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The best Nintendo Switch games in 2021

best Nintendo Switch games
(Image credit: Erik Mclean at Unsplash)

Looking for the best Nintendo Switch games for your new console? Then you're in the right place. The colourful little Switch may not have the power of the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but it fits tons of fun into a small package and spoils players for choice when it comes to games.

If you don't yet own a Switch, check out our guide to the best Nintendo Switch deals. You'll also want to choose from our selection of the best Nintendo Switch headsets to avoid disturbing those around you while you play. And don't forget to look at the best Nintendo Joy-Con deals if you need to add or replace a Switch controller.

As for the best Nintendo Switch games, the console's main draw is its selection of exclusive Nintendo titles – Mario and Zelda are pretty much obligatory. But it doesn't stop there. The Switch also offers some of the best third-party games available for other consoles, a massive selection of indie titles and a host of retro classics from the Nintendo vaults. 

From games to unwind after a day creating to the best options to keep the kids busy, 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 overall

Specifications
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure, action, RPG
Game file size: 14.4GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: No
Developer: Nintendo
Reasons to buy
+Huge open world+Loads to do+Beautiful graphics+A joy from start to finish

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the original Switch titles from the console's launch back in 2017. Four years on, it remains hands-down the best Nintendo Switch game of all. Set in a vast open world, it takes all the classic Zelda elements and shakes them up to create a true gem of a game.

There's so much to do in the game besides the core mission of levelling up Link and acquiring the gear and skills you need for the climactic final battle with Ganon that it will keep you entertained for ages. You can explore by going off on side quests, train up a stable of horses and prepare potions. It's a joy to play and really offers something for everyone.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Super Mario Odyssey

(Image credit: Nintendo)

02. Super Mario Odyssey

Mario's bigggest adventure yet

Specifications
Players: Up to 2
Genre: Platformer, action
Game file size: 5.6GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: No
Developer: Nintendo
Reasons to buy
+Classic Mario action+Plenty of variety+Thoroughly inventive
Reasons to avoid
-A bit easy for hardened gamers

We can't make a list of the best Nintendo Switch games without including a decent helping of Mario, and luckily we have plenty of options. The first Mario title in our roundup is Super Mario Odyssey, which has to be the biggest and best Mario adventure yet. 

Every Mario game has a special twist of its own. In Odyssey, it comes in the form of Cappy, a sentient hat that allows you to possess objects, animals and enemies to help you on the journey to save Princess Peach from Bowser.

The game offers top-notch Mario action all the way. There are some weird touches thrown in, such as New Donk City, a realistic location with real-looking people, which makes Mario look disturbingly incongruous. For some cooperative fun, there's also a two-player option in which one player controls Mario and the other controls Cappy. Whichever way you choose to play, this game offers essential Nintendo fun.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

03. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Take a virtual holiday with this world-building game

Specifications
Players: Up to 8
Genre: Simulation
Game file size: 6.8GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: Yes
Developer: Nintendo
Reasons to buy
+Delightful laid-back gaming+Lots to see and do+Fun for all the family
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot of action

For some laid-back fun for all the family, you can't go wrong with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Jet off to your own little island and turn it into your own personal getaway in a relaxing world-building game filled with delights.

From the starting point of 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 to attract visitors. When you're not working on improving your island there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained, from getting to know the local residents, to fishing, fossil collecting or simply gardening. It's a fun game to play with the family.

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

(Image credit: Nintendo)

04. Super Mario 3D All-Stars

A trio of Mario classics emulated for the Switch

Specifications
Players: Up to 2
Genre: Platformer, action
Game file size: 4.9GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: No
Developer: Nintendo
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Two great Mario games+Plus Super Mario Sunshine
Reasons to avoid
-Could have used more polish

Ready for some more Mario? Super Mario 3D All-Stars piles three classics into one neat package. The name suggests it might be something along the lines of the old Super Mario All-Stars on the SNES, which revamped the 8-bit Mario titles to look sharp on a 16-bit console. What we actually get, though, is Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy as pretty much straight emulations. 

While a lick of paint and a polish wouldn't have gone amiss, we can't argue with quality. Super Mario 64 is still a delight to play 25 years on, Super Mario Galaxy is huge fun with its 3D worlds to jump between, and Super Mario Sunshine... Well, it's not quite up to the rest, but it still has its moments.

Best Nintendo Switch games:

(Image credit: Matt Makes Games Inc.)

05. Celeste

Old-school platform gaming doesn't get better than this

Specifications
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer, action
Game file size: 1.5GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: No
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Reasons to buy
+Incredible old-school platforming+Beautifully pixel graphics+Endless replayability+Thoughtful story

As we said, the Switch doesn't mean only Nintendo titles. If you like old-school platform games, you really have to experience Celeste, which is probably the finest game of its kind in recent years. The controls are simple (run, jump, dash and wall-grab), levels are beautifully rendered in stunning pixel art, and the level of difficulty begins refreshingly hard and just keeps climbing as you go on.

