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The 10 Best Free Nintendo Switch Games
Finding something new to play on Switch doesn't have to cost a dime. Here are the best free Switch games to check out in 2021.
Though the Nintendo Switch is relatively affordable compared to other consoles, some of the best Switch games consistently hover around the $50 to $60 mark, meaning you can easily rack up the costs when building up your Switch library. Though it's hard to avoid spending money on games entirely, there are plenty of free Switch games available to download on the Nintendo eShop. These can be a great option if you're on a budget or if you just want to try out some new games commitment-free, and many of them are just great games, plain and simple. Whether you're looking to save money or just interested in discovering some new games without breaking out your wallet, here are 10 of the best free Switch games available on the eShop right now. For more recs, check out the best Switch games for kids and great Switch multiplayer games.
The following list is organized alphabetically and not ranked. Note that some games require Nintendo Switch Online, which we've indicated below.
Released on Switch in 2018, Brawlhalla is a free-to-play platform fighter with over 50 playable fighters, or "Legends." For the most part, your goal is to send your opponent flying off the stage, similar to Super Smash Bros., with them becoming more susceptible to being knocked off as they receive more damage. Up to eight players can join in locally or online, making this a great party game if you've got extra Pro Controllers or Joy-Cons lying around. Brawlhalla has nearly two dozen different modes that let you experience different types of matches and rules, some of which can only be experienced on a rotating basis as the Brawl of the Week. On top of that, nine free-to-play characters are rotated in every week, and you can play online to earn gold and unlock even more Legends, so there's a ton to experience in Brawlhalla without spending a dime. However, you must buy a Legend (or purchase the All-Legends Pack DLC) in order to permanently keep them, so if you end up getting into the game long-term, you probably will end up spending some money (like most free-to-play titles on this list). Still, as a free download, Brawlhalla is worth checking out if you're looking for a new fighting game on Switch.
Fans of Bethesda's post-apocalyptic RPG series Fallout can dive into a free-to-play management sim set in the same universe, Fallout Shelter, on Nintendo Switch. In Fallout Shelter, you are in charge of your own state-of-the-art underground Vault and a community of Dwellers taking shelter from the dangerous Wasteland above. As Overseer, you'll add on various rooms to your Vault, each of which provides you with different items or bonuses. Each Dweller has their own unique profile that affects the kind of resources they can generate as well, and you'll want to outfit them with the proper gear to ensure they can do their job well. You'll also need to send your people above ground on certain missions, a deadly risk, and all sorts of dangers will threaten your community both from the outside and within. In terms of microtransactions, there's nothing you need to buy in Fallout Shelter to progress in the game, though some items and "lunchbox" bundles can be bought with real money.
Several years after its initial release, Fortnite is still one of the biggest games in the world, with an active community, frequent limited-time events, and even in-game concerts with huge stars like Ariana Grande. You can play it for free on Nintendo Switch (and every other platform), though developer Epic Games makes a lucrative business off microtransactions via in-game currency, cosmetics, and battle passes. You don't need to bother with any of that to see what Fortnite's all about though, which includes the famous 100-player battle royale mode, the Creative sandbox mode, the new Among Us-style Impostors mode, and more.
Like other games in the 99 series, Pac-Man 99 plays a lot like the original Pac-Man, only it's way more hectic. In this "battle royale," you play against 99 other Pac-Man players, each of you controlling a single Pac-Man with only one life. As in normal Pac-Man, you'll race to devour as many dots as you can (which gives you power-ups) while avoiding ghosts, of which there are several types with different abilities. You must also survive "Jammers" from other players targeting you--some of these will slow you down (and potentially allow ghosts to catch up to you), while others will kill you outright. Though Pac-Man 99 is free to play (as part of the Switch Online membership), paid DLC offering new game modes and custom themes is available.
