With the holiday season fast approaching, Nintendo Switch owners both new and old will want to know what games should be next on their most wanted lists. In the spirit of the season, we at Nintendo Enthusiast are here to help! Below is a list of games both new in 2020 and older games from years past that should be on your radar when purchasing a brand new Switch or Switch Lite. Existing Switch owners may have already experienced some of the older titles, but the new batch of games is just as worthy of your time. Take a look at our Nintendo Switch Holiday Buying Guide, and we bet your next favorite game is somewhere on this list.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The beloved life sim franchise’s newest entry skyrocketed up the sales charts in 2020, making it the second bestselling Switch game of all time within months of its release. It’s not hard to see why: The game’s light and breezy gameplay fits amazingly well in a deserted island setting, and the depth of customization this time around gives the player nearly infinite options for island-based activities. New Horizons is an absolute must-own.
One of PlatinumGames’ best action games is often overlooked, and that’s a crying shame. Astral Chain pairs fast-paced combat with awesome companions called Legion, all wrapped into a post-apocalyptic story with some shocking twists. If you’ve never heard of Astral Chain, now is the time to fix that.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
$24.99 on Nintendo Switch eShop
When old-school Nintendo fans hear “Paper Mario” they have visions of the first two games in the series, the traditional turn-based RPGs that differ greatly from the paper plumber’s adventures now (though his most recent outing is great too). Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, an indie title from a small Panamanian studio, attempts to recapture that throwback Paper Mario magic and does a fantastic job of it. The game plays exactly like those older games in all of the best ways, proving that the old formula still has legs in 2020. Don’t buzz past Bug Fables; it’s a game destined to surprise a lot of people.
$19.99 on Nintendo Switch eShop
Here’s a real high-class game! Cuphead’s classic cartoon visual style may make it seem like it’s for the younger crowd, but the incredible challenge both in its boss battles and side-scrolling was tailor-made for the longtime hardcore player. Also, the soundtrack includes some of the best game music in the last decade, so you’ll be tapping your toes as often as the buttons on the controller. Give Cuphead a go — it’s a great slam and then some! This should be a staple of not just our Nintendo Switch Holiday Buying Guide, but all game buying guides.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
A tragic tale of three factions destined for war, Fire Emblem: Three Houses continues the series’s tradition of top-notch strategy gameplay and incredible storytelling. Each of the three allegiances holds endearing characters, interesting sub-plots that arch over the main tale, and the trademark turn-based strategy gameplay that made Fire Emblem famous. Three Houses is the evolution of Fire Emblem and a must-play for everyone that owns a Switch.
$14.99 on Nintendo Switch eShop
An RPG about golf sounds like an impossible dream, but Golf Story proves it can not only be done, but it can be amazing to boot. Mixing traditional golf with RPG elements like leveling up and stat boosts works wonderfully, and the compelling story told throughout keeps bringing us back to the links. Golf Story will likely not be on many people’s radar this year, but it absolutely should be.
$24.99 on Nintendo Switch eShop
Supergiant Games has created a reputation for amazing indie titles, but Hades is far and away the studio’s greatest work. Amazing combat in a roguelike setting where no two playthroughs are alike, an eclectic cast of characters, and multiple endings will keep you coming back for more even when you think there’s nothing left to do. Being a digital exclusive means some more casual players might not have even heard of it, but Hades is absolutely worthy of every player’s time and well worth its place in this Nintendo Switch Holiday Buying Guide.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
This game answers the question, “What if we took that huge open world from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and, instead of slowly adventuring at our own pace, we just tore through it and thousands of enemies along the way?” Age of Calamity’s tried-and-true Musou formula works in BotW’s version of Hyrule, giving us an insight into what caused the Calamity in the first place. Plus, slashing through dozens of enemies with one attack is an adrenaline rush few other games can mimic.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Immortals: Fenyx Rising takes the open-world formula of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and streamlines it, creating a sandbox game that gives the player freedom without overwhelming them. Combat is fun, the different tools of the gods are cool, and the Greek lore that roots the game is super interesting. One might think on a console with Breath of the Wild that Immortals Fenyx Rising might get passed by, but doing so would sell this brilliant Ubisoft game short.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Epic. The word gets thrown around a lot today, but a game worthy of the term’s true meaning is hard to come by. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one such game, turning Hyrule into a seemingly endless world of fields, deserts, oceans, and mountaintops and allowing the player to seek their own adventure within the first hour. Breath of the Wild is unlike any other game in the franchise before it, and it’s made the entire Zelda series better for it. It will never not be on a Nintendo Switch Holiday Buying Guide.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
