There are a huge number of games now available for the Switch, including an assortment of free and free-to-play titles. While the term “free-to-play” often has negative and predatory connotations, many of these games can be enjoyed without ever handing over a cent.
Keep in mind though that playing multiplayer games requires a basic Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which costs $19.99 per year. That means even free-to-play online titles require some form of premium membership. Not all of the games below are multiplayer experiences, but the vast majority of them are.
How does Tetris battle royale sound? That’s the idea behind Tetris 99, a Switch-exclusive free-to-play online multiplayer title that pits you against 98 other players in a bid to be the last person standing. As you play you can see how your rivals are stacking up, and even target players by sending blocks their way using the right thumbstick.
If you’re a competitive Tetris player you should give 99 a shot. Once you’ve claimed a victory you can go up against other victors in a special “Invictus” game mode. Tetris 99 features a $9.99 DLC pack which includes a season pass, new modes including offline CPU battle, and local multiplayer.
Pac-Man 99 is to Pac-Man what Tetris 99 is to Tetris: a competitive battle royale against 98 other pill-munching yellow dots. Just like Tetris 99, you can turn the tide of battle on other players by slowing them down, jamming the board, and countering incoming attacks.
There are a lot of optional DLC packs to choose from to access new game modes including offline play, or add new visual and audio options to theme your Pac-Man 99 experience after classics like GALAGA and Dig Dug. Prefer your Pac-Man without a side of microtransactions? Check out the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus instead.
Warframe is a free-to-play third-person action game that features both short and long-range combat options. The game has a huge and seemingly ever-expanding amount of content to work your way through, with hundreds of hours of play accessible with a single free download (you’ll need nearly 16GB of space for this one).
The game can be played solo or enjoyed in co-op with up to three other friends, features large open battlegrounds, 18 unique worlds to explore, and over 300 weapons to suit a large number of play styles. If you’re a fan of Destiny and similar “social shooter” experiences, grab some friends and get stuck into Warframe.
Vehicular soccer title Rocket League went free-to-play in mid-2020 after initially launching as a standalone title way back in 2015. The move injected a large number of new players into the game’s community, and the title has embraced the freemium format with season passes, offering seasonal rewards that you can use to customize your car.
Rocket League‘s core gameplay remains intact, though a new “Knockout Bash” battle royal mode has been added to shake things up. The game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second on the Switch, which is essential since the game demands precise and responsive controls. If you already own a retail version of Rocket League make sure to create or link your Epic Games Account on your original platform so that you can bring your progress with you.
The battle royale hero shooter that many critics (and fans) consider to be the best of the bunch, Apex Legends features a large (and growing) lineup of characters to choose from, each with unique abilities to master. The game features fast-paced, Titanfall-inspired action and can be enjoyed in small squads or alone.
Like many of its battle royale counterparts, Apex uses a season-pass-based system to provide players with cosmetic items they can use to customize their characters and load-outs. That means the core game is free to play and the experience ultimately remains the same, regardless of how much you choose to spend.
After the massive success of award-winning indie hit Undertale, developer Toby Fox decided to go in another direction when expanding on its universe. The result is Deltarune, a chapter-based RPG adventure set in a different world. The first two chapters are completely free, with more (paid) expansions planned for a later date.
Unlike most of the games on this list, Deltarune is a wholly offline affair. That means you don’t need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play. Some familiarity with Undertale certainly helps but isn’t strictly necessary.
Knockout City was first published by EA as a standalone game in May 2021, with the publisher announcing the game would be free-to-play up to level 25. By June 2021 the game went fully free-to-play, with publisher EA severing ties with developer Velan Studios entirely.
This is a game of competitive online team-based dodge ball, with matches taking place over large urban arenas. The gameplay is simple yet fast-paced, with the game earning praise for its easy-to-pick-up yet hard-to-master appeal, and a desire to be different from the usual arena shooters.
Hot on the heels of Knockout City, Roller Champions puts the free-to-play multiplayer genre on roller skates and pits teams of three against each other in a roller derby setting. The aim of the game is to grab the ball, complete laps, dodge opponents, and score before the time runs out.
Roller Champions represents a new direction for this breed of arena-based multiplayer game. Compete in bigger arenas with larger audiences as you advance through the game, with mini-games and new game modes available along the way. Season-based gameplay lets players earn cosmetic rewards by purchasing a themed battle pass.
Like Rocket League, Fall Guys saw great success when it was launched as a standalone title in 2020 (inclusion with Sony’s PlayStation Plus service helped). As a response to declining player numbers, publisher Devolver Digital re-launched the game as a free-to-play experience in June 2022 when it launched on Xbox and Switch.
The game is a battle royale-style obstacle course where up to 60 players can compete against one another in a series of mini-games. It’s a frantic and at times infuriating experience, but one that’s well worth checking out if you haven’t done so. The game includes a premium currency and season pass as part of its free-to-play monetization.
Fortnite took the world by storm when its unique blend of battle royale building and shooting arrived in 2017. The game has experienced something of a renaissance in 2022 with the announcement of No Build mode, which does away with the at-times fiddly building mechanics in favor of a pure shooting experience.
Not only has Epic made changes to the game modes and map with each new season, but the game has made headlines for the many events that have taken place including live music, movie trailer previews, and countless tie-ins with other game and movie franchises.
Build and manage your vault in Fallout Shelter, Bethesda’s casual management sim set in the Fallout universe. The game is available on both mobile (iOS, Android) and Switch, taking full advantage of the touchscreen on Nintendo’s hybrid console. Since the game is a purely offline affair, you don’t need a Nintendo Switch Online membership to play this one either.
Fallout Shelter uses cooldown timers and various currencies to gate progress, but you can make a fair amount of progress before feeling the free-to-play pinch.
In 2021 Nintendo launched a Pokémon-themed MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) in the form of Pokémon Unite. The game is now available for iOS and Android, but it began life on the Switch where it makes excellent use of the console’s physical controls.
In it you’ll play short, 5v5 battles where teamwork is vital to score more points than your rivals before the timer runs out. Highly accessible and great for short bursts, the game is overshadowed by the decision to use every monetization trick in the book: premium currency, microtransactions, and a “UNITE Club membership” (battle pass).
If you’re paying for Nintendo Switch Online, you also get access to the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System emulators, with a good variety of retro titles to play through.
Upgrade to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass to add Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis collections to the mix. You also get a selection of DLC for games like Mario Kart and Animal Crossing: New Horizons when you sign up.
If you’re a Switch owner on a budget, you don’t necessarily have to stick to free and free-to-play games. By filtering through the thousands of games that are on sale at any one time, you can save money on Nintendo Switch titles and even be alerted when wishlist items go on sale.
You can also use your Nintendo points to save money on digital purchases, but you’ll have to act before they expire!
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