The Five Best Mario And Zelda Games On The Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch has been out for five years now and what a legacy it has already created. It’s a clear winner for Nintendo, and one of the main ways it has accomplished that is by having an excellent library of games. Among that library is a strong variety of releases, but since this is Nintendo, we also know that library has a number of excellent releases among its biggest IPs.

At the top of the list are Mario and Zelda. They are easily the two biggest franchises Nintendo has, and as a result, there are a ton of games utilizing those two IPs in some capacity. With that in mind, we wanted to look back and celebrate five years of the Switch by looking at the five best games on the console from those two iconic series.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

A launch title for the Switch, Breath of the Wild took the Zelda formula and completely flipped it on its head. Gone were the themed dungeons with items as the reward, and in its place was the freedom to explore a gigantic world. The player has only one true objective: Defeat the Calamity Ganon and rescue Princess Zelda. If the player chooses, once they’ve finished the tutorial area, they can skip every single dungeon and puzzle to go straight to Hyrule Castle. Of course, doing that will result in missing out on plot details and bonuses to make Link stronger, but that’s completely up to the player.

Breath of the Wild is one, if not the best, Zelda games in the entire franchise. It gives players a sense of freedom that they’ve never had in the franchise before. The open world is dense and despite being huge, it never once felt empty. It being a launch title for the Switch quickly helped solidify the console as legitimate among Nintendo fans and now everyone is eagerly anticipating the still unnamed sequel set to come out some time in 2022.

Super Mario Odyssey

How does a company follow up one of the best Zelda games ever made? Try immediately creating a fan favorite Mario game in the same year. Mario Odyssey was something of a return to form for many Nintendo fans. Not only was it the franchise’s return to a non-linear set-up for the first time since Sunshine on the GameCube, but it managed to once again take the franchise in a new direction.

While previous Mario games were about completing a goal and getting a large reward at the end, such as a Star or a Shine Sprite, Odyssey is instead a game about collecting moons spread out all over the map. These moons are everywhere, and collecting them can sometimes be as easy as stumbling across one and picking it up. But unlike previous levels where the player is kicked out of the world and forced to choose a level again, this Mario game keeps the player in the world after collecting a moon. Play feels seamless and allows the player to really embrace exploration. It’s a great Mario game and one that everyone should play.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

While not technically a Mario or Zelda game, we feel this one still counts because of Mario’s role in the naming structure, plus both he and Link are playable characters. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is, as the name implies, the ultimate Smash Bros. experience. Every single character that has ever been in a Super Smash Bros. game before is in this, and on top of that, there are a plethora of DLC characters. The DLC characters became such a talking point among fans that, until the final character was announced, fans would have intense debates on who should be in the game. This strategy was so successful for Nintendo that it’s been copied by two clones, and Nintendo itself with Mario Kart.

These DLC characters took Ultimate and transformed it from a Nintendo crossover game into an incredible celebration of gaming. Alongside Mario and Link is Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, Sora from Kingdom Hearts, Kazuya from Tekken, and Joker from Persona 5. It’s a really incredible collection of franchises and one of the coolest games on the Switch as a result.

Cadence of Hyrule

What if you took The Legend of Zelda, but made it a rhythm game and kept the Zelda style adventure? Then you would get Cadence of Hyrule. This is a spin-off of Crypt of the NecroDancer, but with Zelda theming to it. The game itself isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a really great example of what happens when Nintendo allows other developers the opportunity to use its IPs to make games. At minimum, it created one of the best remix soundtracks in gaming.

What’s also unique about Cadence is that, unlike Mario, Nintendo doesn’t have a history of spinning off Zelda too often. It happens sometimes, but historically, it’s been far more conservative about making Zelda-themed games compared to how many titles get the Mario franchise slapped on to it. Cadence is not only one of the times where Zelda did get a spin-off, but it got a spin-off that was fun on top of that. This is a really unique Zelda game and one that any fan of the franchise should check out.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

This game should not be good. It just shouldn’t be. Give Mario a gun, attach him to one of the most annoying mascots that Ubisoft has ever created, and put them on a team together in XCOM tactics combat? That, on paper, sounds like a dumpster fire, but instead, it’s one of the most fun games on the Switch. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is once again an example of the good things that can happen when Nintendo is willing to hand off its IPs to another developer.

This game is really weird, which makes sense because it involves the Rabbids, but it all comes together really well. The XCOM-style combat might not require as much tactical foresight as XCOM, but it does have its charm. Since this is a game involving Mario characters and Rabbids, that means they can do fun and weird stuff that is unique to only their own games. It’s a game that breaks the norms of what a Mario spin-off title looks like and it’s a great one at that. An absolute gem on the Switch.