K S Lane is an avid fan of the Nintendo Switch and loves reviewing her favorite games.
Free games are always something to get excited about, especially when you're downloading them onto a platform as fantastic as the Nintendo Switch. However, the 'free' section of the Nintendo eShop is filled with a lot of pay-to-win style games, as well as some that are just downright disappointing.
Many would say that this low standard is just what you get when it comes to free games, but in reality, this couldn't be further from the truth! There are some really great free games hidden in the eShop, just waiting for you to unearth them.
To save you some time, this article lists 15 of the very best free Switch games out there. Every single game on this list is high-quality, functions beautifully on the console, and contain micro-transactions that are strictly optional, rather than being essential to progressing in the game. Some of these games are so fantastic that you'll be mind-blown that they're available for free!
1. Pokémon Quest
Pokémon Quest is a delight to play and is completely free to download. The game has you playing across an island of unique stages, all the while perfecting and customizing your team of Pokémon. This customization is one of the most unique aspects of the game, because players must assign their chosen Pokémon with power stones; colorful little talismans that can boost your Pokémon's attack, health, or modulate their special abilities.
The combat system is unique and differs from the main Pokémon titles. Instead of being in full control of your Pokémon, they move by themselves and auto-attack enemies. The player controls each Pokémon's special moves; high power attacks or buffs that are unique to each Pokémon. Special moves take a while to recharge, so the player needs to make sure that they're utilizing them at the correct moments, rather than just spamming them whenever they choose.
Between levels, players can capture new Pokémon by attracting them to their campsite. To do this, you need to cook up some of the ingredients earned during levels to make a stew that will entice some interesting new species.
One aspect of this game that might be a let-down for some people is that it requires a lot of grinding—going back and completing past stages in order to level your Pokémon up to tackle a new stage. If you enjoy these sort of games, where you have to work hard to keep playing, then the grind-heavy later stages might be a great bonus for you, but if you're just looking to play a quick, easy game then you might find yourself setting this title aside pretty quickly. Regardless, Pokémon Quest is a fantastic game and truly deserves the title of the best free Switch game.
2. Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter takes place in a post-apocalyptic universe, where the surface of the earth is irradiated and human beings must live underground to survive. The player is assigned as the overseer of their very own fallout shelter, dubbed a vault, and must take care of the nuclear survivors that stumble in.
You get to design and customize your new vault, all while trying to deliver a steady supply of electricity, food, and water to your dwellers. There are dozens of different rooms to build, from diners to supply food to your dwellers to weights rooms to help train up their strength. You can't just go building rooms as you please, however, because if you have too many you'll find yourself running out of power. Balancing the number of generator rooms you need with the number of other rooms you have is a fun challenge and helps to add depth to the game.
Aside from constructing your vault, there are hundreds of pieces of weapons and armor to craft or collect that you can equip your dwellers with. Armor is great for boosting your dweller's skill level, while weapons allow your dwellers to defend the vault from frequent attacks by bands of raiders or packs of deadly, mutated animals. Sending dwellers out to explore the wasteland offers the chance to collect more goodies, and completing 'quests' allows you to earn special, invaluable items.
Like most free games on the Switch, there are in-game purchasing options. But if you'd rather keep your experience free, these aren't at all necessary to play the game. Fallout Shelter is a great title to add to your collection and is incredibly broad and interesting, given that it's free to download.
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3. Rogue Company
Upon opening Rogue Company, you're immediately plunged into an awesome cut scene that really sets the scene for the rest of the game. Rogue Company is an innovative, funky, first-person shooter that manages to make a saturated genre feel fresh and new. You play as one of six rogues; characters with differing roles and special abilities, with the option to unlock more playable characters as you progress.
The player can choose from one of three game modes. In Demolition, you work in a team to either plant a bomb or defuse a bomb, all the while trying to kill off the members of the opposing team. In Extraction, you either fight to secure a randomly generated objective point or just throw yourself at the opposing team and try to kill them off as quickly as possible. In Strikeout, you have to kill the other team before they kill you, making sure not to run out of respawns before your opponents. All of the modes are 4v4.