*Nintendo Switch Online required
A MOBA in the style of games like League of Legends, Pokemon Unite is the newest release on this list, and it's already getting new playable Pokemon and other updates. In Unite, you face off against online players in five-on-five team battles, leveling up and evolving your Pokemon throughout the battle and aiming to get your team the most points by the end of the game. Over time, your rank will increase, and you'll earn Coins, one of the in-game currencies, through gameplay. However, to unlock new playable Pokemon for your team, you'll need a considerable amount of Coins (and there's a weekly limit on how many you can earn); otherwise, you can use Gems, the premium currency tied to real money. (See our breakdown of Pokemon Unite's microtransactions for an idea of the in-game purchases it offers.) Despite Pokemon Unite's aggressive monetization strategies, you don't need to spend a dime to progress in the game or win matches--as The Gamer's Cian Maher points out, it's ultimately a game in which skilled and strategic players are going to win regardless. If you fancy the challenge, you can jump into Pokemon Unite for free and see what it's all about.
Everyone's favorite vehicular soccer game went free-to-play in September 2020, which means you can jump in on Nintendo Switch anytime and experience its fast-paced team matches. Rocket League follows the same basic rules of soccer--you want to send the ball flying into your opponents' goal while blocking them from scoring on your side--only you're controlling a full-sized vehicle with its own unique inertia and movement capabilities. Making your vehicle go and do what you want it to do in Rocket League is, well, easier said than done, but put in enough time and practice, and you'll be pulling off impressive moves to score points in no time. And once you get the hang of things, there are competitive tournaments, challenges, and more modes to keep the fun going.
Super Kirby Clash*
In this multiplayer action-RPG, you and a team of fellow Kirbys will fight your way through levels and take down tough bosses in a land known as the Dream Kingdom. Super Kirby Clash offers four unique roles to choose from with different weapon abilities--Sword Hero, Hammer Lord, Beam Mage, and Doctor Healmore--and up to four players can join in as Team Kirby. As you progress through each level, you'll be able to craft weapons and spend materials at the shop to get even better weapons, armor, and items. Both local and online multiplayer, though you'll need Switch Online for online play. You'll notice that the eShop describes Super Kirby Clash as "free-to-start"; however, while there are ample ways you could spend money in the game (buying items, weapons, etc.), the game is still entirely free-to-play without you needing to spend a dime, albeit with slower progression if you avoid microtransactions entirely.
*Nintendo Switch Online required for online play
We've already talked about Pac-Man 99 on this list, but Tetris 99 was where the 99-player battle royale series started. In this competitive spin on the classic block-stacking game, you must be the last player standing as you rotate and drop blocks while targeting other Tetris players, represented in little boards around yours. Of course, those other players will be targeting you right back, based on various criteria (sometimes it's random, sometimes it's those who are targeting them back, etc.). By completing daily missions in Tetris 99, you'll earn "tickets," which can be used to purchase neat in-game themes that change the blocks and music. If you get pretty good at the game, you can ramp up the challenge by participating in Nintendo's periodic Maximus Cup events, and if you earn enough points, you'll unlock in-game themes based on other Nintendo games or earn Gold Points to redeem in the eShop. Win at least one Maximus victory, and you'll get access to Tetris 99 Invictus, a mode available for only the most skilled players.
*Nintendo Switch Online required
First released on PC in early 2013, action-RPG Warframe has since expanded to both previous-gen and current-gen consoles, including the Nintendo Switch version that launched in late 2018. Developer Digital Extremes has supported the game extensively with major updates, gameplay overhauls, new modes, and additional story elements over the years, so if you're looking to jump in on Nintendo Switch, there's now plenty of content to experience. In Warframe, you play as a member of the Tenno race, ancient warriors who have woken up from a 100-year cryogenic sleep to find themselves in the middle of a massive galactic war. The Tenno don bio-mechanical suits known as "Warframes," and over 30 different Warframes are available to choose from, each with their own unique abilities. The gameplay is fast-paced with a mix of third-person shooting and melee combat, and a variety of different playstyles are available, so it's just best to dive in and see what you enjoy the most. You can also team up with three other friends online without the need for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Note that offline play isn't supported, so you'll need an internet connection. In July 2021, Digital Extremes announced that cross-play and cross-saves are coming to the game later this year.
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