Our picks for the best role-playing games on Nintendo's system.
The Nintendo Switch has been on the market for more than five years now, and in that time, the console has built up an incredibly robust library of games. Nearly every video game genre you can think of is well represented on the system, but that holds especially true for RPGs. With the holiday season in full flow, this might be the best time to buy the best RPGs for Nintendo Switch.
From long-running franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Quest to original titles like Triangle Strategy, Nintendo's hybrid console is home to a wealth of epic adventures that will scratch anyone's role-playing itch. Here are our picks for the best RPGs on Nintendo Switch. And for more recommendations, be sure to check out the best Switch multiplayer family games and the 40 best games on the system.
Don't let the odd moniker fool you; Bravely Default II is, at heart, a traditional Final Fantasy adventure by another name. In the classic mold, the game follows four ragtag warriors on a quest to restore balance to the elemental crystals governing the world. Even many of the spells and items you acquire along the way are lifted directly from past Final Fantasies. But Bravely Default introduces its own unique ideas to the mix as well, such as its namesake Brave and Default commands, which let characters skip turns to accrue points that can then be spent to unleash multiple actions at once. It's deep and inventive, and when coupled with the flexible job system, affords an almost dizzying amount of freedom in tinkering with your party build.
Nearly 30 years on from its original release, Secret of Mana remains one of the most beloved RPGs ever produced, and Switch owners can experience the classic again – or for the first time – through the aptly named Collection of Mana. This three-game compilation packs Secret of Mana together with its Game Boy predecessor (known as either Final Fantasy Adventure or Mystic Quest, depending on where you live) and its previously Japan-only sequel Trials of Mana, offering a perfect introduction to one of Square Enix's most revered franchises.
The game that made Elden Ring developer FromSoftware a household name, Dark Souls remains one of the studio's crowning achievements – every bit as challenging and darkly alluring as when it launched in 2011. This remastered edition packs the original adventure together with its Artorias of the Abyss DLC expansion. While the Nintendo Switch version of this modern classic may lack the technical fidelity of other platforms, it compensates with some system-exclusive features, namely Amiibo support and the ability to play anywhere.
The archetypal Japanese RPG, Dragon Quest remains one of gaming's most beloved franchises, and its latest entry demonstrates why. Boasting the series' signature blend of traditional gameplay and heartfelt storytelling, Dragon Quest XI follows the adventures of the Luminary, a legendary hero destined to save the world of Erdrea from the encroaching forces of darkness. Though the conceit may seem timeworn, Dragon Quest XI's story is charming and poignant, supported by a colorful cast of characters like the brash thief Erik and the flamboyant Sylvando. This edition of the game also gives you the option to play through the adventure either in 3D or in retro-style 2D, a feature originally exclusive to the unlocalized 3DS version.
The latest installment in Nintendo's venerated RPG series is also one of the finest. Building upon the franchise's tactical foundation, Three Houses casts you in the role of a new professor at the Garreg Mach Monastery, where you must take one of the titular three student houses under your wing. You play the part of both military commander and schoolteacher, nurturing your pupils' growth both on and off the battlefield. It's an inspired spin on the classic Fire Emblem gameplay, further strengthening the connection you feel with each of your units. And with three diverging paths to choose from, each affecting the direction of the story, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is compellingly replayable.
Capcom has spent years gradually sanding down the edges of its popular but notoriously dense Monster Hunter series, and the latest installment, Monster Hunter Rise, is the most accessible entry point yet. As in previous games, your mission is to band together with other hunters and take down fearsome monsters, using the materials you've gathered from them to forge increasingly more powerful weapons and armor. The gameplay loop is irresistibly compelling, and Rise accentuates it with a host of refinements and new traversal features, such as the Wirebug, an elastic insect that lets you slingshot yourself around the environment. Thanks to these tweaks, monster hunting feels more mobile and satisfying than ever before, making Rise a great title for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Many modern Japanese RPGs have strived to recapture the essence of the genre's mid-'90s golden era, but few have replicated the look and feel of that time period as effectively as Octopath Traveler. As its peculiar title suggests, the game follows eight protagonists, each navigating individual stories and missions that ultimately weave together into one interconnected quest. It's a well-executed throwback to SNES RPGs, with enough ideas to give the game its own identity. But its defining innovation is its pioneering "HD-2D" visual style, a beautifully modern spin on the 16-bit aesthetic that other RPGs, like the upcoming Dragon Quest 3 and Live a Live remakes, would eventually co-opt.
