Friday, January 28

Top 100 / Best Indie Puzzle Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 1/28/22!

Grindstone [Capy Games] - There’s nothing I like more than a surprise game that shows up, slaps you around a bit, and leaves you thirsting for more. With its pretty wacky (and seriously violent) cartoon-like style, smart mix of puzzling and strategy, and a terrific surprise specifically in the form of Daily Challenges that will ensure I keep coming back for more, Grindstone absolutely delivers the goods. If you’ve played a variety of puzzle titles before the base mechanic will be familiar, your typical goal is to try to chain as many enemies of the same color as possible. Past that though I can’t say I’ve played anything like this since Grindstones that are dropped for high enough combos then allow you to change to a new color in the same chain, leading to even bigger combos. Now add in a touch of temptation with chests that will coax you into lingering on a board longer to unlock a new blueprint for usable gear, special monsters that will demand you consider how to take them off the board, and even some wild boss battles and the 200+ levels will give you plenty to think about. The cherry on top is the Daily Greed Challenge though, which will challenge you to a sequence of tough levels, providing you with options for perks at each step and truly pushing your strategy and sense of daring to the max if you want to be competitive on the leaderboards. It’s rare that puzzle games are a treat from top to bottom, and add in that it is drenched in great cartoon carnage and Grindstone is a game you’ve got to at least give a moment to check out.


GRIS [Nomada Studio] - A tricky thing with story-driven and emotional games is that typically the more powerful they are the more their gameplay mechanics tend to suffer. That's very much not the case for GRIS, another terrific story told without words, outstanding visual design, and surprisingly satisfying puzzle platforming as well. I always enjoy puzzles that push you but don't break you and make you feel smart when you figure them out and this is something it manages effortlessly for the most part. It's a feast for the senses that is highly recommended.


The Gardens Between [The Voxel Agents] - When we first saw footage of this title in one of the Nindie Directs it was already clear that the game was brilliant visually. What's great is that those amazing visuals then paired with a touching story about friendship told without words and some of the most unusual and fascinating puzzle designs I've seen in quite some time. The time shifting mechanic is put to great use throughout, and by the end you'll really need to pay close attention to every detail to figure out how to make it work to proceed. Among many great stories told this year it's one of the most relatable of the bunch and is paired with a creative puzzle style.


Fez [Polytron Corp] - This far into the Switch lifespan the list of outstanding top-notch indie titles that haven’t yet made it to the platform is dwindling. There’s absolutely no doubt that Fez is one such title that has taken too long to get here and is incredibly welcome. In screen shots it may just appear to be a solid pixel platformer, but that would be woefully underselling it since in reality it’s a hybrid of sorts, allowing and even necessitating your rotating the levels in 3D space in order to reveal hidden secrets, surprises, and challenges that you’ll continue to face in a purely 2D plane in terms of the action. This results in a feel that’s somewhere between an action platformer and a puzzle game at times, and in many ways I’m shocked that as long as the game has taken to get to Switch someone else hadn’t already beaten it to the punch with a similar feel, but nobody really has. Clever, full of heart, and genuinely unique in its gameplay mechanics, Fez may be long overdue on the platform but hasn’t lost any of its very genuine appeal.


LEGO Builder’s Journey [Light Brick] - The first thought people tend to have with a LEGO title is an action-oriented romp you can casually enjoy on your own or, even better, with a friend. Builder’s Journey isn’t in that same vein though, instead taking a very different path to provide a slower and more contemplative puzzle experience that, of course, centers on the creative use of LEGO pieces to get you through. What really made the greatest impression on me from the game though isn’t the smart use of the pieces in a very sensible context but instead the story that it tells. Without dialogue or narration of any kind the story of a parent and their child starting out on a journey together, with some sidetracks that separate them along the way, is what pulled me in the most. Completing the puzzle on each screen would give me a taste of what happens next and that tended to be my biggest driver, though I absolutely appreciated the unique challenge of making use of the trademark pieces to solve problems brought. It isn’t without flaws, with running time and occasional issues where knowing what piece you want to put where can be encumbered by the camera not cooperating well topping the list, but on the whole I still found the experience very satisfying. There’s just something special to me about the whole package of what this game offers, and given its highly accessible nature for gamers of all skill levels it’s easy to recommend… even if I wish the experience could have lasted a bit longer.


Picross S Genesis & Master System Edition [Jupiter Corporation] - If you’re a puzzle gaming fan, you’re probably well-acquainted with the Picross franchise. While the S series on the Switch has made strides to add to and refine the formula from time to time, there’s no doubt getting to be a limit on what new can be introduced to the recipe at this point, as is illustrated with its competition which, aesthetics aside, has roughly landed in the same general space. Throw in classic Sega art and music though, and if you’re a classic gaming fan like I am and this edition easily makes a case for the modest fee of admission just to enjoy being basked in some nostalgia. While I wish more tracks were included it was honestly the music that immediately sucked me in. Given that there are many puzzles that are smaller in scale some of the art elements you’ll reveal can be a bit underwhelming but that’s fine, as you get to bigger puzzles you’ll reveal some great reminders of games from years past that, for fans, are sure to put smiles on faces. If it has become tougher to innovate with new modes I think collaborations like this are a great path for Jupiter to take as they provide value-added content for puzzle fans and celebrate developers and franchises that people hold dear at the same time.


Carto [Sunhead Games] - Having played so many of them, unfortunately the first thing I assume I’ll see when approaching any sort of puzzle game is that it will be something I’ve seen before. What’s so wonderful is when a title takes that assumption and utterly blows it out of the water, something Carto does with heart and just very smart design. Long story, but you play as Carto and you have the ability to manipulate the world to rearrange it. Cool, yes, but where things get clever is combining this with puzzles that vary in how they’re constructed as you advance the story. Talking to various villagers you encounter you’ll find that what you’ve laid down will need some rearranging, sometimes just to make sure the edges of the various tiles work together but often in order to ensure elements like roads or foliage are placed relative to each other as they’re meant to be. Throw in some great characters you’ll encounter along the way and it’s a cheery, creative, and unexpected treasure of a puzzle adventure well worth your time.


Shady Part of Me [Douze Dixiemes] - There’s something pretty delightful when you encounter games that you’ve never previously heard of that, once you begin playing them, grab you and demand your attention until they’re completed. Shady Part of Me is a smart puzzle adventure of sorts with a story to tell and a fantastic hand-drawn art style that absolutely fits that bill, and what’s fascinating is that rather than having only one or two elements that stand out and are compelling it delivers a high degree of quality on all fronts. The story revolves around a young girl who appears to be institutionalized and troubled, with a slow trickle of hints to her overall condition doled out the further along you get. She’s not quite alone though as you’ll also alternatively take control of a shadow version of herself who is generally projected on the wall but sometimes the floor as well. Puzzles alternate between the 2D shadow space which plays as more of a puzzle platformer, and the 3D main space where you must often manipulate objects to change the placement and scale of the shadows on the wall that are either blocking your doppelganger or helping her to either proceed or nab origami birds as bonuses along the way. All of this happens in some of the most elaborate and often surreal hand drawn art environments I’ve seen in a game, and certainly never as well integrated into the puzzles. This all comes together to create an experience that’s utterly unique on the console and one I would highly recommend.


Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns [Infinity Plus 2] - While fans of the old school original game likely won’t even need to read this review, it’s worth noting that though some elements of this classic from the DS may be a little behind the current curve you can still easily see how it blazed a trail for the concept of a Match-3 Battle RPG genre. While perhaps the story would best be considered serviceable by RPG standards it does manage to throw a pretty wide variety of enemies and challenges at you, requiring you not only to be smart with your puzzle matching but also show some strategy in how you use the class skills you’ll acquire over the course of the game and dictated by a variety of choices you’ll make. Once you’ve unlocked all of the buildings the game has to offer you’ll have the choice to grind and acquire new skills and perks, all while changing up the puzzle formula just enough to keep things from feeling too redundant. Throw in multiple base classes that give you an incentive to play through the game multiple times with different strategies and the game offers hours of smart and satisfying strategic play for puzzle fans.


Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince [Frozenbyte, Inc] - A quick admission, while I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the Trine series overall I was just never much of a fan of the overall experience. Through some alchemy, or maybe my tastes as a gamer have evolved, that makes my experience with Trine 4 a wonderful surprise. Smart, absolutely stacked with puzzles, and though somewhat repetitive continually changing things up in small ways I appreciate it is an action puzzling dream, and all the better if you can enjoy it with a friend. As always, each of your 3 core characters have specific abilities that you’ll need to use in concert with one another to chip away at obstacles and discover hidden goodies that seem to be present every few steps. Though I’ll admit the combat, when it happens, is clunky, this is a game first and foremost about challenging your mind and it absolutely manages to do that on a pretty well continuous basis throughout. Far more than just resting on being a pretty game (my typical feeling about the rest of the series), this is one of the most satisfying titles I’ve played this year.


