Thursday, February 10

Top 100 / Best Indie Shooting Games on Nintendo Switch

Last Updated: 2/10/22!

Dusk [New Blood Interactive] - When I played just a demo of this well over a year ago at PAX East on the Switch hardware I knew it had massive potential, and playing the release version all I can say is “Bravo!” to the folks at New Blood for their efforts. Don’t let the old school low-poly look fool you, beneath that is a silky smooth FPS experience with level designs that feel both retro and modern somehow, and best of all that will throw some genuine surprises at you that help to get the blood pumping. The recent remaster of Quake was great for the opportunity to revisit a true classic, but I’m also happy to have it fresh in my mind to be confident in saying Dusk manages to run some laps around it that reflect far more capable modern hardware and some evolving gaming sensibilities. Whether playing in handheld or in docked mode this is a dual-wielding (dual shotguns are a rush) shooter that is insane in all the best ways, chock full of more secrets than you could throw a decapitated head at, priced perfectly, and even comes with a little throwback extra goodie demake, Dust ‘82, that plays well in its own right.

Metro 2033 Redux [4A Games] - Set in a post-Apocalyptic Russia, primarily taking place in the labyrinth of subway tunnels and other areas below the surface, Metro 2033 Redux is an atmospheric and pretty gritty first-person experience. Under threat by various mutated creatures and the intimidating threat of the Dark ones you’ll find yourself struggling to survive and persevere. What makes it even more great, in my mind, is that you’re able to choose the leaner and tougher original experience that forced you to play it more sparingly as a survival game, trying desperately to conserve your resources, and a more shooter-like action game. Honestly, I found both to be viable and challenging in their own right, and the atmosphere and tense action are something the Switch, to this point, has been needing.

Assault Android Cactus+ [Witch Beam] - Absolutely one of the games I had wished for the most to come to Switch since the system launched, Assault Android Cactus is a next to perfect arcade-style twin-stick shooter. Complete with intense action, big and challenging boss fights, and 9 distinct characters who each have their own primary and secondary weapons the game is full of opportunities to go back and have some more fun. The Switch version even added an additional Campaign+ mode that further ups the ante for challenge, also making it the best edition of the game out there!

Strange Brigade [Rebellion] - Having played through the full campaign of Strange Brigade with my daughter on PC, and having a terrific time with it, I was overjoyed to see this announced for Switch. While there’s no doubt that graphically things have been pulled back a bit from my top-notch graphics card I was impressed with the look and performance of the Switch version… though as always portably the sacrifices are a bit more pronounced. Whether solo or with others online or locally you’ll be tackling some old-school mummified enemies of various kinds, looking for secrets, working out puzzles, and generally being a badass in the classic Indiana Jones-esque sort of manner. While this is a shooter without a doubt the pacing is much slower than you’d normally find, with a focus on accuracy, making use of a wide variety of traps that are pretty well everywhere, and your occasional special skill that can get you out of a jam. On top of the action a highlight for me is the running commentary from the classically styled narrator who reinforces the older period things are taking place in and injecting all sorts of funny commentary on different going on throughout. If you’re looking for a shooter that’s simply in a class of its own I’d definitely recommend joining up with the Strange Brigade.

Nuclear Throne [Vlambeer] - Though it’s pretty clear in places that Nuclear Throne has aged a bit since its original release, its unapologetic degree of challenge and a wide variety of builds still make it one of the best twin-stick shooters on the Switch. This isn’t a game you’ll really ever master per se, you’ll just have deep runs where things click and you’ll find success. With some great unlockable characters, each with their own style of play, Throne has no shortage of personality and continues to push you with a “just one more run” mentality to work to get further. If you’re ready for a challenge, and can deal with its visuals having aged a bit, Nuclear Throne absolutely delivers one of the best roguelike shooting experiences on the system without question.

Atomicrops [Bird Bath Games] - For me, Atomicrops is a story of early frustration, followed by a slow warming up, which eventually became a pretty deep and addictive love. Among the many roguelike shooters on Switch it absolutely stands apart, and getting the hang of how everything works is thus an unfamiliar challenge. Are you supposed to tend your crops? Go running out into the areas to the north, south, east, and west to find seeds and supplies? Focus on making money? Make sure to plant and cultivate roses as quickly as possible since they’re an alternative and powerful currency as well? The answer to all of it pretty much turns out to be “Yes”. I don’t think there’s only one strategy or set of tactics that will make you successful but since the game provides you with very little overall guidance and there are simply a staggering number of power-ups and pieces of equipment you may encounter you’re going to need to try and fail quite a bit before you’ll have some “Aha!” moments and feel like you’ve got your feet under you. The thing is, once I turned that corner and finally began to know just enough to pick the power-ups that best suited the situation in my current run, wisely choosing how and when to invest and in what, I got hooked and had to keep playing until I finally completed Year 1. Outside of a lack of much helpful guidance, which really can make the early game a bit of a bummer, my only other major complaint is that as the screen gets full of stuff happening at night and there’s chaos everywhere, at times you’ll swear you’re taking damage but can’t tell from what. It happening only once in a while you can write it off as you just missing something but the more it happened (once every few runs) the harder I would look and there were times I legitimately had no idea what killed me, never a good thing, but obviously not something so common I couldn’t be successful. If you’ve been feeling like roguelike shooters have been feeling too much alike and in need of an evolution be sure to give Atomicrops a shot, I think it’ll “grow” on you.

Sniper Elite 4 [Rebellion] - The Sniper Elite series has always been an interesting red-headed step-child off to the side of the FPS genre. There’s no doubt its cornerstone element is the art of sniping, as well as the slow-mo kill cam shots of bullets ripping through your enemies, but to this point outside of that the games have been a bit clunky. The mechanics were always decent but the limiting factor was often the level design since the areas were simply too confined so conceptually it wouldn’t take your enemies much effort to figure out where you were positioned with so few options available to you. This entry completely blows that criticism out of the water, replacing overly constrained areas with large and wonderfully varied environments that absolutely encourage exploration and experimentation. Not only will you find random hidden stashes here and there, you’re really given the freedom to choose your personal path to success whether that’s storming in a straight line for your threat, or taking the long way to flank and utilize an element of surprise to devastating effect. This really is the leap in quality of level design I’ve been waiting for with the series, moving it away from being more of a niche bit of fun and making it a legitimate contender with the more successful series out there. Sure, you’re always going to want to set up those great long shots and enjoy the thrill of ripping a slow-mo shot through someone’s lungs, but now the connective tissue between those moments feels stealthier, smarter, and more engaging than ever. Throw in online multiplayer modes that also offer some pleasant surprises and this series finally feels like it has earned the elite in its name.

Everspace - Stellar Edition [ROCKFISH Games] - As a massive fan of the classic Wing Commander series this is a title that easily caught my eye while it was on PC. There's absolutely no doubt that it nails the space combat aspect very well, offering up variability with its roguelike structure, multiple ships you can experiment with and a variety of weapons as well. While it doesn't quite have something akin to the space opera I always enjoyed it absolutely delivers with its solid and challenging gameplay.

Steredenn - Binary Stars [Plug In Digital] - Moving in a very different direction Steredenn is a bullet hell roguelike space shooter that has some truly bonkers weapons and challenges. While you'll have more traditional options in your arsenal the inclusion of some crazy melee-based weapons changes the formula around a bit and encourage experimentation to find the weapons that suit your play style and the variety of scenarios you'll need to be able to survive.

Tesla Vs. Lovecraft [10Tons] - As a massive fan of shooters you knew there would have to be some love thrown in that direction. While there were many outstanding titles in that genre on the Switch in 2018 none of them was as exciting, challenging, and satisfying for me as this twin-stick shooter from the folks at 10 Tons. While it may get off to a bit of a slow start, allowing you to get acclimated and accumulate some perks, once this game turns up the intensity it gets to be an adrenaline-fueled rush where you'll be looking for power-ups and then laughing maniacally when you get to power up your steampunk mech suit and rip through hordes of enemies. Consistently producing great titles I can't wait to see what's coming from one of my favorite indie developers next on Switch.

Enter The Gungeon [Dodge Roll] - At the time of its announcement as one of the most anticipated roguelike shooters for the Switch among the people ""in the know"", Enter the Gungeon is as preposterous as it is bullet-laden. Full of personality, bizarre enemies, over-the-top bosses, and some truly ridiculous weapons you'll never quite be sure what to expect each time you go down into the Gungeon. If you're up for the challenge it delivers its own flavor of bullet hell with a distinct sense of flair.

Boomerang X [DANG!] - With indie titles I’m always tickled when I encounter something just a bit different that feels fresh and challenging, and for me Boomerang X (though perhaps a bit on the short side overall) fits nicely into that groove. Quickly acquiring the said boomerang, which I prefer to imagine as the legendary Glaive from the movie Krull (yes, it has one less prong and looks different, but this is my Colwyn fantasy!) you’ll very consistently be given some new move or technique and then a series of trials that will push you to show mastery of that new skill. Once you’re rolling you’ll be dashing, floating in slow-mo, and picking off enemies who get increasingly challenging like a pro… though each new and tougher variant you may need to puzzle over before understanding how to take them out. Perhaps the rough handful of hours you get is appropriate, as it keeps the title from overstaying its welcome, but I still would love to see a few more levels of craziness to really push my skills tacked onto the end just to give the solid design its full and fitting due. If you’re a fan of accurate shooting while on the fly and some quick-moving traversal this should satisfy you pretty much completely.

