Best Nintendo Switch games 2018: the must-have games at home and on the go

 techradar.com  6/22/2018 8:49:16 PM   Emma Boyle, Nick Pino

Best Nintendo Switch games

Having stormed through its first year on the market, the Nintendo Switch seems to be the unstoppable console of the moment. Garnering widespread praise for its unique hybrid design and growing library of games, the Switch offers some of the best gaming experiences you can get right now and, perhaps unlike the Xbox One and PS4, it's still got many years ahead of it.

Whether you're sitting with a Switch in hand already, or you're thinking summer 2018 might be the time to pick one up and you want to know what games to get started with, we've put together this list of the best titles you can and should play on the console right now. 

Like most Nintendo consoles, you'll find some of the most fantastic exclusives around such as Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. 

But, unlike other Nintendo console, the Switch also boasts a pretty wide range of excellent third-party releases, from Skyrim to Little Nightmares, making it the Nintendo console we've dreamed of these last six years. 

While we've scoured the console for the best games available to download or buy right now, we're constantly trying the latest and greatest Switch games, too, so keep an eye out for updates to this list.

[Update: Another day, another Mario game. This time we've added Mario Tennis Aces to our list of the best Nintendo Switch games.]

Watch our review of the Nintendo Switch below!

Mario Tennis Aces

Mario and his crew are some of the most talented fictional characters in the known universe. They can golf, they can compete at the Olympics, some of them are doctors, plumbers and princesses. And now they play tennis, too. 

Mario Tennis Aces has been heralded as a combination of Super Smash Bros. and the old Mario Tennis games released on the Nintendo GameCube and N64. To that end, gameplay is lightning-quick and requires twitch reflexes. 

The big changes this time around are the new super moves that cause rackets to break and balls to fly to nigh unreachable spots on the court. They add a new layer of strategy to the long-running Mario sport franchise and fun, too.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Golden bananas, rickety minecarts and cranky kongs – the king of the gaming apes, Donkey Kong, is back!

And, if you've previously been a Wii U owner, it may feel like a very familiar adventure, as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is actually a remake of that system's simian-themed platformer. 

The Switch version is easily the definitive version of the game though, bringing not only with it the Switch's signature handheld play, but also a new 'Funky Mode' that lets you take control of Funky Kong, a returning character who is just that little bit faster and able to leap just that little bit further, making a very challenging platformer a tad easier for the smaller cheeky monkeys in your family.

Kirby Star Allies

Star Allies is Kirby's debut on Switch and it's a good one and largely your familiar Kirby fare. Fans of Kirby's previous adventures will be familiar with the colorful side-scrolling platformer gameplay and enemy absorbing powers. But there's a new mechanic which allows Kirby to throw hearts at enemies and recruit up to three of them to his side to be controlled by either AI or real-life friends. 

Though it's not the most engaging single-player game and might not leave long-time fans as satisfied as they might have hoped, Star Allies is a co-op experience that shouldn't be missed, especially if you're looking for a game to play with your kids. 

Nintendo Labo

Part software, part hardware, Nintendo Labo is a must-have for anyone who enjoys Nintendo's more quirky and play-focused ideas.

Build your own cardboard toys, play games with them, explore how they work and reprogram them to do what you want. With Nintendo Labo the only real limit is your patience and imagination. Build a fishing rod and catch a shark, build a piano and control a musical cat choir, built a robot and, well, become a robot. It's all possible with Labo. 

Nintendo Labo is certainly one of the more original and even educational releases we've seen in years and it can only be played on the Nintendo Switch. 

Bayonetta 2

It's not everyone that would have had the chance to enjoy Bayonetta 2 when it was first released back in 2014 thanks to its Wii U exclusivity. Fortunately, the game has finally come to Nintendo Switch alongside its fantastic predecessor, giving it the reach it deserves. 

Bayonetta 2 is an excellent game, with fast-paced and satisfying combat, jaw-dropping animations and frankly outstanding fashion. Even better, when you purchase a physical copy of Bayonetta 2, you'll also receive a free download code for the original game.

More than anything, this is a great way to prepare for Bayonetta 3, which has been confirmed as being in development for the Switch. 

