How times change! It used to be you went to your local video game emporium, perused the shelves, took your chosen game to the counter and handed over cold hard cash before heading home and popping it in your console. Not only has digital distribution removed the need to even leave the house, but many games can be downloaded to your console for absolutely nothing. Marvellous!
Of course, free-to-play (F2P) games will have in-game purchases such as cosmetics, Battle Pass subscriptions or certain modes which may be locked behind a paywall until you give the developers some money, but these days many 'freemium' games boast a huge amount of content accessible for exactly $0 - the best possible price!
The following varied list of the best free Switch games can be downloaded from the Nintendo Switch eShop for the princely sum of zero dollars right now, and none of them require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play, either (except for the very last one). Perfect, then, if you've blown your budget over Christmas and need to tighten your belt for a month or two.
So let's take a look - in no particular order - at the best free games on Switch...
Let’s face it, there's a good chance that Fortnite adorns your Switch dashboard already, and with good reason. Epic delivered the full fat Fortnite (Battle Royale) experience on Nintendo's ‘homeheld’. with steady performance and all the bells and whistles from versions on other platforms, as well as motion controls for those of us that can't live without them ever since Splatoon. With all the costumes, crossovers and seasonal mayhem continuing in Chapter 2, Ultimately, that just-one-more-round feeling survives the transition to Nintendo's console perfectly 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.
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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 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 content you can access for free, Warframe is a fabulous showcase of what's possible in the F2P space, as well as what the Switch is capable of.
As a standalone game, Super Kirby Clash holds up well to the Kirby series standard with its impressively diverse boss roster, straightforward RPG-lite mechanics, and deep potential for replayability. Though the online multiplayer is an unstable and unreliable mess, this hardly stands as a reason for you to not at least download the game and give it a shot. As a free-to-play release, Super Kirby Clash also manages to smartly handle its monetisation and doesn’t hold back too much, offering you a fair amount of time-gated content relative to how much you feel like paying. We’d give Super Kirby Clash a high recommendation even if it was a low-price budget release at retail, but considering that it literally costs you nothing but your time, do yourself a favour and go download this as soon as you can.
As a free-to-play game, 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 tenants that’s made it such a hit with both casual and pro gamers. There’s a definitive learning curve for those looking to play competitively, but it’s nonetheless one of the console’s best multiplayer shooters.
With a solid netcode, an accessible and enjoyable take on the MOBA template and a free-to-play model, Arena of Valor is a strong entry in the free-to-play space on Switch. While it had a few technical issues at launch, one of the world's biggest games is available on Switch, and that's something to celebrate - especially when it costs absolutely nothing to play.
Though a bit uninspired, Brawlhalla still stands as a solid example of how to do a proper platform fighter, with several game modes, a diverse cast and a beautiful art style making this one easy to recommend - you really don’t have anything to lose by giving it a try. At worst, you’ll find a Smash clone that doesn’t have a ton of new ideas; at best, you’ll find a new go-to for when you have a few friends over for a gaming session.
Phoenix Labs has done a great job with Dauntless, designing a game that takes the better parts of Monster Hunter and pares them down into a rapid-fire and easily accessible action experience that’s sure to demand dozens of hours of your time once it gets its hooks into you. On top of this, you’re never hit over the head with microtransactions and it’s easier than ever to play with friends on other platforms. Though this Switch port mightily struggles from a performance perspective, it’s still enjoyable on a consistent enough basis that such issues can be mostly overlooked. It literally costs you nothing more than time to give Dauntless a try, and we’d highly recommend you give it a shot.
Galak-Z: Variant S is a more focused and tighter experience than its forerunner, but one that offers surprising depth thanks to the often staggering upgrade opportunities on offer. By taking the freemium route developer 17-Bit Studios has been forced to introduce timers which can be overridden by spending actual cash, but these are thoughtfully deployed and even if you do decide to dig deep in your pocket, you'll still need considerable shooting skills to overcome the increasingly stern - if somewhat repetitive - challenge.