Best Switch Exclusives: 20 Must-Play Games Only Available On Nintendo Switch
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The Nintendo Switch is home to tons of great games, including many you can only find on Nintendo's handheld hybrid. Many of these are published by Nintendo itself, since the company makes great use of its own hardware, but there are plenty of third-party and indie games exclusive to the Switch as well. We've rounded up the 20 best Nintendo Switch exclusives below (in alphabetical order). We did include one game that's also available on PC, but it's a Switch console exclusive and an absolute gem.
For more Switch game recommendations, check out our lists of the best Switch games, the best multiplayer Switch games, and great Switch games for kids. If you're specifically looking for games from some of Nintendo's most famous franchises, we have roundups of every Zelda game and every Mario game on Switch.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The Animal Crossing series has been one of Nintendo's most unassuming smash hits for years, but its Switch appearance blew up like never before due to when it happened to release. It came out in March 2020, just as pandemic lockdowns were beginning and people were looking for some social substitutes to spend their unused dining-out money on. Even outside of that context, though, New Horizons is one of the best in the series to date, simplifying and streamlining some of its systems while keeping all of the charming cozy qualities that made fans fall in love with it to begin with.
See our Animal Crossing: New Horizons review.
Cadence of Hyrule
Nintendo is generally reluctant to hand the keys to its hit franchises to other developers, but that's been changing in recent years. Cadence of Hyrule is one such crossover collaboration--a rhythm game based on Crypt of the Necrodancer. Necrodancer established the clever rhythm combat formula, where you move (and attack) to the beat. Cadence of Hyrule uses the same basic mechanics with a Hyrule-based overworld and classic Zelda tunes. It's unlike any other Zelda game, while still carrying the series' unique charms, and that alone puts it on the list.
See our Cadence of Hyrule review.
A Swiss Army knife of a game, Clubhouse Games is a collection of tabletop and card classics all in one convenient package. A follow-up to the Nintendo DS game, this one features a selection of 51 classic games as diverse as chess, blackjack, dominoes, along with helpful lessons and interesting facts about their origins. You can also play local multiplayer with your friends on one system or multiple systems using a Guest Pass, or even link up your Switch systems into a Mosiac mode for certain games like slot car racing to make the tracks extra long and windy.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem has grown more popular in recent years, and the latest entry in the strategy series retains the series' deep tactical bona fides while adding expanded social sim elements. Rather than a pure military story, this game puts you in the role of a new professor at a military academy, where you'll adopt one of three distinct schools with their own roster of characters. From there you'll oversee their training as the threat of war intensifies just outside your borders, while getting to know them on a personal level. It's a massive game with multiple decision points leading to very different story outcomes, so you'll be busy taking tea with your warriors for a long time to come.
See our Fire Emblem: Three Houses review.
Game Builder Garage
Less a game and more a learning tool, Game Builder Garage lets you make your actual functioning video games within a simple interface. A set of tutorials take you through some game development basics like logic strings and win conditions, and then you can make your own creations and share them with others. It's simple enough to teach kids the basics while being flexible enough to have created some impressive gaming feats.
See our Game Builder Garage review.
A charming indie game that mixes golf mechanics with RPG hooks, Golf Story helps fill the void left by the classic Mario Golf for Game Boy Color. You'll be able to explore 8 pixel-perfect environments and hit the links, develop your golfer with a rich progression system, and get to know a quirky cast of characters. If the new Mario Golf: Super Rush doesn't quite strike your fancy and you want something similarly RPG-inspired, this is the game for you.
See our Golf Story review.
Into the Breach
Into the Breach is a brilliant strategy game from the makers of FTL. While that game has never made it onto any consoles, Into the Breach makes the transition here seamlessly, playing remarkably well on Switch. You pilot a crew of mechs across a series of turn-based battles in which you battle giant monsters, protecting buildings and other infrastructure from their attacks. You always know exactly what enemies will do during their upcoming turn, leaving it to your limited number of actions to eliminate or manipulate the level (and enemies) to avert disaster. That might involve absorbing an attack meant for the power grid, repositioning enemies to render their attacks harmless, or--most enjoyable--forcing enemies to fire on each other. There's an incredible amount of depth, and despite only typically controlling three units, you'll often find yourself spending several minutes on each turn trying to imagine the different approaches you can take before choosing the best course of action.
See our Into the Breach review.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
One of the very first games released for Nintendo Switch remains one of the all-time best. This latest entry in the long-running Legend of Zelda franchise completely rethought what it means to be a Zelda game, making major changes to elements like dungeons, equipment, and traversal. It was an open-world Zelda game like never before, and it has already had a huge impact on other games and inspired imitators. For more, be sure to check out every Zelda game on Switch.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Link's Awakening is a Game Boy classic, but the Switch version gives it a significant upgrade. While keeping the classic structure intact, it revises with a diorama-like presentation and a control scheme that takes advantage of the increase in buttons, new collectibles, and a dungeon creator that lets you make your own top-down dungeons from parts found around the world. At the same time, it keeps the original's quirky charm, including elements like cameos from Mario enemies.
