The Nintendo Switch is one of my favorite consoles of all time and is a big reason I even got back into gaming a few years ago. A home console that was portable and had a growing library of fantastic indie and AAA games (whether they were last gen or not). It was a great way to get caught up with the biggest games of the last decade since most were slowly being ported to the console. I was also commuting to school at the time and sometimes I ran out of books to read or papers to write so when down time hit I would reach for my Nintendo Switch to pass the time.
The Switch has a considerably larger library than it did when I first bought it and though I have tried my best to stay on top of the newest releases there are some that I haven’t managed to find time for yet. If you favorite game isn’t on this list there is a good possibility that I just haven’t played it. Rest assured I am working through my backlog and I will probably release an updated version of this list at that time. That being said let’s hop into our first entry in this list.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
What is there to say to Nintendo’s pandemic game? Animal Crossing: New Horizons must be ranked in the top 5 timeliest game releases in the history of the game industry since it was released right at the onset of the stay at home orders that were happening worldwide due to the Coronavirus. It seemed everyone was getting a Nintendo Switch to play this game and with all my new found down time, I bought the game too.
I designed my island and curated my home for hundreds of hours in March, April, and June but as it finally became warm outside I slowly visited my island less and less. I haven’t been back to New Horizons much since then but I remember my time fondly. The game is still getting consistent updates and Nintendo has said they have plans to support the game for the foreseeable future. If you want a game to escape into and that won’t stress you out (unless you play the stalk market) then give Animal Crossing: New Horizons a try.
I have mixed feelings with the recent entries in the Pokémon franchise but I can’t deny that the latest game had me playing for extended periods of time. Even now if I boot up Pokémon Sword, I’ll end up playing for at least a few weeks to complete some arbitrary challenge I’ve set for myself but I think that’s because I just can’t overcome my Pokémon phase. Most people will probably not play Pokémon Sword for extended periods of time and without the expansion packs there isn’t too much to the base game.
However, the new Pokémon are some of the best in a couple generations and the new wild areas give new life to a series that has lacked any evolution of its own for quite a while. If you are a fan of the series, you can’t go wrong with adding latest entry in the mainline series. If you aren’t, then latest generation of Pokémon games aren’t going to win you over.
One of the most beautiful pixel art games on the Switch, Octopath Traveler is a turn based JRPG where you play as one of eight characters to start and then travel the world in search of the other characters to help you overcome your specific quest line. Learn the back stories of all the travelers while you explore a kingdom rife with killers, mages, and monsters.
My only complaint for this game is that is requires a ludicrous amount of grinding to get through some of the tougher bosses. Grinding is not an issue but the amount that has to be done in this game can be really tedious especially if you are trying to replay through it. Octopath Traveler definitely isn’t a game you casually pick up and enjoy for a half hour instead it requires some commitment from you to complete its 40 hour or so main story. If you are a fan of JRPGs though, Octopath Traveler is a must have for your Switch’s library.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Of course, Mario Kart is on the list. If there is one party game that you have for your Switch, it needs to be Mario Kart. I’m sorry I don’t make the rules. With the variety of game modes and tracks to choose from, you can easily play this for an entire night with friends and enjoy every second that you aren’t on the receiving end of a blue shell.
I don’t play much anymore but I have plenty of great memories playing Mario Kart with friends and family. Whether in a college dorm, at Christmas dinner, or the back of a car, Mario kart 8 Deluxe can offer a good time for anyone no matter the setting. I wish Nintendo would release new tracks or characters but it still has plenty to offer in its current form with 48 tracks to race on and 41 characters to choose from. It’s the most extensive Mario Kart game currently out.
Super Mario Maker 2
I never had the chance to play the first Mario Maker so all of the magic of the series was just waiting for me when I bought the sequel. Super Mario Maker 2 has a lot of stuff going for it with unlimited content being made for free every day by it community and an extensive tool belt of techniques and assets for you to make your own challenging courses. Even if you don’t think you will like the idea of making your own levels, you can just play all the levels and worlds that are being built by other people.
