The best free games on Nintendo Switch
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic causing numerous game delays and cancellations, now’s a pretty tough time to try and get into a new game, especially if you’ve been having to tighten your belt due to a loss of work. Thankfully, no matter your preferred gaming platform, there are many F2P (free-to-play) games you can turn to if you can’t spare the funds for a more traditional purchase.
PC gamers typically have the most options when it comes to F2P games, but that doesn’t mean those with home consoles are left entirely out in the cold. Case and point, owners of the Nintendo Switch have a surprisingly robust number of F2P options they can tap if they’re looking for something new to play.
In the below list we’ve gathered 10 of the best F2P games that are available on Nintendo Switch as well as a few honorable mentions that also deserve a shout-out. The below games cover a wide gamut of different genres and playstyles so no matter your specific gaming tastes you should be able to find one or two games that strike your fancy.
Even though it only just came to the Nintendo Switch this past February, Blackwood Games’ (formerly Crytek Kiev) oddly-named F2P shooter Warface has technically been kicking around as far back as 2013. For Nintendo Switch owners who are craving military-themed first-person shooter gameplay in the vein of Call of Duty, Warface is also a surprisingly serviceable alternative.
In Warface, players can control five different soldier classes and participate in both online PvP skirmishes and PvE co-op missions against AI enemies. The game equips players with a standard array of military hardware including assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles, and more, plus each soldier class naturally has its own unique abilities for supporting teammates.
Since it’s F2P, Warface relies on microtransactions for its monetization model. Casual players can get by using in-game currency, but some of the game’s most coveted items including weapon skins, high-end weapon bundles, and progression boosters can only be obtained by purchasing premium currency with real-life money. Warface was admittedly a bit too heavy-handed with its monetization methods back when it first launched, but in the years since it has eased up considerably to ensure that players don’t feel they have to spend real money to remain competitive.
Warface may not be as robust or as polished as the first-person shooter games found on some other platforms, but for Switch users who are already dealing with a slim shooter library, it still gets the job done. At the very least, players can have a lot of fun just blasting through the game’s co-op PvE mode, especially if they have a few friends they can recruit.
The pickings are slim for Nintendo Switch owners looking to scratch the old MMO (massively multiplayer online) itch, but one of the few options they do have access to is thankfully a solid game in its own right. On paper, Phoenix Labs’ Dauntless doesn’t appear to have a very deep well of gameplay content. In fact, some might misconstrue the game’s central loop of hunting large beasts and crafting gear as nothing more than a Monster Hunter knockoff.
Those who are willing to give Dauntless a proper go, however, will discover tight quest-driven gameplay and exhilarating real-time combat nestled in a unique world where the only thing more compelling than the many bizarre beasts players encounter is the lore that surrounds them. Not only is Dauntless well-suited for the Nintendo Switch’s pick-up-and-play design, it’s also incredibly fun to play with a group of friends, hence why we also featured it in our list of essential co-op games to play during quarantine.
We’ve talked before about how Dire Wolf Digital’s F2P CCG (collectible card game) Eternal is a worthy alternative to more recognizable entries like Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering, but such is especially true for Nintendo Switch owners. As of this writing, there aren’t many CCG games that are available on the Switch, but if slinging digital cards is your jam, you thankfully have Eternal as one of your few available options.
Eternal’s bevy of different card sets and massive 75-card decks can be intimidating for established CCG players and total newbies alike. Fortunately, the game has plenty of resources designed to help ease new players in, not to mention a plethora of PvE game modes for those who’d rather not test themselves against fellow humans. Best of all, Eternal is incredibly generous in the amount of content it doles out for free, allowing users to get a real sense of how much long-term potential it has without having to spend any money of their own.
DC Universe Online
We mentioned above how there aren’t too many MMO games available on the Nintendo Switch, but the difference between “not too many” and “none” is defined only by the quality of the games which bridge that gap. Along with Dauntless, Nintendo Switch owners can also give Digital Ink Games’ long-running superhero MMO DC Universe Online (often shortened to ‘DCUO’) a go.
