Updated with the fabulous Pikmin 4 demo!
Since its launch back in 2017, the amount of quality games that have come to Switch is simply staggering. Nintendo's system has quite literally thousands of titles to enjoy, many of them absolutely free to download and play, and many of the others with free demos available on the Switch eShop, so you can try before you buy.
Below we've collected together some of the best demos on the eShop. It's a genre-spanning, motley mixture of AAA releases, indie gems, undeniably brilliant titles and others that may be more of an acquired taste — and therefore perfect fodder for a gameplay demo to see if you like what's on the menu before placing your order.
The length of the demos below varies (the first RPG on the list is one of the most generous demos in living memory), and some of them handily carry over your progress should you decide to purchase the full game. Regardless, each of them gives you an excellent idea of the larger experience, all for the princely sum of nada.
And if trying a bunch of games for free isn't enough for you, make sure to check out Nintendo's "Try Before You Buy" sale on the Switch eShop, which can save you a significant chunk of change on some of the demos on this very list! We love it when things work out like that.
So, let's take a look at the best demos on the Nintendo Switch eShop...
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition has a heartwarming, well-paced narrative supported by a cast of fantastic characters, a dense and interesting overworld packed with dozens of hours of content, and one of the finest soundtracks we’ve heard in a JRPG. It's an unforgettable modern classic, but if effusive critical praise doesn't sway you, perhaps a chunky 10-hour demo might. Your progress transfers to the full game if you decide to take the plunge (and you really should).
And while we're on the subject of Dragon Quest, the Dragon Quest Builders games both have lengthy demos, too, and are worth checking out once you've finished this epic.
One of our favourite indie gems on the Switch, the energy and verve of Just Shapes & Beats is utterly infectious. True to its name, the elements are simple, but Berzerk Studio explores and executes on its modest premise with an exceptional level of polish in this self-described ‘musical bullet hell’. The demo features the first four tracks of the Story Mode, plus the first Boss level and local multiplayer support, so plenty to help you decide if it's for you. Which it is.
Trials of Mana proves itself to be a successful revival of a lost classic, smartly infusing new design and content where necessary while still maintaining the spirit of the original. Multi-threaded storylines, an enjoyable combat system and flexible character progression combine to make this one a fantastic experience from start to finish, even if occasional performance problems hinder the experience somewhat. The demo provides a couple of hours of gameplay and gives you an introduction to the six main characters. Your save data will also carry over to the full game.
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Brace Yourself Games crafted a unique Zelda game which fit in perfectly with the rest of the family. A transfusion from Crypt of the NecroDancer gave the old top-down template a fresh spin but it still manages to feel like Zelda. Cadence of Hyrule is not just a brilliant game, it's a brilliant Zelda game, but its beat-based gameplay can take some getting used to. Handy, then, that there's a demo available to download.
Daemon X Machina is a solid mech action game that controls well and gives the player a generous helping of customisation options. Its mission structure can get repetitive, and its plot is so difficult to grasp it may as well be soaked in grease, but as long as you’re willing to put up with these and get through its initially bewildering array of gauges and icons you should have a good time with it. Given its divisive status, the eShop demo is a godsend for anybody sitting on the fence.
Yoshi’s Crafted World is a delightful side-on platformer overflowing with colour and charm that does exactly what it says on the tin. For Yoshi fans, it contains few genuine surprises, which is perhaps the worst thing we can say about it. Still, if you're new to the series, or just want to sample the light-hearted gameplay before investing the full RRP, the demo gives a great taster of Yoshi's irresistible world.
We have now hit the point where we expect large demos from Square Enix and Octopath Traveler II is no exception. Much like the original Octopath, this taster gives you three hours to play through the starting area for any of the eight main characters and, importantly, your save data will once again carry over to the full game if you do decide to purchase. It's a great excuse to spend a few hours wondering in yet another world of HD-2D gorgeousness.
Fans of the original 3DS titles will feel immediately at home, although Bravely Default II on the Switch entry obviously looks significantly prettier than its predecessors. One word of warning, though: it's a tough one, so be prepared to do some grinding.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a real joy, a near flawless port of the Xbox One original and a pleasure to play on Switch. We consider it an unmissable experience, but if you're still not sure you should definitely check out the demo. It lasts for around an hour and if you can resist buying the full game afterwards, you possess a cast-iron will that we simply don't. Go on, bosh it on your backlog.
What happens when you throw arguably the two most popular falling block puzzle games in a blender? It’s a miracle that the result wasn’t a horrible, horrible mess, but Puyo Puyo Tetris mixes the two so confidently that it doesn’t occur to you how catastrophic this cocktail could have been. If you're not prepared to take it as read that you need this in your Switch library, the generous demo--which includes access to two modes, plus local multiplayer--should be all the persuasion you need.
A beautiful little game, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a winner whether you're after puzzling or jump button-less platforming. With beautiful visuals and an upbeat soundtrack, it's is a real gem; a wonderful and gorgeous 3D platform puzzler fit for all ages. The demo, like the game, is short and sweet and well worth investigating.
Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition is one of those games that's frequently on offer, and it's absolutely brilliant. If you haven't caught up with it over the years, we demand that you download the demo and get stuck in this instant. We promise that next time it's discounted, the full game will be on your Switch so fast, the main man's arms and legs will be but a blur.