2021 has come and gone (almost) and despite a quiet start to the year, Switch owners have seen some real gems launch over the past 12 months. We've seen big releases (admittedly re-releases or remakes in several cases) of most of Nintendo's biggest franchises, with some big anniversaries popping up, too.
We got a Mario, a Zelda, a couple of Pokémon, a Metroid(!) and, perhaps most excitingly, a Big Brain Academy. Hey, it's a fun little game! Throw in WarioWare, another Mario Party and a host of brilliant third-party and indie titles — plus a sexy new SKU in the Switch OLED model — and it's tough to deny that Nintendo's console ended up having a strong software showing throughout 2021.
As such, we asked Nintendo Life readers to rate the Top 50 Switch games of 2021, and the ranking below is the result, as governed by the User Ratings associated with every 2021 Switch game released according to our games database. As with many of our reader-ranked Best Games round-ups, the ranking will change even after publication to reflect those User Ratings — and that means it's never too late to rate your collection and influence the list.
To score your favourites, simply click score the games below by clicking on their respective stars and rating them out of 10. Can't see your favourite? Head to our library of Switch games to find what you're looking for. To become eligible, a game needs to have been rated by a minimum of 40 users.
So, let's take a look back at 2021AD and the best Switch games of the year.
There's a lot to like about Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (known as Project Zero in Europe). While we didn't find it overly scary, it is very good indeed at being eerie. You'll see ghosts out of the corner of your eye and when you check, they'll be gone. It's oddly cosy and non-stressful for a horror game, because your camera is such an efficient weapon and the combat it propagates is too action-packed to really let any dread sink in. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though we found the earlier PlayStation 2 instalments of the series were more interested in actively frightening the player. Get absorbed in the storyline — which is easy to do as the episodic structure makes "just one more area" a compelling prospect — and you'll find this game's a real winner and worth snapping up if you're a horror fan who missed it on Wii U.
Far from the best Story of Seasons game on the market, Pioneers of Olive Town is promising and disappointing in equal measure. Patches brought changes and ironed out some issues, and it's certainly a mile better than Harvest Moon: One World. In fact, fans of the series/genre may find that they settle quite nicely into Pioneers of Olive Town, even with the whiff of disappointment lingering — it is a solid, if unremarkable entry in the series. In our opinion, you'd be best off waiting for a sale and getting Friends of Mineral Town in the meantime.
The Switch version of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is a perfectly passable port of a fantastic platformer that's absolutely rammed with things to do. It may have the lowest frame rate and resolution of all versions of the game, but if the Switch is your main console or you're looking to enjoy some bandicoot-bouncing on the go in handheld mode, it's still an excellent offering when judged on its own merits.
FEZ is a fun, challenging puzzle platformer fit to burst with original ideas and unique gameplay wrinkles. Its puzzles bend reality and even leech into our own world on occasion, but aside from a few select mega-challenges never stray into the category of too obtuse or unfair. A few visual and mechanical quirks stop this from being a perfectly polished experience, but these are outweighed by its charm and other wonderful qualities ninefold. It’s another one of those ‘games you have to play’ on Switch, and it couldn’t be more at home.
Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain is a fun little romp which doesn’t have ideas above its station and presents its brain-teasers in a more lighthearted, rowdier manner than Dr. Kawashima's friendly but sterile style. This isn’t the kind of marriage between gameplay and (for lack of a better term) ‘work’ that you’ll find in Ring Fit Adventure, but it’s a greatly enjoyable and budget-friendly way to keep up the little pitter-patter of grey matter for all ages.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a rather barebones revamp of a cult classic action-RPG that's really beginning to show its age in many respects. The core combat here is still strong stuff, crunchy hack-and-slash action with plenty of flexibility and variety in how you go about decking out your character, but it's also surrounded by a world and story that are very much of their time. Fans of the original game will no doubt enjoy what is a mostly fine Switch port, but there so many other, more modern RPG experiences available at this point on Nintendo's console that everyone else should perhaps approach this with a measure of caution.
It’s easy to see why this was such a polarizing title upon release. There’s a lot to love here, but Legend of Mana can be tiring in how much it likes to play ‘hard to get’. All the ingredients and individual pieces of a strong, impressively innovative RPG are present, but it feels like the developers simply tossed all these ideas in a bag and shook it vigorously, rather than taking the time to lay out all those ideas in a coherent and curated fashion. We'd recommended this for genre fans, specifically those who prefer more experimental titles. If that doesn’t describe you, there’s still a good chance you’ll find something to like about Legend of Mana, but just be aware that you may find it more of a mixed bag.
Miitopia is a weird old game, that’s for sure. If from what you’ve read you think you’d enjoy seeing King King Dedede [sic] encouraging our very own Zion Grassl to marry his daughter Kazooie over Jon Cartwright, then you’re bound to have a good time with this. It’s very much the type of game in which you get out as much as you put in; if you’re not into injecting a copy of Chibi-Robo!: Zip Lash into the role of a genie then you might want to think twice, or at least give the free demo a whirl. Whimsy and madcap situations a-plenty, this is a crossover that could rival Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, provided you’re willing to put the effort in.
Axiom Verge is a remarkably tough act to follow, but Thomas Happ managed to do it again in producing a pitch perfect, excellently paced Metroidvania adventure. Axiom Verge 2 perfectly balances familiar elements that made the original great and trying out new ideas that give the sequel its own identity, and while lovers of the first game may take some time to adjust, everything comes together and makes for a potent experience that no fan of the genre will want to miss out on. The mysterious atmosphere, thrilling pace, and fantastic world design all come together to make for a worthy follow up that stands well on its own.
Capcom Arcade Stadium is a very good package filled with brilliant games, each updated with modern functionality and a dusting of modern convenience. For purists, it doesn’t rival the quality of original hardware (or the likes of M2’s sublime individual ports of arcade masterworks as seen with the release of Esp.Ra.De Psi), but with a launch price of £30 for thirty-two games — and with debut console ports of Progear and 1944: The Loop Master — Capcom's legacy makes it well worth investigating, warts and all.