Earth Defense Force: World Brothers [YUKE] - While I’ve generally heard good things about the Earth Defense Force series, to date it’s one that I’ve never had the pleasure to check out. But I’ll tell you what, it pretty quickly and easily turned me into a fan. It’s all about giant bugs and kaiju-sized monsters, the end of the world, and blowing everything in sight up real good… and while perhaps that doesn’t make it terribly nuanced it sure can be a blast (quite literally). While I obviously can’t contrast it with previous entries or comment on how it has either evolved or stagnated in the greater series, viewed as a stand-alone title I’m impressed by the great voxel-based look which works perfectly for maximum destruction, the pretty wide variety of compatriots you’ll rescue along the way to continue to add more diversity into your squad, and the bonkers story that makes no attempt at all to let concepts like reality enter into the mix. Best yet, you can enjoy it with friends or even online, though as always I’ll throw in the caveat that online support for Switch games outside of the massive AAA titles tends to come and go in a hurry. All in all it’s a great and ridiculous distraction from all of the troubles you may have, allowing you to lock in, destroy everything you see, and embrace the controlled chaos of it all.

Mushihimesama [Cave] - While there are certainly more modern takes on bullet hell shmups from the past it’s always interesting to see an OG classic come to the system and show people how it's done. While I hadn’t previously had the pleasure to play Mushihimesama its a title whose reputation preceeds it, and I’m inclined to agree with the accolades I’ve seen for it after spending some time with it. For the most part there aren’t overly complicated systems to learn or techniques to master, it’s purely a matter of being effective at dodging everything coming your way, maximizing your power-up opportunities, and blowing up everything in sight. As you’d hope or perhaps expect you’re also able to play it vertically so people with a FlipGrip or other means can moreso enjoy the experience as it was meant to be played in full, though I’ll note that without manually setting a zoom it still doesn’t utilize the full screen which was a bit of a disappointing detail. For people who aren’t full-blown fans of the genre it will probably seem insanely tough, but for people with a deep-seated muscle memory for dodging it’s a terrific old-school taste of insanity.

Huntdown [Easy Trigger Games] - As a fan of old school shooters and beat-em-ups of all persuasions perhaps it was inevitable I’d be a Huntdown fan. Thrown into an effort to bring down various gang factions in your futuristic city you’ll take control of one of three different officers in an attempt to bring down the bad guys. Hoo boy, and as it goes on will you need to work for it. I think it got off to a rocky start for me, not quite feeling as fluid in the controls and versatility for aiming as I’d like but growing on me with its tone and general style. Things are going to get tough, gritty, and downright bloody as you try to shoot and beat your way through enemies. Capped off with a battle against one of the sector bosses, the general length of stages hits a nice sweet spot, giving you time to get your groove on without generally overstaying its welcome. Bosses are quite varied, and at times this can mean they don’t get tougher on a consistent curve so much as be unpredictably easy or tough, but at least they pose a challenge. Borrowing both visual and gameplay elements and beats from diverse arcade titles of the past, Huntdown feels both familiar and fresh, I just would wish for the initial curve to be a bit less steep to allow a wider audience to not hit a likely wall quite so early.

Jet Lancer [Vladimir Fedyushkin] - With so many high-quality shooters of all types and styles it takes some effort to put something new on the table, particularly something that stands apart from the rest with its own style. Jet Lancer manages to do just that with an intense and very inertia-based flying style, that takes some getting used to, and blends it with arcade-like swarms of enemies and even some terrific boss fights that will put your skills to the test. That isn’t to say it’s perfect. I’ve hit some rough patches when things have gotten intense a few times, hit a crash or two, and there’s no doubt some people won’t either “get” or enjoy the flight style in the game that reminds me most of the well-regarded Luftrausers (still somehow not on Switch!). However, if you’re ready and willing to bring the fight to your foes, keep your combo meter up, and knock enemy ships out of the sky with a mix of guns, barrages of missiles, and some great unlocks that will let you tune your ship to better suit your style Jet Lancer can be a ton of fun.

Metro Last Light Redux [4A Games] - Released at the same time as Metro 2033 Redux, the original chapter of the series (you can get them together on the Metro Redux physical cart at retail), Last Light picks up where the original left off. Without spoiling the revelations of the conclusion of the first game I’ll say that while the focus in the original was generally on The Dark Ones and the threat of mutants, Last Light shifts to the monstrous nature of humanity itself as factions have overtaken the landscape and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a different kind of struggle. As with the first you’ll have the choice to play the game in more of a survival-oriented vein where you’ll need to carefully manage and conserve your resources, or in an action-forward way that more closely resembles traditional FPS play. The strength of the game is the combination of atmosphere and tension it creates, and what amounts to a karma system which will affect the ultimate outcome of the narrative depending on how you handle certain situations throughout your campaign.

Rigid Force Redux [com8com1 Software] - When it comes to shmups on Switch the tendency is to see either games that tap firmly into nostalgia, adopting classic looks and play styles, or those that innovate and do things their own way. What I think makes Rigid Force Redux notable is that moreso than any other shooter I’ve played on Switch it feels like it manages to carefully walk the tightrope smack dab in the middle of those concepts. While it has primary and secondary weapon pick-ups as well as a general structure with elements reminiscent of the classics, the ability to reconfigure the position of your drones tightly forward, in a wider spread, or then behind you opens up new challenges and some surprises to help make things feel fresh. Granted, though not unusual for shooters of these types, when it comes to overall length the campaign is over faster than you’ll want it to be, and while you can then chase high scores afterwards it’s the breaking of new ground and the unexpected that provides more of the thrills, the rest can be fun but lacks that same spark. If you’re a fan of the genre you should find this to be a smart and fun experience, and more importantly for more casual fans who find the likes of bullet hells to be too intimidating the degree of challenge here is more mild and accessible, making it an appealing all-around package for just about anyone.

Ruiner [Reikon Games] - With its visual flair, dystopian world, and what appeared to be a penchant for tense and violent action, Ruiner has been on my radar for quite some time. When it was released on other platforms my heart sunk a bit though, as it seemed to be pretty widely criticized for cranking up the difficulty too far and coming up short on fun. Count this as an instance where the delay in the game coming to Switch was absolutely a blessing. You’re a man on a mission, though revelations over the course of the story continue to make you question who you’re working for and whether everyone may simply be out to manipulate you for their own bloody purposes. The good news is that towards those bloody ends you’ll have access to quite a diverse arsenal of both projectile and melee weapons, though in general you won’t be able to use any of them for very long before needing to pick up another. This dynamic, mixed with a diverse perk system, makes every battle improvisational, requiring you to keep on the move and on the lookout for any opportunities that may present themselves. The most useful (and fun) thing to keep track of are enemies who are on the edge of death that you can dispatch with a finisher, with the incentive not just being a cool kill but often some crucial health or energy that can help keep you from being overwhelmed. Sure, there can be skirmishes that seem less well-balanced than others, and in the end I found the time wandering around town to be wasted effort, but overall these are small criticisms. While Ruiner may not be perfect, it was a title I couldn’t stop playing until the credits rolled. Intense, violent, surprisingly varied, and I’d argue quite replayable due to the wide variety of perks you can invest skill points in, its mix of shooting and slashing feels quite distinct and it’s one of the most satisfying games I’ve played this year.

Void Bastards [Blue Manchu] - While I’ve seen a few titles try to step up to the plate to establish a solid roguelike FPS to date nobody has really nailed the entire formula. Whether because the roguelike elements were out of balance or shooting itself just wasn’t well-implemented, that has left room for someone to come onto the scene and show how it can be done right. Finally, with the release of Void Bastards, it seems like someone is squarely on the right track, just be ready to struggle a bit as you get the hang of things. You control what are essentially disposable criminals, each with different quirks (ala Rogue Legacy), and through perseverance you’ll begin to make your way further and further along in your mission, shooting, crafting, and sometimes simply running away in order to survive a variety of enemy encounters in space. Initially it can be a bit overwhelming as you learn the ropes, knowing which ships to try to hit for what supplies, how to deal with different threats, which shipboard systems are best to try to utilize and how, and also just when to know you need to panic and get the hell off a ship before you die. Perhaps unsurprisingly this can lead to there being a bit of a hump to get over, equipped with just enough crafted gear and earned experience to help yourself get further along. If you’re a major fan of roguelikes or have been hoping to see a new formula in your FPS gameplay this is absolutely going to be worth checking out.

Airheart - Tales of Broken Wings [Blindflug Studios] - This is a game that splices together twin-stick shooting, careful exploration, and crafting, but then throwing in roguelike procedurally-generated levels as well. The result is unique and quite challenging, but also very smart when it comes to technique, making it a truly memorable journey. It’s gorgeous, at times serene, and then knows how to get down to business with plenty of shooting action and nuance if you’re willing to take the time to get skilled at using your harpoon. It’s very much the crazy mix of exploration, “fishing”, shooting, crafting, and a number of situations that will catch you by surprise and challenge you. While perhaps a little rough around some edges, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Freedom Finger [Wide Right Interactive] - When I originally caught this title at PAX I was drawn in by its sheer attitude, blending together some great voice acting, an abundance of perhaps crude but entertaining humor, and an absolutely kicking soundtrack. It’s when you play the game though that the nuances of a great arcade shooter emerge and impress further. The mechanics of grabbing and then either throwing enemies or using their weapons rather than power-ups is smart and effective. The fact that every track of the music influences the speed, style, and flow of each stage is then just icing on the cake. In many regards Freedom Finger defies easy traditional characterization, never fully committing to any set arcade style and instead providing a pretty balanced buffet of action and smart level designs. That ultimately help it stand out just as much as its surface-level fun and makes it easy to recommend if you’re up for some giggles and a challenge.

