If you're after some free entertainment, you'd be wise not to overlook the best Switch demos on the eShop. Nintendo and its developers have some extraordinarily generous Switch demos that offer hours - sometimes into the tens of hours - of game time without asking a penny from you. Of course, we can't guarantee you won't be tempted to buy the full game after checking out the demo.
Our up-to-date account of the best Switch demos includes games from a wide variety of genres. Some of these are exceptionally generous, offering hours of playtime comparable to some full-length games, while others can be completed in a couple of hours. We've also included the cost of each demo's full game in case you decide to pull the trigger, and fortunately most of these demos will allow you to transfer your progress to the full game.
Whether you're looking for your next Switch purchase or you just want something to kill the time, these are the very best Switch demos the eShop has to offer right now.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise is all the rage right now, and it costs you nothing to see what all the buzz is about. The first Monster Hunter Rise demo, released in January, was a short-and-sweet little romp that let players through two quests, and the more recent demo adds a third quest, bringing your total playtime to roughly 45 minutes to an hour. The good thing is it seems you can play through the missions as many times as you want to really get a feel for the mechanics.
If you're new to the series, Monster Hunter Rise is a good place to start. It doesn't have the size and scope of 2017's Monster Hunter World, but in many ways that works to a newcomer's advantage. Without so much going on, it's a gentler introduction to a series that can be daunting to approach. Though the case can be made for World being the most accessible game in the series, Rise is a tighter, more contained experience and a good alternate entry point if you found World a bit overwhelming. And what better way to start than with a free demo? Go on now, get monster hunting.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Cost of full game: $59.99/£49.99
If you can't seem to endure the painful silence from Nintendo on Breath of the Wild 2, do yourself a favor and check out the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo. Even if you aren't usually a huge fan of musou style games, Age of Calamity inherits more from Breath of the Wild than its art style.
Age of Calamity is a fleshed-out Breath of the Wild prequel story with familiar elements like collecting resources and cooking, Korok collecting, and the Sheika slate. Plus, you get to choose from a suite of playable characters including Zelda, the Four Champions, Daruk, Mipha, Revali, and Urbosa, Impa, and of course Link. As with most games on this list, progress you make playing the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo carries over to the full game.
Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Cost of full game: $59.99/£49.99
Probably the entry on this list with the most bang for your no-buck, Dragon Quest 11 S can't be missed. Not only is the Definitive Edition 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.
We've all been largely stuck inside for about a year now, and if you're lucky enough to have a partner to keep you sane, you're likely desperate for more games to play together. Moving Out is a silly, chaotic, and sometimes just slightly stressful co-op game where you're tasked with moving house under a time limit, but the universe really seems to not want you to do so. Obstacles including rakes, fires, ice, ghosts, and often the incompatible shapes of doorways stand between your furniture and the moving truck.
Sometimes you'll need your partner to help you lift something heavy, and other times you'll break something fragile and blame it on said partner. Just like moving in together in real life, Moving Out is a test of your relationship as much as a fun co-op game. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll call Nintendo's Joy-Con repair service and tell them your controllers just randomly stopped working (nevermind the cracks in the plastic).