Thimbleweed Park

Anyone who loves classic point-and-click adventure stories such as Broken Sword and Monkey Island will certainly want to direct their attention towards this recent release from LucasArts veteran Ron Gilbert. 

Mechanically, the game works like the classics of the genre with lots of slow-paced obtuse puzzle solving and verb-list clicking. Even visually it's very similar to the games that have influenced it. 

If you're tired of playing the same classics on repeat, pick up Thimbleweed Park for an excellent new addition to the point-and-click genre. You'll travel back to 1987 for a neo-noir adventure that you won't want to leave. 

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey is Mario's first real outing on the Nintendo Switch and he makes his debut in style. Odyssey is a 3D sandbox adventure that sees Mario travel between a wide range of worlds to save Princess Peach from the nefarious and maritally-minded Bowser. 

Giving the old formula a bit of a refresh, this game sees the traditional Power Ups replaced with a new companion for Mario called Cappy. This sentient hat is Mario's weapon and friend and he can be used to possess enemies and objects to solve puzzles and defeat foes.

In our full review for Super Mario Odyssey we called this game "one of Mario's finest adventures in recent memory" and recommend that you play it now.

If you decide to pick the game up for yourself, don't forget to check out our tips and tricks guide to help you get started.  

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Even for a series like The Legend of Zelda which rarely puts a foot wrong, Breath of the Wild is an absolutely phenomenal game. 

While past Zelda games have stuck pretty closely to the formula established by Ocarina of Time (the series’ 3D debut), Breath of the Wild throws much of the established wisdom away. 

Rather than having a pre-defined order you must use to approach each major mission, Breath of the Wild opens the entire map up to you almost immediately, allowing you to approach the game in whatever order you see fit. You can spend hours just climbing trees and brewing elixirs, or you can even head straight to the game’s final boss if you’re feeling confident. 

But away from Breath of the Wild’s unique structure, it’s the puzzles themselves that make the game feel the most satisfying. While previous games rigidly allow for a single solution to each puzzle, BotW’s physics-based problem solving means that there are often multiple solutions to each challenge depending on how you combine your various skills. 

The result is a game that feels incredibly broad in scope, with so many little touches to discover that it’s hard not to fall in love with this long-running series all over again. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was already one of the best entries in the franchise, and the Nintendo Switch version is no different.

At it's core the game offers the same excellent racing as the Wii U original, but there are also a number of new additions for this version of the arcade racer. 

You've got the return of battle mode, new characters, all the previously released DLC tracks, and the ability to hold two special items at a time to add an extra layer of strategy to your racing. 

The new game is also a great way of playing the game in multiplayer. You can play online, split-screen with up to four players or link up to eight consoles together to play multiplayer wirelessly (where you can also play with up to two players per console). 

It's a versatile release, and well worth picking up for anyone who missed out on Mario Kart 8 the first time around. 

Splatoon 2

Splatoon was the closest Nintendo has ever allowed itself to get to an online shooter, and it did so by fundamentally turning the genre on its head. 

That means no guns, no bullets, and ultimately no death. Instead, you play as characters with paint guns tasked with covering the map in your team's colors. 

You can kill (well, 'splat') your enemies, but you do so only in service of buying yourself time to paint more of the map without your opponents, and their painting, getting in the way. 

While Splatoon 2 is technically a sequel, in truth it's more of the same. 

That's not necessarily a bad thing. The original game was tightly designed and well-balanced, and while the sequel makes some minor tweaks to the gameplay, the same Nintendo charm is still present in spades. 

If you never played the original then Splatoon 2 is an easy game to recommend, but even if you did then it might be worth jumping in again to revisit it on Nintendo's portable system. 

SnipperClips

If ever there was a game to show off how useful the new Joy-Con controllers can be it’s SnipperClips. 

Best enjoyed in co-op mode, the game tasks you with cutting pieces out of your geometric-shaped partner in order to solve physics-based puzzles. 

Although the puzzles themselves deftly tread a fine line between approachability and challenge, the real joy in the game is the slapstick that results as you muddle your way through each level. 

