The best free Nintendo Switch games

The Nintendo Switch offers an unparalleled gaming experience, allowing you to enjoy games big and small no matter if you’re on the couch or on the go. That said, the best Nintendo Switch games rarely receive a discount, even if you’re constantly checking for the best Nintendo Switch deals. Luckily, there’s a long list of free Switch games available to you.

We’ve rounded up the 16 best free Nintendo Switch games, from Switch Online exclusives like Tetris 99 and Super Mario 35 to third-party hits like Fortnite and Rocket League. 

Keep in mind that, although all of the games below are free to start, they all feature microtransactions in one form or another. However, we restricted our picks only to games that have ethical microtransactions (no pay-gating or anything like that).

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Tetris 99

Tetris 99 is the free game on Nintendo Switch. Although you’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to play, the game itself is free to download. Unlike a traditional Tetris game, 99 has you facing off against 99 other players in a battle royale. If you get a double, triple, or a Tetris, you send some junk — unfinished lines — to your opponent, filling their board and potentially sending them back to the main menu to start a new game.

There is something so visceral and frantic about battling head to head with other players in Tetris. Thankfully, if you want a more relaxed experience, that’s available, too, in the form of the Big Block DLC. It’ll run you $10, but considering the base game is free, it’s an easy sell.

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Super Mario 35

Super Mario 35 is basically Tetris 99, just with the original Super Mario Bros. You play as one of 35 players in a mad dash to finish Super Mario Bros. as fast as possible. Like Tetris 99, though, Super Mario 35 is a battle royale game, and although it uses the same level as Super Mario Bros., there are some differences in gameplay. Your timer, for example, represents real-world seconds and doesn’t give you enough time to finish the stage. You’ll need to defeat enemies to earn more time.

Once you defeat an enemy, you’ll send them to an opponent’s stage, and likewise, opponents will send their defeated enemies to your stage. Your job is to simply survive, going through all of the original stages in Super Mario Bros. until you’re the last one standing. Super Mario 35 is free for all Nintendo Switch Online members, though oddly, Nintendo only plans on supporting it until March 31, 2021.

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Fortnite

Fortnite might be the biggest game in the world, and it’s available for just about every platform, including the Switch. You can easily link your accounts in-game, allowing you to carry over your progress from PC, PS4, or Xbox One (even mobile, if you’re an Android Fortnite fiend). Battle Royale and Creative modes are available on Switch, though Save the World is not.

Although you’ll need an internet connection to play Fortnite, you don’t need Nintendo Switch Online. Fortnite is one of a few exceptions to Nintendo’s paid online subscription.

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Warframe

Warframe isn’t just one of the best free Nintendo Switch games, it’s one of the best free games in general. The game single-handedly proved that free-to-play games can come with AAA quality and a load of free content, establishing the same business model that other entries on this list follow.

The game functions similarly to Destiny 2. In Warframe, you take control of one of more than 30 Warframes, armor units that have their own abilities and customization. You can then take your custom character out on various short quests, either alone or with up to three other people. As you progress, you’ll be able to unlock new weapons, items, and worlds, each of which offers dozens of hours of gameplay.

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Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter came out of nowhere, announced and released during a Bethesda E3 press conference in 2015. Originally just released for iOS devices, the game has since been ported to Android, Windows, PS4, Xbox One, and, most importantly, Switch. No matter if you’re on your TV or on the go, you can build and manage your Fallout vault.

Rather than focusing on the dangerous nuclear wasteland outside the vault, Fallout Shelter focuses on what happens inside. In the game, you’re the overseer of a vault, tasked with managing your population, building new rooms, and ensuring you have enough resources to survive. Although the setup is similar to “idle” games like AdVenture Capitalist, Fallout Shelter has a surprising amount of depth.

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Brawlhalla

Brawlhalla is basically Smash Bros. just a little worse and a whole lot cheaper. It features the same eight-player arena battles of Smash Bros., but without the nostalgic Nintendo characters in tow. Instead, Brawlhalla offers a long list of Legends, with eight free ones cycling through your roster each week. You can purchase all of the Legends, but since they’ll all be available for free at some point, it won’t give you an in-game edge.

That’s what’s most impressive about Brawlhalla — it has microtransactions, but not to the point that it feels pay-to-win. All of the characters feel balanced, so you could easily spend hundreds of hours in Brawlhalla without spending a dime. Furthermore, the game supports cross-play between PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch, so you’ll always be able to find a game.

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Rocket League

Psyonix

It’s not often you see a paid game make the jump to a free-to-play model, but that’s what Rocket League did in 2020. It used to be one of the best cheap Switch games at around $20, but now, it’s free to start playing.

The usual free-to-play monetization practices apply, however. Rocket League sells a battle pass, and there are various different skins you can purchase. However, the move to a free-to-play model has some upsides, too. Rocket League now has full cross-platform support, allowing you to team up with players on other consoles, as well as continue progressing regardless of the system you’re playing on.

Thankfully, that’s really all that changed with the change in monetization. Rocket League is still the same bombastic, tire-burning experience that it was before. And it pairs perfectly with the Switch. Jumping in and out of games, particularly in handheld mode, is a treat.