Although Paper Mario has long since shed its RPG roots, The Origami King recaptures the magic of the series' earliest installments. Told with the franchise's signature wit and sharp writing, The Origami King is a lite role-playing adventure that runs the gamut from hilarious to heartrending. Buoying the story is a unique panel-sliding battle system, which effectively turns every enemy encounter into a rapid-fire micro puzzle. Despite its unconventional approach to the genre, The Origami King is the best Paper Mario game since The Thousand-Year Door.
After years of incremental refinements, Pokemon Legends: Arceus marks the series' most radical reinvention yet. Upending more than two decades of conventions, Arceus drops players into a vast world where patience and quick reflexes are just as vital to catching Pokemon as type advantages. Every wild Pokemon can be seen roaming about the field, and you have an array of options in how you go about capturing them – be it by distracting them with bait, concealing yourself in tall grass, or sending out your own monsters to battle them. This freedom makes Arceus the most thrilling Pokemon game in ages, and it's a must-play for all Switch owners eager to embark on a grand adventure.
There are plenty of Pokemon games on Switch, but Pokemon Sword and Shield are still the best choice for those craving a traditional Pokemon experience. Following the series' tried-and-true formula, Sword and Shield cast you in the role of a fledgling trainer on a quest to become Pokemon champion, traveling about the world, raising a team of handpicked monsters, and challenging formidable gym leaders along the way. This gameplay loop remains as alluring as ever, and with an array of activities to do after you've conquered the main story (including two meaty DLC expansions), Pokemon Sword and Shield stand among the series' best entries.
Though Persona may now be the better known of Atlus' RPG series, Shin Megami Tensei remains the studio's flagship franchise, and the latest entry is one of the best. Set in an arid, post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo, Shin Megami Tensei V casts you in the role of the "Nahobino," a supernatural being formed after your average high school student avatar fuses with a mysterious man known as Aogami. The ensuing adventure has you trekking through the ravaged wastes of Tokyo, using your new supernatural powers to recruit other demons and battle against gods. Dark and challenging, Shin Megami Tensei V is among the Switch's finest exclusives.
An overlooked gem plucked from the Wii U library, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is an unabashedly colorful collaboration between Nintendo and RPG stalwart Atlus. Though billed as a mashup between the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises, the game is more akin to Persona, following a group of aspiring teen idols who must drive back shadowy forces that have invaded Tokyo. During battle, characters will transform and can summon legendary Fire Emblem heroes like Chrom and Tiki, using their powers to conquer foes in turn-based encounters. The battle system is deep and draws elements from both Fire Emblem and SMT, while the story is charming and told with anime earnestness.
Whereas Octopath Traveler was a heartfelt throwback to vintage 16-bit Japanese RPGs, Triangle Strategy lovingly channels a particular classic: Final Fantasy Tactics. In the vein of that beloved title, Triangle Strategy is a turned-based tactical RPG in which you command a small army of soldiers around a chessboard-like battlefield. The gameplay offers layers of depth as you consider positioning, elemental alignments and other variables when maneuvering your units, and it's spurred along by a compelling, choice-driven story centered on political machinations and the weighty consequences of your decisions. Despite the game's slow opening, Triangle Strategy is a riveting RPG, and one of the finest Nintendo Switch games of 2022.
Despite originally releasing on the underpowered Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles remains one of the most ambitious and absorbing adventures Nintendo has ever produced. The story is compelling enough, full of twists and anime drama, and the MMO-like battle system offers plenty of strategic depth. But what really makes Xenoblade special is its setting. The entire adventure unfolds across the backs and limbs of two titanic gods, and each locale you visit is more fantastical and breathtaking than the last. It's an epic in every sense. The core game can take upwards of 100 hours to complete, and it's capped off by a brand-new epilogue story that sets the stage for the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
After sci-fi-flavored Wii U installment Xenoblade Chronicles X, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 returns the series to more familiar territory, both visually and thematically. Like the first game, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a sprawling adventure set on (and within) continent-size beings known as titans. You'll explore a series of awe-inspiring environments as you journey across these colossi, from lush plains to dusty wastelands. Each locale is vast and beautifully realized, rivaling the genre's best settings, while the revamped battle system offers a greater degree of strategic nuance than before. Although the story leans even more heavily into anime tropes than its predecessors, the sense of scale and wonder that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 inspires remains unmatched on Switch.