Galak-Z The Void [17-Bit] - With its exploration focus, diverse combat options, and pretty unique gameplay Galak-Z is a favorite indie of mine that has finally come home to the Switch and it feels like home. Beware, the bigger aliens and enemy mechs you’ll encounter along the way will make for quite a challenge, but if you make effective use of your ship’s abilities and arsenal (and maybe a little bit of luck) you can do quite well. Definitely worth a look for fans of classic sci-fi anime, laser fire, and big-ass robots.

Grand Brix Shooter [IntraGames] - While I’m a big fan of arcade-style shooters of all types I’ll admit that generating excitement for them is getting tougher on Switch as there have gotten to be so many of them. Thankfully their styles tend to be a bit varied, and many have something smart and distinct to offer to help them stand apart. That’s very much the case for Grand Brix Shooter, a title that I initially just thought was good but then as I played it more began to truly appreciate. I love the very different classes of ships that you’ll unlock and that are made available unpredictably in missions, I’m consistently challenged by some of the tricky bosses, and I think the need to regularly switch to a new ship (losing your built up experience and added power) in order to get back to full health and improve your chances of surviving is brilliant. The weirdo story you get that generally feels completely disconnected? A mystery, but there’s no denying the shooting is great!

Hell is Other Demons [Cuddle Monster Games] - All things considered, Hell is Other Demons is a very good platforming shooter that plays smart, is challenging, and ultimately will support a wide variety of styles through its varied weapons and upgrades. While in docked mode the characters may look a bit chunky that means in handheld mode everything is very easy to see and helps make play on the go all the more viable. Each increasingly-powerful weapon you get to work with tends to encourage different styles of play and that keeps things consistently interesting and exciting. This is yet another shooter deserving of your time and attention and it deserves a place among the top tier of titles in the genre on Switch.

Hotline Miami Collection [Dennaton] - Shadow dropped as a surprise this year, Hotline Miami was one of those indie darling titles that had shocked me continuing to be a hold out more than 2 years after the system’s launch. To help soften the blow, and in what I think is a nod to practicality, both the original and its sequel have been released together in this collection. This helps with the fact that neither game is terribly long and, in general, the sequel isn’t quite as beloved as its predecessor. These titles are all about execution, thinking and reacting quickly, and often a fair amount of luck. Both are brutal in their violence, but there’s something quite satisfying when you manage to string together a series of kills and leave a bloody mess in your wake. If you’re hoping for more, the story here is on the thin (and weird) side, but there’s no denying that when it comes to intensity and carnage there’s nothing quite like it.

Jamestown+ [Final Form Games] - The Switch has most certainly been blessed with a wide variety of excellent shmups since its release and with the release of Jamestown+ there’s now another strong contender on the pile. With an unusual alt-history story, a variety of unlockable ships whose style changes the gameplay pretty substantially, and a very consistent challenge no matter what the stage it really delivers. For some added fun and challenge throw a few friends onto the pile and it can make for a screen full of chaos and fun, for sure. If your tendencies are towards a more classic arcade shooting experience, moreso than its competition Jamestown+ has elements that are fresh but are still very rooted in  that overall feel, and it very much delivers reliably consistent and challenging gameplay to boot.

Juicy Realm [SpaceCan] - When it comes to roguelike shooters I’m both a tremendous fan and often a picky critic. We’ve been absolutely spoiled on this system with some incredibly varied top-tier titles that range from having a quick hit arcade feel to ones that are a slower burn and almost adventure-like. That makes it tough for new titles to break in, needing to throw down something pretty impressive to crack through and compete. Juicy Realm is absolutely a game that does just that, using its somewhat unusual art style and characters to suck you in, but then making you work hard to survive while working with some bizarre weapons and a fair amount of risk and reward as you try to go the distance. Varied initial characters are complemented by even more that can be unlocked, and while the random nature of the weapons you may encounter tends to make them a little more alike each person’s special skills can make a massive difference depending on how you prefer to play. Small complaints like the exits sometimes being far harder to spot than they should be are there but the core gameplay makes it easy to ignore completely so you can just keep playing. Throw in progressive powering up, new weapon unlocks, and ways to increase your burden for more rewards and this could easily become your go-to shooter on the system for quite some time.

My Friend Pedro [DeadToast Entertainment] - All in all My Friend Pedro handily delivers what it promises, bonkers gunplay, challenging scenarios, and when you’re on top of things a ballet of violence. It would have still been a blast to play even with less variety, but the care put into upping the stakes and providing plenty of insane situations over its runtime is very much appreciated. Be aware that the struggle to succeed while looking cool can be very real, you’ll need to take things one step at a time and develop your repertoire for slow-motion violence before it all moves to another level of fun, but the investment is well worth your while.

Bleed 2 [BootdiskRevolution] - While sharing a lot in common with the original title Bleed 2 made critical refinements to make this run and gun shooting experience far more exciting and accessible. Quick and challenging, complete with some insane boss fights, it stands out with a style all its own. Throw in the temptation for repeat runs using different characters, each with their own feel, and it can deliver a lot of unique fun.

Guns, Gore, And Cannoli 2 [Crazy Monkey Studios] - Another sequel that took what worked in the original and then made it better on all levels, this side-scrolling zombie-blaster is terrific fun whether you're solo or playing with friends. The 360 degree aiming feels great, the level design and progression are creative and often unpredictable, and the violence makes for a bloody good time.

Ikaruga [Treasure] - Though it's a carry-over from the previous generation there's still no other space shooter quite like Ikaruga. Not only is there the bullet hell component to contend with, but you'll also be trying to manage your ship's color polarity as taking down enemy ships as well as what can damage you is dependent on which color you've switched to. This creates an almost puzzle-like component that sits on top of some very intense shooting, making Ikaruga a standout shooter for people who like a challenge.

Stardust Galaxy Warriors [Dreamloop Games] - To think that when this title snuck onto the eShop I almost missed it. Since I'd not heard of it in advance of its release I almost didn't reach out for it since it was a busy time of year. I'm very glad that I didn't miss it though as it was one of the best shooters I played in 2018. Whether you're playing solo or co-op with some friends the number of different mechs and weapons you have to choose from to customize your builds open the door to repeat playthroughs and experimentation. With all sorts of ways to tune the degree of challenge as well it's a highly accessible shooter to people at all levels of experience with the genre.

Super Hydorah [Locomalito] - While inspired by the classics like R-Type and Gradius, Super Hydorah has a great feel and style all its own. You're able to choose your path at specific branches, though there's nothing stopping you from backtracking to grab more enhancements. You'll then need to carefully consider your loadout for each stage since each has their own challenges and there's no single solution that best addresses them all. A great mixture of retro play and modern sensibilities.

The Bug Butcher [Awfully Nice Studios] - This is another title I hadn't heard too much about and almost missed that I'm very glad I go to check out this year. Essentially playing out like a faster and more intense version of the classic Pang (Buster Bros), The Bug Butcher is a load of arcade shooting fun and while it can get pretty tough I couldn't stop playing it until I beat the game. Great stuff and well worth checking out if you love classic arcade shooters.

Velocity 2X [FuturLab] - Making games that feature multiple play styles is always a bit of a risk, as getting either of them wrong can really sour the experience. However, when a game like Velocity 2X comes along and does a great job in both areas, in this case space shooting and running and gunning platforming, it does make them far more memorable. You'll move between both styles pretty often, starting out in the more traditional space shooting mode but then needing to go on foot to unlock or disable defenses getting in your way. Full of upgrades and a steadily increasing degree of challenge this was a great addition to the Switch lineup this year.

Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron [HandyGames] - The classic arcade shooter 1943 and its many variants are among my favorites of all time and Aces does an incredible job of capturing what works in those games and then modernizing it. Hardly just a stock bullet hell shooter the variety of side missions you'll look to complete along the campaign will require you to use some strategy as well as technique. A per-pilot upgrade system that will give you a variety of new buffs and power-ups will help you shore up your weak points or simply make you more lethal, and down the stretch the bosses will test your skills sorely so you'll want and need any help you can get. Still probably the best overall modern arcade shooter I've played on any platform, and its new DLC just further sweetned the deal.

GoNNER [Art in Heart] - I'm not gonna lie, GoNNER gets off to a very rough start and it a true roguelike in that it is frustrating and hard as balls. That said, as you get the hang of it and unlock more heads, weapons, and gear you'll find combinations that work for you through experimentation and then things start to look up. There are some terrific combinations that are a lot of fun but I tend to gravitate towards the scythe and shark fin for maximum carnage. What brings it all together is the reactive audio that continues to get more frantic as you increase your multiplier and then once you reach a certain point it all goes crazy! If you're down for a challenge it is one of my favorite titles on the Switch!

