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Best Nintendo Switch games, 5 years later

Believe it or not, the Nintendo Switch turned 5 this week. To celebrate, let’s take a look at the top 5 first-party games on the mighty hybrid system and the top 5 third-party games that excel there.

At five years old, the Nintendo Switch shows no signs of stopping. It recently surpassed 103 million units sold, breaking the Wii’s meteoric record of 101 million units, and will likely eventually become one of the top five selling consoles of all time. The rest of the year is absolutely packed with first-party content, including new The Legend of Zelda, fire emblemand Pokemon games, and he never had a really “dry” or stale year. It’s no exaggeration to say that this console will go down in history as one of the medium’s greatest hits.

So, to mark this momentous anniversary, let’s take a look back at the top 5 Nintendo Switch games, as well as the top 5 games that were not released by Nintendo, but still caused a stir on the hardware.

Hey, Nintendo? Can you bring back the flashy slamming gestures you used in the early demos and marketing of the system? Pretty please?

#5, third: Bravely Default 2 (2021)

Of the games on this list that weren’t published by the Big N, Bravely Default 2 is the only title exclusive to the Nintendo Switch (as far as consoles are concerned, anyway, since it received a surprise Steam port a few months ago). It’s also a revival of an original 3DS RPG series 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 age JRPG sensibility to the Switch lineup and is a great companion whether you’re playing at home or on the go.

(Read our full review here.)

#5, first part: Metroid Dread (2021)

Like the Nintendo Switch itself, Metroid Dread strikes a perfect balance between old-school sensibilities and modern design.
Like the Nintendo Switch itself, Metroid Dread is a perfect balance between old school sensibilities and modern design. (Nintendo)

Samus returned to her 2D roots last year after a 19-year hiatus, and the result is one of the best action-adventure games or “Metroidvania” on the Nintendo Switch. MercuryStream has recreated the impeccably crafted design of past games in the series in modern HD, while pushing Samus’ story in a fitting direction. Metroid Dread is a well-rounded experience that should demonstrate why there’s a genre named after its playstyle, and for successfully bringing an old format to life in an exciting and modern way, it deserves a spot on our list.

(Read our full review here.)

#4, third: Eternal destiny (2020)

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Let’s be honest: when it comes to hardware, Nintendo has almost always been on its toes when it comes to technical strength. While the Switch barely held its own against the PS4 or Xbox One when it was announced, it’s by no means weak and has received some pretty compelling game ports that work on the competition, like Eternal destiny. Although this version loses the graphical fidelity seen on other platforms, its considerable campaign and multiplayer modes work perfectly on the Nintendo Switch, especially if you adjust some settings. This makes it a great on-the-go companion or a more mature experience for older gamers who tire of the platform’s sunnier fare.

(Read our full review here.)

#4, first part: Super Smash Bros Ultimate (2018)

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Part video game museum, two parts chaos, the Super Smash Bros. The series has long been a staple of Nintendo programming and fighting game tournaments. As the title of the last opus suggests, it is indeed his Ultimate form – packing every playable character and stage in the series alongside a host of newcomers from myriad corners of the industry, complemented by a sizable campaign, various modes and a host of challenges. It’s both a great party game and a competitive battler, and now that the DLC is complete, the only thing holding it back is the stability of online matchmaking.

(Read our full review here.)

#3, third: Stardew Valley (2017)

Stardew Valley can be at its best on the Nintendo Switch.
Stardew Valley may be at its best on the Nintendo Switch. (Nintendo)

There’s no shortage of farming sims on the Nintendo Switch, from harvest moon for story of the seasons and all the rest. But we could stand above the rest—ConcernedApe’s Stardew Valley, which is inspired by the golden age of those other series and expands considerably from there. This indie farming/life sim may be on every modern platform under the sun, but the Switch’s versatility could make it the perfect home.

It’s a great title to save on your system when you need a palate cleanser from heavier games, or when you need to unwind after a long day, and being able to take it on the go makes its sound. “just one more ride” 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 chorin’ on. (Read our Xbox One review of Stardew Valley here.)

#3, first part: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)

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contrary to To break, Mario Kart has always been inherently accessible to just about anyone and was a staple of family game nights before everyone started throwing Wiimotes around their living room. The 8th installment in the series was a fantastic addition to the Wii U library, but it was only bettered by the unique bells and whistles of the Nintendo Switch. 32 tracks, 41 riders, a terrific layout, and an engine that everyone from kids to grandmas can take (especially with some modern accessibility options) make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a must-have Switch experience.

There’s a reason it’s the best-selling game on the platform by a comfortable margin, and poised for a massive infusion of new courses so long after release. (Read our full review here.)

#2, third: hollow knight (2018)

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Bewitching and ethereal, Team Cherry’s hollow knight is most likely a better Metroidvania than either metroid Where Castlevania. Players venture into a barren, insectoid civilization to uncover the truth behind its downfall, battling its crazed inhabitants along the way. It manages to achieve a level of ambiance 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 have just picked up this game through PlayStation Plus, it comes feels best on the Nintendo Switch – it doesn’t require the graphical strength of other consoles, and again the portability is a game changer.

#2, first part: Animal crossing new horizons (2020)

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There is a strong chance that Animal crossing new horizons is why, dear reader, you own a Nintendo Switch. Formerly one of Nintendo’s quieter but beloved franchises, animal crossing made the leap to the Switch at the right time – capitalizing on the long-standing popularity of its 3DS predecessor and arriving near the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to bridge the gap between isolated people. Even amid the global shutdowns, the Switches flew off store shelves (or scalpers’ trunks) as people sought to escape to Tom Nook’s sunny island paradises.

However, it’s a great game in its own right, arguably the best in the series after a few recent updates, and a perfect title to kick-start some decompression time each day. (Read our full review here.)

#1, third: underworld (2020)

Escape from Hell is best on the Nintendo Switch.
Escape from hell is better on the Nintendo Switch. (Nintendo)

SuperGiant’ Games underworld also took the gaming world by storm in 2020, winning Game of the Year honors from a variety of outlets (including CGMagazine!) and attracting gamers of all stripes to the roguelike genre. As Zagreus, son of the titular Greek god of the underworld, you seek to escape hell by fighting your way through, armed with weapons and boons granted by other familiar faces in the Greek pantheon. But, you will fail. Many. That’s kind of the point, because the more you die, the more you unravel the plot, and the more you can experiment with various weapons and enjoy its extremely sleek aesthetic.

Again, you can now play it on any non-mobile platform, but the Switch version is perhaps the best, as you can take it on the go, or take advantage of the cross-platform save feature with the PC version, and the phenomenon started here in the first place.

(Read our full review here.)

#1, first part: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

Five years later, this view still takes our breath away.
Five years later, this view still takes our breath away. (Nintendo)

Our biggest honor 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 from the start. It’s another great game that only benefits from being able to play it on the go and in small chunks, while being entirely engrossing to play at home on your big screen. It’s the metric by which many of the biggest games since have been measured. Dedicated players are always discover new things he can do.

It’s one of the best games of all time, and it certainly deserves the top spot in the Nintendo Switch lineup. (Read our full review here.)

There you have it, the best that Nintendo and third-party publishers have to offer on this historic platform. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too, and serious contenders for that crown are on the way this year. For now, happy birthday Nintendo Switch, and long may you reign.