Each game usually features several rounds, and between these rounds, you earn cash which you can use to upgrade your weapons. This is a great addition and helps to add to the sense of progress that the game gives you, even though all of your weapons are reset as soon as you begin another game. Each day, Rogue Company gives you a list of 'contracts' that you must fulfill. This includes missions like 'deal 10,000 damage' or 'win 5 matches' and gives players something to work towards.
Unfortunately, the waiting times for matches can be quite long, and the time that it takes to log into the game is tedious (for some reason, there's always a login queue). This is a little frustrating at times, but once you actually get into a game, the pay-off is definitely worth it. Rogue Company is a fantastic free switch game and an excellent addition to your game library.
4. Asphalt 9
Asphalt 9 is the only free racing game available on the Nintendo Switch, and it actually surpasses some of the paid titles available on the console.
Its basic game design is fairly simple; you race cars around a series of stages, aiming to get the fastest time in each one. The stages are all unique and feature anything from icy frozen roads to crazy jumps that help to boost your speed.
There are a huge number of unlockables to collect in Asphalt 9, including new cars and car parts. You also earn in-game currency after each race, which you can use to upgrade your cars. Of course, there are opportunities to spend real-life money to help unlock exclusive rewards, but the game doesn't really shove this in your face, which is a plus.
Some motion controls would be a nice addition, as this would be well suited to the Switch in portable mode. Additionally, there's a long, extended tutorial section that feels a bit like hand-holding, given that the controls are quite simple. That being said, if you like a more guided experience when first starting a game, this might be a plus for you.
5. Rocket League
Rocket League is a fan-favorite game that's been released on a lot of different consoles, including the Nintendo Switch. At its core, it's a soccer game, but it has a pretty significant twist—all of the players have been replaced by cars. To move the ball around and score goals, you and your teammates must take control of these cars and slam them into the super-sized ball.
Despite the simple premise, the game takes a surprising amount of skill. Smashing into the ball at just the right angle to set it flying is tricky, and forcing your car up into a jump in order to block a shot is even more so.
If you're a more casual player, you're likely to find this game difficult. However, the plus side is that there are a lot of people who find the game difficult, and if you play in the unranked game mode, then you'll likely be going toe-to-toe with other amateurs. However, if you're a big fan of this game and sink dozens of hours into it to perfect your moves, playing in the ranked mode against other serious players will help to keep the challenge level high.
The time that it takes for a match to fill with players is very short and there's little to no lag when playing online, which is great for those who just want to play the game without any added complications.
Unfortunately, the graphics of the switch version of Rocket League are pretty bad in comparison to the PC or Xbox versions. However, if you don't have Rocket League on another console, then downloading the free Switch version is a great idea.
6. Tetris 99
Tetris 99 is a fast-paced remake of the classic game that sees players battling against 98 other participants to match the most blocks and ultimately be crowned the victor. In comparison to the original Tetris, this game has some delightful twists, including the fact that getting combos will allow you to 'attack' enemy players by sending lines of grey junk blocks their way. This feature adds a nice element of strategy to the game, as you can choose whether to be aggressive and try to attack as much as possible or to reel in your attacks to lessen the chance of retaliation.
Although it's very difficult to actually win this game unless you're a Tetris 99 pro, it's surprisingly rewarding and even scoring a place in the top twenty feels like a great achievement. Games usually last about ten minutes, which is short enough to stop things from getting boring.
Note: The only reason that Tetris 99 isn't further up on this list is that it isn't strictly free. Players must have a subscription to Nintendo Online, which costs $20 a year. That being said, the game still made it onto this list because most Switch owners do eventually end up subscribing to Nintendo Online, given that it's reasonably priced and can really improve your Switch experience.
Brawlhala is a fantastic game, reminiscent of titles like Super Smash Bros, but with one significant difference; it's entirely free to play.
