It’s a little more than four years into the Switch’s lifespan and its sales are still going strong, with retailers, particularly in large cities, reporting difficulty keeping stock for more than a few days. With the Switch’s popularity, it’s easy to forget the system isn’t just the hot holiday toy for several years running, it’s also the must-have machine for anyone who prefers indy gaming over AAA fare.
Nintendo recently reminded us of this with a Nintendo Treehouse that emphasized the new indie games coming to the Nintendo Switch. While a number of them look promising, it still remains to be seen if they can find a foothold among the group of Indies the Switch already offers.
The 2D Ninja Gaiden games have been replicated on modern-day consoles with the Sabotage-developed side-scroller, The Messenger. This ninja-fueled action game starts off simple enough, but it eventually ratchets things up with a wild time-traveling twist. The difficulty level is definitely high here, but it’s well worth testing your quick-twitch skills by carefully maneuvering through a series of dangerous stages.
Here we have another retro-styled side-scroller that asks you to stay on your P’s and Q’s at all times in order to survive. Katana Zero adopts a neo-noir art style and a gameplay style that emphasizes speed & vicious swordplay. The intricate level design and pixelated visuals on display in Katana Zero will present you with action-packed scenarios that will make you feel like you’re playing something from back in the day.
From the makers of Bastion and Pyre comes Hades, which is a highly addictive roguelike dungeon crawler. The Greek Gods are at the center of this ultimate endurance test as you take control of Zagreus, who is the son of Hades. You’ll make several attempts to escape your father’s Underworld domain as you take the fight to all sorts of mystical beasts and Godly warriors. Hades’ hack and slash combat mechanics are finely tuned, its art design is highly impressive, and its gameplay loop will keep you coming back for more.
The solo development work of creator Toby Fox has resulted in one of the trippiest RPGs anyone has ever played. As a small child trapped within a mysterious realm known as the Underground, you’ll encounter a wide array of creatures that task you with either sparing them or killing them in battle. Undertale’s mind-bending plot and complex characters have thrown everyone for a loop by the end – chances are you’ll have your mind blown by it, too.
Developer Chucklefish is clearly a big fan of the Advance Wars series as evidenced by this next pick on the list. Wargroove lets you play the part of commander and lead your faction against rival ones during turn-based skirmishes. Up to four players can head into battle and engage in some furious warfare within a beautifully stylized 16-bit realm. The ability to play the main campaign in co-op, create custom battle maps, play quick Arcade missions, and more guarantees that you’ll get your money’s worth from Wargroove.
I’d be remiss not to have included this game somewhere on the list. Untitled Goose Game hit the ground running when it was first released and its popularity burned hot and brightly. Perhaps too hotly and brightly. These days the game isn’t as popular as it once was but it is still good for a laugh or two as players terrorize virtual villagers by way of an ornery goose. Untitled Goose Game represents the kind of silly gameplay that indies excel in and big-name studios don’t do enough of.
The follow-up to the hit Guacamelee, Guacamelee 2 continues the story of Juan as he uses his skills as a luchador to fight the forces of evil. The stunning visuals and snappy controls make a comeback with a few changes. The game features multiplayer, which can, at times, mean too many sprites on the screen, particularly during the game’s more frenzied segments. However, overall, the game is polished and would be a good addition to your library.
Cuphead is another game that made significant waves when it was first introduced. The game’s art style attracted some, while for others the unforgiving difficulty was its primary draw. Whatever the reason, Cuphead was another significant hit, due in small part to streamers and YouTubers posting endless videos of themselves getting frustrated at the game’s difficulty with at least one reviewer referring to it as a deceptively cute Dark Souls.
An ongoing theme among Nintendo’s catalog of indie games is their similarities to classic Nintendo games. That’s probably because a number of these developers grew up playing classic NES and Super Nintendo games and want to pay homage to them. Dead Cells is one of these games. Playing it, one can’t’ help but feel they are playing a faster version of Metroid. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, which earns Dead Cells a place on this list.
Whereas Dead Cells pays homage to games of decades past, one can’t help but get a distinct impression that Enter the Gungeon’s developers sought out to do the exact opposite. Enter the Gungeon spoofs games featuring the bulky, roided out action hero archetype, from Contra to Doom. One of the ways it does this is by juxtaposing action heroes with cartoonishly adorable enemies. Sometimes the jokes fall flat but when they don’t they only add to this overall delightful game.
In recent months, Nintendo’s own Animal Crossing has seen a resurgence in popularity. It seems that the company’s higher-ups banked on tranquil, do whatever you want, gameplay would be a hit among gamers. They weren’t entirely wrong. Stardew Valley is as close to Animal Crossing as a game can get and it has managed to garner a following of its own.
Celeste is one of those games in which its popularity is overshadowed by its critical acclaim. There is no shortage of Youtube videos and articles praising the game for everything, from its visuals, pacing to its controls. Each section of the game requires concentration and precise command of the character. It’s not easy but perfecting the controls makes for a rewarding experience.
