The Nintendo Switch offers an unparalleled gaming experience, allowing you to enjoy games big and small, no matter whether you’re on the couch or on the go. That said, Switch games rarely receive a discount, even if you’re constantly checking for the best Nintendo Switch deals. Our list of the best free Nintendo Switch games is here to help.
We’ve rounded up the top free-to-play games on Nintendo Switch, from Switch Online exclusives like Tetris 99 and Pac-Man 99 to third-party hits like Fortnite and Rocket League.
Keep in mind that, although all of the games below are free to start, they all feature microtransactions in one form or another. However, we restricted our picks only to games that have ethical microtransactions (no pay-gating or anything like that).
Apex Legends needs no introduction. It’s the larger-than-life battle royale FPS game that has continued to take the world by storm since it launched in 2019. Now, though, it’s available on the Switch. Although Apex Legends doesn’t look its best running on Nintendo’s handheld, it’s still the full, fat experience that’s available on consoles and PC, and it’s free to download and start playing.
If you haven’t played Apex Legends, you take control of one of several legendary characters in the Apex Games. It’s a 60-player battle to the death where you’ll have to use your special character abilities and any guns that you can find to survive. Unfortunately, the Switch version doesn’t have cross-save or cross-progression, but you can still use all of the characters and weapons available in the game.
Pac-Man 99 is the next classic-turned-battle-royale. Like Tetris 99 and, formerly, Super Mario 35, Pac-Man 99 is a battle royale game based around the classic Pac-Man experience. You and 98 other players just play Pac-Man. But, instead of competing for the top score, you’re trying to survive. Each time you eat a Ghost, you send phantom Pac-Men to other players, and if they run into them, they’ll slow down for the rest of the game. On the flip side, if they eat one while going for a Ghost, they’ll get a speed boost.
Although it can get repetitive quickly, Pac-Man 99 is great for a few rounds whenever you have a little bit of downtime. Even better, the free mode is the best part of the experience. You can pay $29.99 for some extra skins and a couple of variations of score attack modes, but Pac-Man 99 shines with 98 other players on screen.
It’s remarkable that it took until 2021 to get a good dodgeball video game, but that’s what Knockout City is. Minus some wild jumps and dives, it’s basically virtual dodgeball. Two teams face off trying to knock out each other. It takes two hits to knock out a player with a standard ball, but Knockout City includes balls with special effects, too. The Bomb Ball, for example, will explodes on impact after it’s thrown.
It’s a simple premise, but once you master dodging, catching, throwing, and passing, there are endless possibilities. On Switch, Knockout City is free to download and start playing. You can raise your Street Rank up to level 25, which is basically Knockout City‘s version of a battle pass. After that, the Switch game is $19.99. Frankly, though, the free period gives you more than enough time to play Knockout City, and if you make it to Street Rank 25, buying the full version is probably worth it.
Tetris 99 is the free game on Nintendo Switch (now that Super Mario 35 is gone, at least). Although you’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to play, the game itself is free to download. Unlike a traditional Tetris game, 99 has you facing off against 99 other players in a battle royale. If you get a double, triple, or a Tetris, you send some junk — unfinished lines — to your opponent, filling their board and potentially sending them back to the main menu to start a new game.
There is something so visceral and frantic about battling head to head with other players in Tetris. Thankfully, if you want a more relaxed experience, that’s available, too, in the form of the Big Block DLC. It’ll run you $10, but considering the base game is free, it’s an easy sell.
Fortnite might be the biggest shooter game in the world, and it’s available for just about every platform, including the Switch. You can easily link your accounts in-game, allowing you to carry over your progress from PC, PS4, or Xbox One (even mobile, if you’re an Android Fortnite fiend). Battle Royale and Creative modes are available on Switch, though Save the World is not.
Although you’ll need an internet connection to play Fortnite, you don’t need Nintendo Switch Online. Fortnite is one of a few exceptions to Nintendo’s paid online subscription.
Warframe isn’t just one of the best free Nintendo Switch games, it’s one of the best free games in general. This third-person shooter/slasher single-handedly proved that free-to-play games can come with AAA quality and a load of free content, establishing the same business model that other entries on this list follow.
The game functions similarly to Destiny 2. In Warframe, you take control of one of more than 30 Warframes, armor units that have their own abilities and customization. You can then take your custom character out on various short quests, either alone or with up to three other people. As you progress, you’ll be able to unlock new weapons, items, and worlds, each of which offers dozens of hours of gameplay.
Fallout Shelter came out of nowhere, announced and released during a Bethesda E3 press conference in 2015. Originally just released for iOS devices, the game has since been ported to Android, Windows, PS4, Xbox One, and, most importantly, Switch. No matter if you’re on your TV or on the go, you can build and manage your Fallout vault.
Rather than focusing on the dangerous nuclear wasteland outside the vault, Fallout Shelter focuses on what happens inside. In the game, you’re the overseer of a vault, tasked with managing your population, building new rooms, and ensuring you have enough resources to survive. Although the setup is similar to “idle” games like AdVenture Capitalist, Fallout Shelter has a surprising amount of depth.
Brawlhalla is a Smash Bros.-like fighting game — just a little worse and a whole lot cheaper. It features the same eight-player arena battles of Smash Bros., but without the nostalgic Nintendo characters in tow. Instead, Brawlhalla offers a long list of Legends, with eight free ones cycling through your roster each week. You can purchase all of the Legends, but since they’ll all be available for free at some point, it won’t give you an in-game edge.
