The 20 best Nintendo Switch games to play in 2021

The best Nintendo Switch games you can buy right now. Plus! A podcast explaining our choices.

The Nintendo Switch is a sort of inverted version of the Wii or Wii U, when you think about it. While those predecessors all but demanded that games be redesigned to make the most of their strange features, the Switch manages to make old ideas new again simply by allowing you to take them out into the wild. Dark Souls on the tube! Mario at the beach! Tetris everywhere!

While Nintendo's had a thing for portability since the days of the Game Boy, the Switch is also defined by its excellent multiplayer accessibility, and was sold on the unlikely promise of friends gathered together in public spaces crowded around a single screen.

While that might still be somewhat on hold for the moment, one day it'll return, and so whether you're looking for a game for the TV, the commute (remember those?), one of those improbably stylish rooftop parties from the launch ads, or just for laying in bed at the weekend, hopefully there's something for you here in our list of the 20 best Nintendo Switch games.

Perhaps you're new to the platform, or maybe you want something to show off your freshly acquired Switch OLED. There's almost as many ways to play the Switch these days as there are games for it, now we've the new premium model with its larger 7-inch display, 64GB internal memory, a wide adjustable stand, and new dock with wired LAN. Or maybe you're playing on a Switch Lite, or a well-worn launch model - either way, everyone of these is a must.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

To make a game about nature, Zelda's creators had to change the way they created. The precision tooling of every part of the environment had to be hidden, with intricate dungeons that clip together across the landscape replaced with massive vistas that at first appear thrillingly empty.

Do not be fooled. Breath of the Wild is as obsessively designed and crafted as any Zelda game before it, but everything in this huge, seemingly untamable game is put in place to make you feel lost and small and at the mercy of the elements. Pick a direction and explore: an adventure of genuine beauty and revelation awaits.

Link on horseback being chased by a Bokoblin also riding a horse

Want to read more? See our full Zelda: Breath of the Wild review and buy now from Amazon.

Super Mario Odyssey

Odyssey is a wonderfully, purposefully incoherent Mario game in which each world has its own costumes and gimmicks, but also its own defining aesthetic. After the rolling majesty of Breath of the Wild's Hyrule, it's a bit like diving into a jumble sale. But like all jumble sales there are brilliant things to discover: strange worlds that glitter with unusual textures and seem to be driven by alien rules.

And at the heart of it all, that brilliant sense of weight and momentum and pace that makes Mario the platformer than nobody else can touch. So Odyssey is a game of moments, in other words - and what could be more like Mario than that?

Mario wearing a chef's outfit carrying a golden turnip

Want to read more? See our full Super Mario Odyssey review and buy now from Amazon.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Countless others have taken on the Mario Kart formula since its inception in 1992, not least of which is Nintendo itself, delivering various mutations, variations and iterations over the years. It wasn't until Mario Kart 8, however, that it matched the brilliance of the SNES original, with a work of stunning imagination and impeccable craft.

It wasn't until the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a few years after, however, that Nintendo delivered what's inarguably the best in the series to date; bundling together all of the DLC that came to the Wii U version post-release, most importantly it also added a brilliant Battle Mode that completed the package. It's thrillingly close to perfection.

Want to read more? See our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review and buy now from Amazon.

Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 is a glorious team-based shooter with a unique territory capturing mechanic, but that's only half of the appeal. The arenas are great and the weapons are a pleasure to use, and there is a simple playgroup joy to chucking that much ink around, but Splatoon's Switch instalment lingers in the mind because of its placefulness.

Much has been written about the Switch's bare-bones front-end. For the first days of the console's lifespan, Inkopolis Square felt like it was the heart not just of this wonderful game but of the charming, personable, colourful and surprising console that runs it. What a thing!

Inklings sitting at a table

Want to read more? See our full Splatoon 2 review and buy now from Amazon.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

It doesn't even matter if you like fighting games or not: Smash Bros is for anyone who's ever fallen for video games full stop, a mad, impossibly expansive and expertly engineered celebration not just of Nintendo's rich past but that of the entire medium.

The cast is outrageously vast, taking in all-comers from Mario to Metal Gear, the options are plentiful and the soundtrack is just to die for. Oh, and the game underneath all that is alright too, a wilfully chaotic dust-up that's best enjoyed shoulder to shoulder with friends. You'll find a little of all video games here in Smash Bros. Ultimate, a breathless celebration of the medium in all its mad, incoherent and joyous whole.

Ness versus Link match-up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Want to read more? See our full Super Smash Bros Ultimate review and buy now from Amazon.

