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The first 5 Nintendo Switch games you should play

Animal crossing game popular Nintendo switch with joy controllers family friend activity playing together.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Nintendo Switch is a bit older than the PS5 or Xbox Series X, and not quite as powerful. But it does have one big advantage over the next-gen consoles: You can actually find one. Whether you want the base model Switch, the Nintendo Switch Lite or the Nintendo Switch OLED, your odds of getting one are pretty good.

In fact, perhaps you’ve just received a Nintendo Switch for the holidays. (If you got one for yourself, no judgments here.) The Switch has a huge library: more than 4,000 games. Building your library from scratch can feel a little intimidating. In this piece, I’d like to personally recommend five games across a variety of genres.

These aren’t simply the “best-of-the-best” Switch games — you can check our best Nintendo Switch games piece for those. Instead, these games represent an interesting cross-section of what Nintendo’s clever hybrid console can accomplish when it’s firing on all cylinders.

If you’re still looking for where to buy the Nintendo Switch online, Tom’s Guide can help out with that, too. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild feature image

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The rest of this list is alphabetical, but I absolutely had to put The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as the first entry. Breath of the Wild isn’t just the best game on the Switch; it’s one of the best games of the past decade. This open-world action/adventure game channels the same sense of adventure, exploration and discovery as the very first Zelda game back on the NES.

This time around, Link awakens after 100 years in suspended animation, and must explore the vast realm of Hyrule to regain his powers and discover what happened in his first quest to stop the evil Calamity Ganon. With a beautiful art style, tight gameplay and a gripping story, Breath of the Wild is simply a must-have for every Switch owner.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

A screenshot from animal crossing new horizons, showing a player stood in the center of their early game camp

(Image credit: Nintendo)

When it debuted in 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons singlehandedly kept a whole contingent of gamers safe and sane during the early stages of a global pandemic. Aside from being an impromptu public health measure, though, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is simply a chill simulation, where you can pursue your own goals, at your own pace. You can build and customize your own house, get to know your neighbors, collect bugs and fossils and even connect with your friends to explore their digital homes. There’s no defined endpoint, so New Horizons isn’t for everyone. But it’s a relaxing time for as long as it holds your interest.

Hades

A screenshot from Hades, showing player character Zagreus attacking a group of enemies

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Hades is a tough-as-nails rogue-lite, in which you’ll die over and over again as you scrape together just enough resources to give you a slight advantage on your next run. But wait! Before you run screaming for the next entry, Hades isn’t simply a brutal challenge; it’s also a clever take on Greek mythology, with tons of ways to optimize your character to suit your playstyle. Zagreus, prince of Hell, wishes to break free of his titular father’s domain.

Just like the best Greek myths, it’s a tale you’ll hear again and again, but it’ll be a bit different each time, as Zagreus learns a little more about the game’s intriguing story in each playthrough. It’s one of those games you’ve simply got to try for yourself.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

(Image credit: Nintendo)

A lot of Switch systems come bundled with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, so there’s a good chance that you already own this popular racing game. If you’ve ever played a Mario Kart game before, you know what to expect. You pick a popular Nintendo character, race against a bunch of other Nintendo characters, and hurl your controller clear into the next galaxy when an errant blue shell torpedoes your well-earned first-place victory.

Still, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a ton of fun in multiplayer, and has some welcome accessibility options, which can help younger players keep up with the older, more competitive set. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is also a good way to show off the Switch’s impromptu multiplayer features.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is one of those games that sort of came and went, which is unfortunate. While it falls just shy of greatness, it’s exactly the game that Marvel fans had been craving for years. Like the first two Ultimate Alliance games, UA3 is a hack-and-slash action/RPG in which you create a team of your favorite Marvel superheroes, then guide them through an original story to save the world from a fan-favorite villain — Thanos, this time around.

The Marvel machine’s popularity isn’t going to wane anytime soon. Statistically speaking, if you’re reading this, you’re probably at least a marginal fan of The Avengers, the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy or the Spider-Man team, all of whom are recruitable characters here.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.