The Switch is a smash. Nintendo’s latest system, which you can easily play at home or on the go, launched early last year to instant success. It’s one of the fastest-selling consoles of all time, and its signature game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, immediately entered the conversation for best videogame ever made. After a few years in the wilderness with the Wii U, Nintendo’s now seeing a combination of critical and commercial success that it hasn’t known in over a decade.
Everybody with a Switch knows about Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, but there are many great games for the system beyond Nintendo’s core classics. With success comes support, and the Switch has already seen far more support from both the major third-party publishers and independent developers than the Wii U saw after its launch. The Switch’s digital eShop is full of games that you can download, and the Switch racks at most retailers already outnumber the Wii U offerings still on display. If you need help cutting through the clutter, let us point you towards the best of the best. Here are the 25 games you most need to play for the Nintendo Switch, along with 20 other honorable mentions that are all worth a download.
Honorable Mentions: Puyo Puyo Tetris, Fast RMX; Kamiko; Snake Pass; Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment; Blaster Master Zero; World of Goo; Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition; Gonner; Tumbleseed; Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap; Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment; Shantae: Half-Genie Hero; Doom; Skyrim; LA Noire; Xenoblade Chronicles 2; The Sexy Brutale; Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker; Okami HD.
25. Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler’s choice to break away from the norm and explore an open world JRPG hybrid was a bold move, and while it doesn’t quite come through the other end unscathed, the game does do a great job at keeping you engaged. The characters are all likeable and grounded in the world around them, and each story stays within its own lane and manages to tell a much more personal tale rather than one of some grand world-spanning intrigue. You’d be forgiven for thinking Octopath Traveler was much like the titles that came before it, telling a singular focused story of adventure, when the reality is that the game offers up a collection of tales. It’s an anthology of mini adventures that span the length and breadth of the genre’s own history.—Andy Moore
24. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is both the fighting game and Dragon Ball spin-off I never realized I always wanted. The production values are better, and the narrative tension is vastly improved. Given how Dragon Ball FighterZ amps up the drama on existing Dragon Ball storylines, increases engagement by allowing the player to take dialogue sequences at their own pace, and puts a polished, beautiful spin on the old cartoon, this isn’t just my favorite Dragon Ball game. It’s my favorite Dragon Ball anything.—Holly Green
The central conceit of Arms is ineffably bizarre—one day people suddenly have springs for arms, so they start to punch each other a lot. And yet it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Nintendo fighting game: it’s cute, charming, relentlessly upbeat, and relatively simple to understand but almost torturously difficult to truly excel at. It makes better use of the Joy-Con’s motion controls than any other Switch game, to boot. It might feel a little slight—something that might be rectified by upcoming updates—but for the first big new Nintendo idea on the Switch, Arms is a hit.
Long Hat House’s first game might play fast and loose with history—its hero, Dandara, is a real-life figure from Brazilian history—but its Metroid-style design and unique approach to motion make it compulsively playable. It’s part myth, part dream, all wrapped up in an occasionally psychedelic sci-fi action game heavily indebted to the aesthetics of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and one of the best new games of the year.
21. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a beautiful game, in both appearance and demeanor. It is joyous in its joyousness, so happy to make us happy. Games should be beautiful and joyous. Games can be anything and can look like anything, and yet few games are beautiful or joyous—at least few games with the budget of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
20. Hyper Light Drifter
The world of Hyper Light Drifter is a rotting corpse, and the lizard people or bear people or bird people of that world continue to dwell in the ruins of some kind of technologically advanced civilization. You, embodying the player character, are haunted by your own death, and you’re haunted by some kind of force that keeps this world in its state of decay. It is unclear whether progress in the game means finally killing the world or setting it free, and that ambivalence sticks with me even now.—Cameron Kunzelman
19. Rocket League
Rocket League is the only game I’ve played that’s captured the truly exciting bits of soccer for me. The vast majority of (the admittedly few) sports games I’ve played are so beholden to seasonal statics that I’m just always so bored because I can’t be bothered to keep up with the annual Who’s Who of professional leagues. Rocket League’s touch of zaniness allows it to focus on the bare essentials of the game: there are the players, a ball, and two goals. There are no stat games here. No managing players. No fluff. Just soccer…with turbo-powered RC cars, and it’s all the better and more accessible for that.—Javy Gwaltney
18. Golf Story
This charming curiosity turns the always-dull world of golf into a top-notch role-playing game. It’s pretty much just what that sounds like: “battles” are golf matches instead of fights, you earn experience points and money that can be used to improve your golf game, etc. It’s not just the novelty of the concept or the classic videogame golf action that makes us recommend this one, but the smart, funny script, which features some of the best writing in games this year.
Snipperclips is an adorable puzzle game that focuses on partnership and cooperation, as you and a friend control two papercraft buddies who are trying to arrange themselves in specific shapes or perform certain actions in order to move on to the next screen. You can rotate and tilt them freely into the necessary positions, and even use them to cut each other into different shapes in order to accomplish whatever goals are before you. That might mean perfectly filling an outline on the screen, or snipping one character into a point that they can use to pop a balloon, or even just balancing a basketball or pencil as you carry it from one edge to the other. A lot of co-op games barely require you to acknowledge your partner, but Snipperclips practically forces you to talk through each scenario, like you’re working together on a jigsaw puzzle or at an “escape the room” style event.
16. Dead Cells
Not content with sheer novelty, Dead Cells importantly taps into the most significant aspect of both of the genres it fuses together. Few games are as addictive as those Metroid-style backtrackers, and perhaps the only thing that has come close this decade is the spate of roguelike platformers that flourished in Spelunky’s wake. Dead Cells beautifully captures what makes both of those genres impossible to put down, uniting the “just one more” drive of a roguelike with the “must keep going” compulsion of a Metroid. It’s a smart, confident piece of work, and anybody interested in either of the genres it builds on should consider checking it out.