Untitled Goose Game [House House] - Bless indie developers and their ability to come up with weird concepts for gameplay that you probably never considered but upon seeing them are easily attracted to. Untitled Goose Game is such a title, and I was drawn to it the moment I laid eyes on its gameplay in one of the Directs. Maybe I can’t speak for everyone but there’s something really fun about unleashing your inner asshole every once in a while and if that thought appeals to you this game should be high on your list. Given a checklist of objectives, you’ll need to use your pretty limited goosey skills and some smarts to figure out how to complete them to progress. One unfortunate thing is that the game isn’t terribly long, though I suppose it may be better not have it overstay its welcome and lose its creative spark. Still, it’s a unique and entertaining playthrough if you’re in the right mindset.


Bridge Constructor Portal [ClockStone Software] - While there have been a few different bridge construction games on the Switch I'd say this one, by far, stands out from the rest. Not only does it feature unusual humor inspired by the presence of Portal's GLaDOS, but just in general even things like the little people trying to use your structures dying or getting flung about made me laugh. Back that up with some smart and challenging scenarios that will make you think hard about how to get through and it's a tricky but fun overall experience.


Slayaway Camp [Blue Wizard Digital] - If you're a fan of classic 80s horror you can stop reading now, just buy this game and enjoy its obvious love and reverence for so many horror icons and tropes of that decade. More than just a homage to 80s slasher films, this is a title packed with smart and challenging puzzles that will make you work for the reward of seeing which outrageous ways the likes of Jason, Candyman, and many other dispatch their victims in its gloriously chunky Minecraft-esque visual style.


Battle Chef Brigade [Trinket Studios] - Brigade is a game that immediately sounded appealing when I heard the premise and then delivered something truly unique and engaging rather than succumbing to its own hype. One part action game for collecting your ingredients, and another Match 3 puzzler for concocting your cuisine to please the judges it makes for a strategic and often frantic affair. Throw in an RPG story with some surprising twists and Battle Chef Brigade is one of the best overall titles on the system.


A Monster's Expedition [Draknek] - One thing I’ve learned over the years as someone both on the programming end of software and on the consumer end is that creating experiences that are “simple” by nature is often anything but. With that in mind, there’s a certain effortless quality to the clean and well-planned rule progression and puzzles in Expedition that I really appreciate and admire. With minimal direction and some simple experimentation you’ll pretty understand each new element added to the rule mix as you simply try to make your way around a series of islands, enjoying some unusual artifacts with amusing descriptions along the way. It’s light but still challenging, for the most part establishing and then carefully following a slow and steady progression in complexity and difficulty the further you get. A great example of work invested to convert what could just be a puzzle game into more of an enjoyable puzzle experience worth checking out.


Bonkies [Crunching Koalas] - While my family and I have become quite jaded with multiplayer titles, since so many of them fall into pretty predictable gameplay, there are sometimes games that do something new that are worth getting excited for. Bonkies, thankfully, is one such title that offers up an unusual construction challenge involving monkeys, jetpacks, and robot arms. The name of the game is definitely precision, whether that involves feathering your boost, working quickly and efficiently to get pieces in place, or taking special care with special blocks that have a tendency to blow up everything you’ve worked for if you fail to take care. What sets the game apart further is that unlike the majority of multiplayer-focused games out there you absolutely can play through the game Solo and still find it quite challenging and enjoyable, you’ll just be fighting with yourself rather than your family and friends. It’s really two very different games through those lenses, with one being about technique and precision and the other layering on some serious communication and coordination, also understanding who the best people are for specific tasks since mistakes can be so calamitous. Unfortunately, if you’re playing with younger or less experienced gamers this may make Bonkies a poor choice unless they’re quick studies, but if your group is up for a unique challenge this offers both frustration and fun in pretty equal measure.


Timelie [Urnique Studio] - While time manipulation puzzling has been done before in the indie space, there’s an element of visual polish and flair that helps Timelie stand out nicely. There is a bit of a learning curve at times, as you’ll need to experiment with different methods and taking risks to proceed, but for the most part the game’s stages are designed well so they’ll sort of force your hand in trying different tactics since those you’ve used to that point won’t work any longer. It’s a solid puzzle experience that feels fresh, doesn’t overstay its welcome or get too incredibly onerous to complete, and often leaves you feeling satisfied after you’ve plotted out your perfectly-planned path and then get to watch it executed, sending you on to the next stage.


Where Cards Fall [Snowman] - Considering the abundance of puzzle games on the casual-friendly Switch, including many from the mobile/tablet space it’s getting tougher to find something that feels new and unique. That’s precisely the case with Where Cards Fall though, which debuted in the mobile space first, but doesn’t show too many of the usual signs of bumpiness in getting it converted for console enjoyment. I will admit that the controls did take a little getting accustomed to, and perhaps aren’t perfect, but once you have the relatively short list of things you can do down, from there it’s all just about working your way through over 50 puzzles that keep layering in new tricks and degrees of complexity. Throw in visuals that help it to clearly stand apart from its competition and some great tunes and it’s a treat. I do wish the coming of age story that advances as you progress provided a little more clarity on everything that’s going on though, just because what you’re able to see feels good and not knowing a little more detail does make it feel like you’re missing out on something that could have helped take the game to the next level.


Biped [NExT Studios] - I first encountered Biped at PAX East, repeatedly walking by the booth on the way to other appointments and seeing small crowds forming and having a great time. Later, when I finally got to take it for a spin with one of the reps on-hand at the booth I could see why. For a game featuring two robots as the protagonists there’s somehow something very cute and endearing about their look, mannerisms, and the way they scoot around. By contrast, at least in the time I got with the title, I was a bit taken aback by how tricky the experience could be. Now, having played the final product the good news is that some of what I’d faced was from later in the experience and though there’s no doubt Biped won’t be a cakewalk for anyone it consistently manages to be surprising with smart level design, generally superb controls, and just enough variety in its relatively short duration to keep you engaged. I think the best feature it has is that while typically co-op games struggle to provide a solid experience if you have to play them solo, in general Biped does such a great job at it that you could assume it isn’t necessarily meant to be a co-op game. There’s no doubt that in some circumstances the controls, where you use each joystick to carefully move either leg, can be a bit touchy but with so much precision required in some puzzles you’ll work through that’s not necessarily a surprise. Regardless, whether solo or co-op Biped is easily one of the best action puzzlers of the year on the Switch… just be ready for some challenges (which is a good thing).


Dodo Peak [Moving Pieces] - There’s nothing I enjoy more with indies than games that defy expectation. At first glance Dodo Peak looks like a pretty straight-forward action puzzle game that’s just going to be cute and somewhat benign. Oh, but how deceptive it is. While not everyone may be as much of an arcade nerd as I am what I appreciate the most about the game is its mix of elements from a few different games. While everyone I’ve seen has been keen to mention Q*Bert, which you can absolutely see bits of, the deep cut here is a less-known game called Flicky. The fact that the eggs you collect trail you and you’ll need to be mindful of them (even as there get to be more and more of them) when they’re in danger really cranks up the challenge and planning that will be required. You can’t just squeak yourself through a tough spot, you’ll need every member of your brood in tow to make it as well so that’s where planning will need to come in as well. While in the early going your ideal route is relatively simple, and possibly even outright dictated, the further you go the more things open up and you’ll need to contemplate how best to proceed. While it is by no means a massive game the budget price, polished presentation, and mix of multiple arcade classics as well as modern sensibilities really make it stand out from the crowd in the eShop.


KLAUS [La Cosa Entertainment] - While puzzle platformers are represented in abundance in the indie space, there are definitely ones that put in some extra effort to stand out. While it may lack some of the bells and whistles the titles at the top tier possess, KLAUS has a lot more going on within it than its initially straightforward presentation suggests. Steadily alternating the focus from pretty smart puzzles, to challenging platforming, to stages with a blend of both the great thing about this title is that it doesn’t settle into a pattern of simply dishing out more of the same but tweaked to be slightly harder. Hidden secrets, some boss fights, and some stages that will simply have to be seen to be understood await, and at a very reasonable price as well. Throw in a story that reveals itself slowly as you play and it’s an overall package that should exceed just about any reasonable expectations you may have.


Wunderling [Retroid] - Who ever said that puzzle games had to be for casual gamers? Oh sure, Wunderling could likely be enjoyed by just about anyone with its relatively simple one-button mechanic where you’re only able to control your character jumping… but to simply complete each level would be setting aside my favorite aspect of the game. The secrets, oh the secrets that this game has. Whether we’re talking about chests which will give you all sorts of silly gear to customize your character’s look, cassettes that will let you play music from the game’s soundtrack, or even an occasional hidden warp pipe that will take you to truly diabolical levels it’s the “hidden” challenges that accompany the standard game that have me hooked. Oh, and did I mention that the game’s premise and winks in the direction of Nintendo’s premiere franchise made me giggle and reconsider (only for a moment, mind you) my cruelty to the lowly Goombas out there? I love a game that works for everyone but then has an aspect daring the hard core folks out there to step up to the plate!


