Although the Nintendo Switch launched alongside one of the greatest AAA games of all time in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the system has become known as an indie machine to many. The portability of the Switch and Switch Lite makes them ideal for indie games, and dozens of small developers seem to love releasing their games on the hybrid console.
Better yet, plenty of previously released indie games, such as Hollow Knight, have received increased attention and acclaim after landing on the Switch. Its become a win-win for developers and Switch owners. If youre a new Switch owner or are simply looking for something new to play during your morning commute, weve put together a running list of the best indie games on the Nintendo Switch.
This has to be one of the strangest games of 2020. Published by Devolver Digital and developed by Phobia Game Studio, Carrion is a reverse horror game where players take on the role of a terrifying, man-eating blob as they stalk their prey through a foreboding prison.
The brutal combat is a big part of the fun, as youll be flinging scientists and soldiers around the map like ragdolls, but there are enough complicated puzzles to keep things interesting for the long haul. With a bunch of hidden content, unlockable abilities, and an utterly unique concept, Carrion is one of the better indie titles available on the Switch.
Part roguelike and part platformer, Neon Abyss is a brutal game that is different every run. It features a beautiful pixel art style that will immediately catch your eye and a deep customization mechanic that allows you to mold the game to your preferred method of play.
When you get tired of all the bullets, Neon Abyss includes a few mini games that reward you with gear that can aid you in clearing the main story. These diversions include piano performances, mediation challenges, and even dance competitions if youre really digging the energetic soundtrack.
Pinball and hack-and-slash action usually dont go together, but no one told that to developer Flight School Studio when it was creating Creature in the Well. The mysterious adventure features a BOT-C venturing into a mountain and defeating challenges and enemies set by the titular Creature. The gorgeous art style and zoomed-out perspective make you feel like a tiny speck in a very large world, and the industrial designs give it a gritty aesthetic.
What really sets Creature in the Well apart is its mix of pinball mechanics and traditional action gameplay. To complete challenges, youll need to strike an orb that moves between several bouncers, all while trying to avoid turrets and other traps attacking you. Its unlike anything weve played before and a perfect fit for the Switch.
Motion Twin calls its breakout indie hit a RogueVania, a mashup of games with classic Castlevania and Metroid gameplay. Throw in the fact that Dead Cells has permadeath and brutally difficult enemies and you have a recipe for the perfect one more try type of game.
Dead Cells truly shines for its addictive gameplay and wide array of secrets. With a bevy of weapons to uncover and a bounty of secret areas to discover, each time you play Dead Cells, you feel like you learn and find something new.
Although it features permadeath, you do have the chance to get permanent upgrades at the end of each area. If you stick with it, you will eventually see the credits. Its all about the journey, though, as this dark and enthralling world is hard to leave and even harder to forget.
The franchise that really put Devolver Digital on the map as a publisher of astounding indies, the Hotline Miami Collection compiles the original and its sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, in one hectic and challenging package. The top-down, ultraviolent affairs creatively combine twitchy action gameplay with stealth. And tying the whole experience together is one of the best game soundtracks in years.
While you can kill enemies in one hit with a variety of guns and melee weapons across both games expertly designed levels, the protagonist is just as susceptible to one-hit deaths. This creates a tension that permeates throughout both games. Memorization and fast movements are key to success. Its chaotic, trying, and utterly over the top. These games arent just a riot to play; they ooze with style.
StudioMDHRs astonishing Cupheadhas made the jump from Xbox One/PC to Switch. The port runs wonderfully both in console and handheld mode, retaining all the glory of the 1930s cartoon art style and animations.
Cuphead is a challenging game, but it never comes across as unfair. Minimalistic mechanics let you focus on the task at hand the multi-phase bosses while enjoying all of the excellent animations and sounds.
Its worth playing for the art style alone, which is as impressive now as it was upon its original launch in 2017. The engaging boss fights and crisp mechanics make it a pleasure to work through, even when the going gets exceedingly tough.
My Friend Pedro is the ultimate bullet time game. You play as a nameless protagonist guided by a talking banana named Pedro (because why not?). The story is nonsense, but the action is extremely gratifying. Through a series of sidescrolling levels, you jump, dodge, and slow down time while shooting enemies with a variety of high-powered weapons.
My Friend Pedro is all about style points earned from stringing together kills in quick succession. The style-factor goes through the roof in levels where you get to ride a skateboard or use objects such as frying pans to deflect bullets. My Friend Pedro looks ridiculously cool in motion and feels even better to play.
