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The best exclusive games for the Nintendo Switch

These are the best Nintendo Switch games that you can't play on any other console or system.

Published onMarch 26, 2020

Nintendo Switch on a table

There are lots and lots of lists online summarizing the best Nintendo Switch games. However, many games on those lists aren’t just the best games on the Switch but the best games on PC, other consoles, and even Android.

With this list, though, we are going to tell you the best Nintendo Switch games that you can’t play anywhere else. If you want to enjoy one of the games below, you need to own a Switch (either the original or the Switch Lite).

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That means no The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (you can play that on the Wii U), no Octopath Traveler (that’s available on Windows now), no Stardew Valley (that’s available on pretty much every system), and certainly no Fortnite (same). These are the best games on Switch and nowhere else!

Still don’t own a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite? Click here to grab one today. Otherwise, continue on to find out the best Nintendo Switch games exclusive to the console!

Best Nintendo Switch games exclusive to the console:

Editor’s note: This list of the best games on Switch will be updated regularly as new games launch.

1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

This is the fifth title in the main Animal Crossing series, and fans have been waiting nearly eight years for it (the most recent previous game was Animal Crossing: New Leaf, launched on the Nintendo 3DS in 2012). Although the game has only been out a short while, it’s already on this list of the best Nintendo Switch games.

We’ll summarize why the game is on this list of the best games on Switch succinctly: Animal Crossing: New Horizons takes everything you love about the series and makes it better. Obviously, if life simulation games such as these aren’t your thing, you won’t enjoy it, but if you love Animal Crossing games (or other similar series such as Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, etc.), you will love New Horizons.

2. Astral Chain

Interestingly, the fact that Astral Chain is exclusive to the Switch was so upsetting to some gamers that they took to review-bombing the title at Metacritic. That didn’t stop the game from becoming one of the console’s best-selling titles, mostly due to strong word-of-mouth promotion and stellar reviews from professional critics.

Astral Chain is a hack-and-slash adventure game from the same company that brought us Bayonetta. You play a detective in 2078, a time in which the world is on the brink of extinction and interdimensional lifeforms threaten humanity. Your character and some NPCs traverse the immense open-world city known as “The Ark,” killing plenty of vicious monsters along the way. You can choose to follow the storyline in a linear fashion or wander around the massive world snapping photos or even cleaning up the streets. It’s a fun game to get lost in, and easily one of the best Nintendo Switch games available today.

3. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

The Fire Emblem series has always been a Nintendo exclusive (aside from Fire Emblem Heroes, available on Android and iOS), so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Fire Emblem: Three Houses on this list of the best Nintendo Switch games. But this game, in particular, is a pretty big deal because it’s the first in the series to land on a home console since 2007.

Since it’s a home console game, the developers were able to expand upon the usual tactical RPG elements of Fire Emblem games. New to Three Houses is a social simulation aspect that pushes you to fill up your limited time with teaching classes, interacting with characters, farming, and other activities. You also battle it out in typical Fire Emblem form, and these battles advance the story. But this is easily the most extensive games in the entire series because of these new elements, and easily one of the best games on the Switch.

4. The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

This isn’t the first time Nintendo’s taken an old Zelda game and repackaged it for a new console. However, it’s never done anything quite as drastic as this. The original Link’s Awakening launched on the Game Boy in 1993, so its graphics and gameplay were considerably limited due to the early technology of that console.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Switch, though, recreates that game from the ground up to deliver what feels like a wholly new experience. Yes, the plot is the same and the gameplay is similar, but the colors, music, and sense of adventure are expanded so much that this feels like a brand new entry in the Zelda series.

Granted, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will continue to be the game that defines the Switch, but Link’s Awakening is the best Switch-exclusive Zelda game — and one of the best Nintendo Switch games, period.

5. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu / Eevee

There are actually quite a few Pokémon games for the Switch, but the biggest ones are the recent Pokémon Sword and Shield and the earlier Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee. To avoid filling this list of the best Nintendo Switch games with Pokémon titles, we narrowed it down to what we feel is the best one, and the entries in the Let’s Go version are what won out.

As with most Pokémon games, you take charge of a young trainer who traverses the map searching for Pokémon to capture and then using them to battle it out with other trainers. There’s a main storyline that holds it all together, but the real fun of the game is finding all the Pokémon, training them, evolving them, and then dominating your opponents. In the name of transparency, the storyline is actually based around Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow from the original Gameboy. Nonetheless, Nintendo has done a great job making this feel fresh with better graphics and some story and gameplay tweaks.