In DCUO players get to create their own custom superhero before entering a digital rendition of the DC Comics universe so they can fight alongside (and against) iconic heroes and villains like Batman, Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn, and The Flash. The game’s robust character creator allows players to pick from a variety of different power sets and fighting styles, and the star-studded main story campaign provides a structured narrative players can follow all the way to the endgame.
Unlocking the full potential of DCUO’s endgame as well as certain specific character creation options does require monetary investment in the form of either individual DLC purchases or a recurring subscription. However, playing through the entire base story campaign has no upfront costs and is guaranteed to provide a solid 15-20 hours of playtime at minimum. Since DCUO was built with console play in mind, it’s perfect for comic book fans who are looking for an easily approachable option which combines high-quality storytelling, online social features, and tense beat-em-up combat.
Arena of Valor
Much like with the MMO and CCG genres, multiplayer online battle arena (or Moba) games have been slow to migrate over to the Nintendo Switch. Thankfully, Moba fans who are looking for something to play on their Switch console aren’t entirely out of luck since Tencent ported its established Moba title Arena of Valor over to Nintendo’s newest console back in 2018.
If you’re at all familiar with Moba games like League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm, you’ll know what you’re in for when you boot up Arena of Valor. The game’s default mode pits two teams of five players against each other as they pick from a diverse roster of 98 unique heroes and see which team can destroy the opposing team’s base core first. Along with the standard 5v5 mode, Arena of Valor also includes deathmatch, 3v3 skirmishes, and an ‘Abyssal Clash’ variant where players are assigned random heroes to play.
Arena of Valor’s quick match durations and easily digestible format make it a good choice for more casual Switch players who are looking for something they can focus on for short bursts of time. The game’s thriving eSports scene is also perfect for players who take to Arena of Valor’s unique community and who want to invest in the game beyond merely playing it.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
While its sheen may have dulled a bit over the last few years, Epic Games’ Fortnite is still very much a dominating force in the gaming industry, as evidenced by the fact that it’s available on virtually every major gaming platform. The Nintendo Switch is one of those platforms, but potential players should know that Fortnite’s Switch port differs slightly from the game’s other platform versions.
Nintendo Switch players still have access to what is arguably Fortnite’s biggest draw; the 100-player battle royale mode that’s supported by a recurring seasonal format, rotating bonus playlists, and a full ‘Creative’ suite where players can make their own content. However, similarly to Fortnite’s mobile versions, the game’s standalone ‘Save the World’ co-op experience is sadly not playable on the Nintendo Switch.
For players whose main priority is simply finding a new F2P game, the lack of Save the World shouldn’t be a deal-breaker since accessing the co-op mode requires the purchase of a $40 founder’s pack. Plus, Fortnite’s battle royale mode tends to get the bulk of Epic’s attention anyways, making it a decent option for players who enjoy having a fresh stream of new content to look forward to.
Warframe’s flashy sci-fi visuals and slick gameplay trailers are easy to admire from afar, and if you like what you see you can try the game out for yourself with no monetary risk thanks to its F2P structure. However, you should also know that Warframe isn’t the sort of game you can approach with a casual mindset. Sure, its basic premise involves teaming up with other players and fighting various AI enemy factions in third-person shooter/melee combat, but that basic premise is a tiny drop of water amid a vast ocean of sheer complexity.
Developer Digital Extremes has taken steps to refine Warframe’s new player experience and give the entire game a more structured narrative complete with formal quests and events, but the game as a whole is still overwhelmingly complex. If you want to fully commit yourself to Warframe, expect to be poring over wikis, user guides, and other community-created materials as you slowly parse through an intricate web of ancillary and economic game systems.
When it comes to moment-to-moment gameplay, Warframe’s engrossing ‘ninjas in space’ execution is hard to beat. Just make sure you’re ready to dive straight into the deep end since the game has no qualms about throwing a lot of stuff at you whether you’re ready to absorb it or not.
