action games for Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch has plenty of awesome adventure games for you to play through. From games best played with friends to journeys through different worlds, there are various adventure games sure to pique your interest. Of all of them, Astral Chain rises to the top of the pack delivering a sci-fi drama that’s oozing with style and packed to the brim with fast-paced, combo-heavy action.
Best overall: Astral Chain
Platinum Games have crafted some of the finest action games we’ve ever played. Their over-the-top finesse is matched only by their solid gameplay mechanics. Astral Chain is the latest in that long-standing tradition and delivers fast and stylish action gameplay. Against the backdrop of dystopian earth, you play a recruit of a special police task force that protects humanity’s remnants from interdimensional monsters. Using your Astral Chain, the player tether creatures from the other dimension to hack, slash, and investigate crimes.
Astral Chain is an action title that combines intense combat with investigative sections that slow things down. In our review of the compelling title, we noted that as a rookie detective, players explore The Ark exploring the world, examining evidence, and questioning characters for clues. Once players access the Astral Plane, the game pushes down on the pedal and never stops. The juxtaposition between the action-packed sections of the Astral Plane the investigation sections of The Ark might give players some whiplash. Still, both sections are enjoyable, and that’s what matters most.
Astral Chain marks the most recent collaboration with Nintendo, and with results like Bayonetta, Astral Chain, and The Wonderful 101, we pray that the collaboration continues. Platinum Games continues their action game-winning streak on the Nintendo Switch. Astral Chain is the best action game on the Nintendo Switch (until Bayonetta 3 comes around, anyway).
- Fast action gameplay
- Stylish manga/anime influence, with art from artist Masakazu Katsura.
- A cool sci-fi setting
- Investigative sections are not for everyone
Best multiplayer: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros is what happens when you build a game around all of your favorite video game characters smashing each other to smithereens. In our review, we loved how it’s a button-mashing, better-with-friends explosion of chaos and fun. Smash Bros Ultimate has more content in one package than the franchise has ever managed before.
Controls in Smash have always been pretty simple, and that trend continues. You use the control stick and two buttons to move and launch attacks. Each character gets access to special moves that can be triggered, but the basics don’t change from character to character. You can jump in and start having fun even if you’re never played a single moment of Smash before. No health bars in Smash ever show up; instead, a percentile shows above your character. The higher this number goes, the more likely it is that you can be KO’d.
There are 108 different maps in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate; there really is a level that will delight any player. Along with so many levels, there are also a whopping 74 different characters to choose from when playing. You’ll need to unlock most playable characters by gaming with the initial 11 characters available at the start.
- More than 50 different characters to play
- Tons of gameplay options
- Easy for new players to jump in
- Fight can be frustrating until you learn the controls
Best platformer: Cuphead
Combining a nostalgia-fueled 1930s animation style with breakneck boss battles, Cuphead is a platformer unlike any other. To begin with, Cuphead is just plain hard from beginning to end. There is no learning curve here, and you may curse the game more than a few times as you play.
Cuphead starts with graphics that look like a love letter to Max Fleisher’s art style of 1930s animation. Bright watercolor backgrounds, big eyes, and jittery movements make it almost as fun to watch as it is to play. Along with the graphics, you get an excellent score to cement the game’s atmosphere, with jazz, ragtime, and big band music showing up at different gameplay points.
Now, when we say Cuphead is hard, it is with a capital H. We’re not kidding in the least. There are no save points during levels, no way to regain lost health, and with levels that can take over an hour to beat, it is not messing around. Boss battles constantly happen, along with streams of enemies. And if you thought opting into co-op mode with a friend would make it a bit easier, you are sorely mistaken.
- Iconic 1930s art style
- Screen stays focused even with dozens of enemies
- Fantastic score
Best indie: Hades
Source: Supergiant Games
Hades, which we’ve tested and written about, has become one of the most popular games of the year due to its brutal difficulty and sexy pantheon of ancient Greek heroes. Hades is a roguelike, which is a game that makes use of procedurally generated dungeons. That means that every time you play, the enemies and challenges are totally different. While making every playthrough different has been done before, the steps Hades takes to pull away from the pack is what makes it stand out.
