The Nintendo Switch has racked up a huge number of great games since its launch nearly three years ago. The Japanese video game company has finally started listening to the demands of Western fans for more third-party titles, and more importantly, fresh additions to everyone’s favorite Nintendo franchises. We compiled a list of the best Nintendo Switch exclusives and made sure that all these titles can’t be found anywhere else — even on other Nintendo consoles. That is, of course, unless you count the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Who would have thought that on a system that is home to multiple Mario and Zelda games that second fiddle Luigi would still be able to shine? Luigi’s Mansion 3 builds on Dark Moon’s foundation with a similarly hilarious and over-the-top story, classic ghost-vacuuming gameplay, and the return of the bizarre professor Elvin Gadd. For his third outing, Luigi ventures into a hotel to rescue his friends — who have all been trapped in paintings — and climbs up themed spooky floors to capture ghosts along the way. If you get tired of playing the game alone, you can check out the ScreamPark and ScareScraper modes, which add competitive and cooperative options, respectively. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the perfect first “horror” game for kids and an adventure that every Switch player should own.
What do you get when you combine manga-inspired visuals, PlatinumGames’ fast and frantic gameplay, and the combat expertise of Nier: Automata’s lead game designer? You get Astral Chain, and we are very thankful for that. The Nintendo Switch exclusive is one part character-action game, one part investigation simulator, and one part open-world adventure, and centered on an interdimensional attack that threatens destroy all of humanity.
Astral Chain doesn’t feature a traditional combat system, as you’re joined in battle by a chained “Legion” who can do additional attacks while you also engage in direct battle. These Legions are also used to solve puzzles in the world and offer a nice twist on the PlatinumGames gameplay loop.
Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo moved away from the open-ended 3D Mario platformers during the 3DS and Wii U’s lifecycles, preferring to focus on course-based levels instead. That changed with Super Mario Odyssey, a whimsical game that brought back all the wonder and discovery of Super Mario 64, but added in the character Cappy to completely change how you approach obstacles.
Cappy is capable of turning Mario into nearly any object or enemy he comes across; he can traverse giant lava pits, sneak through narrow openings, and even go 2D in order to run along a painting on a wall. The gorgeous, jazzy soundtrack makes every moment even more joyful, and the bizarre and creative environments are unlike anything we’ve seen in a Mario game before.
Read our full Super Mario Odyssey review
Super Mario Maker 2
A sequel to one of the Wii U’s best games, Super Mario Maker 2 is an absolute joy on Nintendo Switch, whether you’re an eager level designer or just a 2D Mario enthusiast. On the design side of the coin, Nintendo has added some really cool features like custom clear conditions and slopes. The level design suite features an easy drag-and-drop system that works well with either a controller or touchscreen in handheld mode.
Nintendo also included a full-fledged campaign mode featuring 100-plus zany levels that really capture what Super Mario Maker 2 levels are all about. Even if you don’t want to make your own courses, Super Mario Maker 2 is brimming with excellent platforming content.
Read our full Super Mario Maker 2 review
Yoshi’s Crafted World
Perhaps the cutest game on Switch, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a cleverly crafted side-scroller set in a reworked version of Yoshi’s Island. Everything looks as if it was built out of cardboard and paper, giving Yoshi’s latest adventure a unique sense of charm.
Though it adheres to the same set of mechanics in most Yoshi side-scrollers, depth is added, allowing you to move into the backdrop of environments and toss eggs off into the distance, both behind and in front of you. Along with lengthy platforming levels, there are a variety of novel stages, such as one that puts you inside of a giant Yoshi mech. Better yet, Yoshi’s Crafted World can be enjoyed cooperatively on one console, making it an ideal experience for a parent and child.
Kirby Star Allies
One of the most kid-friendly franchises in Nintendo’s library, Kirby has floated through the air and copied enemies’ abilities for decades; and his first outing on the Switch understands what makes Kirby great. The basic 2D platforming structure remains largely unchanged in Kirby Star Allies along with Kirby’s ability to steal powers but now he can also recruit enemies as part of his squad.