Baba Is You [MP2 Games] - Why settle for going the normal route and following the game’s rules to win when you can simply look for ways to change the rules instead? This simple but smart premise is central to Baba Is You and will have you playing with each stage’s rules that are represented as words on the screen that you can move around and reconfigure. Managing to keep finding new ways to challenge you throughout its runtime this is a challenging and unique puzzler absolutely worth checking out.


Etherborn [Altered Matter] - The definite stand-out title of the week is Etherborn, a gorgeous, challenging, and somewhat mind-bending 3D environmental puzzler. While it all starts out pretty simply, with you needing to navigate through spaces where you’ll need to repeatedly reorient yourself as the world rotates to stay beneath you, you’ll quickly learn that its puzzles can be quite diabolical. Smart, fabulously attractive, but at times no doubt frustratingly challenging, this won’t be for people easily discouraged. However, if you enjoy being tested and working to explore and experiment within complex environments to find the way out of them, Etherborn will keep you engrossed for hours.


Tangle Tower [SFB Games] - When there are so many point-and-click style adventures available on the Switch it pays to try to stand out. Smart puzzles, some quirky characters, and a sense of humor have pretty well become standard features so the bar has become pretty high if you want to stand out from the generally very enjoyable pack. Where Tangle Tower manages to get an edge is with well-delivered voice acting, some particularly weird characters you’ll interact with, and even some surprises in terms of puzzle variety and creativity. Throw this all together with a compelling mystery and the average puzzle fan should find plenty to enjoy over the course of a handful of hours with this one.


The World Next Door [Rose City Games] - As the final credits rolled The World Next Door felt like a satisfying experience on the whole but I was also left with questions. I suppose that could be the goal, to encourage people to play through again making different decisions and see what would happen, but given minimal feedback from the game on the effect of what you chose to do or say it’s hard to be confident enough would change to make it worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure the game took me on, and the characters I got to interact with along the way, I just wish the story’s conclusion was more clearly a culmination of my choices, good and bad, somehow.


Travel Mosaics: A Paris Tour [JetDogs Studios] - Even as consistently as indie titles have managed to surprise me, there are times when I’m almost taken aback by a title out of left field. If you’re a puzzle game fan you’re probably familiar with the Picross franchise, and the satisfying gameplay it offers. There have been some challengers in the same sort of space but to this point nobody has been able to break free of the pack in terms of innovation and polish. For me, Travel Mosaics is the total crasher of that party and not only packs in wonderfully polished presentation quality for a budget price, but knocks it out of the park with large and challenging puzzles, a smart power-up system, and a smooth overall control experience even as you toggle between colors. Puzzle fans, you won’t want to miss this one.


Unruly Heroes [Magic Design Studios] - Especially considering it’s pretty modest price Unruly Heroes is a rock-solid platformer that looks phenomenal and plays well whether you’re taking it on by your lonesome or with some friends. The degree of difficulty generally feels well-balanced, the gameplay has a number of surprising variations along the way, and there’s a sense of style that permeates it and helps it be memorable. While perhaps not quite a flawless title it’s certainly worth a good look if you’ve been searching for a worthwhile platformer.


FRAMED Collection [Loveshack Entertainment] - While its comic book-style presentation is clean and outstanding it’s the unusual gameplay in both Framed and its sequel that helped it stand out on Switch. Through a mix of experimentation and ingenuity you'll need to figure out how to rearrange the panels to help your agent avoid capture and perils. While neither game is terribly long the experience is a memorable and creative one.


Piczle Lines DX - 500 More Puzzles [Score Studios] - While it may be available on mobile I consider the Switch to be the best way to experience this great puzzle game that is both less and more challenging that it appears. You'll need to use your powers of deduction to work out how each of the lines can be completed in the specified number of spaces without conflicting with any others to complete these pixel art pictures. Smaller puzzles can go pretty quickly but as you get into the larger-scale puzzles this can get to be quite an undertaking. With an absolute avalanche of puzzle goodness packed into this title you’ll be working through it for quite some time.


Semblance [Nyamakop] - This is a title I got to check out at PAX East that definitely left me wanting more and the final product was no disappointment. Its core mechanic is that you have the ability to distort the landscape and a consistent stream of new tricks and techniques get introduced to you over the course of the game adding further layers of challenge. Smart, creative, and challenging, Semblance offers a unique style of play over its runtime unlike anything else on the system.


The Room [Fireproof Games] - Brought over from the mobile and tablet space, which is normally a red flag for potentially mediocre titles, The Room is anything but. This well-regarded opening title in what’s now a series elsewhere is highly revered for good reason, the ornate and elaborate puzzles it throws at you tend to be as brilliant as they are beautiful. A game very much focused on manipulating and trying to make use of every possible element of an object, so much of the time the game’s surprises have to do with discovering what’s been hidden just a little beyond the surface. While this will likely get replaced by any of its sequels when they hopefully come to the Switch, the great potential of the series was visible right from the beginning.


Death Squared [SMG Studio] - If you've felt like puzzle games have become a bit stale and predictable over the years, with many of them using well-known mechanics to simply create variations on a known theme, you'll want to check out Death Squared. It's amazing how first adding a second person (or pitting you against yourself) to the mix and forcing careful coordination and teamwork can really liven things up. Add in some clever and sometimes diabolical leaps of faith that are necessary to discover the game's secrets and progress and it makes for one of the best puzzle games I've played in years. If you really want to push the limits of your sanity try the collection of 4 player puzzles as well, it makes for a lot of laughing, yelling, and fun.


A Little Golf Journey [Okidokico] - Part golf game, part puzzler, A Little Golf Journey is hard to put in a pre-defined box. Rather than being dominated with a sliding power gauge and then concerns like trying to get your hook or slice just right, the golf side of things is decidedly stripped down here. The focus, instead, being more on planning out your path to the hole, and perhaps taking up a special challenge along the way if you keep an eye out for opportunities. Of course, the fact that a bit of a clever narrative plays out as you progress just further adds flavor and just underlines the title’s distinctive charm. If you allow yourself to get bogged down by the lack of a traditional golfing feel, or perhaps the camera that isn’t always cooperative, it may lose some of its luster, but there’s no doubt this overall experience is the only one of its kind on the Switch… and that makes it worth a look.


Filmechanism [Chemical Pudding] - It’s always great to see smart puzzle games that deliver play that hasn’t been run into the ground and that provide the opportunity to get some help when needed. Mashing together puzzle platforming, old-school box pushing, and the ability to capture elements where they are and restore them to those positions later gives Filmechanism plenty of opportunity to keep its challenges fresh as you go. The opportunity to simply take the normal easier path, or one of two tougher paths, helps to give everyone a chance to enjoy the experience, and if you’re determined to take them all there’s also plenty of content. Wrap it all up with a great vintage presentation that is more than adequate and even a usable hint system to help you when you get stuck and it’s a well thought out package that’s ideal for puzzle fans of all skill and experience levels.


Ghosts and Apples [Rough Cyber Humans] - Just because a puzzle game is pretty simple in its design doesn’t mean it can’t be challenging and even maddening. Ghosts and Apples demonstrates this in spades, with the controls being merely a matter of selecting the top or bottom of the tubes to the left or right of your character to stuff ghosts into. The goal is simple to stack ghosts of the same color to make them disappear. Simple, right? Funny how upping the pace and throwing some additional roadblocks in your way can quickly make it feel anything but. In the end this really isn’t a casual game at all, despite what you may assume looking at it, and can be a frantic challenge, no matter how simple its premise may be.


Inked: A Tale of Love [Somnium Games] - The thing that will obviously grab you with this title is its unique (and quite lovely) art style. From there, though, it’s the thoughtful story and simple but pleasing puzzles that will (hopefully) keep you. With a runtime of only a few hours, the experience doesn’t last long, but I enjoyed the game’s consistent small surprises, quirky moments, and loving story beats that were all handled with a fair amount of care. In some cases there could be a small frustration with a puzzle where you know what needs to be done in principle but then working out precisely how to align things to get it to happen is another matter but for the most part the design is sound. Perhaps the tendency for these story-driven titles to end in more sad ways is a bit of a bummer, but the joy you feel along the way tends to carry the experience and help them still end up being quite satisfying. It’s a relatively short, but creative and well-crafted, treat of puzzle and story mixed together.


