01. Puzzle games
02. Arcade games
03. Fighting games
05. Multiplayer games
Finding the best free Nintendo Switch games can be a life-saver if you've just blown all your money on a new console and don't have any funds left over to spend on something to play. Video games aren't cheap – especially the hottest AAA titles – and while there are plenty of great indie titles available at reasonable prices, if cash is tight then there's a decent assortment of free games to be had.
Let's be clear about what we mean by free games, though. All of these games are free to play, however in some cases you'll need to have a Nintendo Switch Online account to get them, and in others there are in-app purchases that'll enable you to get better items and other bonuses in order to progress more quickly. Some games are more generous than others with free content, but the developers have to make money somehow.
Whatever type of game you prefer, you should be able to find a free Nintendo Switch game to keep you entertained. If you still don't have a Switch there are some great Nintendo Switch deals to be had, and if you want to play without disturbing others then be sure to check out our guide to best Nintendo Switch headsets. If you're already sorted, though, let the free games commence!
Free Nintendo Switch games: Puzzle games
01. Tetris 99
Classic Tetris is a beautiful thing; just you against endlessly falling blocks, trying to arrange them into rows so that they disappear. Tetris 99, however, is a lot more vicious. You're up against 98 online players, and every time you clear two or more rows at once, you can fling garbage blocks at your opponents to ruin their game, and the last player standing is the winner. Tetris 99's free, but you'll need a Nintendo Switch Online account to get it.
02. Color Zen
If multiplayer Tetris feels just a little too frantic for you, here's a much more laid-back option. Color Zen's a relaxed puzzle game in which all you have to do is use the Switch's touch screen to drag coloured shapes around, touching same-coloured shapes against each other to fill the surrounding area with that colour, in order to fill the screen so that it's the same colour as its border. Sounds confusing but you'll quickly get the hang of it, and with 120 free levels to play with it'll be a while before you feel the need to fork out for further challenges.
03. Fallout Shelter
Ever dreamed of sitting out the apocalypse in your own underground vault? Here's your chance. Based on the long-running Fallout series of games, Fallout Shelter is a cartoony management game in which you build and maintain your dream vault: adding new rooms, ensuring there's enough power and food for everyone, and taking on the occasional quest along the way. It's free to play and pretty easy to avoid having to pay anything, although you'll definitely be tempted by some of the fun extras you can buy to make your vault feel more like home.
Free Nintendo Switch games: Arcade games
04. Super Mario 35
Available for free to Nintendo Switch Online members until 31 March, Super Mario 35 is another multiplayer take on a classic title. This time it's the original Super Mario Brothers, and you're racing against 34 other players to complete a random selection of courses with just 35 seconds on the clock. You earn extra time by stomping enemies, which also sends them to your opponents' courses, and once again the last surviving player is the winner.
05. Pinball FX3
Video games are fun and all, but there's still a lot to be said for grappling with a pinball table, and with Pinball FX3 there's a whole stack of real pinball tables to be played with, perfectly emulated for some old-school arcade fun. Naturally you'll need to cough up some actual money to get your hands on most of them, but Pinball FX3 starts you off with a free table, and if you keep your eyes peeled you'll spot the occasional promotion that'll earn you extra free tables.
Free Nintendo Switch games: Fighting games
If you fancy some fighting action but can't stretch to the Switch's default brawler, Super Smash Bros: Ultimate, Brawlhalla is the perfect free alternative. While it lacks Smash Bros' polish (not to mention its cast of familiar Nintendo characters), once you get below the surface you'll find that it's a well-designed beat-em-up with loads of distinctive characters to choose from, and fast and frantic combat with up to eight players in each match.
07. Super Kirby Clash
Kirby's one of Nintendo's B-list characters, an amorphous pink blob with the ability to inhale enemies and absorb their powers for a limited time, and he's been quietly doing his thing over the years without ever really having the impact of the likes of Mario or Link. He's hard not to love, though, and Super Kirby Clash – an updated version of Team Kirby Clash Deluxe on the Nintendo 3DS – is a great showcase. It's an RPG with plenty of fighting as you assemble your own Team Kirby to save the Dream Kingdom.
Free Nintendo Switch games: RPGs
08. Pokémon Quest
You may have caught all the original 151 Pokémon before, but have you caught them in adorable cube form? That's the aim in Pokémon Quest, a free-to-start (that is, you'll get nagged to spend money along the way) action RPG set on Tumblecube Island, where all the Pokémon have become strangely cubic versions of themselves. With up to three Pokémon at your side you'll have to fight, level up and cook delicious stews to attract new Pokémon to your team, and while it doesn't have the sheer depth of a full Pokémon game it's still plenty of fun.
Fancy taking on some properly enormous monsters? That's what Dauntless is all about. Clearly inspired by the ever-popular Monster Hunter series, it tasks you with hunting down massive Behemoths that stalk the land; you can either try it alone or team up with other players, and as you progress you can craft new weapons and improved armour to improve your chances against bigger and tougher enemies. There's a huge, ever-evolving world to explore with regular updates to keep things exciting, plus special events to take part in.
Free Nintendo Switch games: Multiplayer games
Fortnite's one of those games that you've almost certainly already heard of, even if you're not a gamer. Originally launched in 2017 it's become one of the most popular games in the world: an online battle royale in which you fight against 99 opponents to be the last player standing. Its developers keep things fresh with regular updates and a continually evolving plotline, and while it looks best on a powerful PC, the humble Switch handles it well. It's free to play, but any parent will already know that there are plenty of temptations to spend money on extra goodies.
Fun with robot suits! Select and customise a Warframe, a hi-tech suit of armour, and head off on a variety of missions that you can tackle either single-handed or co-operatively with up to three other players. As you progress you can upgrade your Warframe with new weapons and items as well as unlocking new worlds to play in, and while the game will bug you to spend money on new stuff, you can go a long way without having to drop any cash whatsoever.
12. Asphalt 9: Legends
There aren't many options when it comes to free racing games for the Switch; luckily Asphalt 9 is a solid offering that should provide you with plenty of high-speed thrills. Starting with a humble Mitsubishi, you need to win races to earn blueprints for new and better motors, and with 84 cars available you'll have to do some serious driving to fill out your garage. It's free to play but if you want to give yourself a bit more of an edge you can spend money to upgrade your cars and get a vital performance boost.
13. Rocket League
Football with cars! That's the pitch, and you have to admit that it's a pretty enticing one. Jump into a surprisingly nimble car that not only features a turbo boost but also the ability to jump and even spin in mid-air, and use it to try and hoon the ball into the other team's goal; what more do you need to know? Play it online and rise through the ranks, or find a friend and play it split-screen in the comfort of your living room; it's fast, furious and utterly ludicrous.
14. Arena of Valor
MOBAs – multiplayer online battle arenas – are the big thing in esports right now. They're super-fast real-time strategy games where you need to combine tactical thinking and lightning reactions as you direct your team of heroes in a pitched online battle, and if that's a prospect that doesn't scare you off then you'll have a fine old time with Arena of Valor. There's a decent choice of game modes to jump into, including 5v5, 3v3, 1v1 and Hook Wars, and thanks to its relatively straightforward control scheme it's fairly easy to get the hang of.