Not everyone with a Switch has Nintendo Online, but Pokémon Sword and Shield has plenty of fun ways to play local multiplayer with the friends around you.
Y-Comm local play can be conducted no matter where you are in the Galar region, while the rest take place specifically in the Wild Area.
Link Trade (Y-Comm)
Link trading is when you and a friend each choose a Pokémon to trade with the other. This is especially helpful if one person plays Sword and the other plays Shield because you can trade Pokémon that are version exclusives and finish your Pokédex. Some major exclusives are Cursola and Galarian Ponyta (Shield) and Sirfetch’d and Stonjourner (Sword).
Link Battle (Y-Comm)
Link Battling is when you and a friend each put together a team of Pokémon and have a battle against each other. You can choose between Single, Double, and Multi style battles, and also choose whether to play with your Pokémon at the levels they are, or flatten everyone out to level 50 if you and your friend’s Pokémon aren’t close enough in level.
Exploring (Wild Area)
If you and some friends are all playing Pokémon Sword and Shield at the same time, and you all go into the same part of the Wild Area, you will discover that you can see each other. There is usually at bit of lag, and sadly, it won’t show up on any of your friends’ screens if you Charizard pose, but other than that, you can freely explore the wild area together, finding berries and Pokémon.
Camping (Wild Area)
If you place your Pokémon camp down in the wild area, your friends can see it. If they stand on it and press A, they visit your camp. You can talk to/play with both your own and your friends’ Pokémon and you can make curry together. While only one player can choose the base curry ingredient, everyone can add berries, making cooking less taxing on your individual resources.
Max Raid Battle (Wild Area + Y-Comm)
All around the wild area there are Pokémon dens. Inactive dens give you 50 watts, while active dens give you 300 watts and a chance to fight the Dynamax Pokémon inside in a raid style battle. You can do this with NPCs or up to three friends to make a team of four. If you are playing with one or two friends, the rest of the raid trainers will be NPCs. If you win, everyone gets a chance to catch the raid Pokémon and a set of rewards.
Note: the raids will be in different den locations and at different levels for each player. When you find a raid, you must invite friends to battle with you via the raid menu. They can join you by opening the Y-Comm, refreshing the feed, going over to your invite and clicking “Join In”.