The 20 Best Open-World Games on Nintendo Switch
There’s nothing like an immersive open-world game to provide a blissful escape from harsh reality. In this modern age of gaming, it seems that more and more games want to become open-world experiences even if it doesn’t serve their gameplay.
Unfortunately, it has become a buzzword that developers want to include just because it is what most modern players want to see. But the finest open-world games are ones that can draw you into its captivating narrative with peculiar attention to detail.
Great open-world games offer the player its world and respect their choice to explore and experiment, rewarding them with lore and items. It evokes a sense of discovery and realism in its atmosphere that keeps players engaged and craving more. While it is easy to implement a barebones checklist to call a game open-world, it takes so much effort to sell a believable experience.
For this article, I list down the best of the best while also including other genres as possible, from classic action-adventure to racing, to an open-world with no combat. These are the 20 best open-world games on Nintendo Switch right now.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
While this is technically only a semi-open world game, it would be a shame to leave it out of this list. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is considered by many to be an absolute breath of fresh air for the Pokemon franchise, and offers an immersive, vibrant world to explore.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a story-driven game with plenty of colorful characters to meet and iconic Pokémon to catch along the way. You play as a mysterious character that quite literally falls from the heavens into the Hisui region, and have to help the local residents with a handful of mysteries, challenging battles and research tasks.
While the Pokémon games that came before PLA showed Pokémon off as friendly and lovable, this game portrays them in an arguably more realistic sense as scary, wild and unfamiliar. The game heavily focuses on themes of research and learning more about them.
PLA offers everything that a good semi-open world game needs to thrive. The main storyline is compelling, the characters are likable and there’s plenty to get distracted by outside of the main game. The world is well designed, and it captures the exploration theme perfectly.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
One of the first open-world games is the original The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986. After the old man gives Link a sword accompanied with the iconic message, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this”, players receive no instruction and are free to go and do wherever they want.
Consequently, the map was a mystery waiting to be unraveled, and there were always secret items hiding in plain sight, waiting for the curious person to stumble upon them.
Thirty-one years later, Breath of the Wild brings back everything great about the original to modern audiences. The game provides a massive playground for players to experiment and explore. Every mountain can be scaled, every ingredient can be combined, every enemy can be challenged, and it’s all up to you.
Equally important, various systems are in place to encourage experimenting with your surroundings. For example, the weather system lets you use your metal weapons as lightning rods during thunderstorms. Or you could shoot a flaming arrow into dry grass, creating a strong updraft that allows you to escape upon the air using your paraglider.
Breath of the Wild is one the best open-world games on Switch because you can pick any direction in the overworld, and you’re guaranteed to discover something amazing.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 sinks you into its world full of dangerous monsters, interesting quest lines, deeply thought-out lore, and refuses to let you go. Geralt of Rivia inhabits a dark, depressing world, and he’s just trying to help out the best he can… but never for free.
When it comes to its story, characters, and dialogue, the Witcher 3 is unmatched in this aspect. Every quest is handcrafted, featuring rich narratives and impactful choices. For example, the iconic Bloody Baron questline can end in many different ways depending on your decisions throughout the several more minor quests leading to its climax.
Even a separate mission not under the Bloody Baron’s questline could significantly affect its outcome. This interconnectedness makes the world come to life and truly immerses players.
Regarding combat, preparation and knowledge are just as important as reflexes and skill. True to Witcher fashion, there’s an emphasis on exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses by concocting potions, applying specific oils on your swords, and using the right spells during the encounter. Of course, gear is also essential, and the best ones are Witcher gear found through scavenging about the lands.
Additionally, the Witcher 3 features a fully fleshed-out card game called Gwent that is sure to keep you exploring to add rare cards into your deck. The card game is so good it even spawned its own standalone game with an active competitive community and a spin-off called Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, where you play as the warrior-queen Meve.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The reason why Skyrim is ported to every console imaginable is because of its endless scope. Once you’re introduced into the world, you are free to go wherever you want and be whoever you want to be. The fifth entry to the Elder Scrolls franchise is not only an enormous open-world game; it is also an open book where you choose your own adventure.
Skyrim was many players gateway drug into a fantasy sandbox-type game. The base story is serviceable to throw you out into the world, but as many players can attest, it is easy to get sidetracked with the vast number of side quests and guilds just waiting for you.
The deep layer of customization doesn’t end after the character selection screen. It’s always present in the core gameplay. You define your character all throughout by choosing your class, faction, guild, and a whole lot more.
Skyrim may have a simple combat system and a barebones main quest, but it more than makes up for it with the degree of freedom it provides. It is truly one of the most essential open-world games on Switch.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon’s Dogma is an open-world role-playing game with a highly addictive gameplay loop. The game doesn’t hold your hand and expects you to put in a bit of work for your rewards. For example, quest objectives aren’t marked, but rather the map only shows you the general area.