Most of the other games on this list are merely ports of existing F2P games that originated on other platforms, but Tetris 99 is one F2P game that Switch owners can truly call their own. The Switch-exclusive game from developer Arika takes the beloved classic game Tetris and, bizarrely enough, marries it with the large-scale competitive template normally reserved for battle royale games.
In each match of Tetris 99, a total of 99 players compete against each other to see who can be the last player remaining. Each player has their own personal Tetris board where they must stack tetrominos and clear rows by making solid lines as they would in a normal game of Tetris. The twist is that, by performing special maneuvers (like filling multiple rows at once or filling cumulative rows in quick succession), one player can “attack” another by filling the opposing player’s board with grey “garbage” rows.
This dynamic helps to up the stakes of each match as players have to worry not only about their own board but also about making sure they disrupt their rivals whenever the opportunity presents itself. As in normal Tetris, a player loses if their board gets filled with tetrominos to the point of overflowing, knocking them out of the match.
In its base form, Tetris 99 is a fun competitive twist on the standard Tetris experience that’s perfect for existing puzzle fans or those who want to just kill a few minutes here and there with a quick match. Arika also offers an optional $10 ‘Big Block’ DLC purchase which grants access to new game modes such as an offline option where players can challenge 98 bot opponents and a ‘Marathon’ endless mode variant.
Super Kirby Clash
Super Kirby Clash is another title that’s wholly unique to the Nintendo Switch console, though calling it “unique” might be a stretch since it’s actually a reimagined port of the 2017 3DS title Team Kirby Clash Deluxe. As you can tell from its name, Super Kirby Clash stars the adorable Nintendo character Kirby and co. in a unique RPG adventure featuring different character classes, quests, upgradeable gear, and thrilling boss fights.
The game’s unique ‘free-to-start’ monetization model means that players can download Super Kirby Clash and give it a proper go entirely for free, though progress can naturally be sped up by purchasing premium currency through microtransactions. Even if you don’t spend any money on it though, Super Kirby Clash is a solid choice if you’re looking for a F2P game to play with others since it supports both online and local pass-and-play multiplayer.
We weren’t terribly impressed with Hi-Rez Studios’ fantasy-themed battle royale title Realm Royale when we played the alpha back in 2018, but the game’s still around nearly two years later so there must be something to it. If nothing else, Realm Royale is quite an odd duck, mixing fantasy elements like character classes, magic spells, and ridable mounts with more traditional battle royale staples like firearms (including automatic weapons) and an ever-shrinking safety zone.
Going by recent reports, it sounds like Hi-Rez has put active development for Realm Royale on the back-burner (the game hasn’t received a major update since January of this year). However, the game also has full cross-platform support across all its available ports, so finding other players to fill a match shouldn’t be a concern, even if most of those other players are bots.
Realm Royale obviously isn’t as much of a thriving juggernaut as Fortnite, but if battle royale is your genre of choice it can still serve as a functional alternative for you to try.
Many of the games we mentioned in our recent Best Free Games for PlayStation 4 list are also available on the Nintendo Switch. Such games include the team-based shooter Paladins, the 2D Super Smash Bros-esque fighting game Brawlhalla, the Fallout-themed base-building game Fallout Shelter, and the mythological Moba title Smite.
As for more original F2P Nintendo Switch titles, fans of the match-three puzzle format popularized by games like Candy Crush might want to check out the fantasy-themed Gems of War. CCG fans who want to try something other than Eternal can also look into the other major F2P digital card game that’s been ported to the Switch; PlayFusion’s Lightseekers.
Nintendo Switch owners admittedly don’t have as many F2P options as the PC crowd or even those with a PS4 or Xbox One console. However, the above list should at least prove that when it comes to the Switch’s F2P catalog, quality takes precedence over quantity. Gamers of all stripes who are looking to maximize their Switch’s value without spending any actual money should find at least a few games that appeal to them, and they might even discover a new favorite game in the process.