Games for New Switch Owners
So you bought a Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Lite and now you can’t decide what to play first. It’s understandable. In just a few short years, Nintendo’s handheld hybrid has pulled together an impressive catalog of great games across many genres and has even become a great platform for excellent indie titles. However, if you want the best game to play for your brand new system, look no further than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Released alongside the Nintendo Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a triumph in game design, and reimagined The Legend of Zelda series as an open-world adventure, setting the bar high for future Zelda games and future games in the genre.
Best Overall: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda series is one of Nintendo’s hallmark franchises and for good reason. Some of Nintendo’s greatest hits, as well as some of the best games ever made, star the silent Hyrulian Link as he sets out on a quest to stop a great evil from destroying the land of Hyrule. From the original Legend of Zelda on the NES to this lauded latest entry, it seems like every Nintendo console has been graced with a genre-defining (or redefining) entry in the long-running series. But The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is particularly notable because it changes the Zelda formula entirely.
The freedom introduced in Breath of the Wild allowed players to travel and explore the world using a variety of tools. You can really climb anything and ride (or glide) across Hyrule to your heart’s content, granted you have the stamina to do so. The world of Hyrule has never felt more alive thanks to both large and small changes to the game world.
Fields of grass sway with the wind, debris floats across moving water, enemies tumble downhill when knocked over, Link shivers in the cold and sweats in the heat — all of these changes make every encounter and every discovery unique. Couple all of this with a beautiful art style that gives Breath of the Wild the charm of a Studio Ghibli film, and you’ll find that Hyrule has become as much of a character as Link, Zelda, and Ganon.
I could go on and on about how much I love this game, but I’d be joining the chorus of fans who have sung the game’s praises since its release in 2017. Its influence cannot be understated, and we’ve already started to see Breath of the Wild’s art style and gameplay emulated by huge games like Genshin Impact and Immortals Fenix Rising. Despite being years old at this point, so there’s no doubt that the first game played on your new Switch should be this epic journey through Hyrule.
- Gorgeous art style and music
- Reimagines Zelda as an open world game
- Hours of content to explore
- Those new to action adventure games may find it difficult
- Some framerate dips in busy areas
A breath of fresh air
Fans of Zelda games, newcomers to the series, and experienced fans will love the latest installment in the legendary series.
Best Platformer Game: Super Mario Odyssey
If we think about characters that define video games, the first name that might come to mind is Mario. The plucky red-capped plumber is as synonymous with video games as cheese is on a hamburger, and is still just as good even after 35 years. While there are many Mario games available on the Nintendo Switch already, we recommend that you dive right into the latest and greatest, Super Mario Odyssey.
While Mario’s motivation is the same as it has always been, he’s joined this time by Cappy, a helpful wisp that takes control of Mario’s hat, which our hero can then use to take control of almost anything with the toss of his cap. Climbing a building? Take control of a pylon and fling yourself up or become an electric bolt and travel through the telephone wires. Gap is too wide? Throw your hat and bounce off it for an extra boost. Mario’s freedom of movement is unmatched. Even better, if you want you can have a second player controlling Cappy.
Super Mario Odyssey is a game that keeps on giving. Just when you think you’ve seen everything Super Mario Odyssey has to offer, something new is introduced in the form of an outfit, a hidden world, or a new transformation. There’s plenty to do, but it’s never overwhelming, though tracking down the 1,000 moons in the game might be exhausting for some. Still, gamers of all ages and skill levels will find something to love with Super Mario Odyssey and it’s easily the best platformers on the system.
- Excellent controls
- Non-linear game design encourages exploration
- Creative use of Mario’s body-swapping ability
- Multiplayer option available
- Might be too easy for experienced players
- Tracking down moons can get exhausting
Best Platformer Game
Jump into a new chapter
Super Mario Odyssey proves after 35 years — Mario isn’t slowing down. Play as Mario, or grab a friend to play as Cappy for more fun.
Best Action Game: Astral Chain
PlatinumGames is known for making over-the-top action games since their inception. Made up of ex-Capcom employees, they took their experiences from crafting games like Devil May Cry and Okami and created new, thrilling experiences like Bayonetta. PlatinumGames and Nintendo have enjoyed a fruitful partnership, working together on The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, and most recently, Astral Chain.
Astral Chain is the latest in that long-standing tradition and delivers fast and stylish action gameplay. Against the backdrop of a dystopian Earth, you play a recruit of a special police task force that protects humanity’s remnants from interdimensional monsters. Using your Astral Chain, the player tethers creatures from the other dimension to hack, slash, and investigate crimes.
