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The best indie games on Nintendo Switch (October 2018)

By Steven Petite

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best indie games on nintendo switch hollow knight

While the Nintendo Switch launched alongside one of the greatest AAA games of all time in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Switch has become known as an indie machine to many. After all, the portability of the Switch makes it an ideal console for indie games.

Plenty of previously released indie games, such as Hollow Knight, have received increased attention and acclaim after landing on Switch. It’s become a win-win for developers and Switch owners. If you’re a new Switch owner or simply looking for something new to play during your morning commute, we’ve put together a running list of the best indie games on Nintendo Switch.

You can also check out our picks for best overall Switch games.


‘Dead Cells’

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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. Eventually, if you stick with it, you will ultimately see the credits. It’s all about the journey, though, as this dark and enthralling world is hard to leave and even harder to forget.

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‘Enter the Gungeon’

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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-y and chaotic. As you plunge deeper into the dungeon, you’ll be rewarded with a bevy of loot, neat lore, and plenty of secrets.

What’s 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. It’s 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.

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‘Hyper Light Drifter’

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Hyper Light Drifter is an ode to 8-bit an 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.

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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 sidescrolling action game has just enough of a mix between action and platforming to make for a consistently varied experience.

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best indie games on nintendo switch oxenfree 4

Oxenfree is very much in the vein of Telltale adventures. It’s 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 you’ll end up playing more than once.

While some may scoff at Oxenfree because it’s a walking simulator, it has one of the better stories we’ve experienced in an independent game on Switch.

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‘Night in the Woods’

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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 it’s like to go home after being away. Mae, the down on her luck protagonist, slowly begins to see that Possum Springs isn’t 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 doesn’t get in the way of what the game wants to do narratively. If you’re a fan of dark comedy with a healthy dose of perspective, Night in the Woods does it better than just about any game we’ve ever played.

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‘Hollow Knight’

best indie games on nintendo switch hollow knight

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.

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best indie games celeste4

Celeste is all about moving forward. For Madeline, she has come to Celeste Mountain to discover herself, and over the course of ten or so hours, she’s put to the test. Rendered in SNES-era visuals, Celeste‘s 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 we’ve ever played, the experience shines brightest when dealing with mental illness. Madeline’s journey is emotional and revealing, and it’s one of the few games that accurately and unabashedly depicts mental illness.

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‘SteamWorld Dig 2’

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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. There’s 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.

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‘The Messenger’

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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 you’re 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 it’s tailor-made for the Nintendo Switch.

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‘The End is Nigh’

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If The End is Nigh looks like an ode to Super Meat Boy, it’s 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 it’s as if you’re exploring a large open world. That is, if you’ve 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 you’ve died more than 1,000 times (seriously, deaths rack up quickly). If you’re looking for a tough platformer with excellent controls, look no further.

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‘Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove’

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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 Knight‘s 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. It’s 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.

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best indie games on nintendo switch owlboy

Otus, a human-owl hybrid, is just trying to live a normal life when a group of pirates attack his hometown. He’s whisked off on a grand adventure filled with memorable characters and artfully designed environments.

Firmly in the Metroidvania genre, Owlboy‘s 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.

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‘Snake Pass’

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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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best indie games on nintendo switch gorogoa

Developed by James Roberts and published by renowned indie publisher Annapurna Interactive, Gorogoa is a special puzzle game more than six years in the making. The gameplay is simple. You’re initially given four panels that must be overlapped or explored to move on to new images. There are no visual cues or even dialogue to help you. It’s all up to you to build towards a solution.

Thankfully, Gorogoa is brilliantly designed so that nothing ever feels too challenging to work out. Much of Gorogoa‘s hands-off intuitiveness comes from the wordless but moving story that’s strung alongside the puzzle gameplay.

Revolving around a young boy’s interaction with a mysterious monster, Gorogoa tells a sweeping and ambitious story using only images. It’s a sight to behold that feels perfect in handheld mode on Switch.

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best indie games on nintendo switch tumblestone

Tumblestone manages to rework the classic and overdone genre of match-three puzzlers. That in and of itself is a major accomplishment. Thankfully, it’s also a darn good experience.

Each Tumblestone grid is filled with a layer of multi-colored blocks. You must shoot three of the same colored blocks in a row to chip away until the board is clear. If you mess up the sequence, it’s back to the beginning.

The loop is satisfying, strategic, and visually rewarding. Tumblestone is brimming with content, too. The campaign will take you dozens of hours. If you’re still hooked, various arcade and competitive formats keep the match three fun going for the long haul.

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‘Battle Chef Brigade’

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Battle Chef Brigade is a prime example of innovation. At once it’s an action-RPG, a match-three puzzler, and a cooking sim. Each cooking battle requires players to hunt and take down monsters in hack and slash combat. After the hunt is over, you must bring the ingredients to the kitchen.

The cooking portion of the game is done through a grid-based match-three puzzle. Both distinct gameplay styles perform well, and Battle Chef Brigade is rounded out by gorgeous hand-drawn graphics and a wonderful soundtrack.

