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Nintendo Switch: The 36 best games to play in 2021

Here are our favourite games on the Switch.

markserrels
Mark Serrels
nintendo-switch-lite-2
1 of 37 Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

It's a good time to buy a Nintendo Switch

We're halfway through 2021 and now feels as good a time as any to pick up a Nintendo Switch.

First off, you can choose between the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite
Second, with PS5 and Xbox Series X shortages still an issue, the Switch is the most easily accessible console out there.

Third of all, the Nintendo Switch now has one of the best, most varied and deepest libraries of any console out there. In short: there's a lot to choose from.
Here are our choices for the best games on Nintendo Switch.

zelda-cnet-2.jpg
2 of 37 Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

No big deal, Breath of the Wild is only the consensus best game of 2017. The game many believe is the best ever made. The game that somehow managed to actually outsell the Nintendo Switch itself on launch. 

Still no idea how that actually happened, but it did.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a legitimate masterpiece that strips back the open-world genre to its core elements and rewrites its DNA for pure adventure.
It's a world alive with surprise and dense with detail. An incredible, milestone achievement.

super-mario-odyssey
3 of 37 Nintendo

Super Mario Odyssey

Here is a list of trash words that don't come close to describing Super Mario Odyssey: inventive, dazzling, smart, seamless, joyful, creative.

Super Mario Odyssey is a Nintendo game that continues in the spirit of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. All bets are off, everything you thought you knew about Mario has been reinvented. But here's what remains: perfectly tuned, precision gameplay that feels incredible every second your hands are on the controller.

animal-crossing
4 of 37 Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Folks, in these dark and troubled days, it's time to disappear into a new world, get a virtual mortgage and work your ass off to pay that sucker off quick smart. 

It's Animal Crossing time my friends. 

mario-kart-8-0-0
5 of 37 Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 was initially released on the Wii U. It was great then, it's even better now with all the additional content.

Not too much has changed, but Mario Kart 8 is about as definitive as it gets. It's stacked with playable characters, inventive tracks and brand new features. It remains the most compelling multiplayer game on the Nintendo Switch.

See this on Amazon.

hacp-auzp-scrn-bowserfury-007
6 of 37 Nintendo

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

In my humble opinion, Super Mario 3D World is probably the greatest game for young kids ever made. Particularly if you're a parent that wants to play alongside them. It's simple, no reading required. The levels are well designed, open and forgiving. 

It also rules in every possible sense.
But when you add Bowser's Fury -- an experimental Mario title that could give us an insight into where Nintendo will take the series next -- this package is unbeatable. Play Super Mario 3D World with your kids, play Bowser's Fury when they go to bed. Perfect.

fez.jpg
7 of 37 Polytron

Fez

Fez first came out on the Xbox 360 in 2012, which is just insane.

It speaks to the quality of the game that people got excited when it was ported to the Nintendo Switch nine years later. 

But it's also testament to the power of the Nintendo Switch as a device. It's simply a super fun and convenient way to play video games, particularly indie games like Fez, which are well suited to the smaller screen.
And if you haven't played Fez, you absolutely should. It's a genius, mind-bending thing that playfully messes with video game tropes. One of the best games of the last decade.

image-2
8 of 37 The Game Awards

Hades

Hades, an isometric rogue-like from Supergiant Games, came out of nowhere in 2020 and is now a very strong contender for Game of the Year.

Why? Part of it is the combat -- which is fluid, weighty and tactile -- but its evolving storyline, which ties the idea of constant death into Hades' narrative, really pushes it over the edge. This is a rogue-like that people who don't like rogue-likes can enjoy.

luigis-mansion-3
9 of 37

Luigi's Mansion 3

Luigi's Mansion 3 is legitimately one of the best games of 2019. It is a video game clearly made with love: Gorgeous environments, pitch-perfect animations. Everything about it feels tactile and precise. Maybe the best Nintendo made game of the year.

super-smash-bros-ultimate-nintendo
10 of 37 Nintendo

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is here and it is very, very good. Featuring the biggest line-up of characters yet (hence the "Ultimate") it also has almost certainly the best single player 'campaign' mode of any Smash Bros. game to date. Also -- it's Smash Bros..

How are you going to own a Nintendo Switch and not pick up this game?

hollow-knight
11 of 37 Team Cherry

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight might be one of the best games available on the Nintendo Switch. It's a disturbingly well-designed platformer in the vein of Super Metroid. But it's more than that. The atmosphere, the audio design, the visuals...

