The Best Switch Games of 2023 So Far

Games Lists best of 2023
The Best Switch Games of 2023 So Far

Games are good. Did you know that? Not all of them, obviously, but 2023 has seen the release of a number of great new games, with many of them coming out for the Nintendo Switch. The handy little console-handheld hybrid is a bit long in the tooth now—it came out almost six and a half years ago, which means it’s had a longer lifespan in America as Nintendo’s main hardware than any of the company’s previous consoles. Although Nintendo is rumored to release a new console for 2024, as of now the Switch remains its primary focus, with no end date in sight. That’s no surprise when you’re still pumping out games as great as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or Pikmin 4 so deep into a system’s lifespan; despite its age, and its technical shortcomings compared to the competition, wonderful games and its unique portability still has the Switch feeling as fresh and vital as ever. Here are eight great new games that have kept the Switch humming along throughout 2023—the best Switch games of 2023 so far.

8. Fire Emblem: Engage

Fire Emblem: Engage is quite similar to Awakening in its reverence for the franchise’s past, but instead of a coda, it’s a song of celebration. Instead of going bigger than the massive Three Houses (something I struggle to imagine is possible), Engage went the opposite direction. Inspired by many of the franchise’s older entries, Engage has a single campaign that can be completed in a modest 20 or so hours with few missable units, greatly curbed social elements, a smaller hub area, and a more classic, black-and-white story. It would again include many characters from previous games, only this time they would be integral parts of the gameplay, appearing as mentor-like spirits that give your units new abilities. Initially, I found this prospect exciting. As games have had to become more and more of an event to succeed, it seemed refreshing to have a game from a major series release with less fanfare and fewer bells and whistles.—Austin Jones

7. Drainus

Drainus is an apt name for a shoot ‘em up. With its arcade lineage, this is a genre built on draining the player—originally of their quarters, later of their patience, stamina, and mental well-being. Shmups are all about the marriage of repetition and escalating tension, where you do the same thing over and over while somebody steadily twists a knob that amplifies every aspect of the game. If you’re a total neophyte or just a casual fan who remembers the genre’s heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s and want to see what’s happening in this space today, Drainus is the best recent shmup for you to dip into; originally released for PC in 2022, it arrived on the Switch earlier this year. Deep-in-the-weeds shmup lifers absolutely need to give it a shot, too, even if they ultimately might nitpick it to death. I don’t know how highly I’d recommend it to rank-and-file players who aren’t interested in or familiar with the genre, but if you’ve ever been curious about shoot ‘em ups, Drainus is ready to devour however much time you put into it.—Garrett Martin

6. Disney Illusion Island

Disney Illusion Island

Disney Illusion Island places iconic characters Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy in a brand new world home to a host of original characters that could easily support sequels or spinoffs, with a meta script that can be genuinely funny and never takes anything too seriously. When the worst thing you can say about a game’s writing is that it’s occasionally too clever, it’s basically a ringing endorsement. Disney stalwarts and fans of classic cartoons will find references to Mickey Mouse shorts from the ‘20s up through today; you don’t need to know any of that to understand and enjoy the story, but if you get a kick out of Easter eggs, you’ll probably appreciate them. What really sets Illusion Island apart from most Metroid tributes is that it doesn’t have traditional combat. You can’t directly attack anybody in this game. It’s teeming with weird creatures trying to hurt you, and your only recourse is to evade and avoid them. That means the series of power-ups you’ll gradually unlock are all motion-based, with no weapons of any kind. It gives us what it promised: a light, fun Metroid-style game with multiplayer, built around Disney’s most beloved characters, and that’s ideal for younger players and their friends and family. You’d have to be seriously goofy to find any fault with that.—Garrett Martin

5. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals

Oxenfree 2

More characters and conversation options fill in the gaps of what feels like a slimmer and tighter sequel, and are smart ways to build on the fairly grounded and simple foundation laid out by the original without bloating the sequel. Camena comes across much more believable than Edwards Island (a tourist trap with zero tourists) without filling the screen with bustling towns and scores of characters that would’ve felt out of place in this story and world. Importantly, none of it really bogs down the experience, which satisfyingly runs its course in about six to seven hours and delves further into what’s been going on in and around this town before the events of the games and since the original title. Oxenfree II, despite its proclivity for confusing jumps and skips in time, loops, and detours into other dimensions, is as direct a sequel as you can make to one of the most impactful games of my life, and I’m glad for it.—Moises Taveras

4. Pikmin 4

Pikmin 4

The passion and splendor behind Pikmin 4 is underscored by its horrors. Castaways, including young children, are besieged by nasty carnivorous creatures and forcibly mutated by deranged leaflings. To save them, you must venture out at night when the already horrifying creepy-crawlies of the world go berserk and charge your base. Pikmin 4 would not be as gorgeous of an experience without the brutality faced within; to watch 10 or so Pikmin be impaled, eaten, or flattened in less than a second to absolutely no fanfare is to realize these moments, too, possess a certain serenity. The uncomfortable pain and sadness of Pikmin counterbalances an appreciation for my own toil and the nuance of approaching problems not only creatively and cleverly, but as perfectly as possible.—Austin Jones

3. Metroid Prime Remastered

Metroid Prime Remastered

I’m usually reluctant to put remasters and remakes on lists like this, but this year’s surprise release of Metroid Prime Remastered deserves recognition. The original is one of the two or three best Metroid games ever made, and an all-time Nintendo classic, and the fact that the remaster only needs to make a few minor changes to upgrade it for the modern day only underscores how excellent its foundations are. This is a vital piece of gaming history that has barely aged a day in over 20 years, and one of the best games of 2023 for the Switch.—Garrett Martin

2. Dredge


Dredge is over before you know it, in part because it’s genuinely a short game, but also because it kind of wraps you in its eldritch tendrils and doesn’t let go until you’re done with it. I’ve rarely played a game with a more satisfying and simple loop in an intriguing and dubious world I just wish I could’ve seen more of. Between the cults (yep, this game has got those too) and the sort of unexplained nature of Why This Stretch Of Sea Is Like This™, I think it’s actually a world ripe for even more exploration. But even if nothing more should come out of it, Dredge is a wonderful experience in smooth sailing over choppy (maybe even supernaturally charged) waters.—Moises Taveras

1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Tears of the Kingdom

Tears of the Kingdom looks like Breath of the Wild, sounds like Breath of the Wild, and even plays like Breath of the Wild, and yet it’s so fundamentally different that it’s almost impossible to confuse the two. The sequel to our favorite game of the last decade expands greatly on the original’s map, introducing both upper and lower levels to trek through, and also introduces an Erector Set-style construction toolset that gives you an extreme amount of freedom to experiment and explore. Many love it more than Breath because of that freedom, while others (uh, like me) think it overcomplicates the elegant, immersive beauty of Breath just a little too much. Still, it’s an absolutely amazing Zelda, one of the best games for the Switch, and a clear-cut favorite for one of the best games of 2023.—Garrett Martin

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