The 15 Best Nintendo Switch Indie Games

The 15 Best Nintendo Switch Indie Games


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The 15 Best Nintendo Switch Indie Games

Celeste reaching upwardSupergiant Games

One of the best things about the Nintendo Switch is that it is a hybrid console, meaning that it is possible to play on the go in portable mode rather than just stick with using it with a television. Of course, that was also a big selling point when the system was first announced and many people were sold on the idea of being able to take blockbuster games like “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “Skyrim” with them wherever they went.

However, Nintendo’s console has also become a hotbed for independent developers as well, with some of the best titles on the system being indie games. Lacking the massive marketing budgets of AAA releases, these indie projects are more prone to flying under the radar — so it’s entirely possible that you might have missed some of them. If that’s the case, you might want to fire up your Switch and try out these amazing indie games right now.

Stardew Valley

A farmer fishing in Stardew ValleyConcernedApe

Stardew Valley” is one of the most successful indie games of the last decade and one that almost every gamer will have at least heard of. ConcernedApe’s Eric Barone designed and programmed the game himself, taking inspiration from the likes of “Animal Crossing” and “Harvest Moon.” Like those life-simulation titles, “Stardew Valley” revolves around setting up your own farm by growing crops and raising animals to provide valuable materials to sell.

Players also have to tend with cleaning up the farm to expand their business and interact with the local townspeople to complete quests to build up relationships. This can involve finding rare items to help your work on the farm or exploring caves to get the necessary ores to build new areas or restore broken buildings.

It’s the type of game that is completely relaxing to play and is perfect to play in either long sessions or short bursts. The Nintendo Switch is even an ideal platform, allowing players to pick up and play the game on the move. Little wonder then that it has received widespread critical acclaim and sold more than 20 million copies (via Eurogamer).

Untitled Goose Game

A goose tormenting a gardenerPanic Inc.

Untitled Goose Game” became one of the surprise hits of 2019 when it initially launched on the Nintendo Switch and PC. Developed by the four-man team of House House, it sees players take control of a goose whose only goal is to cause as much mischief as possible in the local village. The obnoxious bird seems to have no particular motive for what it is doing but certainly has a passion for making everyone’s life a pain.

If that sounds like the perfect premise for a fun game then you’d be right. Stepping into the shoes of the naughty goose as it goes around stealing valuables, destroying items, and causing general havoc is just as enjoyable as you’d imagine. The strange mix of puzzle elements and stealth gameplay gives “Untitled Goose Game” a surprising amount of depth, while the simple visuals and basic controls make it accessible to a wide audience.

Critics were equally as impressed as players, with the game receiving almost universal praise and achieving a Metacritic score of 81. IGN pinpointed what made it so good, saying the game “is a brief but endlessly charming adventure that had me laughing, smiling, and eagerly honking the whole way through.”

OlliOlli World

A skater celebrating in OlliOlli WorldPrivate Division

Skateboarding games were once all the rage, with “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” launching a successful franchise and spawning a wide array of copycats. While that genre has somewhat faded in recent years, the indie space is somewhere that skateboarding games have continued to thrive. Perhaps the best of them is “OlliOlli World,” a 2022 game from Roll7 that acts as the third entry in a series of 2D side-scrolling pixel art games that first launched in 2014.

In the colorful world of Radlandia, players race to perform the highest-scoring tricks and complete a series of challenges while exploring the various regions. The best scores come from chaining together several combos and there are now multiple paths that you can take to find new places to ride on walls or grind rails.

With a Metacritic rating of 87, critics were particularly positive about the replayability added with the branching paths along with the more vivid world compared to its predecessors. The Verge was particularly effusive saying, “the fantasy universe really adds life to the franchise, which was previously full of drab, utilitarian urban environments.”

Gris

Gris exploring the outside in a valleyDevolver Digital

A popular genre for indie games is the platformer, with independent developers often inspired by retro 2D side-scrolling platform games such as “Super Mario Bros.” and “Rayman.” Created by Spanish developer Nomada Studio, “Gris” was originally released on the Nintendo Switch and PC in 2018 before making its way to other platforms. The game follows a young girl called Gris who finds herself in a strange land after experiencing a terrible event that has left her grief-stricken. Journeying through this world she begins to deal with her emotions and come to terms with what has happened.