You’ll never conclusively beat a level; it will always feel as though you’ve barely scraped through, but the tension this creates is fantastic fun. 

Little Nightmares

Bandai Namco's Little Nightmares is a big adventure on Nintendo Switch. First released on consoles and PC in 2017, this new take on the horror genre is a welcome addition to Nintendo's portable console. 

Players take up the role of a young girl called Six, who is trapped in the Maw, a terrifying place filled with monsters that are larger than life. Across a range of platforming levels, players must help Six overcome her small stature and escape the Maw. Little Nightmares is a game with a palpable atmosphere. The different levels and their respective monsters are grim and frightening. We frequently found ourselves tense and holding our breath as we tried to get through a level. It's unusual to get such a thrill from such thoughtful and quiet gameplay. 

The Nintendo Switch release of the game is the Complete Edition, and contains all three DLC releases, the last of which was launched in February 2018. 

Overcooked

Overcooked was one of the breakout indie hits of 2016, and now it's come to the Nintendo Switch in fantastic fashion. 

There game is best played with a group of friends, which is perfect considering you always have at least two controllers with your Switch. 

But what do you actually do? In essence you play as a group of chefs trying desperately to cook meals without your customers getting angry or your kitchen catching on fire. 

With each person only able to do one thing at a time, and most meals requiring multiple stages of preparation, this forces you to split tasks up between you. The problem is that every task proceeds at a slightly different pace, meaning you're constantly having to change your plans to deal with problems as they arise. 

It's frantic, it's great with friends, and it's a perfect fit for the Switch. 

Arms

It's tough to know what genre to describe Arms as. At its core, the game is a fighting game where you attempt to land punches on your opponent using giant extendible arms. Punch-Out this is not. 

What first appeared to be a slightly gimmicky title made to show off the Nintendo Switch's motion-sensing controllers actually turned out to have a surprising amount of depth and strategy to it, leading to some frantic multiplayer battles. 

Nicely, the whole game can also be played with more traditional buttons rather than control schemes so you don't have to get caught flailing your arms around on the bus when you play it as a portable game. 

Ultra Street Fighter 2

Over twenty years after its original release it's hard to know what more can be written about one of the most influential fighting games of all time. 

Ultra Street Fighter 2 is essentially the same Street Fighter 2 that's been continuously re-released on every console under the sun. Technically this version is based on Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo from 1994, which added super and air combos to the base game, but unless you're a die-hard fan this likely won't mean too much to you. 

So don't go into this expecting a wildly different game from what you've played before. This is a traditional Street Fighter experience through and through, and the console's form-factor makes it perfect for quick multiplayer sessions. 

Fast RMX

If you want to satisfy your arcade racing itch before Mario Kart 8 Deluxe blue-shells its way onto the console in a couple of months then Fast RMX is the game for you. 

With one part Wipeout and two parts F-Zero, the game has you racing futuristic hovercraft round a series of implausible tracks at breakneck speeds. 

Fast RMX’s gimmick is that at any point your craft has either an orange or a blue polarity, which match with speed power-ups that are spread around the track. By switching your polarity as you race, you can maximize the benefits these power-ups bring. 

It’s a neat feature, but it’s overshadowed by how technically capable this game is. It looks fantastic whether you’re playing it in portable or console mode, where it will run at a solid 60 frames per second. 

It might not have the charm of its Mario-themed competitor, but Fast RMX is a great game for anyone seeking fast-paced arcade racing thrills. 

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is not a new game. It saw its first release way back in 2014 on the PC after it was funded on Kickstarter, and since then versions have appeared on everything from the Vita to the PS4, the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U. 

But that doesn’t make it any less of a great game on the Switch, where its 2D side-scrolling is as tight and responsive as ever. 

Chances are you’ve played Shovel Knight on one system or another in previous years, but if you’ve yet to take the game on the go, or better yet if you’re looking to try its newest expansion pack, ‘Specter of Torment’, then the Switch is as good a place as any to satisfy your Shovel cravings. 

LA Noire

Another home console classic now given a new lease of life on Switch is LA Noire. It's unusual to see 18-rated games on Nintendo consoles but it's exciting that the Switch is building up a more mature library.