Dear lord this game is a stone-cold classic. Play it now.

new-pokemon-snap-switch-hero
12 of 37 Nintendo

New Pokemon Snap

In our review we call New Pokemon Snap the most chill game since Animal Crossing. So if you need a game like that, jump on in.
We've been waiting literally decades for a new Pokemon Snap, thankfully this one lives up to the hype. 

celeste
13 of 37 Nintendo

Celeste

Celeste is a video game that makes you want to lodge your controller in your TV -- in a good way.

Featuring incredible level design and flawlessly tuned precision platforming, Celeste is one of the best games of its type ever released. It's smart, charming and dense with content.

It's also perfect for the Nintendo Switch. You'll be hurling obscenities at this game on public transport and you'll love every second of it.

goosegame
14 of 37 House House

Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game is a game about being a goose.

And not just any goose, a horrible goose. An asshole goose that makes life extremely difficult for everyone around him. Untitled Goose Game has absolutely taken the world by storm. Even Chrissie Teigen is obsessed with it
But is it good? Yes. Very good. This one should absolutely be on any and all Nintendo Switch consoles.

stardew
15 of 37 Nintendo

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is the perfect example of why the Nintendo Switch is a game-changing device. 

Here is a game that is perfectly good on all the platforms it's currently available on (PC, Xbox One, Vita, PS4) but on the Switch it's just elevated

Because of the nature of the Switch (and how it allows you to just passively play while watching TV, or on public transport) it's perfect for a game like Stardew Valley -- which is the digital equivalent of knitting a scarf.
Actually all games are just better on the Switch. All of them. 

Monster Hunter Rise Wirebug
16 of 37 Capcom

Monster Hunter Rise

Monster Hunter Rise is perhaps the most accessible Monster Hunter yet. It's also very good.
And at this point, the game is only available on Nintendo Switch. Get on it.

obra-dinn
17 of 37 Lucas Pope

Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn is the most recent game from Lucas Pope, the man behind Papers, Please. 
It's a genuine, proper masterpiece. An investigation story, essentially, you arrive onto the Obra Dinn a ship where almost all the crewmates have died. Via flashbacks you try to piece together the story of what happened. It's strange, innovative and completely unforgettable.

mario
18 of 37 Nintendo

Paper Mario: The Origami King

If you've played a Paper Mario game before, you probably know the drill. The series is set in a 2D "paper" version of Mario, a theme used to create all sorts of hyper-stylised mechanics and slick visual elements. It's all laced up with a self-awareness and charm that makes the series irresistible to Nintendo fans. 

Paper Mario: The Origami King is no exception. Well worth a look. 

dead
19 of 37

Dead Cells

The traditional words used to describe Dead Cells are "roguelike" and "metroidvania". Both common genres, but Dead Cells is a game with a unique conceit: you will play, you will die. But in Dead Cells you get to keep your upgrades and then restart with those upgrades, meaning you slowly progress through the game more easily as you play. Very cool.

pokemon
20 of 37

Pokemon Sword & Shield

Look, regardless of controversy, Pokemon is Pokemon and Pokemon Sword & Shield is a good Pokemon. 

Don't believe the online hype, this is one of the best games in the series so far. It's also great to see Pokemon being available on Nintendo's premium console, the Nintendo Switch. Definitely check it out.

super-mario-maker-2-doggo
21 of 37 Nintendo

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 doesn't quite feel made for the Nintendo Switch in the way it was perfect for the Wii U, but it's still a fantastic piece of software. It makes level design accessible for everyone and has a massively beefed up single player mode.

That's not to mention the endless replay value that comes with the insane user created levels. Check Super Mario Maker 2 out for sure.

into-the-breach
22 of 37

Into The Breach

A very good turn-based strategy game by the creators of Faster Than Light. An intricate, intelligent creation that demands problem solving from the player in interesting ways.

spl2
23 of 37 Nintendo

Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 is very similar to the first Splatoon. It's barely a sequel in the traditional sense but, much like Mario Kart 8, that doesn't make it any less essential. 

Splatoon's high concept is pure genius and extremely Nintendo. It takes the first-person shooter, traditionally a violent genre, and flips it on its head. You're shooting paint, not bullets. You don't score points for shooting enemies, you score points by shooting the environment itself. 

