Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The best Nintendo Switch exclusives of 2022: 9 standouts from the console’s banner year

Bayonetta jumps in front of text that says The Best Nintendo Switch Exclusives of 2022.

The Nintendo Switch turned five this year … and with that birthday came a wave of discourse. Fans are anxious for Nintendo to launch a new piece of hardware, whether that be a Switch Pro or a new console altogether. It’s an understandable request; the once magical Switch now seems a little less impressive in the age of the Steam Deck. However, this year once again proved why Nintendo can get away with aging hardware: its games are just that good.

Even without The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to cap it off, 2022 was a landmark year for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo delivered its best lineup of exclusive games since the console first launched in 2017 — though it’s no coincidence that some of this year’s best games were sequels to its first-year titles. We’ve put together a list of the best Nintendo Switch exclusives of 2022 below, but what’s jaw-dropping is that this doesn’t even include everything worth talking about. That’s a testament to Nintendo’s strong first-party support, which remains its unshakable secret weapon.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

A gorilla swats Kirby in Kirby and the Forgotten Land.

While the Kirby series is certainly inconsistent, developer HAL Laboratory has a way of churning out a bona fide classic every few years to remind players why the pink puffball is one of Nintendo’s top mascots. We were overdue for an entry like that, and HAL delivered with one of the series’ best entries to date: Kirby and the Forgotten Land. The platformer is an all-ages delight from top to bottom, featuring lovely visuals, tons of copy abilities, and a surprisingly deep endgame. Its perhaps most memorable for its hysterical Mouthful Mode, which cements Kirby as one of gaming’s best comedic talents. When he swallows an entire car, he’s a modern day Charlie Chaplin.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Noah and his team standing in a green field.

When it came to RPGs, Switch owners couldn’t have asked for a better year. From ports like Persona 5 Royal to entirely new releases like Triangle Strategy, there simply weren’t enough hours in the year to play them all. If you only have time to catch up on one though, make it Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Developer Monolith Soft’s latest is its magnum opus, delivering the best iteration of the series yet. While I could sing its praises all day when it comes to its MMO-like combat or incredible soundtrack, its story is what sticks out the most. The heartfelt war tale challenges players to rethink the concept of good guys and bad guys, pointing out the real villains we should be fighting: oppressive powers that profit off of conflict.

Bayonetta 3

Bayonetta touches her glasses in Bayonetta 3.

Well, Bayonetta 3 certainly had a weird year, didn’t it? As anticipation mounted for the long-delayed action-title, a convoluted voice acting controversy threatened to spoil the party. While it cast a dark cloud over the release initially, it ended up placing more eyes than ever on the series just in time for its best installment. Bayonetta 3 is a bombastic action game that revels in its own multiverse silliness. Though its narrative left some longtime fans disappointed, PlatinumGames made up for those shortcomings by dropping some of its most wildly creative ideas yet. From kaiju battles to 2D espionage interludes, Bayonetta 3 is simply out to surprise and thrill you at every turn.

Splatoon 3

Four Splatoon 3 inklings standing together.

I played a lot of multiplayer games in 2022, from MultiVersus to Overwatch 2. Not a single one of those games is as rich with content as Splatoon 3 was on day one. While the ink shooter didn’t change much about its core online modes, it delivered a a suite of content so robust that I spent 100 hours playing its first season without ever reaching the bottom. I spent countless hours grinding my way up the ranks in Anarchy Battles. I completed every single level of its strong single-player campaign. I played the heck out of its improved Salmon Run mode, which is one of the finest PVE modes in gaming today. I was even addicted to Tableturf Battles, its new puzzle minigame that I would play on mobile devices in a heartbeat. Every single piece of content in Splatoon 3 is worth playing — something I simply can’t say for 99% of its competitors.

Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

An angry Wiggler ambushes the heroes from behind in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.

I remember the first time I saw a leak that revealed Nintendo and Ubisoft were working together on a Mario/Rabbids crossover game. On paper, it sounded like a terrible idea. Here I am five years later though, and both Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and now Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope are two of my favorite tactics games of all time. Sparks of Hope is especially impressive though, as it completely reworked its predecessor’s winning formula and only made it better. Few tactics games let you string together abilities as well as Sparks of Hope, allowing players to pull off strategically brilliant turns that feel downright impossible. Its not only one of Mario’s finest spinoffs; it might just be one of Ubisoft’s best games, period.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

Shez causes a purple explosion in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes.

In any year, there are always going to be great games that simply fall under the radar. There are just too many titles to keep track of. However, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes might just be 2022’s most underrated release. The action game isn’t just a bland Musou that uses the cast of Fire Emblem: Three Houses; it’s a full-blown sequel and a shockingly deep RPG in its own right. While I went into my playthrough not expecting much more than a mindless hack-and-slash, I came out with richer understanding of the characters I’d grown to love in Three Houses. Though its an understandably niche release, its worth diving into before Fire Emblem Engage takes the series’ spotlight in January.