Players must choose a character and then dive into battles—punching, jumping, and slashing your way to victory over other players. The controls are fairly simple to grasp to perform simple moves, but more complex combos and special attacks do require a bit of time to master, which makes the game feel rewarding. There's very little instruction at the start of the game, meaning that players must learn and perfect the controls by themselves.
Each character has its own advantages and disadvantages, which provide variety and challenge. As you fight your way through battles and defeat opponents, you earn coins, which can be used to unlock more characters; a mechanic that keeps the game feeling fresh even after hours of play. Online connection times are quick enough to keep the pacing of the game fast and exciting.
If you're a fan of fighting games and want a solid title that you can play for free, Brawlhala is an absolute delight and will keep you entertained for dozens of hours.
Fortnite is one of the biggest, most adored (and most hated) games out there, and you can download it onto your Nintendo Switch for absolutely nothing.
There are a few different Fortnite modes, but the most famous by far (and arguably the best) is Battle Royale—where players must duke it out to outlast 99 other players and be crowned the victor. In order to survive, you must explore the expansive map to hunt for weapons, armor, shield potions, and med-kits. Destroying certain objects will also supply you with building materials, which you can use to construct your own makeshift shelters.
One of the best things about Fortnite is that you can adapt it to fit your playstyle; if you enjoy combat, then killing as many players as possible and taking their loot is a good route to go, whereas if you tend to be less aggressive in video games, then constructing an elaborate hiding place and simply waiting it out until there are only a few players left is a perfectly valid strategy.
Fortnite has been released on almost every platform imaginable, and the Switch version really doesn't add anything new to the game. However, if you've never played Fortnite before, it's a great way to start. And even if you have, then downloading it is a great way to familiarize yourself with the Switch's controls.
Warframe is an innovative, sci-fi themed game that combines elements of a first-person shooter with elements of hack-and-slash games. You play as a Tenno, a human that's biologically linked to an exoskeleton-type suit known as a Warframe. You can pick from three Warframes at the beginning of the game, and your choice will dictate what special abilities you have. Players must complete a series of missions, killing enemies on an array of different, beautifully designed planets.
The graphics are fantastic and may even the best of any free-to-play game on the Switch. The soundtrack is also decent and helps to really immerse you in the world.
Warframe is a little tricky to get into, given that there are a lot of different game mechanics to remember, so keep that it mind before you download it. The rumble function could also probably be better utilized in this game. (Every single time you fire a weapon or attack with a blade, you get a vibration, which gets a little old.) That being said, Warframe is a solid game and if you're into first-person shooters, it's one that you should definitely download.
10. Color Zen
Color Zen is a charming little puzzle game that's fantastic if you only have ten to fifteen minutes to spare on your Switch. Players must move colored shapes in order to fill the screen with color, with the goal of having the color of the border of the screen be the only color once all of the shapes have gone. The earlier levels are very simple, but the later levels involve a surprising amount of strategy and you might find yourself having to repeat them.
Everything about the game promotes relaxation, from the soothing, repetitive soundtrack to the gentle colors flickering on and off the screen. For this reason, Color Zen is a great game to whip out when you're feeling stressed; maybe even as a short break from work or study. There are 120 levels in the free version, and if the game really captures your interest then there's an option to pay to unlock hundreds more.
Unfortunately, the game isn't very well optimized for Switch and the Joy-Con controls are a little clunky. Using the touch screen is a possibility, but many Switch users prefer the Joy-Cons over touch controls, so for some this will detract from their experience of the game. Nevertheless, Color Zen is a solid game and one of the only free puzzlers available on the Switch.
In Smite, you play as one of dozens of legendary gods, from the Greek Artemis to the Hindu Ganesh. There are a few different modes of play available, but they all involve team-based combat. Work with your online comrades to slay your enemy using combos of special moves and well-timed attacks. In this way, Smite is similar to games like Paladins and Warface.
However, the system that's used to decide who wins each match is a little different. Instead of simply going off the number of kills, Smite assigns each team a certain number of tickets, and the goal is to make the other team lose as many tickets as possible. Killing an enemy player deducts five tickets, but tickets can be regained by helping to escort your team's minions (little soldiers) through the other team's home portal.