The story is surprisingly grown-up, with the main character, Madeline, struggling to climb Celeste mountain while facing her own mental health issues. In a recent twist, it's been revealed that Madeline herself is trans. Respect due there. The challenge of mastering the techniques and racing through the punishing levels at a faster speed will have you coming back to replay over and over. Beyond that, there's a ton of extra-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, many times over

Specifications
Players: Up to 6
Genre: Action, RPG
Game file size: 4GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: Yes
Developer: From Software
Reasons to buy
+Challenging, punishing action+Exacting combat+Huge world to explore
Reasons to avoid
-YOU DIED

If Celeste isn't challenging enough, then Dark Souls is the game for you. The fiendish (yet almost entirely fair) level of difficulty in the game has become something of a modern rite of passage for gamers. The thing you'll see most often in Dark Souls is the phrase, "YOU DIED", in stark red letters as you pay for your lack of skill yet again (although you'll actually die more often in Celeste, to be fair).

With enough practice, you'll learn the techniques to overcome enemies while levelling up your character and collecting better weapons, armour and other items that can make your life slightly easier. You'll also come to marvel at the stunning world-building and lore that underlies the whole Dark Souls experience. It's not for everyone (and certainly not for kids), but once it gets its hooks into you, this game is hard to walk away from.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

(Image credit: Nintendo)

07. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Another obligatory Mario game for the Switch

Specifications
Players: Up to 12
Genre: Racing
Game file size: 6.9GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: Yes
Developer: Nintendo
Reasons to buy
+Note-perfect kart racing+Plenty of characters and power-ups+Stacks of race tracks
Reasons to avoid
-It's basically Mario Kart 8 with knobs on

Just like you need at least one proper Mario game for your Nintendo Switch, you also need a helping of Mario Kart. The ludicrously fun series of racing games is chock-full of daft power-ups and a massive cast of Nintendo characters, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most polished of them all.

The game came in for some criticism for being an updated version of Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, with the DLC tracks thrown in as well as new characters and a revised battle mode, but its sheer playability makes it still one of the best Nintendo Switch games. Whether you're battling on single-player mode, huddling around the TV for some 4-player action, or racing against players from all over the world online, this is essential high-speed action for everyone.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Minecraft

(Image credit: Mojang)

08. Minecraft

The best Nintendo Switch game for kids

Specifications
Players: Up to 8
Genre: Action, adventure
Game file size: 1.1GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: Yes
Developer: Mojang
Reasons to buy
+Explore!+Mine!+Create!+Fight!

If you're looking for something to keep the kids happy, Minecraft remains one of the best Nintendo Switch games to do the job. You almost certainly already know everything you need to know about Minecraft, but just to recap: it's a game 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, which allows you to build pretty much anything you want with no restrictions. For more of a challenge, there's also survival mode, in which you have to dig for resources in order to craft bigger and better weapons and armour to be able to fend off the dangerous mobs and monsters. 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

Specifications
Players: Up to 4
Genre: Action, platformer
Game file size: 3.1GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: Yes
Developer: Nintendo
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of built-in levels+Easy-to-use editor+Share your own creations
Reasons to avoid
-Building decent Mario levels isn't easy

Ever looked at a game and thought that you could do better yourself? Well, Super Mario Maker 2 lets you put your money where your mouth is. Not only does it feature over 100 built-in Super Mario levels for you to try to beat, but it also has a Course Maker that allows you to try your hand at creating your own. 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 in return.

It's a fantastic slice of classic platform action with a side order of creative fun. If nothing else, it'll teach you that crafting a great Mario level is actually a lot harder than you thought.

Best Nintendo Switch games: Untitled Goose Game

(Image credit: House House)

10. Untitled Goose Game

Indulge your inner demon, wreaking mayhem on an unsuspecting village

Specifications
Players: Up to 2
Genre: Goose simulation
Game file size: 1.1GB
Play modes: TV, tabletop, handheld
Online play: No
Developer: House House
Reasons to buy
+Honk!+Honk!+Honk!
Reasons to avoid
-Honk!

Our selection of the best Nintendo Switch games has been rather wholesome so far, so we'll round off with a dose of pure wickedness. In Untitled Goose Game, you're a horrid goose intent on ruining everyone's day. Armed with a to-do list, a beak, big flapping wings and a terrifying honk, you set off on a gleefully malevolent adventure in which nobody in the village is safe from your evil machinations.

It's all fantastically silly and beautifully animated. The goose has a hilariously self-important waddle, and the poor villagers who are trying to get on with their lives despite the rampaging wildfowl also have plenty of character. If one goose isn't enough, you can invite a friend to join in the mayhem and unleash a pair of geese on the unsuspecting village. Oh, the humanity!

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Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for space parties.
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