Developed by Askiisoft and published by the venerable Devolver Digital, Katana Zero can be aptly described as a sidescrolling version of Hotline Miami. You play as a samurai in this neo-noir infused thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Each level is broken into rooms filled with gun-toting and sword-wielding baddies.
Like Hotline Miami, one hit and youre dead. Armed with a sharp blade and a dash ability, the rooms play out like puzzles. It has a Superhot-esque flow, as you have the ability to slow down time, which helps in deflecting bullets back to their origin.
Fast, stylish, and challenging, Katana Zero is a fantastic experience from start to finish. The gameplay will hook you instantly, but the story and writing arguably steals the show.
Enter the Gungeon combines dungeon crawling and twin-stick shooting mechanics with a rewarding and addictive rogue-like loop. Think The Binding of Isaac but more arcade-like and chaotic. As you plunge deeper into the dungeon, youll be rewarded with a bevy of loot, neat lore, and plenty of secrets.
Whats especially cool about Enter the Gungeon is that you learn something new each time you play. This is partially done by its approach to rogue-like progression. While all of the rooms remain the same, the enemies, treasure, and even locations of the rooms change.
Its all a matter of learning each room and tweaking your strategy as things change. Definitely challenging but always a good time, Enter the Gungeon is ideal for short spurts in handheld mode.
Ape Out mixes jazz music with over-the-top violence to stunning results. From a top-down perspective, you play as an ape attempting to escape captivity. Minimalistic visuals and simplistic mechanics allow the core loop to take center stage.
You have two mechanics at your disposal: grab and throw. Throwing lets you turn guards into a bloody mush, while grabbing uses them as human shields and sometimes leads to guards shooting other guards. Its a tough but fair game thanks to randomized levels.
The jazzy soundtrack pounds along in the background, becoming a separate mechanic itself. Snare drums beat consistently and boom faster as you approach danger. Cymbal crashes mark the deaths of enemies. The result is an absorbing experience that compels you to try again and again until youve led the ape to freedom.
Hyper Light Drifter is an ode to 8-bit and 16-bit adventure games, set in a distinct world reduced to shambles. This top-down adventure features extremely challenging gameplay with a neat gimmick.
Your main weapon, an energy sword, has to strike enemies in order to charge your supplementary, ranged weapons. This means you have to master melee combat to have a chance against the onslaught of enemies.
Rounded out by a beautiful soundtrack and fantastic animations, Hyper Light Drifter is a moving experience with an understated, but powerful story.
Broforce is an awesome and hilarious run-and-gun. Your job as an action hero parody is to save your bros from terrorist captivity. Your commanding officer is none other than Nelson Brodela, and all of the playable characters riff on action heroes.
For instance, you can use a whip in combat while playing as fake Indiana Jones, or you can light enemies up with immense firepower as a pseudo-Rambo. Broforce shines for its great controls, excellent design, and challenging levels.
This side-scrolling action game has just enough of a mix between action and platforming to make for a consistently varied experience.
Downwell, a game about a man falling down a well in a park, has been available since 2015 on mobile devices. Rendered in black and white, the premise is simple: Make it to the bottom. Since youre falling at a rapid pace, you would think youre already ahead of the game, right? Not so fast. Avoiding obstacles, enemies, and projectiles is an arduous endeavor that forces you to think and move on the fly.
As a rogue-like, each time you make your descent, the layout of the well changes. With guns attached to your boots that only recharge when you touch the ground safely, its a constant battle between the offensive and defensive. Power-ups are rewarded at the bottom of each stage, but each level ups the challenge. Basically, no matter what you have in your arsenal, youre always facing an uphill battle (ironic, huh?).
A round of Downwell can last anywhere from seconds to a handful of minutes, depending on your skill level. On Switch, its a perfect game for quick bursts in handheld mode. The $3 price makes Downwell a steal, but you should splurge for the Flip Grip to play Downwell comfortably with a vertical orientation.
It took long enough, but our favorite crime-fighting crew makes a triumphant return after 16 years of unpaid leave. Featuring 12 levels, unlockable characters, and multiple difficulties, the game is a nostalgic masterpiece for fans and newcomers alike.
Streets of Rage 4 somehow manages to be both an homage to games of the past while taking bold steps in a new direction. The art style alone sets it apart from previous installments, but new combat mechanics and reimagined enemies keep the action fun all the way to the final boss. Plus, the game is chock-full of replayable content and lends itself to multiple playthroughs either solo or with a few friends.
An adventure game years in the making that saw its first release in 2013, Kentucky Route Zero finally came to Nintendo Switch as the TV Edition in early 2020. The game focuses almost entirely on the story and dialogue rather than traditional challenges, but the bizarre journey through underground caves is filled with memorable characters.
