The Nintendo Switch is one of the best handheld gaming systems on the market — experts across the industry love its portable design and unique features. And the console isn’t just popular with industry insiders: This May, the Switch surpassed the PlayStation 4 in lifetime sales, making it the sixth best selling video game console of all time.
If you know someone who owns a Nintendo Switch, odds are they’ve raved about all of the game offerings available. From Mario to Zelda, experts told us the Switch has some of the best games around, especially when it comes to multiplayer functionality.
“You can bring the console with you, detach the Joy-Cons and play many — if not most — games with another person present,” said Justin Reeve, news editor at The Gamer. “You can go straight from handheld to local multiplayer in a flash.”
To find the best multiplayer games for the Nintendo Switch, we spoke to experts across the industry about their favorite titles and what makes them perfect for friends and family.
Best multiplayer Switch games in 2022
The best multiplayer games for Nintendo Switch include classic Nintendo games everyone has heard of as well as lesser-known indie titles. Some of them focus on a fun couch experience with family, while others connect you with friends online. All of them offer fun action, wacky antics and tense moments that might lead to shouting, cheering and booing at the screen. Below are our experts’ favorite multiplayer Switch games.
Overcooked 2 is every chef’s worst nightmare. Players are cooks in a cramped kitchen trying to work together to make and serve as many meals as possible within a set time limit. The kitchens themselves are where the game gets strange: Scenarios in the game include cooking on a slippery iceberg and tossing food between two trucks as they blaze down the freeway.
Despite its chaotic setup, the game is simple to control, making it approachable for casual and hardcore gamers alike. The main challenge is communication — to succeed at any level, you need to coordinate with your teammates.
“It’s such a communication-driven game and you can never get ‘good’ at it, you’re always just staving off disaster,” said David Shimomura, editor-in-chief of Unwinnable. “It’s extremely fun and side-splittingly funny,” added Yussef Cole, an artist and game critic.
The newest game on this list, Nintendo Switch Sports is the long-awaited successor to one of the best selling multiplayer games of all time: Wii Sports.
In Nintendo Switch Sports, players use the motion controls on the Joy-Con controllers to play a variety of real-world sports, including volleyball, badminton, bowling, soccer, chambara (sword fighting) and tennis. (Golf will also be added this summer.) I’ve found that the motions of swinging a racket, throwing a bowling ball, kicking for a goal or lunging with a sword feel great with the Joy-Con — just be sure to tighten the wrist strap, lest you accidentally throw your controller into your TV.
You can play with up to two or four players, depending on the sport, or compete solo against the computer or online opponents. The approachable motion controls, fun character creation and real-world sports games make Nintendo Switch Sports one of the best games for family members of all ages.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is truly the ultimate crossover fighting game. In it, nearly every video game character you can think of is beating each other down, seeking to be the last one standing.
One of the most appealing parts of the game is its characters. Smash Ultimate features 82 characters to battle with, including everyone from Nintendo icons like Mario and Donkey Kong to characters from series like Pokémon, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Animal Crossing and more.
“The production value of the game is awe-inspiring — every character has so many animations and they’re all so high-quality that, as a game developer, it’s impossible not to be blown away,” said Jake Rabinowitz, a software engineer and developer of PogoChamp. (Full disclosure: Jake is also my brother.)
Smash Ultimatecan be played with up to eight players locally, making it an excellent choice for big groups. The game may seem simple, but it’s played professionally by esports athletes, meaning there is a lot of complexity hidden beneath the surface.
Originally released as Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an enhanced version made for the Nintendo Switch. It’s one of the best selling games of all time, with over 45 million copies sold.
For those unfamiliar with the long-running franchise, Mario Kart is a racing game in which you control iconic Nintendo characters like Mario, Bowser and Princess Peach as they kart-race each other in fantastical locations. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe features a whopping 42 characters and 48 race courses to enjoy, all lovingly crafted with plenty of charm and personality. Alongside drifting and boosting, players can obtain a variety of whacky items to use to gain the advantage and throw their opponents into disarray.
“It’s such a simple game at its heart and meets people at their skill level, most of the time,” said Shimomura. Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play, but it’s the thrill of competition that makes it a game you can come back to again and again.
Splatoon 2 is one of the most unique shooter games around. It’s essentially a turf war between two teams, each of which is trying to control as much territory as possible before the timer runs out. You control territory by covering it with ink you shoot out of paintball-style guns.
In Splatoon, you play as Inklings, anthropomorphic creatures that can transform between human form and squid form. When in human form, you can shoot your paintball guns, and when in squid form, you can “swim” in ink, moving quickly and stealthily across your territory.
“The game is pretty unique … but what really has me sold is the multiplayer design,” said Reeve. “The gameplay is so well balanced that you can go from having almost lost a round to a slam dunk victory in just a matter of minutes. I can’t think of too many games which allow for such a dramatic reversal.”
Unlike the other games on this list, Splatoon 2 doesn’t have local multiplayer. You’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to play multiplayer modes online.
How to shop for multiplayer Switch games
There are a wide variety of multiplayer games on Switch, both in physical stores and on the digital Nintendo eShop. Our experts told us that it’s important to consider the following information before making your final purchase.
Know who you’ll be playing with
When buying a new game, check to see if the people you’ll be playing with already have a copy or if it’s a game they would be interested in trying out. “If you know your friends already all play Splatoon, you’ll have an easier time than trying to … convince people to buy something to play with you,” said Shimomura.
See how many players are supported
For each game, be sure to check how many people can play at the same time. Most multiplayer games support between two and four players, with games like Smash Ultimate being rare eight-player exceptions. When doing your own research, you can check out reviews for each game to find out how many people can play (and whether multiplayer functionality is supported at all).
Check if you’ll need a Nintendo Online subscription
To play a multiplayer game online, you’ll likely need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. In most online multiplayer games, a Nintendo Switch Online subscription gives you access to online features like connecting with friends and strangers to play competitive matches.
“Most multiplayer games on the Switch require a [Nintendo Switch Online] subscription, so be prepared to fork over a few dollars every month,” said Reeve.
Unlike other online games, Nintendo’s titles offer very little in the form of interaction and communication with others. This can be a boon for parents, as it means their children can’t interact with strangers past the actual playing of the game.
“The multiplayer is almost completely free from the sort of griefing and other forms of bad behavior which predominate on most platforms today,” Reeve said.
Before you buy a game, it’s also important to check if it uses local or online multiplayer (or both). Some games like Splatoon 2 only support online multiplayer, meaning they only support one player per Switch console.
“I like local [multiplayer] more than online multiplayer when I can find someone to play with if only because having someone else beside you gives the entire experience a certain sense of community,” Reeve added.
Why trust Select?
Select writer Harry Rabinowitz has been playing video games for his entire life and studied game design in school. He primarily plays games on his desktop computer and his Nintendo Switch — both have allowed him to test and review a wide variety of single-player and multiplayer games. For this story, he spoke to game industry experts and game developers. Combining their guidance and recommendations with his own expertise, he reviewed critically acclaimed multiplayer games from a variety of different genres.