Kirby can even combine powers to create even more powerful attacks during particularly challenging areas, and if you can’t handle the game alone, you can bring up to three friends along for the ride. It’s certainly one of the easier games on the Switch, but if you want to introduce your kids to the system, Kirby Star Allies is a great choice.
Read our full Kirby Star Allies review
Sports and fighting
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t drastically different than Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, with similar combat speed and mode offerings, but it’s in the sheer volume of content that Ultimate shines. Every character ever included in another Super Smash Bros. game, including long-lost heroes like Young Link and Mewtwo. Local multiplayer is easier than ever with the Switch’s handheld mode, and the game still supports classic GameCube controllers for veteran players.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t just cater to Nintendo fans, however: It remains committed to the fighting scene, with options to turn the more than 100 different stages into Battlefield and Omega variants. It deserves the Ultimate titles, and it’s hard to imagine the franchise getting any better.
Read our full Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review
If you ever need to show a prospective Switch player just what the system can do across its different modes, you can do a lot worse than Arms. The hybrid fighting game plays out like an over-the-top boxing match, as players use either the Joy-Con motion controls or traditional analog sticks to send punches soaring across the arena into their opponent’s face.
With a ton of different characters to choose from – and more being added since launch via free DLC — you can customize your fighter to fit your particular playstyle. After tackling the offline Grand Prix mode, it’s time to take things online, where you’ll face enemies capable of dodging nearly every attack as they line up a hook or jab of their own.
Read our full Arms review
Don’t let the name Golf Story fool you — yes, you’ll be playing quite a bit of golf, but the game is a full-fledged story-focused RPG that fans of Camelot’s old-school Mario sports games will love. The game will take you across a number of different environments that offer far more diversity than you’d get in a traditional golf game, and aside from playing on standard courses, you’ll have the opportunity to complete special golf challenges when you’re exploring the world. There’s even disc golf for those skilled with a Frisbee, and you can complete a number of different activities only tangentially related to golf. The game is also absolutely gorgeous, with its pixel art emulating the 16-bit era perfectly.
Mario Tennis Aces
Mario’s last outing on the tennis court, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, was a bare-bones game that did little to help the struggling Wii U attract more players. Thankfully, the same can’t be said for Mario Tennis Aces.
The Switch exclusive not only gives us strategic and intense tennis matches that force you to use every trick at our disposal, but also a hilarious campaign mode that helps to teach you the basics before ever squaring off against another player. With a special Swing mode for newcomers not used to traditional controls, it’s the perfect game to pull out at parties, and it runs beautifully when in handheld mode.
Read our full Mario Tennis Aces review
Super Mario Party
After a string of underwhelming entries in the Mario Party franchise, Super Mario Party brings the board game action back to its root. Like the original format, up to four players race across a board to collect stars and compete in minigames at the end of each turn. All of the 80 minigames are simplistic, but that’s the point. They don’t require much skill but are fun for the whole family.
There’s also a new Partner Party mode that lets you team up with a friend and enjoy the board game format cooperatively. It offers a nice spin on the formula and can potentially reduce the number of arguments you get in with friends and family. Unfortunately, Super Mario Party can only be played in console mode, but it’s an ideal choice for family game nights.
Read our Super Mario Party impressions
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Yes, Mario Kart 8 was released on the Wii U, but the sheer amount of content in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe makes it feel like an entirely new game. All courses and characters from the Wii U release are included, as well as all DLC characters previously offered as paid content.
New downloadable content featuring Link and his Breath of the Wild gear was also released for free and if you use the cardboard Nintendo Labo kits, you have entirely new ways to play. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the perfect choice for trips, as you can use the Switch’s built-in stand, hand your friend a Joy-Con, and start racing head-to-head where you are.
