The Nintendo Switch is a console built for traveling, allowing you to bring a console-like experience in your bag (or pocket, if you own a Switch Lite). Although there are some great titles among the best Switch games, not all of them are suitable for travel. That’s why we rounded up the best Switch games for traveling.
A good travel game is basically endless. Although there may be a main story or set of specific objectives, you can continue playing the game without going through the same content over and over. Furthermore, travel games should be easy to pick up. Although all of our entries are long, you can start and stop them with ease, playing for hours on a long flight or for 10 minutes while you wait for an Uber.
We skipped past games that need an internet connection or are best experienced on a TV, though (sorry Super Mario Maker 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate). You’re going to be playing in handheld mode while traveling, often without an internet connection, so our picks align with that.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is a landmark game in Nintendo’s history, moving its beloved Zelda franchise away from the semilinear adventure formula the series had been using for decades. Honestly, Breath of the Wild doesn’t feel like a Zelda game, with its vast open world and survival mechanics. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to.
No matter if you’re playing the main story, taking on side quests, or just exploring the world, Breath of the Wild provides a great on-the-go experience. There’s plenty of content to make your travel time easier, too. At minimum, you’re looking at around 50 hours of gameplay, with up to 200 hours of content if you want to do everything.
Octopath Traveler is a beautiful homage to JRPGs of the 16-bit era. As the name implies, there are eight distinct story arcs in the game. At the beginning of your journey, you’ll choose a traveler, and as you work your way around the massive, semi-open world map, you’ll pick up new travelers for your party.
On the surface, Octopath Traveler is a fairly standard JRPG, with random battles, turn-based combat, towns, and optional bosses. However, it borrows a lot from Bravely Default, where you can charge up your attacks to deal massive damage to your opponents. Furthermore, each traveler has a unique “path action,” allowing you to steal items from NPCs, uncover treasure, and much more. Octopath Traveler is a long game — over 100 hours to do everything — but generous save points make it easy to jump in and out of the game.
Read our Octopath Traveler impressions
Stardew Valley is, for all intents and purposes, a “fixed” Harvest Moon. The sole developer, Eric Barone, is even on record saying that he made the game to “address the problems [he] had with Harvest Moon.” Although Harvest Moon was the inspiration for Stardew Valley, the game also takes notes from Animal Crossing, Minecraft, Terraria, and other Minecraft-like games.
In addition to farming and crafting, Stardew Valley features quest, dungeons, and combat. The various mechanics make Stardew Valley a dynamic experience, as do the deep simulation systems. With all of the content it has to offer, you can easily pour dozens of hours into the game, no matter if you’re on a plane or relaxing by the pool.
Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition
If you’ve played a Dynasty Warriors game, you know why Hyrule Warriors is on this list. If not, let us get you acquainted. Dynasty Warriors is a series of hack-and-slash games where you effortlessly take out hundreds of enemies with flashy combos. Hyrule Warriors uses the same gameplay formula, just with The Legend of Zelda characters. They’re also ridiculously long (Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition takes around 400 hours to do everything).
Hyrule Warriors is one of the best Wii U games, but it’s still best experienced on Switch. The Definitive Edition nearly doubles the amount of story content in the game, and adds all of the DLC characters and maps, to boot. There are also various quality-of-life improvements that make the in-game rewards less grindy.
Dragon Quest XI Definitive Edition S
Dragon Quest XI is one of the best JRPGs of all time, and the Switch version just so happens to be the best way to play it. Although a step back in terms of visuals compared to the PS4 and PC, the Definitive Edition on Switch comes with a lot of extra content. That includes a retro mode that turns the game into a 16-bit era JRPG, full orchestral scoring, and Japanese voice acting. It includes various quality-of-life improvements, too, such as a portable Fun-Size Forge and Horse Hailer.
You can easily dump a hundred hours into Dragon Quest XI, and experience a wonderful story in the process. However, it’s the perfect game to pick up and play when you have a few spare moments. Each time you load your save, there are a series of cards explaining where you’re at in the story, so even lapsed players can dive right back in.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the many Wii U games ported to Switch with more content. Although Deluxe doesn’t come with nearly as many extras as Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition, it still expands the original release. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe adds new characters, new vehicles, a revamped Battle Mode, and the ability to carry two items at once.
Fundamentally, Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are the same game, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s still Mario Kart, fit with new and old tracks, as well as a long roster of characters. Furthermore, Deluxe features all of the DLC for Mario Kart 8, so you’re getting all the characters, vehicles, and tracks from the get go.
Read our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing really needs no introduction, being one of Nintendo’s most popular IPs. New Horizons, the most recent addition to the lineup, is the first mainline title for a Nintendo home console since the Wii. Like previous entries in the series, you’ll create your character and, from there, customize your island in any way you see fit.
It’s most of the same, but that doesn’t mean the gameplay formula hasn’t evolved from its previous form. New Horizons implements a lot of features seen in Animal Crossing spin-offs, most notably crafting from Pocket Camp and skin color selection from Happy Home Designer. Put simply, New Horizons is the definitive Animal Crossing experience, and it just happens to also be a Switch exclusive.
Read our Animal Crossing: New Horizons review
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Puyo Puyo Tetris combines two beloved puzzle franchises: Puyo Puyo and Tetris. The former, at least for Western audiences, probably isn’t as recognizable as Tetris, with most games in the series releasing exclusively in Japan. Still, it’s one of the most prolific puzzle franchises around, dating all the way back to 1991.
In this mashup, you can switch back and forth between Puyo Puyo mode and Tetris mode, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can choose your preferred playstyle or mix the two together in Arcade Mode. There’s also a story mode that, while not particularly long, will help you learn the ropes.
Read our Puyo Puyo Tetris impressions
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
If you’re looking to pick up a game for an upcoming trip, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove offers the best bang for your buck. It’s actually five games in one, each set in the Shovel Knight universe with Yacht Club Games’ signature NES-era charm. For around $40, Treasure Trove really is, well, a treasure trove.
The first two games, Shovel of Hope and Plague of Shadows, feature the same maps with different characters, allowing you to access new areas. Specter of Torment features similar, redesigned levels, and King of Cards allows you to play as one of the game’s most unique bosses. The most interesting game in the bundle is Shovel Knight Showdown, though, which lets you duke it out with three other players Super Smash Bros.-style.
Baba Is You
If you like solving crosswords or doing Sudoku on a plane, Baba Is You is for you. It’s one of the best puzzle games ever made, challenging your perception of what a game is and how it should function. The setup is simple. Each stage has a list of rules, and you need to change those rules to reach the goal.
What’s interesting about Baba Is You is that no element in the game holds any value. You start off as Baba trying to reach a flag, but as stages get more complex, you’ll take control of different map pieces and reassign the goalpost. Overall, Baba Is You is a wonderfully designed puzzle game that forces you to think outside of the box.
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