Best Nintendo Switch games 2021 - Pocket-lint
(Pocket-lint) - The Nintendo Switch is an amazing games console, with the line-up now including the portable-only Nintendo Switch Lite too.
Both consoles are completely different to everything else out there, with the Lite being the greatest portable games machine around and the standard Switch offering the best of all worlds, whether you are playing at home on your TV or when out and about on its 6.2-inch screen.
But what are the best games for either Switch? What are the top games to shell out on right now?
Here are our choices for the must-haves for the Nintendo console, and we've split them into categories to make it even easier for you. You can jump right to your favourite game type below.
Best Mario games on Switch
Want to step into the shoes of everybody's favourite plumber? These Switch games are for you...
Super Mario Odyssey
Not only is this 3D platformer one of the best games on any console around today, it's one of the best Mario games too. It owes more to Super Mario 64 than others over the years and is so full of secrets and surprises that you'll be playing it long after the story is complete. Every second is a joy.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury
This superb package brings a supreme platformer from the Wii U era to the Switch with some lovely extras, and an expansion called Bowser's Fury that might just give a glimpse at the future of Mario games. It's an open-world bit of freeform action, and paired with 3D World's linear levels, this is an incredibly polished offering that's a must for Switch owners.
Luigi's Mansion 3
Luigi's Mansion - starring Mario's brother - is a very different experience to the likes of Super Mario Odyssey. It's not jam-packed with big cities or lots of people, but instead features scary moments - well somewhat scary, this is Nintendo after all - and plenty of exploratory gameplay.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
This Mario game is rather different to the norm. Don't expect a platformer. Instead, you get a turn-based X-Com style strategy game, but featuring the eponymous plumber and Ubisoft's crazy Rabbids characters.
Not only does the game look fantastic, it plays well and different levels can be tackled in your own time. Ideal, therefore, for commuting - just make sure you take your thinking cap with you.
Yoshi's Crafted World
A graphical masterpiece and a well-balanced platform caper, Yoshi's Crafted World stars Mario's best chum and represents the different approach that Nintendo loves to take. It's also a nice, pleasant game for young and old to enjoy.
Super Mario Maker 2
Nintendo fantastically built on its Super Mario Maker concept for the sequel, which is better in almost every way possible. You can basically create Mario 2D platformer levels, share them and play others built by the wider community. A single-player story mode is also great fun, as you tackle more than 100 custom levels.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
Originally release for the Wii U, hence the "U" in the name, this enhanced 2D platformer takes Mario back to his roots in glorious fashion - adding some modern twists along the way, of course. It also includes the Super Luigi U add-on starring the taller, more mischievous brother.
Best Pokemon games on Switch
Want to catch 'em all? Check these out...
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!
There's no denying that everyone loves a Pokémon game. The Switch version - which is available in Pikachu and Eevee flavours (they're two similar games but with slightly different content) - is a lovable role-playing game based on the old GameBoy classic, Pokémon Yellow. However, the graphics have been given a major overhaul and optional motion controls make this an interactive classic.
Pokémon: Sword / Pokémon: Shield
Pokemon has become a modern JRPG without renouncing its essence. A breathtaking soundtrack by Ordago, the introduction of dozens of delightful new species, and impressive new mechanics create a cohesive and balanced experience.
If haven't tried a Pokemon game before, this is where you should start; if you already love Pokemon then Sword and Shield will immediately be your new favourite.
A free-to-play MOBA wasn't what we thought we'd get from Pokémon, but here we are, and it's surprisingly excellent. It has five-a-side battles to offer up, each lasting just 10 minutes, which makes for a really fun pace and loads of action. There are plenty of different monsters to use, although unlocking them can take a little time, but the quality of battling is really sky-high. If it gets properly supported this could be a game that's hugely popular for years to come.
Best racing games on Switch
If you like putting your pedal to the metal, these could be the games you're looking for...
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Previously released for the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 gets a graphical update for the Deluxe version on Switch, which runs at 60 frames per second even when in portable mode.
You also get a few gameplay bonuses, such as an extra weapon slot for pick-ups during races and additional karters. It is easily one of the best Mario Kart games in many years and an essential purchase for any Switch owner.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
A remaster of 2003's Crash Team Racing, this nitro-charged version has incredible graphics, re-built from the ground up. The kart racing fun is much the same as before, but new features include online multiplayer and an improved adventure mode have been added for good measure. One word of warning though, don't expect Mario Kart levels of difficulty - mastering CTR is as tough as it's always been.
Best RPGs on Switch
Want to know what the best Switch RPGs are? Look no further...
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There couldn't have been a better launch game to sell Switch consoles than Breath of the Wild. A long time in the making and more than a year delayed, it was well worth the wait as it's one of the best role-playing games ever made.
