I know what you‘re thinking – the Nintendo Switch seems awesome, but games are so expensive! As a fellow gamer on a budget, I‘ve wondered the same thing.
The good news is, it is possible to download and play free games on your Nintendo Switch! While the options are more limited than other consoles, there are quite a few ways to build up a solid free library if you know where to look.
In this guide, I‘ll walk you through all the best methods I‘ve found to get free game downloads on your Switch, based on my own experience as a bargain-hunting Nintendo fan. I‘ve researched this extensively so I can help a friend like you access great Switch games without going broke. 😊
Let‘s dive in!
Overview of Ways to Get Free Nintendo Switch Games
First, here‘s a quick rundown of the main strategies I‘ll cover for scoring free game downloads on your Switch:
- Permanently free eShop games
- Limited-time eShop game trials
- Nintendo Switch Online perks
- Promotional game giveaways
- My Nintendo rewards
- Nintendo account game sharing
- Used physical game deals
- Homebrew emulators (advanced)
Throughout the guide, I‘ll provide more details on how each method works, along with tips to maximize the free games you can add to your Switch library.
Now let‘s explore each one…
Permanently Free Games on the eShop
The most obvious place to find free Switch games is right on Nintendo‘s eShop!
In the eShop, you‘ll notice a Free-to-Start category. This section is home to F2P games that are permanently free to download.
Here are some of the most popular free eShop titles you should definitely check out:
This free-to-play battle royale shooter took the world by storm. Squad up with friends or go solo to be the last player standing in high-stakes PvP matches. Tons of gameplay variety with constantly evolving maps and challenges.
Who knew rocket-powered car soccer could be so addicting? Easy to pick up but tons of room for mastery with a high skill ceiling.
Gather cute cube-shaped Pokémon and embark on an RPG adventure. Lighthearted nostalgic fun.
An acclaimed cooperative online third-person shooter with RPG elements. Space ninjas? Sign me up.
Arena of Valor
For MOBA fans, this 5v5 multiplayer online battle arena game is packed with depth.
Asphalt 9: Legends
If you want a slick arcade racing fix on Switch, this adrenaline-packed title has you covered.
Now, it‘s important to note that most free-to-start games make their revenue from in-app purchases and battle pass subscriptions. So while the core gameplay is free, you‘ll be pushed to spend money on cosmetics, XP boosts, etc.
I‘d recommend trying out all the F2P games that look interesting to you. See which ones you naturally enjoy playing without spending. That way you can focus your limited gaming time on the best free titles that hold your attention without pressure to buy in-game items.
One nice bonus is that a Nintendo Switch Online membership is not required for these free eShop games – you can play online multiplayer with others at no extra cost. So this is a great way to enjoy online gaming before deciding if you want to purchase a Switch Online subscription.
While the Free-to-Start selection is smaller than platforms like mobile app stores, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality free gaming options available right on the eShop for zero money down. Be sure to bookmark the Free-to-Start category and keep an eye out for new releases.
Try Before You Buy with Limited-Time eShop Game Trials
In addition to the dedicated free games section, another eShop trick is to watch for limited-time game trials.
These typically allow you to download and play the beginning of a game for free for a short trial period, usually around 1-2 hours of gameplay.
It‘s a great way to experience a slice of highly-rated Switch titles risk-free to see if the game is right for you before buying.
Some awesome games I‘d recommend jumping on trial opportunities for include:
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – This epic open-world JRPG is one of the Switch‘s most acclaimed exclusives, but can seem daunting for new fans. Trying the free trial is the perfect way to see if its massive world and deep combat click with you before diving into the full adventure.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – This delightful puzzle platformer lets you take control of the adorable Captain Toad on his hunt for gemstones and stars. It‘s family-friendly fun with clever stage design.
Dragon Quest XI S – Get a taste of this legendary JRPG series that inspired modern favorites like Pokemon with Dragon Quest‘s signature retro charm and turn-based battles.
Octopath Traveler – Immerse yourself in this gorgeous "HD-2D" pixel art world and decide if you enjoy mixing up combat strategies with the game‘s 8 unique protagonists.
If you fall in love with a game during its free trial, your save data carries over seamlessly if you choose to purchase the full title. It‘s really one of the best risk-free ways to experience top-tier Switch games on a budget.
