Best Switch exclusives to make sure you have in your library

The best Switch exclusives demonstrate just how many excellent offerings can be found on Nintendo's console. With a library full of fantastic first-party gems, there's a whole host of memorable experiences from some of the biggest and most beloved series around. From inventive and creative adventures like The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, to more recent strategy delights like Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, there's no shortage of Switch exclusives to get lost in. 

You just have to look at our pick of the best Switch indie games and best free Switch games to see that the console has an extensive library of titles to choose from. But this list focuses on the very best Switch exclusives you can play right now. Each and every one has something to offer, from games that continue to showcase Nintendo's creativity to recent additions that capture our imagination or carry on the legacy of some of the most famous characters in video games in refreshing ways. 

So whether you've just picked up a Switch and you're looking for recommendations, or you're a long-time player who wants to check out our selection, read on below to find our roundup of the best Switch exclusives. 

15. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope  

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Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope

(Image credit: Ubisot)

The classic characters of the Mushroom Kingdom have once again teamed up with the cartoonish, chaotic Rabbids for a sequel that steps up the game from 2017's Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Sparks of Hope feels like a true evolution by affording you with plenty of freedom in many different ways. From exploring the world to choosing which characters are on your roster, the biggest change can be found in combat. By ditching the grid-based system, Mario and the Rabbids are now free to move around during battles, which adds a more in-depth and rewarding level of strategy. Along with a host of other new features and settings that make the experience more approachable, Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope brings the unlikely crossover back in what is one real Switch delight.  

14. Yoshi's Crafted World

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Yoshi's Crafted World excels because it's just so darn cute. Its papercraft, recycled world always looks handmade, with all the enemies getting involved in its DIY project aesthetic. You're rescuing magic gems from the baddies, and to do so you'll have to travel across a beautifully created world all themed around unique topics - whether it's dinosaurs, airplanes, and more. Each of the levels gets increased replayability through a plethora of collectibles, along with the option to play the level in reverse from a  backstage point of view to collect the three mischievous Poochy pups. It's a glorious experience to behold. 

13. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

If you prefer something a bit more modern on the RPG front, 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. The game's CG anime aesthetic and expansive cast of fully voiced heroes and villains 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 customization 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.

12. Paper Mario: The Origami King

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Paper Mario: The Origami King might not be the RPG you'd hope for, but it is special in its own way. With this latest series entry, Nintendo has tapped right into the fun, light-hearted spirit that it always thrived on, especially when it comes to your companions. Whether it's your new sidekick Olivia, or the range of travel pals you'll meet - like the Bob-Omb that's lost its memory - they all heighten the game's comedic charm. Combat-wise, you're looking at a ring system that'll have you twisting and turning your enemies into place before whacking them with hammers or stomping them with your boots. Boss battles see stationary take a dark turn, with strategy pushed to the fore. Paper Mario: The Origami King is fun, light-hearted, and a celebration of Super Mario - topped off with a strong story, great humor, and brilliant characters. 

11. Pokemon Legends Arceus

Pokemon Legends Arceus

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokemon Legends Arceus feels like a fresh step for the long-running series that offers something decidedly different. Set in a time long ago, before humans and Pokemon lived and trained together, Arceus gives us a chance to experience a slice of Pokemon history we've never gotten to see before. Instead of the classic quest to defeat gym leaders and the elite four, the adventure revolves around you completing the very first Pokedex. Joining the Galaxy team as a member of the Survey Corps, you catch and study Pokemon in more open wild areas, complete side quests, and make your way through an exciting main story as you go. With a satisfying sense of progression in more ways than one, Pokemon Legends Arceus really does shake up the classic formula in its own unique way. 

10. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby Mouthful Mode car

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is one of the best looking games on Switch right now that also takes you on a delightfully charming journey you won't soon forget. With the lovable pink puffball arriving in a mysterious land that's not too dissimilar to the world we know, you'll take on the beast pack and all manner of foes with Kirby's copy abilities. While Kirby is no stranger to platforming, this time around the stages are more than open than ever before in the first fully 3D adventure. Packed full of vibrant levels with lots of attention to detail, a variety of challenges to conquer, and upgradable abilities to unlock, Kirby and the Forgotten Land also introduces the wonderfully weird mouthful mode which sees our hero transform into a car, lightbulb, and much more besides. To top it all off, there's also a home base you can build up known as Waddle Dee Town, with a host of mini-games and adorable features. It really is one of the very best Kirby games to date. 

9. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Yes, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is technically a glorified Wii U port, but it's better than ever on Switch. With all the tracks, racers, and modes of the original release, plus all DLC bundled in from launch, the Deluxe edition offers up one of the best Mario Kart experiences around. By restoring the proper Battle Mode omitted from the Wii U edition, adding in new characters such as Splatoon's Inklings, providing new kart customization options, and more tracks set to be added thanks to the Course Booster pack, this is Mario Kart 8 at its very best. 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.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Switch received its second mainline Zelda game in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, an utterly gorgeous plasticky diorama-style reimagining of the 1993 classic that 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 game's 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.

7. Splatoon 3

Splatoon 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Splatoon 3 brings the Inklings and Octolings to the new setting of Splatsville for a third instalment that continues to build on the strong foundations of Nintendo's stellar shooter series. New features and movesets give the experience a fresh coat of paint and succeed at offering more depth and dimension for veterans and more approachability for newcomers. With a host of exciting new stages and returning modes, new weapons, a variety of welcome quality of life improvements, and yet more stylish looks to deck ourselves out in, Splatoon 3 continues to provide one the most welcoming and approachable experiences of its genre. The Splatoon games have always felt original and creative. While the latest entry might not drastically change up the game, its additions round out the experience and try to strike a balance for veterans and newcomers alike.    

6. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

(Image credit: Nintendo)

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 as 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? 

5. Luigi's Mansion 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Not only is Luigi's Mansion 3 one of the best looking games on Switch, but it's also a wonderful, memorable adventure. Instead of a mansion, as the title implies, it's all about a spooky hotel this time around. Each floor offers a different theme, and puzzles to solve as you work towards rescuing your friends from the evil hotel owner Hellen Gravely and King Boo who've taken over the hotel and are making your life a living nightmare. It's quirky, involves switching between Luigi and the now-famous Gooigi to help you access otherwise off-limits areas, and is beautifully animated. Full of charm, Luigi's Mansion 3 is going to go down as one of the best Nintendo Switch exclusives of all time.

4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Fancy jetting away to your own island paradise? Well, that's just what Tom Nook and co are offering with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You'll be gifted - for a fee, of course - your very own deserted island, and it's down to you to transform it from quiet getaway to a bustling locale, filled with friends old and new. With new features, like crafting and terraforming, there's a lot to see in New Horizons, but the game also thrives on the gentle ticking of real-world time, meaning nothing is hurried or rushed, and playing Animal Crossing just becomes part of your daily routine. If you ever needed a break from reality, now's the time, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons is here to deliver.

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.

Want to know more of the must-haves on Switch? Check out our pick of the best Nintendo Switch games or head on over to our upcoming Switch games list to see which ones to add to your wishlist.

Matt Kamen is a freelance journalist specialising in games, media, and technology. His work can be found online and in print for publications like Empire, Wired, GamesRadar, Newsarama, The Observer, and more. 

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