When you think of the Nintendo Switch, games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario: Odyssey, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons probably come to mind. While Nintendo’s first-party lineup draws an audience, it’s the third-party offerings that hold players over until the next big release and keep players around. The Switch is home to some of the best re-releases or ports from other systems, with some of them being better received on the handheld hybrid than when they originally released. They range in genre, too — from horror to shooters and even action RPGs.
A port is a game that was originally made for one console, but has then been re-released in an identical (or close to identical) form on another console. With that in mind, these are the best ports on Nintendo Switch.
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When Alien: Isolation released in 2014, fans were pleasantly surprised with its quality — especially after the reception of the horrendous Aliens: Colonial Marines a couple years earlier. Isolation was a true horror experience, taking place 15 years after the events of the first film and offering limited supplies to increase the feeling of helplessness. And somehow, thanks to developer Feral Interactive, the Nintendo Switch version actually runs better than the PS4 and Xbox One versions, offering a consistent 30 frames per second while in docked or handheld mode.
Considering Minecraft is a Microsoft property, it’s remarkable to still see it on other platforms. Though, it has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 million copies thanks to it being offered on nearly every device imaginable. The Nintendo Switch version is excellent and features exclusive content like a Super Mario Mash-up Pack, just for Switch owners. Thanks to its timeless art style, it looks and runs great on Switch, making it a totally viable option for those considering the purchase. In fact, the Switch offers the definitive handheld version of Minecraft due to the system’s power.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It’s easy to joke about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim being made available on every device ever (it’s even offered on Alexa, for crying out loud). But the Switch version might very well be the best way to play. Not only does it preserve the gameplay and expansive world of one of the most beloved RPGs ever, but it also runs at a solid 30 frames per second throughout. The Nintendo Switch version offers precise motion controls when using the Joy-Con, as well as Breath of the Wild-themed gear, which can be unlocked with amiibo.
The 2016 version of Doom is one of the most impressive ports available on the Nintendo Switch. It certainly takes a hit in the visual department to allow for a moderately consistent frame rate, but it’s amazing to see this game run at all on a handheld device. What you get is a smooth demon-slaying adventure that plays just like its counterparts on PS4 and Xbox One. Performance aside, it’s great to see Nintendo embracing mature games like these. The company has come a long way, and we’ve got our fingers crossed for this to continue. The sequel, Doom Eternal, will also be headed to Nintendo Switch at an unannounced date in the future.
Arguably one of the greatest games of all time, and certainly one of the best of the last generation, BioShock is one of those games that should have been ported to Switch a long time ago. Either way, it’s here, and seeing it on a Nintendo console feels surreal. Many new gamers might have missed BioShock when it released in 2007, but what better time to give it a try than now? It features an immensely atmospheric underwater setting in Rapture and looks even better than the original, thanks to enhanced visuals in this remaster. The stylized art direction will ensure this game continues to look modern, even decades after its release.
Much like Minecraft, it’s surprising to see Cuphead appear on the Nintendo Switch since it was funded by Microsoft originally. But we’re so glad it’s available for a wider audience to play. There’s nothing quite like it — with its impressive 1930s cartoon visuals and its immaculate gameplay, Cuphead is a game that will be remembered and lauded for years to come. The Switch is not just a place for family-friendly games, but also the perfect platform for incredibly challenging experiences like these.
Rocket League took off in 2015 and never looked back. It’s a success story you don’t often see — in which millions of players flocked to an off-the-wall online game thanks to it being made available on PlayStation Plus. Then, two years later, it came to Nintendo Switch and brought the same exceptional “soccer with cars” gameplay with the same smooth performance as the PS4 and Xbox One counterparts. Sure, the Switch version runs at a lower resolution, but this is a small price to pay for a consistent output of 60 frames per second. And with full crossplay functionality across all platforms, you don’t have to worry about being trapped with only the friends you have on Nintendo Switch.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Not many action-platformers accomplish what Shovel Knight was able to do when it released for 3DS in 2013. It captured the essence of beloved 8-bit games from the past, while making them feel modern. The Nintendo Switch version of Shovel Knight (renamed to Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove) features all the additional content that released over the years and gives players exclusive amiibo functionality — adding bonus stages and other perks. Nothing comes close to the personality, humor, and overall tone of Shovel Knight, and the Nintendo Switch is the best place to play it.
Dark Souls: Remastered
Like many games on this list, seeing Dark Souls on a Nintendo platform is almost unbelievable. It’s a testament to Nintendo evolving with the times and moving past the notion that it’s a company just for kids. Dark Souls might have spawned many of the internet’s most prolific video game memes, but it’s also an important entry in the action RPG genre. It’s not a great looking game, even on high-end PCs, but that doesn’t detract from it being an absolute master class in design, featuring memorable levels and bosses. The Switch version runs and plays just as good as ever, and with the ability to take it on the go, it might be the definitive version of Dark Souls: Remastered.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition
Arguably the most impressive game on this list is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. In fact, it was impressive when it released for PS4, Xbox One, and PC in 2015. Somehow, the magicians at Saber Interactive in conjunction with the talented CD Projekt RED managed to not only get this masterpiece to run on Switch, but do so in a way that doesn’t impact the quality of the game. It runs at 720p while docked and 540p while in handheld mode, in exchange for a consistent 30 frames per second. Some of the textures are a little fuzzy, but the overall experience remains intact. Again, much like many games on this list, it helps that The Witcher 3 has such a stylized art direction. It seems impossible to get this game to run on such a low-power machine, but the fact that it works makes you wonder what else developers could extract from the system if they know what they’re doing. If you missed The Witcher 3 (and its fantastic DLC) or want to play it again on the go, the Switch version is a great way to experience it, as long as you’re okay with slightly downgraded visuals.