Nintendo's Switch is on a roll. The youngest of the games consoles is punching above its weight with a mix of core Nintendo games that have pushed iconic characters like Mario and Link into the modern gaming age. The Switch is also a portable console, which has injected new life into older titles and indie hits that have never made it a Nintendo device before.
However, the Switch's online store isn't the easiest to navigate, so this guide aims to help the uninitiated start their journey on the right foot. These are the games you should own — for now. This is our first wave of updates, and we'll be regularly revising this list moving forward.
The Bayonetta series fuses together compelling (and different) character design with memorable boss battles, seemingly endless waves of monsters and a smart fighting system that's easy enough to start with, but pulls no punches later. Originally launched on the Wii U, the Switch gives Bayonetta 2 another chance to shine (the original is also available alongside) in a portable console, with nothing lost in transition. Another reason to catch up? A third game for Nintendo's hybrid console is already underway. MS
Celeste is a lot of things. It's a great platformer, but it's also a puzzle game. It's extremely punishing, but it's also very accessible. It puts gameplay above everything, but it has a great story. It's a beautiful, moving and memorable contradiction of a game, created by Matt Makes Games, the indie studio behind the excellent Towerfall. So, Celeste is worth picking up no matter what platform you own, but its room-based levels and clear 2D artwork make it a fantastic game to play on the Switch when on the go. AS
Studio MDHR's Cuphead has been a favorite of ours since its launch on Xbox One back in 2017. It's as beautiful as it is challenging — and it's very beautiful. Half bullet-hell shooter, half platformer, half classic boss rush... wait that's too many halves. Either way, Cuphead pulled in basically everyone with its charming, hand-drawn visuals that look like they're straight out of the 1930s. It then kept them around with tough-as-nails gameplay which somehow never feels unfair. It has some of the most memorable boss fights you're ever likely to have — Cala Maria is our favorite — but what will stay with you the most is that feeling of finally beating the one you get stuck on, 273 deaths later. The Switch version simply takes everything that's good about Cuphead and puts it on a system you can take anywhere. AS
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: BOTW signals the biggest shift in the series since the Nintendo 64's Ocarina of Time, and it might well be one of the best games of the past decade. It pulls the long-running series into modern gaming, with a perfectly pitched difficulty curve and an incredible open world to play with. There's crafting, weapons that degrade, almost too much to collect and do and a gentle story hidden away for players to discover for themselves. Even without the entertaining DLC add-ons, there's simply so much to do here and challenges for every level of gamer. MS
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's vibrancy and attention to detail prove it's a valid upgrade to the Wii U original. Characters are animated and endearing as they race around, and Nintendo's made bigger, wider tracks to accommodate up to 12 racers. This edition of Mario Kart included gravity-defying hover tires and automatic gliders for when you soar off ramps, making races even more visually thrilling, but at its core, it's Mario Kart — simple, pure gaming fun. It's also a great showcase for the multitude of playing modes that the Switch is capable of: Two-player split screen anywhere is possible, as are online races or Switch-on-Switch chaos. For now, this is the definitive edition. MS
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
The visuals of this Ubisoft-Nintendo collaboration betray a sophisticated, turn-based strategy game. Mario + Rabbids' learning curve is perfect, with the story mode adding new characters and unlocking better, different weapons and skills as the game progresses. Skills (and weapon effects) playfully interact with each other by the middle of the game, adding dimensions to the initial cover-based shoot-out. Each level has a goal (destroy all enemies, get to this area), and you're rated only by the survival rate of your three fighters and the number of turns it takes to fulfill said goal. Parts of the single-player mode are weaker, but the core game is equal parts entertaining and slick. There's also a rich multiplayer mode to add to the longevity. MS
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey might not represent the major change that Breath of the Wild was for the Zelda series, Instead, we got a great Mario game that's been refined across the last two decades. Yes, we got some important modern improvements, like maps and fast travel, and the power-stealing Cappy is a truly fun addition to Mario's usual tricks. But that core joy of Mario, figuring out the puzzles, racing to collect items and exploring landmarks, is here in abundance. MS
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
This is the ultimate distillation of Nintendo's multiplayer fighting game. The series' debut on Switch brings even more characters from beyond Nintendo's stable. If you're sick of Mario, Pikachu and Metroid's Samus, perhaps Final Fantasy VII's Cloud, Solid Snake or Bayonetta will be your new go-to character. There are over 60 characters to test out here.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features a divisive new single-player mode where you augment characters with stickers, battling through special conditions to unlock more characters and, yes, more stickers. At its core, Smash Bros. games combine fast-paced, chaotic fights with an incredibly beginner-friendly learning curve. Yes, some items are confusing or over-powered, but your special moves are only a two-button combination away. Turning the tables is built into the DNA of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, ensuring thrilling battles (once you've sorted handicaps) for everyone involved. MS
Rocket League could have been a short-lived novelty title, a game that mashed together soccer and vehicular combat to make a few million in its launch year before fading quietly into obscurity. Instead, developer Psyonix has consistently innovated since 2015, and in the process, it's pushed the broader video-game industry toward a more inclusive future. Rocket League was one of the first games to call for and implement cross-console play, and today it's one of just two titles (the other one being Fortnite) to support play among PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch. JC
Sometimes all you want to do is just water some plants, drink a beer and pet a dog, and Stardew Valley has all that and more. When you escape your mundane office job to the valley, you're given a small farm to shape as you see fit with crops and livestock. If you get tired of that, explore the nearby Pelican Town, get to know your neighbors and hopefully woo one lucky one into marriage. Or, you can take your chances in the caves at the edge of town to mine for gems and metals — at which point the game becomes more dungeon crawler than simple farming sim. You can play Stardew Valley at your pace, so you can spend hours on it and never get bored, or put it down for months and pick it up again and just start watering your crops again like no time has passed. KN
Contributors: Jessica Conditt (JC), Kris Naudus (KN), Mat Smith (MS), Aaron Souppouris (AS).
July 2019: 'Fortnite' replaced by 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'
July 2019: 'Splatoon 2' replaced by 'Cuphead'
Prices accurate on date of publish.