I didn’t make a single level for weeks of owning the game until my brother started to challenge me with his maps. It was on from that point where we began to trade levels back and forth to see who could make the trickier stage. There were days where I lost all sense of time as I fell further and further into the creation rabbit hole only for my brother to play once and say “nice.” Well, it was fun while it lasted.
One of the only games on this list that was never a Nintendo exclusive, Stardew Valley is a must have for anyone interested in sim RPGs. Even if you don’t like farming, you could put all your efforts into fishing, mining, or questing. You make the game what you want to make of it. I usual try to make themed farms that focus on one skill or commodity like wine.
I started playing Stardew on the PC but I usually only ever play on my Switch at this point. There are few things as satisfying as after a rough day at work landing face down in your bed and reaching for your Switch with Stardew already running in the background. I check on my parsnip garden and do rounds of the town talking to the community and getting lost in Stardew’s atmosphere. It’s my personal form of meditation.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Everyone is familiar with the Smash series and if you like it even a little bit you should definitely get Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. It has almost all the stages and characters from the previous games as well as a ton of single player content. Nintendo made different single player challenges for all 80+ characters in Ultimate’s roster with the classic challenge but there are even more ways to play than that.
I have owned 2 Super Smash Brothers in my life: the original Smash Brothers on the N64 and Ultimate. I’ve played the others but that was only at parties or something. Ultimate had me hooked for an entire year after its release and with the frequent character releases, I keep coming back when someone interesting is released. Plus, it has one of the best single players ever introduced into a Smash game with the World of Light mode where you have to reclaim the spirits of the entire Smash roster. It’s a lot of fun and a huge challenge on the highest difficulty.
Unlike Stardew Valley, the first time I played Hollow Knight was on the Switch and I can’t imagine playing it any other way. Exploring Hollow Nest for the first time was made easier by the fact that I could leave Hollow Knight running in the background when I couldn’t play. The little knight patiently waiting for me to return to the particular difficult platforming section that I wasn’t ready to tackle quite yet.
The game is tough from the platforming to the boss battles; it all is emphasized by a magnificent art style and score that truly make you feel like you’re crawling around in Hollow Nest yourself. You can hear every insect leg in the foreground and every whimper from cowardly NPCs. It’s easy to get lost in this world of Hollow Knight and for me that’s a rare feat for a 2D game.
Mario Odyssey had me smiling like a kid who just received their first video game. Every sound effect and animation hits me in a spot in my brain I thought had shriveled up and died while growing up. Odyssey feels like everything Sunshine was trying to do with its overall design (minus the tropical paradise theme, of course). It feels like the most realized and polished 3D Mario, yet.
The kingdoms are some of the most charming worlds I’ve ever seen in a Mario game too. The Wooded Kingdom, with its industrialized nature, and the Seaside Kingdom, which feels like it could have been a part of Isle Delfino’s paradise attractions, are just two examples of the worlds that Mario gets to explore this time around. Each kingdom has its own personality and quirks and that’s exactly what I like most about 3D platformers. Give me a world that feels lived in. Odyssey is my favorite Mario out of his 3D adventures so far and I hope one day it can get the sequel that it deserves.
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
My favorite Switch game has consistently gone back and forth between Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild. However, I can’t get over how impactful the first playthrough through Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule kingdom can be. The sense of freedom and control that Nintendo was able to imbue on the player only heightens the adventure that the series is known for. Every playthrough can feel completely original depending on the choices that the players takes. It’s a true adventurers game.
I’ve played through this game several times on normal mode and mastermode and each time I learn something about the game that I never knew before. My first playthrough I found every shrine but after completing it I wanted to go again. After changing up my route, I found myself in the Northwestern mountains where a young woman told me about surfing on my shield. I was astounded and thought it was just nonsensical dialogue but when I tried it it actually worked!
Afterwards, I learned that this ability is pretty common knowledge but I was amazed I could go so long in the game and only find out about it later. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything because I discovered it organically rather than it being told to me in a text display. Plus, it’s an ability that isn’t that important in the base game. Breath of the Wild very likely will be hailed as the best game for the Switch when its life cycle finally comes to an end and I have no issue with that. it deserves every bit of praise it receives.