PiCTOOi [Atooi LLC] - The Switch has had quite a 3 (or 4, depending on how deep you’re looking to go in the roster) way race in the Picross puzzling space, with each series having their own flair. I would have thought that meant the space was completely full and in need of no further options but now PiCTOOi has arrived to set me straight. The core gameplay is still the same, featuring various pictograph images of varying sizes that you’ll need to use your savvy as you look at the numbered patterns on the horizontal and vertical axes to plot out carefully. Now, to be clear, while some competitors feature multi-color puzzles this is more old school with only one set, so its complexity is lower. This really has more of a purist feel with less focus on trying to provide feedback to help you complete puzzles in the interface, giving it more of a Sudoku feel where you’ll need to grit your teeth and carefully work out which spaces get a colored block and which should be disabled. Somewhat in that vein the other major feature is its Brain Age-esque presentation, complete with a little robot (I reject him being a lightbulb!) who’ll gladly give you supplemental info about each puzzle, and a calendar feature so you can track your consistent play as a mental exercise towards your health. Fans of Mutant Mudds (and some other Atooi franchises) will also likely be tickled by a diorama mode that will reveal a number of game art pieces bit by bit as you complete collections of puzzles. About its only weak point is what feels like a painfully long pause as you close each puzzle to go back to the menu but in general I’d say Picross fans now have 4 legitimate contenders for the crown that will likely see a winner tied more to personal tastes as each has their own distinctive flavor.


Smelter [X Plus] - Appropriately named, as it combines elements of multiple styles of gaming, Smelter is a game that defies a simple explanation. One moment having you tackle enemies as a side-scrolling adventure, the next having you take on tough precision platforming levels (that are optional, but who can turn down a challenge), and then finally challenging you to engage in some real-time strategic combat in the initial going it can be a lot to take in. While I wouldn’t say all aspects are firing on all cylinders, for me the strategic element felt more bolted on than polished enough to stand on its own when compared to the other areas, it does make for an engaging experience that keeps things interested and a bit unpredictable at times. While I’d still say the thrilling opening anime sequence overshadows the in-game excitement a bit (it’s pretty damned cool and taps into my child of the 80s brain heavily) even with as many titles as I’ve played through on the Switch this stands out as being its own thing, and pretty confidently so, making it notable and worth a look.


TOHU [Fireart Games] - Right out of the gate I was honestly a bit nervous with the look and feel of TOHU, concerned that it would go firmly down the cute and quirky road but come up short in terms of variety and challenge. I’m happy to say that for the most part that impression was completely wrong though. Quirky as it may be, this is a puzzle-filled adventure that has a pleasing degree of variety, at times is even a bit challenging, and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction as you progress for the most part. I do wish the story were a bit better defined in order to help you better understand and appreciate the world and its characters, but if you’re simply looking for a rock-solid point-and-click adventure that delivers more and better puzzles than its average competition you should be satisfied with the experience.


Depixtion [DevHour Games, LLC] - While for many years the Picross series has sat safely at the top of its own puzzle kingdom, seeing threats from other comers but never really breaking a sweat to match or surpass them, the times they are a-changin. Rather than strictly copy the formula that has been so consistently satisfying some smart competitors have changed things up, trying new things, and some have found success. One such title is Depixtion, which on a general level follows the same playbook, but if you’ve been feeling like the typical Picross title trends a little too much towards being easy, you’ll want to give this one a look. The big difference comes from the way colors are handled. Breaking the spectrum up into 6 colors (Blue, Yellow, and Red… plus light and dark for each) on 3 distinct boards that are overlapped to produce the final colors the challenge here is pretty real. Where most titles will allow for a degree of “smart guessing” once you’ve filled in a fair portion of the puzzle, that method here would make any such attempts risky at best. If you’ve been thirsting for some tougher challenges in your Picross puzzling Depixtion has you covered.


Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions [Onyx Lute] - While there are a pretty impressive number of puzzle games in the Switch eShop, including many that are worth your time, I can say with confidence that none of them is quite like the Glass Masquerade series. The hook is that you’re essentially reconstructing a typically beautiful piece of stained glass artwork and given the unusual shapes and patterns you’ll usually be dealing with this can be challenging. Once you get used to things I’d suggest amping up the difficulty which will require that you rotate the pieces rather than just figuring out where to place them but the option to choose is a plus. About my only qualm is that due to the scaling of your active piece versus the puzzle it can sometimes appear that your piece won’t have room to fit in a given spot but once you’re used to this it isn’t generally a big problem. With its great artwork, seriously chilled out soundtrack, and unique challenges this sequel doesn’t deviate much from the first entry in the series but once again should prove to be compelling for puzzle fans.


Gunbrick: Reloaded [Nitrome] - Puzzle platformers are generally pretty common on the Switch, so it can take some effort to stand apart from the pack in some way. Starting with its great visual style Gunbrick manages that, looking satisfyingly colorful and even cartoony. Of course that wouldn’t be enough to compensate if the gameplay itself weren’t satisfying so the good news is that though perhaps the game hasn’t invented anything particularly new it has managed to take classic mechanics and mix them in a smart enough way that they’re still satisfying. Having to be mindful of which of your sides are facing which way, and needing to engage in a variety of means to ensure you’re facing the right direction in the right spot, may often be methodical but it can also be satisfying. While it doesn’t deliver a blow out of originality the overall package is still a pleasing one for puzzle platforming fans looking for a new fix.


Hidden Through Time [Crazy Monkey Studios] - If you’ve ever had kids or were a kid at some point you may recall the Where’s Waldo books. Given a densely drawn page full of detail your challenge was to spot the striped hat and shirt of the bespectacled nerd who seemed to have a talent for seeking out other people or places that would distract your eyes from finding him. Taking that same sort of idea visually and running with a more general hidden object theme we now have Hidden Through Time, a puzzler full of charm and personality that will consistently make you feel like a fool for missing an object after repeatedly checking the same area and swearing it isn’t there. What really helps the game stand out is the quality, charm, and entertaining small details hidden everywhere in the large scenes you have to look over. It may be simple conceptually but it’s the care put into the endeavor that really sold me on this one. If you’re looking for a great title to casually kick back and enjoy this comes highly recommended.


MO:Astray [World Pavilion] - You'd think at this point in the history of gaming, given the popularity and abundance of platformers of all types, the genre would be just about out of new tricks to keep things interesting. MO:Astray is here to prove you wrong. While just the mechanics with you sliding your little slimeball around, working on your jump angles and trajectories to get yourself around, would probably suffice for most titles it takes things even further. You see, you’re also capable of taking control of creatures of a variety of types by jumping on their faces, and this can be useful for a variety of reasons over the course of the game… in fact it’s a key mechanic usually involved in the game’s multiple boss battles. While it may not look terribly intimidating in the early going, give it some time and you’ll be sucked in with challenges where you understand what must be done but you’ll be challenged to put together the precision to do it successfully. Taking on a variety of new and pretty substantial upgrades in abilities as you go you’re also never quite able to get comfortable. Just when you feel like you’ve got it all down you’ll need to incorporate a new skill with new accompanying challenges to boot. While it may edge a little further into being tough than most the included provisions for softening the difficulty a bit are available as well, making this puzzle-platforming mind-controlling adventure worth putting near the top of your list.


Projection: First Light [Shadowplay Studios] - I’ll admit that simply seeing this game for the first time I pretty well fell in love, completely digging the unusual aesthetics and the promise of creative puzzle platforming it showed. In execution, for the most part, Projection really delivers on its potential and represents a unique experience as a result. Wrapped in a story that’s honestly a bit odd, and yet entertaining, you play as quite the troublemaker who is drawn to a special butterfly and after a series of pretty silly but calamitous events finds herself in an old shadow theater and in the presence of some strange people in wonderfully ornate dress. Since there’s no dialogue of any kind these folks did often seem odd, but I ran with it nonetheless. The mechanics you’ll be playing with generally involve your ability to independently control a light source with the right stick, with the goal usually being to cast shadows using objects in the environment your character can stand on to use to get where she needs to go. While there are easier obvious ways to go with some effort, and perhaps using an object put in the right spot, what I loved was an ability to reach new out of the way places, really challenging me to experiment and often use more advanced techniques with some precision. Due to the extremely dynamic nature of the light and shadow things can at times get a little wonky and feel inconsistent, but since you’re in control of a light source that can be put anywhere I don’t see how this could have been avoided either. It’s absolutely one of the most creative puzzle platformers I’ve played in quite some time, making a beautiful title also a refreshingly unique one.


Radical Rabbit Stew [Pugstorm] - If you’re looking to make a splash on the Switch eShop who can resist some cute killer bunnies mixed with very accessible puzzle action… and boss battles! There’s just a spirit to Radical Rabbit Stew that makes it generally fly by. Perhaps the nature of the puzzling isn’t necessarily original, but there’s a flair in the execution that simply made me laugh. In order to save your friends you’ll need to take on these carnivorous cottontails, smacking them around to ricochet into pots for stew. Of course you’ll want to also figure out how to get the special coin on each stage just to prove who’s boss. New mechanics are introduced at a pretty steady pace and they’re either given a simple explanation or you’ll discover them on your own through a set scenario in-game, a function of clever design that I appreciate. Throw in some boss battles (something you normally don’t find in puzzlers) and this is a clever and fun package of a game that should be enjoyable for all ages.


Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise [Yak & Co] - Puzzle fans have both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the Switch. Let’s just say that there’s an abundance of riches on the system, but then the problem when contemplating a purchase is deciding which in the sea of titles is the one worth picking up. Agent A has a pretty cool spy-based theme and art style but so do some other choices out there, but what sets it apart are smart, diverse, and engaging puzzles. While not quite the same, the closest example I can think of in terms of style would be The Room series. You’ll need to poke around and experiment a bit and the reward is something hidden which you then will need to work out. While nothing here is quite as elaborate as that series I love the fact that it doesn’t restrict itself to specific styles, it just keeps challenging you with new and unexpected challenges, aside from having a great sense of humor and a pleasing art style.


Death Coming [Zodiac Interactive] - If you’ve got a bit of a sick streak this game absolutely delivers great moments that will make you break out your most evil laugh. Sure, dropping a potted plant on someone’s head is fun as a one-off kill but the game’s consistent pattern of giving you breadcrumbs for how to trigger a big event, but not having it be clear what will happen until you kick it off, makes for some bloody surprises that are a ton of fun. This is a great game to slowly explore and is full of discovery moments that often lead to hilarious death and destruction. If that statement doesn’t offend you, and instead makes you giggle with anticipation this is likely a title for you.


Golf Peaks [Afterburn] - Borrowing aesthetics and hazards from the world of golf, Golf Peaks is a clean and smart puzzler that continues to layer in new complexity and challenges over its 100+ levels. Your potential moves are dictated by a set of cards on each stage, and you’ll need to choose their order and direction carefully as you try to make your way to the hole to complete each challenge. Smart, very on-the-go friendly, and challenging it’s a great match for just about any Switch puzzle fan.


Hue [Fiddlesticks Games] - Where the game manages to go a bit to the next level is with its overall presentation, sporting both a wonderful soundtrack and a surprising amount of story for what seems like a pretty simple title. Quality voice acting helps to give what could have just been some text to read on the screen a greater degree of polish and helps the entire experience shine as a whole. Some people may complain about the relatively short length of the game, lasting a mere handful of hours at best, but given its budget price and the obvious effort behind it on all levels and I consider it a pretty fair and appealing package worth your time if you’re looking for a satisfying challenge mixing puzzles with platforming.


Hyperforma [HeroCraft] - Part of what makes me a huge fan of indie titles is walking into new experiences that take me by surprise. Hyperforma easily catches your attention with some strong visuals, a great soundtrack, and gameplay that feels unusual and fresh. Combining puzzle sensibilities with a fair amount of classic Breakout, here your goal is to chip away at a 3 dimensional structure to expose and then attack the puzzle’s core. Effectively rotating each figure in 3D space takes a little getting used to, trying to keep your orb(s) working efficiently to get through the outer layer defenses while also trying to avoid blocks that will do you harm. As you progress you’ll gain some power-ups that you’ll want to put to smart use to help you work more quickly, and on a general level things remain pretty fresh throughout. Where the problems do creep in is that no matter how cool things happen to look, and though you do end up working your way through by trial and error, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I spent a fair amount of time not quite sure what I was supposed to be doing or how I was being evaluated as I completed each stage. Still, for a pretty reasonably low asking price there’s something different and exciting to it, and as a puzzle fan who usually feels like he has seen it all that makes it worth a look if you’re in the mood for a unique experience.


Perchang [Perchang] - While Perchang isn’t terribly long I’d say it manages to deliver a unique experience that puzzle fans should really appreciate. There are times when it feels like the difficulty is a bit all over the place with spikes and then valleys as you work through everything but different people may struggle with some challenges more than others. Though Perchang may be relatively simple at its core the execution, variety, and overall creativity it demonstrates help it to stand out even in the crowded puzzle genre on the system.


Piczle Colors [Rainy Frog] - Muscling in on the Picross-style puzzle space Piczle Colors may be the new kid on the block, and its degree of color can at time be a bit overwhelming, but in general it manages to do things right. The included touchscreen support is smart and works very well, providing it with versatility the Picross series itself lacks for now. Add in the tendency towards asymmetrical puzzles and if this kind of game is your jam then this new entry into the space is worth checking out.


QUBE 2 [Toxic Games] - Obviously having drawn inspiration from the likes of Portal, blending a very clean aesthetic style with smart puzzles and a use of physics, Q.U.B.E. 2 is clever and does a great job of sucking you in. Able to manipulate specific squares that will bounce you you, allow you to pull them out to create a platform, or extrude a cube you’ll use different combinations of your abilities to make your way through a series of increasingly-complex puzzles. Blended with a storyline that gets you invested and it’s a solid overall experience.


The Talos Principle [Croteam] - Among the indie titles that I’ve played and loved on the PC there aren’t too many that still haven’t made their way to Switch. With the release of The Talos Principle the list continues to get smaller. This is a first-person puzzler that features a variety of smart brain teasers that will challenge you to take some relatively simple mechanics and run with them in order to progress. Throw in a fair amount of philosophy, reflections on humanity, and well-hidden secrets and it’s a very approachable game just about anyone should be able to enjoy. Just be prepared for some bouts of frustration along the way as the expectation is you’ll ponder and work through new situations by working things out, there doesn’t tend to be much hand holding to get you up to speed.


The Vanishing of Ethan Carter [The Astronauts] - When a game starts up showing a warning that establishes it isn’t meant to hold your hand I’ll admit my “Ruh Roh Raggy” meter tends to go off the charts. There’s something to be said for discovering a game in your own way and time and if you don’t mind the frustrations that can come with that Vanishing is an unusual, unnerving, and unconventional adventure. Be ready to explore, adapt, and challenge yourself with the reward being what feels like random breadcrumbs that help to slowly begin to paint a picture of what has happened and who is involved. If you give it some patience and your full attention it can be rewarding, just be warned you may be tempted to hit some guides to figure out what you’re doing wrong as you can be prone to getting stuck.


When Ski Lifts Go Wrong [Huge Calf Studios] - While the system has a number of bridge building physics games, this one takes that general premise and does some new things with it. The most obvious difference is in the structures you’ll build, replacing the roadway with chair lifts, gondolas, and ski jumps. To further add to the fun there are scenarios where you’ll get a small degree of control over your specific target skier, working to nail tough jumps and to grab bonus coins. While it’s not perfect it’s also a welcome aggressive attempt to get the genre moving in newer and more creative directions.


Bomb Chicken [Nitrome] - Taking the silly premise of a bomb-laying chicken and then milking it for all its worth Bomb Chicken is an unusual mix of platforming and puzzling. You’ll need to be careful and precise in how you lay your bombs, whether to destroy obstacles or to stack them on top of each other to reach other levels. Completely different, silly, and fun this is a great mix of gameplay styles that works very well on Switch.


Enigmatis 2: The Mists Of Ravenwood [Artifex Mundi] - The classic hidden item puzzle game genre has made some real strides over the past few years. Throwing in a story, some cinematics (though a bit dated), and a pretty wide variety of puzzles it's far more than just looking for small baubles hiding in what appears to be a hoarder's stash at every turn. Enigmatis 2 impressed me with its puzzles, its ease of play, and its smart help system that focuses on keeping you making progress over doing the work for you.


Sling Ming [Good Night Brave Warrior] - It’s always a joy to see something new and different arrive to check out and Sling Ming really fits that bill. Not quite like anything else I’ve played to date Ming herself it an entertaining character making her way through a pretty tough collection of levels that really make you work. Mixing basic problem-solving with more physics-based conceptual challenges with momentum it has a style all its own and is entertaining (though sometimes frustrating) throughout.


Spy Chameleon [Unfinished Pixel] - This is an action puzzle game that may not appeal to everyone, whether too frustrating or too simple, but that continues to add new elements to its challenge throughout its fair runtime. You'll be trying to carefully stealth your way through rooms full of various traps, relying on your many skills and a fair dose of patience to succeed. Throw in the temptation of added challenge elements for competitionists and you've got a budget formula for some fun.


Tricky Towers [WeirdBeard] - Offering up a mix of iconic tetronimoes with a tower-building mechanic and some real concerns with gravity and your creation topping over this title can make for a lot of fun with friends. You'll get to choose between helping yourself or hurting your opponents when you get power-ups and certainly sending a massive version of one of the pieces to an opponent's screen can make for a bit of evil fun if it catches them by surprise. A very different kind of fun with a more cerebral edge to it.


Serial Cleaner [iFun4all] - Oozing retro 70s style in both its art and soundtrack Serial Cleaner is a more action-oriented game but it still boils down to puzzles of a sort. How do you avoid the patrolling cops (some of which don't move in set and predictable patterns), clean up blood, pick up evidence, and haul bodies to your car to dispose of them? Each map has its own challenges and as you progress the areas you'll need to cover continue to get more expansive. A great touch is that hiding spots and evidence will begin to move around a little as well, keeping you from having a set solution. It will test your patience and your sneaking skills but it is a good time.


