The 15 Best Nintendo Switch Fighting Games
While most fans would accept that the arcade cabinet is where fighting games are at their best, home consoles have become a more important market for series such as "Street Fighter," "Mortal Kombat," and "Super Smash Bros." following the decline of arcades. The Nintendo Switch feels like a natural home for many traditional franchises, with its portable nature making it the ideal way to play a few quick rounds of a game on the go.
But where do you start with a console that is almost six years old and amassed a library of thousands of expensive games? After all, there are some really great fighting games on the hybrid console but also lots that should be avoided. Whether you are an experienced fighter or a newcomer to the genre who wants to take the plunge, this collection of 15 games should offer something for everybody and they are all guaranteed to offer a certain degree of high quality that makes them stand out from the rest of the competition.
While "Super Smash Bros." was one the only real platform fighter in the market for a long time, there have been numerous competitors emerging over the last few years. One of the more notable is the free-to-play platform fighter "Brawlhalla." Created by Blue Mammoth Games and published by Ubisoft, the title is available on almost every platform but has a strong following on the Nintendo Switch thanks to the fact that there is already a steady fanbase for this type of game.
The gameplay is much the same as you’d expect from this type of game. The goal is to knock opponents off the stage and into a blast zone, with the damage taken by a fighter determining how far they’ll fly when attacked. There’s a wide range of modes available, from 1v1 matches to chaotic free-for-all contests and even co-op 2v2 rounds. In terms of fighters, players can pay extra to unlock special crossover fighters from series such as "Adventure Time," "Rayman," and "The Walking Dead."
"Brawlhalla" certainly has a lot going for it and is a great place to start if you are unfamiliar with fighting games. That’s because it features universal movesets and a control system that is easy to get to grips with. There’s also the obvious upside of "Brawlhalla" being free-to-play, meaning you can download and jump straight into the action without spending a penny.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl
"Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl" is another game that takes heavy inspiration from Nintendo’s "Super Smash Bros." series. That means it features similar platform fighter mechanics, with players competing to try and kick, throw, and punch opponents out of the arena. As you may have guessed from the name, it is a crossover series that features a variety of characters from a wide array of children’s television shows from the network. These include a range of fighters from franchises such as "Avatar: The Last Airbender," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "SpongeBob SquarePants," and "Hey Arnold!"
Don’t be fooled by the kid-friendly appearance of "Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl," though, as it has a surprising amount of depth. The controls are designed to make the title as accessible as possible but it was also developed with competitive fighting tournaments in mind. What this means for players is that there are a lot of skill-based mechanics such as air-dashing, so mastering this game will definitely take time and investment. While the overall presentation, especially in terms of voice acting and cut scenes, is a bit lacking this is still a decent platform fighter that shows plenty of promise.
Developed by Sirlin Games for every major platform outside of Xbox, "Fantasy Strike" is a 2019 fighting game that was purposely designed to be as simple and easy to understand as possible. To that end, there are no complicated combos or moves that require multiple button presses, with even special abilities able to be utilized with a single click. Set in the fictional world of Fantasy Strike, the combatants have met up to take part in a martial arts competition to determine exactly who is the best fighter.
With 12 playable characters to choose from, multiplayer and single-player action, and a good selection of stages, "Fantasy Strike" has a good amount of content for a free-to-play game. Matches are usually made up of seven rounds with players winning by being the first to reach the four-round mark by getting their opponents down to zero health. Throw in an extensive tutorial and a good AI system that allows players to get used to how everything works and the fighting game not only offers a great experience but gives less experienced gamers an opportunity to compete alongside those with more skills.
The King of Fighters ’98
SNK’s "The King of Fighters" series was once a serious competitor to the likes of "Street Fighter" and found success in Japan thanks to the finely balanced gameplay and interesting story arcs. With new releases coming annually throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the cast of characters available would often shift as individuals died and were replaced with new fighters. "The King of Fighters ’98" is widely considered to be the best entry in the franchise. It not only brought together almost every character from the series but also refined several mechanics and introduced the Advanced and Extra modes for the first time.
Although it lacked a story campaign like its predecessors, "The King of Fighters ’98" more than made up for it in other areas. With a vast array of fighters available for selection, it brought back many fan favorites and allowed match-ups that were previously impossible. The fighting gameplay was also at a series high that hasn’t been replicated since it first hit store shelves in 1998. Many of the original Neo Geo titles are available on the Nintendo Switch but if you can only buy one then grabbing the port of "The King of Fighters ’98" is definitely the way to go.
