If there is one thing that every Nintendo console has struggled with since the Nintendo 64, it's having a wide range of quality exclusives. Sure, every Nintendo platform has its usual top-tier Nintendo software— but the company can only make so many games in-house, often resulting in just a couple of big releases per year at most.
Just over two years into the Switch's lifespan, and the number of true Switch exclusives already available has proven that Nintendo finally seems to be bucking that trend. While the first few entries on this list should be avoided at all costs, it doesn't take long before this simply becomes a list of good-to-great Switch exclusives that owners of Nintendo's hybrid console should check out if they haven't already. Even better is that, once we hit the top five or so, we get into games that are some of the best of this entire console generation, period.
For this list, we wanted to stick with true Switch exclusives, meaning games that weren't currently available for any other platform. In addition, we left off the "deluxe" Switch versions of Wii U games, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, even if they added a fair amount of new content. An enhanced port is still ultimately just a port.
Where will Yoshi's Crafted World fit into this list when it releases on March 29th? Let us know where you'd fit it in once you've checked it out! We have a feeling that there are going to be a couple of Switch exclusives hitting in the coming months that'll have to be plugged pretty high into the next ranking we do like this.
26 Vroom In The Night Sky
For the most part, we seem to be past the days of broken, unfinished games released day-and-date with a new system that needed to make launch day. But it's definitely not a trend that has been completely bucked, as evidenced by one of the worst examples of it in recent memory: Vroom in the Night Sky.
Even under normal circumstances, you should never be duped into buying a game as bad as Vroom just because you need stuff to play on your new console. But with Breathe of the Wild available, there really was zero reason to bother.
25 Flip Wars
Flip Wars doesn't just sound like the name of a real estate-based reality show...it actually is. So how a game was able to be created with the exact same title and no lawyers got involved is a mystery. That said, when dealing with a game as completely unremarkable as Flip Wars, it's probably not even worth the lawsuit since nobody played the game anyway.
The Switch has no shortage of decent puzzle games, and unless you're somehow already completely bored of the dozen or so better ones, then just flip right on past this war.
24 Dark Witch Music Episode: Rudymical
Apparently, The Legend of Dark Witch is a video series that already has a couple of installments on the 3DS, Vita, and PC. Who knew? Certainly not us... but we appreciate a good rhythm game so we decided to give the awkwardly-titled latest installment Dark Witch Music Episode: Rudymical a shot.
How are we feeling about the Dark Witch franchise now? Eh. This bland, uninspiring music game with completely forgettable music certainly hasn't made us fans. So, unless you're one of the handful of people in the world who are self-described "Dark Witch fans," don't bother.
23 Soccer Slammers
Released to coincide with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Soccer Slammers is soccer— and sorry, European readers, but we're calling it soccer since that's the title of the game— extremely simplified and aimed at younger gamers.
An arcade-style soccer game in and of itself isn't a terrible idea— and Soccer Slammers has brief glimpses of the fun game it could've been. But it just never really comes together, and the visual style alone will probably turn off anyone above the age of 6.
22 Fitness Boxing
Wii Fit remains one of the best-selling non-pack-in games of all time— especially impressive given that it cost a hundred bucks with the bundled Wii Balance Board. The game was so popular that its trainer even became a full-fledged Super Smash Bros. character.
Nintendo has spent the last seven years trying to recapture that success, but they've never really gotten there. Their latest attempt, Fitness Boxing, feels stuck between being an exercise program and a boxing game, not quite nailing either one. That said, it's the best fitness game available for Switch so far.
21 Picross S/Picross S2
Nonograms are grid-based logic puzzles that have their roots in puzzle magazines, but it's hard to deny that their more famous form are the video game variations that most commonly go by the name Picross. Most people got their first exposure to Picross via the 1995 Game Boy Game Mario's Picross, and Nintendo has continued to release various Picross games over the years.
The most recent, a pair of Picross games for the Switch, don't do much to drastically shake up the formula— but for fans of previous Picross games or logic puzzles in general, they're worth checking out.
20 Taiko No Tatsujin: Drum 'N' Fun!
Though the genre kind of flamed out with mainstream audiences after Rock Band and Guitar Hero over-saturated the market, rhythm games have remained a strong niche with a lot of fans and some really interesting releases over the years.
Some classic rhythm games have made comebacks recently, including Namco's drum-based Taiko franchise— whose gameplay will be familiar to anyone who played the similar Donkey Konga. This Switch-exclusive installment lacks a drum controller but retains most of the fun and charm the series is known for.