All five acts of the game are available together on the Switch version, and the games minimalist art and simple controls make it an ideal fit for playing on the go. Make no mistake, however its storytelling is far beyond what most AAA games can offer, and its worth going in as fresh as possible to avoid learning too much.
From visionary indie developer Lucas Pope, Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the most visually unique and stunning games weve ever seen, both on Nintendo Switch and any other platform. Created to look like it was drawn using thousands of tiny dots, Return of the Obra Dinn can be jarring, but in a way that evokes a sense of vagueness and mystery perfect for the games subject matter. Its set in the early 19thcentury, and the titular ships bizarre appearance years after going missing is the beginning of an intriguing adventure.
Lucas Pope tackles some depressing and dark material in his games, and there is no other developer doing exactly what hes doing. If first-person games combined with this art style dont give you a headache, then Return of the Obra Dinn is a necessity and one youll be thinking about for a long time after the credits roll.
Oxenfree is very much in the vein of Telltale adventures. Its story-driven, low on action, and well written. Alex and her friends are on an island together when strange, supernatural occurrences begin popping up around them. The ensuing hours are filled with plenty of surprises, consequential dialogue choices, and wonderfully realized animated cutscenes.
Oxenfree is also simply a joy to look at. It uses a stellar 2.5D art style that complements the tone of the adventure. Considering that your actions dictate the ending, Oxenfree is the sort of game youll end up playing more than once.
While some may scoff at Oxenfree because its a walking simulator, it has one of the better stories weve experienced in an independent game on Switch.
Night in the Woods is like if BoJack Horseman was a video game. Starring a recent college dropout who also happens to be a cat Night in the Woods tells the story of what its like to go home after being away. Mae, the down on her luck protagonist, slowly begins to see that Possum Springs isnt all that it seemed. This dark comedy has a wide cast of hilarious and revealing townsfolk and the writing is top-notch.
Played as a sidescroller, Night in the Woods has a simple, clean visual style that doesnt get in the way of what the game wants to do narratively. If youre a fan of dark comedy with a healthy dose of perspective, Night in the Woods does it better than just about any game weve ever played.
The original Yooka-Laylee game was a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series, but its homage to classic 3D platforming came up short because the genre hasnt experienced much growth over the last few decades. For the sequel, developer Playtonic took a much different approach, switching the game to a sidescrolling perspective that allowed its charm and simplicity to shine more clearly.
Still just as colorful and goofy as the original game, but in a more cohesive package, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Layer features a special hub world that is itself a big puzzle filled with opportunities for collectibles and unlocking even more levels, and you can even flip a switch to alter the levels youve already beaten.
Its the perfect platformer to play on the go for Nintendo Switch, and its a great choice for a family with younger kids who want to play something a bit more challenging. If theyve already blown through the Mario games and Rayman Legends, this could be the next game to keep them hooked to the Switch and possibly away from your television so you can play another game at the same time.
Hollow Knight originally launched on PC, but it gained widespread appreciation after coming to its natural home on Switch. The 2D Metroidvania starring an insect knight with a needle for a sword masterfully weaves exploration and combat to deliver one of the most engrossing experiences in a crowded genre.
The spacious map has numerous distinct biomes with various themes, dangers, and enemies to slay. Where Hollow Knight truly excels is in its sense of wonder. Every time you stumble upon a new area, it feels as if you are the first person to discover it. Excellent platforming sections keep the gameplay fresh in between tough boss fights that demand precision.
An ode to NES-era Metroid, Gato Roboto stars a cat who crashes on an alien planet. Needing to save its owner, the adorable feline hero sets out on a journey to find a mech suit. From there, Gato Roboto plays very similarly to classic Metroid. You find power-ups that allow you to backtrack and reach previously inaccessible areas, fight off baddies both small and large, and hop around both in and outside of the mech suit.
Rendered in black and white, Gato Roboto is all about emphasizing the excellent gameplay. But like all Devolver-published games, it also has some witty writing. Gato Roboto is a perfect game to play on a rainy day, as you can beat it in roughly three hours. Though bite-sized, Gato Roboto will leave a lasting impression, especially if you love old school action-platformers.
Timespinner obviously owes a lot to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. From its pixelated visuals to the dreary atmosphere to the means of progression, Timespinner is a classic Metroidvania through and through. Theres no shortage of Metroidvanias on Switch, but Timespinner is one of the best.
