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The best Nintendo Switch games in 2021

Best Nintendo Switch games
(Image credit: Jim McCauley/Lucie Liz)

If you've just got a Switch you'll want the best Nintendo Switch games to go with it, and luckily you're spoiled for choice. The plucky little Switch may not have the horsepower of the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but it packs a lot of fun into a small package, and whatever type of game you're after you're bound to find something to fit the bill.

While the big pull of the Switch is its selection of Nintendo exclusives – you can't not have some Mario and Zelda – there are also plenty of the big third-party games you'll find on other consoles, not to mention a huge selection of indie titles and loads of retro classics from Nintendo's vaults.

Don't have a Switch yet? Head to our round-up of the best Nintendo Switch deals and get yourself sorted. And don't forget to check our selection of the best Nintendo Switch headsets so you can play without disturbing others. As to what you should play, whether you're after something to help you unwind after a long day down the design mines, or something to keep the kids occupied, read on for our top choices.

The best Nintendo Switch games in 2021

Best Nintendo Switch games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

(Image credit: Nintendo)

01. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Still the best Nintendo Switch game

Players: 1 | Genre: Adventure, action, RPG | Game file size: 14.4GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: No | Developer: Nintendo

Huge open world
Loads to do
Beautiful graphics
A joy from start to finish

One of the original Switch launch titles from 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still, four years on, hands-down the best Nintendo Switch game of the lot. It takes all the classic Zelda elements, shakes them up a bit and sets everything in an immense open world.

There's so much to do in Breath of the Wild beyond the core mission of levelling Link up and acquiring all the gear and skills you need for that climactic final battle with Ganon, that you'll spend ages exploring, going off on little side quests, training up a stable of horses and cooking up potions. It's simply a joy to play with something for absolutely everybody.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Super Mario Odyssey

(Image credit: Nintendo)

02. Super Mario Odyssey

The biggest Mario adventure yet

Players: Up to 2 | Genre: Platformer, action | Game file size: 5.6GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: No | Developer: Nintendo

Classic Mario action
Plenty of variety
Thoroughly inventive
A bit easy for hardened gamers

You can't have a list of the best Nintendo Switch games without any Mario, and luckily for you there's plenty of Mario in our round-up. First of all is Super Mario Odyssey, the biggest and best Mario game ever. Each Mario game has its own special twist, and in Odyssey it's the addition of Cappy, a sentient hat that enables you to possess objects, animals and enemies and help you on your way to save Princess Peach from Bowser.

It's top Mario action with some weird touches, such as New Donk City, a realistic-looking location filled with real-looking people who make Mario look unsettlingly incongruous. And if you fancy some co-operative fun, there's a two-player option in which one player controls Mario and the other takes charge of Cappy. However you choose to play it, it's a big helping of essential Nintendo fun.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

03. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Take yourself off on a virtual holiday

Players: Up to 8 | Genre: Simulation | Game file size: 6.8GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: Yes | Developer: Nintendo

Delightful laid-back gaming
Lots to see and do
Fun for all the family
Not a lot of action

For chilled family-friendly fun, it's hard to go wrong with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It's a laid-back work of delight-filled world-building, where you jet off to your own little island and set about turning it into your own personal getaway paradise. 

Starting off with a deserted island you can build your own home, add furniture and decorations and even customise the landscape until you have a dream destination that starts attracting visitors. And when you're not working on improving your island there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied; get to know the local residents, go fishing or fossil collecting, or simply do some gardening.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Super Mario 3D All-Stars

(Image credit: Nintendo)

04. Super Mario 3D All-Stars

A trio of Mario classics

Players: Up to 2 | Genre: Platformer, action | Game file size: 4.9GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: No | Developer: Nintendo

Great value
Two great Mario games
Plus Super Mario Sunshine
Could have used more polish

Want some more Mario? Here's three classic helpings in one package. Honestly, we can't help feeling that Nintendo dropped the ball slightly with Super Mario 3D All-Stars; the name suggests something like the old Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES, which updated the 8-bit Mario titles to look amazing on a 16-bit console. Here, though, you get Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy running pretty much as straight emulations. Would a lick of paint and a polish have been that much trouble?

You can't argue with quality, though. Super Mario 64 is still a joy to play 25 years on, Super Mario Galaxy is immense fun with it's little 3D worlds to jump between, while Super Mario Sunshine... Well, they can't all be zingers, but it definitely has its moments.

Best Nintendo Switch games:

(Image credit: Matt Makes Games Inc.)

05. Celeste

Old-school platform gaming at its best

Players: 1 | Genre: Platformer, action | Game file size: 1.5GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: No | Developer: Matt Makes Games

Incredible old-school platforming
Beautifully pixel graphics
Endless replayability
Thoughtful story

It's not all Nintendo titles! If you enjoy old-school platform games, you owe it to yourself to experience Celeste, the finest platform game in recent years. Everything about it is just glorious; simple controls (run, jump, dash and wall-grab), gorgeous levels rendered in stunning pixel art, and a difficulty level that starts off refreshingly hard and keeps ramping things up as you progress.