Astral Chain checks a lot of boxes that not many Nintendo games do. It’s a mature action title, set in a dark, cyberpunk-inspired world. In fact, if you’ve been clamoring for more Cyberpunk 2077-like games, this is definitely at the top of our list. This is hands down one of the best action games on the Nintendo Switch.
- Fast action gameplay
- Stylish manga/anime influence, with art from artist Masakazu Katsura.
- A cool sci-fi setting
- Investigative sections are not for everyone
- Mature themes not suitable for younger players
Best Action Game
Whip it good
The cool visuals, smooth gameplay, and sci-fi setting is the perfect first game for new Switch owners looking for something to hit.
Best RPG: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Once upon a time, Xenoblade Chronicles was an unknown game that became the face of a fan movement. Years later, the Xenoblade Chronicles series is an important Nintendo franchise, its main character Shulk has joined the Super Smash Bros. roster, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is one of the best RPGs on the Nintendo Switch and the best selling entry in the series.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 fits all the trappings of a JRPG, for better or worse. There’s no shortage of anime tropes and stereotypes, convoluted gameplay mechanics, and a story that starts with an orphan boy trying to make a living on his own to him fighting God. It’s a rollercoaster, to say the least.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 may appear rough around the edges, but as the game starts to pick up the pace, the beauty of the game starts resonate. The story is complex, but it’s satisfyingly bonkers and stars a cast of incredibly memorable characters. The gameplay loop, at first, might feel like a grind, but by the end, you’ll be chaining combos and special attacks that go on for days. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is one of my personal favorites, and I wholeheartedly recommend it as one of the best RPGs for new Switch owners.
- Engaging story
- Great DLC
- Hundreds of hours of gameplay
- Great gameplay loop and combat
- Resolution drops both docked and undocked
- Convoluted battle mechanics
- Wayfinding is confusing
It’s a new day, everyone!
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 might be rough around the edges, but once things click, the result is out of this world.
Best Casual Game: Animal Crossing: New Horizon
Games don’t have to be all about action and adventure. Sometimes you just want to unwind in comfort and peace. No pressure to save a princess, but you do have to pay off that housing loan. This isn’t a real-life daydream, this is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the latest life simulator in the long-running Animal Crossing series.
In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you arrive on an island with a tent to your name and a couple of animal neighbors. The ever-entrepreneurial Tom Nook has set up a store and plans to build the island up to a fantastic island getaway — with your help of course. From there, your mission is to help Tom Nook make the island presentable enough to entice K.K. Slider to visit and play a concert. The game “officially” ends there, but Animal Crossing fans will tell you that that’s where the game really starts.
The beauty in Animal Crossing’s gameplay is that you are free to experience it however you like. Rebuild your house, make friends, do some light landscaping, or visit a friend’s island — live life at your leisure. The game revolves around a real-world clock and reflects real night and day cycles, as well as real-world events. While some gamers might find the errand-rich gameplay just busywork, casual and non-gamers will find pleasure in casting a line out on the bay and humming along with the music while you fish and watch the clouds roll by. Who doesn’t need a break from the real world nowadays?
- A lot of replay value
- Relaxing soundtrack
- Simple and familiar gameplay
- Visit friends’ islands in multiplayer
- Slow day to day gameplay can be frustrating
Best Casual Game
An island getaway
If you’re a new Nintendo Switch owner looking to casually pass the game with a simple and fun experience, look no further.
Best Strategy Game: Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The Switch has no shortage of great strategy games like Civilization VI and XCOM 2, but I can’t help but nominate another once niche, now well-known game as the best for strategy game fans. Fire Emblem, which once held no presence in the West, is now one of the most important games in Nintendo’s repertoire. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the latest entry in the long-running series, and expands and improves on almost every aspect of the strategy game.
The fundamentals of Fire Emblem are still in place. You move your warriors across battlefields and battle opponents, making use of a rock, paper, scissor combat system, with some exceptions. The games become a tense game of chess, where every move could spell life or death for your units. And with a permadeath system enabled, the loss of a troop could prove disastrous for your army.
What you’ll find in Three Houses is a lengthy, Harry Potter-esque storyline, complete with love, betrayal, and plenty of combat on the battlefield. The gorgeous artwork and excellent voice acting propel the story forward, even if the learning curve might be steep for newcomers and the themes aren’t exactly family-friendly. But for fans of Fire Emblem or fans of the strategy genre, you’ll find a lengthy and challenging game here. New Switch owners who consider themselves strategy game fans should not miss out.