Graceful Explosion Machine [Vertex Pop] - As one of the first indie titles to arrive on the Switch, Graceful Explosion Machine got a lot of attention at the time for being colorful, challenging, and great fun for people who like score chasing. Almost a year, and over 200 indie titles later, very little of its luster has faded and it remains a distinctive and well-executed GEM in the Switch line-up.

Neon Chrome [10Tons] - I'd originally fallen in love with Neon Chrome on PC where I beat the game 4 times and it kept getting more intense and fun each time. Having to start out from nothing on the Switch I came to appreciate how much I had learned to lean on some of the game's most potent enhancements but I was more than happy to make it work with whatever I had and make my way to the Overseer all over again. It's challenging, exciting, and you'll need to work with what you're given but if you love twin-stick shooting it is among the most satisfying of the games of this type I've played.

NeuroVoider [Flying Oak Games] - As much as I enjoy the game that isn’t to say there aren’t some frustrations. Particularly on larger levels it can be easy to get a bit lost and the lack of a mini map or something to help show where you’ve already been can lead to fruitless backtracking. Compounding this problem is the fact that there are visible spots in levels where you simply won’t be able to go and there are areas that look like walls you can pass through and those that you can’t. While generally there are enemies around to keep you clued in to where to go next once you’ve cleared areas it can then be harder to tell where to go. In addition, while the upgrade menus are functional they can also take some getting used to and feel cumbersome. Since upgrading is so vital to the game anything that could be done to streamline things further and reduce your time spent in menus would be greatly appreciated. Probably the biggest flaw that comes to mind is just that there’s nothing that clues you in on when your health is critically low. The majority of times that I’ve died in the game it has been sudden and without me really knowing I was in serious trouble. The lack of a clear audio or visual cue for this both forces you to try to keep an eye on your health gauge constantly and robs the game of an opportunity to create some tension as you try to hold on to your last slivers of life. Just small things but I think they’d continue to make the game better.

Archvale [Idoz, idoz & phops] - This is just one of those titles that’s hard to describe in a way that gives it justice, a sort of retro-looking twin-stick slasher/shooter adventure that has some RPG elements, and will involve you needing to periodically do some intense dodging. See, I told you it was tough, I think it’s one of those games that’s easier to describe simply watching it. Your gear is vital to your success, whether purchased or crafted, and the meandering layout of the map will definitely have you regularly warping back and forth between points as you go since it isn’t unusual to find yourself heavily outclassed at the end of a given path or within a dungeon. At times I do wish the game did a better job at providing some guidance, as early on I found myself wondering what I was supposed to be doing or where I was supposed to go, but once you accept there’s not going to be much direction you just roll with it. While perhaps the experience could use some polish to bring it all together a bit more, the reasonably-low price of admission does fit well with its no-frills approach, delivering satisfying twin-stick combat where you can use some pretty diverse and powerful weapons, and generally maintaining a tough-but-fair degree of challenge throughout. A nice change of pace and bit of fun marrying some classic adventure elements with more rigorous and intense shooter-like combat.

Astro Aqua Kitty [Tikipod Limited] - I like it when games manage to surprise me a little bit, especially when they’re in genres where I feel like I’ve seen just about everything. Even as much as I love retro-styled shooters, and have played a ton of them, there’s just something about Astro Aqua Kitty that feels a bit different. With large spaces and multi-step missions, there’s almost an Adventure-like quality to play here, though make no mistake you’ll need to do plenty of shooting and in spots it can get challenging. Managing your upgrades and perks is essential as you progress, and finding the right synergy of weapons that don’t have you too quickly running on empty with your power can be tricky but the freedom of choice you have is quite welcome and not typical for the genre. Leveraging plenty of cute kitty-ness and some very classic arcade shooting, Astro Aqua Kitty delivers a surprisingly satisfying experience for a budget-friendly offering.

B.ARK [TicToc Games] - What can I say, when you throw some cute pups into a game you’ve got my attention. B.ARK, as pained as that acronym seemed to have been to construct, is a side-scrolling shooter with classic arcade roots but certainly some modern flair as well. Whether playing solo (which is a bit tougher) or with some friends, it’s colorful, has some great enemy and boss designs, and tends to keep you busy dodging bullets and being careful about how and when to deploy your charged shots and power-ups. My one warning would be that to look at it parents could be thinking it’s so cute and may be a fun match for younger gamers. You could go that route, but this is a legitimately challenging shooter even by default so unless they’re the type that grits their teeth and is determined to “git gud” this may not be as solid a match as you could think based on its colorful look and cute characters. If you’re into shooters and appreciate games that are willing to deviate from the old-school and plain spaceship formula to have a little more fun though it’s a great match.

G-Darius HD [Taito Corporation] - It’s always a bit tough to evaluate re-releases of classic arcade-style shooters coming to the system. Even being remastered or improved in some way they’re obviously not particularly new, and familiar franchise gameplay can also tend to fall flat at times. Even with those sentiments in mind G-Darius HD exceeded my expectations, being an iteration of the classic Darius games I’d never played and, aside from making some use of decidedly early polygonal graphics for its bosses, its style of play and flow is a nice change of pace for me. Rather than merely having the traditional screen-clearing “bomb” attack common to traditional shooters you instead have the ability to try to enlist an enemy craft to your aid, adding a layer of challenge, risk, and sometimes excitement to the mix when you’re able to wrangle something a bit more powerful to your side. Add in the classic branching path structure and a fairly high degree of challenge and the replayability if you’re a shooting fan will also likely be well-fed. After a string of decent arcade-style shooter translations that have been more for nostalgic value than consistent fun G-Darius HD feels like a solid choice all-around.

Mighty Goose [Blastmode] - As a classic arcade shooting fan the Metal Slug series has always had a place in my heart for its intensity, variety, and explosive fun. If you take that formula, throw in some modern bells and whistles like selectable upgrades and sidekicks for help, and then make the protagonist a honking hero you get Mighty Goose! Calling it a bit bonkers would be an understatement, as it manages to be silly, chaotic, challenging, and a lot of fun all at once. You can expect a variety of powerful weapons, vehicles that amp up your damage (and the fun), power-ups, and tough boss fights along the way as well as explosions everywhere most of the time. That does, at times, come at the cost of clarity, I’ll admit, as some of the battles fill the screen with so much chaos that staying alive can be a challenge, but there are patterns to pretty well everything and more often than not the key is keeping an eye out for health packs to grab when the time is right to keep yourself in the fight. It’s rare that games that look to emulate the classic Metal Slug series do it justice, but Mighty Goose has managed to do just that and is a honking good time to boot.

Quake [MachineGames] - OK, so I don’t think anyone needs to tell you that Quake is one of the most influential first-person shooters of all-time. Sure, id and 3D Realms originated the genre with the likes of DOOM and Duke Nukem but Quake brought the genre screaming into the full 3D space for the first time full of intensity, a killer soundtrack, revolutionary multiplayer, and quality level design that even holds up reasonably well today. As for the port itself to Switch I’ve never really played the game looking and feeling better. Visually it’s crisp and clean, the action is fluid and pretty well flawless, and aiming using the dual sticks feels almost as accurate as my old school preferred mouse (well, in my case a trackball) and keyboard. My one complaint may just be that I wish the music was more raucously loud to help fully transport me back in time, but that’s obviously incredibly minor. I did debate whether or not this could even remotely be considered an “indie” title but with it being thoroughly and lovingly retro and showing up on the eShop at all of $10 full-price I’ve made that call and will stand by it. If you consider yourself a FPS nut, or even have a modest interest in the preservation of cornerstone titles in the history of video games this is absolutely worth owning and appreciating.

Raiden IV x MIKADO Remix [Moss] - With an abundance of retro shooters on the Switch it can be a challenge to differentiate them, but for old school arcade fans the Raiden name should be enough to grab some attention alone. Fully bringing a well-made, intense, and gorgeous arcade shooter to Switch is thankfully within the capabilities of the developers and the system and, though tastes in shooter styles may vary, this remix brings great gameplay as well as some variety in spades across its varied modes. Granted, if you were expecting any sort of deviation from the core classic series in terms of power-ups or style you’d be disappointed, but if you’re looking to recapture some great feels of the classic arcade get yourself a Switch Grip (so you can play it vertically, as the universe intended), load this up, and jump into the craziness.

Space Scavenger [Red Cabin Games] - There’s absolutely no denying that fans of twin-stick roguelike shooters, like myself, have an embarrassment of riches on the system. Great news for fans, less great news for developers trying to stand out from the formidable pack. In the case of Space Scavenger the hook is customization, in this case literally getting configure the build of your ship, LEGO-style, assembling parts the best you can within the rules to suit your style, but more often than not make lemonade out of lemons with as you improvise your way to success. While the first area acts as a decent primer to get you started, don’t fool yourself to think it stays that easy for long. You will absolutely be challenged to cobble your way to success, making the most of what you have on hand, and then strategically selling and then buying gear in periodic shops to try to put yourself in a position to succeed. Whether streamlined or bulked up, depending on your gear different strategies for configuring your ship may be in order, opening the door to a pretty smart learning process as you determine what works best for you and what pitfalls to avoid based on experience. In terms of the pure shooting action of things it may lack the intensity of some of its peers but as a total package there’s no denying it has some appeal with the hook of patching together a spaceship that’s all yours.