A Good Snowman is Hard to Build [Draknek & Friends] - Polished budget puzzlers that come over from the mobile space are always a bit hard to judge critically and fairly when they arrive on Switch. In the case of Snowman there’s no doubt it’s a smart, well-designed, and challenging experience despite what, on the surface, would seem to be a simple premise. Yeah, you just need to get the torso on top of the base and get the head on top of that, but the trick is that every move needs to often be carefully planned, whether to just get each element in place or to use the snow on the ground to make one part bigger to be able to use it. The first very fair critique would be whether or not there’s anything about this being on the Switch, taking on the ability to play on your television and use physical controls, and the answer is not really… this would seem to work just fine without either option whether on your phone or a tablet. The second quibble concerns the overall difficulty, which kicks in pretty quickly. It isn’t impossible by any means, but there’s a risk of getting stuck and without any means for assistance that could be a bummer too. If you like a challenge, clean graphics, and a budget-friendly price it’s a good option, but it may just be more convenient on your mobile device in the end as well.


Backworlds [Skymap Games] - The Switch has thankfully been blessed by a number of notable puzzle action titles, and more often than not each has chosen its own distinct path vin terms of style. Backworlds is another to add to that list, and while it generally keeps its core mechanics pretty simple it does a fine job of leveraging them to create novel puzzles which require some thought and often a bit of dexterity as well to get through. I will say that I wish the controls were a bit more intuitive in how they’re mapped, while I was able to get used to the control scheme I wouldn’t consider it ideal. That said, for its budget price this is a smart and increasingly challenging puzzler that satisfies by simply bringing a feel that’s just a bit different into the eShop.


Flowing Lights [gFaUmNe] - As someone who celebrates games that take chances to do something new, to a degree Flowing Lights feels like a game made just for me. Mashing together the unlikely pair of a shooter with a puzzle game, I’ll admit that initially I found myself caught a bit off guard as it was showing me the ropes. That said, once it clicked, I became a fan, enjoying the challenge of some bullet dodging and strategy mixed with the challenge of dealing with curved surfaces and how the bullets’ paths will bend with the landscape. Certainly the look is a bit bare bones, though I enjoy the light neon-lit TRON vibes so I didn’t mind, and the concept won’t likely work for everyone but I applaud the effort to swim against the current and chart out new territory. Throw in the inclusion of leaderboards for each level, incentivizing you to work harder to come up with better ways to beat each level and the old school arcade fan in me really dug this unique, and often challenging, experience.


Gardener's Path [Viridino Studios] - Considering the staggering number of indie budget puzzlers on the Switch, I don’t doubt trying to make one that stands out is a challenge. On the visual front I’ll at least credit Gardener’s Path with going to the effort to visually stand out with lush pixel art. In terms of gameplay it’s a bit more down the middle, not necessarily breaking ground with its mechanics, but at least throwing in a variety of objects with different behaviors that will regularly force you to change up your overall strategy. One critical flaw I'd say is that because it doesn't make great use of the screen real estate, with too much empty space around the edges, it does make the detail a bit of a pain to see in handheld mode. However, if you’re a fan of this style, it’s among the better overall implementations out there, but I think more than most tastes in the genre this one’s not as popular overall.


Iris.Fall [NExT Studios] - If you’re a fan of puzzle adventures with a distinctive look and some unique and unusual puzzles to work out, Iris Fall may be an appealing package. A bit reminiscent of the excellent Shady Part of Me from last year, you’ll be working with shadows and light quite a bit as you contemplate the puzzles that will be put before you. Unfortunately, while there’s a story of sorts being related visually the lack of something more substantial feels like a bit of a weakness comparatively. In terms of the puzzles that are central to the experience they range a bit wildly from being clever and well-constructed at the high end but heavily trial and error-based on the low in places. The artwork remains impressive and imaginative throughout, I just wish all aspects of the experience were as consistently well-conceived and executed.


Islanders: Console Edition [GrizzlyGames] - This budget title, at first glance, looked like it may be a sim of sorts… but if that’s what got you excited, be warned, that isn’t what you’ll find here. Instead, it’s more of a puzzle strategy game where you’ll need to very carefully place buildings of different types all around the randomly-generated island you’ve been assigned, trying to maximize your points so you can continue to move on and eventually make your way to a new island to begin the process again. This can be trickier than it sounds, especially since so many buildings derive bonuses or penalties from the right and wrong buildings or resources in their immediate area. Early on, as you’re getting accustomed to the rules, this can make things a bit aggravating, as you’ll paint yourself into corners in some ways with poor early placements. However, with some time you’ll tend to do better planning and set yourself up for success. The added Sandbox mode ends up being more of a novelty just to make visually-pleasing towns, but not much more since there’s not a sim element here to give it more consequence to what you set up.


Out of Line [Nerd Monkeys] - The great artwork and general puzzle-y adventure beats of Out of Line (as well as a timely multiversal sort of twist to things) almost immediately brought to mind the likes of Limbo, Inside, and some others. One the one hand that’s a compliment for the company its look and feel inspire, but on the other the comparison falls flat a bit in terms of the variety and scope of the story to be told since Out of Line’s overall run time is a mere couple of hours. The construction of the puzzles is smart enough, with you needing to make careful and accurate use of your power javelin in a number of ways, but in terms of the sheer variety of what you’ll face it can also feel a bit more on the one note side. If you’re down for this sort of title and don’t mind the relatively short run time and a lacking overarching story it still has its charms though.


Palindrome Syndrome: Escape Room [mc2games] - With escape rooms having been a pretty popular group activity over the past decade or so (with the exception of the past year, obviously) it’s not a surprise to see a puzzle title adopt that format for play. Dealing in a wide variety of brain teasers that will challenge everything from your simple powers of observation to much more complicated multi-step deduction many aspects of Syndrome feel authentic to the experience as well, though perhaps lacking in the frustrations of interpersonal communication and teamwork unless you’re playing with someone looking over your shoulder. There are a few spots and puzzles that can be a bit rockier than others, and overall the length of the experience is perhaps on the brief-ish side, but if you’re looking to hone your puzzle room solving skills or want a taste of the general challenges they often offer this isn’t a bad choice.


Retro Machina [Orbit Studio] - With a pretty cute protagonist, a generally steampunk look, and a mix of puzzles and combat that at least feel novel, Retro Machina has some things going for it. You'll play from an isometric view, moving through areas, breaking up objects for loot, getting into an occasional tussle, and then either destroying or taking control of enemy robots in order to progress. At times the puzzles can be a little tricky because of the view, with occasional issues with objects being obscured, but at least the approach is novel. Expect some left/right brain challenges in the mix as well, as you'll need to keep both yourself and the robot you're controlling moving at once, sometimes needing to avoid some peril somewhere as well. I'd say the game's biggest weakness, in general, is the combat, which feels a bit stilted and disappointing as you dodge and counter a bit sloppily. An odd choice was also tying your health to the robots you control, making the potential fun of taking one over and then mowing down the other enemies less workable, which feels like a missed opportunity for mischief. It's a reasonably good experience, it just can't quite cross over into the territory of greatness in my eyes.


Super Magbot [Astral Pixel] - With as many puzzle platformers as I’ve seen on the Switch it’s always cool to run across one that does things a bit differently, and there’s no doubt that Super Magbot manages that. Your right and left arms have polarities of red and blue and the layout of each level features panels of those same colors, the trick being to use your powers of attraction and propulsion to skillfully fling yourself around and make what are sometimes tough sequences work. It’s a cool idea, and for the most part everything is implemented well, but for me there’s just a hitch in it having a flow to the motions of it all, but perhaps I just never got fully into the zone. I could get the patterns down and execute them to make it through the level but I never got to the point where it felt like second nature somehow. If you’re looking for a unique challenge in the puzzle platform space it is recommended, just it may not click for everyone.


Evan's Remains [Matias Schmied] - This is a bit of a tough one as the overall package is an interesting mix, but whether you’ll be game for it will depend heavily on what you’re looking for. On the one end in terms of gameplay mechanics it’s a pretty straight puzzle platformer, and generally a pretty solid one overall. On the other it has a bit of a mystery to tantalize you, with your character searching for someone important who is missing, a cast of characters you’ll slowly begin to see and understand more about as you go, and a few revelations that will likely take you by surprise. It’s an unexpected mix, and while I think that the storytelling may be more of an incentive to play than the puzzling (which is good but not particularly revolutionary either overall), if you’d like to work your way through a general well-written narrative, pausing for puzzle interludes periodically to help break things up, it may be appealing for you.


