The Switch has done absurdly well for Nintendo. Although the hybrid console/handheld lacks the raw power of its rivals, it has sold over 120 million units, making it the second best-selling Nintendo device after the DS which sits at 154 million and the third best-selling console overall. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down very much. Over its lifespan, there have been dozens and dozens of exclusive games released for the Nintendo Switch, many of them coming directly from Nintendo itself. Its library is an extensive list brimming with quality exclusive games.
In this list, I’m going to recommend a handful of games that I think are great choices for anyone who has just bought a Switch and wants to know what to play. Now, I have taken a small liberty when writing this list: not all these games are technically exclusive to the Nintendo Switch – a few of them were available on the older Nintendo Wii U. I know, I know, it’s a little cheeky to include them, but since the Wii U is discontinued and the online store won’t be available, the only way to play these games is to buy the Switch versions. Or go and buy a second-hand Wii U and hunt down physical copies, but why would you do that?
Now for some transparency: below each game, you’ll see buttons that take you to Amazon where you can buy it. These are affiliate links. By clicking on them and buying the game, I’ll get a small referral fee, but it doesn’t cost you a thing – it’s exactly the same price as it would be if you just visited Amazon normally. This is a great way to help support this site, especially if you’re interested in buying the game anyway!
Looking to buy a Nintendo Switch? Check it out on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
10. Super Mario Maker 2
If you’ve ever played a game and thought, ‘I could make a better level than that’ then Super Mario Maker 2 is for you. By using a simple and intuitive set of tools, Super Mario Maker 2 lets you quickly build Mario levels to play and share with people around the world. Whether you want to make something breezy and simple, or something fiendishly tricky, you’ll find heaps of stuff to tinker with and add to your masterpiece.
And if you don’t feel like building anything, there’s a solid story mode that takes you through heaps of levels as you build Princess Peach’s new castle. Hopefully, you’ll get some inspiration for your own designs along the way. If not, you’ll still have a great time using the classic Mario platforming mechanics that have enchanted generations of gamers over multiple consoles and handhelds.
For younger players, I think Super Mario Maker 2 is an exceptional game because it gets their creative juices flowing, maybe even encouraging them to bust out some grid paper and plan everything out. And then they get to test out their magnum opus by uploading it for other people to try out and rate.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
If you want something old-school with a new-school look then The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening might be the adventure you need. It’s a remake of the 1993 original, trading the pixelated graphics for a shiny plastic diorama vibe, complete with a soft blur at the edges to make it feel like you’re peering down at a tiny world in motion. Has Link ever looked cuter? No. No, he has not.
All these years later, Link’s Awakening is still one of the more barmy Zelda games, dumping Link onto an island where he must find a bunch of musical instruments that are buried in extensive dungeons. The mixture of puzzle-solving, fighting and exploration is wonderfully balanced and massively entertaining, and the bird’s eye view makes Link’s Awakening work just as well in hand-held mode as docked.
8. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
Taking the annoying Ubisoft Rabbids and combining them with the world’s most famous plumber should not have worked, and yet Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was an incredibly fun turn-based strategy game bursting with goofball humour. Somehow, the sequel is even better, expanding on the formula in almost every way to make something awesome.
Each of the nine playable characters is dripping in charm and personality, which is just as well because the wacky story barely makes any sense. But where the story slips up, the jokes keep on hitting hard, and the overworld is far more open and varied. There are puzzles to solve, lots of room to explore and fun characters to meet.
On the gameplay front, everything feels smoother and more fluid. Now, each hero can move around freely in a set zone and there are more ways than ever to chain together moves and attacks. You could use Luigi to throw Mario into the air so he can glide across the map to Peach, and then Peach can get Mario to throw her as well and so on. With a little thought, you can bounce around the maps in a single turn and it feels great.
Sadly, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope has flown under the radar of most Switch players despite its excellence. If you want some turn-based strategy, Sparks of Hope is nothing short of superb.
7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Much like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the best aspect of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is how accessible it is. Anyone can pick up a Joycon, choose from the vast roster of characters, mash the buttons and end up having a blast. Where else can you see Mario take on Pikachu? Or Donkey Kong slap the snot out of Mega Man? And yet in the midst of all that smashing a dedicated player can hone their craft and decimate the unsuspecting. There’s a complex, satisfying brawler under the flashy effects, as the countless Smash Bros tournaments attest to.
It’s the ultimate couch co-op game, really. Yes, it can be played online with people from across the world using the Switch’s wonky online features but it is at its best with you and a few pals huddled around a screen, screaming at each other to stop spamming that one annoying move.
If that wasn’t enough there’s a substantial singleplayer mode to sink your teeth into and a host of customisation options. That makes this a great game to boot up for a few quick matches in handheld when you’re on the train or taking a coffee break.
6. Animal Crossing: New Horizon
Although the Nintendo Switch has no shortage of platforming, racing and adventure games, sometimes you just need to sit down and relax with something a bit calmer. Animal Crossing: New Horizon gives you a deserted little island to transform into your own little paradise full of beauty and friends. To that end, there’s a host of tools that let you transform the landscape and decorate every inch of your new home.
Tying the game into real-world gives Animal Crossing: New Horizon a relaxing cadence as the hours tick away. Pick up the game at night and it will be dark on your island, pick it up in Summer and the weather will be lovely. Since certain tasks can only be performed at certain times the idea isn’t to play New Horizon all the time, but rather let it become a small part of your day.
