Three years later and the Nintendo Switch continues to hold its own against the Xbox One and PS4. If the little hybrid handheld has proven anything, it’s that a console is truly defined by what you can play on it. From Nintendo exclusives like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey to Nindies like Slay the Spire and Golf Story, choosing only 25 of the best Nintendo Switch games has proven to be difficult.
The list was assembled by the entire IGN content team and represents – after plenty of internal debate – what we think are the best games to enjoy on the Switch right now, whether you’re picking one up for the first time or have been a platform enthusiast since day one.
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Click through the gallery above or scroll down for the full list!
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25. Ring Fit Adventure
Sure, exercising is good for you, but it’s got two pretty big drawbacks: one, it costs a lot of money to join a gym and, two, it’s kind of boring. Ring Fit Adventure fixes both of those problems by gamifying exercise and letting you work out from home while somehow making the entire experience feel like a fun, casual RPG. By strapping the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con to your leg and with the strange, brilliant new Ring-Con peripheral, Ring Fit encourages you to use your whole body to battle monsters, collect coins, level up, and push past your personal bests — all while giving you a serious workout within the confines of your living room. It proves that exercising can be fun — especially when it’s thousands of dollars cheaper than hiring a personal trainer, too.
24. Link’s Awakening
With its charming, toyetic visual style and bizarrely dark undertones, the vast island of Koholint in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has never looked better than it does on Nintendo Switch. Link’s shipwrecked adventure on a mysterious island rife with eccentric characters and sprawling dungeons has always been one of the stranger Zelda stories, and this remake allows new audiences and aging fans alike to appreciate it on a modern system. It modernizes the classic beloved Zelda game with a shiny new coat of paint, some excellent quality of life improvements, and loads more hidden collectibles but, ultimately, its greatest accomplishment is retaining the weird, haunting, beautiful feeling of the original Game Boy game.
23. Astral Chain
Astral Chain is PlatinumGames at its best. It’s got it all: a unique story; deep character customization with a variety of play styles, and – of course – power-armored robot pets. On top of all that, it’s got some of the most satisfying, challenging, and fast-paced combat you’ll see on the Nintendo Switch. If you’re a fan of other PlatinumGames like Bayonetta, Vanquish, or Nier: Automata, Astral Chain won’t disappoint.
22. SteamWorld Dig 2
SteamWorld Dig 2 is a textbook example of everything a sequel should be: bigger, smarter, and just straight up more fun. Guiding Dorothy through SWD 2’s labyrinthine caverns searching for loot and upgrades is a challenging and charming twist on the classic “Metroidvania” style and has a gameplay loop that will undoubtedly keep you up into the wee hours of the morning for “just one more run”.
21. Monster Hunter Ultimate Generations
The Nintendo Switch makes it possible to get the best of both *worlds* with Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. You can play using a comfortable pro-controller, but you can also slay its more than 100 monsters in person with friends. On top of the ridiculous amount of content packed in, you can also play as an adorable cat and pet alpacas.
20. Splatoon 2
Splatoon 2 is one of those rare games you can play for more than a year and still not be tired of it. Many players hoped for a fast port to Switch to hit the ground running, but what we got was an impressive sequel with an all-new single-player campaign and plenty of incredible, and free, post-release content.
19. Paper Mario: The Origami King
Paper Mario: The Origami King may not a perfect game – or, in fact, not even the best entry in the Paper Mario series – but it is one of the most charming adventures on the Nintendo Switch. While most of the RPG trappings of the earliest entries of the franchise have been stripped away in Origami King, it’s more than made up for by an interesting new take on the battle system and one of the funniest, silliest stories in any game to date.
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Mario’s new partner Olivia is a wide-eyed sunbeam that adds a sterling soul to nearly every story beat from start to finish. She’s one of many new characters that help make Origami King a surprisingly compelling Paper Mario Story; one that addresses lost loves, death, and giant, maniacal office supplies with equal aplomb. Couple its narrative with some truly brilliant art direction, old school Zelda-inspired dungeons, and more than a few genuinely surprising moments (and hidden toads) and Paper Mario: The Origami King easily earns a spot on our Top 25 list.
18. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Retro’s second entry in their Donkey Kong Country series is every bit as charming and challenging as Rare’s SNES trilogy. The Switch port of the Wii U original features an easy mode with Funky Kong but retains all the white knuckle platforming that made Tropical Freeze a hit back in 2014. Boasting some of the best boss fights and most original challenges in a platformer in the last decade, and a charming Saturday morning cartoon art style, it’s a must own on Nintendo Switch.