Nintendo Switch Sports

The player throws a bowling ball in Nintendo Switch Sports.

Nintendo Switch Sports didn’t exactly launch to rave reviews. Critics largely felt that it was a pretty bare-bones package that would have worked better as a free pack-in rather than a nearly full-priced new release. So why was it one of my most-played games of 2022 in terms of hours? For all its shortcomings as a package, Nintendo Switch Sports still reigns supreme thanks to the same intuitive controls that made Wii Sports a phenomenon all those years ago. Some of my favorite gaming moments of the year simply came from bowling against strangers online while playing some music in the background. It’s the ultimate low-stakes zone out game — and one that’s only improved since launch thanks to the recent addition of golf.

Pokémon Legends Arceus

Hisuian Braviary in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

This was a big year for Pokémon, even if not all the attention it received was positive. The series got its next official mainline installment with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, a fun pair of games hampered by poor performance. Those weren’t the only Pokémon games released this year though, and some might argue that they weren’t the best either. Pokémon Legends: Arceus took the series in an entirely new direction, creating an RPG adventure more akin to Monster Hunter. While Scarlet and Violet may be the better games overall, Arceus opened new doors for the series with its completely revamped approach to catching, battles, and progression. I imagine that we’ll see some of those features in the next mainline Pokémon game, which may make Arceus 2022’s more influential Pokémon game in the long run.

Live a Live

A character causes a firestorm in Live a Live.

It wasn’t just a big year for new releases on the Switch; it was also a banner one for rereleases. That was thanks in no small part to Square Enix, which seemed more eager than ever to revisit its deep history of RPGs. The biggest story of the year though, may have been Live a Live. The classic RPG is an incredibly influential one that has shaped some of the genre’s best games, but it had never been released in the U.S. until this year. The wait may have been far too long, but it was worth it. Nearly 30 years after its original release in Japan, Live a Live feels unlike any game I’ve played thanks to its multi-protagonist setup that has players doing everything from sneaking through a castle in feudal Japan to competing in a wrestling tournament. And all of that has been recreated in a gorgeous 2D-HD art style that makes it feel brand new again.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
The best PS5 exclusives of 2022: standouts from the console’s strong second year
Aloy stands in front of text that says The Best 2022 PS5 Exclusives of 2022.

The PlayStation 5 got off to a strong start with games like Demon's Souls in 2020, and kept that momentum going throughout 2021 with titles such as Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It showed no signs of slowing down in 2022. Many great exclusives dropped this year, many of which we've known about since before the system even launched. The lineup is full of high-quality titles, many of which emphasize their gorgeous visuals and compelling narratives. From sequels to critically acclaimed titles to ambitious new franchises, these seven games stand as the best PS5 (and PS4) console exclusive games of 2022.
God of War Ragnarok

Not much needs to be said about God of War Ragnarok. It's a massive follow-up to the series' critically acclaimed 2018 soft reboot, and it goes bigger in almost every way. There are more gods to fight, realms to be explored, and weapons to take on hordes of foes with. God of War Ragnarok is a satisfying action game that tells a large-scale story, but it still takes time to focus on its characters and the journey of Kratos and Atreus as they learn to communicate better. Anyone who owns a PS5 or PS4 owes it to themselves to pick up God of War Ragnarok.
Gran Turismo 7

Read more
The best Xbox exclusives of 2022: 6 Game Pass greats that saved Microsoft’s quiet year
Characters from Grounded stand in front of text that says 2022 Best Xbox Exclusives.

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S's second year on the market was rough. While the consoles continue to sell well and Xbox Game Pass is still a great deal, the delay of Redfall and Starfield into 2023 decimated the Xbox consoles' first-party 2022 lineup. While the lack of heavy-hitting AAA titles might initially make a list like this seem frivolous, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S still had quite a few compelling exclusives.

Many of these games are highly experimental, pushing the boundaries of narratives in video games. All of the titles launched on Xbox Game Pass on day one, highlighting the strength of that subscription service. If you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription or are just wondering what 2022 Xbox exclusives are worth playing, these seven console exclusives stand out.

Read more
The 10 best video games of 2022
Video game characters stand in front of text that says The 10 Best Video Games of 2022.

This year's game of the year conversation was over before it could even begin. That’s not because 2022 wasn’t an exceptional year filled with left-field surprises. It’s simply that players were already anticipating what the year’s two biggest games would be: God of War Ragnarok and Elden Ring. Though those two games were indeed two of 2022’s most dominant AAA titles, the “foregone conclusion” attitude ultimately did this year a disservice.

As people anticipated the ensuing war between those two giants, much smaller projects like Vampire Survivors and Immortality were pushing the idea of what a modern game looks like. Nintendo was raising the bar for family games with its strongest lineup since the Switch’s launch in 2017, while lesser-celebrated platforms like mobile and VR delivered some of the year’s most memorable moments. Sure, Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarok’s dominance was inevitable, but they were far from the only games worth discussing in 2022.

Read more