The massive, open-world RPG has many facets. Every nook and cranny of the marvellous game world is filled with adventure and puzzles. And while it adds crafting to the well-trodden themes, it's not obtrusive and fits in beautifully.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Link's Awakening fills the gap nicely as we wait for the sequel to Breath of the Wild, with its isometric action-RPG charm and fiendish puzzles. It's a from-the-ground-up remake of the GameBoy classic that everyone over a certain age will remember. But, even if you do, it is well-worth a revisit as it feels completely fresh in its own right.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition
Informally dubbed The Switcher, the Switch version of The Witcher 3 is nothing short of a technical wonder. The enormous open-world RPG was a major feat on Xbox One and PS4, let alone on a portable games console. And while it has been cut back a little graphically, everything that makes it one of the best games of all time is there on Switch too.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
If you want a change of pace while living an escapist fantasy, the newest Animal Crossing might just be the perfect game for you. It's relaxing, delightful and sweet, and will never threaten you with the stress of some more "mature" games on this list. We've loved every minute of our time with it, and know that it's going to capture hearts and minds as time goes by.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The latest instalment in the storied Fire Emblem franchise is an absolute doozy, with replayability coming out its ears. You play as a professor at an officers' academy, and quickly choose one of three houses to teach. That choice will see you pursue drastically different storylines, but all the strands share its two gameplay pillars. Those are brutal strategic battles with turn-based combat, and leisure time that you can spend getting to know a huge cast of memorable characters. This is a game to fall into for hours at a time.
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is an ideal release for Switch, combining the superb Gwent card game with a single-player RPG campaign that should keep you going for over 30 hours. It is based in The Witcher universe, but works equally well in short bursts during a commute as it does in hardcore sessions when you have more time on your hands.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection
The classic top-down dungeon slayer is great as a special edition for Switch, feeling surprisingly fresh and playable despite arriving years after its original release. That it's playable in portable format takes the game to a whole other level and gives the Switch something that's often been absent from previous Nintendo consoles: adult content.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is one of the largest, most highly revered role-playing games of all time. To release the entire game, DLC and more, on a portable platform is nothing short of a miracle.
What's more, it is the remastered version that appeared on the latest-gen consoles so you get so much more for your bucks. It is a true technological marvel and something you will find yourself still playing many months on.
Best multiplayer games on Switch
If you've got some friends around or want to play against others online, these are top multiplayer games to try out. Remember though, for online play on most of them, you will need Nintendo Switch Online membership.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Alongside ARMs, this is the best fighting game on the Switch, and possibly the best Smash Bros to boot. Although a rehash of the Wii U version, this truly is the "ultimate" edition. It's not only fast and slick, but has a mighty cast of characters to control. And, it's one of the Switch games that has been embraced fully by the eSports community.
Although it's not exactly groundbreaking if you played the original Splatoon, the third-person, paint-splatting sequel is a fun multiplayer blast.
It looks superb on the Switch - even better than the Wii U predecessor, which we loved. The single-player campaign is vastly improved, plus there are new multiplayer modes. Everything seems better tweaked than before, giving the best Splatoon experience yet.
Not everyone's cup of tea, perhaps, but this motion-controlled beat-em-up is great fun if you've got a few friends round and additional Joy-Cons to compete with.
You hold a Joy-Con in each hand and use them to control the arms of your fighter, hence the name. Fighters are bionic, however, and have many properties. The whole thing is very Nintendo-esque; it's harmful fun, even for kids. One word of warning though, it isn't good for the Nintendo Switch Lite, as it's not suitable for handheld play.
Ring Fit Adventure
Multiplayer might not quite be the right word, but when it comes to getting a whole household moving and enjoying a game based around exercise, Ring Fit Adventure is an absolute winner. It's pretty hard to find at the moment, so popular has it proven, but its blend of RPG-style battles with exercise-based goals and games is seriously fun and suitable for entire families.
Super Mario Party
Minigames galore in this for-all-the-family slice of fun. It's by far the best Mario Party game yet made, and committed Nintendo fans will find it irresistible. It shows off the Switch's party-gaming credentials with plenty of panache.
It's not suitable for Switch Lite owners though, as you need to be able to remove and wave about the Joy-Cons.
What can be said about the multiplayer shooter that hasn't before? It's not just a game, it's a cultural phenomenon and, as it's free to download and play, you can check it out for yourself without spending a penny on any in-game content.
Rocket League has been a huge success story, with kids of all ages getting hooked on its bizarre mix of car racing and football. And the Switch version is a remarkable port that sticks to 60fps throughout, albeit with a slight drop in resolution.
You don't care though, as you can compete from anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal. It also links with other versions of the game, so you don't have to just compete against players on their own Switch devices.
Minecraft on Switch is the exact same version of the game available across multiple platforms and replaced the former "Nintendo Switch Edition". Our only regret is that you can't use the touchscreen to choose items in your inventory, but it's an authentic Minecraft experience in all other regards.
Best platformer games on Switch
Yes, several of the Mario games above are platformers too but here are some that you should also try...
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
You can also play the first Ori game on Switch, but we love the second most, which flows a bit more smoothly and takes the story even further. This is a superb port of what was first an Xbox One game, and its gorgeous art style looks great on the Switch.