17. Pokemon Sword & Shield
Pokemon Sword & Shield finally brought mainline Pokemon games to home consoles – even if it’s only by default, since the Switch is both a handheld and home console. Beyond seeing hundreds of monsters in HD on your nice big TV, Sword & Shield brought with it a slew of welcome changes, including several quality of life improvements, the removal of random encounters, and Gigantamaxing, which basically gave your favorite Pokemon the Stay Puft treatment. It’s also the first game in the franchise to include post-launch expansion packs, which includes both new and classic pokemon to add to your collection.
16. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is widely considered one of the best JRPGs ever made. You’ll never want to leave Alrest, even after spending 100+ hours exploring its huge open world.
You play as Rex, a salvager turned hero and “Driver” to the legendary Blade Pyra. Characters are extremely well written, there are dozens of Blades to unlock, all with their own unique look and personality, and the combat system is satisfying and complex.
It’s not an easy thing to make such a cheery, colorful game built around such a heavy topic, but Spiritfarer manages to have very real conversations about life and death with a warm smile and a plentiful amount of comforting hugs. This lovely town manager has you ferrying friendly souls to their ultimate rest, building them homes and growing close as you do. It’s a downright gorgeous mix of a building game and a platformer, and one that’s not quite like anything else available on Switch or elsewhere.
14. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a wonderfully open-ended farming sim. You’ll forge your own country path with fishing, fighting, farming, and falling in love. Additionally, being able to take advantage of the Switch’s sleep mode helps take some of the pressure off of not being able to save in the middle of a day, even if a few other bugs in the port are still waiting to be squashed here.
13. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle faced no shortage of skepticism before its launch. But Ubisoft Milan’s robust strategy game proved itself with some truly challenging levels and accessible but complex turn-based gameplay, while also finding a way of marrying the Rabbids and Mushroom Kingdom’s senses of humor into one, charming experience.
12. Super Mario Maker 2
Super Mario Maker 2 helped us achieve our childhood dreams of building our own Super Mario levels. OK, technically the first game did that, too, but the sequel took everything great about the original and somehow made it even more charming and wonderful. Not only are its 100+ story mode levels absolutely brilliant, but its accessibility as a viable game design tool is second to none — game designers of the future will almost certainly cite Super Mario Maker 2 as one of the catalysts for their careers. SMM2 is truly one of the Switch’s best experiences: a challenging platformer that satisfies your creative urges, and offers a near-infinite stream of delights.
Celeste is a surprise masterpiece. Its 2D platforming is some of the best and toughest since Super Meat Boy, with levels that are as challenging to figure out as they are satisfying to complete. But the greatest triumph of Celeste is that its best-in-class jumping and dashing is blended beautifully with an important and sincere story and an incredible soundtrack that make it a genuinely emotional game, even when your feet are planted firmly on the ground.
10. Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is one of the best modern MetroidVania’s available, using all the pieces that make the genre so great in the first place without feeling derivative of anything that came before it.
The expertly crafted map that is the kingdom of Hallownest has an absurd amount of paths to explore, bosses to fight, and secrets to uncover. That’s all drawn in a somber but expressive art style that gives the adorable bug people who live their lives, and stories, of their own. It can undoubtedly be a challenging and demanding game, but what you get out of will be a reward worth far more than you put in.
9. Slay the Spire
There’s something about Slay the Spire’s balance of strategy and randomness that makes it an endlessly replayable puzzle. Assembling that perfect combo of synergistic cards can feel incredible, but there’s also a joy in scraping your way to victory despite the odds never quite falling in your favor. With that potent package on the Switch’s mobile platform — with some fairly decent touch control options, we might add — it’s a miracle we’ve ever stopped playing it.
8. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8’s encore on Nintendo Switch didn’t just keep the online community alive and added returning favorites like Balloon Battle and Bob-omb Blast, we also got a brand-new “cops and robbers” team mode with Renegade Roundup, all of the great DLC stages, and even some guests from the Splatoon universe. It’s not a new game, but one so good, it deserved to reach a bigger audience on Switch right away.
Roguelikes don’t always appeal to everyone, but Hades has somehow found a way to win over even those with a distaste for them. Fighting your way out of the Greek underworld is a ruthless and challenging affair, but every failure is rewarded in a way that somehow makes them exciting in their own right.
Instead of just notching up each loss and moving onto the next, the moments between each run push Hades’ excellent storytelling to the forefront, giving you opportunities to learn more about its charming characters and grow close to them – as well as improve the prince of the underworld’s abilities and weapons. It’s that meaningful mix of progression and infinitely repeatable escape attempts (coupled with genuinely fantastic writing, art, and action) that make Hades as delectable as Ambrosia itself.
6. Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is essentially a FrankenLuigistein’s monster of the first two games, a mashup of both that creates the perfect Luigi’s Mansion experience. Charming, clever, and absolutely gorgeous to look at, Luigi’s Mansion is 17 levels of pure ghost-hunting joy. Working your way through each of the haunted hotels may never extremely challenging, but the creative boss fights and deviously hidden collectibles will keep you busy for a dozen hours or more. The excitement of getting to a new level just to see its theme (TV Studio! Sewer Maze! Egypt!) is well worth the price of admission, plus the game opens with Toad driving a bus. Priceless.
5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes the series to new heights, deftly blending grueling battles with an expansive social hub that allows for near limitless customization as you recruit, train, and bond with the memorable characters on your team. Its unique take on a three-pronged story ensures that no matter which house you choose, the engrossing plot that unfolds always leaves enough mystery to make multiple playthroughs incredibly hard to resist.
4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing has quietly been one of Nintendo’s most beloved and successful franchises for nearly 20 years now. While we all assumed that New Horizons would be a big hit on the Switch, no one could have anticipated that it would become something of a cultural phenomenon.
Released on the doorstep of a global pandemic, Animal Crossing New Horizons provided a much need escape to many, selling more than 22 million copies in its first four months. Routine and discovery play equally important roles as you plan the perfect layout for your island, make friends (or enemies) with all your villagers, and invite your friends to your own little utopia to trade items and swap secrets. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and masterful in the way it encourages players to keep up with chores, redecorate and/or reshape entire plots of land, or burn dozens of hours trying to catch rare fish or find every last seasonal item. It certainly helps that all the writing is supremely funny and that, hundreds of hours in, you’re still able to chuckle at a random comment or find genuine inspiration in the places you’d least expect. Taking a cue from many of Nintendo’s Switch editions of their long-running franchises, Animal Crossing New Horizons does little to completely reinvent the franchise, but it makes a great series even more accessible, more exciting, and more wonderful than it has ever been.
3. Super Mario Odyssey
A masterclass in 3D platforming, Super Mario Odyssey seamlessly blends the best elements from nearly every Mario game with an entire portfolio of new gameplay mechanics to create something both nostalgic and courageous. New players will adore stomping through the vivid and vast new worlds, while seasoned veterans will stick around after the credits to unlock the hundreds of challenges that await their skill and dexterity. To put it succinctly, Super Mario Odyssey is pure, sublime joy and one of the best Super Mario games ever made.
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exactly what its name implies: it’s the ultimate incarnation of Nintendo’s now 20-year-old brawler series. It’s a celebration of Smash Bros. as a whole, filled with more fighters and levels than ever before, and packed to the gills with over 1000 more characters from all across gaming. “Everyone is here!” may have started out as just another tagline, but it’s one that Nintendo has impressively backed up, and it’s made Ultimate the definitive Smash Bros. game for a long time to come. Add a 20+ hour single-player mode with full-on boss fights and huge world maps and it’s easy to get lost in Ultimate. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had a lot to live up to with that name, but it has undoubtedly done just that.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Let’s face it, the Zelda series was long overdue for a major change, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild offers an unparalleled sense of freedom and scale in the palm of your hand. Now widely considered one of the best games of all time, Breath of the Wild tells an epic story, as you glide, cook, and battle your way across a beautifully ruined version of Hyrule. It helped reinvigorate The Legend of Zelda in a way that fans had only dreamt of, easily propelling it to the number one spot on our list and in our hearts.
What’s New and What Left the Best Nintendo Switch Games List
Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s changed:
- Captain Toad
- Diablo 3
- Dead Cells
Games that Moved:
- Hollow Knight to #10
- Steamworld Dig 2 to #22
Note: removing games isn’t a decision we make lightly — and it certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t like those games. As a matter of fact, you should play all the games we removed as well. But as new games come out that we think are worthy of your attention and the team that assembles this list changes over time, you’ll see games drop off or even re-enter the list (eg: Tropical Freeze) based on the tastes of the panel and whether we think they should be in your current list of 25 games you should have in your collection.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Paper Mario: The Origami King
Did we miss anything? Is your favorite game too low? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back when we reconfigure this list again! And look back at our top picks for past Nintendo systems in our best 3DS games, the best Wii games and the best GameCube games.
This list was assembled by IGN’s Nintendo Voice Chat podcast crew. You can listen/watch our weekly Nintendo show right here on IGN.com or over on YouTube. Or, why not join the conversation over on Facebook and join the Nintendo Voice Chat Podcast Forums and let us know what you think of our lastest list! And, very rarely, we add games to our best games of all time page: The Top 100 Games List, so check that out, too. Thanks for reading/watching, and don’t forget to get the thing!