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy
"SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy" is another fighting game from the team at SNK, although this is a far more modern entry than the Neo Geo port of "The King of Fighters ’98." Created for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5 in 2018, it is a fighter that requires a little more strategic thinking. That’s because matches are fought with multiple characters on each team that take on separate roles. One will be the attacker who is tasked with battling, while the other plays a supportive role and will help finish off enemies with a special Dream Finish move.
Featuring many of the cast of previous SNK games, the story sees the fighters all suddenly finding themselves in a mysterious mansion where everyone, including the previously male characters, are now women. The unique story and quirky gameplay make it a rather distinctive fighting game and one that is worth checking out. It might not be suitable for younger players, due to the graphic violence and sexualized imagery that it portrays, but might appeal to fans of the genre who enjoy fast-paced gameplay and the chaos of tag-team combat.
Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary Edition
For any fans of classic 2D fighters, the "Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary Edition" is a must-buy for the Nintendo Switch. The physical collection contains not only the original "Guilty Gear" game from 1998 that launched on the PlayStation and has since been ported to other platforms, but also "Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R." This is a fully updated version of "Guilty Gear XX" that contains a number of balance updates, additional content, and gameplay finetunes to make it the ultimate version of the game that is available.
Getting two games for the price of one is already a good deal, but "Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R" is widely considered to be one of the greatest entries in the "Guilty Gear" series and was a regular title at fighting competitions around the world for many years. This speaks to its quality and depth, things that will be appreciated by aficionados of the genre. With the updated version still very much working on the framework of the initial 2002 release, the game may not look and sound as sharp as modern equivalents but it is a piece of fighting history that everyone should experience.
Pokkén Tournament DX
"Pokkén Tournament DX" offers players the chance to experience Pokémon battles in a very different way. Rather than the traditional turn-based battle system in the mainline RPGs where players select an attack and watch it unfold, this game plays out more like a conventional arcade fighter. It is developed by Bandai Namco Studios and based on the mechanics of the "Tekken" series. That means the battles play out in real-time, with players controlling the Pokémon as they duke it out in arenas.
Several mechanics from the "Pokémon" series are present, including mega evolutions and special movies, and "Pokkén Tournament DX" boasts a roster of 23 different Pokémon — including an adorable version of Pikachu in a luchador outfit. The focus on action rather than complicated combos and technical gameplay means that this is a more appealing fighting game for casual players who might not have the necessary skills to play a series such as "Tekken" competitively. Originally launched on the Wii U, this enhanced Switch port included a number of improvements and has additional Pokémon in the form of two DLC packs to add extra content.
Like "Fantasy Strike," Cardboard Robot Games’ "Pocket Rumble" is another accessible fighter. However, this one takes inspiration from Neo Geo games of the past, most notably SNK’s vast catalog of fighting games. With its retro visuals and fast-paced gameplay, it is actually one of the better games available on the hybrid console. It has a surprising amount of depth and tight controls, yet manages to accomplish this with streamlined controls that only use two buttons. According to the developers, the aim was to keep the excitement and action of fighting games like "Street Fighter" but get rid of the annoying way you had to memorize dozens of moves.
To do this, "Pocket Rumble" utilizes a system whereby every attack does the same amount of damage and all characters start with 12 HP. There are no overly long combos to remember and special moves have easy-to-understand triggers that are clearly displayed on the screen. Other on-screen indicators also explain how other mechanics work while there’s also a diverse cast of characters and a good range of modes. Add in the GGPO netcode system for lag-free smooth online multiplayer and this game is a sure winner.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Arc System Works is well known for its library of fighting games. It has previously worked on a number of important series, such as "Guilty Gear" and "BlazBlue," and has adapted other franchises to the genre with "Persona 4 Arena." That made the developer a good choice when it came to creating a fighting game based on the immensely popular "Dragon Ball" anime. "Dragon Ball FighterZ" was the end result of that hard work and it has gone down as one of the better fighting games of recent years.
Featuring a huge cast, players choose three characters to form their team before battling against an opponent. These characters can be switched out at any time and even perform assist moves together in a similar way to the "Marvel vs. Capcom" games. Available since 2018, the game has seen a number of DLC packs launch and has won praise for everything from its story mode to its faithful art design, with critics particularly impressed by the versatility offered by the combat system.
Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Although it is a relatively old game, with "Skullgirls 2nd Encore" initially launching back in 2012, developer Lab Zero Games has done plenty of work in updating the game and expanding its content offerings over the intervening years. The current version that is available on Nintendo Switch was released in 2015 and includes new fighters, faster gameplay, and balance updates. There are now 18 fighters to choose from, with new characters added as recently as 2023. Taking inspiration from the "Marvel vs. Capcom" series, the game features tag-team battles and character assists during combat, making it a lightning-fast game that requires quick thinking and reactions.
