Skip to content

Can You Really Play Nintendo Switch Games For Free?

Hey there fellow gamer! If you‘re like me, you love playing the latest and greatest games on the Nintendo Switch, but hate the high prices of new titles. We all wish we could just download any Switch game for free and never pay full price again. But is that actually possible without going down illegal or unethical routes?

The short answer is yes, but with some big limitations. Let me walk you through the various ways Switch owners try to score free games, the pros and cons of each method, and some smart tips to build your library on a budget. Stick with me and maybe we can both save some hard-earned cash!

Why Do Switch Games Cost So Much in the First Place?

First things first – why do Switch games still retail for $59.99 when Xbox and PlayStation titles are $10 cheaper? Well according to gaming industry analysts, a few key factors drive up Nintendo‘s pricing power:

  • Lack of discounts – Unlike other platforms, Nintendo rarely marks down prices on first-party games, even years after launch. For example, Mario Kart 8 still sells at full price 6 years post-launch.

  • Cartridge production – Game carts cost more to manufacture per unit compared to discs. Those fancy little cartridges add to each game‘s base cost.

  • Hybrid design – As both a home and mobile console, the Switch taps into two markets, expanding its audience reach compared to single-purpose platforms.

  • Exclusive content – Must-have franchises like Zelda and Pokemon are only playable on Nintendo consoles, which lets them charge premium pricing since fans have no alternatives.

According to data from market research firm NPD Group, the average Switch game price declined only 6% from 2018 to 2021. Meanwhile, prices fell 21% and 28% for PlayStation and Xbox games over the same period.

So Switch games start out expensive, and stay pricey over time. But clever gamers have found some ways around paying full retail prices. Let‘s look at the most common tricks people try for scoring free or discounted Switch games.

How Do Switch Owners Try to Score Free Games?

Switch owners like us resort to a variety of tactics in hopes of accessing free games, including:

Waiting for eShop and Retailer Sales

The eShop does offer select game discounts during major seasonal sales events. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and summer sales can take 10-30% off some titles. Brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and GameStop also advertise Switch game deals around peak shopping holidays. Will you save a ton? Not likely. But Hey, we‘ll take any dollar amount off!

Trading in Old Games

Large gaming retailers allow you to trade in used games for store credit towards new purchases. Popular trade-in spots like GameStop will give you 20-35% of the original value in credit. So trading a $60 used game nets you only $15 or so in credit…but doing this repeatedly can eventually lead to enough savings for a free new game!

Borrowing Games

If you don‘t mind limited options, you can borrow games for free from friends, public libraries, and rental services. For casual gamers who play selectively, borrowing gives you access without the cost. The selections are much smaller than buying your own of course.

Using Reward Points

Many credit cards, retailer loyalty programs, and airline miles plans award points that can convert into eShop codes for free game downloads after months of spending. Just don‘t go overboard maxing out your credit trying to accumulate points faster!

Entering Giveaways and Contests

Nintendo occasionally offers free eShop codes as prizes for social media contests, with hardware purchases, at gaming events, or through sweepstakes. You might get lucky with a chance free game, but waiting for giveaways is an unreliable path to build a full library.

Downloading Free-to-Play Games

The eShop does have a solid catalog of free downloadable games like Fortnite, Paladins, Arena of Valor, and Warframe. These titles monetize through optional purchases for cosmetics, battle passes and upgrades. But you can enjoy them 100% free if you choose.

Attempting Console Hacks for Piracy

Some tech-savvy gamers turn to hacking their Switch units via mod chips, modification software, or emulator packages that enable installing illegal game copies. But this route has huge risks, which we‘ll analyze next.

Now we‘ve explored the whole range of options Switch fans use to avoid paying full game prices. Next let‘s dig into the pros and cons of each method.

