Best Switch Ports 2021
Image: Nintendo Life

Another year down, and another set of games making the unlikely jump to Nintendo's diminutive hybrid console. We say 'unlikely', but at this stage we're well aware that practically anything is possible given the appropriate time and resources — although those two commodities are typically in short supply when it comes to video game development.

We looked at the ten best Switch ports last year, and there have been plenty of great candidates in 2021, too. While we're seeing an increasing number of 'Cloud Version' games that are streamed to the console rather than running natively on Switch's mobile chipset, there's nothing like sitting back and enjoying an experience tailored and optimised specifically the hardware.

This list is to celebrate developers which went the extra mile and delivered an outstanding experience on Switch. Call us simple, but when you slide the Joy-Con off the edges of a Switch and hold the console itself beside a gargantuan system like PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, it's incredible to think how many of the same games appear across all three platforms and just how brilliantly Switch can deliver full-scale gaming thrills in such a minute package. And with the screen built in, too. Marvellous!

Yes, frame rates are usually reduced and visual fidelity takes a hit, but Switch often holds it's own admirably against consoles operating in a whole different league specs-wise. You might not be able to heat your entire household via its heat vents, but you can carry a Switch in a backpack without requiring weeks of physiotherapy afterwards.

So, let's take a look at ten great ports that came to Switch in 2021...

10. Castlevania Advance Collection (Switch eShop)

Castlevania Advance Collection (Switch eShop)Castlevania Advance Collection (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 23rd Sep 2021 (USA) / 24th Sep 2021 (UK/EU)

We begin with a compilation of games which would have zero excuses to run badly on Switch, but just because you expect the very best from port specialists M2, we still feel the effort shown here is noteworthy and worthy of acknowledgement.

In terms of the collection itself, it’s mostly Aria of Sorrow that’s doing the heavy lifting with Castlevania Advance Collection, as it really is one of the best in the entire Castlevania series. Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance are alright but on the lower tier of the other Metroidvanias, while Dracula X is middling even on its own standards. These are still very much worth playing, though, and this collection makes for an essential purchase for both longtime Castlevania fans and newbies.

9. Subnautica (Switch eShop)

Subnautica (Switch eShop)Subnautica (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment / Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Release Date: 14th May 2021 (USA) / 14th May 2021 (UK/EU)

When Unknown Worlds announced they were bringing Subnautica to Switch we were hugely excited, this is one of our all-time favourite games after all, but it was excitement tempered with a degree of scepticism as to how on earth they'd manage to cram the entire experience onto Switch in a properly playable manner. As it turns out, we needn't have worried as this is a super solid port that — besides a few loading stutters here and there and some scenery pop-in that's present in every other version of the game — successfully delivers one of the very best open-world survival experiences on any platform to Nintendo's hybrid console.

8. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch)The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 16th Jul 2021 (USA) / 16th Jul 2021 (UK/EU)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD introduced a raft of technical improvements and quality of life updates that reinvigorated and revitalised this 10-year-old game. With motion controls more precise than ever before, an alternate button control scheme that totally works, crisp HD graphics, smooth 60fps gameplay and a bothersome sidekick who's been streamlined into something altogether more useful, this really does feel like Skyward Sword as it was meant to be experienced.

Yes, the locking off of instant travel behind the official amiibo is a misstep, but beyond this one issue what's here is a sublime experience, a technical triumph and an absolute must-play for Switch owners and Zelda fans.

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7. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Switch)

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Switch)Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Switch)
Publisher: Bandai Namco / Developer: Level-5
Release Date: 17th Sep 2021 (USA) / 17th Sep 2021 (UK/EU)

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is an excellent action-RPG that arrived on Switch in a fantastic, feature-packed port. Evan and Roland's antics across this game's sprawling world are stuffed full of great characters, exciting combat and adventuring and a kingdom building mechanic that's a delight to get to grips with.

It looks and sounds every bit as good as its predecessor and, although the story might be a little more hit-and-miss here, we were completely hooked into this one from beginning to end. This is a sumptuously crafted adventure you won't regret diving into.

6. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (Switch)

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (Switch)Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 12th Feb 2021 (USA) / 12th Feb 2021 (UK/EU)

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury takes everything that made the cat-filled Wii U original special and throws in various small gameplay tweaks to make it even more enjoyable. As the only four-player 3D Mario game, it fuses the freedom of the third dimension with the spirit of the tighter, more constrained (yet no less imaginative) courses from his 2D games to wonderful effect. Super Mario 3D World is a colourful and unintimidating introduction to a larger Super Mario world, and a joy for veterans of the Z-axis to boot.