Tesla Force [10Tons] - My feelings on this title swung around a bit since, at first blush, Tesla Force has a ton in common with 10Tons previous release of Tesla Vs Lovecraft, changing out a more arcade-like roguelike shooter for a more traditional roguelike style. However, once I invested some time and began unlocking new playable characters, perks, and weapons, everything quickly came together. In particular playing as Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft, who both differ in feel from the original Tesla quite a bit, kicked my enjoyment into overdrive. Navigating the map in each zone is also a great addition, as it forces you to do some planning to be take advantage of potential perks in some areas along the way, while being mindful that lingering too long will allow the doom clock to tick away another hour, making all of your enemies more formidable. Yet again 10Tons has proven that they’re kings of making great twin-stick shooters, now I’m just hoping they can revisit another earlier favorite of mine and revisit Neon Chrome to give it an update.

Trigger Witch [Rainbite] - OK, so I’ll admit it, games that do something weird to combine elements I know and love tend to catch me by surprise and can make me inflate my scoring to go with that feeling. While I suspect that’s the case for Trigger Witch, a game I’ll readily admit is by no means perfect, I’m still on board for the idea and the majority of its execution. Imagine a Zelda-esque top-down adventure but rather than using your sword, or perhaps sensibly magic since your character is a witch, you’ll instead be packing some heat and shooting things up twin-stick style. Since this is the first title I’ve played in this vein the novelty really works for me, though I think the next one I would tackle I’d have some higher expectations for in terms of refinement. The characters and dialogue are quirky, the shooting action may not be as intense and tough as I prefer but I found it to be fun, and I think Trigger Witch makes an excellent case for more developers to get ambitious and take on making this style of play an official thing… because I’m definitely down for more.

Colt Canyon [Retrific] - Whenever a new roguelike shooter arrives on the scene you know I’m there with a degree of eagerness to see how it has turned out. The thing is, the hill to climb for roguelike shooter greatness has continued to get tougher over the years, honestly the Switch has been blessed with so many great ones of all types that claiming a prime spot on the pile is a challenge. Enter Colt Canyon, a game I’ve checked out at PAX before but aside from having a pretty simple and old-school pixelated look never made a huge impression on me. Whether it has been tweaked since those demos I’ve played or whether in the rush through appointments didn’t allow me enough time to truly get engaged with it I’ll admit my impressions were pretty far off the mark. Taking into account the variety in the heroes you can choose (they need to be unlocked but honestly this wasn’t hard to do), the weapons you’ll encounter, and the various perks you’ll have to choose from if you take the time to find people who have been held captive, the result is pretty challenging and satisfying. Moreso than most roguelike shooters the emphasis here is on using your dash and melee attacks as much as possible. Ammo isn’t necessarily scarce but your carry capacity limitations can deplete your rounds pretty quickly in a big firefight, guns are noisy and attract attention so stealthily chipping away at bad guys can be preferred, and for many guns the reload time can make them a liability when things get crazy. Put together this all makes for a shooter that has a very different flow than its competition, and paired with a pretty modest price I consider it to be worth a look if you’re itching for some pretty challenging shooter action.

Fury Unleashed [Awesome Games Studio] - With a comic book-inspired look, a pretty wide array of over-the-top weapons, and challenges aplenty Fury Unleashed is a roguelike platform shooter with plenty of personality. You play the role of the somewhat stock 80s-style hero, buffed up and ready to kick ass, and over the course of the game’s major chapters (which each are made to look like their own comic book, each with their own theme and enemies) you’ll be sorely tested. This isn’t a game you’ll come out of the gates tearing through, you’ll need to grind and earn it, slowly customizing your perks, gaining access to better starter gear through challenges, and coming to understand how best to be effective in your runs. In the end it is really about moving quickly and decisively, keeping your combo meter up so that you can earn health “ink”. It may seem counter-intuitive, that in order to try to heal yourself you’ll need to be aggressive, putting yourself at risk to lose more health, but that’s how this experience rolls. The thing is, you’ll have plenty of wild weapons, ranging from simpler guns to grenade launchers, sawblade guns, and more as well as devastating melee weapons, grenades, and even a deadly stomp attack at your disposal. Once you get into a groove and understand how to approach specific enemies you’ll begin to have more success, just look out for some of the game’s tough-as-nails bosses as well. If it weren’t for the variety and personality in the game the level of difficulty could have been more of a bummer but there’s just something about the whole package that kept me wanting to come back for more.

Serious Sam Collection [Croteam] - As time has gone on the first-person shooter genre has gone through quite a lot of changes and evolution, generally moving from simply being all about blowing through hordes of enemies and trying to add in either story elements or genre mixes to help it become a bit more elevated. Then there are titles like the Serious Sam series that are pretty well determined to stay in place and revel in the simplicity of carnage and crazy-ass enemies to blow apart… and as this collection proves that can still work when it’s handled correctly. You’ll be able to enjoy all 3 titles in the Sam trilogy as well as the DLC add-ons for the last of the series and follow Sam from his beginnings killing in the desert, then to more tropical locales, then to wrecked cities, and more while dispatching a host of weird and generally unique foes using an arsenal ranging from the more ordinary to the ridiculous. Granted, at times Sam feels like he’s trying a bit too hard to imitate Duke Nukem in terms of his one-liners and bits of dialogue but for the most part the style and feel of the action is at least distinctive. Yes, there are more evolved shooters on the platform without a doubt, as well as some AAA shooters that appropriately carry a higher price tag, but if you’re just down to blow stuff up on a budget it’s hard to argue there’s a better overall value on the system.

Space Invaders Forever [Taito Corporation] - Retro remix collections tend to be a mixed bag, but for fans of arcade classics even though not every title in Forever is equally compelling it still delivers the goods. What I’d consider the weakest link in the package is novel Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE, though I will give it credit for being the most novel in the bunch since it does support up to 4 players who can play a wide screen and more varied version of the classic game complete with some unexpected modes and tough boss battles. In the middle there’s the carryover from the mobile space, the very well-made Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders which you’ll play vertically using the touchscreen. The combination of these two classic franchises actually works quite well, and the addition of different characters that then have varying abilities keeps things fresh through quite a bit of content, but there’s no missing the original mobile game DNA that exhibits itself in a variety of ways. The crown jewel of the package by far is Space Invaders Extreme though, which I have very fond memories of enjoying on my PSP back in the day. The varied levels, branching paths, crazy modes, and colorful overall presentation absolutely make this one of my favorite retro reduxes of all time. If you’re a big fan of classic arcade titles given a jolt of modernity this is absolutely one worth checking out.

Dead End Job [Ant Workshop Ltd] - As a huge fan of twin-stick roguelike shooters, and with plenty of excellent ones already on the Switch, my interest is always piqued by a new contender in this space. Coming to the table with an art style and sense of humor that reminds me of classic Ren & Stimpy was a strong opener, but if it didn’t have solid gameplay to back it up I was ready to drop the hammer. The result is a surprising one, and even with what I’d consider a crowded space of solid roguelike shooters on Switch I’ll argue Dead End Job has managed to carve out a space somewhat of its own. Progression is a bit different here, working almost like a roguelike RPG, as you’ll accumulate experience when you collect ghosts (you can even get perks where you’ll get bonus experience for capturing them quickly together, highly recommended) which will level you up and give you access to 3 random (and thus the roguelike element) perks. Until you die you’ll continue to hold on to every perk you’ve accumulated, which first places a heavy incentive on staying alive but also making the experience more accessible than the competition. If you’re looking for a lighter and more friendly shooter that’s a bit silly, weird, and ultimately quite approachable even for less experienced gamers, Dead End Job is a good time with a style all its own.

Valfaris [Steel Mantis] - If you’ve been looking for an experience on Switch that takes some of the core shooting mechanics of games the likes of Contra, then bolts the ability to hack and slash, and tops it all off with some cranking metal tunes and loads of intensity… Valfaris is going to be your new jam. Made by the same team who brought the platform Slan: Back From Hell, Valfaris varies up the action and tones down the frustration factor a little bit, though not much. This is a grit your teeth, laugh as you turn enemies into a bloody mess, and enjoy the thrills kind of experience that sets itself apart from the current pack on the Switch nicely. Be sure you’re ready to take a bit of a beating at times, but from start to finish this is a top-notch shooter/slasher with personality and adrenaline to spare, a great game for cranking up the volume and letting it all hang out for a while.

X-Morph: Defense [EXOR Studios] - I’m really impressed by everything the folks behind this game have put together. The campaign is challenging and at a satisfying length, and if you really want more there’s already additional DLC content available as well. The mix of strategy and action it offers is pretty unique and in general the presentation of the destruction and carnage really helps make it all exciting. You’ll need to make some tough choices at times, and if you get too distracted by the action your defenses can really fall apart, but that all adds to the challenge and fun. If you’ve ever had any affection for tower defense games you owe it to yourself to see this example of the genre being taken to a new and more exciting level.

20XX [Batterystaple Games] - As a non-fan of Mega Man the roguelike nature of 20XX at least appeals to me more than that series as a whole. The quick pick up and play nature of it, and never quite knowing what to expect, is fun and I appreciate the inclusion of the two base characters who play out very differently. If you happen to be both a roguelike fan and someone who appreciates the Mega Man X series I’d say it is a pretty easy title to suggest, if you’re only into one of the two your mileage will likely vary. Even with quite a bit of competition in this genre on the Switch 20XX is a pretty unique package, making it noteworthy if you’re a fan of challenging platforming and boss fights.