Though it's a well-worn argument at this point, it's still worth repeating yet again that 1-2-Switch should've came bundled with the Switch as it seems to be in the tradition of Wii Sports and Nintendo Land.
If Nintendo didn't want to give 1-2-Switch away for free, fine, but they could've at least made it a little less than the typical Switch game— charging the same for this and Breath of the Wild is absurd.
All that said, 1-2-Switch is a fun party game and is worth buying— if you get a good deal on it.
18 Nintendo Labo
Technically, Nintendo Labo isn't strictly a game in and of itself but a series of games that share the premise of needing to be played with cardboard accessories that you have to build yourself— but we still felt that they could all be lumped together for purposes of this type of list.
Yes, it seems ridiculous having to literally pay for cardboard. But if you can look past that— and realize it is actually geared more towards children— you'll see that Labo is a really neat idea that translates to some really fun and unique gaming experiences.
Aside from an extremely generic name that has terrible SEO, a lot of people dismissed Arms after its early trailers for looking too simplistic. Arms is the kind of game that people play for ten minutes, think they've seen all there is to see, and deride it as such— but there's more to it if you put in the time.
Simply spamming punches in Arms isn't the point, and betrays what is actually a deeper fighting system heavy on throws, counters, and environmental attacks. Street Fighter it isn't, but worth playing it definitely is.
16 Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
Although the original No More Heroes got a disappointing PS3 port, the franchise largely belongs to Nintendo. No More Heroes was also one of the rare decent-selling third-party Wii games that wasn't a cheap party game collection or Just Dance, so it's nice that Nintendo brought it back again for the Switch.
Travis Strikes Again isn't as good as the previous two games, but it's still a blast and is a must-play for Switch owners who like a good, over-the-top action game (especially if they don't own a console that has Devil Mat Cry 5.)
15 Fast RMX
Fans have been clamoring for a new F-Zero game for over a decade now, and it doesn't look like Nintendo is interested in giving us one— the F-Zero track in Mario Kart 8 is probably the best we're going to get any time soon.
But fans of that series who haven't checked out Fast Racing Neo for Wii U or its Switch sequel, Fast RMX, are missing out, as it comes awfully close to F-Zero's look, feel, and even quality. Unless you absolutely need to be Captain Falcon, Fast RMX should scratch your F-Zero itch just fine.
14 Kirby Star Allies
After a disappointing Wii U entry, the Kirby franchise had to redeem itself a bit with its Switch debut— and we're happy to report that Kirby Star Allies rose to the challenge, being one of the best Kirby games in years.
In particular, Star Allies has an actual co-op mode rather than just relegating the other three players to being Kirby's assistants like in Rainbow Curse. Where Star Allies really excels is in the way it has players combining powers in interesting ways to solve puzzles, a feature not really utilized fully since the underrated Kirby 64.
While Kamiko may look like a Zelda-inspired adventure at first glance, don't be fooled— the game is very fast-paced action game that feels more like the arcade games of the era that gave birth to Link.
There is definitely some light puzzle-solving as well as character progression to be had in Kamiko, so it's far from a mindless hack-n-slash. And the art style feels just different enough from the many, many "8-bit-inspired" games available these days. Kamiko sometimes gets lost in the eShop shuffle, and that's too bad, because it deserves more attention.
12 Mario Tennis Aces
Mario Tennis for Nintendo 64 was the first dedicated sports game to star Mario and company, and it led to Nintendo taking its legendary stable of characters and putting them on golf courses, soccer fields, basketball courts, hockey rinks, and more.
The Mario sports games have definitely been inconsistent quality-wise, and the Wii U offerings were particularly disappointing. But Mario went back to his sports roots recently for Mario Tennis Aces, one of his best sports titles ever. It even brings a story mode into the mix, a feature that is largely only featured in portable Mario sports titles.
One key component of a well-rounded console library is a great exclusive puzzle game, and the Switch had one of those right out of the gate with the inventive Snipperclips.
Teaming up with up to three friends— and you should never bother trying to play the game solo because it's just not built for that— and trying to cut each other into the right shapes to solve the puzzles is one of the most entertaining local multiplayer experiences of this console generation. Every Switch owner with other gamers in the house should own this game.
10 Ultra Street Fighter II
Of all the games on this list, Ultra Street Fighter II is the iffiest in terms of it being classifiable as an "exclusive." But, as no other platform has this particular permutation of SFII— including the characters Evil Ryu, Violent Ken, and Shin Akuma, who have never before appeared in a mainline SF game— we felt it was fair to let the Switch claim it as its own.
