by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 3rd August, 2018
Nintendo consoles, as well as other gaming consoles, weren't known for their free to play titles. Free games were reserved for PC and in the recent decade their platform of choice switched to smartphones and tablets. But in recent years both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 started getting more and more free games because the market expanded and these (mostly online) games got huge audiences making the migration to consoles a logical next step. Luckily, the huge success of the Nintendo Switch made many free games available for this phenomenal device. While you can't really get the Switch just for its free games lineup the free library is solid and it features about a dozen, mostly online, games capable of playing a role of simple yet fun time wasters that perfectly complement your paid games library. There are some heavy hitters in the form of Fortnite and Paladins so if you like playing the most popular game on the world right now or a solid free alternative to Overwatch you'll be covered on the Switch. And before we start it's worth noting that most games available on the Nintendo eShop have free demos meaning you can try them before deciding if they are worth your time and money.
Let's start with the most interesting free game of them all the massive worldwide phenomena that is Fortnite. The game started as a co-op third-person shooter but it's Battle Royale mode became so popular the game is now basically synonymous with it. This Battle Royale title has it all; it runs perfectly on the Switch, even in handheld mode. Sure, visuals aren't as detailed as on PC and other consoles but Fortnite still looks nice on the Switch with lots of pretty effects and relatively sharp textures. While visuals aren't at parity with other video game consoles updates are and for a game like this, that's way more important than having crisply sharp textures or highly detailed objects miles around you.
Also, the game offers the same, adrenaline pumping 100-player action found on every other system along with seasons and cool vanity items. Controls are tight and perfectly optimized for a controller and, unlike the PlayStation version, Fortnite on the Switch support cross-play function allowing you to play with millions of people on PC and Xbox One. If you look for a great online shooter on the Switch well, Fortnite is at the moment the best choice available and it is free so there's really no reason to not try it. And if you're a Fortnite veteran now you have a chance of playing the game wherever you are but this time with far superior control compared to touch controls on the iPhone version.
Since there isn't (yet) a Pokemon game for the Switch, Pokemon Quest is your only chance to hunt and battle cute monsters. And in this version, they are even cuter thanks to the game's simplistic but oh so sweet blocky visuals. While graphically and content-wise pretty far from the upcoming Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee, Quest is an excellent game if we are taking its price into the formula. You can catch your favorite Pokemon, explore (pretty large) Tumblecube Island and battle other Pokemon.
Aside from exploration and battles players can build and customize their very own Base Camp and play with Pokemon they caught. Create your ultimate team out of Pokemon from Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue, and that's a lot of cute, cube-shaped pocket monsters. Yes, battles are basically automatic and the game is far from the complexity of full-fledged Pokemon titles but it offers enough content and features to keep you busy until we get Let's Go games.
If you're itching for some pinball action and you happen to own the Nintendo Switch you're in luck because the console has a solid number of pinball games available on the Nintendo eShop. The first one is The Pinball Arcade that features more than 30 tables recreated from real-world ones made by Stern, the most famous pinball maker of all times. Graphics are amazing physics are also great and the one free table you get once you download the game is enough to provide you with hours of fun and once you want a new one you don't have to get them all at once since every single table is available for purchase separately. Nintendo eShop also offers an older version of the game called Stern Pinball Arcade that doesn't have as many tables as the new version but comes with a couple of premium tables not available in the new version of the game.
Zaccaria Pinball also offers a huge number of tables recreated from real-world variants and while this one doesn't feature visuals as attractive as those found in The Pinball Arcade it does come with equally superb physics. You get access to two free tables, a deal even better than with the last one, and instead of locking every other table behind a paywall this game offers something much better. You see, every table in the game is available but they are locked behind a score limit. While this may be a bit frustrating at least you can check out a table before you end up buying it, unlike in the other two games.
And finally, we have Pinball FX 3, the most popular pinball game of them all at the moment. Instead of recreating real-world pinball tables Pinball FX 3 offers a huge (and we mean huge) number of virtual pinballs that are as good as those found in aforementioned titles. You can play lots of different tables based on the Walking Dead, Star Wars, Marvel, and other franchises and as with other two games, there's one free table with others being locked behind a paywall. And yes you can get every table as a separate purchase. Pinball FX 3 is the most popular virtual pinball for a reason. The game offers the best visuals in the genre and most tables are extremely fun to play.
If you're not into Battle Royale games but still want some multiplayer shooter action there's Paladins, a free to play games that recreates Blizzard's Overwatch formula and that gives a shot of hero shooter for everyone who wants Overwatch-like game on the Nintendo Switch. While this one is free it features lots of maps and a huge number of Champions that vary greatly by their play style. The action is fast paced and requires teamwork and special abilities of Champions can be upgraded and enhanced with various cards.
While the game is free to play title it doesn't force players to spend cash. If you play it regularly and are relatively good at killing others you will be able to earn more than enough in-game currency to keep your heroes competitive. The game is superbly optimized for the Switch and controls are excellent, the visuals are pretty good and you can download and play the game completely free. So, what are you waiting for?
If there's a perfect pastime game it has to be Fallout Shelter. This one is a relatively simple sim that puts the player in the role of overseer of a Vault and it is up to you to keep vault dwellers happy, well fed, safe from danger, and in good shape. The game is great for all of those who like to have that one title they return to every day because you can keep your vault in good shape just by making a few 10 minute-long visits each day.
