Thursday, March 14

Top 20 Indie Puzzle Games on Nintendo Switch

With its casual-friendly touchscreen and play-on-the-go mentality the Switch is pretty well an ideal platform for puzzle games. Whether working well with converts from the mobile and tablet space or taking on more console-quality titles the Switch can do both with ease and flair. This is a list of 20 of the best examples the genre has to offer on the platform. Bear in mind this list is built with an eye on trying to cater to all tastes so some styles that have a lot of titles, even if very good, can’t necessarily all be represented.

The Gardens Between - 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.

Slayaway Camp - 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.

Bridge Constructor Portal - 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.

FRAMED Collection - 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.

GRIS - 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.

Baba Is You - 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.

Semblance - 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.

Death Squared - 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.

Battle Chef Brigade - 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.

Golf Peaks - 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.

Piczle Lines DX 500 More Puzzles - 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.

Bomb Chicken - 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.

Q.U.B.E. 2 - 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.

Piczle Colors - 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.

Tricky Towers - 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.

The Room - 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.

Glass Masquerade - While puzzle games don’t need to be absolutely gorgeous in order to be great, incredible visuals paired with smart play are hard not to get excited about. In Glass Masquerade your goal is roughly to complete a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, just one that is made from pieces of stained glass. This leads to some very unusual shapes and quite a large number of pieces you’ll have to restore very carefully. While the idea is relatively simple the game’s artwork is wonderful and it leads to some great challenges.

Picross S2 - The popular series is still alive and kicking and S2 is currently its best foot forward. As always the interface is wonderfully polished, and the console controls work well. Aside from the traditional puzzle style there’s now also a more challenging Mega puzzle to contend with as well. Topping it all off is the Clip Picross mode, which ups the interest and challenge by making even larger pictures that you’ll uncover through a series of multiple smaller puzzles. This leads to individual images not tending to be as meaningful visually, adding another element of difficulty. Its only ding is that hasn’t yet implemented touchscreen support.

Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood - 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.

When Ski Lifts Go Wrong - 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.

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!