Flipon [Pixelnest Studio] - When it comes to action puzzle games the tendency is to think of the big and well-established guns when looking for some quality play. That said, every once in a while a new title storms out of the eShop with a budget price and some quality play to make a strong impression. Flipon, while not necessarily terribly original in its mechanics, offers up a whole lot of variety and fun whether you’re playing through its campaign and various modes solo or with up to 4 friends. While perhaps I’d say the action is a bit too close, somewhat discouraging more strategic accumulation of blocks to try to pull off larger chains of combos that does make for a fair degree of intensity. Your goal is to shift pairs of block to set up straight lines of the same colored block, but there’s some strategy to be had as you get the hang of things and both the campaign and other modes do a good job of trying to help you refine some of those techniques even if you don’t consider yourself to be a pro. For such a modest asking price Flipon really brings together great presentation and production values and then pairs that with a load of content and variety (well, for this sort of game) to keep you busy puzzling for quite some time.


Fracter [4L GAMES] - There’s something to be said for some visual flair to add to the gameplay experience as a whole and when the aesthetics can be used in alignment with improving the action itself that’s always a bonus. Fracter has a great black and white look and really leans into the use of light as part of what you’re looking to do, whether acting as a barrier, a means to activating the environment, or even taking out some enemies. Trial and error does play a part a bit as there’s no real explanation for what needs to be done, and once you’re introduced to new ideas you’ll be expected to apply that to new scenarios. While I wouldn’t consider it to be terribly difficult as a whole, the way the stages play out is at least pretty novel and as you go further you’ll need to work a bit harder to be successful. All in all it’s a pretty unique action puzzle adventure that sets itself apart not just with its look but also the style of its play, not a bad thing when the eShop is full of titles that don’t do as good a job of differentiating themselves.


Linelight [My Dog Zorro] - Puzzle action games can and have come in many forms, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen any go to the degree of simplicity seen in Linelight. For all of its minimalism though, what’s quite remarkable is how clearly it’s able to convey what you need to know in order to succeed. Your small light moving along interconnected lines, tripping switches, and working to avoid red lights are all very easy to understand and follow, and the designs of the various levels even have a certain beauty to them in many cases. If you’ve been looking for a puzzler that will demand your attention as well as some patience as you work out how to get through each area, and don’t mind the aesthetics being unusually austere, this may be well worth your consideration.


Manifold Garden [William Chyr Studio LLC] - Part of my love for indies is that the best of them dare to be different and then unapologetically deliver something new that challenges and defies your normal expectations. Mixing together puzzles, platforming, a fascinating limited color art palette with mostly plain environments accented by splashes of color, and a somewhat mind-bending mix of reorienting gravity as well as environments that are infinite… it’s a lot to take in. One issue I’ll warn people of, as it took me a little while to get over it, is a potential for feeling a little sick playing as you stand on the edge of what feels like long falls but then sometimes jump off in order to fall and land on a platform a little further away. I got more used to it as I went but at first it was tough on my senses. If that doesn’t phase you I think then enjoyment will hinge on your love for the unexpected in terms of overall audio and visual experience versus the unexpected in terms of gameplay. The real winners here are the games sights and sounds, and really your completion of the sometimes outright tricky puzzle elements is going to be driven by seeing what’s next, not so much looking forward to having to complete more puzzles that are similarly constructed. There’s no doubt it’ll be a game many people talk about with reverence, but I think from person to person enjoyment will be about what you’re personally looking for in your game, I’m not sure the appeal of Manifold Garden will be universal.


Roundguard [Wonderbelly Games] - When it comes to casual games from the previous generation or so that I remember with great fondness, the unique Peggle is one that easily stands out in my mind. Now imagine taking the base mechanics of carefully dropping your ball in the hopes that it will bounce in your favor and instead make that your character, adding a mix of roguelike and RPG elements on top of that for progression… and you’ll get Roundguard. While I wish there were more classes and spell diversity overall, what you’ll find here is a very clever title that packs a surprising degree of strategy and challenge. Randomly-dropped equipment in one run can match your preferred play style perfectly and give you the buffs you need to go deeper while on the next the RNG gods may forsake you, leaving you to bite it before you even get to the first boss. If you’re seeking something that’s sort of a casual plus experience, maintaining a base easygoing feel but with elements that spice things up quite a bit, you will definitely want to give Roundguard a hard look.


TaniNani [WhyKev] - Put simply, there are a load of puzzlers of all shapes, sizes, and even budgets on the Switch. That can make getting eyes on any given one a challenge, especially ones that aren’t in a well-known subgenre like Picross or Tetris-alikes. Tani Nani makes a pretty easy initial good impression with a budget-friendly price point, cute characters who are just looking for love, and gameplay that I may have seen before in some fashion but for me feels more approachable than some of the competition by keeping it simple-ish. Your goal is to select squares on the screen and rearrange them in a way that will allow your characters to first (ideally) grab a crystal somewhere on one of the pieces and then ultimately unite for a cute and loving embrace. While at first this can be pretty simple the challenge is ratcheted up consistently by new mechanics that arrive periodically and by a variety of additional stage challenges that will call on you to work more quickly, efficiently, or in some other specific way on top of simply getting to the primary goal. It’s not a revolution by any means but for a cheap impulse buy it stands up pretty nicely.


The Almost Gone [Happy Volcano] - Sometimes games can be an interesting means of helping to convey powerful messages in a different way. In the case of The Almost Gone the theme is tied to the lasting trauma and effects of familial abuse, and it is layered onto a clever though sometimes perhaps a bit obtuse puzzler with a distinctive look. You’ll work your way through rooms in a house, shifting perspective in search of clues and potential triggers that will help you progress. The puzzles range in their methods as well as their difficulty and this can be a bit frustrating at times as there’s really no in-game means of assistance, but given that the experience only lasts a few hours the challenges can be overcome. If you’ve been a victim of some sort of abuse it may be a bit too heavy and open wounds but for those who haven’t experienced it first-hand it may help to lend perspective. It won’t be an experience for everyone but it distinguishes itself in its style and themes even in the crowded Switch library.


When the Past Was Around [Mojiken Studio] - With a unique hand-drawn art style and some unusually inventive point-and-click puzzles When the Past was Around definitely stands out from the crowd. Now, granted, depending on the puzzle at times it can be difficult to follow the train of thought in how to move from clues to success, but since there tends to be limited repetition in how these challenges work I suppose that’s to be expected. Throw in an element of love and loss and though it all comes to a close pretty quickly the experience is generally a memorable one.


Zhed [GroundControlStudios] - Getting right down to business the Switch has a ton of puzzle games, and while many of them fall into well-established categories there are also occasional black sheep that do something differently. Zhed is such a game, and while at first it can be tough to catch on to all of the applications of its style I’ll give it credit for doing something new (for me, at least). Your goal is to get to the exit of each level and to get there you’ll need to go to numbered spots on the grid which will let you create a line with a certain number of segments in one direction. Where the challenge comes in is that to complete the level you’ll need to carefully plot out which lines you put in place and in what sequence since where the lines cross you’ll effectively gain a segment on your current line for each spot you cross. It makes for a pretty different challenge and the solutions aren’t always obvious, especially as the game tries to introduce new concepts to you in the puzzle itself, not with an actual explanation. It’s different, and a unique challenge, so I’ll give it props for that.


Block-a-Pix Deluxe [Lightwood Games] - In general, though the interface is clean and simple it’s on the unrefined side depending on your tastes. That said, even with larger puzzles everything remains pretty smooth as you scroll around and everything feels pretty sensible so it’s easy to pick up and enjoy. With 120 puzzles it has plenty to offer, and if you want to check it out before you buy be sure to download the available demo on the eShop.


Day and Night [Ridiculous Games] - Action puzzlers are a challenge to get right as they need to have their own sense of personality to differentiate from the pack but don’t want to risk going too far afield with their core gameplay for fear of alienating people. Day and Night walks that tightrope pretty effectively, offering up what feels like a mix of concepts from multiple familiar classics and then throwing in a variety of elements that complicate matters in ways that make sense but are generally new. The main hook revolves around both a day and night, as well as a seasonal cycle, setting the foundation for you never being able to truly be comfortable and needing to be mindful of what will happen when things shift. Dormant blocks belonging to another cycle will activate as the time of day changes and if you or your opponent were able to do some decent planning amidst the chaos of blocks falling that can quickly turn things around. In addition the game’s power-ups can be very effective and often provide a choice of slamming them down to use immediately or letting them fall slowly to sit dormant until triggered, providing even more room for strategy. Throw in both a story mode and challenges for people to play through solo and this is a puzzler chock full of challenges and fun.


Kine [Gwen Frey] - Cutting right to the chase the Switch has a massive library of puzzle games of all types and levels of polish. That said, on pretty well every level it doesn’t have anything that quite compares to Kine. The core challenge of the game is its 3D puzzling, featuring 3 distinctive characters who each have their own unique ways of moving around and being manipulated. What you’ll find is that in order to get through each stage you’ll need to very precisely work out how to navigate its challenges, and it’s going to take some serious thought power to do so as the game moves on and continues to raise the bar in terms of the intricacy of its levels. Throw in the game’s terrific art style, easygoing jazz soundtrack, and periodic insightful and fun comments and it’s a compelling package for puzzle fans in search of a change of pace on the system.


