The Nintendo Switch is the new console on the block and like any new console, becoming an early adopter can be an exciting and worrisome prospect. It takes a considerable amount of time for any new gaming hardware to get a sizable library of quality titles and while the Switch still has a long way to go, Nintendo has done an impressive job of putting out at least one high quality exclusive each month since the console’s release in March 2017. If you’ve just recently picked up a Switch or are on the fence about whether to get one, these 12 games represent the best the system has to offer and the ones you should get if you own a Switch.
*Note: The Nintendo Switch’s library will only get better as time goes on, so we’ll try to update this list every so often to reflect any new games that deserve consideration as the console’s best.
13. Fast RMX
It doesn’t look like Nintendo has plans to make a new F-Zero game anytime soon but fortunately, there’s already a game on the Switch that delivers a similar experience. An expanded version of the Wii U racing title Fast Racing Neo, Fast RMX is, as you might have guessed, a racer built around blisteringly-fast speeds that borrows heavily from both the F-Zero and Wipeout franchises. While Fast RMX falls short of the heights of either of those series, the game differentiates itself well thanks to its phase shifting signature mechanic, which lets you switch your vehicle between blue and orange states in order to hit color-coded boost zones on each course.
As for modes, there a number of cups to compete in, with 30 courses in all to enjoy in single player or multiplayer. The game is probably best played in split-screen, as the online component is pretty bare bones, but if you’re looking for an alternative racing game to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Fast RMX will fit the bill.
12. Cave Story +
Like a fair number of games on this list, Cave Story is not a new game but that doesn’t mean it’s not good or worth playing through again if you already have previously. Developed solo by Dasuke Arnaya and originally released back in 2004, Cave Story is one of those games that still feels incredibly fresh given its age, likely because retro Metroidvania-style games are more popular than ever.
If you’ve never experienced Cave Story’s meticulously designed levels, simple but charming story and characters, or engaging platforming/action gameplay, you’re in for a real treat. But even if you you’ve run through it several times on different platforms over the years, the Switch version is still worth consideration because it’s arguably the definitive edition of the game because of the portability factor, which makes a great game even better in our opinion.
If you enjoy rhythm games, Thumper is definitely going to be your jam, as it’s arguably one of the best to come along in years. Thumper’s developer, Drool, describe their game as “rhythm violence” and that’s a pretty accurate representation of what it delivers. The objective of Thumper is to guide some sort of space beetle along a single track through various environments, while you press a button in time with the music to hit lit notes along the path, while also encountering various obstacles and enemies along the way.
“Relentless” is a good way to describe Thumper, as the game’s intense sense of speed and need for precision combine to create quite the challenging experience, which no doubt could turn off some players. While the Switch version unfortunately lacks any sort of virtual reality component, Thumper is still a blast to play on a regular TV or in handheld mode, and makes for a great pick-up-and-play experience on Nintendo’s console. Just be sure to use headphones to get the most out of it!
10. The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+
Combine Zelda-like dungeons with twin-stick shooter gameplay and add in a messed-up premise inspired by the Biblical story of the same name and you have The Binding of Isaac, which was originally released back in 2011 to critical acclaim. While many Switch owners have probably played the game on other platforms by this point, the Afterbirth + edition packs is in many ways the definitive version of the game and feels right at home on the Switch, as the console’s ability to easily detect additional controllers makes for great drop-in/drop-out co-op.
From a technical standpoint, it’s not like The Binding of Isaac is doing anything very impressive, but it’s still one of Switch’s best games from a performance standpoint, as the game runs in 60 frames per second on both TV and handheld modes. If you’ve somehow missed The Binding of Isaac and its challenging roguelike design, picking up the Nintendo Switch version is really a no-brainer, but even if you have played it previously, Afterbirth + deserves consideration if only because it feels tailor-made for the Switch’s unique portable/home console design.