Be sure to follow the Coming Soon section in the eShop and watch for announcements about game trials – they can appear around major releases, holidays, or franchise anniversaries. Think of them as extended "free weekends" to start off amazing adventures.
Reap the Perks of Nintendo Switch Online
Now, a paid Nintendo Switch Online membership usually costs $20/year. For online gaming and cloud backup alone, you may wonder if it‘s worth it.
But a nice hidden benefit is that subscribers will occasionally get access to special limited-time free game trials. Nintendo will offer these as promotions to highlight certain releases or franchises.
Some previous Online subscriber-only game trials have included:
- Mario Tennis Aces – Get a taste of the addicting tennis gameplay before Nintendo‘s roster of iconic characters has you hooked. Love means nothing in this game!
- Captain Toad Treasure Tracker – Search for gems as the adorable Captain Toad (this one pops up as a frequent trial).
- Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled – Satisfy your nostalgia for kart racing in the zany Crash Bandicoot universe.
So while not guaranteed, a Nintendo Switch Online subscription does increase the chances you‘ll get to experience time-limited full game downloads for free. Definitely a nice added membership bonus for gamers on a budget!
Pounce on Promotional Game Giveaways
Okay, this one requires perfect timing, but it pays off.
Very occasionally, Nintendo will make certain games available as temporary free downloads to all users – no strings attached! This usually lines up around major releases, franchise anniversaries, holidays, or events.
It‘s worth watching Nintendo‘s social media closely for announcements of these promotional freebie deals and snagging them quickly. Here are some past examples:
- Super Mario Bros. 35 – For a limited time, this battle royale-style revamp of the classic Super Mario Bros was offered as a free download to promote Super Mario‘s 35th anniversary.
- Jump Rope Challenge – This simple free fitness game was released briefly for free during the pandemic to encourage players to stay active at home.
- Pokémon: Let‘s Go Pikachu / Eevee Demo – A generous demo of the Pokémon Let‘s Go games was available for free for a while leading up to release.
- Splatoon 2 Demo – Similarly, a meaty demo of the Splatoon 2 multiplayer shooter was offered for free to build hype for Splatoon 3.
As a Switch owner, it‘s worth being vigilant, as you never know when one of these temporary freebies will pop up! They don‘t come around often, but taking advantage whenever possible is an easy way to expand your library.
Cash in Your My Nintendo Points for Free Games
This next tip requires patience, but I‘ve actually managed to earn a couple legit free game downloads with it. So hear me out!
Nintendo has a loyalty program called My Nintendo that allows you to earn Gold Points and Platinum Points from game purchases and activities. You can then redeem these points for rewards in their shop.
Now, most of the rewards are small discounts and coupons. But if you‘re diligent about maxing out your point earning opportunities, you may eventually rack up enough Platinum Points to redeem a full game download!
In the past, some free Switch games unlocked through My Nintendo points included:
- Super Mario Run (Mobile port)
- Dr. Mario World (Mobile port)
- Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros (Mini retro handheld)
It takes 300 Platinum Points to redeem each of these, which is no small feat. You‘ll need to really optimize your point earnings by:
- Linking your Nintendo account to services like Switch, mobile games, Switch Online, etc.
- Completing Point-earning missions on My Nintendo
- Participating in point-boosting events and promotions
- Buying enough eligible games and DLC packs to earn points
It takes effort, but is possible with dedication! For example, I was able to get the Game & Watch handheld for free after about a year of maximizing My Nintendo rewards. Think of it as a fun metagame while enjoying the Switch – try to earn enough points for free games without spending extra money.
Game Share with Family and Friends
Alright, speaking of not spending extra, here‘s a slick way to double your library of free games and help out someone close to you at the same time with the Switch‘s "game sharing" abilities.
Here‘s how it works:
- You can link up to 8 Nintendo Switch devices in a "family" group.
- Any user on the primary console can play downloaded digital games.
- But users on secondary consoles in the group can also access and download those same games through shared licenses!
- I buy Super Smash Bros Ultimate on my primary Switch.
- I add my little brother‘s Switch as a secondary console and log in with my Nintendo account.
