Essential games for the Nintendo Switch

Why going Nintendo means you’ll never go back (to other consoles).

While the PlayStation and the Xbox battle for graphical supremacy, Nintendo has been content to stick to clever, cartoony games that favor innovative gameplay over supercharged hardware. The company that Mario built would rather redefine how you play games instead of fussing over the freckles on a photorealistic character. To get the most out of your Switch experience, load up with these games.

Update of a classic: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

The Best For Parties

Finally, all those Luigi memes will make sense. Amazon

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Mario Kart is the best party game of all time. It’s almost as if you can’t really own a Nintendo Switch if you don’t have Mario Kart 8—like buying a car with only 3 wheels. Gather a room full of friends and start slinging banana peels and red shells. This iteration of the game embraces the spirit that made the previous versions so much fun and adds even more features and improved visuals. This is the best version of Mario Kart yet, and it’s a Switch staple.

Scary good time: Luigi’s Mansion 3

Ghoulishly Fun

He returns for another frighteningly sweet ride. Amazon

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Luigi’s Mansion 3 is goofy in all the best ways. Navigate through the Last Resort Hotel—with its spooky creatures, hidden rooms, and secret treasures—to find Mario and his pals. Luigi relies on his K9 ghost sidekick, Poulterpup, and wacky tech provided by his mentor and guide, Professor E. Gadd.

Using tools like a flashlight and his Poltergust G-00—a vacuum cleaner/backpack—Luigi must break objects, solve puzzles, and stun ghosts in order to find hidden items and money. It maintains the fun from the original, but adds interesting new mechanics including Luigi’s new goo clone, named Gooigi.

Adventure for days: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Fun That Has No Bounds

A game for everyone to enjoy. Amazon

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The Legend of Zelda franchise is one of Nintendo’s biggest tentpoles, and the gorgeous Breath of the Wild gives the expansive gameplay of bigger, more mature titles a nice, kid-friendly makeover. It also transitions beautifully from TV to handheld, which is what the Switch is all about. It will provide dozens of entertaining hours and warrant several playthroughs.

Best battle game: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Fast, Unlimited Action

Choose your (adorable) fighter. Amazon

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If you still have any friends left after a cutthroat session of Mario Kart fire up Super Smash Bros Ultimate. The unique brawler boasts a roster of 74 different characters from the Nintendo universe including Yoshi, Little Mac (from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out), Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Ryu (from Street Fighter), Solid Snake (from the Metal Gear series), and Mega Man. It’s a glorious gamer free-for-all that is as fun and funny as it is chaotic.

Addicting and old-school: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

This Game Is Bananas

Great for younger players. Amazon

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a side-scrolling platformer—similar to the series’ previous releases—full of boss battles and strategic jumping. Play the normal campaign or in “funky mode.” Funky Kong has rad sunglasses, an extra life per level, and a surfboard that lets him helicopter in and fall slower when he jumps. The challenges are easier, especially in the later levels, which makes it more accessible for younger players or parents who lack gaming acumen.

If you choose the normal campaign mode, Donkey Kong and his friends—all of which have unique skills—travel across six islands defeating the Snowmads that have turned their tropical paradise into a chilly fortress. Tropical Freeze is by no means an easy game, but that’s what made the franchise’s first titles compelling. The game also features a co-op, multiplayer mode.