$59.99 at retailers and Nintendo Switch eShop
Link’s original handheld entry on Game Boy remains one of the greatest Game Boy games ever released, and developer Grezzo upgraded the game for the modern day on Nintendo Switch to astounding effect. It is truly one of the most beautiful games ever made, yet it is also one of the most faithful remakes ever made. Everything about Link’s Awakening seems designed to delight players young and old, with an adventure that is full of twists and turns and dungeons with clever twists. We can only hope there is more in store where this title came from.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi’s Mansion 3 once again puts everyone’s favorite sidekick in the spotlight, dropping him into a haunted hotel to deal with all kinds of paranormal peril. This time he’s able to create a clone out of green goo, which opens the game up for some truly mind-bending puzzles to solve. Offering plenty of smiles, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a spooky, silly adventure that people of all ages can enjoy.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to be one of the best games in the Switch’s library despite being nearly as old (older, in a sense) as the console itself. This game comes as close as possible to perfecting the go-kart racing format, with clever track designs and hundreds of customization options that make every racer feel unique. The entire family can enjoy what Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings to the Switch, making it an essential piece of the console’s library.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
$29.99 on Nintendo Switch eShop
Ori and the Will of the Wisps brings back the tight Metroidvania experience of the first game but expands on it greatly, implementing new combat abilities and a brand new map brimming with life. Like the previous game, this one can be a challenge, but the game’s lack of punishment means you can try as many times as you need. All of this surrounds a beautifully told tale as Ori fights to rescue his small owl friend Ku from Shriek, a vicious terror in the skies. This is one that should be played as soon as possible.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
The largest Pokémon adventure ever made, Pokémon Sword and Shield introduces players to a new region, new Pokémon, and new ways to battle. The Wild Area in particular makes the experience great, its wide-open space allowing the player to find and catch Pokémon in multiple ways. Couple this with the two downloadable content packs, The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, included in the Expansion Pass ($29.99), and Pokémon trainers of any age will be exploring this new region for years to come.
While Nintendo’s signature Splatfest is tons of fun in its own right, Splatoon 2 also gives parents a family-friendly online option for their kids. The paint-based gunplay keeps the focus less on eliminating other players and more on teamwork, and the different customization options and weapon choices will let kids bring out their own sense of style. If your child is begging for a game to play online with some friends, Splatoon 2 is a clear choice.
Super Mario Odyssey
Take the 3D platforming Super Mario games like Sunshine or Galaxy and stuff them with as many worlds, activities, and characters as possible, and the result would be Super Mario Odyssey. Practically a thousand Power Moons scattered throughout the game, amazing worlds like the urban paradise of New Donk City, and epic boss battles like the dragon in the Ruined Kingdom make this the most grandiose Mario game ever made. This game should be at the top of the list for anyone who hasn’t already set out on this Odyssey.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Currently $53.95 at Walmart (normally $59.99)
Three classic Mario games in one package enhanced for the Nintendo Switch? What more can we say? Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy serve as an excellent reminder of Mario’s first foray into 3D platforming and matches well with his latest adventure, the aforementioned Super Mario Odyssey. Super Mario 3D All-Stars is a one-stop shop of fun for the Mario faithful.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is so unbelievably packed with content that it’s hard to know where to begin describing it. The roster will soon eclipse 80 characters thanks to the two Fighters Pass DLC bundles (Fighters Pass 1 $24.99, Fighters Pass Vol. 2 $29.99), and it includes some of the biggest names in gaming history, including the most recent addition of Steve from Minecraft. Gameplay is still fast and fun. The classic Smash Bros. format hasn’t changed much since the Nintendo 64 — it’s just now reached an unfathomable scale. For the Ultimate video game experience, look no further than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: $59.99 at retailers and Nintendo Switch eShop
The core Xenoblade saga (sorry Chronicles X, hopefully soon!) can now be experienced on Switch now that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition has launched. Hundreds of hours of RPG greatness await those who take the plunge, including the Torna expansion for Chronicles 2 (Expansion Pass $29.99 or purchasable standalone for $39.99). There’s a reason Wii owners fought hard for this series to come to the West from Japan in the early 2010s, and now you can play it wherever and whenever you want.
If you’re hoping to hunt down some additional last-second deals on games featured in this Nintendo Switch Holiday Buying Guide, check back regularly with Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart, and Target.