Sure, the game's biggest addition— the first-person Way of the Hado mode— is terrible. But the main game is a solid installment of one of the greatest games of all time.
9 Super Mario Party
Mario Party has been one of Nintendo's most prolific series, with eleven main installments in just twenty years plus another half-dozen side-games and spin-offs. And it's also one of its most reliable, with some entries better than others but all of them guaranteeing months of multiplayer fun.
The big knock against Super Mario Party its small number of boards— but it makes up for that in more modes than any single installment has ever had. The new co-op river rafting mode is a highlight, as is the character-specific dice that actually makes each character unique for the first time.
8 Octopath Traveler
Imagine a world where fully-3D games never happened, but the video game industry still soldiered on into the 2010s. Square Enix apparently has— and it decided that, in that alternate timeline, the games of today would probably look something like Octopath Traveler.
In addition to its striking old-school-with-a-modern-twist art style, Octopath also assumes that JRPG mechanics never evolved past the 16-bit era— and if you read that as a compliment rather than a criticism, then you should already be playing this game.
7 Golf Story
Mario Golf and Mario Tennis for the Game Boy Color remain fan favorites in their respective franchises to this day, in large part because of the great story modes contained within them that have you play a light RPG with all the trappings in between matches.
Golf Story takes that conceit and tips the balance more towards RPG than golf game, and it is not only one of the best golf games around but is honestly one of the best RPGs around as well. Even if you think you hate video game golf, don't overlook this gem.
6 Splatoon 2
Some people dismissed Splatoon 2 as more of the same, saying it might as well have just been called "Splatoon Deluxe." But those people probably didn't put any time into the game to see all the ways it is different from— and better than— its predecessor.
The much-improved story mode is one of the biggest improvements from Splatoon, actually more than just a thinly-veiled training mode this time. And the new weapons and multiplayer modes go a long way in making for a better and more robust overall package.
5 Tetris 99
Nintendo loves to do surprise announcements during its Nintendo Directs and reveal games that are available immediately— and one of the best examples of that was the reveal of the free-to-play (for Switch Online subscribers) Tetris 99 that debuted during the February Direct. NES games are nice— but this right here is the best reason to pay for a year of Switch Online.
The Battle Royale formula might overdone, but applied to Tetris, it's a brilliant twist on a classic— but long-in-the-tooth— gameplay experience. Best of all, it truly is 100% free— not a microtransaction in sight!
4 Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Whenever a Nintendo console launches without a new Mario game, we all sit and wait as patiently as we can for Nintendo to finally reveal what form the first Mario game for that console is going to be. When our first glimpse of a Switch Mario game also featured Ubisoft's Rabbids... the collective groan was deafening.
Still, we gave Mario + Rabbids a chance, and instantly ate our skepticism as we found it to be a surprisingly robust strategy game that isn't nearly as dumbed-down or "kid friendly" as you might expect a Mario-branded strategy game to be. And that's a good thing.
3 Xenoblade Chronicles 2
All the people who ragged on the Wii for only being for casuals, kids, and grandmas obviously weren't paying attention, as the console was home to many games that were right up the allies of the hardest of the hardcore gamer.
Among the Wii's best defenses against accusations that it had abandoned "real gamers" was Xenoblade Chronicles, which gets its second sequel on the Switch. Returning to a more story-driven focus after Xeno X went the open-world route, Chronicles 2 is one of the best console RPGs of the last five years.
2 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
To a lot of gamers, the Super Smash Bros. series has become the signature first-party Nintendo franchise, even moreso than Mario or Zelda. With that in mind, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is one of the biggest games Nintendo has ever made.
Collecting literally every single character that has ever been in a Smash Bros. game— plus new additions— the roster alone makes Ultimate live up to its name. But the expansive new story mode, numerous gameplay tweaks, and other additions only further hammer that point home. Has Melee finally been topped?
1 Super Mario Odyssey
After Super Mario Sunshine, the 3D Mario games began to lean back into the linearity of the 2D installments— up to Super Mario 3D Land and World actually featuring previous 2D-only trademarks like flagpoles and the growing/shrinking mechanic.
After over a decade, Nintendo finally returned to the more open, exploratory vibe of its early 3D Mario games with Super Mario Odyssey, feeling like the third part of the trilogy that began with Mario 64 and Sunshine. All nostalgia aside, a strong case can be made for Odyssey being the best 3D Mario of all time.