The best Switch launch game not called “Zelda,” Snipperclips: Cut It Out Together! is a unique co-op puzzle game that puts you and up to three friends in control of cute little paper characters. The game’s central mechanic involves cutting your characters into different pieces to try and solve the puzzle at hand, leading to all sorts of hilarious screw-ups along the way.
Unlike many games built around co-op play, all of Snipperclips’ puzzles can be completed in solo play, but the game is definitely at its best when you have at least one buddy helping you out (and thanks to the simple control scheme, the game has excellent pick-up-and-play potential). While Snipperclips is a bit on the short side, it’s budget price and unique design make it a great addition to any Switch owner’s library.
8. Puyo Puyo Tetris
There have been about a zillion different version of Tetris at this point, but the crossover title Puyo Puyo Tetris might be one of our favorite iterations of the classic puzzle game. For those wondering just what the heck Puyo Puyo is, it’s a Sega-owned tile-matching puzzler originally released in the late ’90s and involves matching four or more the same color tile. As the name implies, Puyo Puyo Tetris combines the two different styles into one game, meaning that the game board will constantly switch back and forth between the two, leading to a hectic and brain-busting puzzle experience.
Fortunately, you can also play either Puyo Puyo or Tetris separately if you’re so inclined. With a colorful cast of characters, an absolutely bonkers story mode, and an array of competitive modes for up to four players locally or online, Puyo Puyo Tetris is one of the most addictive puzzle games we’ve come across in the last few years and while it’s not a Switch-exclusive, the game’s pick-up-and-play style only helps the console’s desirability.
Considering it’s the second best-selling game of all time, there’s a very good chance you’ve played Minecraft by now but if you have even a passing interest in the sandbox builder, the Switch version is a must-own. You know the drill: you break stuff, you build stuff; it’s Minecraft after all, so it’s not like the Nintendo Switch version was going to break the mold in any massive way.
That being said, outside of the PC version, this is version of Minecraft you’ll want to spend time with, as it’s more full-featured than tablet editions of the game and is the best portable version of Minecraft by a long shot, thanks in large part to the Switch’s traditional control setup. Throw in some Nintendo-exclusive Super Mario items and music, and Minecraft on Switch easily proves itself to be one of the console’s very best games.
6. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
The indie market is awash in retro-style platformers these days, making it difficult to know which ones are actually worth your time. While it’s a few years old at this point, Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of the genre, a game that perfectly marries the look and feel of an NES-era platformer with modern gameplay sensibilities. Outside of its tight controls, interesting world and superb level design, the great thing about Shovel Knight is that it looks and plays like an old-school game without actually being one, as the game’s difficulty strikes a perfect balance between being challenging, but not frustrating, which is a good thing for anyone who doesn’t want to see themselves throw their new Nintendo Switch through a wall.
While both the 3DS and PlayStation Vita versions of Shovel Knight have been excellent, the game is right at home on the Switch and much like Cave Story +, it makes for a great portable experience. The Treasure Trove edition includes the game’s two expansions, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, with a third set for release in late 2017 (which will be made available for free). Again, Shovel Knight is not a new experience but its quality is hard to overlook, making it one of best games in the Switch’s young library.
Nintendo receives its fair share of criticism for leaning heavily on its pre-existing franchises when it comes to their first-party releases, but the company has proven in recent years that it still knows how to create engaging new video games. Arms is their latest creation and based off the strength of this initial release, it’s likely that Nintendo has an a new franchise on its hands. A unique fighting game centered around throwing punches at opponents with arms that stretch to ridiculous lengths, Arms didn’t make the greatest first impression when it was unveiled at the Nintendo Switch presentation back in January but it turns out that any trepidation of this being a gimmicky, shallow motion control game were unfounded, as Arms is a surprisingly deep and fun experience.
Like any good fighting game, Arms is at its best when played in multiplayer (which actually seems to be a running theme with a lot of Switch games!) and though up to four players can duke it out at once, the game is arguably at its best and most competitive in 1v1 battles. With a colorful cast of characters who could end up being Nintendo mainstays and free updates coming for the foreseeable future, Arms is the real deal and a fantastic addition to Nintendo’s already stellar lineup of exclusive franchises.
