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The best multiplayer Nintendo Switch games, according to experts

The best multiplayer games for Nintendo Switch include both classics and lesser-known indie titles.
Three Nintendo Switch games
Experts told us the Switch has some of the best games around, especially when it comes to multiplayer functionality.Amazon

Whether you are enjoying your tranquil island in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons or beating your friends to a pulp in “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” the Nintendo Switch has something for everyone. It’s one of the best handheld gaming systems on the market. And according to sales data from Nintendo, it has sold over 122 million units, making it the third best-selling gaming console of all time.

SKIP AHEAD Best multiplayer Switch games| How to shop for multiplayer Switch games

One of its best features is multiplayer. “You can bring the console with you, detach the Joy-Cons and play many — if not most — games with another person present,” said Justin Reeve, news editor at The Gamer. That’s why we spoke with industry experts — to find their favorite titles for playing with friends and family.

Best multiplayer Switch games

The best multiplayer games for Nintendo Switch include classic Nintendo games everyone has heard of, as well as lesser-known indie titles, according to our experts. Some of them focus on a fun couch experience with family, while others connect you with friends online. All of them offer fun action, wacky antics and tense moments that might lead to shouting, cheering and booing at the screen.

“Overcooked!” is every chef’s worst nightmare. Players are cooks in a cramped kitchen trying to work together to make and serve as many meals as possible within a set time limit. The kitchens themselves are where the game gets strange: Scenarios in the game include cooking on a slippery iceberg and tossing food between two trucks as they blaze down the freeway.

Despite its chaotic setup, the game is simple to control, making it one of our favorite gifts for gamers. The main challenge is communication — to succeed at any level, you need to coordinate with your teammates.

“It's a deeply communication-driven game you can't ever master. You're always just staving off disaster,” said David Shimomura, editor-in-chief of Unwinnable.

"Nintendo Switch Sports"

Nintendo Switch Sports” is the long-awaited successor to one of the best-selling multiplayer games of all time: “Wii Sports.”

In “Nintendo Switch Sports,” players use the motion controls on the Joy-Con controllers to play a variety of real-world sports, including volleyball, badminton, bowling, soccer, chambara (sword fighting), tennis and golf. I’ve found that the motions of swinging a racket, throwing a bowling ball, kicking for a goal or lunging with a sword feel great with the Joy-Con — just be sure to tighten the wrist strap, lest you accidentally throw your controller into your TV.

You can play with either two or four players, depending on the sport, or compete solo against the computer or online opponents. The approachable motion controls, fun character creation and real-world sports games make “Nintendo Switch Sports” one of the best games for family members of all ages.

“Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”

“Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is one of the best-selling games of all time, with over 48 million copies sold. It’s a racing game in which you control iconic Nintendo characters, like Mario, Bowser and Princess Peach, as they kart-race each other in fantastical locations. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” features a whopping 42 characters and 48 race courses to enjoy, all lovingly crafted with plenty of charm and personality. Alongside drifting and boosting, players can obtain a variety of whacky items to use to gain the advantage and throw their opponents into disarray.

“It's such a simple game at its heart and meets people at their skill level - most of the time,” said Shimomura. Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play, but it's the thrill of competition that makes it a game you can come back to again and again.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is truly the ultimate crossover fighting game. In it, nearly every video game character you can think of is beating each other down, seeking to be the last one standing. It features 82 characters to battle with, from Nintendo icons like Mario and Donkey Kong to characters from series like Pokémon, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Animal Crossing and more.

“The production value of the game is awe-inspiring — every character has so many animations. and they're all so high-quality that, as a game developer, it's impossible not to be blown away,” said Jake Rabinowitz, a software engineer and developer of PogoChamp. (Disclosure: Jake is also the author’s brother.)

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” can be played with up to eight players locally, making it an excellent choice for big groups. The game may seem simple, but it's played professionally by esports athletes, meaning there is a lot of complexity hidden beneath the surface.

“Splatoon 3” is one of the most unique shooter games around. It’s essentially a turf war between two teams, each of which is trying to control as much territory as possible before the timer runs out. You control territory by covering it with ink you shoot out of paintball-style guns.

You play as Inklings –anthropomorphic creatures that can transform between human form and squid form. When in human form, you can shoot your paintball guns, and when in squid form, you can “swim” in ink, moving quickly and stealthily across your territory.

“The game is pretty unique … but what really has me sold is the multiplayer design,” said Reeve. “The gameplay is so well balanced that you can go from having almost lost a round to a slam-dunk victory in just a matter of minutes. I can't think of too many games which allow for such a dramatic reversal.”

Unlike the other games on this list, “Splatoon 3” doesn’t have local multiplayer. You’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to play multiplayer modes online.

How to shop for multiplayer Switch games

There are a wide variety of multiplayer games on Switch, both in physical stores and on the digital Nintendo eShop. Our experts told us that it’s important to consider the following information before making your final purchase.

Know who you’ll be playing with

When buying a new game, check to see if the people you’ll be playing with already have a copy or if it's a game they would be interested in trying out. “If you know your friends already all play “Splatoon,” you'll have an easier time than trying to…convince people to buy something to play with you,” said Shimomura.

See how many players are supported

For each game, be sure to check how many people can play at the same time. Most multiplayer games support between two and four players, with games like “Smash Ultimate” being rare eight-player exceptions. When doing your own research, you can check out reviews for each game to find out how many people can play (and whether multiplayer functionality is supported at all).

Check if you’ll need a Nintendo Online subscription

To play a multiplayer game online, you’ll likely need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. In most online multiplayer games, a Nintendo Switch Online subscription gives you access to online features like connecting with friends and strangers to play competitive matches.

Unlike other online consoles, Nintendo’s titles offer very little in the form of interaction and communication with others. This can be a boon for parents, as it means their children can’t interact with strangers past the actual playing of the game. “The multiplayer is almost completely free from the sort of griefing and other forms of bad behavior which predominate on most platforms today,” Reeve said.

Before you buy a game, it’s also important to check if it uses local or online multiplayer (or both). Some games, like “Splatoon 3,” support only online multiplayer, meaning they support only one player per Switch console.

“I like local [multiplayer] more than online multiplayer when I can find someone to play with, if only because having someone else beside you gives the entire experience a certain sense of community,” Reeve added.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Justin Reeve is a news editor at The Gamer, a gaming news site.

David Shimomura is the editor-in-chief at Unwinnable, a gaming and cultural criticism website and magazine.

Jake Rabinowitz is a software engineer and game developer of titles like PogoChamp.

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