Best Nintendo Switch Games of 2020
Trying to get your hands on the best Nintendo Switch games that have released so far? There are plenty to choose from. Whether you’re looking for open-world RPGs, fighting games, competitive racers, or local co-op games to share with a friend Nintendo has you covered. If you want to try six games across all genres, then these are the games to get.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Best life simulator on Nintendo Switch
Bottom line: As we stated in our Animal Crossing review, this game released just as the world needed it most. It’s a chill life and farming simulator that helps both kids and adult players relax while making friends with animals on a tropical island. You can end up spending hundreds of hours fishing, acquiring furniture, collecting creatures for a museum, upgrading your house, and decorating your island just the way you want it. With its relaxing charm, there’s a reason why this title has been one of the most successful games to launch on the Nintendo Switch.
- Adorable art design
- Relaxing gameplay
- Seasonal activities
- Multiplayer options
- Harvesting and crafting
- Emergency backup limitations
- Real-time clock can be restrictive
Animal Crossing might seem like a simple island getaway experience, but it’s a rather complex simulator. The game follows a real-time clock, so when it’s nighttime in real life, the stars are out over your virtual island. Stores and shops within the game have business hours, so you need to plan your time accordingly to see what clothes and furniture are in stock.
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New experiences continue to get added every few months, including seasonal activities that coincide with real-world holidays. For instance, during April, the special Bunny Day event allowed players to find various hidden eggs and encounter Zipper T. Bunny on their islands.
Players arrive on the island with almost nothing to their name, but can slowly upgrade their island by taking and paying off loans from Tom Nook, a raccoon tycoon. To earn money, players can collect wood, fish, bugs, and more before selling them to the local store. The rarer the item, the more money players will earn.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn’t quite here yet, but we’re eager to get our hands on it. We can’t wait to start a new life on a tropical island paradise, relaxing with friends and crafting items and customizing our home and outfits each day. And hopefully, our favorite animal villagers make their way to our islands.
$60 at Amazon
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — Best racing game on Nintendo Switch
Bottom line: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best selling game on Nintendo Switch as well as one of the best multiplayer games on the console. Up to four players can race against each other while sharing one screen, so it’s the perfect party game for friends and family. Choose from a large cast of Nintendo characters and attack your fellow racers with silly weapons like bananas or shells to get ahead. The optional child controls make this a great game for people of all ages.
- Smart steering is perfect for younger children
- 41 characters to choose from
- 48 colorful tracks to race through
- Up to 4-player local multiplayer
- Race against others online
- Single-player mode isn’t very exciting
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the quintessential racing game on Nintendo Switch. It’s the best selling Switch game of all time, having sold over 24.77 million copies at the time of this article. You can play on your own, or if you have enough Joy-Cons, up to four players can share a screen and compete against each other.
There’s a large cast of 41 popular Nintendo characters, including Link from The Legend of Zelda, Inklings from Splatoon, Bowser from the Mario games, Isabelle from Animal Crossing, and more. Players determine which character they want to be and then decide which kart, wheels, and glider to race with. The various parts influence how fast a kart moves and how well it handles turns, so you have to choose wisely.
One of the things that makes Mario Kart so much more interesting from other racers is the fact that it has a silly, cartoon focus. Someone might be ahead of you, but if you throw a banana just right, you might be able to trip them up and take first place. The beauty of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is that everyone can enjoy it at any age. Races are challenging-yet-fun, and there are 48 tracks to keep things interesting. There are also plenty of optional controls to help rookie racers out. If you have a young child who wants to play, just turn on Smart Steering to prevent them from falling off the track or bumping into the walls.
Take part in whacky races while playing as your favorite Nintendo characters. Is someone getting too far in the lead? Throw a green shell their way and see if you can blast past them.
$57 at Amazon
Pokémon Sword / Pokémon Shield — Best turn-based RPG on Nintendo Switch
Bottom line: No Nintendo library is complete without a Pokémon game, and while there are several different ones created for the Nintendo Switch, the one you need for this console is Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield. Players run around a fantasy world collecting creatures with elemental abilities like fire, water, and electricity. Strategize your Pokémon’s attacks against your foes’ weaknesses to beat every gym leader and prove that you are the greatest Pokémon trainer of them all. As we said in our Pokémon Sword and Shield review, this game wasn’t as innovative as some people hoped, but it’s still really fun to play.
