We’re now at a point where you can comfortably describe the Nintendo Switch as “mature.” It’s no longer a new device, but one several years into its life, with a robust and varied line-up of games available. There’s a good chance you picked up a Switch to play one of Nintendo’s tentpole franchises — whether that’s Super Mario, Animal Crossing, or Pokémon — but there are a lot of different kinds of experiences available on the tablet. That includes big social titles, classic games, and inventive indie releases. Heck, one of my favorite experiences this year has been relearning chess on the Switch.
If you’re new to the Switch ecosystem, here are 10 great games to get you started.
We’ve rounded up our favorite and most-used games, apps, and entertainment. Check out our app picks for iPhones, Android phones, Windows PCs, and M1-equipped Macs; our favorite mobile games from Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass; and our top choices for gaming PCs, the PS5, Xbox One and Series X / S, Nintendo Switch, and VR. We’ve also listed our favorite streaming shows on Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Netflix; some great sci-fi books; and exciting new podcasts. (Note: pricing was accurate at the time of publishing but may change.)
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
With New Horizons, Animal Crossing went from a quaint and charming life sim to one of Nintendo’s most important franchises, up there with Mario and Zelda. It’s still a game about carving out a humble, cozy life on an island full of animals, but the addition of online play, more robust customization tools, and the fact that virtually everyone in the world was stuck at home this year, turned it into an important cultural touchstone. New Horizons brought people together, caused family drama, and touched on communities ranging from Twitch streamers to streetwear enthusiasts. And it’s still going strong, with (free!) seasonal updates that add more depth and texture to its pleasant world.
Sometimes you just need something familiar, and Clubhouse Games fills that niche perfectly. It’s an incredibly simple concept: a collection of more than 50 physical games, from chess to darts to bowling, that you can play on your Switch. The package was clearly put together with lots of love and a level of care and attention to detail that makes this more than just a simple collection. Each game has a pleasantly tactile feel, despite being a digital recreation. Clubhouse Games is full of familiar favorites but will likely also introduce you to new games from all over the world. It’s the perfect thing to pick up and play in between other, more complex experiences.
The name Coffee Talk couldn’t be more apt: this is a game about both talking and coffee. You take the role of a barista at a late-night cafe in an alternate version of Seattle, one full of magical creatures, all of whom bring their own personal problems with them when they enter the shop. From behind the counter you’ll hear all of the drama, occasionally chiming in with some advice, all while making sure to serve the perfect latte or hot chocolate. It’s warm and comforting, and it’s a great way to spend a cozy evening.
Ever since its debut with Bastion, developer Supergiant Games has released a steady stream of hits, from the cyberpunk Transistor to the magical Pyre. All of the studio’s work features incredible 2D visuals, deep and engaging worlds, and a gameplay hook that makes it hard to step away. Hades feels like a culmination of the team’s past efforts. In your efforts to escape the underworld you’ll die a lot, but each failure is a chance to explore new techniques and learn more about the incredible cast of characters. Get ready to lose some sleep.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
No Switch collection is complete without The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s first true open-world game upended the genre, with an experience that feels vast and deep, yet leaves much of the exploration and discovery up to players. In a world full of games with copious signposts and mini-maps packed with points of interest, Breath of the Wild lets you move and learn at your own pace. It could be both thrilling and quiet, overwhelming and subtle, all at the same time. I’m still learning new things about the game more than three years after launch. Even better: now you can dig further into the story with the spinoff Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
Murder By Numbers
Sometimes two things go together so well you have to wonder why no one tried it before. Such is the case with Murder By Numbers. It’s a silly-yet-touching crime drama that plays out like a visual novel, one that’s packed with lovable characters and surprising plot twists. But it’s also a puzzle game, one where you complete sudoku-like challenges in order to find clues and solve crimes. It may not make a lot of sense on the surface, but in practice these two halves fit together just about perfectly.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
There are few things that match better than Pokémon games and Nintendo handhelds, but Sword and Shield go an extra step by also being great console experiences thanks to the Switch’s hybrid nature. The base game that launched last year remains one of the best roleplaying games available on the Switch, and it’s since been made even bigger thanks to two significant expansions that add new storylines to dissect, locations to explore, and — most importantly — pocket monsters to collect.
Ring Fit Adventure
Ring Fit Adventure isn’t just a great game, it’s also one of a few ways to get a decent workout, thanks to COVID-related restrictions. It also does something very rare: makes the tedium of a workout fun. Ring Fit is structured like a fantasy roleplaying game, one where you travel to distant worlds fighting all kinds of magical creatures. But in order to attack, you’ll need to do yoga poses, squats, and a whole lot of planks. It’s exhausting in the best possible way, and Nintendo has also released an update that turns Ring Fit into a rhythm game complete with classic Super Mario tunes.
Streets of Rage 4
Sometimes you just want to hit things. Streets of Rage 4 is here to oblige. The newest entry in the classic beat ‘em up series doesn’t change the formula: you still play as one of a handful of heroes, exploring side-scrolling levels while pummeling every street punk in sight. This time, though, the 2D visuals look incredible, and the gameplay has been streamlined so that it feels a bit more modern. Surprisingly, the best part might just be the music, with an incredible soundtrack that includes new tunes from famed composer Yuzo Koshiro.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars
This collection brings together three of Mario’s most influential 3D adventures: Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy. Not every element stands up in 2020, so you might find yourself frustrated with 64’s relic of a camera, or the awkward controls of Sunshine’s water pack. But for the most part, each game in Super Mario 3D All-Stars remains fun, and playing through them today is a great way to see how Nintendo’s design philosophy has changed over the years. You’ll never look at Super Mario Odyssey the same way again.