- He can now download and play my digital Smash copy on his Switch for free!
By sharing games this way, you can quickly double your free library by playing each other‘s titles. It works great with family members or a best friend.
The only limitations are:
- Only primary console users can play shared games offline (secondary consoles need an internet connection to verify the licenses).
- You can‘t play the same downloaded game together simultaneously.
But other than that, it‘s a fantastic feature. I‘ve been able to play so many co-op games with my younger siblings without having to buy double copies. Highly recommend looking into Nintendo‘s game sharing if you have another Switch owner in your life you can trust!
Buy Used Physical Games for 50% Off or More
Alright, let‘s shift gears to building your Switch library on the cheap with pre-owned physical cartridges!
Used games have come a long way with online storefronts. You can easily find tons of high-quality secondhand Switch games for great prices if you know where to look.
Some of my go-to sites to shop for used Switch game deals include:
- eBay – Filter by Buy It Now listings and sort by lowest price. Look for sellers with high ratings.
- Facebook Marketplace – Search locally in your city to find used games being sold by nearby sellers. Arrange quick meetups to test games.
- Craigslist – Use their video game search tool to find local gaming deals in your city.
- /r/GameSale – This Reddit community allows gamers to buy/sell used games safely. Great deals from trusted members.
The key is to thoroughly inspect used game cards before purchasing. Check for any scratches or damage. And test the game for a few minutes after meeting the seller, if buying locally.
If everything checks out, you can often grab quality used Switch games for 50% off, or even more for older titles. This is easily the most budget-friendly way to try out a ton of Nintendo classics and major releases:
- Get almost new titles like Super Mario 3D World or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for only $30 instead of $60.
- Play expensive first-party games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey for around $40 instead of full price.
- Revisit older favorites like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Super Mario Party for as low as $25.
By buying used physical games, you can try 2-3x more titles for the same cost. Definitely look into this option to maximize your gaming time and sample a wide variety of Nintendo‘s best series for cheap.
Whenever you‘re itching for a new game experience, check for used deals before biting the bullet on pricey eShop purchases.
Explore Homebrew Emulation (For Advanced Users)
Alright, time for a risky but extremely powerful way to access tons of free classic games – homebrew emulation.
This option involves hacking your Switch to install custom software and apps. Done incorrectly, the complex process risks bricking your console.
So I only recommend exploring this if you are an experienced, tech-savvy user fully aware of the dangers. Don‘t attempt this unless you‘re an advanced hacker type!
That said, if you know what you‘re doing, homebrew opens up options like:
- Retro game emulators – Play free old-school console classics from NES, SNES, Game Boy, Genesis, N64, etc. Relive your childhood!
- Homebrew apps and tools – Install community-made apps, utilities and experimental features not officially available.
The homebrew scene has also enabled ways to dump your own Switch game libraries to access backups on custom firmware. I can‘t fully condone that legally gray area, but it demonstrates the possibilities.
Again, understand that improperly hacking your Switch risks permanent damage. You could lose access to official Nintendo services and updates too.
But some dedicated retro fans have managed to turn the Switch into an all-in-one emulation beast while still maintaining core functionality. Look into Switch hacking forums if you have both the advanced technical knowledge and are okay with potential downsides.
For casual gamers, I‘d recommend the other methods in this guide first. But I couldn‘t ignore discussing homebrew emulation, as it has allowed fans to enjoy countless classic free games through custom Switch builds.
And there you have it, friend! You now know 8 legitimate ways to build up an awesome library of free games on your Nintendo Switch, with a bonus advanced route if you‘re feeling brave.
To recap, you can score free downloads through:
- Permanently free eShop games
- Limited-time eShop trials
- Nintendo Switch Online perks
- Promotional giveaways
- My Nintendo point redemptions
- Family account game sharing
- Used physical game deals
- Homebrew emulation (risky!)
So while getting free Switch games takes a bit more effort than other consoles, there are plenty of options available with the right approach.
Using a combo of these methods, you can ease the burden on your wallet and enjoy Nintendo‘s fantastic Switch exclusives without draining your bank account.
I hope this guide gave you a helpful overview of the best ways to access free games on your Switch. Let me know if you have any other questions! Happy gaming. 😊