- 400 Pokémon to catch
- UK-inspired world
- Can fight giant Pokémon alongside friends
- Nostalgic elements for long-time Pokémon fans
- Easy for new fans to get into
- Not all Pokémon are in the game
- Level-catching limit
Despite its cartoony art style, Pokémon is a hit among all ages and all kinds of gamers. New fans will get sucked into the creature collection aspects and fun combat while veteran fans will appreciate the nostalgia and brand new experiences that weren’t in previous games. With its wide range of appeal, Pokémon Sword and Shield is one of the best Nintendo Switch games out there.
There are 400 catchable characters total, but some of them are only found in Pokémon Sword, while others are only found in Pokémon Shield. To catch all the Pokémon for this game, you will need to trade with other players. Players can trade locally if their Switch consoles are near each other, or if you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, you can trade with others online.
Players travel around a fun UK-inspired world. As they encounter new locations, they can collect new creatures and battle one of the increasingly difficult gym leaders. The goal is to defeat every gym leader before taking on the champion to prove that you’re the best Pokémon trainer of them all. Just be aware that you’ll only be able to catch a Pokémon if it’s at a level within your current catching limit. The badges you earn from gym leaders reduce the limit as you continue to play.
And the story doesn’t have to end there. If players choose to purchase the Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass, they’ll be able to visit two new locations: a gorgeous island and a frozen tundra. Here players can face new challenges and catch even more Pokémon than there were in the base game. To learn more about it, read our Pokémon Sword and Shield Expansion Pass review.
Pokémon Sword and Shield feature a brand new Pokémon adventure in the region of Galar. Catch, train, and battle other trainers with 400 different Pokémon in Galar, and take on new challenges with Max Raid Battles.
$49 at Amazon
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate — Best fighting game on Nintendo Switch
Bottom line: This is seriously the ultimate party game for people who love the fighting genre. Up to eight players can compete against each other on one screen. Choose from a roster of 74 popular characters from various games and then use their specific skill set to defeat your opponents. There’s also a fantastic single-player component as well as online multiplayer modes to keep you entertained even when friends aren’t available.
- Supports up to 8 players
- 74 playable characters
- Solo modes and online multiplayer
- Optional DLC
- Uses peer-to-peer servers
- Still no playable Waluigi
Players can unlock 74 playable characters, including favorites like Pikachu, Cloud Strife, Toon Link, Bowser, Star Fox, and more. Each character has their own skillset and signature moves that can be employed to place you in first place. Unfortunately for many fans, Waluigi still has not been added to the roster.
If you’re interested, you can also purchase the DLC, which includes additional characters, stages, and music. Some of these extra characters have not been revealed yet, so you can get excited as they get announced.
You can play locally with up to eight players as long as you have enough controllers for everyone to use. No friends available at present? No problem. Play through one of the many available game modes. Try Classic Mode, a one or two-player survival experience, or Adventure Mode, where you must free the rest of the Smash Bros. Ultimate roster who have been possessed by spirits.
It’s important to note that while the game does support online multiplayer for anyone who has a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, it uses peer-to-peer servers instead of dedicated servers. This means that if someone you’re playing against has a bad internet connection, it can cause serious lag and other complications for all players involved in the match.
Over 70 of gaming’s most iconic characters from Nintendo, Capcom, Konami, Square Enix, and more have been packed into the same game, and they’re all looking for a fight. Up to eight people can battle in this party brawler for the ages.
$60 at Amazon
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — Best open-world game on Nintendo Switch
Bottom line: This is the perfect title for anyone who loves action RPGs and open-world adventures. It won Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards and has been praised as one of the most clever games created. It allows you to solve puzzles and challenges in a variety of ways. Years after it released, people are still discovering new things to do in-game. If you’re looking to add the best Nintendo Switch games to your library, then you really can’t pass up Breath of the Wild.
- Sprawling fantasy world to explore
- About 60 hours of gameplay
- More than one answer to puzzles
- Nods to past Zelda games
- Revitalized the Zelda series
- Weapons break too easily
- No big dungeons
The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most popular IPs, but the latest game in the series took that popularity and blew it out of the water with the stunning masterpiece that is Breath of the Wild.
Players start with absolutely nothing except for some shorts and some vague notion that the main protagonist, Link, has been asleep for 100 years. By exploring the land, you can quickly acquire clothing, weapons, horses, abilities, and items. This is an open-world game, and you could go straight to the main boss if you wanted to. However, Hyrule offers so many exciting locations and secrets to discover that you willingly run off in another direction just to see what’s out there.
