The best free Switch games aren’t the ones packed with microtransactions and sadness. They’re the ones that actually offer incredible gaming experiences but just also happen to cost absolutely no money at the same time. To use Nintendo’s terminology, a lot of these games are ‘free to start’ so cost nothing to load up but then, dependent on your resilience, might set you back a few coins to speed things up or just to make things prettier. It’s important to note that free-to-play games aren’t all about evil, nefarious companies trying to steal your money. Instead, think of any microtransactions you do invest in as paying the developer for something you are actively enjoying. Like a shiny tip.
Free-to-play games come in all shapes in sizes too so, of course, Fornite is in here but there’s a good selection of different kinds of experiences. You can enjoy the peace and tranquil brain quiet of Color Zen, the manic joys of Tetris 99, or even find out what happens when Kirby turns into party-based RPG. Or you could just hole up and build the perfect nuke-proof settlement in Fallout Shelter. Look at all the fun you can have for no money. Here are the 10 best free Switch games that you can play right now.
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. Realm Royale
Look at a screenshot of Realm Royale and you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a medieval Fortnite clone that hasn’t even been imaginative enough to change both words of the title from the genre. However, Realm Royale on Nintendo Switch is a very different experience from Epic's world breaking phenomenon. Sure, 100 of you land in an ever shrinking world, but a welcome big difference sees you crafting with the remains of the weapons that you find and don't want, so you never feel like looting is a waste of time. Take Shards to forges on the map and you can craft yourself all kinds of useful items. That is, if you can stay alive long enough to build and get out of sight. Oh, and then there's the fact that you can play as four different classes that each let you unlock traits. You could say, it's a-mage-ing...
8. Color Zen
If you don’t want to constantly be gripping your Joy-Cons with white knuckles, Color Zen is a perfect way to take a break between Battle Royale bouts. Like switching your brain to screen saver mode, all you need to do here is use the touch screen to move shapes around to make sure that the last colour that fills your screen is the same colour as the outer frame. Of course, it starts off simple - move a blue block to a blue circle and everything goes, well, blue - but things get trickier as only certain shapes can be moved and colours sneakily hide in layers. Add in a hypnotic soundtrack and that ‘just one more go’ feeling is irresistible. The free to play version generously includes the first 120 levels but, while that sounds like more than enough, your colour matching brain might disagree.
If you’re sick of being the kind of god that fixes everyone’s problems in simulation games and just want to smash everything up, you’ll probably get along very well with Smite. Handing over an impressive roster of destructive mega gods, this is a MOBA with a difference. Instead of that lofty sky view for optimum tactics, Smite pops you right in the middle of the action with an over the shoulder third person shooter view. This makes communication absolutely essential if victory is to be yours. There are no lone wolves here. Or, at least, not alive ones. If you’re an existing Smite player, cross play means that Switch is a great way to take things on the road but new players have plenty to enjoy too with an almost overwhelming selection of heroes and speedy online matchmaking.
6. Pokemon Quest
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?
5. Super Kirby Clash
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.
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.
3. Fallout Shelter
Released all the way back in 2015 for those jonesing for a radioactive hit in the lead up to Fallout 4, this cartoony vault builder is somehow more compelling than ever. Fallout Shelter lets you realise all those dreams you just didn’t know you had of constructing the ultimate radiation proof resort. Wannabe vault dwellers quite literally line up to become cogs in your colourful yet well-oiled machine as you balance food and electricity production with bedrooms and armouries. A fresh new quests system has even been added since release too so it’s not just about appreciating the chat-up lines when you pair up some dwellers to, well, make some new ones. Even better is the fact that you can largely choose to ignore the in-app purchases as there are no paywalls when it comes to your day to day Overseer duties. Although resisting adorable pet cats is still tricky…
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 aforementioned not-so indie movies. Whether you’re handing Epic Games your credit card details or not, the colourful 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
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.