- Engaging combat
- Your choices have consequences
- Great voice acting and art style
- Hours of gameplay and lengthy DLC
- Range of difficulties
- Steep learning curve
- Not exactly family-friendly
Best Strategy Game
If it’s a fight they want…
Fire Emblem: Three Houses builds on the Fire Emblem formula while allowing the player to build deeper bonds with their fellow soldiers.
Best Multiplayer Game: Splatoon 2
Sometimes it seems like Nintendo can do no wrong, but one avenue the Big N has always struggled is in the multiplayer department. There are plenty of excellent local multiplayer experiences like Super Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it’s always faltered when it comes to online multiplayer — doubly so when it comes to online shooters. Splatoon 2, while not perfect, is a well-needed step in the right direction.
Its main mode, Turf War, acts as a team deathmatch, except your objective isn’t to gun down your opponents (though you can and should). The real objective is to cover the map with your team’s paint. The game insists that you miss your shots and make a mess around you. This simple change to the gameplay actually makes Splatoon 2 much easier to dive into for those new to shooters. Nintendo also hosts Splatfest competitions, which place players on opposing sides of hot topics like burgers vs. hot dogs. Pick a side, and splat your way to victory.
It’s not without its issues though. While it is one of few games to make use of the Nintendo Switch Online App, the application is cumbersome at best, and it can be difficult to play with your friends. The single-player mode is basically a glorified tutorial, with the maps and game modes rotate periodically. While that does ensure that every map gets played, they also needlessly lock away certain modes, like the cooperative Salmon Run mode. These issues aside, if you’re a new Switch owner looking for a online shooter, Splatoon 2 has what you need. Just make sure you have Nintendo Switch Online first.
- Gameplay is accessible to players of different skill levels
- An actual online shooter that works on Switch!
- Lots of customization options
- Short single player campaign
- Level rotation is frustrating at times
- Online app is cumbersome
- Needs Nintendo Switch Online
Best Multiplayer Game
Don’t get cooked
Stylish and messy, Splatoon 2 revels in its easy to pick up, difficult to master gameplay.
Best Indie Game: Hades
When thinking about indie titles on the Nintendo Switch, there are so many to choose from. Nintendo has broadened and bolstered its catalog of games by being the go-to platform for a lot of independent developers. While there are a ton to choose from, the game that earns our recommendation is, of course, the indie darling of 2020, Hades. In Hades, you play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, and you must fight your way out of the Underworld and through tons of procedurally generated dungeons. Along the way, you’ll learn more about the Greek pantheon of gods, demons, and heroes.
It may look like your run-of-the-mill roguelike on the surface, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find that there is a lot to enjoy, even for newer players. While the well-worn elements of a roguelike are accounted for — the light RPG elements, the randomly generated dungeons and pickups, the ramping difficulty, and the constant dying — the real draw is its story. Other roguelikes, like Dead Cells, sprinkle hints and tidbits of a greater story but they never delve into detail like Hades does. Every run provides new information, not just about your enemies and map layout, but about the characters around you, too.
Hades has a lot to love here. The artwork is superb, the voice acting is great and brimming with personality, and the gameplay is fast-paced and fun. Hades is a game that you’ll be dying to revisit again and again and again.
- Interesting characters and story
- Solid gameplay that improves on roguelike tropes
- Voice acting and art style are fantastic
- Roguelike gameplay loop can be frustrating
- Difficulty can be disheartening for some
Best Indie Game
Hotter than hell
There are plenty of indie titles to choose from on the Nintendo Switch, so why not start with the cream of the crop?
These are the best games for new Nintendo Switch owners. No matter what genre you enjoy to play, chances are that the Nintendo Switch has a game for you. There are so many great games on the Nintendo Switch, but the first stop on your list should be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s one of the best Zelda games and one of the best games made in the last five years.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does so much to change the Zelda formula while also building upon the open-world genre. The art style, the music, and the gameplay are all polished to perfection. There’s a reason why the Zelda series has stood the test of time, and if you haven’t experienced the series before, this is a perfect place for new Switch owners to start.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Zackery Cuevas loves talking about video games, complaining about videogames, praising videogames, and writing about videogames. You can find guides and reviews written by him on iMore, Android Central, and Windows Central.
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