Splatoon rules.

among-us
24 of 37 Among Us/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Among Us

Among Us is one of the most popular games in the world right now. While the Nintendo Switch might not be the ideal platform, I'd argue it's the best way for kids to play. There's no chance of them coming across audio chats with teenagers swearing at one another, plus the chat is censored. 

screen-shot-2017-06-12-at-4-09-30-pm
25 of 37 Ubisoft

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is just so goddamn stupid. I can't believe it even exists.

I also can't believe how good it is. It doesn't even make sense. Everyone had a good ol' chuckle when Mario + Rabbids was announced. Then it was released and it turned out to be one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch.

It's Mario meets XCOM, which is to say it's a turn-based tactical role-playing game. Except you battle killer rabbits with laser guns. 
Good times.

zelda
26 of 37

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

It's overpriced, but if you love Zelda, and you loved Link's Awakening, you have to play this faithful, lovingly adapted remake. It's not perfect, but it gets the job done.

cadence
27 of 37 Nintendo

Cadence of Hyrule

Are you ready for some video game buzzwords?
Cadence of Hyrule is an indie roguelike rhythm game based on the Legend of Zelda. In regular speak: a game that crosses Zelda with Dance Dance Revolution.

Which sounds like a completely bizarre proposition, but Cadence of Hyrule works! It really works. And you should play the hell out of it.

doom
28 of 37 Bethesda

Doom

DOOM rules. This is known.

Playing DOOM on the Nintendo Switch also rules. Sure, it's a little compromised compared to the versions you might play on the PS4, Xbox One or on a decently specced-up PC...

But yeah, good luck lugging one of those on the train.

the-messenger
29 of 37

The Messenger

A quirky 2D slasher game with a retro aesthetic. But here's the twist: The Messenger begins as a simple hack and slash game in the 8-bit style, but later you get to travel to the future, where the game evolves into a 16-bit style metroidvania.

Very meta.

mario-tennis-aces
30 of 37 Nintendo

Mario Tennis Aces

Mario is pretty good at sport. As is Nintendo when it puts its mind to it. Mario Tennis Aces gives us what we haven't had for a remarkably long time -- a good tennis game.

gorogoa
31 of 37 Nintendo

Gorogoa

Gorogoa is unlike any video game you've ever played. 

It's a puzzle game... I guess. But it's really a game about exploring a strange universe in ways you can't really predict. 

A couple of warnings: Gorogoa is pretty short and I think it might play better on an iPad, but it's such a unique, compelling and seamless experience on any platform.

Find a way to play this video game.

dark-souls
32 of 37

Dark Souls Remastered

Who wouldn't want to play one of the best video games ever made on public transport?

Dark Souls isn't perfect on the Nintendo Switch and, at this point, you could make a strong argument the best version is the remastered version on the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X. That being said, you can't play either of those on the toilet.

Check and mate. 

rocket-league
33 of 37 Nintendo

Rocket League

Football.

With cars. 

Car football.

On the Nintendo Switch.

Rocket League is awesome. You know this.

mania.png
34 of 37 Sega

Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania is just...

[chef kissy fingers]

I mean imagine being an adult, growing up with Sonic. They announce a new game and you expect it to be bad because Sonic has been bad for like 20 years.

Then they drop Sonic Mania. A game that takes everything good about Sonic, preserves it, and then updates it perfectly in a seamless modern interpretation that has no right being this good.

oxenfree
35 of 37

Oxenfree

You know when you're playing a video game and you're like, "man this story is really interesting and well written...

"For a video game."

With Oxenfree you don't really need to make that distinction. 
Oxenfree is a spooky mystery wrapped in teen drama. It's like "Riverdale" for video games. It also features a really deft and perfectly implemented dialogue system that rewards multiple playthroughs.

baba-is-you
36 of 37 Nintendo

Baba Is You

Baba Is You is a puzzle game that will break every part of your brain. It's a puzzle game that forces you to literally rewrite the rules of the game in order to complete tasks.

If that sounds complicated it's because it is complicated. In a good way.

It's also the kind of game that will haunt you, sort of like The Witness. You will be thinking about puzzles while you do the dishes, while you're driving the car. You'll scream EUREKA. Then maybe break a dish or crash your car.

This game is dangerous for your health.

kentuckymain
37 of 37 Annapurna Interactive

Kentucky Route Zero

A point and click adventure of sorts, Kentucky Route Zero has been released episodically since January 2013. Now it's complete and available on Nintendo Switch. Like many indie games, it makes absolute sense on that console. One of the most interesting and unique games ever made.

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