The Nintendo Switch is arguably one of the most innovative gaming systems to date. 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 the breathtaking engines and mechanics of these games are not lost on-the-go. Sometimes, there’s nothing more satisfying than playing an open-world game while on a plane, or a racing game while riding in a car, or a cozy JRPG while curled up in bed.
Here are our 10 favorite games you can only get on the Nintendo Switch—or what we like to call, “The best console of the last 10 years.”
Top Nintendo Switch exclusive games
1. 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 innovate 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 this game for the console cannot be understated, and the fact of the matter is, it is still the absolute best game on the thing. Breath of the Wild 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.
2) Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The vast majority of folks might not have thought that 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 really makes you want to. Each can last anywhere up to around 100 hours, but it’s all 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.
3) Animal Crossing: New Horizons
People play games for all kinds of reasons: to engage with stories, to feel powerful, to exercise their brain. Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t really do any of that, but what it does do is provide the most relaxing, peaceful atmosphere to hang out in. Pretty much all you do is move to an island, meet new animal-friends, build some stuff, and collect bugs. There is literally no way to lose, and 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. Really, 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!
4) Super Mario Odyssey
One of the more unique experiences that 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.
5) Super Mario Party
Continuing the classic gameplay of the previous titles of the same name, Super Mario Party for the Switch is one of the most entertaining party games to date, giving players hours of couch entertainment. The classic mode is back, along with various multiplayer and online modes that display the vast archive of mini-games. It’s a fun, competitive board game perfectly suited for the Nintendo Switch and the plethora of controllers you and your friends are likely to have.
6) Super Mario Maker 2
Too much Mario? Too bad! This is Nintendo after all, and Super Mario Maker 2 is the brand at its finest. Super Mario Maker 2 lets you create your own Mario levels and play others’ work, creating an endless (and sometimes extraordinarily challenging) classic Super Mario experience.
7) Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Much like previous titles in the Xeno series, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is an epic fantasy JRPG that you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of the genre. The game is a strong, story-based title for those seeking a deeper plot and single-player experience. With beautiful environments, large set-pieces, and a genuinely interesting combat system, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a worthwhile experience on the Switch, whether portable or at home.
8) 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 that the previous titles had. Ultimate balances those impulses well, adding new characters to an already large 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. Both play fantastically. It’s a great entry to the franchise and a decent place to start for newcomers.
9) Splatoon 2
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 seems to work even better in handheld mode. It makes interesting use of the Switch’s motion controls and has a quirky take on shooting-mechanics that is fun for all ages.
10) Octopath Traveler
The most visibly noticeable aspect of Octopath Traveler is its blend of retro and modern graphics. It’s clearly banking on nostalgia, but it really works and is a beautiful game. The fractured approach to story-telling might leave something to be desired, but for extremely good turn-based combat (and a great soundtrack), check out this neat throwback.