That’s what’s most impressive about Brawlhalla — it has microtransactions, but not to the point that it feels pay-to-win. All of the characters feel balanced, so you could easily spend hundreds of hours in Brawlhalla without spending a dime. Furthermore, the game supports cross-play between PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch, so you’ll always be able to find a game.
It’s not often you see a paid game make the jump to a free-to-play model, but that’s what Rocket League did in 2020. It used to be one of the best cheap Switch games at around $20, but now, it’s free to start playing.
The usual free-to-play monetization practices apply, however. Rocket League sells a battle pass, and there are various different skins you can purchase. However, the move to a free-to-play model has some upsides, too. Rocket League now has full cross-platform support, allowing you to team up with players on other consoles, as well as continue progressing regardless of the system you’re playing on.
Thankfully, that’s really all that changed with the change in monetization. Rocket League is still the same bombastic, tire-burning sports game that it was before. And it pairs perfectly with the Switch. Jumping in and out of games, particularly in handheld mode, is a treat. If there’s any free Nintendo Switch game you should have, it’s Rocket League.
Super Kirby Clash
Super Kirby Clash is an expanded version of Team Kirby Clash Deluxe, a free-to-play fighting game on the Nintendo 3DS. In a radical change to the Kirby formula, Super Kirby Clash is focused entirely on boss battles. You can choose your hero Kirby, team up with up to three other friends, and take down a long list of bosses.
Nintendo makes no bones about it, however, labeling Super Kirby Clash as a “free-to-start” game. Unlike Tetris 99, you’ll need to eventually pour some money into Super Kirby Clash if you want to get everything out of it. That said, if you’re looking for a quick time killer, Super Kirby Clash is a great option.
Many free-to-play games mirror the formula of popular paid titles (we’ll get to another one in just a minute). Paladins fits in that category, taking the MOBA-inspired shooter formula of Overwatch and setting it in a free-to-play realm. There are 44 champions, and like Brawlhalla, they’re rotated into a free roster each month. You can, of course, purchase access to all of the champions.
Like other MOBA games, Paladins demands your team have a balanced roster. Champions are split into four classes: Front Lines, Damages, Supports, and Flanks. Having each champion playing their ideal role is a sure route to victory, forcing a level of teamwork that would make even the most competitive shooters blush.
Dauntless is very similar to Monster Hunter. In it, you play as a Slayer, a group of surviving humans after creatures known as Behemoths were released on Earth. Either alone or with a group of friends, you set out over the desolate landscape to hunt Behemoths, gathering materials to craft weapons and armor along the way.
It’s not just another free-to-play game copying the formula of an established franchise, however. Dauntless was developed by a group of designers from Riot Games, BioWare, Blizzard, and Capcom, and that talent shows in the final product. Although Dauntless is totally free, it feels like a full AAA experience, which is all the more impressive on Switch.
Asphalt 9: Legends
Gameloft is one of the prolific mobile game developers around, creating games for Disney, Lego, Sega, and more. One of its original IPs is Asphalt, a series of realistic racing games that’s been running since 2004. The latest release, Asphalt 9, is one the best looking mobile games around. With the Switch’s hardware, the graphics are given even more room to shine.
Outside of the stellar graphics, Asphalt 9 is just a racing game, but still a competent one. There are 84 cars available, each with a different class. Players start with a low-level Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and can acquire new blueprints through playing. If you want to dump some money into the game, you can also upgrade your car’s stats. Although it may seem like nothing more than a mobile port, Asphalt 9 is one of the better free Nintendo Switch games.
Like Super Kirby Clash, Pokémon Quest is another “free-to-start” game from Nintendo. The game takes place on Tumblecube Island, where all Pokémon have turned into cubed versions of themselves. You can take up to three Pokémon with you on your adventure across Tumblecube Island, gathering loot and Power Stones to level up your Pokémon.
Unlike mainline Pokémon games, Quest is an action RPG. Battles happen in real-time, and there’s a greater emphasis on gathering loot. Although a far cry from the JRPG formula established by other Pokémon titles, Quest is still an entertaining action RPG that offers tons of grindy replayability.
Smite is another game from Hi-Rez Studios, the same developer behind Paladins. Unlike Paladins, which is a MOBA-shooter, Smite is a straight-up MOBA. Like similar games, Smite features five-versus-five online battles in a large map, where you must push past your opponent’s defenses to defeat the Titan.
Smite is very competitive, though. The Smite World Championship, hosted annually by Hi-Rez Studios, has been running since 2015 and paying out nearly $1 million in prizes every year.
DC Universe Online
DC Universe Online has been around for a long time, originally released for Windows and PS3 in 2011. Since then, it has been ported to Xbox One, PS4, and, of course, the Nintendo Switch. It’s a free-to-play MMO action game where you can take control of heroes and villains within the DC universe.
However, we don’t think calling this game “free” is entirely accurate. Even though you can download and open moments without the expense, DC Universe Online always bombards you with other paid promotions and upsells. This game boasts a full load of content, with almost nine years in action. That being said, you’ll still have to purchase the content separately or buy a subscription plan to fully take advantage of all DC Universe Online has to offer.