So, you have to put in the work through exploring the area. But the rewards are more than worth it because, by the end, your power level grows immensely, almost to godlike levels.
The combat system is endlessly fun and allows plenty of creative theory crafting. There’s a great mechanic where you can grab onto monsters Shadow of Colossus style, repeatedly stabbing on a soft part on their body as they carry you across the sky. The artificial intelligence of your companions is also incredibly dynamic, making their ingenious pawn system much more engaging.
Lastly, although the overworld is beautiful and fun to explore, the dungeons truly take the icing on the cake. Crawling from dungeon to dungeon is a rewarding and challenging experience, capping the adventure off in an epic boss fight against various chimeras.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Monster Hunter Stories 2 scratches that Pokémon itch for players clamoring for deeper mechanics. The game perfectly translates the core gameplay of the Monster Hunter franchise into one of the best turn-based RPGs on Switch. But this time, not only will you go hunting for giant monsters with your favorite weapons, but you’ll also have your own monstie to fight alongside you.
Your weapons and companion monsties are grouped into three categories: power, technical, and speed. Battles are played out where one class trumps another, rock-paper-scissors style. However, the game introduces more complex mechanics like the Kinship gauge to keep battles more proactive and fun.
One of the game’s best features is the ability to ride your captured monster around its open-world areas. Some areas are locked behind specific abilities from monsties like the ability to swim or to jump ledges. Exploration is the best way to beef up your team as you go searching caves for monster eggs to add to your ever-growing bestiary.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Immortals Fenyx Rising is the lovechild of Breath of the Wild and Assasin’s Creed Odyssey with a Greek mythology twist. It takes the Ubisoft open-world formula and distills to a smaller island filled with platforming puzzles and heroic battles against mythological creatures.
Combat, platforming, and exploration go hand-in-hand as new weapons and items serve all elements. For example, the Wings of Daedalus lets you glide across the map, yet it also enables you to take to the sky to pummel winged enemies like Harpies.
Combat becomes more complex the more you unlock. It feels incredibly fluid when you’re switching weapon to weapon to adapt to their weaknesses or to simply extend your combo.
The progression is rewarding and fast-paced, which means the island opens up faster for you to explore to your heart’s desire. If you’re looking for an experience like Breath of the Wild, then Immortals Fenyx Rising is one of the best open-world games for Nintendo Switch out there.
At this point, who hasn’t heard of Minecraft? After all, it is the best-selling game of all time. Playing Minecraft is like playing with Lego blocks because you can create anything with only your imagination as your limit.
There’s also a light survival element to keep it interesting. You have to manage your food and health bar while trying to keep back all manners of creatures trying to ruin your day.
First, you start by building a simple home base containing a simple farm. Then you explore caves for minerals to upgrade your gear, increasing your chances of survival. Before you know it, you’ve built a fully-automated resource harvester that farms your crops, harvests them, transfers them to a conveyer belt where it ends up getting cooked and safely deposited to your chest, all without you breaking a sweat.
Minecraft can be a simple, enjoyable game where you explore caves and fight monsters or a complicated construction simulator for people with creative minds. It is genuinely an open-world game because the world is open for you to do anything you want.
The Outer Worlds
If you’re a fan of open-world sci-fi role-playing games like Fallout: New Vegas, this game is for you. The game was released in 2019 and became available on switch a year after.
The Outer Worlds is undeniably a product of the original Fallout developers with stunning visuals, snarky dialogues, quirky situations, a sound combat system, robust character creation, and overflowing loots. One of the apparent similarities is its tactical time dilation during combat, just like Fallout 4’s revamped VATS.
Your character is thrust into a world of a hyper-corporate class-centric society overpowered by large corporations and business tycoons whose greed extends to owning planets. By morbid circumstances, you become the captain of your ship, which serves as your central hub area.
You can freely choose two companions out of a colorful cast to join you outside the ship. They offer immense help during combat tactics and provide entertaining and insightful dialogue. All the decisions and actions you will make from the beginning up to the end will determine the future of the people and your crew.
This game offers stunning visuals as you travel to different planets. There’s liberating freedom in choosing your character, combat style, and companions. In my case, I designated most of my points to dialog for more conversation options and to deescalate fights.
Good and bad decisions aren’t explained upfront, but instead, they are rooted in the beliefs of each faction. This nuance makes the game more morally grey and replayable. In fact, you can kill any NPC you want, and the story would continue because they value your choices (no matter how dark they may be).
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
I’ve never been a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed games; despite that, Black Flag was able to deeply engage me like no other. Previous games focused on stealthily parkouring through the city, assassinating key targets throughout history without leaving a trace to yourself. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag changes the formula by introducing a loud and brash protagonist with Edward Kenway.
