One of the struggles of the console gamer has often been keeping up with indie releases. So many indie games are confined to the PC, often via the Steam marketplace, and if they do come to console, they can be rather shoddy ports. The Switch has fixed all of that, standing up as a competitor to the PC as the console gamer’s go-to machine for playing indie games.
Switch gamers are becoming more and more spoiled for choice with each passing month, with so many quality games appearing in the Switch marketplace. We seem to have gone from having little access to indies to almost too much access. That said, why not start with these 10? There’s something here for every type of gamer, and each game has something very unique about it.
10 The Messenger
Two games for the (indie) price of one: The Messenger starts off as a tightly-designed, well-paced action platformer, and eventually opens up into a metroidvania collect-a-thon. The big twist that had everyone excited at the launch is the game’s transformation from an 8-bit aesthetic to a 16-bit, with remixed music to go with it. Pixel-art games which hark back to the days of the NES and SNES are at the height of popularity today, and The Messenger is the only game that gives you both.
On top of that, it has a fantastically tight ninja platform, making use of skills such as wall-climbing, gliding, and a unique spin on the double-jump mechanic. One thing not talked about enough is the game's wicked sense of humor, mixing satire,fourth-wall-breaking, and goofy visual jokes.
9 Golf Story
In what is likely the oddest genre blend you’re likely to see, Golf Story mixes the classic old-school golf game—complete with club selection, aiming, and a power bar—with the theme and style of an RPG. This SNES-looking Switch exclusive is a beautiful game to behold, with delightful music and some uniquely Australian comedy from its eclectic cast of characters.
During your quest to become a golf champion, you’ll undertake unusual quests, improve your stats, gain better equipment, and engage in witty banter, all while using some excellent golf mechanics to face increasingly difficult situations and scenarios.
If asked to describe a rhythm game, what images typically fill your mind? Dancing anime girls? Plastic guitar peripherals? Button prompts flying across the screen? Definitely that last one. Thumper has none of that, and is at once the most engaging and clever rhythm game you’re likely to come across.
Taking control of a silver beetle-looking spaceship heading down a predetermined rollercoaster-style track, you use cleverly disguised button prompts to survive the journey, dodge obstacles, and empower your ship to take down a boss at the end of the level. The music is, as the name suggests, thumping. It's a range of powerful electronic tracks that have a real aggressive punk edge. The game is demanding, intense, and thrilling.
7 Shovel Knight
The game that started off (or at least popularised) the pixel-art style of game, Shovel Knight is an honestly near-perfect game. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is because its popularity is already staggering and it’s widely available on many systems. That doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly at home on the Switch, though.
As Jim Sterling pointed out, if something is available on the Switch, get it on the Switch. Shovel Knight’s level design, art, aesthetics, and simple gameplay style make it a perfect fit for the handheld/home console hybrid.
Another game with a unique flavor of comedy, Shovel Knight is a callback to 8-bit gaming, using modern game dev. tech to polish it to a sheen it could not have achieved on the NES. It mixes simple platforming and action reminiscent of Megaman and Shinobi with impeccably crafted level design to deliver the ideal nostalgic trip.
6 Dead Cells
What do you get when you take a little inspiration from Dark Souls, add it to some of the most gorgeous character and enemy models, and plop all of that down into a roguelike game? Something very special, indeed.
Dead Cells is not the first of its ilk, but it is certainly the best. A witty story with lush background and level design, superb character animations, and a roguelike element that makes it borderline dangerously addictive, Dead Cells really has no flaws. Its progression system is inventive and gives the player just the right amount of incentive to keep jumping back in time. Like Shovel Knight, this game is everywhere, but its quick-play and fast paced style means it was made for the Switch.
5 Night In The Woods
A game about a depressed cat in a backwater decrepit town full of odd people with problems honestly has no right being this good. This is the story of Mae, a girl who’s had to leave college because of her mental health issues and, as her state of mind declines, the story takes increasingly weird twists and turns. Eventually, we head into surprisingly Hot Fuzz territory.
Mae isn’t a particularly nice character and is often deliberately hurtful and selfish to the interesting characters around her. Your word choices often have lasting effects on the rest of the characters. The crowning jewel of this game are the multitude of mini games built-in, including a highly addictive bass guitar rhythm game, and musical-themed ghostly dreams that are nothing short of genius. Any game where you’re hanging out in a mall causing havoc one moment and poking a dismembered rotting arm in the next is something special.
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4 Stardew Valley
The music, the aesthetic, the peace, oh my. Stardew Valley is a pleasure, plain and simple. Taking the farming simulator gameplay popularised by Harvest Moon and tweaking it to absolute perfection, Stardew Valley is a perfect microcosm of the most peaceful life you can imagine. Attend festivals, romance whichever partner that takes your fancy, and build up your farm to a far greater extent than any farming simulator that has come before. A fun addition is the local inn where you can play some excellent arcade games and socialise with the locals with personal mini games unlocking with them as you go. Prepare to lose more than a few hours of your life to this game.
There’s no game like Undertale. It’s a play-as-you-like game with lasting consequences either way. You can choose to play the genocide route and kill every boss and character you come across as you would in a traditional RPGs (but the game judges you harshly for it). You can also choose the pacifist route and talk the characters out of attacking you with words and fun mini games. These conversations always take an interesting route and end up being more fun than simply killing characters. You can also play somewhere in between and even date some of the characters in the game, which leads to hilarious side stories. It’s effectively a puzzle RPG but with a dynamic story line, loveable characters, and one of the best soundtracks you’ll ever hear. It’s very meta—philosophical in places—and will make you question how games are designed and played.
2 Hollow Knight
This game—at risk of sounding hyperbolic—might be the peak of the metroidvania genre. To paraphrase a tweet by Mark Brown, Nintendo should just hand over the Metroid licence to the Hollow Knight developers.
A beautifully animated game with a unique and vibrant art style and color palette, Hollow Knight is a 2D exploration game with the goal of unlocking new abilities which allow access to new areas and even more abilities. It’s a metroidvania. But it’s also got a little bit of Dark Souls in its death/rebirth mechanic. Its underground setting full of gothic caves and towns, and its cast of bug people make it an unforgettable experience perfect for Switch owners.
One of the finest indie games of 2018 is also one of the most mechanically clever and perfectly designed 2D platformers in recent years. It's a game which explores the themes of anxiety and existential dread in novel and powerful ways, all while being a fast-paced and engaging platformer with a wonderful sense of adventure. Its soundtrack is honestly one of the best around (get it on Spotify), and its aesthetics and use of color are mesmerising. It has an accessibility feature that doesn’t patronise or penalise, and its protagonist is a girl who feels real and relatable. Celeste is, quite honestly, perfect.