The Nintendo Switch may be designed for on-the-go play, but it also makes a fantastic video game console for those quiet nights at home.
The first edition of the Switch was introduced to the world March 2017 to mixed reviews. However, it has become the third best-selling gaming console of all time, surpassing the PlayStation 4 and Game Boy. Since the Switch’s first introduction, there are currently a total of three different iterations, each with varying features — the OLED model, and Nintendo Switch Lite and the original.
For beginners and experts, this console is a good fit for all. Some games — such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Spiritfarer — are ideal for beginners with a more relaxed game setup and minimal pressure or competition. As you play more and seek a challenge, games like Hades and Hollow Knight are some titles that cater towards the more experienced player.
Best Nintendo Switch games of the year
We’ve compiled the most highly rated Switch games for you to enjoy, as well as some staff favorites.
Pros: Full of humor; We loved the storyline, artwork and music; The character-building is fun
Cons: It's a rogue-like game where the environment is randomized by your success completing levels. Not a con, but probably not for you if you don't like this style of gameplay.
Select reporter Harry Rabinowitz enjoys Hades, a fast-paced action game taking place in the backdrop of the beautiful world of Greek mythology. You play as Zagreus, son of Hades, upset at his father and determined to escape to Mount Olympus. Meeting familiar names like Hades, Aphrodite and Hermes, you learn more about each character and the intricate family drama as you play. Hades has a 4.8-star average rating from 947 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We found this to be calming and great for beginners
Cons: Not fast-paced if that's what you're looking for
Released in 2020 and a popular pick during the pandemic, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a fun farm simulation. Updates Editor Mili Godio fell in love with how relaxing and stress-free it was, especially during a time where the world was constantly stressed and uncertain. Create your own character and build a town, taking time to fish, garden and meet other people in your own little digital island getaway. This game has a 4.8-star average rating out of 66,337 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: Has the 2D elements of the original Super Mario game; We like it for beginners
Cons: We found the main storyline to be a little short; Not challenging enough for expert gamers
Whether you grew up with 80s arcades or came of age during the 3D era of video games, Mario likely played a big part in defining for you what a video game could be. Super Mario Odyssey is the latest mainline Mario platformer. Like the other 3D titles that came before it, it pushes the series forward with new powers that keep the gameplay fresh and exciting, like the ability to throw your hat and take control of an enemy. This game has a 4.8-star average rating out of 2,294 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We found that the puzzles were fun to solve and the storylines were interesting; Great for kids and adults
Cons: We found that the weapons break a little too easily while playing the game
Breath of the Wild sets a new direction for the Legend of Zelda series, bucking both the franchise’s own trends and those of other open-world fantasy games. And it’s hard to resist a continent full of lived-in towns, crafty puzzles and monsters to fight. Its highly anticipated sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, is set to be released in May 2023. Breath of the Wild has a 4.9-star average rating from 16,470 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: Great to play with the whole family; We found multiplayer to be the best way to play
Cons: You need to unlock characters and only start with eight
The Super Smash Bros. franchise gave players a chance to put their fists, or thumbs, where their mouths are, pitting classic Nintendo characters like Mario, Pikachu, Luigi and Zelda, against each other in battle. As someone who’s only dabbled on their brother’s Switch, this is one that I could pick up easily and enjoy. Rabinowitz added that the best of this game shines when playing with friends. Super Smash Bros has a 4.8-star average rating out of 66,337 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We love the music and storyline; Great for beginner gamers; It's cute for couples who have one expert gamer and one beginner due to its dominant multiplayer gameplay
Cons: We found it to be a little slower for gamers that prefer something more fast-paced
Another one of Rabinowitz’s favorites, Spiritfarer is a management game where you play as Stella, the new Spiritfarer, in charge of ferrying the spirits of the dead to their final resting place. You learn more about their life and their needs along the way. During every moment, you’ll be sailing to new destinations, exploring, talking to the spirits onboard, crafting materials and upgrading your sea-faring vessel. What makes Spiritfarer so special is its beautiful art and affecting writing, according to Rabinowitz. Select editorial director, Lauren Swanson, also loves this game for its emotional, yet relaxing experience. This game has a 4.8-star average rating out of 714 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We found the game mechanics to be excellent, the music beautiful, and the storyline expansive
Cons: Not for a casual gamer, if that's what you're looking for
While Nintendo’s own exclusive franchises are the Switch’s biggest draw, it also has a host of fantastic indie games to download. Hollow Knight feels incredibly at home on the Switch, mixing a cartoon-like 2D platforming aesthetic with a rich world full of things to discover. It’s tougher than the average Mario game. But if you feel you’ve seen all the big studios have to offer and want a fresh challenge, Hollow Knight is the game for you. This game has a 4.8-star average rating out of 2,505 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: Filled with humor; good for gamers that like strategy games; great for beginners
Cons: We found the campaigns to be a little lengthy
If you’re a fan of turn-based strategy games, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle puts a Nintendo twist on the genre, merging the Mario and Rabbids franchises for a silly-yet-tactical war game that works better than it should. This game has a 4.6-star average rating out of 15,249 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We loved the graphics and thought the storyline was engaging
Cons: We found some of the puzzles to be repetitive
Not all Mario games follow the same platforming formula. The Paper Mario series is a bit more of an action-adventure role-playing game, with The Origami King providing you with a large world to explore, puzzles to solve and enemies to battle in turn-based, ring-style combat, as well as a charming story with plenty of fun characters and silly dialogue. This game has a 4.7-star average rating from 13,693 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We thought it was fun for kids; makes a great gift
Cons: We wish it had more characters
If you’ve played Nintendo at all in the past 25 years, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Mario Kart, the racing game that’s good competitive fun for players of all ages and skill levels. It’s a seemingly simple concept, but with more characters, kart combinations and tracks than ever before, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will surely keep you entertained for hours, whether you’re playing alone or with the whole family. This game has a 4.9-star average rating out of 68,760 reviews on Amazon.
Pros: We found the gameplay to be responsive; great to play with groups
Cons: We didn't find the single player mode to be consistent
The third installment of the series, the chaotic, team-based shooter sees you attempting to cover the arena with your team's color using paint guns, swapping between humanoid and squid-like forms regularly to get across the map. It's unique, strategic and loads of fun. Splatoon 3 has a 4.8-star average rating from 4,489 reviews on Amazon.
How to download or buy a Nintendo Switch game
To play on a Nintendo Switch, you have the choice to either buy a physical game cartridge at the store or download the game via the Nintendo eShop on your easy-to-create Nintendo account.
If you choose to buy the physical cartridge, it makes it easier to share with family and friends, as well as sell and trade them. If you choose to download the game straight to your account, you don’t have to wait in line at a store to buy the game. It’s also a more environmentally-friendly option, with no plastic packaging to dispose of.
What is Nintendo Switch Online?
Nintendo Switch Online is an online subscription specifically for the Nintendo Switch that allows for online multiplayer gaming, saving to the cloud and access to special features via a mobile app. Rabinowitz adds that the subscription is worth it if you like retro games, with recent additions of Game Boy games. Additionally, it’s essential to have the subscription in games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 3 where the game requires multiple players.
The Nintendo Switch Online subscription costs $19.99 a year, and The Nintendo Switch Online with the Expansion Pack — which has even more games to choose from — costs $49.99 a year.