The original game is sublime in its own right, but the additional open-world-y Bowser's Fury mode packaged with the Switch version makes this an essential purchase even if you 100%-ed the game on Wii U. The only real mark against the awkwardly acronym-ed SM3DW+BF is patchy online multiplayer implementation, but this Switch release is otherwise up there with the very best of the plumber's ouevre — a great port of a great original. Dog lovers should probably steer clear; everyone else, jump to it.

5. Dying Light Platinum Edition (Switch)

Dying Light Platinum Edition (Switch)Dying Light Platinum Edition (Switch)
Publisher: Techland / Developer: Techland
Release Date: 19th Oct 2021 (USA) / 19th Oct 2021 (UK/EU)

Dying Light on Switch is quite a remarkable achievement. Its ambitious open world full of zombies is unlike anything else in the Switch’s library and, between the core campaign and six years of constant DLC updates, there’s potentially hundreds of hours of enjoyment to be had here. Granted, all of this comes at the cost of performance that can be middling compared to other platforms, but this is neatly balanced out by the convenience of playing in handheld mode and developer Techland has done a mighty fine job getting this open world running well on portable hardware. Switch owners who rarely play in portable mode may want to pause and consider buying it elsewhere, but we'd strongly encourage handheld gamers to consider this excellent Switch port.

4. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (Switch)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (Switch)Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (Switch)
Publisher: Activision / Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: 25th Jun 2021 (USA) / 25th Jun 2021 (UK/EU)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 on Nintendo Switch is a rock solid port of a pair of genuinely fantastic remakes. These really are two of the very best arcade sports titles of all time, revamped, reworked and re-imagined for modern audiences with all the graphical bells and whistles, collectibles and game modes we've come to expect in this day and age. With flawless performance in both docked and handheld modes and visuals that still look the part after a few necessary concessions here and there, this is one collection we highly recommend you kickflip right into.

3. Quake (Switch eShop)

Quake (Switch eShop)Quake (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Bethesda / Developer: id Software
Release Date: 19th Aug 2021 (USA) / 19th Aug 2021 (UK/EU)

Quake returns in a feature-rich remaster that delicately updates the classic FPS, adding lots of optional bells and whistles, packing in a ton of content and delivering the definitive way to play this 25-year-old masterpiece in the process. There's a wealth of online and co-op options here, a glorious new expansion to blast through from MachineGames, super slick performance in both docked and handheld modes and it's all available at a cracking price point. This really is a stellar port of one gaming's true greats and an absolutely essential addition to your Switch library.

2. Dusk (Switch eShop)

Dusk (Switch eShop)Dusk (Switch eShop)
Publisher: New Blood Interactive / Developer: New Blood Interactive
Release Date: 28th Oct 2021 (USA)

Dusk is one hell of an impressive piece of software and possibly the single best Unity port to Switch we've ever seen, sidestepping typical performance problems and delivering a brilliant experience of a brilliant game. It's not as good a game as Quake, but almost nothing is. There's a relatively limited arsenal of weapons — they're all great, but there's no iconic gun here, just your usual pistol, shotty, assault rifle, explosives, et al. We're being churlish with our criticisms here, though — ultimately, Dusk is another absolute cracker in Switch FPS roster.

1. Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch eShop)

Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch eShop)Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Enhance Games / Developer: Resonair
Release Date: 8th Oct 2021 (USA) / 8th Oct 2021 (UK/EU)

Tetris is one of the greatest video games of all time, and Tetris Effect: Connected is perhaps the best iteration of the classic puzzler yet. While this Switch port doesn't offer a great deal over existing versions in terms of features, it delivers the one key ingredient that its rivals cannot: portability. Sure, some will argue that Tetris Effect: Connected's unique brand of synesthesia only really comes alive when played on PSVR or an Oculus Quest headset, but we'd argue passionately that this game benefits far more from the ability to pick it up and play whenever, wherever.

Just as the Game Boy and Tetris combined to create an irresistible, world-conquering fusion back in 1989, Tetris Effect: Connected has finally found the hardware that allows it to truly shine, making this an utterly essential purchase for all Nintendo Switch owners. Just don't forget those headphones.

What was the best port on Switch in 2021?

Think we've missed something spectacular? Let us know below the ports you've enjoyed in 2021.