Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for local multiplayer - simply crack off those Joy-Con and start having fun with whoever happens to be in the room with you. However, the console has built up a solid portfolio of online multiplayer games since launch, too, and we've picked out a handful - in no particular order - to help you get the most out of your online experience.
The launch of Nintendo Switch Online - Nintendo's paid subscription service - means play over the internet can't be accessed for the vast majority of titles on the system without paying for it; this doesn't apply to free-to-play games, though (Fortnite, for example).
While Nintendo's online infrastructure has had a rocky reputation in the past, Switch has come on leaps and bounds since launch and, despite its foibles (let's not talk about the cumbersome voice chat solution and tie-in phone app), Nintendo Switch Online is certainly worth the modest monthly or annual fee if you've got Switch friends in distant places (there are also ways to make that cost even more reasonable if you're willing to share).
The subscription also gives you access to an ever-growing catalogue of lovely NES games to play at your leisure, many with online multiplayer options courtesy of the service's built-in framework, so in addition to the gems we've picked out below, you've always got the option to go retro if you fancy playing Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros. 3 with a faraway friend.
A list of the best couch co-op games for Switch is available if you prefer multiplayer of the local variety, but let's sit back and take a look at the best online multiplayer games currently available on the console.
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Splatoon 2 is just about everything you could ask for from a sequel. It builds on everything the original online team shooter set up and then some; almost every single major issue people had with the first game has been resolved, showing that Nintendo is genuinely listening and wants to deliver the absolute best experience possible. It maintains the freshness you’d expect and throws in countless big and small changes and additions, every one of them for the better. Anyone who says Nintendo can’t do online should be eating their words right now; Splatoon 2 is simply ink-redible.
Let’s face it – this is probably sitting on your Switch dashboard already, and there it should stay. Epic has delivered the full fat Battle Royale experience of Fortnite on the ‘homeheld’. You’re sure to notice the framerate difference if you’re coming from other consoles, but performance-wise, it’s steady and perfectly playable. Frequent updates keep the game feeling fresh and, crucially, that just-one-more feeling survives the transition to Switch intact. Before you know it, you’ll be eyeing the clock at 3:56 am thinking ‘hmm, that’s not a round number’. The heart-pounding suspense of making it to the final two may not be healthy, but it sure is addictive. Fortnite is one of Switch's most nail-biting online experiences.
One of modern gaming's true online multiplayer success stories, Rocket League is an essential addition to the Switch's striking library. The spirit of the game has been transferred perfectly, with the added benefit of portable play which opens up the chance to host local matches with your Switch owning mates wherever and whenever you fancy. Developer Panic Button has done an utterly fantastic job with this port, but technical wizardry aside, what really matters is that the core game is so addictive, so compelling, so enjoyable and – perhaps above all else – so deep. Don't let anyone tell you that Rocket League is simplistic or lacks longevity; the vibrant community that has grown up around Psyonix's masterpiece renders that viewpoint wholly incorrect. It rewards skilful play and perseverance, and new tactics and strategies seem to flow from each and every match you partake in. Only the occasional network niggle throws shade on this otherwise sublime release, but it's still an essential online experience.
The complete oddball of the family, Tetris 99 offers a truly unique way to play the tried-and-tested classic, even if the overall package feels a little lightweight. Playing live against 98 others is chaotic, and the action feels fast, precise, and wonderfully addictive. It’s seriously difficult, too – we’d fancy our chances in Fortnite over this any day – and we’re impressed with the fact that it's forced us to play the game with a completely different approach to our usual slow-and-steady ways. Signing up for Nintendo Switch Online just to play this game might be a bit of a stretch, but if you’re already a member, what are you waiting for? It’s free, and it might just become your next favourite time sink.
Honourable Mention: Puyo Puyo Tetris - While Tetris 99 has stolen its limelight, Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a remarkable entry in the puzzle genre, combining two of the greats in one fantastic package with solid online play.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection is a lovely port of a classic RPG loot-a-thon that keeps its feet firmly in the past. The execution is wonderful, but its gameplay is not something that will appeal to everyone due to the high level of repetition. Local multiplayer is a beautiful addition, and even though the limitations of having to have all four characters on one screen can be mildly irksome, it’s still excellent fun. Online is the absolute bee’s knees in contrast, allowing you to drop into any friend’s game at a moment’s notice provided they’ll allow it, and continue grabbing loot and smashing evil in the face. Its visuals are clear and functional if not especially interesting, but performance is top notch to make up for it. If you’re looking for a loot-driven grind-a-thon with more explosions of viscera than you can comfortably discuss with your mother, this is the game for you.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe delivers a huge amount of racing goodness right out of the box; arguably the best Mario Kart release we've seen. Some will argue about where this entry stands in the pantheon of the franchise, but for our money it's competing for top spot. It's the definitive Mario Kart 8 experience, content-rich and a delightful feast of comedic, cartoonish karting action. You can play solo or in two-player split-screen online, with Global and Regional rooms for racing and battling. With a solid online setup that has the potential to keep you playing for months and even years to come, it's a game that continually raises a smile and, occasionally, induces that trademark Mario Kart rage as shells strike and positions are lost. It's addictive and unifying, unfiltered fun that draws in anyone daring enough to take up the wheel.
