Nintendo’s latest console is quite the phenomenon indeed, given that it's only two years old yet it boasts a swathe of essential Switch-exclusive titles that will reward you in excess for your purchase of the portable console. The lineup keeps improving at an impressive pace as we approach its third anniversary, so this list is going to run through the best of a growing roster of exclusive games that should busy every owner’s home screen if they’re looking for varied fun on the move.
Nintendo often shines brightest when it tailors games to its typically idiosyncratic hardware. That's the case with Arms, a fighting game that makes perfect use of the Switch's motion sensing Joy-Cons to realise a madcap world where stretchy-limbed brawlers pummel each other into submission. With its colourful characters and physical gameplay – throwing air punches, guarding, and grappling opponents, while navigating environmental effects in destructible arenas – younger or more casual players are easily hooked, yet there's enough depth and unlockable content to please discerning fans. Best of all, Arms doubles as real-world workout – spending an hour on Street Fighter won't work up a sweat like this intense cardio does.
14. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
A squawking horde devoid of personality but prone to cartoonish acts of chaos, Rabbids are intrinsically, deliberately annoying. They're also a huge part of the appeal of this unlikely crossover, which sees them jumbled together with Mario and friends. At a glance, nothing about this should work, from the characters co-habiting to the turn-based strategy genre it presents. Yet thanks to some clever scripting turning a handful of Rabbids into genuinely hilarious parodies of the familiar Nintendo crew, robust tactical gameplay demanding precision consideration of each battle, and character development that provides some truly original battlefield skills, Kingdom Battle emerges as one of the best games on Switch. Don't let the cute visuals fool you, though: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle can be one of the toughest titles on the console, with enough challenge to give XCOM a run for its money.
13. Mario Tennis Aces
Somehow both a fighting game and a sports game, Mario Tennis Aces is a genius reinvention of the Mario Tennis brand that serves up a gripping story mode and some of the best online multiplayer available on the Nintendo Switch. The game constantly presents interesting ideas to the player as they work through the narrative, breaking up the regular tennis by having you solve puzzles with your racket instead of just competing in consecutive matches, utilising beloved characters from Mario lore. In the online partition of the game, you can rise up the ranks and master different styles of play, from speedy racketeer Toad to the more power-focused Bowser. Intense matches make the palms sweat as you battle for that final point and use taunts and time dilation to save seemingly impossible serves. A game designed from the ground up to coax fits of laughter and brilliant competition out of its players, Mario Tennis Aces deserves a spot on your home screen.
12. Octopath Traveler
For anyone old enough to have played through the 'golden age' of the JRPG back on the SNES, Octopath Traveler will feel like a comforting return to form from Square Enix. For younger players, its pixel-based sprites and detailed environments will be evocative of the likes of Stardew Valley or Celeste. Either way, this old-school RPG delivers one of the most absorbing experiences on the Switch, with eight protagonists whose individual stories weave in and out of each other's lives. It's a wildly ambitious approach to narrative, lending equal weight to each hero, while their individual talents in and out of battle make for unique approaches to puzzle solving and combat alike. Its turn-based combat impresses too, with the ability to bank moves then unleash charged-up attacks or multi-hit combos offering a fresh twist on the tried and tested model. A brilliantly modern take on the genre.
11. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
A long-awaited new entry in the much-beloved Marvel Ultimate Alliance series, development was passed along to Team Ninja of Nioh and Dead or Alive fame to herald the return. In a new epoch of Marvel popularity where most young people understand who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, the game provides simple but incredibly effective co-op gameplay as you battle through flashpoints in Marvel history, taking on goons outside X-men headquarters and in the deepest depths of space. The Infinity War-esque story gives you good reason to keep pressing on, as does the constant barrage of interesting characters, from Spider-Gwen to Black Panther. The optional Infinity Rift gauntlets offer excellent replayability options once you clock the sizeable story, and given the complex character progression systems there’s always more powers and upgrades to discover so you can craft your ultimate superhero squad.
10. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
If you prefer something a bit more modern on the RPG front though, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is your game. Players guide orphaned salvage diver Rex on a perilous journey across the world of Alrest after he finds himself bound to the sentient weapon Pyra – an ancient 'Blade' who possesses the form of a pretty girl, of course. The game's CG anime aesthetic and expansive cast of fully voiced heroes and villains effortlessly draw players into the epic story, while the real-time combat delivers consistent thrills. It's satisfyingly complex too, with the ability to craft and enhance dozens of other Blades besides Pyra, providing endless customisation options for open world exploration and combat alike. With standalone DLC Torna – The Golden Country expanding on the history of Xenoblade Chronicles 2's world and characters, this is one of the most developed and engaging experiences on the Switch to date.
9. Astral Chain
The latest in a long line of fascinating, extremely unique titles from beloved action game developer Platinum Games, Astral Chain puts you into the slick shoes of a special police officer in the Neuron division, which specialises in controlling and utilising beasts in battle that are directly linked to them via a psychic chain. The game is set in the year 2078 as humanity attempts to survive in the last geographical bastion they have, The Ark. Under siege by Chimeras from the Astral Plane, your job is to repel the opposing force and find a route to a sustainable future for the human race. As well as coming to terms with the complex, synergistic combat system, you’ll also face puzzles and platforming challenges and enjoy the ambience of a vapourware, neon-soaked post-apocalypse. An ambitious new world developed by alums of Nier: Automata and Bayonetta, this exclusive is perfect for a Switch owner looking for something outside the realms of Nintendo’s most popular franchises.
8. Super Mario Maker 2
The inevitable sequel to the breakout Wii U hit Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Maker 2 arrived on the Switch early in 2019, its potential unlocked via a much wider user base than Nintendo’s previous console. Most of the gameplay you’re comfortable with remains, yet the sequel adds a number of new assets like vehicles and switch blocks. There’s also a special style added to the game based on another Wii U gem, Super Mario 3D World. Perhaps the most important addition is online and local multiplayer, which allows a duo to build a course in tandem. You can then take your creations online and race through them with four other players, adding another layer of community spirit to an already bustling, wholesome game of shared creation. Super Mario Maker 2 also marks the addition of Story Mode, a series of levels for you to complete with the overarching narrative following Mario as he rebuilds Princess Peach’s iconic castle.
7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Yes, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is technically a glorified Wii U port, but a great game is a great game and on Switch, Mario Kart 8 is better than ever. With all the tracks, racers, and modes of the original release, plus all DLC bundled in from launch, the Deluxe edition would still probably be worthy of a spot on this list just as a complete edition. It goes even further though, restoring the proper Battle Mode shamefully omitted from the Wii U edition, adding in new characters such as Splatoon's Inklings, and providing new kart customisation options. Running at a silky smooth 60fps in 1080p when the Switch is docked, the friendship-ruining racer has never looked finer, either. Now, mind that banana peel and let loose the blue shells of war – it's race time.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Switch received its second mainline Zelda game recently in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, an utterly gorgeous plasticky diorama-style reimagining of the 1993 classic which first appeared on the Game Boy. A marked surreal detour for the series, Link’s Awakening is lighthearted, slightly melancholy and most importantly: extremely cute. You’ll trade bananas with crocodiles and honeycombs with a Mario impersonator as a soundtrack drenched in pan pipes and soaring flutes complement your journey. Link ventures out to find a number of instruments housed in the games tricksy dungeons, which in typical Zelda fashion teach you new abilities and test the inventive side of your brain as you combine moves to cross gaps and kill bosses. The remake also includes a dungeon editing system where you can create your own special gauntlet and share it with friends.