One of the more interesting titles on this list, Wandersong draws inspiration from titles like Parappa the Rapper by putting music at the center of the gameplay. That combined with a colorful cast of allies and enemies makes for one of the most creative games on this list. Players are tasked with traversing a dying world and saving it with the power of music. The mechanism used to control the music has a small learning curve but, once learned, the world of Wandersong opens up to you.
Indie games are among the most convincing arguments for games as a legitimate art form. EQQO makes that argument in spades, with an artistic direction reminiscent of Breath of the Wild and controls that trade snappiness for being part of the narrative itself. EQQO is easily one of the most fascinating entries on this list.
A game that replaces stunning visuals for eye-catching data visualization graphs, In Other Waters, is best described as a simulation in which players must explore and unlock the secrets to a vast expansive ocean. The learning curve is a bit steep but rewarding once learned.
A game that pushes the Switch’s visual limits, The First Tree is gorgeous and nobody knows this better than the developers. The game looks as if the developers intentionally set out to create a visually arresting game. If that is the case, then they succeeded. The First Tree wears its aesthetic on its sleeve as the player traverses this world of pastels and colors.
Another visually arresting game but with a completely different aesthetic. Whereas The First Tree is bright and hopeful, Rain World is the opposite. Taking place in a dark and corrupt world, violent death is an ever-present reality for the main character. This post-apocalyptic game pulls no punches and is easily one of the most memorable because of it.
An ornate game that blends your standard platformer fare with science fiction elements. Shinsekai unravels a fascinating story about adventure, exploration, and danger and it does so in a visually arresting package.
Dragon Marked for Death has echoes of the classic cult hit, Guardian Heroes. A side-scrolling beat-em-up, Dragon Marked for Death takes place in a fantasy world ruled by an evil empire. You take control of one of four characters, each with their own skills, to fight back against hordes of enemies. Multiplayer is where this game shines as parties of four make their way through this fantasy epic.
Those wanting a bit of sword-and-sorcery will find Greak: Memories of Azur a welcome addition to their libraries. Taking place in a mysterious kingdom players must make their way through an enchanted forest filled with an assortment of monsters. Players can work solo or as a team with each character having their own skillsets, such as the knight who can cut just about anything down. The combat is only half the fun as the game challenges players to unravel the world’s mystery.
Another visually arresting game that looks inspired by folklore. Spiritfarer tasks the player with accompanying spirits to their version of the afterlife after getting to know them by building up your shared home. With echoes of Stardew Valley, the game is incredibly is a perfect example of not requiring high stakes to be considered remarkable.
An epic sidescrolling adventure in which the character is pursued by nameless shadows, along with a number of other enemies. Stela’s dark aesthetic lends itself well to a game that is rife with danger. When not being pursued by all manner of creatures, players must solve clever puzzles that show developers had an eye for detail when putting this game together.
At first look, Mosaic seems like a game that is trying to make a statement about the drudgery of modern life. And in a lot of ways, Mosaic does exactly that. But the narrative behind this game is so much more than that. Mosaic is a game of choices in which the player can dictate what path any given story can take. Mosaic developers should be proud they were able to put together a story that balances brevity in despair.
A game meant to trigger nostalgic memories, The Gardens Between is a surreal game of childhood adventure. With echoes of Ico, with a dash of Prince of Persia, players are able to traverse landscapes and solve puzzles by controlling time. Its only mechanic is the players’ repertoire.
A spirited side-scrolling beat-em-up game, Unruly Heroes is set in a world where players have to fight back against the forces of evil seeking to disrupt the balance. While the game is meant to be played as an adventure, players will likely get the most mileage out of its multiplayer mode where players fight one another in matches similar to Super Smash Brothers.
Imagine if the kids from the beginning of Monsters Inc. decided to fight back. That is the basic idea behind Sleep Tight. Players must prepare their defenses in preparation to fight back against the monsters that haunt most pre-adolescent minds.
One of the more popular indie games on the platform, Banner Saga tasks players with micro-managing a caravan of travelers as they make their way through a harsh environment, making and breaking alliances. The game is beautifully rendered with a story that is as engaging as the epic story. This game is for lovers of fantasy but grounded in harsh reality.
Stylistically one of the coolest games on the system. Thumper is an intense racing game that, unlike F-zero, combines speed with rhythm. The result is an unforgettable racing game that constantly keeps players on the edge of their seats.
Shovel Knight owed much of its success to comparisons to classic Mega Man games. The game was so successful developers quickly put out a sequel, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, which featured a beloved villain in the original game. Specter of Torment played ever so slightly different than its predecessor, featuring faster and more frenzied gameplay. It remains one of the top sellers within Switch’s Indie market.
The Granddaddy of Switch indie games. To say this game is popular would be a wild understatement. Hollow Knight is one of a few games on this list that managed to equally be a commercial and critical hit. Everything from the game’s incredible controls, art style, and amazing narrative drew players in and held them without loosening its grip after so many years. There is no better introductory title to the Switch than this game.