Pic-a-Pix Pieces [Lightwood Games] - Really all that can be holding you back from getting this is not being interested in the genre and style. The price is right, 300 puzzles that combine to make a variety of final pictures provide more than a fair amount of content, and the satisfying Picross-style challenge all deliver. Whether you’re playing with a controller in docked mode or with the touchscreen in handheld this should be a joy for puzzle fans.


Plunge [Spooky Buns Games] - While there’s no doubt that many may be drawn in by the unusual art style of Plunge, what should make you linger is its unique gameplay… working as roguelike dungeon puzzler of sorts. You’ll be dropped into a level with the goal of first unlocking and then reaching the exit. To get there you’ll need to work through enemies, traps, and puzzles, needing to be careful not to get yourself cornered and using some strategy to maneuver around the stage. There are situations where the isometric view doesn’t work quite so well, particularly when there gets to be quite a lot of enemies roaming about, but the quirks, engaging boss battles, and bits of variety that make each playthrough a little different help distinguish this unusual title.


Quench [Axon Interactive Inc] - This is a title I initially checked out at PAX East and it made enough of an impression I was excited to get a chance to play more of it. Working a bit like a mix of a god game and a puzzler, Quench will have you using elemental powers to aid herds of animals, though primarily your initial bunch of elephants, through a variety of environments and situations. You’ll need to use rain to replenish the land or put out fires, wind to clear away sand or divert enemies, quakes to clear boulders, and lightning to zap thorny vines or even revive fallen animals. Your resources aren’t unlimited so you’ll need to work out what paths you want to take and make smart and careful use of them as much as possible to replenish the land and keep your herds moving towards their goal. With a relatively slow pace and naturalistic themes it should appeal to the crowd looking for a more soothing experience to enjoy.


Starblox Inc [IlluminationGames] - With iconic titles like Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Lumines, and others out there in the action puzzle genre it can be a tricky business to establish yourself. Too often games fall into the trap of seeming to start with a base mimicking one of these classics and then settling for being a variation on that theme. Starblox Inc tackles originality by blending genres, in this case by pairing with fighting, and the result may not be for everyone but it’s at least fresh and different. You and your opponent will each have your own puzzle to work on and will try to grab pieces that are falling and then quickly arrange them to complete matches. Where the challenge comes in is that instead of working on the puzzles in isolation and then triggering attacks on each other you’ll be attacking each other directly as you try to vie for pieces. In many ways it’s a subtle change but the resultant gameplay is pretty different in an often aggressive way. Granted, this is either a mechanic you’ll embrace or be less enthused with, but you’ve got to give credit for shaking up the norm.


True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 [The Digital Lounge] - As a big fan of the hidden item and puzzle subgenre for killing some time while relaxing the wrinkle of horror is something I really appreciated in the original title in this series. With the sequel it’s really more of the same on a general level, serving up creepy environs and some suspense with a variety of puzzles of various kinds. If you’re feeling lost or stuck, depending on the skill level you’ve chosen, you’re able to get help not just in the form of puzzle hints but even for where you’re supposed to be going next which can be a big help to get you back on track. While its production values are somewhere between dated and middling they get the job done, making this a good pick-up if you want some mild horror suspense with your brain teasers.


Hexologic [MythicOwl] - Given the extremely budget-friendly pricing Hexologic is a satisfying way to spend a few hours if you’re a big puzzle fan. I enjoyed the fact that there were multiple methods to make the puzzles more challenging used in different cases. Certainly sheer scale can be intimidating but having the grid broken into multiple pieces and more than one set of shared spaces kept things from feeling too repetitive throughout. I’d love to see even more variations and further substantial puzzles in the future, if the ability to lock space/lines were added I’d be all the happier.


Toki Tori 2+ [Two Tribes] - Thoughtful types who enjoy a good head-scratcher and can take their time to execute will likely find Toki Tori 2+ to be a delight. It’s bright, cheery, colorful, and chock full of its own unique flavor of puzzle platforming that’s not for the faint of heart. People who err on the side of action will more likely want to consider giving it a pass though since you’re more of a facilitator than an action start in this adventure. All that said it’s a unique offering on the Switch and will provide hours of puzzle-solving enjoyment with a formula I haven’t seen before.


Doomsday Vault [Flightless] - Hopefully not accurately depicting our future, in Doomsday Vault you’re tasked with working to recover precious unique plants and their seeds in order to help preserve them and to hopefully turn things around. You’ll be dropped into a variety of environments, and will need to use care and some smarts to make your way through their various puzzling scenarios to recover the seeds themselves and then hidden nutrients as well along the way. You can tell that it has come over from the tablet space, as the console controls do work fine but also take getting used to with things being oriented more diagonally with the isometric view. In terms of the puzzles and experience overall I’d say it’s all pretty middle of the road, neither mind-blowingly creative nor mind-numbingly simple and if you dig the pro-environment vibe and a chance to help save the planet that’s likely a nice bonus as well.


Piczle Puzzle & Watch Collection [Score Studios] - As someone who grew up in the original days of the Game & Watch devices there’s absolutely a sense of warm nostalgia that comes with the sights and sounds they produce. Taking a cue from Nintendo, who has produced modern console experiences around the classic games of their own, the people behind the Piczle series have taken a crack at that style themselves with this collection of 3 puzzle games presented in the stripped down classic LED look and feel. Probably my favorite is Piczle Cross, an implementation of a Picross-style puzzle game, though I’ll admit it felt like the buttons were backwards and I kept using the wrong one (but that could just be me). The other two are Piczle Loops, which is somewhat of a variation on Minesweeper that took me a moment to get and Piczle Pattern, which is more of a traditional game where you’re trying to fully fill the area using a single shape that can change colors off and on. For people who are puzzle fans and who are nostalgic for the Game & Watch experience this may be a great fit. For people less enthused with either of those elements you’ll probably be better of finding something else on the eShop.


Sokobond [Draknek & Friends] - Even when you’re talking about games that are budget-priced and for a somewhat more casual audience there can be some stiff competition on the Switch. Between crossover mobile games and established franchises in the console space breaking in with something that can grab attention takes a bit of creativity. While visually quite simplistic, consisting primarily of mere colored circles and lines defining the boundaries of the space you have to work with, Sokobond leaning on chemistry helps to give it some unique flair while also making for a consistent challenge. Working to combine individual elements into more complex molecules by carefully taking into account the number of bonds each atom has can take a moment to grasp fully but once you’ve got the idea you should be off to the races. It’s the configuration of the spaces you have to work within and the slow progression of new elements that can combine, split, or otherwise manipulate your creations that keeps the challenge coming and from allowing it to get too stale. Considering its budget asking price it provides for a few hours (or more) of puzzling and, best of all, its ideas feel unique enough to help it stand apart from its competition.


Milo's Quest [Ratalaika Games] - Budget puzzle and adventure games are pretty much a dime a dozen on the Switch but what about a budget title that sort of mashes those two together? While Milo’s Quest isn’t terribly challenging it does effectively blend some box pushing, relatively simple combat, and a fair amount of exploration together in a cute package that works. For the most part this is a low-stress affair and I think the combination of elements keeps it from being as generic and dull as its contemporaries that lack the same variety. It may not have much appeal for hardened gamers but younger or more casual gamers may find it cute and charming.


Felix The Reaper [Kong Orange] - If there’s one thing that Felix the Reaper isn’t lacking in it’s quirky personality. The rotund but surprisingly agile main character shuffles and dances his way through every stage with an exuberant energy that’s admirable, but I suppose that’s the effect his being in love has on him. Humor is abundant here, and as you work your way through a variety of weird puzzle sequences in order to orchestrate the elaborate demise of your given target, the mix of dialogue, some elements, and Felix’s constant strutting it’s hard not to be charmed. Mechanically the puzzle elements are pretty smart, the goal is to remain in the shadows as you manipulate the angle of light and will need to divine the sequence of moves and interactions with objects to get you to your goal. Where it can struggle initially is that there are times when it’s unclear while you’re still learning what it wants you to do, and as you get further in underneath the presentation the actual puzzles can feel a bit generic. Still, if you like a good puzzle game and enjoy a good laugh or perhaps a quirky love story this will probably entertain you for a few hours.


Flowlines Vs [Baltoro Games] - Aside from the on and off issues with using controllers, and the fact that unfortunately that can muddy the waters of who the better puzzle solver is between you and a friend, overall it’s not a bad package for an extremely low price. There are multiple themes and everything is colorful, though in a few cases I had to look more closely to tell the difference between 2 colors in the same puzzle. Those small issues aside, if you enjoy this sort of challenge it’s a pretty easy game to impulse buy.



This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!