switch game - not that we are complaining.
10. Stardew Valley
The Nintendo Switch version of Stardew Valley is potentially the farming sim in its most dangerous and potent of form. It can be taken anywhere, played wherever you are, and, unlike the mobile version, doesn’t need your thumbs all over the screen you’re trying to hoe perfectly. The pull of ‘just one more day’ of looking after your pixel-perfect fruit, vegetables, and chickens you named after serial killers is almost terrifyingly addictive. Consider this a warning.
11. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Sometimes games are like maths. In this case XCOM + Mario + Ubisoft’s zany Rabbids = Kingdom Battle. In so many ways it just shouldn’t work but the turn based combat, beautiful Mario worlds, and ridiculous humour fit together perfectly. Even if you’re not an XCOM fan, you’ll find yourself gazing at each level for hours, prepping meticulously for your next bout of Rabbid-flavour madness. And if you thought you hated them? This will make you think again.
12. Untitled Goose Game
This is a gem of a game. It's strategy lead, where you play a goose that has a checklist of things to do which causes havoc with the residents of a small village. It's beautiful to look at, the score is perfect and the controls and difficulty just right. This is one of those games taking the Switch world by storm right now and is well worth the investment - it's just brilliant, innocent fun.
13. Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee/Pikachu
The first main entry Pokemon game to land on Switch, Let’s Go is a glorious redesign of 1998’s Pokemon Yellow. Whether you choose Eevee or Pikachu, Let’s Go is a beautiful adventure that takes many of its cues from Niantic’s Pokemon Go. Reducing the grind, you don’t need to battle wild Pokemon, only throw Poke Balls using the intuitive motion controls. You can even transfer ‘mon from the mobile title to fill out your Pokedex.
14. Tetris 99
Get ready to block and load. It’s time for Battle Royale Tetris. Yes, seriously, and it’s really, really good. Pitting you against 98 other online players, the free Tetris 99 takes your block spinning skills to a whole new level. While you are of course clearing lines of tetrominoes as usual, you can choose to send those lines directly to other players. Who and how you choose is up to you but this is high stress Tetris like you’ve never seen it before.
15. Streets of Rage 4
This new addition to the fantastic Streets of Rage franchise has been created with care and dedication by publisher and co-developer Dotemu. The game has much more in keeping with Streets of Rage 2, coupled with a number of different ways you can play. The best thing about the game is that it really 'feels' like Streets of Rage, packing one hell of a nostalgia punch.
There isn't much story and the characters aren't the greatest but, boy, is the gameplay good. ARMS is a fighting game with a difference: everyone playing has interchangeable arms that range from being very springy to laden with guns. The one-player game allows you to get to grips with all the arm combinations, but this is a game best play against someone else - as that's when the real fun begins
17. LA Noire
While the console version of LA Noire was imperfect when it was first released, this Switch port is a joy - we preferred playing it on handheld, as you can lie back and let the seedy world of LA in the 50s just wash over you. The graphics here are impressive as is the slow burn gameplay. You can usually get this one for cut price and it's well worth the money.
18. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer
This shouldn't work but it really does. Cadence of Hyrule mashes up the world of Zelda and the combat mechanics of NecroDancer to make a fantastic Switch game. You can play as Link, Zelda or Cadence - each character has their own special moves and the like. The game is wholesome, filled with places you know if you are familiar with the games before it. It's a rhythmic action-adventure with a big emphasis on the music of the game, so plug in and prepare to be transported to somewhere magical.
19. Rocket League
Another Switch game that was first launched on the PS4 etc, Rocket League is a joy to play on the Switch. The game is just sublime, redefining what a racing sim is, adding in a whole host of obstacles and treats to make you come back time and time again. It's face paced and mesmerising (and slightly annoying) to play.
20. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Crash Team Racing is back and it's looking better than ever. The original game has been lovingly remade and while it might not grab the crown from Mario Kart, it is a fantastic racer. Yes, sometimes the controls are a little fiddly but this is a game that is fast and furiously addictive