When online multiplayer began rising in popularity on home consoles in the early 2000s, Nintendo was one of the last major companies to implement it into its software. They didn’t always provide the most reliable or fun experiences, but at least it was free compared to Sony and Microsoft’s subscription-based services.
Nintendo would eventually start charging for access to online games when it launched Nintendo Switch Online in 2018. You’ll need it to play games like Splatoon 3, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and more. Fortunately, there are a plethora of games you can still play online without a subscription to Nintendo’s service.
If you enjoy the aesthetic and lighthearted fun of Splatoon, Ninjala is an excellent free-to-play game overflowing with content and modes to play. You can compete with friends to try and earn the most points during team battles, or hop into a battle royale to face off against seven other players.
Each character uses close-range weapons like hammers and axes to attack opponents, but the most fun comes from maneuvering around the stage. You can run up walls and use objects around the world to make yourself feel like a ninja and sneak up behind enemies before they realize what hits them.
9 Overwatch 2
Overwatch is one of many games to switch to a free-to-play formula so more players can access it without having to pay any money. When the original Overwatch launched on Switch it required you to buy it and pay for the online subscription, but the new iteration wipes all of that away, so you can hop in without spending a dime.
Overwatch 2 is mostly the same as the original game but has made enough interesting changes to help make it feel fresh to both new and returning players. One of the biggest differences is the inclusion of a battle pass that unlocks new cosmetics and characters, as you play through Overwatch 2’s exciting multiplayer modes like Push or Mystery Heroes.
The Nintendo Switch is the home of arguably the best platform fighter ever – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Now that it has finished receiving new content though, it might be worth checking out some of its competition. Brawlhalla has an excellent roster of characters and great gameplay, and it has been receiving new content since it launched in 2017.
One of the most compelling aspects of Brawlhalla is the number of recognizable faces in its roster. From crossovers with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Castlevania, Brawlhalla contains a smorgasbord of iconic characters to play as. Each fighter has unique powers and abilities that are incredibly fun to learn and master.
7 Knockout City
Dodgeball is one of the few sports that is difficult to adapt into a video game, but Knockout City has found a way to make it work. Instead of a gymnasium, the sport takes place on a giant map that you can use to your advantage to take out your opponents.
Matches typically place teams of three against each other as they throw, catch, and dodge balls to earn points and claim victory. There are a variety of different modes to play, and you can customize your character with new outfits as you earn in-game currency. Knockout City is surprisingly dense and will make you feel like the dodgeball champion you were always born to be.
Monster Hunter: Rise allowed Switch players to go on an epic adventure and defeat magnificent beasts, but it required both you and your friends to subscribe to the online service to play it together. Dauntless offers a very similar experience and doesn’t cost anything to download and play.
Like in Monster Hunter, you can choose from a variety of weapons and craft armor using resources either found in the wild or from defeating Behemoths. You can easily spend hours getting lost in the game’s lush world or grinding to unlock the next piece of gear either alone or with a group of three other friends.
5 Apex Legends
Apex Legends is one of the best battle royale games out there, and it’s pretty incredible that it can run on the Switch. You and a squad of other players land on a dynamic map and need to work together to outlast the other teams. It’s explosive fun that is hard to put down once you hop into it.
What helps make Apex Legends special is its diverse cast of characters, each with both endearing personalities and powerful abilities. Each match will require you to strategically use your Legend’s skills to ensure your team’s survival to earn the title of Apex Champions. It’s been receiving new content since it launched in 2019 and continues to be one of the most popular games in the genre.
4 Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Like Overwatch, Fall Guys initially cost money to purchase as well as an online subscription to play it. Fortunately, the day it launched on Switch is also the same day that Fall Guys switched to a free-to-play model to incentivize new players to check its colorful spin on the battle royale genre.
Instead of eliminating other players on a giant map, Fall Guys pits sixty contestants against each other in a series of obstacle courses, platforming challenges, and more. You can earn in-game currency to unlock hilarious outfits to customize your Bean. There are over seventy different rounds in Fall Guys, and you can hop in alone or with a group of friends to see who will come out on top.
3 Rocket League
There are plenty of third-person shooters and action games you can play without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, but sometimes it’s nice to dabble in something a bit different. Rocket League provides one of the most riveting and unique experiences on the console by fusing fast cars with the sport of soccer.
After being split into teams, you must drive your vehicle into a massive ball to try and land it in the opposing team’s goal. It’s fast-paced, gripping, and incredibly satisfying when you maneuver yourself to hit the ball at just the right time to earn the winning goal. Playing Rocket League on the Switch also comes with exclusive vehicles inspired by Super Mario Bros. and Metroid.
2 Pokemon Unite
A majority of Nintendo’s online multiplayer games require a subscription to their online service to play them, but Pokemon Unite is the exception to the rule. The Pokemon series loves to experiment with different genres, and this take on the MOBA surprised many with its simple yet compelling gameplay.
One of Pokemon Unite’s biggest achievements is how accessible it is to anyone who has never played a MOBA before. The in-game tutorial quickly teaches you everything you need to know, and the matchmaking ensures that you play against people with a similar skill level. It’s also an incredibly easy game to pick up and play, as matches only take between five and ten minutes.
When Fortnite spiked in popularity shortly after it launched in 2017, it became an inevitability that it would come to the Nintendo Switch. It wouldn’t take long, as the battle royale appeared on the console in 2018 and allowed you to play it both on your TV or in handheld mode depending on your preference.
The Switch version of Fortnite might not look as good as other versions, but it still runs incredibly well and doesn’t affect the gameplay whatsoever. It’s a great game to hop into with friends for either a few matches or an evening of fun, and Fortnite’s ever-changing world and mechanics help prevent it from ever feeling stale. Fortnite is full of exciting modes, quests, and more, and you can experience it all without having to pay for a thing.
Next: The Best Free Multiplayer Games On Switch