After watching her family get murdered, Lunais finds herself in a mysterious world. Seeking revenge on the Lachiem Empire, Lunais works her way through this new world. She can bend time with the titular device, letting her get the upper hand on enemies as well as solve platforming puzzles. Timespinner also tells a riveting tale across two timelines. If youve played a Metroidvania before, Timespinner wont surprise you. But its pleasantly polished all around. Tight combat controls, cool platforming sequences, fun boss battles, and clever puzzles make Timepinner a standout game in an extremely crowded subgenre.
Celeste is all about moving forward. For Madeline, she has come to Celeste Mountain to discover herself, and over the course of 10 or so hours, shes put to the test. Rendered in SNES-era visuals, Celestes gameplay solely revolves around jumping. Aided by expertly designed set pieces, the task is both challenging and immensely rewarding.
While Celeste features some of the best 2D platforming weve ever played, the experience shines brightest when dealing with mental illness. Madelines journey is emotional and revealing, and its one of the few games that accurately and unabashedly depicts mental illness.
SteamWorld Dig 2, yet another Metroidvania, has a distinct aesthetic that makes it stand out. Its steampunk influence leads to some great enemies and gadgets, while its Western setting gives it thriving set pieces steeped in personality. The sequel stars Dorothy, a young heroine wielding a pickaxe capable of digging through dirt to access new areas.
The main reason why SteamWorld Dig 2 surpasses the solid original is that it has a fixed level design. The game world is much larger and the platforming elements have been given room to breathe. Theres also a meaningful RPG progression system to keep you hooked. The Switch does particularly well with sidescrollers, so SteamWorld Dig 2 is a no-brainer to play in handheld mode.
The Messenger starts off as a good but not great action-platformer heavily indebted to Ninja Gaiden. For the first few hours, you feel as if youre playing an homage to NES-era sidescrollers. Then, the game jumps a generation and pivots dramatically, turning into a Metroidvania.
Most impressively, The Messenger drops clues of this change leading up to it in its brilliantly designed levels. From there, you can backtrack for collectibles, discover new areas, and work your way through its surprisingly large map. Oddly enough, The Messenger feels like a better game for pulling this switch, and its tailor-made for the Nintendo Switch.
If The End Is Nigh looks like an ode to Super Meat Boy, its probably because Edmund McMillen, the co-creator of Meat Boy, worked on it. You play as a blob named Ash who just wants to play his favorite video game (also called The End Is Nigh). So, you play that very same game with Ash leading the way.
Like Meat Boy, each level is a single screen that can be completed it a matter of seconds. All of the levels are connected, though, so its as if youre exploring a large open world. That is, if youve got the skills. A precision platformer, The End Is Nigh relies on carefully timed jumps. You cannot wall jump, which makes it harder than Meat Boy, but you can hang onto ledges.
With a variety of increasingly difficult and diverse worlds to explore, The End Is Nigh remains fresh and fun even after youve died more than 1,000 times (seriously, deaths rack up quickly). If youre looking for a tough platformer with excellent controls, look no further.
Shovel Knight will probably go down as one of the most important and greatest independent games of all time. Rarely does an indie title achieve the level of mainstream success that Shovel Knight has sustained over the past four years.
With its classic 16-bit visuals, amazing platforming mechanics, and wondrous boss fights, Shovel Knights main campaign is an absolute delight. Even better, Yacht Club Games has delivered free, beefy updates, including the alternate story in Plague of Shadows, a prequel in Specter of Torment, and the upcoming King of Cards expansion. Its also no surprise that Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove feels great on Switch. Shovel Knight arguably offers the best combination of retro aesthetics and modern design available in the indie game space.
Otus, a human-owl hybrid, is just trying to live a normal life when a group of pirates attacks his hometown. Hes whisked off on a grand adventure filled with memorable characters and artfully designed environments.
Firmly in the Metroidvania genre, Owlboys world is huge, colorful, and full of surprises. From clever puzzles to interesting enemy designs to a fun ally system that constantly changes your play style, Owlboy has it all and then some. It may look like a classic 16-bit sidescroller, but it plays like a forward-thinking platformer.
Few games take as novel of an approach to movement as Snake Pass, a game where, yes, you slither across the ground as an adorable snake. Who knew that embodying a snake could not only be so rewarding but also not creepy at all?
Snake Pass 3D levels have collectibles and plenty of puzzles to overcome to reach an exit. Wonderfully designed levels gradually introduce new mechanics as you get the hang of slinking around like a snake.
While a bit on the short side, Snake Pass also has an arcade mode that compels you to go back through its 15 levels. Part puzzler, part slithering-platformer, Snake Pass is an innovative experiment that works better than expected.
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The Greatest Indie Video games on Nintendo Swap (August 2020) - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette