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Taken in Reviewed Testing Lab

The Best Switch Games of 2021

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Explore a vast and reimagined Hyrule Kingdom as you gather your allies to take on Calamity Ganon and reunite with Princess Zelda. Read More

Pros

  • Playful, inventive combat physics
  • Huge, serene open world

Cons

  • None that we could find

If the flawless level design and cat-Mario aesthetic aren’t enough to get you to try this, there’s also a free story add-on called Bowser’s Fury. Read More

Pros

  • Hours of blissful platforming action
  • Unique, cat-themed spin on Mario

Cons

  • None that we could find

This cozy, nonviolent sim is something you could play every day for the rest of your life and be all the richer for it. It’s both fun and therapeutic. Read More

Pros

  • Calm, meditative sim experience
  • Strong social component

Cons

  • None that we could find

This is Pokémon more or less as it’s always been, set in a fantasy version of the United Kingdom, plus a handful of fresh, fun twists. Read More

Pros

  • Trading, gifting, and multiplayer modes
  • Classic, satisfying turn-based combat

Cons

  • None that we could find

This arcade racer populated by Nintendo favorites is a must-own game with a great online multiplayer component and unforgettable raceways. Read More

Pros

  • A host of playable Nintendo favorites
  • Great online multiplayer features

Cons

  • None that we could find
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

  • Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons

  • Pokémon Shield + Expansion Pass

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

  • Other Games We’ve Tested

If you or a loved one just got ahold of a new Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite, the next thing you’re going to need is a handful of great games to play on it. After a few fun-filled years with our own Switches and Switch Lites, we’ve certainly got some thoughts. Whether you’re an RPG hound, a Pokémon master, or an old-school Mario fan, these are our recommendations for the best Switch games you can buy right now.

Editor's Note

The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.

Product image of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The storied Zelda series got a bit of a reinvention with the serene, open-world Breath of the Wild. Link awakens from suspended animation, the princess he knew a century earlier calling out to him for help. The ancient blight of Calamity Ganon commands an army of corrupted machines while he gathers his strength in the belly of Hyrule Castle. Your light can restore peace to the kingdom—but first you’ll have to learn to cook, dress for cold weather, and take on mechanical beasts that fire lasers from their eyes. Incredible game.

Pros

  • Playful, inventive combat physics

  • Huge, serene open world

Cons

  • None that we could find

Product image of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

Ask me what my favorite Mario game is, and you might get a few different answers depending on what day it is (Mario 64 is a stone-cold classic). But 3D World is one of the few Nintendo games I can recall playing for several days straight, stopping only to eat, sleep, work, or take care of my kids. It’s a playful, conceptually unique entry in the Mario series that doesn’t stray beyond the fundamentals of the classic platformer. The Wii U version was brilliant, but the Switch remaster has enough additions and upgrades to call it one of the best games of 2021.

Pros

  • Hours of blissful platforming action

  • Unique, cat-themed spin on Mario

Cons

  • None that we could find

Product image of Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing was the game that took the world by storm in 2020, right as the pandemic struck, and it’s maintained a devoted player base ever since. Nintendo just launched a massive New Horizons 2.0 update, too, so there’s never been a better time to start your island and see what all the fuss is about. It’s a cozy, nonviolent life sim set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. I’m especially fond of the game’s museum curator, an owl named Blathers, who wants all the fossils and insects you can find despite being terrified of bugs.

Pros

  • Calm, meditative sim experience

  • Strong social component

Cons

  • None that we could find

Product image of Pokémon Shield + Expansion Pass
Pokémon Shield + Expansion Pass

A couple decades ago, Pokémon was just the next big fad to come along in the realm of toys, games, and collectibles. But—plot twist—it’s pretty much stuck around ever since, and the best-selling Game Boy games have evolved into DS games and now, finally, some of the very best Switch games. Much of the core appeal remains the same; it’s still a blast to catch ’em all, trade monsters, and battle your friends. And new features like Shiny hunts, Dynamaxing, and four-player raids have only added to the fun and replayability.

Pros

  • Trading, gifting, and multiplayer modes

  • Classic, satisfying turn-based combat

Cons

  • None that we could find

Product image of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-own Switch game on par with Breath of the Wild and Mario 3D World, provided you enjoy arcade racers. It features familiar tracks from other classic Mario Kart titles; it’s got all your favorite characters from the Mushroom Kingdom (and then some). If racing games aren’t your thing, check out Super Mario Maker 2—or the Switch’s vast catalog of amazing indies like Night in the Woods. And have fun.

Pros

  • A host of playable Nintendo favorites

  • Great online multiplayer features

Cons

  • None that we could find

Other Games We’ve Tested

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

Ever since Xenoblade Chronicles made its debut on the Wii years ago, fans have been clamoring for a remaster of one of the best JRPGs of the century. We finally got it in May 2020. The Definitive Edition features upgraded graphics, new soundtracks, and hours of new content to enjoy in this emotional, thrilling, and downright fun adventure.

Buy Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition on Amazon

Cadence of Hyrule

If you love rhythm games, dungeon crawlers, and Zelda, this is basically your dream game. In this addicting collaboration between Nintendo and Brace Yourself Games, you’ll be grooving through Hyrule and crushing monsters by dancing to the beat of an earworm of a soundtrack.

Buy Cadence of Hyrule on Amazon

Stardew Valley

If virtual farming is your jam, Stardew Valley is an open-ended RPG about life in the countryside that you just might fall in love with. You’ve inherited your grandfather’s old farm plot and now’s your chance to bring it to life with all sorts of animals and vegetation. Not only that, you can form friendships with the people in town—and romance them if you choose. Stardew Valley is one part Sims, one part classic adventure game, and all fun.

Buy Stardew Valley on Amazon

Super Mario Odyssey

Wa-ha-hoo! This is Mario’s flagship adventure on the Switch, and it’s a great one. Across a series of beautiful levels on the way to crash a nefarious wedding, you’ll get to collect coins, jump on Goombas, and make friends with a cool hat. If you love classic Nintendo or need more wonder in your life, this is a must-have.

Buy Super Mario Odyssey on Amazon

Paratopic

Sure, the Switch has a lot of bright, family-friendly fare, but maybe that’s not what you’re into. If you want something on the weirder side, try Paratopic. It’s a short but focused dose of surreal horror, telling the story of videotapes that might be haunted and a series of journeys that don’t go how they’re supposed to. This is the game for people who would rather put on a David Lynch movie when it’s time to relax.

Buy Paratopic on the Nintendo eShop

Afterparty

Hell is just an afterparty, and this game by the same name takes that saying to a whole other level. You play as best friends Milo and Lola as they try to come to terms with their untimely demise, escape their literal personal demons, and convince Satan to return them to Earth. If you like witty, dark, adult humor that also has a lot of heart, check this game out.

Buy Afterparty on the Nintendo eShop

Ring Fit Adventure

If you want to get into better shape while you game, Ring Fit Adventure is probably the best purchase you can make for the Switch. Coming with its own peripherals that turn the Nintendo Joy-Con controllers into a neat exercise ring, this game takes you through a role-playing adventure that you win by working your core into shape. It's one of the best exercise games out there in terms of actually being fun. Just don’t play it too long; you will be sore in the morning.

Buy Ring Fit Adventure on Amazon

Into the Breach

This indie gem from Subset Games, the studio behind FTL: Faster Than Light, will keep you up all night in a tactical game that feels like a blend between robot warfare, tower defense, and chess. While it’s not as famous as some of the other entries on this list, it’s more than deserving of a spot in your Switch library.

Buy Into the Breach on Amazon

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Poor Luigi is always in his brother’s shadow. It’s unfortunate, as he’s the star of a stellar series of haunted-house games that see the taller, flightier brother catching ghosts with a fancy vacuum cleaner. This is the ideal pick if you prefer underdogs, like the idea of horror games (but get spooked easily), or are really into Ghostbusters.

Buy Luigi’s Mansion 3 on Amazon

Inside

A mind-control facility. Secret science experiments. People and creatures trying to harm you around every corner—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Inside is a dark puzzle-platformer that tests your problem-solving skills as much as your nerves, while telling a compelling story through nothing but gameplay and visuals. Inside is a work of art.

Buy Inside on Amazon

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Set in a medieval-era world of magic and statecraft, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is sort of like Harry Potter if it were about teaching people to wage war and didn’t have a problematic creator. If you enjoy slow, tactical combat and managing complex social systems, this is for you. It helps if you’re into tea parties.

Buy Fire Emblem: Three Houses on Amazon

Untitled Goose Game

For lovers of chaos everywhere, Untitled Goose Game is simple: You’re a goose. You want to steal things and cause problems in a small English village. And so you will. Bright, silly, and shockingly entertaining, this is one of the best indie games on the Switch. (Small children love it.)

Buy Untitled Goose Game on Amazon

Celeste

Celeste is a challenging and moving journey about climbing a mountain and learning to accept yourself. Another stunning indie game, this one is great for players who miss the 2D platformers of days gone by, and who aren’t afraid to die a few times on the way to the summit. Be prepared to face your demons.

Buy Celeste on the Nintendo eShop

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is one of those rare games that’s transcended its Kickstarter origins and become a cultural phenomenon. This hauntingly gorgeous tale of a lonely bug in a post-apocalyptic world will leave you bewitched. While many praise it for being one of the best “metroidvanias” of all time, it’s really the ambiance that makes this an unforgettable experience.

Buy Hollow Knight at Best Buy

Super Mario Maker 2

Playing Mario games is great, sure, but how about you make your own? Super Mario Maker 2 is the supreme creative experience on the console—a means to make your own Mario levels and share your creations with the world. If you just like playing Mario, there’s a lot for you here, too, with a nearly infinite series of mind-bending, expertly crafted levels to explore.

Buy Super Mario Maker 2 on Amazon

Firewatch

Sometimes we need to get away from whatever has us stressed. For Henry, it’s watching his wife slowly deteriorate from a debilitating disease. After his wife moves back in with her family, Henry volunteers as a fire lookout in a remote mountain range. His only source of human contact—and companionship—is Delilah, his boss. A lot of strange and funny things happen on the mountain, but ultimately Firewatch is a heartwarming story about the ups and downs of life.

Buy Firewatch on the Nintendo eShop

Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero is the Platonic ideal of the modern adventure game. It’s beautifully written, incisive—poetry in motion and in play. One of the best games of the decade, it’s now all completed and out on the Switch. Take it with you into bed, curl up, meditate on it for a while. Try not to learn too much about this one. Just go into it thoughtfully.

Buy Kentucky Route Zero on Amazon

Gorogoa

Gorogoa is the prettiest puzzle game on the Nintendo Switch, hands down. Occupy a slowly unfolding world like something out of a painting in this ingenuous, moving puzzler. You can get this one on a lot of platforms, but it’s a perfect fit for the Switch.

Buy Gorogoa on the Nintendo eShop

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Another game you might already know about, but we can’t possibly leave this one off the list. A big, approachable fighting-game bonanza, this one includes just about every Nintendo-adjacent character you could possibly want. It’s a perfect party game, and pretty fun to dig into on your own, too.

Buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Amazon

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

If you prefer the adventures of a noble hero and his cool sword in two dimensions, this remake of the Game Boy game Link’s Awakening is the best you’re going to find on the Switch. It’s an offbeat, strange game, but has a ton of heart and a lot of beauty packed inside of it. Help Link save a mysterious dream island and make his way home.

Buy Link’s Awakening on Amazon

Meet the testers

Alex Kane

Alex Kane

Editor, Search & Updates

@alexjkane

Alex Kane is an editor at USA Today’s Reviewed.

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Adrien Ramirez

Adrien Ramirez

Staff Writer

@itsaramkat

Adrien is a staff writer for Reviewed, mainly focused on reviewing laptops and other consumer tech. During his free time, he's usually wandering around Hyrule.

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Julie Muncy

Julie Muncy

Contributor

@@juliemuncy23

Julie Muncy is a writer based in Austin, TX. She likes the Mountain Goats, sandwiches, and mechanical keyboards.

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Joanna Nelius

Joanna Nelius

Senior Editor, Electronics

@JLNwrites

Joanna specializes in anything and everything gaming-related and loves nerding out over graphics cards, processors, and chip architecture. Previously she was a staff writer for Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and Maximum PC.

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