With today’s news of a brand new Switch model on the horizon, we thought it would be a nice time to tell prospective Switch purchasers, as well as longtime fans looking for something new, about eight Switch exclusives that will eat up a ton of your time. We always want the best bang for our buck, right? And while there’s something to be said for great games we can finish in a matter of hours, with video games being so expensive these days it’s a good idea to have some long-running backups on hand. These are our picks for eight of the best Switch games sure to keep you company for weeks, months, or even years.
Shall we begin this lengthy journey?
8. New Pokémon Snap
Lapsed Poké-fans and Pokémon Masters alike are sure to find something to love in New Pokémon Snap, a recent spinoff of the multibillion-dollar franchise that for some of us feels like a 22-year dream come true. And not for no reason. The original Pokémon Snap gathered quite the following when it released for the Nintendo 64 way back in 1999, but its slim roster of photographable creatures has made the wait for a sequel all the more unbearable. By the time it was finally announced, I rather doubt many of us believed it was ever going to happen.
But happen it has, and boy, is it fun! New Pokémon Snap combines a plethora of Pokémon with the sort of high-tech camera gear you’d expect to find over two decades after its predecessor. The gameplay is largely an “on-rails” experience; players have a limited window of opportunity to photograph their findings as they tour a specific area in the Lental Region. (Not Lentil Region, mind you. Evidently, it’s one thing for Game Freak to make an island sound like a legume, but another thing entirely to spell it as such.)
Routes are diverse enough as-is, with tons of secrets to uncover, but you’ll be able to explore some both during the daytime and at night. I don’t want to give too much of the game’s magic away, but my file is already well over 60 hours, securing this a role among the eight Switch exclusives to make the cut today.
If New Pokémon Snap is right up your alley, Pokémon Sword & Shield are sure to last you even longer. But I wanted to bring attention to a game in the franchise that’s perhaps a bit overlooked by comparison. Now, if the list wasn’t “eight Switch exclusives,” but ten, or perhaps twelve… well, there’d be a lot more Pikachu involved.
7. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
For those who don’t often tango with the JRPG genre, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition protagonist Shulk might be another example of “one of those Super Smash Bros. characters I’ve never heard of; where’s Waluigi already?” And while Waluigi’s continued omission from that game is indeed frustrating, allow me to introduce you to the game that Shulk emerged from.
Put simply, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is a high-definition remaster of the cult Wii classic with significant quality-of-life improvements and even a brand new epilogue quest. Put succinctly, it’s one of the best Switch games money can buy. The story starts out deceptively trite; the lead characters are young do-gooders subjected to an early tragedy who thereafter embark on a vengeful journey. It’s the twists and turns along the way, as well as the shocking truth behind the world they live in, that makes Xenoblade‘s plot so good.
But most of all, it’s Xenoblade‘s open-world exploration that makes it so memorable. Each region of the giant robot you traverse (oh yeah, you traverse a giant robot that’s hundreds of miles in diameter, by the way) is a sprawling biome full of secrets to unravel and incredible music to rock along to.
Should you find yourself a fan, be sure to pick up Xenoblade Chronicles 2 once you’re done. Our list covers a mere eight games that will last you a long time, but you can be certain the sequel is a Switch exclusive that’s just as time-consuming.
6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Even as I type, I can still hear the vroom of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s plentiful karts (and motorbikes!) twisting and turning down sprawling speedways. The sound of red shells slamming into me seconds from a first-place finish — that, too, rings hotly in my ears.
Despite its initial version being a generation behind, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe nonetheless bedazzles with some of the most eye-catching graphics the Nintendo Switch has to offer. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, and it runs at a silky smooth frame rate sure to satisfy the more hardcore sorts. But what makes the game so glorious is its pitch-perfect play.
There’s nothing like gathering around the living room TV with your loved ones, fighting each other for who gets the Switch Pro controllers and who gets stuck with the Joy-Cons instead (it’s always a wonderful revelation when someone tells me they actually prefer the Joy-Cons).
Did you know you can rev your engines once the 3-2-1 countdown strikes 2 for an early speed boost? Honestly, with so many copies of the game that have sold (and continue to sell…), there’s a pretty solid chance you did. But that won’t stop at least somebody at your next party from crying foul when everyone else knows but them. Once you’re off to the races, the mayhem of tight turns and terrifying items begins.
There’s variety, too. The battle modes are filled with balloon popping and shine-stealing. The various circuits range from simple to absolutely bonkers. I reckon there’s enough here to nix this whole “eight Switch exclusives” scene and pen a piece like “Mario Kart 8 Best Things to Do.” Not only is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a brilliant Switch game, but it’s also sure to last your family dozens of hours and more.
5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Do you like strategy RPGs? Fire Emblem: Three Houses may be for you. Do you enjoy helping fresh-faced characters grow from mere school students to hardened men and women? Fire Emblem: Three Houses may be for you. Do you like angsty men who have lost an eye in a deadly war? Fire Emblem: Three Houses is definitely for you, and also, you have very specific tastes.
At the heart of Intelligent Systems’ latest in a long line of Fire Emblem games is its ability to provide multiple playthroughs without ever feeling majorly stale. While it can be argued that going through its school-side half repeatedly is something of a chore, the second half of each of the three routes’ stories is always diverse enough, and thrilling enough, to be worth the push. (Rumor has it there is in fact the fourth route as well, though I shall neither confirm nor deny such claims.)
Each of these routes tasks silent hero-or-heroine Byleth to deal directly with one of three house leaders whose families vie for control of a massive kingdom. While the battles are increasingly sharp and tactically savvy as the game goes on, and the rich customization options are fun in their own right, Fire Emblem: Three Houses‘ ace card is its cast.
