The Nintendo Switch has become a fantastic platform for RPGs. Not only does the on-the-go gaming of handheld mode make it easier to complete epic 80-hour adventures, but the actual selection of titles is now mightily impressive.
There are many Switch exclusives, as well as a multitude of ports and definitive editions that were originally housed on other consoles. This allows a great opportunity to enjoy some of the best from this generation, as well as some you may have missed in the past.
Here, we’ll walk you through the 15 must-play Nintendo Switch RPGs.
Square Enix transported us back into the 90s with a nostalgic title drawing comparisons with SNES classics like Final Fantasy 6. The modernised 16-bit graphics were actually sharpened and polished in a way that looked great whilst retaining that classic charm.
Octopath Traveler follows eight different journeys, granting discretion of which order they are played. These featured some great characters and interesting plots, which were kept distinct even when the characters teamed up. Some of these stories hit the mark better than others, and one of the stranger elements was the omission of any true plot-related dialogue between party members.
One constant is the excellent turn-based battle system, helped by an extraordinary soundtrack that came into its own during the many challenging boss encounters. The numerous tweaks and twists on the classic battle formula keep it fresh and enjoyable, as does the need to balance the unique abilities of the individual characters.
As a love letter to a wonderful past era, Octopath Traveler is a must-play for anyone with a penchant for traditional JRPGs. A sequel is also in the works, which will surely be added to the list of terrific Nintendo Switch RPGs.
Trials of Mana
Another game paying homage to the SNES era is Trials of Mana, with a full overhaul of the 1995 title of the same name. Since the original was never actually released in the West until 2019, the remake is the best opportunity to enjoy a fun action RPG that clocks in at a reasonable 20 hours or so.
An early choice between the six playable characters dictates which of the three overlapping plots will unfold. The colourful fantasy world exudes a welcome, traditional feeling that lets us forgive a fairly simplistic narrative packed with age-old RPG clichés.
Its real-time battle system is easy to grasp, and never lets up with the addictive enjoyment of jumping and rolling around, stringing together combos and occasionally freezing time to cast spells. There are a multitude of bosses to test your skills and strategy, with battles often requiring a keen eye and quick reflexes to interrupt their powerful attacks.
It’s refreshing to play an RPG that doesn’t require a massive time sacrifice, and Trials of Mana is a great pick for anyone struggling to fit in the 80-plus hours so often required within the genre.
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
One of the best RPGs on the Wii is now remastered on the Nintendo Switch. If you missed out on this exceptional game the first time around, there is no excuse to overlook it again.
Xenoblade Chronicles follows the tale of Shulk, a young man bestowed with the powers of the Monado – a blade that can literally show its wielder the future. The huge, sprawling journey takes place on the very bodies of enormous titans Bionis and Mechonis, frozen in place from an epic battle in the distant past.
The battle system is an interesting amalgamation of turn-based and action combat. Characters are moved around the screen in real time, yet strike at a steady pace whilst charging up their skills. Every now and then, Shulk will glimpse a powerful enemy attack moments before it is unleashed, leading to a frantic attempt to block the move or defeat the foe in the nick of time.
With an abundance of plains to explore, quests to complete and heart-to-heart bonding events to find, Xenoblade Chronicles is an outstanding RPG whose story contains numerous surprises. The definitive edition on Switch upscales the graphics and adds a new epilogue section. Within the superb remastered soundtrack, Engage The Enemy remains one of my favourite pieces of video game music.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
And if you enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles, its sequel will not disappoint. There is actually no requirement to play the first game in order to pick up Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which features a standalone story and a new cast of characters.
The vast lands of Alrest provide another stellar setting that include some grand locations accompanied by an epic musical score. The cheesy anime tropes sometimes draw a bit of criticism, but I loved the sequel every bit as much as the first game and found I just couldn’t help but fall for the cast of quirky characters.
This time around, protagonist Rex crosses paths with a powerful being called Pyra, who shares her life force and grants him extraordinary abilities. The battle system takes the original’s formula and throws in some new ingredients that initially seem overcomplicated. However, once grasped it’s a great feeling to link together a glut of elemental attacks that get gradually stronger and blast down a boss in one well-timed, well-coordinated assault.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 takes a little while to get going, but once the plot ramps up and the battle system clicks (which may take a YouTube tutorial), this is one of the best Nintendo Switch RPGs.
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Monster Hunter Rise
The latest Monster Hunter has proved a massive commercial and critical hit, earning rave reviews and impressively shipping over five million sales within just a few weeks of release.
Despite Monster Hunter’s huge popularity, its interface has never been particularly welcoming to new players. Monster Hunter Rise bucks the trend somewhat, offering a touch more accessibility than previous entries.
There is plenty to please veteran players, and the menu-delving still requires concentration. Monster Hunter Rise has the trademark array of weapons and traps to be experimented on the various monsters, and quests yield parts that can be used to upgrade your equipment. One of the most important choices is between weapons, with fourteen available that each provide a distinct playstyle.
