The Nintendo Switch has been a game-changer since it arrived in 2017 as a hybrid console that balances the demands of home entertainment with the convenience of mobile gaming. Able to provide a thrilling experience in any of its configurations–if we’re not counting the Switch Lite that is–Nintendo’s popular console also has access to an incredible library of first-party main event titles and darling indie games. 2021 even saw the arrival of the Switch OLED, a lovely edition to the Switch family.
If you picked up a Switch this year or are simply looking for new stuff to play, we’ve rounded up the highest rated games of 2021 on Metacritic, GameSpot’s sister site. Metacritic collects tons of reviews from a wide variety of respected outlets and comes up with an average score dubbed the Metascore. These results may be a bit surprising, with Nintendo only having two entries in a top ten list that is dominated by games that range from a polished retro FPS violence to a charming moving simulator, visual novels with hard-hitting themes, and a classic puzzle game that provides the ultimate audio and visual experience.
In the year 2021, who would have imagined that a quirky video game about moving into a new home could result in one of the most cathartic pieces of interactive entertainment of the year? Unpacking delivers exactly what you’d expect from a video game about unloading boxes of personal possessions, and yet the game is more than just zen-like tranquility with effortlessly charming retro visuals.
It’s a journey into someone else’s personal space, a trip through time that tells a heartwarming and emotional story of life, love, and loss. The fact that Unpacking accomplishes all of this with a mere handful of words is a testament to just how well-designed this point-and-click game about puzzle-based organization is.
Metascore: 87 | Read our Unpacking review.
A great game is fun the moment you load it up, but a groundbreaking title manages to provide entertainment value that survives and thrives for decades after it was first released. Quake is one of those rare games which is still just as much fun to play as it was 25 years ago, and on the Nintendo Switch, that action-packed romp across hostile territory holds up brilliantly.
What changes are present in this remaster are thoughtful additions from developer MachineGames that enhances the experience. The Switch is more than capable of running the game with smooth frame-rate, the game is packed with extra content, and the new multiplayer options are a blast of retro online fun. Quake Remastered isn’t just a fun update, it’s the definitive version of one of the most influential games of all time.
Monster Hunter Rise
Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise is no stranger to Nintendo consoles, but arguably the best game in the entire series is one that Switch owners had to watch from the sidelines–or satisfy their cravings with 3DS port Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate–as Xbox, PC, and PlayStation owners had a wild time with Monster Hunter World. Thankfully, Capcom delivered a wonderful Switch console exclusive in Monster Hunter Rise.
Built from the ground up for Nintendo’s hybrid console, Rise takes plenty of inspiration from 2018’s Monster Hunter World but still manages to feel distinct thanks to its focus on pure action. Monster Hunter’s core RPG mechanics are still present, but with refined and polished combat, Rise was a more approachable title than previous entries. Veterans still had plenty to sink their teeth into with more advanced gameplay systems, and with the game headed to PC in 2022 and an expansion on the horizon, the future of the franchise looks brighter than ever with its new monster-slaying direction.
Metascore: 88 | Read our Monster Hunter Rise review.
Metroid games always have their work cut out for them whenever they arrive, as Nintendo’s cosmic franchise has to balance nostalgia, evolution, and refinement of its classic formula all at the same time. Metroid Dread is a triumphant return to form then for bounty hunter Samus Aran, an intense and enjoyable platformer that mixes precision action with new gameplay systems and even occasional moments of stealth.
Packed with some of the best boss fights in the entire franchise and delightfully satisfying counterattacks, Dread also takes time to make open-ended exploration rewarding to players. With a storyline that expands on several of Metroid’s greatest mysteries and mesmerizing visuals that take full advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s new OLED model’s hardware, Metroid Dread is a comfortable return to the glory days of the series and still manages to carve its own distinctive path forward.
Metascore: 88 | Read our Metroid Dread review.
Overcooked! All You Can Eat
Overcooked! All You Can Eat is a game that feels like it was designed to end friendships. It’s a tense multiplayer game about the joy of cooking, and it makes superb use of the Switch’s portable nature for impromptu rounds of kitchen nightmares. There’s no Gordon Ramsay present, but once chaos hits the fan, everyone’s going to be swearing like a sailor during a mad rush to satiate the infinite appetite of the spaghetti monster.
Frantic and fun, this party game bundles everything in the Overcooked series into one almighty collection of content that’s pure value for the money. It’s incredibly charming with its quirky visuals, the chaotic gameplay is amplified by dynamic twists in the formula, and the co-op experience is one of the very best you can have with friends on Switch.
Metascore: 88 | Read our Overcooked! All You Can Eat review.
One of the biggest indie game success stories of the early 2010s, Fez is as wonderfully charming today as it was almost a decade ago. A joyful platformer that mixes 2D worlds with reality-warping manipulation of the third dimension, Fez quite literally added a new perspective to a classic genre of video games when it first arrived. On the Switch, the game hasn’t lost a single step with its unique gameplay mechanics, charming sprite visuals, and head-scratching puzzles that provide hours of entertainment.
Still one of the very best puzzle-platformer games out there, Fez’s polished and confident arrival on Switch shows just how powerful and enduring a well-executed game can be on that platform.
Metascore: 88 | Read our Fez review.
Dusk may look like a first-person shooter with outdated graphics, but beneath the visual homage to action games of a bygone era lies a game that builds on that foundation with clever design and pure passion. A high-energy blast of fun that delights in throwing players straight into a meat grinder of bloody violence, Dusk’s spooky collection of levels feel right at home on Switch.
A love letter to the past that is FPS fun at its very purest, Dusk is retro comfort food that you’ll happily snack on.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
The Wii U may have been one of Nintendo’s least-popular consoles, but it was home to some memorable games. Thanks to the Switch, many of those gems have received a well-deserved second chance, and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is proof of just how timeless a great Mario game can be.
While Nintendo could have easily slapped on some updated graphics and called it a day, the sheer magnitude of the extra content in this edition is a showcase of creativity and versatility. A bright and imaginative remix of what came before, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury isn’t just one of the best Switch games of the year, it’s one of the best Super Mario experiences that you can have right now. The 3D World campaign is wonderful on its own, and the Bowser’s Fury story feels like a glimpse into an open-world future for Mario.
Metascore: 89 | Read our Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury review.
Tetris Effect Connected
Tetris in its most basic form is a game with universal appeal. Stacking rows of Tetriminos, clearing lines, and facing a steadily-escalating challenge makes for a deceptively deep game to dive into, but also a formula that has managed to remain relevant for decades since the first game was released in 1984. How do you improve on that concept? By making the experience a synesthesia showcase.
Tetris Effect is Tetris in a pure and almost spiritual form, mixing a collection of stunning visuals together with a musical beat that you can happily lose yourself in. Its intelligent connection between your actions and the audio-visual journey in front of you isn’t just engrossing, it’s memorable and stays with you long after you’ve cleared that final line in this emotional odyssey.
Metascore: 95 | Read our Tetris Effect Connected review.
The House in Fata Morgana – Dreams of the Revenants Edition
While it may be surprising to see The House in Fata Morgana as the top-rated Switch game of 2021, it’s probably no surprise to those who have played it. This visual novel deftly weaves a gothic horror story with sumptuous visuals, gripping writing, and haunting music. If you’re looking for an interactive story to lose yourself in, The House in Fata Morgana is one of the best games out there.
Dozens of hours in length and enhanced with extra content for the Switch release, The House in Fata Morgana is a dark fairy tale that pulls no punches with its riveting narrative. It’s a must-play visual novel.
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