Read our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review
Puzzle and strategy
Tetris 99 is one of the most bizarre concepts for a video game we’ve ever heard of, and yet it’s also one of the most enthralling. The game is essentially the Tetris take on free-to-play battle royale, pitting 99 players against each other in online matches for a shot at being the last one standing. On a moment-to-moment basis, it’s classic Tetris puzzle-solving, with all the pieces you remember, but you are also “attacking” other players by sending extra lines to their boards.
The process is mostly automatic, but you get to decide if you want to attack random players or those on the verge of being knocked out. Other players can set their own attacks to go after the most aggressive players, which means you risk losing quickly if you fly too close to the sun.
Snipperclips: Cut it out, together!
An under-appreciated launch title for the Switch, Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! tasks two players with completing simple paper puzzles by literally cutting out segments of their own bodies with scissors. This might be to carry an object from one end of the screen to the other or reach a difficult button, but the experimentation and trial-and-error gameplay loop is a big part of its charm.
You’ll have just as much fun failing with a friend as you do succeeding, and up to four players can enjoy it at the same time in Party mode. Extra downloadable content has also been released for the game, and you can bundle it with the game in the Snipperclips Plus version.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Nintendo fans everywhere were scratching their heads when Ubisoft unveiled Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, as it combined the Mushroom Kingdom’s classic levels and heroes with the largely annoying Rabbids characters. We scratched our heads more when we discovered it was essentially an XCOM clone, but against all odds, Kingdom Battle is great.
The strategy game delivers turn-based combat that’s as good as anything in the XCOM series, alongside a healthy dose of puzzle solving and plenty of goofy humor. The Rabbids are surprisingly not annoying here, either, as they play on the Mario series’ tropes in the best way possible.
Read our full Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle review
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
For years, Fire Emblem was one of the most underappreciated series on Nintendo systems. Awakening ushered in a new age of popularity for the strategy-role-playing games, leading to a ton of Fire Emblem titles releasing in the years that followed. We weren’t exactly overdue for a new one when Fire Emblem: Three Houses launched on Switch, but it’s a testament to its quality that we were still blown away.
Unlike the more linear mission-to-mission approach of the other Fire Emblem games, Three Houses is separated into months, during which you can battle enemies, teach students in the game’s central monastery, or work on building relationships. It’s a lot to take in and Three Houses somehow manages to stick the landing, even as it offers some major changes to the classic combat system, including the removal of the weapon triangle.
The first Splatoon offered a uniquely Nintendo take on multiplayer shooters, focusing on covering a map with ink rather than killing other players. Splatoon 2 builds on that foundation with an even more exciting and hilarious campaign mode and brilliant multiplayer maps that encourage teamwork and tactical thinking.
The new cooperative Salmon Run is a blast, as well, with giant boss-type enemies storming the shores as you attempt to fend them off, and special limited-time Splatfest events pit two teams against each other for bragging rights. If you’re competitive, Splatoon 2 is for you, but even those more interested in a casual shooter will find something to love here.
Read our full Splatoon 2 review
Pokémon Sword and Shield
The perfect game to release just after the Nintendo Switch Lite’s launch, Pokémon Sword and Shield is the most gorgeous and fully detailed Pokémon game ever made, resembling the anime more than any previous iteration. Fully playable in handheld and in docked modes for Nintendo Switch, it can work as your console game of choice or as a companion when you go out, letting you trade and play with other players just like the classic Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, DS, and 3DS games. More streamlined so that a wider array of players can enjoy it, Sword and Shield certainly aren’t as difficult as past games, but they do still contain the nitty-gritty details that hardcore fans love.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a remake, but the improvements made to the dreamy adventure move the needle enough to view it as a Switch exclusive. For starters, the graphics have been radically altered, turning Koholint Island into a bright and colorful world filled with characters who look like toy dolls. This new style complements the weird story that somehow features Super Mario characters and other peculiarities.