The 120 Shrines and four Divine Beasts offer the puzzle-based gameplay we’ve come to know and love in Link’s travels. However, they are much smaller than the dungeons we’ve seen in past Zelda games, which has been a downside for some gamers. The best part? There are often multiple ways to solve puzzles, so you can get creative.
More than anything, Breath of the Wild fills you with wonder and an intense need to explore. Link might only be a tiny Hyrulean in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world, but he can explore it at his own pace and do just about anything he wants along the way. People typically say it takes them about 60 hours to beat the game; you can spend so many more just exploring and discovering new secrets.
Run around the open world of Hyrule collecting items, gear, and weapons. Will you spend your time scaling the nearby mountain? Taming a wild horse? Taking on powerful enemies?Or maybe experimenting with various cooking ingredients? There is so much to explore and do.
$50 at Amazon
Super Mario Odyssey — Best co-op action RPG on Nintendo Switch
Bottom line: Super Mario Odyssey is an action/platformer game that revitalized the Mario series. It employs similar mechanics found in the classic Super Mario 64 game while introducing several new experiences, such as mind-controlling enemies with a talking hat. You can play on your own or invite a friend to play in co-op mode. The unique worlds are bursting with character, and you can even dress Mario up in various outfits to help him better fit into his surroundings.
- Quirky locals
- Co-op play
- New power-up abilities
- Open-world exploration
- Dress Mario up
- Some challenges can be tough
- Motion controls can be hard to master
In many ways, Super Mario Odyssey’s gameplay is similar to Super Mario 64, only in his latest adventure, the plumber must collect Power Moons instead of Stars. He needs them to unlock new locations so he can attempt to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s clutches.
After his trusty hat gets destroyed, Mario meets a new friend named Cappy, who can change into various hat forms. With the aid of this new friend, our little mustachioed friend acquires new attacks and abilities previously not seen before in the Mario games. For instance, the ability to throw Cappy and hit enemies at a distance.
You can even play co-op with one person taking control of Mario and the other controlling Cappy. This makes Super Mario Odyssey a fun game to play with your kids, younger siblings, or with one of your peers.
As with most Mario games, this one is full of cheer and vibrant locals. Whether you’re visiting Princess Peach’s castle, checking out a beach perpetually at sunset, or visiting an insanely hot desert, there’s always fun things to see.
Princess Peach has been kidnapped (again), and it’s up to Mario and his new friend Cappy to save her. Play through this adventure on your own, or pass a controller to a friend and play in local co-op.
$50 at Amazon
More of the best Nintendo Switch games
The very best of the best are listed above, but there are other amazing Nintendo Switch games out there. Here are some more of the best Nintendo Switch games you can buy.
Splatoon 2 is the sequel to Nintendo’s family-friendly shooter game. Play as Inklings and Octolings and shoot to paint your turf. There is a single-player campaign with tons of content, and the online is always fun.
$50 at Amazon
Luigi is back in Luigi’s Mansion 3! Team up with Gooigi, a doppelganger that can slip through tight spaces, walk on spikes, and help Luigi get through obstacles that would be impossible otherwise. Luigi may be cowardly, but he has more tools and abilities than before to get rid of the spooky ghosts.
$52 at Amazon
The evil King Olly has taken over Princess Peach’s castle and is turning Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants into zombie origami. Now it’s up to Mario and his friends to defeat this enemy and bring peace back to the world. This is a hilarious adventure filled with witty writing and plenty of puzzles.
$60 at Amazon
In Pokémon: Let’s Go, you and your cute companions embark on a journey to become the best team ever. Catch ’em all by yourself or with a partner to cement your status as a legendary Pokémon trainer!
$46 at Amazon
Up to four people can join the fun in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe as you make your way through this side-scrolling platformer. There are over 164 stages to get through in two main game modes.
$58 at Amazon
Grab some family and friends: it’s time to party! Super Mario Party brings dozens of mini-games for up to four players. Whether you’re tag-teaming or going all out in a free-for-all competition, it’s all about trying to win and having fun doing it.
$50 at Amazon
In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you’ll need to align yourself with one faction at a time, and you are in charge of leading your chosen house to victory. Each house has its own specialty, so choose wisely.
$50 at Amazon
If you have a creative mind and love classic Mario platforming games, then Super Mario Maker 2 is right up your alley. Create your own Mario levels and let your imagination run wild! You can even play the levels created by other players too.