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Super Kirby Clash

Super Kirby Clash is an expanded version of Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, a free-to-play title on the Nintendo 3DS. In a radical change to the Kirby formula, Super Kirby Clash is focused entirely on boss battles. You can choose your hero Kirby, team up with up to three other friends, and take down a long list of bosses.

Nintendo makes no bones about it, however, labeling Super Kirby Clash as a “free-to-start” game. Unlike Tetris 99, you’ll need to eventually pour some money into Super Kirby Clash if you want to get everything out of it. That said, if you’re looking for a quick time killer, Super Kirby Clash is a great option.

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Paladins

Many free-to-play games mirror the formula of popular paid titles (we’ll get to another one in just a minute). Paladins fits in that category, taking the MOBA-inspired shooter formula of Overwatch and setting it in a free-to-play realm. There are 44 champions, and like Brawlhalla, they’re rotated into a free roster each month. You can, of course, purchase access to all of the champions.

Like other MOBA games, Paladins demands your team have a balanced roster. Champions are split into four classes: Front Lines, Damages, Supports, and Flanks. Having each champion playing their ideal role is a sure route to victory, forcing a level of teamwork that would make even the most competitive shooters blush.

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Arena of Valor

Arena of Valor is a five-versus-five MOBA game originally developed for mobile devices, and like countless other mobile games, ported to Switch. Although it’s easy to write Arena of Valor off as a knockoff of DOTA and League of Legends, there’s some serious talent behind the game, with famed composer Hans Zimmer having a hand in the soundtrack.

Although the five-versus-five mode is the most popular, Arena of Valor actually has multiple game modes. Valley Skirmish, for example, is a three-versus-three game mode with a smaller map and only one tower. For all intents and purposes, though, Arena of Valor is a League of Legends clone. The inspiration for the game came out of Tencent, developer of Arena of Valor, approaching Riot Games for a mobile port of League of Legends.

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Dauntless

Dauntless is very similar to Monster Hunter. In it, you play as a Slayer, a group of surviving humans after creatures known as Behemoths were released on Earth. Either alone or with a group of friends, you set out over the desolate landscape to hunt Behemoths, gathering materials to craft weapons and armor along the way.

It’s not just another free-to-play game copying the formula of an established franchise, however. Dauntless was developed by a group of designers from Riot Games, BioWare, Blizzard, and Capcom, and that talent shows in the final product. Although Dauntless is totally free, it feels like a full AAA experience, which is all the more impressive on Switch.

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Asphalt 9: Legends

Gameloft is one of the prolific mobile game developers around, creating games for Disney, Lego, Sega, and more. One of its original IPs is Asphalt, a series of realistic racing games that’s been running since 2004. The latest release, Asphalt 9, is one the best looking mobile games around. With the Switch’s hardware, the graphics are given even more room to shine.

Outside of the stellar graphics, Asphalt 9 is just a racing game, but still a competent one. There are 84 cars available, each with a different class. Players start with a low-level Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and can acquire new blueprints through playing. If you want to dump some money into the game, you can also upgrade your car’s stats.

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Pokémon Quest

Like Super Kirby Clash, Pokémon Quest is another “free-to-start” game from Nintendo. The game takes place on Tumblecube Island, where all Pokémon have turned into cubed versions of themselves. You can take up to three Pokémon with you on your adventure across Tumblecube Island, gathering loot and Power Stones to level up your Pokémon.

Unlike mainline Pokémon games, Quest is an action RPG. Battles happen in real-time, and there’s a greater emphasis on gathering loot. Although a far cry from the JRPG formula established by other Pokémon titles, Quest is still an entertaining action RPG that offers tons of grindy replayability.

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Smite

Smite is another game from Hi-Rez Studios, the same developer behind Paladins. Unlike Paladins, which is a MOBA-shooter, Smite is a straight-up MOBA. Like similar games, Smite features five-versus-five online battles in a large map, where you must push past your opponent’s defenses to defeat the Titan.

Smite is very competitive, though. The Smite World Championship, hosted annually by Hi-Rez Studios, has been running since 2015 and paying out nearly $1 million in prizes every year.

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DC Universe Online

DC Universe Online has been around for a long time, originally released for Windows and PS3 in 2011. Since then, it has been ported to Xbox One, PS4, and, of course, the Nintendo Switch. It’s a free-to-play MMO action game where you can take control of heroes and villains within the DC universe.

However, we don’t think calling this game “free” is entirely accurate. Even though you can download and open moments without the expense, DC Universe Online always bombards you with other paid promotions and upsells. This game boasts a full load of content, with almost nine years in action. That being said, you’ll still have to purchase the content separately or buy a subscription plan to fully take advantage of all DC Universe Online has to offer.

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Dawn of the Breakers

Dawn of the Breakers is a mobile-based game that has recently been ported to Switch. It’s very similar to other mobile games’ free-to-play motto and offers an exciting and intriguing beat-’em-up-style gaming experience. The game’s anime art style makes it shockingly appealing, even by Switch’s specifications. 

Contrary to most free-to-play games, Dawn of the Breakers offers a single-player option. If you opt for this play method, you will pass through a Mario Party-esque board, bump into unfamiliar enemies, gather different items, and so much more. As you keep advancing, you’ll get the opportunity to unlock new heroes, tailor your existing ones to your preferences, and compete in battles against other players.

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Editors' Recommendations