Arms

How's this for a pitch: the Mario Kart team does for fighting games what it once did for driving games in a ludicrously colourful, energetic and original Switch exclusive. Yet despite delivering so well on that promise, Arms has never found the audience it deserves. For shame, though that shouldn't stop you picking up what remains one of the highlights of the Switch's line-up.

Here's a fighter that's instantly accessible, offers boundless depth and does all this with one hell of a spring in its step. Oh, and springs in its arms too, as your fighters reach into the screen in an enjoyably pliable brand of pugilism. The chances of a sequel now seem slim, so make the most of a game that's truly one of a kind.

Arms fighters duke it out in the arena

Want to read more? See our full Arms review and buy now from Amazon.

Tetris 99

Battle Royale Tetris sounds like a joke, but it turns out to be the basis for one of the most energising console exclusives in years. It's Tetris, a game you've been playing forever, but now you're up against an entire gameshow board of rivals.

There's two kinds of beauty here: the beauty of a game you know innately being twisted into a new form, and then the buried beauty of the hidden rules and synergies that will see you racing up the leaderboard. Tetris isn't just the eternal game, it's an eternally surprising one.

Tetris 99 gameplay

Want to read more? See why we think Tetris 99 might be the best battle royale yet and buy now from Amazon.

Monster Hunter Rise

With the series heading back to Nintendo's more modest hardware, it was tempting to think Capcom would follow up the blockbuster Monster Hunter World with something a bit more reserved with Monster Hunter Rise. How wonderful it is to be proven wrong in an outing that's as bombastic, brutal and straight-up brilliant as anything in the series to date. At Monster Hunter Rise's heart is a retooled traversal system that's elastic and freeform, elevating the already assured combat into a combination that's often dizzying to play. This isn't some compromised offshoot - this one's the real deal.

Our tips for getting started in Monster Hunter: Rise

Want to read more? See our full Monster Hunter: Rise review and buy now from Amazon.

Cadence of Hyrule

It still feels wrong for anyone other than Nintendo to handle a Zelda game, but the highest praise you can give Cadence of Hyrule is that it doesn't feel wrong for very much time. This is a beautiful reimagining of the flip-screen Zeldas of the 8- and 16-bit generations, shot through with a rhythm-action conceit so beautifully executed it feels like it's always been a part of Hyrule. Unmissable.

Link stands at a bridge looking out over a river

Want more? See our full Cadence of Hyrule review and buy now from Amazon.

Picross S

Picross has become such an embedded part of Nintendo's handheld portfolio that it's easy to forget it's there. It's easy, in fact, to think these aren't video games at all - they're close relatives to sudoku, living alongside them in some publications as nonograms, and they offer the simple thrill of logic and deduction.

For all that, it's easy to forget just how good the formula is, and see that you've clocked up *checks play time* 150 hours across the three instalments released to date on the Nintendo Switch. If it's a commute-eating puzzler you're after, they really don't come much better than this.

Picross S gameplay

Metroid Dread

It's been a long old wait for this one, and inexplicably it's been worth it. Metroid Dread isn't just an effective comeback for one of the grand dames of video games - it's arguably the best 2D game in the series to date, earning its place alongside all-time greats such as Super Metroid.

Don't let the 2D tag put you off, either - this is as sumptous and polished as anything else in Nintendo's arsenal, with Spanish developers Mercury Steam pulling out all the stops with what feels every inch a triple-A title. Oh, and if you're lucky enough to have a Switch OLED there's no better way to show off that beautiful display - and no better excuse to upgrade, if you were looking for one.

Metroid Dread gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Metroid Dread review.

Windjammers

Once upon a time, there was nothing more exotic, nothing more nineties than the Neo Geo, and one game on that most exquisite and powerful of machines was more exotic and nineties than them all. From the chromed lettering of developer Data East to the wraparound mirrored sunglasses of Hiromi Mita, Windjammers is arcade perfection, serving up a delicious alchemy of Street Fighter and Pong.

It's one of the very best local multiplayer games available, which makes it an absolute essential for the Switch. Now it's not a case of hoping the pub you're heading off to has a well-stocked Neo Geo cabinet propping up the corner - thanks to the marvels of modern technology, you can challenge someone to a game of Windjammers wherever you may be.

Windjammers gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Windjammers review.

Puyo Puyo Tetris

The blending of two puzzling greats, one austere and angular, one squishy and sugary, makes for an absolute classic in its own right. But there's more to Puyo Puyo Tetris than the ingenious nature of its design.