Rise is named for the way it encourages players to get up high. You’ll traverse elevated cliffs, swing across valleys and grapple up to ledges. This aspect is a smooth, fun way of getting around as you search for the next mark with trusty pet-like companions at your side.
With both single player and online multiplayer modes, Monster Hunter Rise is simply an essential purchase for Switch owners who enjoy action RPGs.
Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition
Widely regarded as one of the top games of the long-running series, Tales of Vesperia is another definitive edition finding a home on the Nintendo Switch some 11 years after its original Xbox 360 release.
Leading man Yuri Lowell is undoubtedly one of the most likeable RPG protagonists. His cool, collected, morally grey personality is humanised perfectly by the brotherly bond with young party member Karol and his respect for female lead Estelle. We start modestly, with Yuri tracking down a thief robbing his home district of its water power. We end up, of course, on a quest to save the entire world.
The action-based battle system is as fun as ever – easy to pick up but containing enough elements to keep it continuously interesting. Hacking away will get you through most normal battles, but boss battles require closer attention to the different artes and combos that can string together.
Tales of Vesperia’s definitive edition adds some welcome story content and an extra two playable characters (technically one of them was playable in the original… for one whole battle). It’s probably not quite enough to justify a second purchase for previous owners, but is certainly the best way for first-time players to enjoy this great title.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana is a fantastic place to enter the long-running Ys series. Adol Christin has been on many prior adventures, but none that have hit the heights of its eighth instalment.
Shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Seiren, the flame-haired adventurer must scour the land for other castaways whilst trying to find a way home. As Adol journeys further into the island’s depths, he starts dreaming of Dana. Before long, we learn there is far more to Seiren than meets the eye, and its many secrets keep us guessing right to the end of an intriguing plot.
The frenetic, past-paced combat is exhilarating and satisfying. Adol and his companions can switch around quickly, allowing players to exploit their different attack types to efficiently take down enemies. Skills regenerate rapidly, meaning there is huge incentive to repeatedly let loose with your full strength.
Along with the great combat and plot, exploration is also a big part of the experience. Acquiring new equipment and bolstering the population of Castaway Village allows Adol to gradually unlock more areas, in a Zelda-esque fashion. Ys VIII is one of my favourite Nintendo Switch RPGs, and the popularity of the series is deservedly growing with each release.
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Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of An Elusive Age
Yet another definitive edition is the hugely popular and well-received Dragon Quest XI, which has sold 6 million units and counting.
Any fans of the quintessential JRPG experience will love Dragon Quest XI. The traditional turn-based combat, classic fantasy world and party of motley characters are a fitting tribute to the series as a whole. If you want to get really traditional, the additions to the definitive “S” version include a retro 16-bit version of the title – despite the enormous headache it gave the developers.
The battle system has firmly ditched the classic first-person perspective to combat, but I’d suggest this isn’t something many will miss. The new ability to run around the field actually makes no difference to battle, which remains decidedly old-school.
The main downsides of Dragon Quest XI S are its repetitive music and bloated run-time, which could probably have been condensed below its 80-odd hours without losing much substance.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The latest Fire Emblem release has given the series the shot in the arm it needed, becoming its all-time highest selling game.
Three Houses is an unusual blend of classic strategic combat, Persona-esque relationship building and a grand school setting that draws comparisons to Harry Potter. A choice between the titular three houses dictates which direction the narrative goes, meaning multiple playthroughs can offer something fresh and different.
The grid-based tactical battles involve balancing your unit’s abilities and attack types. Playing on classic mode means fallen comrades suffer permanent death. This adds a huge level of stress and demands you take huge care over each and every move. Casual mode grants post-battle revival, but who wants to take the easy way out? There’s something about living life on the edge that makes it all the more satisfying to win a battle unscathed.
Fire Emblem Three Houses is a good place to start with the series, but also pays enough homage to the classic formula to please older fans.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
I’ll admit I was a bit surprised when The Witcher 3 was ported to the Nintendo Switch, but I’m not complaining. With a countless array of awards, The Witcher 3 set an impeccable new standard for WRPGs and still inspires many big-budget releases with its enormous, detailed world and multitude of quests and activities. I’d argue very few games have compared favourably.
Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-slayer, traces the steps of prodigal child Ciri whilst evading the ominous group known as the Wild Hunt. Despite being the third Witcher title, the game isn’t a bad place to start. In fact, going in without a full knowledge of Geralt’s past only adds to the intrigue. The main plot is broken up by welcome playable segments as Ciri herself, whose increased speed and differing abilities provide a nice shift from Geralt’s slower, more powerful build.
Some of the side quests genuinely have more depth and quality than other entire games. Geralt’s choices influence their outcomes, with jaw-dropping revelations often coming at their conclusion. Elsewhere, your time can be spent plundering forts, frequenting a brothel and spending a disproportionate amount of time playing cards.
If you somehow missed out on The Witcher 3 on the PS4 (surely the only reason could be that you didn’t own one) then it’s time to dive in and see what all the fuss was about.