There haven’t been many good pirate games, but Black Flag single-handedly redeems that genre. It feels great to just sail the high open seas while listening to your crew singing sea shanties in the background. Also, naval battles were a nice bonus to truly encapsulate the pirate life.
Black Flag may be divisive for AC fans because it strays so far away from the previous installments, but most people agree it’s a fantastic game.
Subnautica is a genuinely terrifying affair without even being a full-fledged horror game. Instead, it plays with our fear of the unknown and thalassophobia to deliver an open-world survival game where you’re constantly checking for dangers in the periphery.
Set in the distant future, you play as the lone survivor of a deep-space vessel that crashed on a remote ocean planet. You have no choice but to explore the ocean and scavenge for resources to help you survive and escape. It is a mesmerizing game when you’re near the surface interacting with the alien wildlife and underwater plants, then it becomes pure horror the deeper you go.
There’s also a sequel called Subnautica: Below Zero available on the Switch.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Yonder is an absolutely charming game with a laid-back and relaxing atmosphere. This is one of the few open-world games on Nintendo Switch with no combat at all. Instead, there’s much more emphasis on exploration and crafting. Think of it like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley.
There’s a main quest and several side quests you can do, which favor the different townspeople. There are also light farming elements where you can plant crops, befriend animals, and craft new items.
There are various guilds associated with the different crafting trees when it comes to trading. So, if you want to max out the value of your goods and trade for items unique to the guild, you have to dive into the crafting system and diversify your products.
Coupled with the gorgeous graphics and ambient sound design, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a much-needed relaxing escape from violent video games. Overall, an underrated open-world game for the Nintendo Switch.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the perfect sequel because it takes everything fans loved about the original game and improves upon it. It shares many similarities to Minecraft but leans more on its RPG elements. You can expect to explore, gather resources, build, and fight monsters present in the popular Dragon Quest franchise.
The more you dive into it, the more you discover how complicated the game is. There are so many things to do in this game you’ll quickly lose hours just trying to tick everything off the box. But, on the other hand, the quests here are some of the most fun I had because the NPCs usually want you to build something for them.
You’re free to create whatever you want as long as you fulfill the objective, it acts like a guided building session where you’re trying to work with what’s given to you as creatively as possible.
The more you progress through the primary campaign, the more features you unlock to keep things interesting. Dragon Quest Builders 2 can easily eat up your time because this little building sim is endlessly addicting. You can also bring up to three friends on your island to craft and build together.
It is impressive how smoothly Dying Light runs on the Nintendo Switch. It is crucial to have stable FPS because of all the running (away) you’ll be doing in this game. The game offers an intricate parkour system that lets you avoid zombies altogether if you’re quick enough to spot the next platform or ledge.
Combat is visceral and methodical here. You find or create makeshift weapons limited by their durability and your rapidly dwindling stamina. Stamina which you also need to run away at a moment’s notice. You can also use guns for emergencies if you manage to find bullets for them. But get ready to leave the area once you shoot because a horde is on its way.
The game’s difficulty ramps up later in the story. It never feels unfair because you’ll also unlock new moves and more potent weapons. However, certain challenges really push your mastery to the limit. The game becomes truly horrifying during nighttime.
One of my most exhilarating moments in gaming came when I stayed on a mission too long, and I had to run all the way back to the nearest safe house while getting chased rooftop to rooftop by volatiles.
Burnout Paradise Remastered
Burnout Paradise is a chaotic open-world racing game where you seamlessly drive around Paradise City, containing five (six with the DLC) large districts. Unlike the previous installments, you can proceed to challenges however you want, and the game slowly scales the difficulty each time you finish an event.
If ever you want to race, you can pull up to any of the 120 traffic lights and initiate one from there. The open-ended system also applies to races as you can take whatever route you want to the finish line, as long as you get there first.
There are other modes for you to show off your driving skills, like a stunt run where you accumulate points through doing acrobatic stunts like drifting and rolling mid-air off a ramp. There’s a fun mode where you slam into other cars on the road to get takedowns and glorious crashes in true Burnout fashion. Just be careful not to crash hard yourself, or else it is game over.
But you don’t have to initiate a mode to have fun. There are crashes, jumps, and cars to collect in the overworld. There are tons of joy to be found just cruising around Paradise City at high speeds. Of course, it’s best to play this game as reckless as possible, barreling down the highway at breakneck speeds only to absolutely destroy a car waiting in traffic. Truly, it’s one of the best sports games on Nintendo Switch.
There aren’t many open-world racing games in the first place, so why not give this a shot if you’re a fan of the genre.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected
If I were to only say one thing about Saints Row 4, I would say that it is absolutely absurd and non-nonsensical.
