The Nintendo Switch has been on store shelves (more or less) for a little over a month, and with only one large-profile release thus far I’ve been padding my collection with smaller indie titles. I love The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but variety is, indeed, a spice of life.
Even with its (not necessarily) smaller library of games, variety is something the Switch has going for it. New Frontier Days ~Founding Pioneers~ offers a bite-sized city builder. Blaster Master Zero and Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove hearken back to the 2D platformers of yesteryear. VOEZ is a touch-based rhythm game. Fast RMX offers futuristic arcade racing. Even SNK is embracing the Switch’s potential by releasing a large handful of their older Neo-Geo titles, like Metal Slug 3, Waku Waku 7, and King of Fighters ’98.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying tinyBuild’s Mr. Shifty, which is a bit like Hotline Miami if Nightcrawler was the main character (I know this description is getting old, but it’s a good one). I’ve also gotten pretty obsessed with Vertexpop’s 2D shoot-em-up Graceful Explosion Machine, thanks to a little friendly leaderboard competition I have going with a few folks on Twitter.
That being said, though, there are still a plethora of indie titles that exist on other platforms that I’d love to revisit on the Nintendo Switch. Here are the 10 I’d like to see the most.
1: Risk of Rain
A 2D class-based rogue-lite full of insane power-ups, a brilliant take on difficulty ramping, and one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Risk of Rain is an astounding co-op experience that, in my opinion, perfected the risk-versus-reward approach to XP and loot gains, and refrains from ever having a dull moment.
You see, the longer you’re alive, the higher the difficulty scales. Do you take your time and scour the earlier levels for upgrades, risking a relentless assault from tougher elite monsters later on? Or will you blaze forward to make the late-game potentially easier, risking death and dismemberment early on by being severely under-geared and under-leveled?
The co-op nature of Risk of Rain (which can be played entirely solo, by the way) could make great use of the Switch’s independent JoyCon controllers.
2: Axiom Verge
Axiom Verge is the greatest Metroid experience since Super Metroid on SNES. It’s a love letter in every sense of the word, developed and composed entirely by Tom Happ. As Trace, you’ll explore a labyrinthine map while collecting powerful new weapons and upgrades, tackling boss monsters, and unlocking new areas along the way. The soundtrack is also pure ear-sex.
Once a PS4 exclusive, Axiom Verge has since made its way to Wii U, Vita, Xbox One, and PC, and with Nintendo clearly uninterested in revisiting Metroid in any meaningful capacity, the least they could do is bring this masterpiece to the Switch.
3: Duck Game
Similar to TowerFall, Duck Game is a competitive 2D arena game for up to four players. Arenas vary in size, the weapon variety borderlines on the absurd, and there’s even a dedicated “quack” button. This was my go-to jam on the Ouya (you remember that thing, right?), and although it lacked the stiff polish of TowerFall I still found myself going back to Duck Game far more often.
As a competitive local experience with minimal button usage, this is another perfect fit for the Switch’s independent JoyCon mode of play. There’s also a level editor and online multiplayer, further increasing the game’s replay value.
4: Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax
This batshit 2D bullethell blends traditional chaotic shmup excitement with the class-based co-op feel of games like Destiny. Stardust Galaxy Warriors boasts a stellar Mega Man-esque soundtrack, a comedic story mode, tons of power-ups to purchase, and nearly as many specific difficulty sliders as a modern sports game.
Like a few others in this list, Stellar Climax’s local co-op would be perfect for the Switch’s independent JoyCon mode.
Crawl is a pixelated Lovecraftian take on PVE/PVP hybrid games like Evolve, where one player acts as a dungeon-exploring hero while everyone else on the couch controls the monsters and traps. Whoever kills the hero becomes the hero, which continues until someone manages to defeat the stage’s final boss. It’s like a visceral game of tag, but with bloody meat chunks and sharp weapons.
I had the opportunity to review Crawl on PC about 2 years ago and now that the game is out of Steam’s Early Access, I’d love to see its recent PS4 and Xbox One console release include the Nintendo Switch. Again, using minimal buttons and focusing on local mayhem, Crawl is absolutely perfect for the Switch’s dual JoyCon mode.
6: Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy has been around long enough that it doesn’t really need an introduction. It’s one of the most rewarding rogue-lites in the history of the genre, respecting the player by making every failure feel like a rewarding learning experience.
While most rogue-likes thrive on crushing the player’s soul ad nauseum, Rogue Legacy allows you to unlock permanent statistical upgrades, armor, and weapons, and even pay in-game currency to lock the dungeon’s layout in place to avoid randomization altogether. It’s a brilliant game that offers a tremendous amount of replay value, and if the Vita version was any indication, Rogue Legacy is best played on a handheld.
7: Claire: Extended Cut
Claire is a 2D pixelated horror title heavily influenced by the Silent Hill series. If that doesn’t have your attention already, there’s nothing I can do for you here. It’s beautifully crafted with haunting, sometimes blood-soaked environments, and has one of the most impressive sound compositions I’ve experienced in a horror game since Silent Hill 3. Akira Yamaoka would be proud.
Bringing a splash of horror to the Switch would only expand that “variety” buzzword I’ve been emphasizing. I adored the game on PS4 and revisited it again on Vita, where it was just as horrific. I’m sure it’d be no different on Switch.
8: Hyper Light Drifter
This action/adventure game is visually inspired by the pixelated games of yesteryear, but the gameplay is fast and tactical in a way that feels incredibly modern. I’m really struggling to come up with a better explanation that does the game justice, and I hate comparing every challenging game to Dark Souls.
For starters, Hyper Light Drifter is insanely beautiful, oozing with character and vibrant neons. The environments are meticulously crafted pixel-by-pixel and the soundtrack feeds the experience by emphasizing the game’s cautious exploration and intense combat.
Hyper Light Drifter was originally scheduled to release on Vita and Wii U alongside PS4, Xbox One, and PC, but those versions were unfortunately canceled by Heart Machine last September. Hopefully, we’ll see it land on the Switch eventually. It seems like the perfect fit for a handheld.
9: Nuclear Throne
This is a challenging roguelike shooter full of power-up infused mutants, deadly weapons, and randomization, where you thwart hordes of baddies while making your way deeper and deeper in search of the titular Nuclear Throne.
Much like The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ on the Switch, there’s plenty of unlockable characters and no run is ever the same. This makes it a great pick-up-and-play game, which it’s been proven to be on my Vita. With Nuclear Throne offering a local co-op mode, it’s a perfect fit for the Switch’s independent JoyCon when you have friends over.
10: Salt & Sanctuary
Salt & Sanctuary is a respectable 2D take on the Dark Souls formula with a dash of Castlevania sprinkled in for good measure. Combat is equally weighty, environments are dark and haunting, you collect “salt” instead of souls, and parry and dodge your way through some challenging boss encounters, but Ska Studios have enough going on here to make it a standout title.
The Souls-like has just made its way to the Vita after being available on PS4 for more than a year, yet, while I’m appreciative of the effort, the smaller display screen feels a bit too claustrophobic for my liking. It’s still a lot of fun, but I keep thinking how much more I’d be enjoying it on the Switch instead.
There’s clearly more than 10 indies deserving of a home on Nintendo’s new handheld/home console hybrid. These are the ones that I’d not only have the most fun with but also seem to fit well into the Switch’s hardware offerings.
What about you folks? What existing indies would you like to see make their way to the Switch?