Nintendo Switch: 9 Best Handheld Games

If you’ve got a brief gaming slot during your commute or lunch break, these Nintendo Switch games will do just the trick…

The Nintendo Switch’s promise has never been about graphical fidelity or sheer horsepower. Instead, the core appeal of the Switch can be found in its ability to take your gaming library on the go.

Sizeable games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild put an entire world in your hands, for example, allowing you to knuckle down for an epic and elongated experience wherever you lay your hat. But other titles in the Switch library are snappier and shorter, which makes them perfect for a quick journey on public transport or a brief moment during your lunch break.

With that in mind, here are nine Nintendo Switch titles that are great for gaming in small doses and can brighten up your commute considerably…


On a busy train, Aaero feels like a perfect way to unwind. Part rhythm game, part shooter, Aaero has a beautifully polygonal style for its visuals. Flying through them and destroying enemies, in time to a wonderful drum and bass soundtrack featuring the likes of Flux Pavilion, is perfect for high score chasers.

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The Switch version comes with some extra tracks, but make sure you pack headphones for the best experience!

Further Reading: 25 Underrated NES Games

Ape Out

Ape Out calls to mind Hotline Miami with its top-down perspective. Unlike that ’80s-tinged murder-fest, Ape Out’s simpler color palette and more forgiving health system give it a sense of catharsis. Playing as an ape trying to escape a facility, you’ll need to bash guards against walls, throw them from high-rise buildings, or coerce them into shooting their colleagues.

It’s brash, stylish, and incredibly fun, with procedurally generated levels and an excellent percussion-based soundtrack that reacts to the action on screen. (Again, don’t forget the headphones!)


2018’s indie darling is available on multiple platforms, but it feels most at home on the Switch. Gorgeous pixel art and a riveting story (about conquering protagonist Madelyn’s inner demons) shot it to many Game of the Year lists, and with good reason. Its platforming walks a fine tightrope between being difficult and accessible in equal measure, with assists offered for players that just want to experience the story.

What makes Celeste ideal for a commute is the game’s excellent checkpointing system that means progress doesn’t feel as glacial or disheartening as it can in other platformers.

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Further Reading: 25 Underrated SNES Games

Dead Cells

Metroidvania titles are insanely popular on Switch, but Dead Cells ranks as not just a great entry in that genre – it’s also one of the best games on Switch in its own right. Playing as an amorphous blob of goo that claims a recently deceased body, you’ll fight your way through procedurally generated levels until you meet your inevitable end.

Dying is all part of the fun, though, and each run earns currency to spend on permanent upgrades to improve your chances at making it a little further next time. Where Dead Cells stands apart from other rogue-lite titles is in its core combat loop — each weapon earned has its own uses and prompts a different style of play. With no two playthroughs feeling the same, Dead Cells is a perfect game to chip away at on the bus.

Into the Breach

An award-winning strategy title from an award-winning developer, Subset Games’ Into the Breach is turn-based strategy condensed into an eight-by-eight grid, with a twist. Players can see enemy moves a turn early, which doesn’t make it as easy as you’d expect.

Controlling a three-person squad of Mechs (each customizable with dozens of possibilities), you’ll battle the Kaiju-like Vek and attempt to prevent them from destroying various buildings scattered throughout the map. To do this, you’ll shoot them, throw them into mountains, or simply shove them out of the way of the cities they’re trying to trample. It’s all wonderfully tactile, making great use of the Switch’s HD rumble.

With each battle taking five to ten minutes, it’s the best bite-sized strategy game you can keep in your pocket for the commute (before loading it up on your TV to feed your addiction further).

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Further Reading: 25 Underrated Game Boy Games

Puyo Puyo Tetris

While Tetris 99 has taken the Switch by storm, its online-only nature rules it out for commuters. Thankfully, Puyo Puyo Tetris has you covered for keeping those skills sharp.

Featuring a multitude of characters and a bonkers story mode, the key appeal of Puyo Puyo Tetris is its melding of Tetris and Puyo Puyo. Each can be played separately, but matches that flip between the two are great fun – keeping players on their toes and offering a variety of play modes.

Playing with one joy-con each when traveling with a friend is an ideal way to practice, and this is one you won’t need headphones for – as catchy as the Tetris theme is, the characters voices can grate after a while. Pop on a podcast and get to it!

Further Reading: The Incredibly Weird Tetris Origin Story

Stardew Valley

Chucklefish’s all-conquering farming simulator is built around managing various tasks to ensure your farm thrives. It’s definitely more than a glorified to-do list, though, with each character and animation almost overflowing with charm.

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Playing on the Switch in handheld mode, you can water your crops, pop to the store, or plant new produce all while traveling to your actual job. Add that to the Switch’s “sleep mode,” and you can essentially find time to play Stardew Valley at any point in your day.

Now there’s a scary thought…

Steamworld Dig 2

Another Metroidvania (we told you they were popular on Switch!), Steamworld Dig 2 is an insanely addictive (and surprisingly funny) adventure that’s well worth taking on the go. Guiding Dorothy, a cute robot, through deviously designed underground platforming sections in order to harvest resources that can be spent on the surface is a loop that could have you missing your stop if you aren’t careful. Using the gems you harvest to upgrade your abilities to traverse deeper into the unknown is rewarding, and the game’s excellent platforming makes every subterranean expedition feel like a treat.

Further Reading: 25 Best Game Boy Advance Games

Super Mario Odyssey

While it may not sound like an obvious one, Super Mario Odyssey is the ideal “drop in, drop out” game. With each of its huge worlds being designed as a sandbox full of secrets to find, being able to turn your Switch on and find some power moons feels ideal – there are plenty to find, after all.

Once the main story is finished, there are even more of these moons to find, which will keep you occupied for a few further train journeys. Thankfully, Odyssey is the one the Switch’s best 3D platformers, so finding each one is a labor of love!

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So, there you have it, nine games ideal to play on the go. Have we missed any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below…