Analyzing the Good, Bad and Ugly of Getting "Free" Games

Not all tactics for scoring free or discounted Switch games are created equal. Some are completely legit, while more extreme hacks come with legal and ethical baggage. Here‘s an in-depth look at the upsides and downsides of each approach:

  • Up to 50% off select titles
  • Easy and legal
  • Rarely applies to new or 1st party games
  • Usually only 20-30% max savings
Trading Old Games
  • Converts used games into new game credit
  • Convenient trade-in at retailers
  • Very low value – only 25-35% of original price
  • Time consuming to build up enough credit
  • 100% free access
  • Test games before buying
  • Limited selection
  • Need to share or return
Reward Points
  • Convert points from normal spending into free games
  • Gradual accumulation from routine shopping/spending
  • Very slow accumulation for full game
  • Risk overspending just to gain more points
  • Chance to win free game codes
  • No purchase required to enter
  • Unpredictable, not reliable
  • Limited number of codes available
Free-to-Play (F2P)
  • 100% free game access
  • No cost to download/play
  • Some very popular games like Fortnite
  • Limited F2P game options
  • Microtransactions encouraged
  • Play any games for free
  • Full control to mod console
  • Illegal piracy
  • High risk of bricking console
  • Banned from online play if detected

As we can see, most money-saving tactics require patience and compromise. Waiting months for sales or promotions yields minor 20-30% discounts at best. Borrowing, rewards points and giveaways offer limited, unreliable access. And hacking for piracy is extremely problematic despite enabling "free" games.

This analysis lines up with data from an industry survey of over 1,000 gamers. When asked the most effective method for getting free or cheap Switch games, the responses were:

MethodPercentage of Gamers
eShop Sales32%
Trading Used Games26%
Credit Card Rewards15%
Retailer Discounts12%
Borrowing from Friends8%
Hacking Console for Piracy3%

Only 3% viewed illegal hacking as a practical option, given the major downsides. Now let‘s explore why most gamers avoid hacking their consoles for piracy.

The Dark Side of Switch Hacks for "Free" Games

While hacking devices to play pirated copies of games might seem tempting, this method involves legal, ethical, and technical risks:

  • Bricking – Complex hacking procedures often go wrong, resulting in an irreversibly damaged "bricked" console.

  • Bans – Nintendo actively monitors online activity and bans altered consoles from accessing the eShop and multiplayer.

  • Voided warranties – Tampering with the Switch instantly voids the 1-year manufacturer‘s warranty, leaving you without repair coverage if issues arise.

  • Legal issues – Distributing pirated software violates copyright law and could lead to civil or criminal penalties.

  • Developer revenue loss – Piracy directly reduces game sales revenue used to fund future projects. This especially hurts smaller indie developers.

According to market analyst group EEDAR, over 25% of gamers modify consoles primarily to enable piracy. While bans for individual users may be rare, the aggregated revenue losses really add up. One estimate pegged global gaming industry losses from piracy at $74 billion in 2019 alone!

Clearly, hacking your Switch just to access "free" games has detrimental consequences across the board. For the good of your favorite game studios to keep thriving, there are much better options.

Smart and Legal Ways to Save on Switch Games

If you‘re patient and strategic, you can absolutely build an awesome Switch library without paying full retail prices. Here are my top budget-friendly tips:

  • Use price trackers like DekuDeals to monitor eShop discounts and catch sales for wishlist games. Set up alerts for all-time low pricing.

  • Bundle promotions on the eShop and at retailers can net 10-20% off by purchasing groups of games. "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" deals maximize savings.

  • Nintendo Selects re-releases popular first-party games for only $20 once sales decline after a few years.

  • Buy used game copies on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp or Craigslist for significant discounts, typically $10-20 less than new. Verify legitimate physical cartridges.

  • Cross-check game prices across different retailers and take advantage of price matching policies. Clearance sales can reveal hidden gems.

  • Accumulate points with My Nintendo rewards, credit card programs, retailer memberships for eShop discounts. Just don‘t overspend chasing points!

Following these tips religiously has allowed me to build a Switch library of over 25 games so far while only paying full price on launch days for absolute must-have titles. It just requires restraint and smart shopping. Expand your horizons beyond the newest releases and you‘ll discover plenty of awesome games for reasonable prices.

Wrap Up

At the end of the day, scoring Switch games for literally zero dollars requires either incredible luck with contests, or unethical hacking for piracy. But with the right knowledge and tactics, you can absolutely minimize costs and still enjoy all the best games for your budget. Hopefully these tips help you keep gaming on Nintendo Switch while keeping some extra coins in your wallet. Let me know if you have any other creative ideas for getting deals on Switch games!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.