It's also a brilliant platformer, with varied areas to get around, loads of traversal mechanics to learn and master, and an impressively expanded combat system, as well. It's an absolute treat, and we're thrilled it's arrived on Nintendo's brilliant console.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Like several other games in this best-of, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a conversion of a Wii U game and it has made the transition very well indeed. The 2D platformer can be played with a friend in co-op - just make sure that you both have mad skills though, as it is rock hard at times. Just as games should be.
Lego City Undercover
We loved the Wii U exclusive when it came out a few years ago, but as the console and, thus, the game didn't sell it's great to see it given a lick of paint and a new lease of life.
Lego City Undercover takes the Lego platform gameplay, pops it into an open-world setting and that results in a kid-friendly Grand Theft Auto-style experience. It is also very funny, thanks largely to Chase McCain, an anti-hero worthy of a sequel or even future movie.
Yoku's Island Express
A cunning blend of 2D platform action and pinball, Yoku's Island Express is a gorgeous indie game that deserves to be on this list. Indeed, it's puzzler undertones had us hooked good and proper. We suspect it'll do the same for you.
Best shooters on Switch
When the going gets tough, the tough pick up a hand cannon. Here's why...
Sniper Elite III: Ultimate Edition
The Switch release of Sniper Elite III: Ultimate brings one of the best combat games around to a portable platform. It is more cerebral than most shooters and plays partly as a stealth puzzle game. Plus, you can now get Sniper Elite V2 in its remastered form on the Nintendo machine too.
Of all the remastered or remade games for Nintendo Switch, Doom is possibly the most impressive. It plays just like the PS4 and Xbox One equivalents.
It's clearly not as sharp - which you notice more when played on a TV in docked mode - but the authentic Doom visuals and action are all there. It's not one for the feint hearted, but older Switch owners will love this hardcore first-person shooter.
Best indie games on Switch
Sometimes, great games needn't come from the biggest publisher. These are testament to that...
Untitled Goose Game
Starting as an internet meme, Untitled Goose Game eventually became one of the most talked-about videogames of modern times. You can find out why through the Switch version, which gives you control of one of the most irritating lead characters around.
A photography game that's way more interesting than the mainstream likes of New Pokémon Snap, this superb little game is all about snapping unique angles of varied subjects. We love the new motion controls, and the soundtrack - and it's also got a better vision of a dystopian future than most way bigger-name games. Definitely check this one out!
Sweet and simple in graphical style, this part RPG, part farm simulation indie game has won hearts and minds on every platform on which it has been released.
It seems perfect for the Nintendo Switch too, thanks to the console's portability and the casual nature of dipping in and out of the game. There is plenty of depth in Stardew Valley, but it's a game you can play your way, whenever you fancy. And that's the mantra for the Switch too.
This brilliant little largely text-based adventure stars you as a mysterious killer who needs to get away with her pretty flagrant crime. It's a wonderful slice of fun, with loads of sub-plots and dialogue to savour as you see how many different endings you can discover.
This is a soulful game about, well, souls - you play as a ferryman to the dead, but the game is more about learning to accept and come to terms with the end of our lives. It's a gentle management sim that is nice and relaxing to play, but make sure you don't forget your tissues, as it gets pretty emotional at points!
This relaxing city-builder is a supremely calming game. You take charge of a series of randomly generated islands, strategically placing buildings and monuments before moving on to bigger locations if you do well enough. It's low-pressure and a gorgeous visual identity combined with low-fi music makes it really laid-back.
Best adventures on Switch
Need something to tax the brain as well as the trigger finger?
Not only is L.A. Noire a great game on the Switch, it shows the console can compete with home-only rivals when it comes to big open-world games. Rockstar's PS3 and Xbox 360 hit was also remastered for PS4 and Xbox One, including 4K visuals on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, but the Switch version is perhaps the most technically impressive considering it's on a portable platform.
The entire L.A. Noire experience, including all the original criminal cases and downloadable content, is included, and while some graphical compromises have had to be made, it is a game that every owner over a certain age should get.
This enchanting story lets you play as an archaeologist uncovering signs of an ancient civilisation and translating its language bit by bit as you uncover more words and sites of interest. It's engaging and beautifully written, and a real treat to gradually play through.
Thimbleweed Park harks back to an age when point-and-click adventures ruled. Indeed, it is the brainchild of Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick - the duo behind LucasArts classics such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion.
Expect a cross between some tricky puzzles and laugh-out-loud moments. What really makes the adventure are the weird and diverse characters you meet as you try to solve a murder mystery. It all adds up to a wonderful change of pace from most console games on the platform.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Both Resident Evil: Revelations and its sequel have been remastered and ported to the Switch and while we like both, the first game just shades it.
The survival horror is creepy, cleverly paced, and works well both in docked and handheld mode. Our only suggestion is you don't play it on a late, fairly empty train home. If so, you might have to change your trousers when you get back.
Writing by Rik Henderson. Editing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 19 December 2017.