RPG fans struck gold with the launch of the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has been on the market for four years with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Nintendo has already sold at least 85 million units and is on track to outsell even their smash-hit Wii console. With so many amazing games to choose from, it can be hard for fans of RPGs to know which ones are worth their time. Let’s take a look at five of the absolute best Switch RPGs.
5. Bravely Default II
The most recent entry on the list is Bravely Default II. It launched in February of this year to the praise of gamers who enjoyed the original 3DS Bravely Default and wanted something bigger and prettier on the modern Switch hardware. The Bravely Default games are all about their character customization suite. If you simply want to be a lance-wielding dragoon guy like Kain from Final Fantasy IV, by all means, go right ahead. But Bravely Default 2 is deep enough that you can be a lance-wielding magician who mugs her foes and sings songs to buff the party. There’s also a killer soundtrack from Revo, Sound Horizon’s lead composer. The plot isn’t anything to write home about but few RPGs make battling as fun as this one.
4. Pokémon Sword & Shield
This one may prove a touch controversial since in some ways it was a step down from previous Pokémon games. When Sword & Shield arrived in late 2019, all eyes were on the limited roster of Pokémon. While it’s a bummer that not every little rascal made the jump to Nintendo Switch, plenty of species slowly returned via the game’s two DLCs, Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra. The more lively gym battles feel like real events akin to their obvious British sports match roots. It’s easy to get carried away feeling pumped by the crowd’s energy while Gigantamaxing certain Pokémon into massive new forms like a Snorlax with a big tree growing on top of it or a Gengar whose mouth is so wide it’s a wonder it doesn’t swallow the stadium. Additionally, the online multiplayer is easier than ever to get started with and the inclusion of Dynamax Raids means players from across the world can team up to bring down big Pokémon in fun four-on-one extravaganzas.
3. Octopath Traveler
Even though it’s out now on Windows, Xbox One, and even Stadia, Octopath Traveler was a Switch exclusive for over a year. And what a mighty exclusive it was. Engaging combat and praiseworthy dialogue are only the tip of the Octopath iceberg; what fans fell in love with most is its incredible art style. The gorgeous contemporary riff on old-school, sprite-based JRPGs seen in Octopath Traveler has been so successful that Square Enix registered the term “HD-2D” for future projects in the same vein, including a recently-revealed Dragon Quest 3 remake. Not content to stand on its visual laurels, Octopath Traveler not only revitalized Square’s interest in bigger-budget two-dimensional fare — it does so with a fantastic narrative twist. The game features eight protagonists. Each one tells their own four-chapter tale. They can recruit each other in the midst of their stories and you can play them in whichever order you like. There’s even a postgame bonus dungeon against a seriously tough foe.
2. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was the Nintendo Switch’s first big exclusive RPG, launching during its first holiday season. It still holds up today as one of the console’s best games. The world is a pleasure to explore, with developer Monolith Soft’s trademark beautiful vistas on full display whether you see them on your big-screen TV or in the palms of your hands. Completionists will virtually never run out of things to do, with hundreds of hours of meaningful side content. There are many interweaving gameplay systems, such as obtaining every rare blade and building the trust system between allies. All that and a captivating plot with plenty of heart. There is also a Switch remaster of the original Xenoblade Chronicles that is well worth playing, but the two games are largely unrelated.
1. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
It was understandably a bit frustrating for fans of Super Smash Bros Ultimate when Byleth concluded the game’s first Fighter Pass since there were already so many Fire Emblem representatives to choose amongst. But one thing few will disagree with is the fact that the game Byleth’s from is fantastic. With a compelling cast of characters, four potential paths for the story to take, and a surprisingly grey morality in its themes, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is still lauded frequently in internet discussions two years later. Of course, most Fire Emblem fans will tell you it’s the addictive, strategy-based RPG battle system that’s the real meat and potatoes of the series. Three Houses continues that trend with a wide variety of maps with multiple types of objectives to achieve victory. In the first half of the game, there are many different activities for your students to partake in, such as singing, dancing, fishing, and more. The feeling of “school life” is delightful. The second half, however, takes a darker turn and you may be forced to make some tough choices. Beware the Flame Emperor.
These five Switch RPGs are the cream of the crop, but here are two solid offerings that deserve honorable mention. Dragon Quest XI S is an expanded version of the base game with an improved soundtrack, a plethora of quality-of-life touches, and best of all, extra story content. Formerly a Switch exclusive (hence the “S”), you can now find it on other hardware as well, but there’s nothing quite like playing classically charming RPGs in the comfort of one’s bed.
There’s also Collection of Mana, a Switch-only compilation of the first three games in Square Enix’s beloved Mana franchise. It’s particularly notable for including Trials of Mana, a 1995 RPG that never released outside of Japan until now. A full-fledged remake of Trials of Mana is available on Switch and several other systems, but if you want to experience the game as it was originally envisioned you’ll need yourself a Switch!