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DualShockers Definitives — The Top 10 Essential Nintendo Switch Games

DualShockers ranks the Top 10 essential games for every Nintendo Switch owner in the DualShockers Definitive series. Did your favorite make it?

Welcome to the first official Nintendo Switch DualShockers Definitives list! This week has been a hard one for DualShockers staff, thanks to much arguing and nit-picking over which games in the amazing Nintendo Switch library make the Top 10.

If you missed the original post, here is a quick TLDR on what this is all about:

The DualShockers Definitives series is a living list, updated seasonally, where we hash out which ten essential games are must-buys for each platform — the ones we would put in a time capsule today if we were making one. The list is intended to grow over time as new releases take the spotlight or older games age like fine wine.

With all of the introduction out of the way, here are the Top 10 Essential games for the Nintendo Switch (as of Fall 2020):

10. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition

Though Dragon Quest XI may have gotten the bump off the Top 10 PS4 games this year, it makes a fresh-faced appearance on the Nintendo Switch Top 10. And for good reason — Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (despite the extravagant title) is the best version of this game on the market. Though late to the game compared to its 2018 release on other major consoles, the Nintendo Switch version adds refinements to the game’s established equation and a fantastic 2D mode that harkens back to the series’ heyday.

Check out the review of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition; you can purchase the game physically on Amazon.

9. Dead Cells

Speaking of satisfying pick-up-and-play goodness, no game hits that handheld market better than Dead Cells. A procedurally generated 2D action platformer, Dead Cells merges a lot of amazing CastlevaniaMetroid, and Ori and the Blind Forest-like mechanics in one satisfying package. Tight gameplay shines through, and you can easily spend dozens of hours getting lost and perfecting the art of speedrunning through the game’s campaign.

Check out the DualShockers review of Dead Cells; you can grab the game physically via Amazon.


8. Hollow Knight

Despite being one of the earliest Metroidvanias from this generation, Hollow Knight has only gotten better with age. Developed from a Kickstarter project from Team Cherry, the game picked up a massive cult following over complex and interesting tweaks to the genre. With a distinct combat style and harder difficulty pacing, this game is a challenge — but one everyone with a Nintendo Switch should take.

You can grab Hollow Knight physically via Amazon.

7. Luigi’s Mansion 3

While this is only our third Luigi’s Mansion game in nearly 20 years, a rarity for most of Nintendo’s other franchises, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an experience that easily justifies the long wait since Dark Moon. This full-fledged sequel delivers on just about every aspect from gameplay, to visuals, and especially to giving players a well-crafted, spooky adventure of puzzle-solving and exploration. Though I hope we get a return trip to the series sometime sooner rather than later, Luigi’s Mansion 3 shows better than ever that Luigi is more than capable of carrying his own game, even one that’s meant to give us happiness at his expense.

Check out the review of Luigi’s Mansion 3the game is available physically via Amazon.

6. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Another entry from 2019, Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes the established tactical RPG series and polishes it to near perfection. With many arguing that this will be the Persona 5 to the Fire Emblem series, it is a must-play for anyone with a Nintendo Switch — even if this is your first time dipping into a notoriously inaccessible genre. With excellent gameplay and an engrossing story, the title is a GotY contender and a clear cut example of a Nintendo Switch definitive.

Check out the review of Fire Emblem: Three Housesthe game is available physically via Amazon.

5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

To some extent, no game collection for any Nintendo console is complete without an Animal Crossing game. Thankfully, Animal Crossing: New Horizons seems to be the best of the bunch — a perfect entry point to new and veteran gamers, and one of the most adopted games for anyone with the hardware. This is a game that must be on your shortlist… even if you abandon your island after the first month.

Check out the DualShockers review of Animal Crossing: New Horizonsthe game is available physically via Amazon.

4. Super Mario Odyssey

With the two tent-pole games topping the list, Super Mario Odyssey takes a close third to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s undisputed among fans of the game and critics that Super Mario Odyssey is one of (if not the) best 3D Mario to date, a tough crowd when considering Super Mario 64 and the Super Mario Galaxy series. Thanks to the innovative Cappy-possession mechanic, players are still uncovering gameplay secrets to this day.

Check out the DualShockers review of Super Mario Odysseythe game is available physically via Amazon.

3. Hades

Hades is the latest and arguably finest entry in developer Supergiant’s pantheon of exceptional video games. It’s absolutely the most gameplay-focused and content-rich experience in their portfolio, and we’ve practically never found a dull moment within it. With the game being a clear favorite for 2020 Game of the Year, we will have to see how this fares as it ages.

Check out the DualShockers review of Hadesthe game is available digitally via the Nintendo eShop.

2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

It should be no surprise that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has carved out a spot on the list. Whether you argue on either side of “Is Smash Bros. a fighting game?” debate, it is unquestionably the pinnacle party game for Nintendo Switch and the best handheld version on the market. Whether this phases out the legacy of Melee has yet to be seen, however we know that this title alone will keep the Nintendo Switch next to the TV well beyond this generation.

Check out the review for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; you can grab the game physically on Amazon.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The final game to top the list was Nintendo Switch’s first: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A game as visually striking as it is imaginative, Nintendo listened to fans when they said they wanted a more directionless approach. The result is a return to form for the amazing The Legend of Zelda series, as we explore creative gameplay design not touched by the series in some time.

Check out the DualShockers review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; the game is available physically via Amazon.

As it stands, that is our current DualShockers Definitives ranking of the Top 10 games for Nintendo Switch; for an extended rankings chart, make sure to check out our dedicated page.

Changes to the List

November 6, 2020: Mario Kart Deluxe (11th), Tetris 99 (12th), Astral Chain (15th), and The Messenger (16th) fall out of the Top 10 list, and onto the Extended listHades (3rd), Animal Crossing: New Horizons (5th), and Luigi’s Mansion 3 (7th) are new additions to the list.

Super Mario Odyssey has moved down the list to 4th (from 3rd); Fire Emblem: Three Houses has moved down the list to 6th (from 4th); Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition has moved down the list to 10th (from 9th).

Hollow Knight has moved up the list to 8th (from 15th); Dead Cells has moved up the list to 9th (from 10th).

November 1, 2019: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2nd), Fire Emblem: Three Houses (4th), Astral Chain (6th), Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (7th), and Tetris 99 (9th) are newcomers to the list. Super Mario Odyssey got bumped from 2nd to 3rd. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe got bumped from 4th to 5th. The Messenger advanced from 11th place to 8th. Dead Cells got bumped to 10th.

Celeste (12th), Splatoon 2 (13th), Stardew Valley (13th), Octopath Traveller (16th), Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (18th), and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (19th) all got bumped from the Top 10 list.

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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