Aqua Kitty UDX [Tikipod Limited] - Overall, I only have positive things to say about Aqua Kitty UDX. It has a focus on a specific experience, delivers it effectively, and provides a reasonable progression of challenge across its diverse modes. While it won’t likely have much appeal outside of people who are arcade-style shooting fans it is also probably more friendly for acting as an introduction to the genre than other more hardcore choices on the Switch. Well worth checking out and it has a very reasonable price to boot!

BroForce [Free Lives] - While playing with friends adds a layer of frustration, and potential for brutal trolling, to the mix, Broforce gets absolutely crazy when you play with friends (or online). You'll play as super-charged versions of a load of classic heroes from the 80s and 90s, each using their unique flavors of firepower and violence to cut through a variety of environments. While the on-screen action can get intense and even confusing there's plenty of opportunity to laugh and have fun with this crazy shooter.

Debris Infinity [SVC Games] - I absolutely love me some classic arcade shooting action and Debris Infinity was one of my go-to titles for providing that fix this year on Switch. While, at a glance, people may be tempted to write it off as a clone of Geometry Wars based on its visual presentation, in terms of gameplay it absolutely has a style all its own. Throw in a few different modes that each feel distinctive and challenging and shooting fans have a gem of a budget arcade title with this one.

Hyper Sentinel [Four5Six Pixel] - With the heart of a game pulled from the 80s but production values and visual enhancements that help give it modern flair Hyper Sentinel is a load of fun. Inspired quite a bit by the classic shooter Uridium you'll be attacking a large ship and trying to take it down while fighting off it's defenses, working to rack up combos and maximize your score.

I Hate Running Backwards [Binx Interactive] - Though I initially struggled with it, wanting it to be a twin-stick shooter, once I got into the unique rhythm of I Hate Running Backwards I became a big fan. Here you'll need to stay focused on eliminating your lethal enemies while also spinning to destroy things in the environment to accumulate experience for upgrades. Roguelike in nature you won't be able to predict what choices you'll get in what order so each run can feel very different, though it's always challenging. Throw in multiple characters, including ones that can be unlocked, that can play very differently and it's a pretty deep game if you give it some time and attention.

Immortal Redneck [CremaGames] - As a whole package Immortal Redneck is a bold first step and demonstrates that the FPS genre, too, can definitely benefit from the addition of roguelike elements. As you unlock your skill tree you won’t feel quite as helpless and will hopefully stumble into a starting configuration that helps you kick some ass in earnest. When you’re just in the zone and shooting things up for the most part everything feels good, it’s really only when you have to try to complete some jumping puzzles that things start to unravel. The good thing is that in any given run you may not notice the problem almost at all since everything is generated procedurally, just when you need to do some jumping and have enemies coming at you at the same time that it can feel a bit unfair. I look forward to more attempts on this formula as it shows a great deal of potential for further fun.

R-Type Dimensions EX [Southend Interactive] - I really appreciate the love and effort into bringing the R-Type experience to the Switch. While playing it old school has a nostalgic appeal seeing it all gussied up in 3D is a blast. I’d say it’s worth experimenting with the various looks they offer as not all of them may be great or practical, but they can be novel. In particular the 3D Crazy Camera looks really cool, just since it affects your depth perception a bit I don’t know if it’s practical in some sections. All said though it offers up many ways to experience the same terrific core game and fans of classic arcade shooting action should have a great time with it, and quickly become reacquainted with how tough it can be.

Sky Force Reloaded/Anniversary [Infinite Dreams Inc] - At the end of the day, Sky Force Reloaded is a gorgeous and challenging arcade shooter, and is among the most impressive on the Switch. Its looks are top-notch, it offers a significant degree of challenge for shmup fans, and its controls are buttery-smooth. Just be prepared to invest in the game for the long-term if you really want to see all it has to offer, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I just feel like the game could and should perhaps ease up the throttle, at least early on, to give people a few unlocks to better see what’s possible earlier on so they don’t necessarily give up before seeing much of what the game has to offer.

Crimsonland [10Tons] - I'm not positive there would be a wide critical consensus on something as old school and generally as basic as Crimsonland making a list like this but I don't care, the game calls to me on an almost-constant basis. Throwing away the need for a story, structure, or complexity this is an extremely satisfying arcade-style twin-stick shooter that fans of classics like Robotron or Smash TV should absolutely check out. Completing all 3 difficulty levels of the campaign is a test or your skills and patience but from there the leaderboards will be calling you to try to be the best there is... be seeing you on the Survival Blitz boards, if you're up to it!

Sine Mora EX [Grasshopper Manufacture] - As a full package Sine Mora EX fills in a gap in the Switch line-up unless you’ve been indulging in the NeoGeo shooter ports, which are hit and miss overall. As a showcase of the visuals the Switch is very capable of producing, particularly in handheld mode, the game looks incredibly good. For people who aren’t big shooter fans it could be hard to call, especially given the asking price. Though the difficulty level has been tweaked to make it more friendly I’m not positive what the longevity on the game will be unless you’re looking to spend time becoming better at shooters as a whole. For more experienced genre fans it’s an easier sell as not only will you be able to get rolling and enjoy getting to know the game initially but you’ll then have a meaty amount of content to revisit, refine, and work to max out your scores with. While it may have some issues Sine Mora EX is still an impressive shooter and a welcome addition to the Switch line-up.

Cotton Reboot! [Sangatu Usagi no Mori] - If you like your older-school arcade shooting challenging, a bit on the cute side, and with an undeniable weird streak this refresh may catch your eye. While it generally looks and feels like it follows the normal arcade shooter rules, the places where it deviates will force you to play things a bit more aggressively and dangerously than the norm. In general, though it's probably a better match for shooter veterans, the quirkiness of the experience may also appeal to people who simply love imported titles and their unique flavor you simply don't get from the mainstream American market.

Curved Space [Only By Midnight] - Taking familiar gameplay and changing things up to take some risks has always been a core component of my love for indie titles... but different can often come with a cost. Curved Space essentially asks the question of ""What would it be like to play a twin-stick shooter on a donut or other irregular 3-Dimensional object?"" at its core and then throws in a few additional ideas like an energy lash for good measure. The result is absolutely a challenge and experience you've never had before, but whether or not it will be appreciated will be another matter. The play field designs can get pretty funky at times, and aside from there being some frustration in tracking down enemies on these irregular shapes I actually got a bit of motion sickness at times (something that never happens to me with games) on certain edges where everything would shift very quickly. I'm torn because I absolutely appreciate the ideas Curved Space brings to the table, but at the same time not everything works in harmony so it's a toss-up in terms of a recommendation and likely only for hard core shooting fans eager to cut their teeth on something different.

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.

Knights & Guns [Baltoro Games] - Back in the arcades, Pang (or Buster Bros) was one of the more interesting shooters out there that did things its own way and layered puzzling sensibilities into the mix. Firing only vertically the challenge was to shoot enemies, often breaking them up into smaller ones, and knocking them all out through a combination of skill and some very useful periodic power-ups. Knights & Guns was absolutely conceived in this mold while bringing some of its own style to the table, with a well-defined art style, an overworld where you’ll choose where to go and that opens the door to side quests, and a variety of stage types that will keep you on your toes. Even though some of the innovations are appreciated, and help K&G stand out from the pack, there are still some problems that hold it back. First and foremost would be the lack of tight precision in movement, and perhaps that your character is on the chonky side. Getting hit unintentionally due to either of those factors is in itself annoying but then given the precision associated with this style of shooter it further frustrates matters. While I appreciate the idea of changing things up the scaling changing from level to level, with the action either being zoomed in or out and some levels having quite a bit of verticality, in practice it makes the experience feel uneven and conceptually all over the place. I don’t doubt it will find an audience with some shooter fans, but within this sub-genre there are definitely better options already out there in the eShop.

Cecconoid [Triple Eh? Ltd] - Hey hey, I know there’s nothing quite as exciting as a great deal of a budget game so if that’s your bag you’ll want to get the scoop on Cocconoid. The first detail you’ll want to know is that it actually includes 2 very different games built on the same overall black and white aesthetic looks. The first is an interesting and challenging adventure shooter of sorts where you’ll need to solve puzzles, avoid destruction, and make your way carefully through a labyrinth of dangerous rooms. The second is a pretty blatant, but powerup-enabled, straight rip-off of the classic arcade Robotron, but it works so well you’re likely going to have a blast with it like I did. My biggest complaint is probably that what appears to be the single-pixel size of your projectiles, which makes them incredibly hard to see even in docked mode so sometimes it can be a challenge to really know where you’re shooting. That means in handheld mode you’d have to just tell by where things are blowing up, and that’s not ideal. The other is just that in the main game some of the rooms are pretty cheap with instant attacks in certain spots so you’ll need to remember them and endure having to start over at times for a pretty cheap reason, something I’m never really a fan of, but aside from those issues it’s a budget-friendly retro blast.

Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion [Yotsubane] - If you’re a fan of arcade-style shmups you’ve been pretty well served on the Switch as the library of classic and new titles has gotten to be impressive. In the case of Crimzon Clover you can add yet another to the list. Featuring intense screens absolutely full of chaos representing your own substantial firepower and that of your enemies it will put your bullet-dodging to the test without it being an outright bullet hell title. The 3 initial ships, as the additional one that can be unlocked, aren’t majorly different from one another but they are each worth trying in order to find the feel that suits you best. The key to success very much seems to be using your lock-on and bombs consistently and often in order to keep replenishing your break meter, which allows you to unleash hell on your enemies. I was impressed by how well the game performed, never really slowing down no matter how many enemies, bullets, and stars were filling the screen at once. I’d say the wonky and inefficient way you need to access the online leaderboards is the most disappointing aspect of the game, why those can’t be front and center moreso I’m not sure and it does knock down the motivation to continue to play a bit. However, if you’re a big fan of arcade shooting grab your Flip Grip (to play in vertical mode, of course), sit back, and enjoy!

DOOM 64 [Night Dive Studios] - While I’ve played many iterations of DOOM over the years going back to the original shareware the N64 incarnation of it was one that I’d missed out on. I’d always heard that it was solid and did things a little bit in its own way and having played it I’d tend to agree. Something about the level layouts feels a bit more intricate (though you could also call them confusing, to be fair) than what I associate with the original DOOM iterations, and the quasi-3D look is at least interesting which at the time I’m sure it helped the game to stand out nicely. While there’s no doubt going back to the earlier style of FPS play feels a bit odd I’d say among the throwback titles in the genre I’ve played this is the most successful and accessible of the bunch, managing to avoid being utterly painful as many tend to be by being about as highly evolved as the genre got before moving on to the fully 3D world of Quake and many others. Recommended for those seeking a look back at the genre’s earlier days that has the best hopes of not shattering any rose-colored memories of how great shooters used to be.

HyperParasite [Troglobytes Games] - Having played (and loved) many roguelike twin-stick shooters on the Switch it always piques my attention when a developer brings something new to the table. In the case of HyperParasite you’re an alien lifeform that’s inherently vulnerable to attacks but you possess the ability to inhabit and control enemies that you can then use to help you survive. Of course once they take too much damage you’ll be back to being exposed, forcing you to work to grab another body and so on. On the whole this works pretty well, and can make for some pretty tense play as you try to avoid the attacks of enemies while trying to take over their bodies. The pity is that right out of the gate it feels like a bit too much of a grind, with you needing to grab enough money to unlock new enemy types you’ll be able to control and in the early going you tend to feel pretty inadequate, especially in boss battles that have a tendency to drag on a bit too long. It just feels like you hit the wall in the game before you’re even able to get your legs under you and the solution to that is to grind a bit, exacerbated by money not being terribly plentiful from run to run. If you’re looking for a different kind of challenge this will satisfy, but it may best be left to genre die-hards.

Ion Fury [Voidpoint, LLC] - Titles that don’t just tap heavily into nostalgia but fully embrace it are always a risky proposition. There’s something magic in playing a game that takes you back to an earlier time through look, feel, and general design… but the question is then whether that same experience can keep you engaged for the long haul. Ion Fury, without a doubt, absolutely recaptures the essence of the original Duke Nukem 3D and its contemporaries with its look, sound, and general style. If you didn’t know any better you could feel like it was a long lost game made with that engine you somehow missed. The thing is that’s both a testament to the reverence the developers of Ion Fury have for that era and, depending on what you’re looking for, where the game’s greatest weakness lies. To have the experience be complete in general terms the level designs and layouts also feel authentic to that era, and in that area I could have used more modern sensibilities. Key cards and hidden areas randomly peppered about that have vital gear you may need are hallmarks of that era but they now feel very antiquated and are harder to embrace, even for the sake of nostalgia. If you’ve never played games from that era this may be the best way to enjoy them in spirit on a modern console, without a doubt. If those games were your jam and you’re willing to deal with elements that have aged poorly it also shouldn’t disappoint. Just be mindful that going back can be a lot of fun for a bit but consider how much fun you’ll think you’ll have once the novelty wears off.

Relic Hunters Zero: Remix [Rogue Snail] - With the abundance of twin-stick roguelike shooters on the Switch it makes for tough competition if you want to make a big splash in the space with a new title. Featuring a decidedly retro look, on one level there’s a simplicity to Relic Hunters Zero that works well. You’ll dive into areas, shoot everything down, grab gear and ammo, and dig for relics and other loot to help your metagame progression. While you only start with 2 classes to choose from, the game has quite a few more to unlock, some of which even have pretty different perks that can make them fun to take for a spin. The issue? The grind to get going, get access to those different characters, and really feel like the game meets its potential takes quite a bit of time and grinding, and unfortunately the formula begins to get stale at a rate faster than you’ll unlock things. Granted, this can be overcome through diligence, but a system where the game would throw you a bone or two more quickly so you get a taste of what’s to come with more work may have been a better plan. Limited to only the starting characters and gear, and not being given any real direction on what to do or when you’ll get access to more, stumbling through different modes that feel too similar starts to feel unrewarding.

THOTH [Jeppe Carlsen] - When it comes to shooters minimalist looks can work nicely, but with quite a number of budget shooters already in that vein on Switch it can be hard to make an impression. While THOTH may not do a great job of getting you up to speed or easing you into things, once you get over your initial confusion you’ll find it offers an interesting mix of twin stick shooting and an almost puzzle-like feel. Every few levels new ideas or elements will be introduced that you’ll then need to contend with while destroying enemy blocks, clearing the stage and moving you on. While it isn’t a terribly long game for the price it seems fair and if you’ve been looking for a shooter that keeps you on your toes this is a solid choice.

Battle Planet: Judgement Day [EuroVideo Medien] - As a huge arcade-style twin-stick roguelike shooter fan this is a title planted firmly in my wheelhouse. Feeling a bit like arcade shooter meets Super Mario Galaxy, the space for fighting enemies and disarming bombs is always a bit limited so you’ll need to quickly get your bearings and keep on the move, taking advantage of the terrain whenever you can or at least trying to avoid areas with things like lava to try to keep yourself out of trouble. Progression across runs is supported, thankfully, so there can be a bit of a grind until you feel like you’re more in control of things but that’s par for the roguelike course. Each of the 3 characters does play a bit differently so you’ll likely settle into a favorite and then work to max them out, and if you’re able to play with a friend you can really eat up the competition working to complement each other strategically. While there’s nothing in particular that absolutely drives this to the top of my list for the genre (keeping in mind there are quite a number of amazing titles that serve as competition) I love Battle Planet’s change of pace and style and would happily recommend it if you think it looks like it would suit your tastes.

Black Future '88 [SuperScarySnakes] - Roguelike shooters have been a staple for me on the Switch, generally providing a great outlet for intense play for some period of time that will feel familiar to a degree but ever-changing. Typically these games tend to be top-down affairs but in the case of Black Future ‘88 you’ll be taking on a cyberpunk and pretty bleak world full of robots and inevitable death. There are undoubtedly elements that work very well here, the visual style and weapon variety are both exceptional, multiple base classes offer up pretty different feels to keep your runs fresh, and the fact that biologically you’re literally racing against the clock representing your demise will keep you moving. Where it falls down a bit is most often visual clarity. Between occasional elements moving in the foreground and just a lack of clarity in the action when a lot is going on at once it can be pretty easy to lose a truckload of health or even die without really knowing what the cause was. That’s not to say it isn’t hella fun,it just adds to a general frustration factor due to death often being quick and perhaps the reason behind it being a bit too ambiguous.

Black Paradox [Digerati Distribution] - For people who revel in the challenge of making the most of what you’re given in shooter form Black Paradox is a rock solid challenge and should excite. How much you get out of it will end up being a bit proportional to the degree of your enthusiasm for unpredictability though. While many roguelikes have found ways to help you steer the odds a bit more in your favor over time in this case the help is a bit too anemic. The challenge and style make it fun, its staying power will be a matter of how well you tolerate its consistent unpredictability though.

Blazing Beaks [Applava] - To the game’s credit, the monsters tend to be quite unique and it can be tricky. There’s much more of a learning curve to understanding how best to approach things, learning which weapons and gear suits you best and what you think you can handle. The feel of the game is just about as unique as its look and I’m a bit on the fence on whether that’s ultimately a good or bad thing. Different is always welcome but there’s just something about the overall feel of the game that isn’t as approachable or fun for me, though I’m struggling to put a finger on it. In the end if you’re feeling a bit bored with the ordinary this is a shooter well worth considering, just be aware that it’s not as easy a recommend as several other comparable shooters on the system. I do appreciate the change of pace it offers though, even if it isn’t ultimately what I’d prefer.

Devil Engine [DANGEN Entertainment] - Overall, this is in no way a game for casual shooting fans, it is for hardcore shmup fans who are thirsting for their next serious challenge. If you’re willing to invest the time in understanding the nuances of the game, where it’s best to use what firepower, and how to deal with the game’s difficult bosses there’s plenty here to sink your teeth into. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are plenty of alternatives available on the eShop.

Earthfall: Alien Horde [Nimble] - When it comes to co-op PvE gameplay I don’t think any other title has managed to top the Left 4 Dead series, even though the last entry was released a solid decade ago. It’s plainly obvious that the makers of Earthfall are well aware who rules the genre roost as right out of the gate there are a staggering number of similarities in the structure and mechanics of this title. Once you get past the shock of what in many regards feels almost like a shameless rip-off of that title you’ll begin to notice some great additions though, particularly when it comes to strategic opportunities. Barricades and turrets are just two of the great additions Earthfall adds to the mix and they’re absolutely great ideas that are well-implemented and help it stand apart from its source of inspiration.  Considering Valve is unlikely to port Left 4 Dead to Switch (or do anything other than make money on Steam anymore it seems) and there’s nothing else like it on Switch, Earthfall: Alien Horde is a great choice if you’ve been itching for some squad-based co-op FPS action.