In the early days of the Switch, this game above all others delivered on the console's dream: a bunch of friends, loose in the world, all crowded round a tiny screen propped up on the table in front of them while four-player chaos unfolded. If you've ever wondered what that stand on the back of the Switch is really for, wonder no longer. It's for Puyo Puyo Tetris.

Puyo Puyo Tetris gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Puyo Puyo Tetris review and buy now from Amazon.

Darius Cozmic Collection

The Switch isn't short of shmups. Pick up Konami's Anniversary Arcade Collection and you can play Gradius 2, one of the greatest of them all, or maybe you want to sample the classic Thunder Force 4 via M2's impressive Sega Ages port. Or you could go through a large chunk of Psikyo's back catalogue, or get an impeccable introduction to the genre with the smart, accessible Danmaku Unlimited 3.

Or, if it's just one game you're after, you could turn to Devil Engine - an all-new effort that's studied the classics and added its own unique flavour. It's an incredibly enjoyable game, and one that looks - and sounds - the part too. Devil Engine just goes to show that, sometimes, they really do make them like they used to.

Devil Engine gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Darius Cozmic Collection review.

Into the Breach

A tactics game concerned with the world's dinkiest invasion, Into the Breach is a study in economy. From the game's tiny play areas and short match times to the sparse animation and simple rules that govern a unit, everything here is bright and glinting and wonderfully fit for purpose.

Such basic elements lead to rich surprises, however, and this is one of those games that you can play for days and weeks and months without ever feeling that you've ceased to learn.

Here's a tip to start you off: don't just think about what a unit can accomplish on a turn, but also think about where it ends up once the turn is finished. If you've never played this, I envy you. Tactical perfection awaits.

Into the Breach gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Into the Breach review and buy now from Amazon.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Nintendo's legendary take on bucolic living has never been more sharply arranged than here, where a trip to an untouched island quickly expands to involve town infrastructure meetings and the search for the perfect bed-side table. Min-max this and it's a game filled with depth and secrets. Play it for a lazy hour every day and it's slow gaming at its most comforting. An unusual and distinct world-beater.

An Animal Crossing character stands on a beach gazing towards the sunset

Want to read more? See our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review and buy now from Amazon.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

And there was us thinking Awakening was Fire Emblem's big push for the mainstream… With Three Houses, Intelligent Systems handed the reins over to Koei Tecmo, for the most part, who then delivered an absolute epic of a strategy RPG. Its scale is at once personal and vast, its characters winningly human and the best bit, for older players of the series, is that the strategy is as satisfying as it's ever been. An absolute triumph.

Dimitri prepares for battle

Want to read more? See our full Fire Emblem: Three Houses review and buy now from Amazon.

Astral Chain

Is this Platinum's most loveable game? It's a pocket-sized masterpiece, anyway, offering skipping-rope combat and a police procedural-world in which you hunt for clues but also put away litter and help out a mascot dog bag at the station. Effortlessly quirky and filled with delights, this is an action game with endless charm, and it feels perfect on Nintendo's oddball console.

Astral Chain gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Astral Chain review and buy now from Amazon.

Hades

Supergiant only ever makes games that resound with class and thought, style and intelligence. But Hades, the studio's first early access title, has something more. It's vicious, bloodthirsty and delighted by its own horrors. It's the perfect game about the ancient gods, in other words.

Zagreus wants to escape from Hell, and Hell wants to stop him. As set-ups go, it's winningly direct, but what makes this game a true classic are two elements converging.The first is a combat system that encourages you to experiment with weapons and randomised perks as well as the environment itself, which may offer anything from lakes of fire and pits of spikes given the moment. The other is art design that lends the whole thing the lurid colours and vivid designs of an 80s underground comic. Underground is the word for it, really. Hades is seismic.

Hades gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Hades review and buy now from Nintendo.

Ring Fit Adventure

Nintendo turns exercise into an RPG and creates a game that can be merrily binged while you slowly tone yourself up. Beautiful peripherals and a wonderful fantasy setting are backed up with lovely, witty writing and a thoughtful spin on home work-outs. Just remember to stock up on smoothies.

Ring Fit Adventure gameplay

Want to read more? See our full Ring Fit Adventure review and buy now from Amazon.

For more curated best-of lists like this, feel free to argue in the comments section of the following, too:

If you're in the market, you can also browse our latest roundup of the best Nintendo Switch deals and Digital Foundry's expert picks for the best Micro SD cards for Nintendo Switch, as well.

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Chris Tapsell

Chris Tapsell

Staff Writer  |  ChrisTapsell

Chris Tapsell is Eurogamer's Staff Writer, its newest Chris, and a keen explorer of the dark arts of gaming, from League of Legends to the murky world of competitive Pokémon.

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