Along with the standard modes you’d expect from a fighting game, "Skullgirls 2nd Encore" includes a Typing of the Skullgirls mode based on "The Typing of the Dead" and challenges where players have to take part in matches with very specific objectives or battle conditions. There’s also an endless horde mode in the form of survival mode and a trial mode whereby players can only win by performing certain combos. Thanks to its focused gameplay, distinctive visual style, and ever-expanding content, "Skullgirls 2nd Encore" is a must-play fighting game.
A sequel to Messhof’s indie 2014 game, "Nidhogg 2" is a very different type of fighting game compared to the rest of the titles discussed previously. Essentially a fencing game at its heart, players have to battle it out against a single opponent on a large arena made up of different sections. The aim is not to kill the enemy but rather reach their side of the stage by continually defeating the opponent and forcing them to respawn further back.
"Nidhogg 2" takes the basic gameplay of "Nidhogg" and updates it in a number of ways. The most notable of these is in the look of the game, with the sequel having a more sophisticated visual style compared to the rather basic pixelated graphics of its predecessor. But there are also lots of new weapons, levels, and items to add extra depth to the gameplay.
Critics have praised the unique approach taken in "Nidhogg 2" to combat and it is undoubtedly one of the best examples of a two-player fighting game. The brilliant soundtrack, grotesquely compelling artwork, and lightning-fast gameplay make this an appealing package that is perfect as a party game.
Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection
No list of great fighting games would ever be complete without a "Street Fighter" title and luckily Nintendo Switch owners have access to the "Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection." This compilation includes 12 individual releases from across the history of the franchise in celebration of the 30 years it has spent at the top of the genre. Included are the original 1987 release "Street Fighter," a range of "Street Fighter II" releases, and both "Street Fighter Alpha" and "Street Fighter III."
While it is missing the modern offerings from Capcom, this is simply a must-have for fighting game fans as it includes some of the very best titles in not only the series but the genre as a whole. For history buffs, the "Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection" also comes with a museum section filled with concept art, trivia, and behind-the-scenes titbits that offer a unique insight into the history of the franchise. As an added bonus, several of the games in the collection also support online multiplayer, so you don’t have to rely on having friends around to get the most out of it.
"ARMS" is another fighting game for the Nintendo Switch that takes a very different approach to most other games in the genre. Most fighters focus on up close and personal combat, with melee attacks or throws and grapples being the method used to defeat an opponent. This Nintendo-developed title goes in the opposite direction, with the fighting relying on long-range attacks. Players take control of one of several characters — all with unique abilities and special attacks — as they face off against opponents with long extendable arms. These can be used to do everything from attacking other players to blocking incoming damage.
A very unique experience, "ARMS" has been compared to "Splatoon" in the way it alters the basic components of the fighting genre as that game did with online shooters. Although it does take some getting used to, the Nintendo game is worth the effort, comes with a variety of modes, and has been well-supported with new content since launching on the system in 2017. Fortunately, it offers a great deal of fun either online or in local multiplayer but isn’t a game that is best enjoyed as a single-player title.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
The "Mortal Kombat" series is another staple of the fighting game genre and the most recent title has been a spectacular return to form for NetherRealm Studios. Following the reboot of the franchise with the 2011 game, "Mortal Kombat 11" takes place several years after its two predecessors. However, it features the same brutal combat, gruesome fatalities, and satisfying gameplay that has made the series so beloved by fans. The Nintendo Switch port does have some drawbacks, most noticeably in its online modes and its graphical quality but it is still a worthy inclusion to any fighting fan’s collection.
If you are going to grab the game, then picking up the "Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate" version is probably the best course of action. After all, it includes the base game as well as all of the released DLC, such as the Aftermatch Expansion and the two Kombat Packs. Having those not only boosts the character roster to 37 playable characters but also adds new story elements and fatalities.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
While there are now a number of great platform fighting games on the Nintendo Switch, the undisputed champion is still "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate." Not only does it have the pedigree of the series’ extensive history but it boasts an unrivaled roster of characters from basically every major Nintendo franchise. The game, which was first released in 2018, now has a roster with 89 playable characters, ranging from individuals from the "Mario" and "The Legend of Zelda" series to "Final Fantasy" and "Minecraft" figures.
As with all platform fighters, the main goal in "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is to remove opponents from the arena by knocking them out of one of the more than 100 available stages. Gameplay can soon become frantic, though, with up to eight players able to battle it out at the same time. Met with universal acclaim upon its release, it is widely considered to be the best entry in the series and a game that offers tremendous value for money. Simply put, no self-respecting fighting game fan could possibly own a Nintendo Switch and not have a copy of "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" on hand.