A minimalist experience, “Gris” features little text and a story that is told entirely through exploration and discovering hidden memories. Similarly, the gameplay is equally as thoughtful with clever puzzles, challenging platform sequences, and challenges that will test a variety of skills. Meanwhile, the beautiful and stylish visuals help to tell what is a deeply emotional story in an appealing way. Receiving acclaim from the vast majority of reviewers, “Gris” has proved a financial hit, selling more than 1 million copies in total and winning praise for the way it manages to innovate new ways of telling stories (via Game Developer).

Spiritfarer

Stella on her ship in SpiritfarerThunder Lotus Games

Developer Thunder Lotus Games released “Spiritfarer” in 2020, a management simulator unlike any other you will have played before. You take on the role of Stella, a figure chosen to be the next Spiritfarer whose job is to transfer the spirits of the dead to the afterlife. Doing so is no easy task, though, as the restless spirits will only move on once their final wish has been granted. Much of the gameplay focuses on carrying out tasks for the deceased, finding new spirits, and keeping your ship running effectively so that you can keep going with your mission.

As a management simulator, the challenge comes from finding the right resources and constructing the appropriate buildings and structures on the ship to keep the spirits content on their journey. However, it also has a surprisingly deep narrative for a game of this kind and it is one where you’ll form genuine connections with the passengers you encounter. Receiving widespread positive reactions from critics, it is an emotional experience, and “Spiritfarer” carefully balances the wrench of letting new friends depart to the afterlife with humor and charm that constantly exudes from the game.

Dead Cells

Fighting a bird-like boss in Dead CellsMotion Twin

Dead Cells” is a cross between a roguelike and a Metroidvania game, developed and published by French studio Motion Twin. Available across a range of platforms, including the Switch, it sees players take on the role of the Prisoner, a strange creature that is able to possess the corpses of humans and use them to travel across a mysterious island on their quest to kill the king. Using weapons such as swords, bows, and shields, this amorphous character slowly moves through different areas, encountering a wide variety of enemies.

Like “Dark Souls,” fighting the elite boss enemies requires careful timing and memorizing patterns to discover openings for when you can attack. Meanwhile, as the Prisoner progresses through the world, the truth behind what has happened to the inhabitants is revealed, providing a frightening insight into this ruthless world.

Like many roguelike titles, “Dead Cells” is punishing and can sometimes be frustrating. However, the satisfaction that comes from unlocking new areas and beating a boss that has killed you countless times is worth all of the time and effort. Its stylish visuals and flowing combat keep you wanting to come back and there’s enough replay value here to make “Dead Cells” an experience that will keep even the most skilled gamers occupied for some time.

TowerFall

Four players fighting in ToweFallMatt Makes Games

When “TowerFall” was first released, it was considered an excellent game but its availability was limited by the fact that it was exclusive to the ill-fated Ouya. When that exclusivity period ended, the game eventually came to PlayStation 4 and other platforms. A relatively simple concept, the game revolves around archery combat, with four players battling it out in a small arena. Each player has a limited supply of arrows and must shoot or otherwise kill their opponents to rack up points.

Where “TowerFall” really shines is in the fact that users only have a very limited number of actions they can take. Essentially, you can only jump, dodge, and shoot, making it a game that practically anyone can play. That allows this deceptively simple game to quickly become frantic but also maintain a sense of strategy. The limited number of arrows and special abilities mean that players have to think about everything they are doing whilst doing their best to stay alive and wipe out their enemies.

Reviews noted how the game has become one of the best party games on the market and a great alternative to the likes of “Super Smash Bros.” The focus on local multiplayer makes the Switch the perfect console for the game as well, with players given the opportunity to jump into a session wherever they are.