Luigi's Mansion 3
While Mario may be known as the more adventurous brother, Luigi has carved out a nice niche for himself as a professional (if cowardly) ghost-hunter. Luigi's Mansion 3 takes him to a haunted hotel, where his best friends and brother have been captured by a wicked specter. The hotel structure divides the game into distinct puzzle sections made up of a few floors at a time. With new gadgets and a beautiful presentation, this is a sweet little spooky treat. One standout star is Gooigi, a little slime version of everyone's favorite brother-plumber, who assists in puzzle challenges. The game also sports co-op so you can scare up some fun with your friends.
See our Luigi's Mansion 3 review.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Definitely one of the strangest concepts in recent memory, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle teams Nintendo's mascot with Ubisoft's bonkers bunnies. The game itself is a turn-based cover shooter, similar to an XCOM, except much cuter. Mario and his friends team up with Rabbid-based imitators to take down an encroaching darkness. It was widely praised enough to warrant a sequel, Sparks of Hope, coming next year.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 appeared on the Wii U, but the Switch version is where it really earned its (racing) stripes. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the Switch's best-selling game, thanks to its huge amount of content, rock-solid racing mechanics, and beautiful, colorful presentation. As the Deluxe version, it includes the extra tracks and racers that were added post-launch on the Wii U version, which introduced characters like Link, Isabella, and Squid Kid.
See our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review.
Monster Hunter Rise
Capcom's hit action-adventure franchise has gotten much more attention since the advent of Monster Hunter World, but Nintendo's handheld hybrid got its own exclusive entry as well. Monster Hunter Rise takes some of the quality-of-life upgrades that made World such a success and fits them into a Switch structure, along with some new additions like the Palamute companions and a new Wirebug grapple tool to get around with speed and style. It's also a remarkable step up from the previous Monster Hunter game on Switch, offering the same sort of large, open levels to explore as World--but with the added mobility the Wirebug affords.
See our Monster Hunter Rise review.
New Pokemon Snap
Pokemon Snap on the Nintendo 64 was a quirky idea--a photo safari starring Pokemon instead of real-life animals. Fans have been calling for a sequel for years, and now Nintendo finally introduced one. New Pokemon Snap doesn't break the mold of its predecessor, but it provides a wide array of new environments bustling with Pokemon activity to document. It's a chill, relaxing experience to ride through the jungle snapping pictures of your favorite creatures, and Nintendo has supported it post-launch with new areas and mechanics.
See our New Pokemon Snap review.
Pokemon Sword / Shield
The latest main entry in the beloved Pokemon series is, as you might expect, a massive monster-collecting adventure. This one takes you to the Galar region, a new area loosely based on the UK, which is chock-full of brand-new pocket monsters as well as old favorites returning, some with special Galarian evolutions. This one introduces Gigantimax Pokemon, which have the special ability to grow kaiju-sized for massive battles, as well as Raid dungeons to capture massive Gigantimax Pokemon with your friends. It also introduces Wild areas, large expansive environments where you can see Pokemon wandering freely and control the camera freely.
See our Pokemon Sword and Shield review.
Ring Fit Adventure
Nintendo's latest foray into the fitness industry trades the Wii's balance board for a resistance ring that attaches to your Joy-Con controller to measure your progress. But while games like Wii Fit were essentially progress tracking programs, Ring Fit Adventure is a full-fledged RPG, complete with boss battles and progression. Fans say this helps keep them coming back and keeping to their exercise routine.
See our Ring Fit Adventure review.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury
Super Mario 3D World's re-release from Wii U makes it not quite an exclusive, but half of the package can only be found on Switch. Bowser's Fury is an inventive open-world Mario game with a unique structure. You can bank power-ups and choose your own order of stage challenges to gather special Cat Shines, and then engage in a massive kaiju battle against a corrupted Bowser. It's shorter than the average Mario game, but it's also a potential preview of what Nintendo may be thinking for future Mario titles.
Super Mario Maker 2
The first Super Mario Maker on Wii U was a neat way to let players try out their game creation chops within a familiar framework. The sequel, exclusively on Nintendo Switch, expands the toolset and adds a story campaign (of sorts) with premade stages.Mario Maker 2 has a wealth of user-created content to enjoy and plenty of space to explore your own game design fantasies. You can pick up a stylus separately to create stages on the Switch touchscreen just like on the Wii U.
See our Super Mario Maker 2 review.
Super Mario Odyssey
One of Nintendo's newest takes on its iconic mascot platformer is a joyful romp themed after different vacation destinations. This time the plucky plumber has a magical version of his red cap called Cappy, which you can toss onto enemies to take control of them for a short while. With a mix of inventive and satisfyingly challenging platforming stages and personality to spare, Mario Odyssey earns its spot as one of the best. It's one of the best Mario games on Switch, and for good reason.
See our Super Mario Odyssey review.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The Smash Bros. series has been a mainstay among competitive players and a huge, long-lasting hit for Nintendo. The latest one made a point of including absolutely every character from previous Smash Bros. games, so there's no doubt you'll be able to find your fave. Not only that, but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been supported by an unusually lengthy cycle of post-launch support, regularly adding new fighters, stages, and balance changes.
See our Super Smash Bros. Ultimate review.