Hi-Rez Studios' team-based shooter Paladins: Champions of the Realm is an easy sell. As exciting, tense and rewarding as Overwatch, it brings the cross-platform hero shooter to a new platform without sacrificing the moreish gameplay elements that made it such a hit with both gamers and pros. There’s a definitive learning curve for those looking to play competitively, but it’s nonetheless one of the console’s best multiplayer games.
Honourable Mention: SMITE - Also coming from Hi-Rez, this free-to-play MOBA is to League of Legends and Dota 2 what Paladins is to Overwatch. It's a textbook example of how to port an online-focused experience to a handheld-friendly console and is absolutely worth a look.
The core fighting mechanics of ARMS are easy to grasp - especially when you're using the pleasantly intuitive motion controls - but they showcase the kind of depth which rewards dedicated players. Mixing up light and charged punches with your dashes and leaps allows you to create an almost balletic style of play, but add in grabs, stuns and features unique to each stage and you've got a truly formidable foundation to build on. The lure of collecting Arms will keep you glued to your console even if you only choose to play solo, but online is where ARMS proves its worth; getting into a match is an effortless affair and for those who want to take things to the next level, Ranked Matches provide the ideal means of proving your skill.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is a sort of ‘greatest hits’ collection of the high points of the series, giving you hundreds of hours of content to play through. Couple this with HD visuals, easy-to-use multiplayer, and the ability to play the full experience on the go, and you’ve got a game that will easily appeal to both veterans and newcomers alike. An entirely separate quest board and ranking system exists for the multiplayer component, potentially allowing for limitless hours of replayability. Monsters fought while online are generally much tougher to take down, but having up to three other people whaling away with weapons of their own makes up for this, and you get a much greater sense of satisfaction beating a monster as a team, rather than alone. It may not necessarily represent the future of the series, but Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is an utterly fantastic experience in its own right that no Switch owner will want to be without.
DOOM is one of the best first-person shooters we've ever played, and is certainly the best in its class on Switch. There's a certain magical quality about having a game this good on the go. Its brilliant campaign is reason enough to pick it up, but DOOM's multiplayer will keep you coming back for more for months to come. Developer Panic Button had the good sense to build an invitation system into the game that is both functional and easy to use, and we love it. Games take place on small maps designed to keep you in contact with your foes as much as possible. Because of the small arenas, matches feel reminiscent of the halcyon days of first-person shooters, when Unreal Tournament reigned supreme.
While it's perhaps not as polished as it is on other formats, having DOOM in portable form is a revelation, and Panic Button deserves high praise for porting over id Software's classic title so brilliantly.
While some of the games included in this compendium are rendered somewhat superfluous by the fact that far superior sequels and updates exist alongside them, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection remains an utterly essential purchase for any self-respecting fighting game fan. One of the most appealing online modes is 'Online Arcade', which aims to replicate the feel of the original coin-op version, where it was possible to begin a game as normal against the computer and then be challenged by other players.
It's worth noting that when playing online, you can only select from Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. That's more than enough to make this an easy recommendation, though – this is fighting game nirvana, pure and simple.
While Digital Extremes hasn’t quite perfected the formula it needs to make Warframe completely accessible - the sheer number of interconnected systems and customisable elements suggests it never quite will - it still offers a brilliant co-operative third-person shooter with all the MMORPG elements you never thought you’d see running on Nintendo Switch. From the impressive visual fidelity Panic Button has maintained, to the sheer breadth of free-to-play content, Warframe represents another milestone for the console.
This is yet another excellent port of Minecraft, nothing more and nothing less. The versatile setup of the Switch allows this to be the most easily accessible, convenient and playable version to date. Of course, it's a game that’s often best enjoyed with others, and both online and offline multiplayer are supported here, with up to four players allowed locally and eight players online. If you want to play the best portable version of the game, look no further.
How does Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stack up against previous entries? Vocal concerns about past games have been actively addressed, every single fighter from the series is present, the customisability is overwhelmingly vast and it’s all topped off with super-solid single-player modes to boot. Online is a bit of a minefield for games like Smash that demand precision timing and the lowest latency possible, but thanks to what we can only assume is some sort of cosmic magic, Ultimate plays really well online. You’ll occasionally run into a game with someone whose connection is less than solid, but the majority of the time it feels practically as responsive as playing a local game with a wireless controller (possibly thanks to the system’s preference for matching up against nearby players).
We’re not sure how you could make a more robust or pleasing Smash game. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate truly is the ultimate instalment in the series, and it makes you wonder where Sakurai can possibly take this franchise next.
That's it for our round-up of wonderful online multiplayer games to keep you occupied on Switch. Do you think we've missed any? As always, let us know below.