Check out our Arms review here!
4. Splatoon 2
The original Splatoon was one of the Wii U’s best surprises; a competitive third-person shooter based around throwing ink instead of bullets at your opponents. Naturally, the announcement of a Switch sequel was welcomed with open arms by fans of the original, but some worried that the sequel would be too similar to what came before to justify a purchase. And to be fair, those people are somewhat correct, as Splatoon 2 is more of a refinement of concepts established in the first game … but when the original was so good, is that really a bad thing?
Splatoon 2 takes what worked before and adds to it: a whole new single player campaign, more weapons, more powers, more levels, more modes, all combined into a game that not only looks beautiful on the Switch’s handheld screen, but is perfect for both brief play times and marathon sessions alike. Splatoon was a game that should never have been stuck on the Wii U where very few people actually got to play it but with the Switch, it now has the opportunity to find the mass audience it deserves.
Check out our Splatoon 2 review here!
3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may be a port of a Wii U title but when that game is the greatest Mario Kart ever, it’s hard to be too upset with Nintendo’s decision to double dip. If you’ve played Mario Kart games before, you know what you’re getting with Mario Kart 8 but even though the game doesn’t reinvent the formula, it’s so polished that it really doesn’t need to. As things stand right now, this is the game that arguably makes the best use of everything the Switch has to offer, as you not only can use every control configuration possible with it, the game is optimized for both handheld and TV modes.
The Deluxe version includes all the DLC characters and tracks that were released separately for the Wii U version, as well as a revamped battle mode, making this the definitive version of the game. This is the best multiplayer game you’re going to find on the Switch for some time, so if you enjoy playing games with friends and family at all, it’s going to be an essential title in your library.
Check out our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review here!
2. Super Mario Odyssey
It’s rare to sight indeed to see Nintendo release a new Mario and Zelda game in the same calendar year — and rarer still for those games to be so good, an argument could be made for either being the best entry in their respective franchises. Super Mario Odyssey is so different from Breath of the Wild that it’s almost pointless to declare one to be “better” than the other but the fact that this debate is even taking place is a testament to the insane talent housed within Nintendo’s EPD division, which developed both titles.
Odyssey is a revelation, a 3D Mario game that feels like the first true sequel to Super Mario 64 but even that accolade fails to convey what a truly special game this is. The addition of “Cappy,” a hat that Mario can use to take the form of a variety of different characters spread throughout the game’s various kingdoms and use their abilities to overcome a ton of different puzzles. While Odyssey’s kingdoms are relatively small compared to the more expansive levels featured in the Galaxy series, they packed so densely with things to do and discover that you’ll routinely revisit each one to discover more of the game’s secrets. Most importantly, Super Mario Odyssey is simply a joy to play and one of the most inventive games we’ve played in years. The fact that it’s on the Switch only makes the console even more essential.
For more on Super Mario Odyssey, be sure to check out our review.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Not since the original Xbox has a console launched with a legitimate masterpiece, but Nintendo has certainly achieved just that with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which could very well be the best game of 2017. Breath of the Wild represents a bold step forward for not only the Zelda series, but open world games in general, as the game is defined more by what you can do then what you can’t. Practically everything in the game’s expansive, varied world is interactive in some form and much of the enjoyment comes from experimenting with what you can do in it (short answer: if you think you can do it, you probably can).
While Breath of the Wild certainly has its detractors who bemoan the loss of the more structured approach in past Zelda titles, as well as admittedly questionable design decisions such as breakable weapons, artistic achievements of this magnitude, are few and far between in the games industry. The Nintendo Switch has proven itself to be much more than just a Zelda machine in its first year on the market but with a game as engrossing as Breath of the Wild, you may not need to purchase another game for a good long while anyway.