In Hades, you control Zagreus, the angsty son of Hades, as he fights his way out of his dad’s Underworld. As he fights his way out of literal hell, you meet a sprawling cast of Greek Gods, demons, and heroes, each one beautifully voiced and illustrated. The cast of characters is also pleasantly endearing – Hades may be the Lord of the Dead, but he’s also an overworked paper-pusher. The subtle characterizations of this cast of characters are refreshing, but what’s even more refreshing are the power-ups they provide.
The longer you survive, the stronger you get, but the moment you get killed, it’s back to square one. However, Hades shines brightest thanks to its continuous plot uncovered with every playthrough. There’s always something new to discover, whether it’s a new power-up or a glimpse at the backstory of one of the many gods of the pantheon. Hades continues to deliver for hours on end. Supergiant has delivered in a big way with Hades.
- Challenging and rewarding gameplay
- Excellent presentation
- Endless hours of content
Best for casual fans: Yoshi’s Crafted World
Yoshi’s Crafted World takes a different gambit when it comes to delivering a fun platformer that anyone can enjoy. With adorable graphics, an outfit system, and a play style that is never so difficult that you want to throw your controller across the room in frustration, it is a fun experience. You’ll see items that look handcrafted like signs, and it’s clear that many background items are hung in place with string. It adds to the cuteness factor and plays into the personality of Yoshi games.
In our review, we noted that one of the more amusing features of this game is the outfit system. There are 170 different costumes that you’ll use in-game currency to purchase through gachapon capsule machines. You never get handed duplicate outfits; there is always something new to try on. Aside from being adorable, the costumes give you armor, protecting players from any dangers Yoshi might face. So, if you’re looking for the most challenging way to play, feel free to collect outfits…just don’t put them on.
It’s very easy to roll through the 40 levels of the game, even when you try to up the ante. The real fun in Yoshis’ Crafted World is going back to find the collectibles hidden throughout each level. Each level hides 20 red coins, along with several smiley flowers. You’ll also be able to pick up specific missions that send you back to the level to find hyper-specific items. If you’re a completionist, you can expect to play most levels at least 2-3 times before you manage to get that sweet 100% score.
- 40 levels to play and explore
- Adorable graphics
- Fun, low-key gameplay
- You’ll have to replay levels for 100% status
- Gameplay becomes repetitive
Best action adventure: Super Mario Odyssey
When it comes to Nintendo games, few characters or franchises are as well known as Mario. He appears all over the place, but his platforming adventures have been with gamers now for more than 30 thirty years. Super Mario Odyssey, which we tested and loved, is the next big chapter in Mario’s adventures, and it delivers a stellar experience that provides the gameplay you already love with a massive amount of new content.
Super Mario Odyssey starts with the same old story; Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, who intends to marry her. However, you have a new partner in Cappy this time, and King Koopa has also captured his sister. Cappy is the major new change to Mario’s gameplay; by throwing him at enemies, you can possess them and their abilities to Mario’s benefit. It means that you can take control of Goombas, frogs, and even a T-Rex. You’ll also end up using Cappy as a weapon instead of just stomping enemies and as a jumping pad during gameplay.
Super Mario Odyssey is massive. There are more than 16 different worlds to explore, and even after you finish the main campaign, there are new levels to unlock. Players do this by collecting power moons. While some moons are easy to find, getting some of them can be pesky. With over 500 moons in the game, there is a lot of replayability in trying to hunt down everyone. One of the best parts of the game is that it never makes itself more serious or more difficult than it needs to be. It is great for kids and adults alike.
