The 10 best free Switch games to play

Sky: Children of the Light
(Image credit: thatgamecompany)

If you're looking to make the most of your Nintendo Switch, it seems fair to avoid spending a dime by first checking out the best free Switch games. And there are plenty on offer from shooters and puzzlers and beyond.

That said, many still require an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription, so take that into account, and we've also included some games that are listed as what Nintendo calls "free to start." You're likely familiar with the concept as they are video games where you can "start" free of charge, but perhaps there are cosmetics and the like that cost money. There is, however, no requirement to spend any money.

From the likes of Fortnite to Apex Legends to Sky: Children of the Light, we've gathered together our picks of the best free Switch games you can play right now.

The 10 best free Switch games

10. Warframe

(Image credit: Digital Extremes)

First up, there’s the small matter of Warframe, one of the best free-to-play shooters of the last few years that has seemingly effortlessly ported to Switch. Predictably, the adventures of the Tenno aren’t quite as sharp as they are on PS4, but that won’t stop you marvelling at just how slick and fluid the shootery action is here and wondering how on earth so much of it is absolutely free. A little like starting a TV show in the middle of season five, Warframe is initially intimidating, but once you’ve chosen your Warframe and your skills, everything seems a little easier to understand and you can concentrate on the glossy PvE-ness at hand. Think impressive free to play Destiny on Switch, complete with grind, and you’re on the right murderous space track. 

9. Pokemon Quest

(Image credit: Game Freak)

If you’ve ever asked yourself what might be cuter than regular Pikachu, the answer might just be a version of the electric mouse Pokemon turned into an adorable fat cube. It’s obviously not a replacement for Pokemon Let’s Go but the joyously square Pokemon Quest is a charmingly relaxing way to get a hit of the original 151 as you battle your way across Tumblecube Island. There aren’t any Poke Balls here, but don't panic. Instead, as you fight Pokemon across the world, you’ll unlock ingredients to cook stews. Thankfully it’s not Poke-meat so bear with us. Rattle these tasty treats up over the fire of your customisable base camp and you’ll attract new Pokemon to join your party. There’s not quite the depth of one of the full games but that’s definitely not the point here. Did we mention that all 151 are irresistible in cube form? And there are stews

8. Apex Legends

Apex Legends

(Image credit: EA)

Apex Legends is an incredibly fun battle royale that allows you to pick a character based on their skill set. If you're more of a run-and-gunner, you might enjoy a character like Bangalore who can set off smoke bombs to hide her tracks and rain down a barrage of bombs on enemies. If you like to play things more tactically, you can always try out Wattson, who can build electric perimeter fences to help keep enemies away from certain areas. As another free-to-play game available on Switch, you can hop in right now and give another battle royale a spin. 

7. Arena of Valor

(Image credit: Tencent Games)

Arena of Valor - it's the video game formerly known as Realm of Valor and Strike of Kings and it was the first MOBA to arrive on the Nintendo Switch. It has it's problems (mainly queue times and features that are available on mobile but not on the Switch), but it's still a great game to jump into. There's nothing like playing a MOBA on your couch, am I right? With multiple gameplay modes, including 5v5, 3v3, 1v1 and a "Hook Wars" mode, there's tons of different ways to get into Arena of Valor. Arena of Valor is accessible and enjoyable, with a fairly simple control scheme and some truly enjoyable gameplay. And it's free.

6. Sky: Children of the Light

Three characters play music in screenshot from Sky: Children of the Light

(Image credit: thatgamecompany)

Sky: Children of the Light from Journey developer thatgamecompany is hard to describe succinctly. The developer calls it as a "social adventure," and it certainly is that, but's it's also a third-person adventure game with seamless multiplayer, effectively making it an MMO or sorts. The whole point is to soar around and explore a beautifully animated world in order to -- as the developer puts it -- spread hope "through the desolate kingdom to return fallen Stars to their constellations." It's musical, magical, and well worth your time. And free!

5. Super Kirby Clash

(Image credit: Nintendo)

A HD version of the largely ignored Team Kirby Clash Deluxe on 3DS, this multiplayer actioner is a surprisingly in-depth RPG. It turns out that there’s far more to Kirby than just inhaling everything he sees, and in Super Kirby Clash you must choose between the Sword Hero, Hammer Lord, Doctor Healmore and Beam Mage classes to take on Kirby bosses. It’s a little heavy on the requirement of Gem Apples - the game’s in-app purchases and rewards for performing quests - but the online battle system is brilliant fun and upgrades genuinely feel like progression. Plus, if you don’t want to go online, AI friends fill in almost too well for each brawl, proving that you don’t need real humans after all. Just spherical colourful blobs with swords. Yay.

4. Overwatch 2

Overwatch 2 screenshot showing hero Mauga in combat

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Say what you want about Overwatch 2, the fact remains that it's inarguably the best free hero shooter on Nintendo Switch. Constantly evolving, and not always in ways that the community likes or wants, Overwatch 2 scratches a certain kind of itch that others games on the Nintendo Switch just can't. We could argue all day about whether there was any need for it to exist when the original Overwatch was right there, but exist it does, and it makes for a perfectly fine -- though not extraordinary -- experience.

3. Brawlhalla

(Image credit: Blue Mammoth Games)

Even among fighting game fans, Super Smash Bros: Ultimate can be divisive. The brand of gravity-wrangling, weapon-raining combat might not be for you, even if you ‘enriched’ your youth every available quarter into Street Fighter II. And that’s where the excellent Brawhalla comes in. It’s a free, immediate, beautifully-designed fighter that will give a clear sense of how you’ll manage Smash’s frenetic combat. But more than this, it’s an excellent standalone scrapper in its own right. There’s a huge selection of characters, pixel-perfect platforming, and an active, engaged community. And if anything, the crisp design and cartoony presentation might actually be easier to parse than Ultimate’s boisterous and explosive design. The bad news though is that this means you'll have no excuse when a cartoon Viking smacks you into oblivion with an axe. 

2. Fortnite

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Introducing Fortnite at this stage feels a bit like being the person at a party acting like the MCU is a little-known series of indie movies that only they know intimately. The good news though is that Fortnite fits on Nintendo Switch like a certain apocalypse-causing glove from the aforementioned not-so-indie movies. Whether you’re handing Epic Games your credit card details or not, the colorful 100-player carnage runs beautifully on the handheld at 30fps and fully supports cross-platform play. As battle royale games go, nothing can compete with Fortnite’s constant evolutions to keep the world playing, making it still one of the most exciting games to arrive on Switch. That Nintendo’s console can happily stand alongside its bigger brothers and still deliver a perfect hit of cinematic chaos is a feat worth flossing about.

1. Tetris 99

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If you think Battle Royale Tetris sounds like a fever dream as a genre, you're not entirely wrong. It just shouldn't work but, somehow, 99 Tetronimoe spinning players all desperately trying to reign supreme as the music gets faster and faster is one of the most exhilarating multiplayer experiences in years. Maybe it’s the fact that you can choose to attack only the weakest of players or just the glorious idea that all those decades of lone block spinning are finally paying off, but Tetris 99 has managed to effortlessly become one of the best free games on Switch. It’s definitely not the calmest experience on this list - you’ll need to get to 8 for that - but as tests of your reaction times go, it doesn’t get much better than blocky Battle Royale. It's worth noting that while it is technically free-to-play, you will need a Nintendo Online subscription. 

Check out our list of the best upcoming Nintendo Switch games to stay on top of the all the latest titles coming to Nintendo's console. 

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode. 

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