$50 at Amazon
Here’s a beautiful game that prides itself on offering that classic 2D platformer feeling we all grew up on. It’s tough at times, but the reward for your trouble is an immensely fun game with lots to explore.
$15 at Amazon
Grab your tennis racquet and meet Mario on the court. Mario Tennis Aces brings sporting fun for the whole family. Compete with and against Nintendo’s most beloved characters, and immerse yourself by using the Joy-Cons as your make-believe tennis racquet.
$48 at Amazon
Yoshi and friends are back at it again in an adorable craft world made from common household items. Play with a friend and help Yoshi make his way through each stage. Discover all of the secrets that the crafted world has to offer.
$50 at Amazon
Ring Fit Adventure is a video game that makes you work out and build up a sweat. Go through the increasingly tricky Adventure mode, or do custom sets of exercises to focus on building something up. No matter how you play, you’re going to sweat!
$80 at Amazon
Control Donkey Kong and his monkey buddies as you make your way through several side-scrolling levels. Play by yourself or pass a controller to a friend and play together in local co-op.
$81 at Amazon
This game won an award for being the best family game to launch on Nintendo Switch in 2018. And that’s for good reason — it puts one of the biggest family activities in video game form as an epic cooperative effort. You and your family will be racing around the kitchen, trying to serve all the hungry guests.
$29 at Amazon
Quick list of the 20 best Nintendo Switch games
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Pokémon Sword / Pokémon Shield
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Splatoon 2
- Luigi’s Mansion 3
- Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! / Eevee!
- New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
- Super Mario Party
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses
- Super Mario Maker 2
- Hollow Knight
- Mario Tennis Aces
- Paper Mario: The Origami King
- Ring Fit Adventure
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
- Overcooked! 2
Should you buy a digital game or a physical game?
It really depends on how you want to play since there are perks on both sides. With digital games, you don’t have to worry about losing an expensive cartridge and don’t have to pack a bunch of physical games up when you travel. Your games get tied to your account, so if you were to lose your Switch, you’d be able to access the digital games you previously purchased after buying a new console. Additionally, going digital means you can download games immediately from the eShop instead of requiring you to wait for an Amazon package to be delivered or making you run to the store for a physical copy.
However, there’s something nice about the tangibility of physical games. Some game cases come with extras like stickers or posters. After you’ve beaten the game, if you decide that you don’t like it enough to keep it, you can always sell the physical copy to a used-goods store and put that money towards acquiring another game.
How to purchase digital games from the Nintendo eShop
For those of you who decide that you do want to go the digital route, here’s how to purchase games from the Nintendo eShop. By the way, you can easily purchase a Nintendo eShop Gift Card for yourself or as a gift for someone else.
- From the Nintendo Switch’s main menu, select Nintendo eShop. You’ll be taken to the Featured section of the eShop.
- You’ll see various categories like Recent Releases, Great Deals, and Best Sellers. You can also use the search bar at the top of the screen to find a specific game. Tap the image of any game you’re interested in.
- Select Proceed to Purchase.
- Enter your payment information.
- Wait for the game to download. If the game is currently available, you’ll be able to play as soon as it finishes downloading. If the game hasn’t released yet, you’ll be able to play the moment it launches.
Is gameplay different for Nintendo Switch vs. Nintendo Switch Lite?
Unlike the Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo Switch Lite doesn’t include detachable Joy-Cons, motion controls, or rumble. Any game that relies on these features won’t work on the Switch Lite unless you have external Joy-Cons handy. Also, you cannot play many multiplayer games on the Switch Lite screen unless you also have detached Joy-Cons to pass out to friends.
Do you need to buy a microSD card for Nintendo Switch?
We highly recommend that people purchase a microSD card for their Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite, seeing as how these consoles only have 32 GB of internal memory. That means that you’d only have room for up to three large Switch games before running out of space. And if you’re the kind of person who loves taking videos and screenshots of your gameplay, you’ll get even less out of it.
To help you out, here are the best microSD cards for Nintendo Switch. If you’re not sure how much space you need, check out our guide for which size microSD card is best for Nintendo Switch?
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Rebecca Spear loves keeping up-to-date with the latest and greatest electronics. She is a life-long gamer and a writer who has written hundreds of online articles over the past four years. On any given day, you’ll find her drawing with her Wacom tablet, playing RPGs, or reading a good book. Hit her up on Twitter: @rrspear
Christine Chan is a staff writer at iMore. She loves her Nintendo Switch and is never seen without it. She knows a thing or two about what battery packs are good for the console.
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