5 best first-party Nintendo Switch games that shine in handheld mode

These are some of the best looking handheld Switch games (Images via Nintendo)
These are some of the best looking handheld Switch games (Images via Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch is a unique piece of tech thanks to its docking ability. The system can seamlessly switch between TV mode and going portable, a novelty that rarely gets old. Gamers can simply continue their session when out and about. Or even better, certain games also offer local co-op play - which is a great way to have fun with friends.

On that note, there are many experiences that offer great and memorable handheld play. Especially exclusive offerings from the Big N themselves. These games aren't just lookers on the small screen but also pack great performance for such a small device.

Top 5 first-party Nintendo Switch games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Metroid Dread that are great for handheld play

5) Mario Kart 8 Deluxe


Would any Switch multiplayer library be complete without Mario Kart? The arcade racing series has been responsible for heated arguments among family and friends ever since its SNES debut. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most recent outing. It first launched on the Wii U in 2014.

While it was immensely popular on Nintendo's previous console, it saw even greater success with the Switch. With 43.35 million units sold, it is the best-selling Switch game so far. MK8D is also the most content-rich entry, with all DLC from the Wii U, new characters and new vehicle parts. It's still getting support from Nintendo with new DLC tracks - in fact, there are 48 of them in all.

The game looks exceptionally crisp at native 720p when portable and players can also use split Joycons to play splitscreen too. At the end of the day, it's all about having fun and trumping your opponents in heated, fast-paced races on the game's vivid and swerving tracks.

4) Splatoon 2


Nintendo didn't have any competitive shooters until Splatoon's inception in 2015 for the Wii U. The post-apocalyptic third-person shooter set on a marine-infested Earth brought something new to the table with its arena control focus. Using paints as offense and a progression mechanic is pretty cool and the 2017 successor further improves on it.

The sequel boasts improved visuals, a new story mode and new gear (like the Dualies and Inkjets). There's even a meaty DLC called Octo Expansion, which further expands upon the surprisingly dark lore of the series. However, it's the multiplayer that's the main focus. Players engage in 4v4 skirmishes and battle it out for victory across the game’s vertically-designed maps. There sre many weapons to pick from, from the usual rollers and blasters to the powerful sniper-esque Splatchargers.

For those of you craving multiplayer action on-the-go, this is a great option.

3) Metroid Dread


With Metroid Dread, Nintendo's latest entry to the revolutionary sidescroller franchise was the first main release since 2002's Metroid Fusion. Dread is also co-developed by a third party studio, MercurySteam of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow fame.

This time, protagonist and bounty hunter Samus Aran must investigate the planet ZDR for the Galactic Federation's missing robots. Called EMMI, these were sent to the planet in search of the existence of X parasites that first debuted in Fusion. Samus soon discovers that they've turned hostile which forms the basis for both the title and the new gameplay mechanics - chase segments.

During her explorations, Samus will sometimes encounter EMMIs that will chase after her relentlessly by detecting her movements and noise. Otherwise, the game is traditionally Metroid in every way, replete with complex maps, interesting puzzles and weapon/upgrade progression. It was also heavily advertised for the launch of the Nintendo Switch OLED model. The stunning presentation is amplified on the vibrant handheld screen, all at 60 FPS.

The game is also the proud winner of Best Action/Adventure at The Game Awards 2021.

2) Astral Chain


Made under PlatinumGames, Astral Chain is Nintendo's most memorable new IP in quite some time. Faced with the threat of otherworldly beings called Chimera, the Neuron Police Task Force fights back with modified entities of their own called Legion. The game pairs the iconic Platinum Games action formula with a fresh control scheme that demands control over two characters simultaneously - the protagonist and their Legion.

Legion are of different types, like the offense-based Sword Legion or the Beast Legion allowing its human partner to ride on its back. The bombastic gameplay is accentuated by the celshaded visuals set in a grim cyberpunk city known as the Ark. The vibrant neon blues and reds just pop on the Switch screen. Overall, its one of the best RPGs on the system and a great way to showcase the Switch's capabilities to friends.

1) Super Smash Bros Ultimate


This should have come as no surprise. Nintendo's 2018 platform fighting game is the ultimate video game crossover yet. Of course there are the usual Nintendo mainstays like Mario, Link, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong.

However, it also features characters from popular third-party games like Cloud (Final fantasy VII), Steve (Minecraft), Joker (Persona 5) and Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog). It is a true celebration of video game history, all packed into one tiny cartridge.

With 80+ characters (including DLC) to pick from, the roster is also one of the biggest and most varied out there. That's without factoring in over 100 stages, multiple game modes, online multiplayer, and a fully-fledged story campaign called World of Light.

Thanks to the split-Joycon control scheme, two players can easily fight each other on the same Switch by setting it up with the kickstand. The game supports up to 8 players on the same system. With all that being said, Smash Bros Ultimate is by far the best game to play portably, thanks to a staggering amount of content and fun, whether multiplayer or solo.

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Edited by Abu Amjad Khan
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