- Cappy adds new features to the gameplay
- Tons of worlds to unlock and explore
- Hundreds of moons to collect adds replayability to every level
- Camera angles aren’t always ideal
Best hack and slash: Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a breath of fresh air the 30+-year-old franchise needed. Injecting new life into its well-worn game design, Breath of the Wild introduced a new art style along with new versions of familiar characters, Zelda and Link. Now, three years later, Nintendo returns to the very same Hyrule, but instead of adventuring, you’re thrown into the thick of battle as you fight against hundreds of enemy forces.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is a Dynasty Warriors game with a Zelda skin over it, but that’s selling the game short. The team at Koei Tecmo has made strides in representing the characters from Breath of the Wild in the most accurate way possible. In our review we wrote about how every music cue, every voice, and even every blade of grass seems to be exactly where we remembered it when we played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The action itself is hard-hitting, and the game does a great job at making you feel like you’re unbeatable.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is not without its faults. The much-teased story turned out to be a waste of time, and some technical issues push the Switch to its limits. There’s not much else to do aside from hacking and slashing everything in sight, but overall, if you’re a Zelda fan, you won’t want to miss out on this lovingly crafted action game.
- Intense action starring your favorite Breath of the Wild characters
- Lots of details for Zelda fans to enjoy
- Slowdown is glaring
Best remaster/port: Bayonetta 2
We would be remiss if we wrote about the Switch’s action games without mentioning the Umbra Witch herself, Bayonetta. Bayonetta 2 was the subject of fanboy ire when it was released as a WiiU exclusive, but that didn’t stop the game from being a huge hit with critics and fans alike. The Switch version of the game gives Bayonetta 2 another chance in the spotlight, and as we noted in our review, it’s as glorious as now as it was in 2014. Platinum Games are masters at their craft. Having built action game classics like Metal Gear Rising, Vanquish, and The Wonderful 101, and Bayonetta 2 is one of the best games the developer has ever crafted.
If you’ve played an action game like Bayonetta, you’ll know what to expect here. Bayonetta oozes style and finesse, and her over-the-top sexiness flows into every one of her attacks. The sexier the attack, the more skin Bayonetta shows, but don’t expect a peepshow. Her attacks often involve a hail of bullets and demons pulled out of different dimensions. Hell has never looked so good.
The only downside to the game is that it’s not much of an upgrade from the Wii U version. The resolutions are still the same, and the framerate is still good but not perfect. Still, neither complaint is enough to sway action fans from this stylish beat-em-up. A physical copy of Bayonetta 2 might be hard to come by, but you can snag a copy for yourself on the eShop. Buying the game also offers a steep discount for the first game, so you can experience both Bayonetta adventures while you wait for the arrival of Bayonetta 3.
- Fast-paced, wild action
- Bayonetta is as endearing as she is sexy
- Buying Bayonetta 2 nets you a discount for the first game
- Not much of an upgrade from the Wii U version
- Hard to find a physical copy of the game
Best Metroidvania: Metroid Dread
In 2021, Nintendo and developer MercurySteam brought back Samus with Metroid Dread. This long-rumored name is well-earned, as after crashing on a hostile alien world, Samus comes face to face with extraordinarily dangerous enemies that will stop at nothing to defeat her.
As a Metroidvania, players will have to explore every last corner of the game as they leap, gun, and roll across this mysterious planet. Post-launch updates have added great features such as a Boss Rush mode and difficulty options. In our review we raved about the game and even noted that the visuals, while restricted by the scale of the Nintendo Switch, still provide great detail for Samus and the alien environment she explores.
Even so, be aware that this kind of gameplay may not be for everyone. Bear in mind that the design is very old-school, with the player expected and required to find secrets, as progression isn’t very straightforward.
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Strong visuals
- Finally returns to Samus’ story
- Progression can be frustrating
Grab more games
Nintendo has managed to amass a remarkable number of adventure games that you can take advantage of. There’s a lot of great Nintendo Switch games and with more to come, who knows what’s in store for Nintendo! If you’re looking for a definitive game to grab right now, there’s a couple that definitely rise above the rest.
Astral Chain is an excellent game all-around, and it’s only available on the Nintendo Switch. Solve cases, then hack and slash your way to victory. It’s pretty unusual for a game that’s about detectives, but PlatinumGames brings the studio’s trademark action to the fore.
Meanwhile, if you’re okay with roguelike titles, we can’t recommend Hades enough. Despite the fact that it can be difficult, Hades is incredibly welcoming to newcomers, with different settings that make it easier, or even harder to if you prefer a challenge. The writing, artwork, music, and gameplay are all stellar, so you’ve got to check it out if you haven’t yet.
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