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‘Super Daryl Deluxe’

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Super Daryl Deluxe is easily the funniest game on this list. The self-described “RPGvania” transports you to a bizarre, multi-dimensional adventure starring a hapless young man named Daryl. All he wants is a little attention and some friends at his new school, but Daryl soon finds himself on a ridiculous quest across the constantly changing and improbable school grounds.

With brawler combat and an RPG progression system, Super Daryl Deluxe stands out in its crowded sidescrolling genre. The first thing you’ll notice is the distinct, cartoon visuals that really pop on the Nintendo Switch. Besides great gameplay, though, Super Daryl Deluxe has a killer story with truly humorous and zany dialogue.

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‘Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King’

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Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is an unabashed love letter to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The adventure is relayed as a story told by a grandfather to his granddaughter. It’s a humorous and surprisingly affecting tale that takes place across a colorful and varied open world.

All of the Zelda trappings are here: Dungeons, new weapons, interesting boss fights, unassuming villagers, etc. Despite its cute appearance, Blossom Tales is fairly challenging, making it a worthy heir to classic Zelda. If you’re itching to play a retro Zelda on Switch, Blossom Tales is a worthy treat.

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best indie games for the ps4 on undertale

Undertale fittingly falls into a weird category of JRPGs towered over by Earthbound. It’s an experience filled with plenty of laughs, but there’s also a pervasive sadness underneath its comical exterior.

You play as a nameless child who winds up beneath the earth’s surface. All around you are monsters, but Undertale gradually shows you that these monsters aren’t quite the stuff of nightmares.

The stripped-down art style gives the excellent writing room to shine. Undertale offers a profound message that will likely make you feel differently about good and evil.

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‘Overcooked 2’

best indie games on nintendo switch overcooked 2

Overcooked 2 is pretty close to the perfect party game. In Overcooked 2, you and up to three friends race against the clock to complete simplistic recipes to serve to zombie bread invaders. The challenge is that the kitchens constantly move to create obstacles. Teamwork is absolutely key to your success.

If you can play Overcooked 2 without barking orders at your loved ones, congrats, you’re more mild-mannered than us. Thankfully, Overcooked 2 has tons of charm and is full of hilarious moments. While the original is also great, the sequel adds new recipes, the all-important throw mechanic, and online multiplayer.

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‘Stardew Valley’

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Stardew Valley is the sort of game you’ll unwittingly play for 100 hours and never regret a minute of it. A top-down, pixelated farming sim, the breakout game from lone developer Eric Barone takes cues from Harvest Moon but exudes its own sense of personality. You decide that the city life is too hectic, so you move to your grandfather’s farm in Pelican Town.

From there, Stardew Valley is really whatever you want it to be. From the casual pleasure of planting crops to the blissful peace of fishing to the surprisingly fun combat in the caves, each simulated day in Stardew Valley feels like a little adventure.

By far, though, Stardew Valley stands out for its ability to create a sense of community with the delightful CPU villagers. The people of Pelican Town will start to feel like real friends before long. Stardew Valley is wholesome, engrossing, and a great game to take a breather with.

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‘Golf Story’

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While Golf Story is technically a golf game, you don’t have to like the sport to enjoy this arcade-style game. It’s a role-playing game in the same vein as Mario Tennis for Game Boy Color, with retro-pixelated visuals to boot.

Following the death of your father, your character decides to get back into golf after not playing for two decades. Naturally, you seek out lessons at a local country club. From there, Golf Story turns into both a golf sim and a hilariously touching story.

Filled with a variety of courses and oodles of differentiated golf-oriented mini-games and tasks, Golf Story remains fresh throughout its roughly ten-hour runtime. The writing is great, the golf mechanics are simple but fun, and the colorful cast of characters ooze personality. As a Switch exclusive, Golf Story should absolutely not be missed.

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‘Rocket League’

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Few indie games reach the heights of Rocket League, the 2015 action sports game that has retained a huge following ever since. Rocket League‘s premise is pretty simple. It’s just soccer with cars, but wow is it ridiculously fun.

The Nintendo Switch version has Mario-themed cars and users can play online with Xbox One and PC players, meaning that the player pool is quite large at all times of the day. You don’t have to like soccer or racing games to fall in love with Rocket League. That’s how delightful this odd mashup is on Switch.

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‘Into the Breach’

Into the Breach Review

From the makers of the excellent FTL: Faster Than Light, Into the Breach somehow manages to be Subset Games’ best outing. A turn-based tactics game, Into the Breach takes place on small grids filled with only a few units. The name of the game is survival, as losing all your units restarts the game.

It’s an interesting approach to the relatively well-trodden grid-based tactics genre. You can, if you choose, take out enemy units, but you must focus on protecting your power grids. Since you only have a limited number of turns, choosing where to place your units at the start of each round is key.

Into the Breach has so many surprising layers to it that you’ll learn new strategies even after you’ve cleared the game multiple times. It’s a near perfect turn-based strategy game that should not be missed by any fans of the genre.

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