Hades

Hades exploring the UnderworldSupergiant Games

Supergiant Games has developed a reputation for producing quality indie titles. The studio previously released critically acclaimed games such as “Bastion,” “Pyre,” and “Transistor.” The company’s latest project is the 2020 roguelike game “Hades.” Assuming the role of Zagreus, the son of Hades, players have to try and escape the confines of the Underworld and try to reach Mount Olympus to join the rest of the Greek gods in their home. This task forces Zagreus to battle a collection of mythical creatures and figures from the Greek pantheon.

“Hades” has many elements that make it a standout experience. The hack-and-slash gameplay is satisfying and intuitive so that it is easy to pick up but still has a lot of depth for those who spend more time with the game. The story has plenty of compelling characters to encounter, all of whom are engaging and brilliantly voiced by the actors behind them. Yet, the best part is slowly getting stronger and more powerful as you make it further through the Underworld, finding new weapons and developing your attributes using resources collected in previous runs.

The roguelike has seen almost perfect review scores on every platform it has released on and took home several key awards, including five BAFTAs. Critics were impressed with the RPG elements, the fast-paced combat, and the beautiful character and environment designs.

Slay the Spire

A turn-based combat fight in Slay the SpireHumble Bundle

MegaCrit’s deck-building game “Slay the Spire” contains many of the elements you’d expect for this type of game, such as collectible cards and turn-based combat. However, it also introduced roguelike mechanics that see procedurally generated encounters and progress carrying over between runs. The gameplay largely focuses on gathering new cards and building the strongest possible decks, with permanent gameplay buffs coming from relics and special items that are given after defeating certain types of enemies.

There’s a sense of endless replay value with “Slay the Spire” due to the fact that every run feels like a brand-new adventure. A huge variety in the cards available also ensures that there are a multitude of strategies that can be taken to result in successful runs, which also encourages experimentation. All of this adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable game that only becomes more engrossing the more you play it.

Sites such as Nintendo Life called the game addictive and a great fit for the Switch, saying its “combination of ferocious battles, entertaining chance encounters, and selection of three impressively different player characters make every run to the top a nerve-wracking and totally absorbing affair.”

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight fighting a bossYacht Club Games

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove” is the ideal game for anyone who is a fan of classic platform games that were famous for their intense difficulty and unforgiving gameplay. Developed by Yacht Club Games, this enhanced version of the game includes three additional campaigns and has been available on the Nintendo Switch since 2017.

As you may have guessed from the name, “Shovel Knight” tells the story of a blue knight who wields a shovel and fights against an evil group known as the Order of No Quarter. Using his trusty tool, he can dig up treasure and jump on any enemy that opposes him. Other campaigns follow characters from the original campaign, telling stories from their own perspective and revealing their motivations.

The game is the full package and easily one of the best side-scrolling platformers of the modern era. With an endearing pixel art style, pulsating soundtrack, and expertly crafted gameplay and level design, there’s little wrong with “Shovel Knight” — at least, that’s what the vast majority of critics believed anyway as the game sits pretty on Metacritic with a rating of 91.

Undertale

A snowy town in UndertaleToby Fox

Toby Fox’s role-playing game “Undertale” might not immediately look like a game that was released in 2015. The game has a visual style that looks more like it was made for 8-bit consoles rather than modern platforms, but if you can get past that, then you are in for a great treat. “Undertale” follows a young child who becomes trapped in a secret land known as the Underground, hidden underneath the Earth’s surface and protected by a magical barrier.

The title has a strong focus on the story rather than gameplay, with the player making choices that affect the entire story and determine how certain encounters are resolved. When forced into combat, players use a unique system that works like a small bullet-hell game, although enemies can be spared rather than outright killed. Combine that with a great sense of humor and a satisfying soundtrack and “Undertale” instantly stands out as a not-to-be-missed game

With a Metacritic rating of 93 on the Switch, critics universally agreed that “Undertale” is one of the better games on the platform and many commended the innovative combat system and the witty writing.

