Best Games Of 2021 So Far

We're well over halfway through 2021 and we're steadily sliding down the back half of the year, having negotiated the six-month hump. Holiday season is waaaay off in the distance and we've still got several months to go before we get into video game 'silly season', but while recently discussing the upcoming Sonic Colors Ultimate remaster and lamenting that it wasn't arriving until September, it suddenly struck us that that's little more than a month away. Before you know it we'll be knee-deep in Metroids, Marios and OLED screens. Lovely!

So, we thought it was worth getting a read on the room and seeing what games Nintendo Life staff have most enjoyed in the first half (and a bit) of 2021. Below you'll find a selection of the hottest Switch games of the year so far with some words explaining why they left such an impression on us.

Beneath all those words you'll also find a poll that includes every Switch game released this year (so far, obviously) that scored a 9/10 in a Nintendo Life review, along with a few other obvious ones that simply had to be included. Feel free to vote for your favourite from that bunch, and elucidate in the comments if your personal favourite is missing.

So, 2021 in Switch games, then. Let's have a look at a handful of our faves so far...

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)

Although there are plenty of 2021 games I haven't got around to playing just yet, for me the new Bowser's Fury section in Super Mario 3D World on Switch has to be the best new gaming nugget I've experienced this year. I'm at the point where if a game hits a double-figure hour count, the likelihood I'll finish it diminishes to near-zero. Bowser's Fury was the perfect injection of sublime Mario platforming with all the verve and dazzling invention you'd expect from a new 3D Mario, but distilled into a manageable bitesize adventure which felt tailor-made just for me.

I've still got the main game sitting there untouched, too, but for me and my personal circumstances, it was worth the price of admission for Bowser's Fury alone.

Gavin Lane, editor

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The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Edition (Switch eShop)

The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Edition (Switch eShop)The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Edition (Switch eShop)
Publisher: Limited Run Games
Release Date: 9th Apr 2021 (UK/EU)

I might be as surprised as anyone by this, but I think my favourite game of the year so far might be The House In Fata Morgana.

That's right, the visual novel I've been playing for MONTHS now, with no end in sight; the game that changes what it's about every couple of hours; the story that unravels itself at the speed of a slug on a leisurely walk. Sure, there's not much interaction, but that doesn't matter so much when the tale it's telling is so gripping and well-written — I find myself itching to get back to it, which is a feeling I only get with really good books.

My runner-up is The Great Ace Attorney, of course: it's one of my favourite game, so it's an obvious favourite, but it didn't blow me away in quite the same way that Fata Morgana did. There'll be a review at some point — just gotta finish it!

Kate Gray, staff writer

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 26th Mar 2021 (USA) / 26th Mar 2021 (UK/EU)

Monster Hunter Rise had a tough task on Switch - it had to stand tall alongside the technological advances seen in MH World while retaining the quirkiness of the previous Wii/3DS/Wii U entries. It achieved both of these things, in my opinion.

Considering so much work will have been completed during the challenges of 2020/21, the development team did a fantastic job. I love dipping in for a portable hunt or a 'session' on the TV, and it's an entry that added some new ideas while streamlining and making the experience more accessible and 'snappy'. Oh and you ride palamutes and can run up walls; it's brilliant.

Tom Whitehead, deputy editor

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)

Playing a game that technically first launched in 2011 doesn’t really scream ‘best of 2021’, but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD is doing a fantastic job of reminding me just how good Zelda games have always been, even before the fancy new kid arrived.

It’s been an entire decade since I played the original so comparing this new version to that isn’t easy, but what I can say is that I’m genuinely having a solid time with SSHD. I’ve only touched the surface so far (no pun intended), but the dungeon design, items, and puzzles are some of the best the series has to offer – no dodgy controls or pacing can ruin that.

I’ve actually stuck with the motion controls too (flicking a Joy-Con to pull out your sword just feels cool, OK?), and as long as you hit ‘Y’ every now and then, it all works smoothly enough. Classic Zelda FTW.

Ryan Craddock, news editor

New Pokémon Snap (Switch)

New Pokémon Snap (Switch)New Pokémon Snap (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Bandai Namco
Release Date: 30th Apr 2021 (USA) / 30th Apr 2021 (UK/EU)

There was a 22 year lull between the N64 original and New Pokémon Snap and I spent a significant portion of that predicting the return of the series. I predicted it so much that I eventually gave up hope on it ever happening and that's why I still have to pinch myself to realise we actually got it.

This was one of 2021's greatest surprises and the best part is it delivered on its multi-decade legacy. Months later and I'm still returning to my save file as there's so much left to do. The joy of mastering each level is fully recaptured and it's even elevated with stages that grow as you play and a four tier rating system for every Pokémon.

It didn't reinvent the wheel but the original game holds a special place in my heart and all the sequel needed to do was catch up on 7 missed generations of Pokémon. New Pokémon Snap is one of the jolliest experiences I've had with Nintendo Switch, it's just a pure joy.

Jon Cartwright, video producer

Game Builder Garage (Switch)

Game Builder Garage (Switch)Game Builder Garage (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 11th Jun 2021 (USA) / 11th Jun 2021 (UK/EU)

Game Builder Garage is a game that hasn't stuck in my mind or sucked away hundreds of hours of free time, or even offered solid gameplay most of the time, but what it has done is really bloody opened my eyes. For a long time I knew that I knew little about game development, it's a scary and menacing beast of a topic that I just wasn't equipped to participate in, but it wasn't until GBG that I was aware of just how unfamiliar with the topic I was.

I knew some broad strokes, and had a very wobbly foundation of how coding works, but I didn't realise just how low-level even the most basic games are to create. I was given all the tools, many shortcuts, and still I was struggling to do something as simple as make an enemy move towards the player character. I don't dream of Game Builder Garage, but I will always be endlessly grateful to it for shining a light on my ignorance, and helping me break out of it just a little bit.

Alex Olney, senior video producer (and agent provocateur)

Bravely Default II (Switch)

Bravely Default II (Switch)Bravely Default II (Switch)
Publisher: Square Enix / Developer: Team Asano
Release Date: 26th Feb 2021 (USA) / 26th Feb 2021 (UK/EU)

I’m here to show my support for Bravely Default 2. Sure, it might not be your typical contender in a list like this, but the fact we actually got another entry in this particular series is something that needs to be celebrated.

And hey, as for the game – it provides such a comforting experience for anyone who has grown up with certain other Square Enix classics. It’s traditional, it’s a throwback and it also manages to mix in the ideal amount of modern conveniences to create a charming adventure that’s an absolute must-play for any longtime fan of the JRPG genre.

Liam Doolan, staff writer

So, those are our personal picks for 2021 games that have tickled our fancies so far, but what about you? Let us know in the poll below which of the big physical retail Switch games / eShop gems from the first six months of the year you've liked best, and feel free to leave a comment below telling us why.

Can't remember what came out this year? The Nintendo Life Games Database is here to help.

What's the Best Nintendo Switch Game of 2021 (so far)?