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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
On the subject of huge fantasy lands, Skyrim is still hugely popular a full decade after its original release. The Elder Scrolls series has produced simply one of the best WRPGs of all time, hitting wonderful new heights with its fifth entry.
Skyrim has its Dragon-centric main story quest, but the real charm comes in the sheer discretion granted. Choosing your race and appearance is just the beginning. The countless glut of quests, guilds and locations can easily fill hundreds of hours. From the snowy mage realm of Winterhold to the shadowy underworld of the Dark Brotherhood assassin guild, exploring every inch of the Northern Tamriel region is relentlessly rewarding.
As a neat Nintendo Switch bonus, the port includes some of the most iconic Zelda gear, such as the Master Sword and the Hylian Shield. If these kind of touches interest you, then it’s worth knowing about Skyrim’s incredible modding scene. Having said that, the distinct possibility of bricking your console may dissuade you from taking the risk.
Despite some reservations of the Switch’s capacity to run such a huge game, the performance is surprisingly good, making Skyrim an unmissable experience.
Bravely Default 2
Bravely Default 2 is a sequel that requires no prior knowledge of the previous games, featuring a new plot and cast. This is not to be confused with Bravely Second, the actual direct sequel to the original Bravely Default released on 3DS.
This is a Nintendo Switch exclusive from Square Enix, who have once again captured that classic Final Fantasy feel. Like Octopath Traveler – whose battle system also inspired one of its main combat tweaks – there will definitely be appeal here for traditional JRPG fans. The story centres around four elemental crystals, whilst the turn-based battles also incorporate a job system.
The chibi art style has admittedly never been a favourite of mine, and it’s fair to say the plot doesn’t push too many boundaries but Bravely Default 2 is a good sequel with its fair share of content. Acquiring the true ending will likely take the best part of 60 hours.
The World Ends With You: Final Remix
TWEWY was innovative when it was first released on the DS in 2008, and many years later the quirky battle system is still an interesting and refreshing change to the norm. The tweaks to the controls on the Switch didn’t please everyone, but the remaster neatly upscales the graphics as well as the phenomenal musical score.
Set in Tokyo’s stylish centre of Shibuya, a teenager named Neku finds himself wrapped up in a trippy competition known as ‘The Game’. The surreal plot contains a series of shocking twists and turns and some truly compelling characters, all packed within a relatively streamlined runtime.
The fashion world influences gameplay itself, with pins equipped to bestow different abilities and activated by pressing them on the touchscreen. With the power literally at your fingertips, the Switch port is far better enjoyed in handheld mode rather than its clunkier docked alternative.
A sequel was recently announced, making it a good time to check out one of the best handheld RPGs in recent history.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Co-created by anime legends Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni was first released in the West on the PS3 in 2013. Now ported to the Switch, the beautiful art style looks as magnificent as ever, making this one essential for any Ghibli fans.
Oliver is a young boy stricken by the tragic loss of his mother. He soon journeys into a vibrant, enchanting land where he acquires magical powers that may just be able to bring her back. Oliver is accompanied by a loveable fairy named Drippy, who is there every step of the way to add guidance and comic relief in his endearing Welsh accent.
The ability to recruit familiars adds a Pokemon flavour. In truth this doesn’t necessarily need to take over the experience if you don’t want it to. Familiars can be called into the real-time battles, but the human party members can be controlled instead if needed. I can’t be the only one who misses a good old world map, and Ni No Kuni’s is a joy to explore, boasting grand, uplifting music and a host of unique locations to visit.
Unfortunately there are still no signs that the sequel, Revenant Kingdom, will be joining the list of Nintendo Switch RPGs anytime soon.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
I’ll admit this choice is a bit of a wild card, as Tokyo Mirage Sessions is not for everyone. This crossover of Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem plunges right into the barmy world of J-Pop and idols within Japan’s capital.
If this genre interests you, then you should not hesitate to dive head-first into what is a strong RPG in its own right. Otherwise, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is perhaps best thought of as a Persona-Lite. The stylish young stars, when not navigating their growing celebrity status, enter the Idolosphere to battle evil mirages trying to steal the power of the performing arts.
Optional side stories add a bit more colour to the individual characters, whilst distorted versions of Fire Emblem characters appear to grant them their strength in battle. In truth, the actual crossover is far more heavily weighted in favour of Shin Megami Tensei (the series that also birthed the Persona games).
The turn-based battle system is a sight to behold. Characters dramatically reveal new costumes at the start of encounters, before bounding around the stage – literally – to link session combos together. Occasionally, they’ll burst into song and power up attacks. If this all sounds rather camp, it really is. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is probably the most Japanese game I have ever played.
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With this list of fantastic Nintendo Switch RPGs, there are more than enough quality titles to keep you enthralled for hundreds of hours. They may not all be exclusives but given the length of a typical RPG, the ability to play on the go is a massive plus. Furthermore, in many cases the later versions of prior releases come with additional content. Sony and Microsoft may have released their next-gen consoles, but it’s still a fantastic time to be a Nintendo Switch owner.
What do you think? Have we missed any of the top Nintendo Switch RPGs?