Believe it or not, the Nintendo Switch turned 5 years old this week. To celebrate, let’s take a look at the top 5 first-party games on the mighty hybrid system, and 5 great third-party games that excel on it.
At five years old, the Nintendo Switch is showing no signs of stopping. It recently passed 103 million units sold—breaking the Wii’s meteoric record of 101 million units—and will likely end up one of the five best-selling consoles of all time. The rest of the year is absolutely packed with first-party content, including new The Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, and Pokémon games, and it hasn’t ever had a truly “dry” or stale year. It’s no stretch to say that this console will go down in history as one of the biggest successes of the medium.
So, to mark this momentous anniversary, let’s take a look back at the top 5 Nintendo Switch games—and also, the top 5 games that weren’t published by Nintendo, but still made a big splash on the hardware.
#5, Third-Party: Bravely Default 2 (2021)
Of the games on this list which were not published by the Big N, Bravely Default 2 is the only title exclusive to the Nintendo Switch (as far as consoles go, anyway, since it received a surprise Steam port a few months back). It also happens to be a revival of a quirky RPG series from the 3DS and a delightful experience well-suited to the platform’s unique hardware. With most of the charm of its predecessors, it brings a touch of golden-era JRPG sensibility to the Switch’s lineup, and is a great companion whether you’re playing from home or on the go.
#5, First-Party: Metroid Dread (2021)
Samus returned to her 2D roots last year after a 19-year hiatus, and the result is one of the best action-adventure or “Metroidvania” games on the Nintendo Switch. MercuryStream recreated the immaculately-crafted design of the series’ older games in modern HD, while also moving Samus’ story forward in a fitting direction. Metroid Dread is a well-balanced experience which should demonstrate why there’s a genre named after its gameplay style, and for successfully reviving an old format in a thrillingly modern way, it earns a place on our list.
#4, Third-Party: Doom Eternal (2020)
Let’s be honest: when it comes to hardware, Nintendo has almost always been on their back foot when it comes to sheer technical strength. While the Switch barely held up against the PS4 or Xbox One when it was announced, it’s not weak by any means, and has received some pretty compelling ports of games that run on the competition—like Doom Eternal. While this version loses the graphical fidelity seen on other platforms, its considerable campaign and multiplayer modes run great on the Nintendo Switch, especially if you fine-tune some settings. This makes it a great companion on-the-go, or a more mature experience for older gamers who tire of the platform’s more sunny fare.
#4, First-Party: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)
One part video game museum, two parts mayhem, the Super Smash Bros. series has long been a staple of Nintendo’s lineup and fighting game tournaments alike. As the latest instalment’s title suggests, this is indeed its Ultimate form—packing every playable character and stage from the series in alongside a host of newcomers from myriad corners of the industry, rounded out by a sizable campaign, miscellaneous modes, and a host of challenges. It’s simultaneously a great party game and a competitive fighter, and now that the DLC has finished, the only thing holding it back is online matchmaking stability.
#3, Third-Party: Stardew Valley (2017)
There are no shortage of farming sims on the Nintendo Switch, from Harvest Moon to Story of Seasons and everything in between. But one might stand above the rest—ConcernedApe’s Stardew Valley, which draws inspiration from those other series’ golden days and expands greatly from there. This indie farming/life sim may be on every modern platform under the sun, but the Switch’s versatility might make it the ideal home.
It’s a great title to have saved on your system for when you need a palate cleanser from heftier games, or when you need to chill after a long day, and being able to take it on the go makes its “just one more turn” gameplay all the more satisfying. No need to shut down your idyllic farm life because it’s 2AM, when you can just take the Switch to bed with you and keep on chorin’. (Read our Xbox One review of Stardew Valley here.)
#3, First-Party: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)
Unlike Smash, Mario Kart has always been inherently accessible to pretty much everyone, and was a staple of family gaming nights before everyone started lobbing Wiimotes across their living rooms. The series’ 8th instalment was a fantastic addition to the Wii U library, but it was only enhanced by the Nintendo Switch’s unique bells and whistles. 32 tracks, 41 racers, terrific presentation, and an engine that everyone from kids to grandmothers can pick up (especially with some modern accessibility options) make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a must-own Switch experience.
There’s a reason why it’s the top-selling game on the platform by a comfortable margin, and set to receive a massive infusion of new courses this long after its release. (Read our full review here.)
#2, Third-Party: Hollow Knight (2018)
Haunting and ethereal, Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight is quite possibly a better Metroidvania than either Metroid or Castlevania. Players venture into a barren, insectile civilization to discover the truth behind its downfall, fighting its mad inhabitants along the way. It manages to achieve a level of ambience unmatched by many flashier titles on PlayStation or Xbox, while its difficulty and Dark Souls influences will keep you on your toes. Although many consumers may have just picked this game up through PlayStation Plus, it just feels better on the Nintendo Switch—it doesn’t require the graphical strength of the other consoles, and once again, portability is a gamechanger.
#2, First-Party: Animal Crossing New Horizons (2020)
There’s a good chance that Animal Crossing New Horizons is the reason you, dear reader, own a Nintendo Switch. Formerly one of Nintendo’s quieter but beloved franchises, Animal Crossing made the jump to the Switch at just the right time—capitalizing on the long-burning popularity of its 3DS predecessor, and arriving near the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to bridge the gap between isolated people. Even amidst global lockdowns, Switches flew off store shelves (or out of scalpers’ trunks) as people sought escape on Tom Nook’s sunny island paradises.
However, it’s a great game in its own right, debatably the best in the series after some recent updates, and a perfect title to boot up for a few moments of decompression each day. (Read our full review here.)
#1, Third-Party: Hades (2020)
SuperGiant Games’ Hades also took the gaming world by storm in 2020, earning Game of the Year honours from a variety of outlets (including CGMagazine!) and drawing players of all stripes into the roguelike genre. As Zagreus, son of the titular Greek god of the underworld, you seek to escape Hell by hacking and slashing your way through, with weapons and boons granted by other familiar faces of the Greek pantheon. But, you’re going to fail. A lot. It’s kind of the point, as the more times you die, the more of the plot you unravel, and the more you can experiment with various weapons, and enjoy its wildly stylish aesthetic.
Again, you can play this on any non-mobile platform now, but the Switch version is perhaps the best, as you can take it on the go, or enjoy cross-platform save functionality with the PC version, and the phenomenon began here in the first place.
#1, First-Party: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
Our top honour for the Nintendo Switch’s fifth anniversary goes to one of its launch titles. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only a sprawling epic that refined the open-world genre—it reinvented its franchise by deconstructing it, and proved the Switch’s versatility right out of the gate. It’s another terrific game that only benefits from the ability to play it on the go and in small chunks, while also being entirely engrossing for play at home on your big screen. It’s been the metric that many of the biggest games since have been measured by. Devoted players are still discovering new things it can do.
It’s one of the best games of all time, and it definitely deserves the top spot in the Nintendo Switch lineup. (Read our full review here.)
And there you have it—the best that Nintendo and third-party publishers have to offer on this historic platform. This is just the tip of the iceberg, too, and some serious contenders for this crown are on their way this year. For now, happy birthday to the Nintendo Switch, and long may you reign.