If you’re new to Pokémon, there are no significant differences between Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee. Each game does feature a handful of exclusive Pokémon and some exclusive moves those Pokémon can perform, but the storyline and gameplay are identical. Unless you’re Pokémon-obsessed, you only need to pick one game.

6. Splatoon 2

People love shooter games in which you are a character with a gun going around killing things. Since Nintendo prides itself on being family-friendly, a realistic shooting game from the company simply wouldn’t fly. Enter Splatoon, a shooter game where you shoot ink instead of bullets and everything looks like an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. The first game was a surprise hit for the Wii U in 2015, and its sequel is easily one of the best Nintendo Switch games available now.

Splatoon 2 takes the basic premise of the original game and expands upon it while also fixing some of the problems players had with the first game (such as a teeny tiny number of multiplayer maps). It also has a single-player story mode and an expansion for that called the Octo Expansion. Splatoon 2 may not be a Call of Duty replacement, but it’s still tons of fun and one of the best games on the Switch.

7. Super Mario Odyssey

It shouldn’t be too surprising to see Super Mario Odyssey on this list of the best Nintendo Switch games. Nintendo really outdid itself with Odyssey as it’s not only one of the best games on the Switch but also one of the very best 3D Mario games ever — maybe even one of the best games of all time.

As usual, the simple plot of the game is only a starting point to get into what we love about Mario games: controlling Mario as he jumps, slides, bounces, and “yahoos” his way around the colorful, fantastical world. Honestly, Odyssey’s different kingdoms are breathtaking and make the game worth playing just to run around and experience all the details.

If you own or are thinking of buying a Nintendo Switch, grabbing Super Mario Odyssey is basically as essential as it was to own Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System or Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64. Just buy it already!

8. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Although there have been Super Smash Bros. games on every Nintendo home console since the first one for the Nintendo 64, the GameCube version — Super Smash Bros. Melee — is regarded by pretty much all players as being the definitive version of the game. Although arguments could be made that that is still the case even today, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the first game to truly challenge Melee’s dominance.

Really, all Ultimate does is take Melee and make it bigger and better. There are more characters, more moves, and more arenas, and everything looks amazing thanks to the Switch’s hardware. If you miss that Melee feel, you can easily buy a GameCube controller to use with your Switch, which is a fun treat.

Regardless of where you fall on the “Melee vs Ultimate” debate, there’s no question that Ultimate is one of the best Nintendo Switch games available — and you can’t play it anywhere else!

9. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

The original Xenoblade Chronicles landed on the Nintendo Wii in 2010 as a Japan-exclusive. It eventually made it to other areas of the world and became a surprise hit. It was a role-playing game with action-adventure elements and proved popular with the RPG crowd. For the Wii U, however, the follow-up title Xenoblade Chronicles X abandoned many of the story elements and made it more of an open-world game, with minimal plot and an emphasis on exploration.

With Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the developers got back to the gameplay and story elements of the original Wii title, and we are thankful for that.

Even though Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is massive (seriously, you will put hours and hours into this game), there is an expansion called Torna — The Golden Country that adds even more hours to the game. If you like to really immerse yourself in a game and spend hundreds of hours playing it, this is the one you’re looking for. It is definitely one of the best Nintendo Switch games you can get.

10. Yoshi’s Crafted World

Although Mario and Zelda get most of the attention when it comes to Nintendo-exclusive games, we can’t forget about Yoshi, Mario’s lovable dinosaur steed. In Yoshi’s Crafted World, you guide one of several different Yoshis through a colorful land of cardboard, glitter, tape, and paper maché in what might be the most adorable game of all time.

Don’t let its cuteness deceive you, though: depending on how you play it, this game could be quite difficult. If you play it on hard mode and attempt to run it to 100% completion, you might end up throwing the controller on the floor more than a few times. Thankfully, you can also play it on an easier mode that makes Yoshi more powerful and the game less frustrating.

As far as general platformers go, though, you can’t beat Yoshi’s Crafted World. This game is also super fun to play in couch co-op!

That’s it for our list of the best games on Switch. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can see the future updates we make to this list of the best Nintendo Switch games!

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