Created by Rockstar, LA Noire is a 1940s detective title which puts players in the smart leather shoes of Cole Phelps. As Phelps, you'll dive into the seedy underbelly of LA, solving a variety of cases across the LAPD's Homicide, Vice and Arson divisions.

Aside from letting you take a great game on the go, the Switch version of LA Noire has some neat features such as motion control support. This means you can pick up evidence at crime scenes and inspect it from every angle using the Joy-Con controllers. 

Read more of our thoughts on LA Noire for the Nintendo Switch

Super Bomberman R

Although it’s not a port, Super Bomberman R might as well be for all the changes it makes to the traditional Bomberman formula. 

For all intents and purposes, this is classic Bomberman. You run around a maze dropping bombs, all the while trying to avoid getting caught in the subsequent explosions caused by both yourself and your opponents. 

Super Bomberman R does try to mix up the formula a little by offering a single-player campaign, but at just a couple of hours long it’s not especially engaging. 

Nope, this is a game that’s all about that multiplayer, where you can play with up to eight players locally or online. It’s here the game feels most at home, and for the most part its every bit as good as the classic Bombermans that have proceeded it. 

The biggest problem is the game’s price, which is the same as big budget triple-A games like The Legend of Zelda. For a multiplayer-only experience that’s a little bit steep, but if you see the game discounted anywhere then this is an excellent game to have on the Switch. 

Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle

This crossover has surprised a lot of people, us included. Though Nintendo's Mario and Ubisoft's Rabbid rabbits doesn't seem like a combination that should work it really does.

This is a turn-based tactical game and it's incredibly fun to play thanks to gameplay that's satisfyingly complex and deep without being overly difficult – though the difficult increases it's in a gradual way that doesn't result in feelings of being overwhelmed. 

Mario Rabbids is also just a lovely game to look at – the level design is consistently fantastic and the world and its characters are adorable and colorful. Joining up with Mario lends Ubisoft's Rabbids a charm they've lacked until now while Mario and co benefit from the partnership by gaining a bit more of a silly sense of humor which really benefits the Nintendo image. 

With this partnership, Nintendo has managed to secure another appealing exclusive for the Switch. 

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is one of those games that always felt like it was supposed to be on a Nintendo console and we couldn't have been happier when it was released recently for the Switch.

If you’ve ever played a Harvest Moon game, you’re already familiar with the premise of Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley is an addictive farming simulator which sees you interact with townees to the point where you can literally marry them.

Stardew Valley isn’t just one thing; it’s a whole bunch of things at once. You can engage in crafting, fishing, cooking and even exploring procedurally-generated caves to mine for items and even take on monstrous enemies. 

However, do keep in mind your health and energy as you’ll need to make sure your character is in tip-top shape in order to avoid suffering from exhaustion. Lose health and you lose a considerable amount of money and items you’ve worked hard to attained. Stardew Valley will have you hooked for hours on end, for better or worse. (Better, definitely better.)

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Skyrim might be a game that's six years old, but the portability of the Nintendo Switch makes it feel fresh again. What was once an exclusively home console and PC experience can now be played on your commute and there's no denying that holding the wild world of Skyrim in the palm of your hand is exhilarating. 

For a touch of novelty, the game also supports the console's Joy-Con motion controls so you can swing your sword and draw your bow in real life. It's a whole new way to play.

This is the full open world Skyrim experience for the Nintendo Switch, including all DLC. 

Read more about our thoughts on Skyrim's arrival on Switch. 

Fortnite

It's not often you get to put a free game on the Nintendo Switch list but Fortnite Battle Royale is giving us this chance. We'd be amazed if you hadn't heard of it, but Fortnite: Battle Royale is the free-to-play hit from Epic Games which throws you into an online Battle Royale where you must fight and build to be the last person standing. 

The game was announced and launched on the Nintendo eShop during E3 2018. If you've not had the chance to play the Battle Royale phenomenon, the Nintendo Switch offers one of the most convenient ways to do it. Especially if you find a smartphone screen just a little bit too small to truly play your best. And if you already have an account you can move seamlessly between your Switch, smartphone, PC and Xbox console. 

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