5. Splatoon 2
Speaking of Splatoon's Inklings, the sequel to the Wii U's groundbreaking squad-based shooter improves on just about everything from the original. More maps, more weapons, more diverse Inklings to play as – even the single player campaign, a glorified training mode, had more depth and challenge than its predecessor. Where Splatoon really impresses though is how, in typical Nintendo fashion, it takes a genre notorious for abusive online play, and reinvents it in a way that makes it accessible, welcoming, but no less competitive than any gritty military effort. On top of that, there's simply nothing else like it on the market – the ability to shift from humanoid to squid form at will, then swim through the oceans of neon ink sprayed over the ever-rotating arenas, dodging enemy fire when submerged or using the coverage to access new areas it totally original. With regular Splatfest tournaments keeping the competition fierce and fresh, and near-constant updates giving players a regular stream of new material to get to grips with, Splatoon 2 is Nintendo's best-supported game on Switch – and one of the most fun.
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses and the Switch are truly a match made in heaven. As a tactical strategy game with plenty of heart, the Fire Emblem series has always put a lot of stock in the depiction of its characters and storytelling, and Three Houses is the epitome entry in this respect. While the story might not be quite so cleanly executed as some of its predecessors, it has lots of notable strengths that set it apart from the rest. You take on the role of a teacher who must choose to lead one of three houses. Every house offers a different feel and slightly varying storylines, and since they have select students with unique personalities, Three Houses is particularly replayable. The combat is varied and challenging and controls like a dream with the Switch’s setup, making every move on the battlefield satisfyingly easy to map out using its classic grid-based system. The game itself looks fantastic, with wonderfully memorable character designs, landscapes and interiors. And who doesn’t love a good tea party? That’s right. You get to bond with your students by sitting down for a nice cuppa. What more could you ask for?
3. Super Smash Bros Ultimate
With every character, stage, and piece of music to ever appear in a Smash Bros game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its title. Just balancing the fighter roster – which boasts more than 70 characters at launch and has more planned – is a monumental achievement, but this goes even further with more combat items and summonable Pokémon than ever before, all helping to make the series' anarchic multi-character battles more majestically chaotic than ever. Throw in new modes – such as the elimination tournament of Smashdown or team-based Squad Strike – and a lengthy single-player narrative campaign, World of Light, and this instantly claims the crown as the definitive Smash Bros game. Expect to see this as a fixture of everything from house parties to professional fighting game tournaments for years to come.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is a huge evolution for the core Mario series, but one so masterfully presented that you might complete the game before noticing one of the biggest changes: the unusually agile plumber never chomps down on a single power-up mushroom. That such core elements are removed from the game might be ruin other games, but Odyssey redefines Mario's adventures so brilliantly that their absence barely registers. Instead, players are joined by Cappy, a living hat allowing Mario to possess enemies and gain their abilities with little more than a doff of his cap.
It's an entirely new way to play, but mere minutes into Mario's globe-trotting adventure – one that takes in some of the most inventive, charming, and challenging worlds in the character's 37-year history – and it feels indispensible. More than a world tour though, Super Mario Odyssey is a love letter to Mario fans, with sections honouring his 2D platforming roots, plenty of in-jokes for long-time players, and even a swinging musical number delivered by classic character Pauline. It's simply a joy from start to finish, and a must have for any Switch owner.
1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is as big a revolution for Zelda as Ocarina of Time was when it debuted back on N64. Perhaps bigger, in fact – while the 1998 classic brought the series into the third dimension, it retained the same structure as earlier 2D Zelda games. Breath of the Wild rethinks everything, abandoning the usual eight major dungeons and relatively linear progression that had defined the series from its inception. In their place are more than 100 smaller shrines, each with a unique puzzle to solve or combat challenge to overcome, and all ostensibly accessible from the moment Link awakens from a century-long slumber.
Chances are, you'll spend longer simply exploring than immediately pursuing the nefarious Ganondorf, but that freedom is a huge part of the appeal – this is Zelda by way of Skyrim, with a truly open world there to get lost in. That the structural overhaul is joined by one of the most well-rounded, emotional, and melancholic stories in the series' history helps elevate the package, while the jaw-dropping visuals and versatile blend of melee combat and magical abilities cement it as an immediate and timeless classic – and still the best experience on the Switch.