Spelunky 2

A ghost chasing the player in Spelunky 2Mossmouth

“Spelunky” was one of the first major indie hits when it launched in 2008, setting a new standard for side-scrolling roguelikes that has since been emulated in dozens of other successful platformers. A long-awaited sequel finally arrived in 2020 and became available on the Nintendo Switch the following year. With the same basic premise of its predecessor, “Spelunky 2” forces players to explore dangerous caves filled with traps, enemies, and treasure.

“Spelunky 2” features no progression in the traditional sense, meaning that for each run, the player starts in the same position as when they first started playing. The only thing they gain by completing further runs is more knowledge and experience of how the world works, from enemy patterns to what items do. That makes it an exceedingly tough game to play but also all the more satisfying when you do manage to make it to a new area or beat a boss.

The game currently sits with a Metacritic rating of 92, suggesting widespread critical acclaim. Meanwhile, IGN’s Mitchell Saltzman claimed that the sequel took everything from the original release and improved it, from the enhanced visuals to the sheer amount of extra content that is available.

Hollow Knight

The Hollow Knight fighting two enemiesTeam Cherry

Hollow Knight” is a Metroidvania game that combines elements of side-scrolling platformers and action games to create a rather unique experience. Many players will also notice some striking similarities with the “Dark Souls” franchise despite the very different genre, which includes a mysterious world and story that has to be pieced together by the player and extremely challenging combat.

Thrust into the role of a tiny insect, players traverse an underground world filled with all kinds of enemies. With little health and only a single weapon, facing down bosses can often seem like an impossible task but as you learn enemy patterns and gain additional abilities through exploring the different areas, “Hollow Knight” begins to open up and show its full promise.

While it may cause some frustration, the game is incredibly rewarding for those who persist. It should be no surprise that it has scored very highly with critics and users alike. Destructoid’s review noted that the game provided a “sense of accomplishment after every single boss was slain” and called it “truly a masterpiece of gaming if there ever was one, and certainly art worthy of being in a museum.”

Neon White

The White Neon falling through waterAnnapurna Interactive

A timed console exclusive for the Nintendo Switch, “Neon White” was developed by Angel Matrix and published by Annapurna Interactive in June 2022. The first-person shooter is based on a group known as Neons, sinners allowed to leave Hell and enter Heaven to kill demons in a yearly competition. The winner, determined by how quickly and efficiently they take down the demons, is then given the opportunity to stay in Heaven rather than return to Hell.

The overarching story is far more complex than it initially appears and follows a conspiracy in Heaven against God. However, despite being pretty interesting, the narrative takes a back seat to the action. Players progress through a series of small levels, using parkour and special abilities and weapons picked up as cards to speedily navigate the arena and take out any demons. With a focus on fast times, “Neon White” tasks players with constantly trying to better their previous attempt and climb up the leaderboard.

Its initial release on the Switch makes sense given that the game is designed to be played in short bursts. Gamers can quickly squeeze in a few runs while on the go without having to worry about losing progress, something noted by Game Informer in the site’s review.

Celeste

Celeste climbing the mountainMatt Makes Games

At its heart, “Celeste” is a difficult platforming game, where players have to carefully dash and double jump over obstacles to climb up Celeste Mountain. Created by Maddy Thorson, the creative mind behind “TowerFall,” the game requires precise timing and control to progress but never feels as if it is unfair. That gets rid of any sense of frustration and instead replaces it with the satisfaction that comes from making it to the next checkpoint.

While the gameplay is superb, it is the other elements of “Celeste” that elevate it. The writing deals with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, focusing on a woman who is overcoming her inner strife and coming to terms with who she is. The gorgeous pixel art style and brilliant soundtrack present the action in a stunning way, while the varied level design throws up constantly changing challenges.

“Celeste” won widespread praise from critics when it was first released and has been called one of the best games of all time by USA Today, putting it alongside the likes of “Final Fantasy 7” and “Shadow of the Colossus.” Further cementing its legacy, the game has been nominated for dozens of awards and took home the prize for Best Independent Game at the 2018 Game Awards (via Polygon).

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January 25, 2023 at 07:29AM

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