There's a surprisingly adult story as the main character, Madeline, struggles to climb Celeste mountain while facing her own mental health issues, and in a recent twist it's been revealed that Madeline herself is trans. Respect. But what will keep you coming back and replaying it is the challenge of mastering its techniques and racing through its punishing levels faster than ever, and beyond that there's a load of super-tough bonus levels. Pro tip: use the D-pad rather than the joystick.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Dark Souls: Remastered

(Image credit: From Software)

06. Dark Souls: Remastered

Prepare to die, repeatedly

Players: Up to 6 | Genre: Action, RPG | Game file size: 4GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: Yes | Developer: From Software

Challenging, punishing action
Exacting combat
Huge world to explore
YOU DIED

If Celeste isn't hard enough for you then there's always Dark Souls. It's almost become a modern rite of passage for gamers, thanks to its brutal (yet almost entirely fair) level of difficulty. The one thing you'll see most in Dark Souls is the phrase, "YOU DIED", in stark red letters as yet again you pay for your lack of skill (although to be fair, you'll die a lot more often in Celeste).

With practice, though, you'll learn the techniques you'll need to best most of the enemies that come your way, while levelling up your character and collecting better weapons, armour and items to make your life slightly easier, and you can appreciate the stunning world-building and lore that underlies the whole Dark Souls experience. It's not for everyone (and definitely not for kids), but once it gets its hooks into you its hard to put down.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

(Image credit: Nintendo)

07. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Beware the blue shell

Players: Up to 12 | Genre: Racing | Game file size: 6.9GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: Yes | Developer: Nintendo

Note-perfect kart racing
Plenty of characters and power-ups
Stacks of race tracks
It's basically Mario Kart 8 with knobs on

Just as you have to have at least one proper Mario game to go with your Switch, you absolutely need a helping of Mario Kart too. It's ludicrously fun racing with plenty of daft power-ups and a massive cast of Nintendo characters, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most polished outing of the lot.

it copped a little heat for being an updated version of Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, with all the DLC tracks thrown in as well as new characters and a revised battle mode, but it's hard to complain when it's all such a delight to play. Whether you're battling the single-player mode, crowding round the TV for some  4-player action, or jumping online to race against players across the world, it's essential high-speed action for all.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Minecraft

(Image credit: Mojang)

08. Minecraft

The best Nintendo Switch game for kids

Players: Up to 8 | Genre: Action, adventure | Game file size: 1.1GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: Yes | Developer: Mojang

Explore!
Mine!
Create!
Fight!

If you need a Switch game to keep the kids happy, it's impossible to go wrong with Minecraft. It's hard to believe that you don't already know more than enough about Minecraft, but to recap: it's set in a randomly-generated world built of big, chunky blocks, where you can dig, build, craft and fight to your heart's content.

Kids tend to love creative mode, where you can build pretty much whatever you want without restrictions, but if you fancy more of a challenge there's also survival mode, where you'll need to dig for resources in order to craft bigger and better weapons and armour so that you can fend off the dangerous mobs and monsters that roam the land. Either way there's almost limitless fun to be had.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Super Mario Maker 2

(Image credit: Nintendo)

09. Super Mario Maker 2

Build and share your own Mario levels

Players: Up to 4 | Genre: Action, platformer | Game file size: 3.1GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: Yes | Developer: Nintendo

Plenty of built-in levels
Easy-to-use editor
Share your own creations
Building decent Mario levels isn't easy

Ever looked at a game and thought that you could do better than that? Super Mario Maker 2 enables you to put your money where your mouth is. Not only does it feature over 100 built-in Super Mario levels for you to try and beat, it also has a Course Maker so that you can try your hand at creating your own, and if you have a Nintendo Switch Online membership you can share your creations online and help yourself to an almost limitless supply of community-made levels.

It's a fine slice of classic platform action with a side order of creative fun, and if nothing else it'll teach you that making a really good Mario level is actually a lot harder than you realised.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Untitled Goose Game

(Image credit: House House)

10. Untitled Goose Game

Honk if you're horrible

Players: Up to 2 | Genre: Goose simulation | Game file size: 1.1GB | Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld | Online play: No | Developer: House House

Honk!
Honk!
Honk!
Honk!

This has largely been a pretty wholesome selection of Nintendo Switch games, so let's finish off with a helping of pure evil. In Untitled Goose Game you're a horrible goose, intent on going forth and ruining everyone's day. Armed with a to-do list, a beak, big flapping wings and a terrifying honk, you're off on a gleefully malevolent adventure in which nobody in the village is safe from your evil machinations.

It's all wonderfully silly and beautifully animated; the goose has a brilliantly self-important waddle, and there's plenty of character to the poor villagers who are trying to get on with their lives despite the rampaging wildfowl. And if one goose isn't enough, a recent update means you can get a friend to join in and unleash a pair of geese on the unsuspecting village. Oh, the humanity.

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