The Nintendo Switch is arguably one of the most innovative gaming systems. Working as both a portable handheld system and a home console, the Switch uses its technology to improve its library experiences tenfold. The transfer from TV to portable does not sacrifice much in the graphics, so these games’ breathtaking engines and mechanics are not lost on the go. Sometimes, there’s nothing more satisfying than playing an open-world game while on a plane, a racing game while riding in a car, or a cozy JRPG while curled up in bed.
Here are our 10 best games you can only get on the Nintendo Switch—or what we like to call, “The best console of the last 10 years.”
What are the best Nintendo Switch exclusive games?
The Nintendo Switch has many great games to pick up, from open-world adventures to dating sims to help you in your love life. No matter what your favorite genre is, there is something on the console to scratch that itch.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
People play games for various reasons: to engage with stories, to feel powerful, and exercise their brain. Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t do any of that, but it provides the most relaxing, peaceful atmosphere to hang out in. All you do is move to an island, meet new animal friends, build some stuff, and collect bugs. There is no way to lose; the worst thing that can happen to you is you get stung by a bee and have a droopy eye for a little while. The best part? It’s endless.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is continuously getting new content and seemingly can go on forever without ever getting dull — so long as you’re down for the relaxed pace and low stakes activities. You can make whatever you want of your Animal Crossing: New Horizons experience. You can live in a tent for months doing nothing but fish or obsess about the interior design of your home. It’s up to you!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Okay, maybe we’re getting off on the wrong foot here. Technically, Breath of the Wild did come out on the Wii U, but this massive and innovative entry in the long-running Zelda franchise was a big selling point for the Nintendo Switch when it first launched in 2017 (selling being something the Wii U, decidedly, did not do particularly well). The importance of Breath of the Wild for Switch cannot be understated; it is still the absolute best game on the thing. The game has open-world exploration, ambient and serene environments, a complex combat system, and some of the best physics-based puzzles we’ve seen. The story is a little beside the point, but the thrill of exploring Hyrule (or returning to it repeatedly) never gets old.
Related: The 10 best open world games
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Most folks might not have thought Fire Emblem, the hardcore tactical RPG franchise, would become such a hit, but it sure did—and for good reasons. Many games require you to do several playthroughs to see all it has to offer, but Three Houses is one of the few that makes you want to. Each can last up to around 100 hours, but it’s so wonderfully designed that it never gets old. The mix of social-sim mechanics with hardcore tactics works well here, in no small part, due to the great writing and excellent cast of characters.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Sometimes you have to give the lesser-known brother his due. Luigi’s Mansion 3 lets you take control of the world’s most famous Player 2 in a puzzle-solving adventure in a haunted hotel. There are plenty of themed floors and rooms to explore and the chance to play co-op thanks to the unfortunately named Gooigi, meaning that this Nintendo Switch exclusive offers a great time either on your own or with a friend. It is also one of the best-looking Switch games you’ll find, with beautifully rendered scenes that take advantage of the console’s power and limitations.
It is always good to see a series return to its roots, so Metroid fans were excited to see Samus back in the 2D side-scroller Metroid Dread. It combined all the classic elements that made the series great, with an ambient soundtrack and a sense of isolation and danger throughout. It is no wonder Metroid Dread quickly became the highest-selling Metroid title of all time when fans finally got it home on their Switch.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
You can’t talk about a Nintendo console without bringing up one of the biggest franchises of all time. Pokemon Arceus was a huge departure for the series and a big risk. With the innovative mix of world-building, lore, and plenty of Pokémon to catch, this game manages to change almost everything about the series while still feeling unmistakably Pokémon. You’ll spend hours wandering the open world finding new creatures to catch and train while exploring a period of Pokémon history we’ve only read about before.
If you’re looking for a different kind of competitive experience, maybe check out Splatoon 2. While it is fun to play solo, it really excels as a multiplayer game and is one of the few titles that works even better in handheld mode. Splatoon 2 makes interesting use of the Switch’s motion controls and has a quirky take on shooting mechanics that is fun for all ages.
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is one of the more unique experiences players will have in a Mario game. Odyssey plays much like previous adventures, but with a twist — you can use Mario’s hat to possess other characters and control them to help in the progress of each stage. Want to control a realistic-looking T-Rex? Throw a hat at it. Want to make some goombas stack on top of each other so Mario can reach a higher platform? Throw a hat at it. Although the story is nothing new, the game-play mechanics are implemented so well, making for one unique, weird, and wonderfully fun experience.
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate
The popular crossover fighting game returns to the Switch in a display of fantastic game-play and a return to roots. Many fans of the series loved Super Smash Brothers Melee but were less warm towards Brawl, feeling that it was geared more toward casual fans and lacked the challenge of previous titles. Ultimate balances those impulses well, adding new characters to an already extensive roster to choose from and a variety of maps of battle on. There’s a new single-player campaign called “World of Light,” but you can always opt to play the classic competitive game types while in the same room with friends or on the go in the portable handheld version. It’s a great entry to the franchise and a decent place to start for newcomers.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
The third installment in the Xenoblade Chronicles series takes everything that made the previous games great and improves upon them. The setting is grim and war-torn, the soundtrack is gorgeous, and it offers more than 100 hours of story to dive into. This is easily one of the best Nintendo Switch exclusive games and possibly one of the best JRPGs of the past several years. From the themes of friendship across battlelines to the deep customization and crafting systems, this is the kind of game you can obsess over.