Looking for some free content while you wait out your stay in isolation? This list of the best Switch demos helps you explore some of the very best content the Nintendo Switch has to offer, without spending a single cent. We picked the demos that not only give you a good idea of what to expect from the full game, but are actually fun to play in their own right.
This list of the best Switch demos then is all about those short snippets of games that make perfect mini-adventures. From tearing zookeepers limb from limb in Ape Out to the much more wholesome, knitted delights of Yoshi’s Crafted World, these are the best downloadable samples of Nintendo Switch games. Just don’t blame us when they automatically make you want to buy the whole thing. That’s kind of the point, after all.
Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Cost of full game: $59.99/£49.99
The best demo on the Switch is Dragon Quest 11 S. Not only is the Switch version the best way to play one of the best RPGs ever, but the demo is an exceptionally generous sampling. Somewhere around 8-10 hours of story progression is available for free with the demo, and everything you do carries over to the game if - erm, when - you buy it. The Dragon Quest 11 S demo alone is the size of a short game, and believe me when I say you won't be ready to abandon the Luminary and co. in their meaningfully written, gorgeously animated adventure. One more time: Dragon Quest 11 is a triumph, the Switch version is the best version, and the demo for the Switch version is a 10-hour beacon of joy. Download it. Now.
Bravely Default 2
The Bravely Default 2 demo is a real ass-kicker, but one that rewards you for enduring a beating. Interestingly, it tells a story separate from the main game, and warns you right from the get-go that "the battle difficult is just a little bit harder."
They. Were. Not. Joking. Bravely Default fans will undoubtedly be better-equipped to acquire money for equipment, grind more than any reasonable person would assume, and customize their characters, but those new to the series might be in for a shock. But enduring the alarming incline at the offset results in an understanding of a game and series worthy of your time investment. If you do decide to get the full game, you'll start with a fresh story and crew, but the experience gained from the demo will help tremendously.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Cost of full game: $59.99/£49.99
If you’re on the blocky fence over Square Enix’s build ‘em up, there’s no better time to check out the Switch demo for Dragon Quest Builders 2. To whet your appetite for the full charm offensive, this hands over near enough the first hour of the game, letting you tantalizingly create your very own builder before teaching you to build, fight, and use a pair of helpful gloves to carry blocks around. It doesn’t even stop when you wash up onto a mysterious island and meet your new best friends Malroth and Lulu. You’ll learn to construct rooms, cook, destroy the landscape, and even catch a glimpse at the game’s snapshot feature. Be warned though, when it’s finally time for Captain Brownbeard to, we quote, ‘ferry ye to the game bazaar known as the Nintendo eShop,’ you might not be able to stop yourself.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX
Cost of full game: $59.99/£49.99
If you're entranced by the gorgeous watercolor aesthetic of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, but aren't ready to fork out the notes for a remake of a 2006 DS game, well, it's hard to fault your logic. Mystery Dungeon is a weird little game, and the demo is a comprehensive representation of the full experience. You'll take the personality quiz at the beginning to determine what Pokemon you're transformed into (though you can change the result if you want), meet your first Pokefriend, and run through the first few dungeons before you're restricted to just roaming the starter town. The progress you make carries over to the full game if you buy it, but be warned: it's easy to fall in love with this charmingly unique Pokemon game, and it 'ain't a cheap date.
Trials of Mana
Cost of full game: $49.99/£39.99
Here's another one that might not be a question for loyal fans of the franchise, but newcomers to Trials of Mana might be hesitant to splash out on the HD remake. The good news is that the demo is a generous filling of traditional, yet polished JRPGness.
Let's not mince words, Trials of Mana HD is quite faithful to the source work, but it's refined and up-to-date where it counts. The HD graphics are crisp and colorful, the music is timeless, and the beautifully-realized world is a delight to explore. You'll get about 2 hours out of the demo if you take your time, and your progress carries over to the full game.
Cadence of Hyrule - Crypt of the Necrodancer featuring The Legend of Zelda
Cost of full game: $24.99/£22.49
It might be slightly more forgiving than its sister title, Crypt of the Necrodancer, but when it comes to the rhythmic delights of Cadence of Hyrule it’s definitely best to try the demo for size to check you’ve got the inner metronome required. Just like Cadence, Link needs to move and attack to the beat, dancing around enemies but stabbing them at the same time in a choreographed murderfest. That sounds a bit grim but it’s all wrapped up in a brightly coloured pixelated world that the demo happily opens up to you. You’ll learn the delights of the shovel, killer chickens, and the ups and downs of the tempo buttons in a generous chunk of the game. Just don’t //beat// yourself up too much if you don’t have an innate drummer, eh?