Hellmut: The Badass From Hell [Volcanicc] - What’s odd is that even as frustrated as Hellmut could make me as I was trying to get a handle on it all, and even with its obvious flaws, there’s no denying it can be a ton of fun to play. Once you get the rhythm of things you’ll at least get better at dealing damage more efficiently, which is a big help, though with the amount of damage you can take very quickly that isn’t to say it necessarily gets much easier. Some value adds are included, like the ability to play the gauntlet mode either solo or co-op, though for the most part I found this mode to be too slow in getting rolling compared to the intense main game so it’s a bit of a wash. The thing is, with some refinement, streamlining, and better explanations I think this could compete for a place closer to the top. As it is, it’s just a good time but one that has some real issues.

Iron Crypticle [Tikipod Limited] - Who said you couldn’t have a great time with a budget retro arcade shooter? Iron Crypticle has a smart but classic arcade style of play that will challenge you solo, or you can join up with 3 friends as well. Working your way through a map in the main mode you’ll be able to work your way into special rooms that offer greater risks as well as rewards. The action is all about keeping your multiplier up, which means you’ll be rushing to pick up items that are dropped by enemies to maximize your score. Throw in online leaderboards and it offers up some great shooting action for its very reasonable price.

Monkey Barrels [Good-Feel] - While run and gun shooters tend to be a side-scrolling affair Monkey Barrels proves it’s a formula that works well from a top-down perspective with twin-stick controls as well. Whereas most games with this scheme on Switch have been arcade or roguelike in nature in this case you’re on a mission to save your friend, making a bit more of an adventure. You’ll move along shooting up enemies, dealing with bosses, and powering up your armaments to ensure you’re able to keep pace with your enemies. Just to add to the fun you can take on the game solo or with some friends as well.

Saints Row: The Third [Volition Inc.] - Saint’s Row: The Third doesn’t quite have the same feel as GTA 5 but I’m grateful it’s out there as an option since there’s absolutely nothing like it on the system. While comparing it to the Rockstar series is a bit of an apples to oranges situation I think the game does a great job of demonstrating that at least with some compromises a game like GTA should be possible on the Switch. If you’ve got a bit of a warped sense of humor and are in search of a game full of lowbrow humor, over-the-top violence, and yet not a tremendous amount of narrative structure this is a game that will entertain you, just it does have some limits.

Solstice Chronicles: MIA [Ironward] - With its very different approach and some new ideas I’m a big fan of most of what Solstice Chronicles brings to the table. Getting a feel for the most effective uses of your drone in a given situation and knowing when it’s best to bring the pain give the player an unusual degree of control over how things play out and that’s just a great idea. While it struggles a bit more in some of the fundamentals and could do with additional refinement and polish this is a game I’d absolutely love to see a sequel to, as with a bit more work it could turn into a real game-changer in the genre.

Astebreed [Edelweiss] - With as many bullet hell shmups as I’ve played over the years, including ones that have dabbled in different perspectives of various kinds, I’ve simply never played anything like Astebreed. It’s visually full of detail that you’ll blow by and struggle to appreciate as your screen is full of targets, but for all of that intensity the gameplay rarely has any hitches. Once you get the controls in order it’s smooth sailing and feels very natural, even as the game constantly shifts perspective and style on you. While I couldn’t really tell you much of anything about the story, there’s certainly one there, just since it plays out while you’re desperately trying to stay alive I’m not sure you’re really meant to digest it more than in passing. If you’ve been looking for something different and intense in a bullet hell shooter, Astebreed is a solid choice.

Garage [tinyBuild] - This title which, at a glance, looks like a twin-stick zombie shooter meets Hotline Miami won't be for everyone but I really ended up enjoying the odd journey it took me on. You'll need to carefully manage your ammo, shoot wisely, and know when to break out your melee weapon while you go deeper and deeper into weirdness and often end up questioning what is even real.

Rise And Shine [Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team] - If you’re a shooting fan who is up to some crazy battles where you’ll need to use your brains as much as your reflexes Rise & Shine is a pretty good match. It won’t coddle you hardly at all, which will be either a positive or a negative depending on the type of gamer you are. I don’t recall ever having played a shooter that has had puzzle elements to it like this, so that does help it stand out from the crowd. Just keep in mind the caveats that come along for the ride when you decide whether to check it out.

Rogue Aces [Infinite State Games] - While there are elements of Rogue Aces that work well, and I can appreciate the effort put into setting up some variations with multiple modes, I also found it better suited to short and moderately-long play sessions over long ones. A periodic break helped to keep it all from feeling quite so repetitive. Aside from the challenges with landing I think the balance strays too quickly to the extremes rather than having a tough but more fair sweet spot in the middle. Either I’d have a run in the Normal Campaign that ran long and felt too easy or I’d go to the Frontline Campaign and have significant leaps in difficulty by about the third island. There are some fun and crazy moments to be had like the first time you jump from your damaged plane into the cockpit of an enemy fighter to give yourself a new lease on life, but in the end there’s not all that much variety. If you’ve been itching for something that feels very arcade-like, this can be fun, but if you were hoping for something deep it doesn’t fare as well.

Wild Guns Reloaded [NATSUME ATARI Inc] - Overall, there are actually a number of things I enjoy and appreciate about Wild Guns Reloaded, and I think it is a style of shooter that deserves more attempts to get right. The variety in characters was a great move and, for people who enjoy the game, it definitely provides a motivation to play through it multiple times since at least 3 of the experiences would feel quite different from one another. Perhaps people reading reviews will be better armed with knowledge before playing to overcome the needless learning curve hump, but even once you feel like you’ve got it under control that isn’t to say the control style doesn’t have its flaws. However, if you’re an old school arcade shooter fan, and are familiar with the games that inspired it, Wild Guns Reloaded is a pretty fun and nostalgic trip with just enough things it does differently that it sets itself apart, for better or worse.

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Dimension Drive [2Awesome Studio] - Overall, Dimension Drive isn’t a bad game but its split focus on shooting, precision maneuvering, and to a degree solving puzzles puts it at risk for being a jack of all trades but master of none. When the shooting intensity steps up the focus on shifting settles more into the background and then it can sometimes get into a nice groove but, overall, the game seems determined to keep you shifting. Between the element of challenge and it being split down the middle in terms of its genre focus I’d consider it more of an acquired taste but probably compelling for the right audience.

Guns, Gore & Cannoli [Rogueside] - For its few hours of playtime Guns, Gore and Cannoli delivers precisely what its title suggests, though not much more. It’s a bit more of a challenge taking it all on by yourself, and certainly with some friends the carnage can be more fun as a group experience. While its memory probably won’t linger with you for a long time it’s still a fun diversion if you’re looking for some arcade-style shooting action… and ZOMBIES!

Time Recoil [10Tons] - The folks at 10 Tons have really done a phenomenal job with releasing 3 games that would, at a high level, be considered to be in the same genre but that are so incredibly different in how they play. Time Recoil is what I’d consider the biggest gamble of the bunch, tapping into a very different skill set, opening up a very different kind of challenge, and yet still delivering some thrilling gameplay. If you enjoy the almost puzzle-like nature the game evolves into once the main story missions have been completed, and trying to play through the same levels to eke out efficiency, there’s a lot to be challenged by and enjoy here. If, however, that sort of action is fun for a little while but not appealing to you for the longer haul it is a tougher call.

Donuts'n'Justice [FobTi interactive] - Ah, there’s just something fun about a crazy shooting arcade throwback, and while saying DnJ gave me a few Narc flashbacks in some respects (don’t get too excited)… this doesn’t get to those heights but it has some common DNA at least. The goal is pretty simple: survive while blowing away bad guys who’ll come from either direction, picking up a variety of power-ups, and try really hard not to accidentally gun down civilians. It’s actually reasonably tough, reminding me a bit of classic quarter-pumpers, which I’d imagine will either be a plus or a minus depending on what sort of experience you’re looking for. It’s not art by any means but it’s at least a well-made arcade-style shooter that looks good enough for the price, offers up some challenge and fun whether you want to take it on solo or even with a friend, and may just have bad guys who look a bit like Guy Fieri throwing Molotov Cocktails at you if that makes you giggle.

Gleylancer [Ratalaika Games] - Even having played a ton of arcade shooters over time I’m still fascinated periodically when I run across ones that I’d somehow missed over the years. Gleylancer is one such title I must have missed (no surprise since it was only released on the Mega Drive it appears), and while there’s no doubt it’s a port of a game from over 20 years ago… I was shocked that it impressed me a bit. Central to my enthusiasm was a really smart setup I don’t recall having seen many times where you get to choose the behavior of your drones ahead of time. Granted, experimenting with them was a bit frustrating as you’d learn what they were good and bad for, but I really appreciate this smart and generally well-implemented feature. As for criticisms, the amount of debris you have to weave through in places can make the screen pretty chaotic visually at times, with you needing to keep track of what's a ship, what's trash you can't blow up, and where the bullets are. All in all though, this gem from the past at least feels well worth a look for die hard shooter enthusiasts.

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!