Posted On 08 Jul 2020
The Nintendo Switch may be designed for on-the-go play, but it also makes a fantastic video game console for those of us still stuck at home — and it’s chock full of great games, from graphically-intensive titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to competitive 2-player board game collections like the newly-released Clubhouse Games. But if you’re new to the Switch, there are a few games that are absolute must-plays, many of which come from Nintendo’s own stock of characters.
Let’s get this out of the way: Breath of the Wild is not only widely regarded as the best Nintendo Switch game, it’s also hailed as one of the best games of all time. It set a new direction for the Legend of Zelda, bucking both the franchise’s own trends and those of other open-world fantasy games. And it’s hard to resist a continent full of lived-in towns, crafty puzzles and monsters to fight. It’s not the only Zelda game on the Switch — the Link’s Awakening remake is a modern version of a true classic, and Cadence of Hyrule is a unique rhythm-based action game — but Breath of the Wild is one of the biggest must-plays of the decade.
Whether you grew up with 80s arcades or came of age during the 3D era of video games, Mario likely played a big part in defining what a video game could be. Super Mario Odyssey is the latest mainline Mario platformer, but like the other 3D titles that came before it, it pushes the series forward with new powers — like the ability to throw your hat and take control of an enemy — that keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d argue on the playground about who would win in a fight: Mario or Donkey Kong? The Super Smash Bros. franchise gave players a chance to put their fists where their mouths were, pitting classic Nintendo characters against each other in battle. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the latest installment of the franchise, with 74 unlockable characters and over 100 stages to fight in. This is one you’ll definitely want to play with a friend.
If you’ve played Nintendo at all in the past 25 years, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Mario Kart, the racing game that’s good competitive fun for players of all ages and skill levels. It’s a seemingly simple concept, but with more characters, kart combinations and tracks than ever before, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is sure to keep you entertained for hours, whether you’re playing alone or with the whole family.
If you want to take the adrenaline down a notch, Animal Crossing is a relaxing escape from reality. Create your own character and build a town, taking time to fish, garden, meet other people and relieve the day’s stresses in your own little digital island getaway. For a slightly deeper farming life simulator, check out Stardew Valley, too.
Part of me feels weird for including so many Mario games on this list, and then I remember that for 30 years, Mario has been the No. 1 reason I even picked up a Nintendo controller. The Super Mario Maker series is my childhood dream come true: a virtually limitless number of classic Mario levels to play, alongside the ability to create your own. It’s not the only old-school side-scrolling Mario game available on the Switch — New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is another good choice — but it’s hard to beat the near-infinite possibilities Mario Maker 2 offers.
While Nintendo’s own exclusive franchises are the Switch’s biggest draw, it also has a host of fantastic indie games to download. Hollow Knight may be available on every modern video game system you can think of, but it feels incredibly at home on the Switch, mixing a cartoony 2D platforming aesthetic with a rich world full of things to discover. It’s tougher than, say, the average Mario game. But if you feel you’ve seen all the big studios have to offer and want a fresh challenge, Hollow Knight provides a novel approach to classic 2D gameplay — and does so at an absolute steal of a price.
If you’re a fan of turn-based strategy games, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle puts a Nintendo twist on the genre, merging the Mario and Rabbids franchises for a silly-yet-tactical war game that works better than it should. For a more slightly serious alternative, you can also check out the XCOM 2 Collection for Switch, which undoubtedly inspired the Mario/Rabbids crossover.