Cost of full game: $14.99/£10.99
So here’s the thing. Humans make mistakes. Robots? Not so much. It’s something you’ll quickly come to realise in Automachef as you fail to remember to set a smart robot arm to only collect cooked beef patties from your grills and therefore threaten your entire restaurant with E-Coli. The Automachef demo offers up a tutorial for this alternative cooking sim as well as three conveyor belt-packed levels. Machine learning is the name of the game here as you place order readers, program dispensers, steer robot arms in the right direction, and then sit back to watch the perfectly controlled culinary magic at work. The learning curve is a little steep on this puzzler but, by the time the demo takes you from cheeseburgers to BLTs, you’ll feel like a true master of the kitchen. Maybe we can be useful after all?
Yoshi's Crafted World
Cost of full game: $59.99/£49.99
To be honest, you probably don’t need to play the demo of Yoshi’s Crafted World to know if you want to experience a lovingly hand-stitched Nintendo platformer but it’s a great place to start. This small-but-perfectly-formed wooly package includes the Sunshine Station World which only contains one level, Rail-Yard Run. The good news is that there are a few different ways to play it. You can run sideways through the front of the level, complete with Flowers and Red Coins to hunt down, but also the back where you’ll need to find three adorable Poochy Pups and add them to your little bouncing trail of eggs. If nothing else, it’s an ideal mini hit of happy platforming that’s perfect for taking a break between long bouts of Dead Cells or The Binding of Isaac.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum’n’Fun
Cost of full game: $49.99/£49.99
Finally, you can experience all the mad, potentially embarrassing fun of Japanese arcades in the safety and security of your own home. Another essential outing for your Joy-Con wrist straps, the Taiko no Tatsujin demo hands over two tracks for you to try on all difficulty levels. You can choose whether to fully embrace the fun of drumming the air with motion controls, or keep your Joy-Cons firmly on the sides of your switch but either way this is a ludicrously enjoyable sample of colourful rhythm-based enthusiasm. Drum’n’Fun hands over all the ‘one more go’-osity of your favourite plastic instrument games without any of the inevitable dusty future charity shop peripherals, so this short demo will let you know if you want more of the chaos or are happy just trying it for size. We won’t judge.
Snipperclips: Cut it out,together!
Cost of full game: $19.99/£17.99
The kind of game that can still sell the instant two player-osity of the original console, Snipperclips is one of the best Switch demos to show off just what can happen when you hand a Joy-Con to a friend. Each of the included handful of levels is a concentrated hit of glorious puzzling as you chop sections out of each other’s papery forms to fit within dotted lines or even score basketball hoops. The fact that there’s clearly plenty of ways to solve each puzzle makes every challenge feel even more open for discussion and/or argument as you desperately snip away at one another like Edward Scissorhands. However, prepare yourself to, err, fold, and shell out for the full game as soon as you’ve finished the demo. This kind of two player fun doesn’t come along every day.
Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition
Cost of full game: $39.99/£29.99
Rayman is basically platforming royalty. He of very few limbs and helicopter hair has been running from left to right for decades and his adventures have only improved. Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition then is basically the cherry on the platforming cake and if you haven’t already sampled its delights, the demo is the best place to do exactly that. While it’s fun to interact with Rayman’s frog-like friend, Murfy, in the starter levels, the highlight of the demo is the incredible Castle Rock level set perfectly to Ram Jam’s Black Betty. Every jump, enemy smash, and zip line beautifully aligns with the song, making you feel simultaneously like a god of platforming and rock and roll. Throw in the traditional Rayman sense of humour and more Lums than you can shake a disembodied fist at and Rayman Legends is irresistible in miniature form.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
Cost of full game: $19.99/£14.99
No, this isn’t just a cunning ruse to make you cry all over your Switch. While Microsoft’s Ori and the Blind Forest demo does start off somewhat tragically, you’ll quickly forget about those pesky feels when you’re playing one of the most beautiful and best metroidvania games in years. No matter which direction you find yourself running in, Ori is a constantly challenging adventure and there’s just enough here to whet your appetite for the full game. Every new ability feels like a gift and the sprawling map is ludicrously enticing. This is a perfect excuse to try Ori’s precision platforming for size. Just don’t blame us when you forget to create your own save point…
Cost of full game: $14.99/£13.49
You’ve probably never wondered what would happen if Hotline Miami took a violent day trip to the zoo, but Ape Out is the answer to that particular unasked question. Playing as an escaped ape - that’s him in orange - you must puree as many guards as fast possible without being shot and make your way to the next level. While it is possible to move through each section without murdering everyone in sight, the soundtrack makes it pretty much irresistible as it dynamically builds the music with every death. Cymbals and drums become deafening as you toss doors at unsuspecting guards and watch their limbs hit the walls. The demo is a generous handful of levels and while the slaughter seems simple at first, new enemy types and layouts mean the difficulty cranks up significantly. This makes the demo a perfect place to monkey around and decide whether or not to invest in the full game.