Visually, Smite is great to look at. However, there are a few bugs that need to be ironed out, including laggy menus and problems with the online connectivity. However, most of the time it's easy to join matches and the lag doesn't severely affect gameplay, so overall this is a great game to download onto your Switch.
Ninjala sees players being dropped into one of several maps, where they must duke it out to score the most points and emerge as the winner. To gain points, you can either engage your adversaries head-on or choose to stay away from the action and instead defeat 'drones,' which spawn in set points of the map. The weapons that you can arm yourself with are quirky, ranging from glorified baseball bats to giant yo-yos.
Once the battle is complete, players can head back to their base and unlock and equip different outfit and customization options, as well as new weapons. These items are unlocked by leveling up, which is fairly easy to do once you have some experience under your belt.
Overall, it's a fun game that's a little bit reminiscent of Fortnite. Unfortunately, the maps available to you in the free version of the game are fairly limited and small, which means that the game gets boring fairly quickly.
In Paladins, players can select from one of three modes; Siege, Onslaught, or Team Death Match. Each mode places you in a team of five, with Death Match encouraging you to kill off enemies, Onslaught making you fight to stay in a single point for the entire match, and Siege having you try to capture a payload and then fight to stay in control. Each mode feels distinctly different, which helps to keep the game fun.
Adding to this variation is the ability to play as different characters. Each character has special moves and abilities that are tailored to their particular role, whether that's healing teammates or dealing heavy damage. There are heaps of characters to choose from right off the bat and then dozens more to unlock as you collect coins.
However, all of these different ways to play does lead to a bit of a learning curve; when you start out with a new character it feels almost like starting from the very beginning and it can take a long time to learn which moves are the best to utilize and which only work in specific circumstances. Because of this, Paladins works best for those willing to put in the hours to properly learn its characters. If you just want a quick game to dip your toes in every now and then, Paladins may not be for you.
14. Island Saver
Island Saver is an interesting little game, downloadable for free on the Nintendo eShop. The player's objective is to clean up all of the trash piled on three islands. As you collect trash, using your aptly named 'Trash Collector,' you unlock species of 'Bankimals,' which then are added to a Pokémon-style compendium. Further to this, you'll face trash monsters that must be defeated in order to continue progressing. Aside from trash, you also have the opportunity to collect coins.
The currency system of this game is strangely true to life. You save up your coins in a bank and can buy handy upgrades for your trash collector. However, there's a tax collector that will take 10% of your earnings and you also have the opportunity (at your own peril) to take out loans from a shark. (Yes, it's a literal loan shark.) For kids, this is a great introduction to how managing money works.
The art style of the game is strangely charming, despite being very childlike. The bright colors and cute creatures are absurdly charming and even though the graphics aren't fantastic, the world is still interesting and fun to play in. Island Saver is a fantastic free Switch game for kids and can provide some fun for older gamers too.
Call of Duty has yet to be released on the Switch, but that doesn't mean that there are no gritty first-person shooters available. Warface is an excellent example of a Switch first-person shooter and, best of all, it's entirely free.
After working through a short tutorial to help you learn the controls, Warface dumps you into a series of different, challenging stages that you and a team of four other online players have to work your way through. Snipe your enemies, hurl grenades, blast vehicles apart with a rocket launcher, and help to revive fallen teammates. As you work your way through stages, you unlock new weapons and gear that will help to enhance your experience. To help add variety to the gameplay, you can choose from several different classes of soldiers, which modulates your capabilities and will give you a different experience.
One of the downsides of this game is that it does get dull fairly quickly—unless you sink extra cash in. An example of this is the unlockables; even once you've unlocked a weapon or gear, you can only use it for a set amount of time before it locks again unless you drop some cash to make it last longer.
Ultimately, Warface doesn't really add anything new to the first-person-shooter genre, but if you're a fan of FPS games, then it's definitely worth downloading.
© 2021 K S Lane