Wednesday, March 13

Top 20 Indie Shooters on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 12/3/19]: Among the genres best represented on the Switch is probably one of my personal favorites, shooters. Whether we’re talking classic arcade side-scrollers, twin-stick, first-person, or roguelike there are indie titles on Switch that are sure to please. In the name of representation for all types of fun this may not be a list based purely on score, it’s also trying to accomodate the best games to suit any taste or budget. With that in mind let’s get on to the best shooters the Switch has to offer!

Assault Android Cactus+ - 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!


Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron - 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.


Tesla Vs. Lovecraft - 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.


Nuclear Throne - Though it’s pretty clear in places that Nuclear Throne has aged a bit since its original release, its unapologetic degree of challenge and 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.


Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax - 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.


Neon Chrome - 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.


Enter the Gungeon - 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.


Bleed 2 - 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.


Everspace: Stellar Edition - 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.


Hell is Other Demons - 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.


Juicy Realm - 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.


Iron Crypticle - 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.


I Hate Running Backwards - 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.


Valfaris - 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.


Earthfall: Alien Horde - 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.


Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings - 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.


My Friend Pedro - 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.


Freedom Finger - 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.


The Bug Butcher - Another title I hadn't heard too much about and almost missed that I'm very glad I got to check out was The Bug Butcher. 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.


Super Hydorah - 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.


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!