There are a bunch of great games for the Nintendo Switch, but there are also ones that cost nothing. Good ones, too. Free-to-play games are a growing subset of the console world now: is the latest game to move to a free-to-play model, and it's brand-new to the Switch. Previous favorite games like Rocket League and have moved to free-to-play formats, too. Nintendo has a couple of its own, but my favorite is still Tetris 99.
While these games all feature ways to buy upgrades, mostly for in-game currency, you don't need to buy these extras to enjoy playing the games. I'd generally recommend skipping the extras, in fact.
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None of these games requireto play, except for Tetris 99.
You're a cuddly little character trying to survive in a series of elimination games in this absurd Battle Royale-style platformer. Several game modes keep things unexpected, and there are lots of goals and achievements to unlock. The Switch port has some frame rate slowdown, but it's still a lot of fun.
This is, perhaps, the best reinvention of Battle Royale gaming ever made. You'll try to survive playing Tetris against 99 other players, and you'll fail. A lot. And love it. Optional in-game purchases offer offline modes and extra challenges, which I bought because I just love this game to pieces. One downside: You need a Switch Online subscription to play this one, which costs $20 a year. (Switch Online is needed to play most online games, though, so it's worth it.)
Playing Fortnite on iOS may not be easy as it used to be, but Fortnite on the Switch is still pretty good. Fortnite may look better on the PS5, Xbox Series X, and even the PS4 and Xbox One, but the Switch version of this endlessly evolving game is still great for being both TV-connected and portable. It's crossplay, too, so you can play friends on other platforms.
Made by the same developer as the indie classic Journey, this beautiful and meditative explorational game sends you flying to magic realms, adding storytelling with minimal touches. The game has online play where you interact with others in supportive ways, but not through chatting.
This soccer-with-race-cars game has been brilliant for years, but since moving to a free-to-play model it's still worth playing. Competition remains extremely addictive and extremely hard to master. It's well worth trying if you haven't already.
Splatoon, but with dodgeballs. This charming game from EA won us over the moment it was released, but it also moved to free-to-play recently. Competitions in 3D arenas can get intense, but the Switch controls are excellently conceived. There's an upgraded version you can buy, but the free version is more than enough to play for casual fun.
Toby Fox, creator of the indie masterpiece Undertale, has since been working on an episodic RPG called Deltarune. It looks like a long-lost 8-bit game, is super weird, and it's extremely worth playing if you love RPGs or indie games. Future chapters won't be free, but enjoy these while they're here.
Do these games try to make me buy things?
Free-to-play games work by offering optional purchases in-game, and all of these (except Deltarune) follow that model. The extras aren't needed, but often take the form of in-game currency to unlock items, experience or bonus modes. Just keep an eye on younger kids to make sure they're not trying to buy any in-game extras, and keep your Switch eShop settings locked down with a password just in case.
Do I need Nintendo Switch Online to play?
Most of these games don't require Nintendo's subscription-based Switch Online service to play, which helps make them even more affordable (and, perhaps, encourage you to buy in-game extras). One exception is Tetris 99, which requires Nintendo Switch Online to play.
What about the free games that come with Nintendo Switch Online?
Nintendo's subscription service, which starts at $20 a year, does include access to games, but they're not technically free: You're paying for access, and you don't own the games if you stop subscribing. However, there are a bunch of great NES and SNES games that come with Nintendo Switch Online, plus the Battle Royale game Pac-Man 99. Nintendo's step-up Expansion Pack includes a growing library of N64 and Sega Genesis games, too.