You play as the President of the United States during an alien invasion. You and your gang are trapped within a simulation and must escape it to ultimately defeat the invaders. Some of your gang members who escaped managed to hack inside the simulation to give you superpowers, thus beginning a very wild game journey.
This game can be compared to Grand Theft Auto, but you’re filled with superhuman abilities. Aside from the regular carnage you can deal with traditional weaponry, you can also unleash your powers in over-the-top zany action sequences. It can be too much at times, but Saints Row 4 never backs down its insanity, which makes it endearing.
It’s a far leap from previous installments because there were still entirely grounded in reality. But all-in-all, it’s still an excellent open-world superhero game for the Nintendo Switch. Saints Row 3 is also available for the console if you want to dial back the absurdity.
Red Faction Guerilla Remarstered
Red Faction Guerilla Remarstered is the remastered version of the third installment in the Red Faction franchise. Revolutions are always fun in video games, and this one takes place on Mars. Most buildings are fully destructible, which means you can take down outposts as chaotically creative as you wish.
The game starts out deceptively simple. You have your iconic sledgehammer, and you’ll gradually work your way through more advanced weaponry. However, the game quickly becomes hectic when you start to raze buildings and decimate troops with advanced rifles and high-powered explosives.
Eventually, you’ll begin to commandeer state-of-the-art mechs where you can rain down mayhem by crushing buildings and vehicles with ease. There’s nothing more satisfying than piloting a mech and going to town on your enemies.
You’re free to explore and plan out how you go about your revolution as you wish. There’s no shortage of destruction and sabotage you can cause.
Disco Elysium is one the best indie games on Switch to come out this generation, and there’s no other game quite like it. It is inspired by classic tabletop pen-and-paper RPGs.
Still, instead of leveling up traditional skills like strength and luck, you level up twenty-four distinct personality traits like empathy and reaction speed. These are not just static skills but unique characters who chime in with their observations and provide new dialogue options.
Disco Elysium starts out as your run-of-the-mill outsider cops investigate a small-town murder mystery. But the game soon establishes that it’s just a vehicle for your own spiritual and philosophical journey. The conversations are witty, long, and thought-provoking. It is also replayable because the dialogue significantly changes depending on your invested skills.
Though the map is smaller than the other open-world games in this list, it more than makes up for it with the density of its characters. Choose a direction, then talk to anyone you see and witness the strength and wit of the writing. You’ll also eventually solve the murder mystery while doing so.
Starlink is a fun open-world game for those who enjoy spaceship battles akin to the original Starfox games. But unlike those old games where they drop you in and out of the mission, Starlink lets you roam around various planetary systems. Also, since it’s an Ubisoft game, it’s perfect for the completionist because there is a lot of bonus content to discover.
The combat is intricate for an on-rails shooter offering deep customization for your pilot, ship, and weapons. There’s also an interesting system where you need to swap off your guns on the fly when they overheat, encouraging you to diversity.
Toy collectors are also happy to know that you can physically reconfigure models of the starships, and they’ll reflect in-game, giving a satisfying kinetic connection to the game.
The Nintendo Switch port is also the most superior version of the game because of the Star Fox DLC. Fox McCloud and his crew were included in the storyline as a special bonus for Switch players. Many players purchased the game just to experience the nearest thing to a Star Fox revival.
Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition
Sunless Sea is one of the most unique games on this list. Set in the Fallen London universe, it tasks you to control a sea captain (Zee captain, in-game) to explore the ominous underground ocean. Unfortunately, your captain and crew will probably die, and that’s a fact you need to get used to.
Story and writing are the most critical elements of the game; in fact, they might be the only thing to keep you going at times because the game’s pacing can be so abysmal. Even though that is the case, there is no central story.
Instead, you choose an ambition that determines your win condition and the story of your captain. For example, if you select wealth, you can win by gathering substantial money and retiring in a mansion.
Sunless Sea scatters its story like breadcrumbs with small notes and cryptic in-game texts. The writing is weird and outright depressing. Honestly, you’re going to have to read the lore on Fallen London if you’re to fully piece together the missing context.
The game can get hard at times, and you’ll have to make hard choices often. Think of it like Darkest Dungeon with a hefty focus on exploration.
If anyone underestimates the power of the Nintendo Switch, tell them it can run smoothly run Crysis Remastered. Even though it is an older game, it still holds up gameplay and technical-wise. It has aged very well, and it is one of the best open-world games on Nintendo Switch.
It is a basic first-person shooter with some stealth elements mixed in; nonetheless, it was ahead of its time due to how free you were to approach objectives. There are many tools at your disposal, and it’s up to you to assess the situation.
Say, for example, there’s a group of enemies, you can either approach them guns blazing, creep in through the bushes with stealth, or use explosives to cave-in a whole building at a group of enemies.
The game feels like there are endless possibilities to tackle its obstacles, and that’s why it still holds up as one of the best games to this day.