Link’s Awakening has excellent dungeon and enemy design, along with a beautiful overworld to explore. Inventory management is exponentially better in the Switch remake, allowing to have far more than two items equipped at once. Exploration is also a step up thanks to a map pin system that lets you mark points of interest on the fly. And since there are more Heart Pieces and Secret Seashells this time around, the map pins can get put to great use.
A new Chamber Dungeons mode lets you build makeshift dungeons using rooms from existing dungeons. It’s decent optional content, but the main adventure is far more compelling. Link’s Awakening a gem and serves as an important reminder that top-down Zelda games still totally rule.
Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening review
Pokémon: Let’s Go
Longtime Pokémon fans were worried about the more casual approach of Pokémon: Let’s Go, but the changes made to the iconic catch-’em-all formula are mostly positive. Designed as a remake of Pokémon Yellow, Let’s Go manages to both breathe new life into the franchise and serve up a quality helping of nostalgia.
Let’s Go drops random battles, replacing them with simple catch sequences inspired by Pokémon Go. Pokémon spawn on the map, so you always know what you’re trying to catch before going in. Despite removing random encounters with wild Pokémon, it’s still a thrill to fill out your Pokédex. If anything, seeing a rare Pokémon pop up in the tall grass only adds to the charm. The turn-based foundation of mainline entries in the series remains during trainer battles, allowing Let’s Go to feel pleasantly familiar.
Whether you’re new to the series or have kept up with it from the very beginning, Let’s Go is an excellent experience. It’s not a matter of if you should buy it, but which version you should choose: Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Eevee!? They’re both too cute.
Read our full Pokémon: Let’s Go review
The mid-‘90s was the golden age of role-playing games, with Square (now Square Enix) releasing phenomenal adventures like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. Octopath Traveler doesn’t try to emulate the structure of those games, with its more modern pacing and level design feeling appropriate in 2018, but the game wonderfully emulates the pixel art style of its characters.
These characters are placed on a 3D environment to create something akin to a pop-up book, and Square Enix’s tremendous turn-based battle system is the icing on the cake. Octopath Traveler is a lengthy game loaded with stories to hear and bosses to fight, and you’ll be ready to play it all again after you see the credits roll.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Image & Form’s SteamWorld franchise has gone through multiple reinventions. First, it was a tower defense game, then it turned to platforming, then it went to turn-based strategy, then it returned back to platforming. Now it’s a role-playing game with a card-battling loop in SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech. And yet again, Image & Form has nailed it.
With a charming, colorful art style and humorous writing, Image & Form has created a traditional RPG with an inviting atmosphere. Each party member has their own cards, so building a party complete with 24 possible moves is a never-ending experiment. The emphasis on switching it up lets you get to know each of the lovable party members well and helps to keep the action fresh throughout the roughly 10-hour adventure.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is an immense role-playing game that serves as a worthy successor to its Wii and Wii U predecessors, telling a sprawling story that has all the mystery, goofiness, and suspense you’d expect from a Japanese anime-style game.
The battle system allows you to fully customize your attacks and abilities to fit your style, with Blade characters assisting you, and when you aren’t battling monsters, you’ll be staring in awe at the game’s gorgeous world. Built on the literal backs of beings called Titans, the floating world is surreal and beautiful, and you can even explore it all over again in the paid Torna – The Golden Country expansion.
A series of constructible sets rather than a standalone game, Nintendo Labo might be the most creative thing Nintendo has done so far with the Switch, and that’s saying something. Each set comes with a series of cardboard sheets as well as stickers and rubber bands, and these are then built via instructions found in the packaged software. Most recently, Nintendo released the Labo VR Kit, an impressive introduction to the burgeoning technology.
Players of all ages can create working RC cars, a piano, a robot suit, and even a fishing rod using the included pieces, and with the Toy-Con Garage mode, you can even create your own unique designs. Players have managed to make some remarkable items thus far, including a working pinball machine and even an alarm clock.
Read our full Nintendo Labo review
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