Build new rooms, upgrade your dwellers' SPECIAL stats and create different specialists that can tackle mutants and raiders, research new technologies, build stuff, or be tough in order to survive days wandering through the Wasteland. Yes, you can send your dwellers on missions and they can return with powerful equipment and weapons that will greatly aid in defending your Vault. Expand your Vault by taking in random strangers, or hooking up dwellers who will then have kids of their own. And create bigger and bigger Vault that can become a proper city on its own. All that without spending a dime because you are perfectly capable of creating powerful dwellers with all stats maxed out who can later return from the Wasteland with superb weapons and armor. It all about playing smart.
Kitten Squad is a game from PETA that features adorable but pretty deadly kittens who will do anything to free even cuter orcas and sheep captured by evil robots. The game features solid 2D visuals that aren't anything awe-inducing but are pretty good for a free to play game. There are lots of levels that feature explosive action and by completing them you earn coins that are used to get new cosmetic items for your kittens.
The game has plenty of different weapons with some being better than others, meaning players will probably discover their favorite early on and then stick with it. Kitten Squad's action is simplistic but fun in short bursts making this free game an excellent choice for a time when you have just a few minutes of free time for gaming or when you are in between titles and need something simple, fun, and free for a couple of days before you buy a new game.
GALAK-Z: Variant S is a sequel to Galak-Z: The Dimensional, a game that was a kind of a sleeper hit on PlayStation 4 back when it came out, in 2015. This game is completely free to play and it comes with a pretty long campaign mode that will have you entertained for weeks. The game is a space shooter similar to Asteroids in which you must maneuver your ship through vacuum while taking down enemies and watching not to crash anywhere. Controls are tight and they are needed to be because maneuvering two groups of thrusters can be pretty complex at the beginning so expect to die a lot until you get acquainted with the game's control system.
But once you learn how to fly the ship the game will become a great space shooter that also free. GALAK-Z: Variant S comes with an intricate upgrade system allowing players to completely change their ship's loadout. Get new weapons, armor, and other pieces of equipment while clashing with gradually harder enemies all over the galaxy. Sure, the game has lots of timers and gets pretty hard over time; not a subtle way to ask for money. But if you're okay with grinding previously beaten missions and battling other players for in-game cash along with visiting the game each day for daily prizes GALAK-Z: Variant S can be beaten without reaching for your wallet. And it's a pretty game too, with colorful ship models and detailed environments; overall, a more than solid free to play package.
Dawn of the Breakers is a free RPG in which you build your own hero squad and participate in many JRPG-like battles in order to banish Ghouls who invaded your hero's lands. Players can build their team of six heroes and then embark on a massive journey found in Story Mode that is made out of dozens of levels asking for stronger and stronger heroes. There's also a Co-Op mode where you battle Ghouls with friends and Arena where your team will face other player teams for prizes and a bit of glory.
Heroes can be upgraded and leveled up and the game takes a classic FTP hero formula we can see in numerous games available on Android and iOS devices. But, while you will need to shell out some cash eventually in order to advance the story missions Dawn of the Breakers can be played for weeks without asking for cash. Of course, that's if you're not a maniac who will play the game for six hours each day or something like that. And even when you hit paywall you will still be able to play some Co-Op or Arena. At least the game looks solid and comes with a huge selection of heroes.
Namco Museum is an app available on the Nintendo eShop that gives you access to lots of classic Namco games. All of them are paid games but there's one that's free and that's Pac-Man VS. While it may not be as fleshed out and filled with content as other, paid games, Pac-Man VS. is an excellent little multiplayer game capable of keeping you entertained for hours in case you have friends to play with.
Players can pick Pac-Man or one of the ghosts chasing the yellow pizza-like creature and then compete in who will survive longer. The game features pretty visuals and it can be a fun pastime for everyone who likes Pac-Man and multiplayer games.
The Nintendo Switch should get a few popular free games in foreseeable future all of them being pretty big and popular, offering new experiences and completing the console's offering of online experiences.
The most popular free to play shooter in the world should come before the end of 2018. Warframe is a Destiny-like game where you have numerous quests to embark on, lots of multiplayer modes, and a constant flow of new content that will keep you entertained for months. The game is a perfect free title that offers full features without any caveats for zero bucks. Real world cash can only get you cosmetic items that in no way are able to give any sort of competitive edge over other players.
The gameplay is super-fast and the game's combination of third-person shooter and awesome melee combat is a formula that gave it millions of fans around the world. Warframe is better than Destiny, it's free and it should come pretty soon.
Next, we have Smite, a free to play MOBA game from the same guys who made Paladins. This one isn't the most popular kid on the block but it has a fair share of players and while Hi-Rez studios aren't confirmed anything the studio has plans on releasing the game for the Switch in the future. You can expect lots of heroes based on various mythos, solid gameplay and team-based combat with the Switch finally getting its own MOBA game.
But before Smite comes the console will get a MOBA game in the form of Arena of Valor. This free to play title is huge on smartphones and it should hit the Switch pretty soon. The game features 5v5, 3v3, and 1v1 matches in which players can choose between dozens of different heroes. The main difference between Arena of Valor and classic MOBA games is the length of matches. Here, matches last for about ten minutes making this one a perfect game to play in handheld mode.