There are few duds among the forty-odd playable characters and nearly everybody goes through a compelling character arc in at least one of the available routes. Three Houses is one of the eight Switch exclusives most worthy of your weeks today not only because it brings an aged franchise to new heights both financially and qualitatively, but also because Edelgard is the best character in 2019 gaming. Just wait and see.
4. Monster Hunter Rise
If you’d asked me four months ago what my favorite monster-hunting experience is like in gaming, I’d have told you it’s dragon-slaying in Dragon Age: Inquisition. And while I stand by the fairness of Inquisition winning 2014’s Game Awards GOTY no matter how loudly folks insist it’s not that great, I must concede that I have a new favorite monster-hunting premium package.
Monster Hunter fans from more recently than this calendar year probably blinked at that first sentence and wondered if I’ve ever even played a Monster Hunter. And the answer, up until Monster Hunter Rise, would be no! To be candid, they’ve always scared the heck out of me. They just seem relentlessly tough. I’m not sure if Rise is perhaps a bit easier than some past installments or if I quickly learned to stop worrying and love the pain, but either way, I have well over 100 hours on my file? And I keep logging in as if my life depends upon my doing so?
Several of the eight Switch exclusives on here are “fun for the whole family” fare, and I’m not sure dear grandma and four-year-old Tommy will get much mileage out of Monster Hunter Rise. But for all sorts of ages in-between, this is a bloody good time with rope-gliding, talking cats, brave companions, and a rich cast of vicious monsters that will have you pumped for action.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Hundreds of lists on the internet reserve their #1 spot for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and not just lists about the best Switch games that will last you a good long time. It’s on oddly specific lists about exactly eight Switch exclusives, lists about the best Switch games period, and even lofty lists of the best games ever made. In all those respects and more, Link’s 2017 epic adventure is a worthy contender.
What is it about Breath of the Wild that makes it so hard to put down? I can think of a hundred reasons, but ultimately it boils down to the world. The ruined, post-apocalyptic Hyrule is, perhaps ironically, the most intriguing and in-depth depiction of the celebrated fictional setting that the Zelda series has ever had. From the grassy fields of central Hyrule to the scorched Goron realm near Death Mountain; across the cool rivers of the Zora domain and over the blistering badlands the Gerudo call home; from the frozen highlands with their hidden passageways to the Ruto in the skies above. All of it is masterful.
Of course, there’s more to love than just prancing across the countryside. Link’s innovatively physics-defying abilities, for example, are the key to countless clever puzzles strewn throughout the land’s 120 (!) shrines. Every settlement is full of life, with quirky sorts of characters The Legend of Zelda is known for doing their best to survive in a tough world. Find and tame a horse if you’d like, or put your bow-and-arrow skills to the ultimate test. Along the way, don’t be surprised if the game’s short yet sweet narrative beats leave you in tears.
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Is there any game more chill than Animal Crossing: New Horizons? Maybe another Animal Crossing I’m less familiar with, or perhaps the lovely Stardew Valley. But the candidates are few, and for my money, the answer is this one right here.
Arriving at the exact best time to maximize not only its sales but its cultural impact as well, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has helped keep folks sane throughout the majority of the COVID-19 epidemic. By nurturing a fantasy island community and constantly searching for fun ways to spruce up their houses, players can find entire days roll on past them. More meticulous fans will instead log in sporadically throughout 24-hour cycles, so as to arrive right when certain events await them. (New Horizons‘ world is in sync with our own, so when it’s nighttime for us, it’s nighttime for our fun-loving anthropomorphic animal friends. And yes, it feels a bit like jet lag when you depart your Eastern United States above to visit your Swedish friend’s cheery island.)
Entire households, each with their own New Horizons homes, have been known to congregate at one player’s island at a time. Wherefore? Well, why the heck not? You can host a barbecue, set up a pool party, get a live music performance going, smack each other with a bug-catching net… the possibilities are endless. If you build it, they will come. And if you don’t build it, they might just build it for you.
It’s been well over a year now since Animal Crossing: New Horizons first set sail. Many of us still play a few times a week. Some of my friends still play daily! Suffice it to say, our clocks are well within the three-digit range at this point. If just one of these eight Switch exclusives is on your radar, let it be the one that’ll last you for years. See Tom Nook for details.
1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate plays its hand well. It’s easy to think the average player won’t get a ton of mileage out of it. You boot up the Switch, click on the Smash icon, and go for a couple of rounds over drinks.
Not so. Most everyone I know agrees on one thing about this game — it pulls you in and doesn’t want to let you go. The thing about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is that “a couple of rounds” quickly becomes a couple dozen or more. Someone wants a rematch. Somebody else not-so-subtly blames the previous stage for their mishap. And then someone gets up to refill their beverage of choice, thereafter grumbling that the rest of the group went on without them. (To be fair, Mike, you were taking an awfully long time.)
Eventually, somebody has the wise idea to suggest you all put your skills to the test with a team-based tournament. Now it’s nearly two o’clock in the morning and you’re in bed, nearly asleep when a swoosh is overheard. Someone’s out in the living room still, “just getting ready to leave.” The fiend was attempting to dethrone your high score in Home-Run Contest.
That’s how Super Smash Bros. Ultimate gets you. Being one of the eight Switch exclusives to make the list, it was bound to take you for more than a few spins. But when your best friend has perfected Kirby and you feel an almost primal need to take them down, that’s not “a few spins.” That’s the complete domination of the human brain.