5. Metroid Prime Remastered
Choosing between Metroid Prime Remastered and Metroid Dread is no easy task, and really you could put either of them here. Metroid Dread is arguably the best 2D game in the entire series, after all. Ultimately, though, I’m siding with Metroid Prime Remastered because playing it is reliving a piece of gaming history. This glorious remaster takes the classic and spruces it up so that it can stand as one of the best-looking titles on the Switch.
It’s not just the graphics, though. Metroid Prime Remastered does a lot of work under the hood to take the original, clunky Gamecube controls and modernise them. Now, it’s the smooth shooter that it always was in its heart, and the amazing puzzle designs still feel great in 2023.
Metroid Prime Remastered is the benchmark for how old games can be revitalised for a new era of gamers, letting them experience a slice of gaming history. So do yourself a favour and see why Metroid Prime stands in the annals of history as one of the most important, influential videogames of all time.
4. Luigi’s Mansion 3
It might be the third game in the series but Luigi’s Mansion 3 stands on its own two quaking feet as a superb adventure game starring the titular green plumber. No prior experience of Luigi’s past run-ins with the supernatural is needed to enjoy this excellent supernatural romp which also just so happens to be one of the best-looking games on the Switch.
The core premise of slowly exploring a vast hotel one floor at a time is a simple but genius idea that let the developers craft wonderful level after wonderful level. Luigi’s charming animations as he creeps, peers and panics his way through the world are some of my favourite animations in all of gaming. They bring so much character and personality to Luigi and the game as a whole, expertly painting him as terrified and brave in equal measure. Sure, Mario is the fearless hero who rescues the princess and fights Bowser, but his brother Luigi is scared out of his pants and yet he keeps going anyway. That’s true bravery.
Let’s not forget the gameplay, either: it’s heaps of fun to suck up ghosts, hoover every room and figure out how to beat each boss. Best of all, you can tackle almost the entire game with a second player stepping into the goopy shoes of Gooigi for some two-player ghost grabbing.
This game had me charmed from start to finish, and I think it’ll do the same to you.
3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Like the Switch itself, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe just keeps on selling. It consistently appears in the charts and is currently the highest-selling Switch game at 52 million copies sold, and counting. By the time you’ve read this, it’s probably sold another million. Or two.
There’s a good reason for that, though: it’s really good. Almost every aspect of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe feels like a quality product, from the wealth of tracks and characters to the addictive racing. The beauty of the game is that it’s great for everyone: little kids can turn on the assists and blast around tracks, while seasoned pros can show off their drift skills. I’d argue that the excellent Team Crash Racing has a higher skill ceiling but it’s also not as approachable as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
It’s strange that it took Nintendo so long to put out more content for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. A full five years after the game came to the Switch (and a full eight years since Mario Kart 8 first appeared on the Wii U) Nintendo revealed the Booster Course Pass, promising another 48 tracks to be released in waves, by the end of 2023. That’ll bring the total count to a staggering 80 tracks, all of them filled with jumps, powerups and shortcuts.
But seriously, Nintendo, where is Mario Kart 9?
2. Super Mario Odyssey
It’s best not to think too hard about Super Mario Odyssey. As a premise, being able to take control of any enemy by simply tossing a hat on their head is pure genius. But as soon as you think about it even a little bit, the idea of a sentient cap that can transfer Mario’s soul into an unwilling host is unsettling, to say the least. Put aside the moral and ethical quandaries of consent in a world where a red plumber merrily murders millions of critters, though, and what you’re left with is a truly superb 3D platformer that sets the stage for what a Mario game in the modern age can be. It is by far the biggest and most expensive Mario game to date and that shows in almost every aspect. Every new world is a spectacle to explore and enjoy, filled with places to investigate and secrets to find. It’s Mario set free.
It’s a mammoth undertaking, too, because even once you make it to the end there are hundreds more stars to collect. It’s like a neverending adventure, which is good because you’ll never want it to end anyway. You’ll get far more than your money’s worth out of this one, and when you do finally finish it you’ll be left with memories of one of the most joyful and pure experiences in all of gaming.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It feels impossible to make a list of the best Nintendo Switch games without putting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the top spot. Released in 2017, Breath of the Wild is often hailed as one of the defining open-world games, helping to breathe (hehe) new life into the stagnant open-world genre.
The key to its success is somehow managing to retain the heart and soul of the Zelda franchise despite such a radical shift in gameplay. The vast world is a playground for players to experiment and mess around in, and even years after its release there are new discoveries being made and little details being found. You can make catapults using the physics system, chop down trees to form bridges, make a fire by striking wood and flint with a sword, bomb arrows will fizzle out when it’s raining, lightening can strike you if you hold up a sword and so much more. Your curiosity is almost always rewarded with something cool, and the sheer amount of stuff the developers have put into the game for players to discover on their own is mindboggling. It’s even possible to head straight to the final fight as soon as you start the game, although I wouldn’t count on doing very well.
It’s also a beautiful, relaxing game for people who want to put their feet up and while away a few hours doing nothing in particular. Just pick a direction and walk. No matter where you go, an adventure will be waiting for you. This is the kind of game that defines consoles and generations.
A sequel is coming in the next few months, so really there’s no better time to play Breath of the Wild and get ready for the next adventure.