Thursday, December 31

Top 30 / Best Indie Weird Games on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 12/31/20] Not necessarily representing an understood genre, I’ve chosen to distinguish weird games since they tend to generally be my favorite, no matter the style. If you’re throwing the unexpected at me, combining gameplay elements that nobody ever thought of before, or simply making me step back and say “WTF?!?” I’m all about these sorts of experiences. This is what I hope is a balanced list of the top games that are unusual on the system.

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


Pool Panic - This was hands down my favorite title I'd never really heard about that I got to check out at PAX East last year. Thoroughly weird, consistently creative, and with terrific small but charming details and touches everywhere Pool Panic is a game that actively defies easy description. It's a mix of action, adventure, puzzles, and geometry I can easily say I've never experienced before and to top it all off that sets the stage for some unique and fun competitive local multiplayer to boot. I simply love this game and it was one I absolutely had to finish.


Tumbleseed - I consider Tumbleseed to be one of the best games on the system that very few people gave a chance. In part because it is something completely different and then due to its initial difficulty level it made itself a bit of a tough sell. With its Four Peaks patch it significantly improved on its accessibility and set things up in a way that would both be more friendly to more casual players and not punish people quite so much with unexpected issues like auras that would attack you the same as they would your enemies. Quirky, unique, and full of charm it is well worth taking the time to know and appreciate.


Ms. Splosion Man - I'd heard of this title before but nothing could prepare me for just how weirdly, brilliantly silly it all is. While in principle the controls are simple, limited to moving back and forth and blowing yourself up, its the interaction with other elements in the levels to solve action puzzles and proceed that make it a load of fun. While her almost non-stop chattering of weird (and often dated) pop culture references and commentary may not be for everyone to me they just added flavor to the game's core manic energy.


Flipping Death - Whenever you talk about classic adventure titles there's roughly a standing assumption that they'll bog down at some point with obtuse item puzzles or funkiness, it's pretty well a genre staple. To combat that Flipping Death doesn't have you managing items in your inventory but instead inhabiting the bodies of the living to perform character-specific tasks to solve problems. The fact that most of these characters are extremely weird and quirky and it all adds up to a great time full of silliness and laughs but consistently challenging throughout as well.


Yoku's Island Express - All I had to do was heard the words "pinball adventure" and my ears instantly perked up. What, again, could have been a pretty easy and by-the-numbers title thrown out to grab the attention of classic pinball fans like myself turned out to be so much more though. Yoku's Island Express is creative, quirky, challenging, and consistently surprising throughout its runtime, and put a smile on my face pretty much the entire time I played it. Throw in the fact that though it may not be terribly easy it's also extremely family-friendly and it's a title that absolutely feels at home on the Switch.


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


What the Golf? - Bless the indie devs that are determined to just completely go off in left field and do something unique. What the Golf is not really a sports game, or necessarily a puzzle game as much as it is a constant string of new riffs on the theme of golf, horrendous puns, and a wide variety of pop culture homages. While not all gamers may get every reference, which range from certain infamous mobile games to a super hot indie shooter that had unique mechanics to even a few concerning a certain mustachioed plumber, since it doesn’t dwell on any theme for long it won’t slow you down or limit your enjoyment. For people who just want to blow on through it may not take terribly long to “beat” if you just go to each hole and then keep going, but the additional par and starred challenges sometimes significantly (perhaps a bit inconsistently) ramp up the difficulty by adding new rules or even veering off to an entirely different kind of challenge altogether. Much like one of my favorites from a previous year, Pool Panic, What the Golf? is a collection of discovery and fun that just about anyone should enjoy.


Thimbleweed Park - The classic LucasArts adventure games were staple PC titles always guaranteeing great laughs from their quirky characters, silly dialogue, and often-bizarre puzzles. Now some of the best minds behind those classic titles have come back to the table with Thimbleweed Park, hopefully exposing a new generation to their signature style and sense of humor. While the pace is a bit slower than people are likely used to the Switch's touchscreen makes it an ideal platform for playing these games quickly and effectively. Thimbleweed Park is a terrific reminder of how well humor can work in games.


Carrion - While it’s great to play games or watch movies cheering on the brave heroes who fight and persevere against horrible monstrosities, admit it: Given the chance it would be a ton of fun to spend some time on the other side of the equation. Carrion offers up just that, the opportunity to take control (well, with its swarming and morphing form perhaps it should be “control”) of a horrible mutation of a creature who enjoys chomping down on some human flesh and ragdolling them around the room for laughs… and if you have a twisted streak like I do you’ll likely do a bit of that yourself as you splatter blood all over the walls. That core bit of fun was very present at PAX, as were some puzzle-solving aspects, but in the demo you couldn’t get a solid look at how the game would challenge you. The good news is that there are some clever puzzle elements offered up that will force you to consider the situation in front of you and make smart decisions. Armed guards with a variety of weapons won’t get taken out so easily, so some degree of stealth and using alternative paths may be in order, or perhaps throwing a crate (or better yet, a body) to distract them and allow you to strike from behind. Since the experience is so unique and quite engrossing it feels like it is over a bit too quickly, but I suppose I’d rather that happen than it wearing out its welcome. This is absolutely one of the most unique games I’ve played in quite some time and is highly recommended if you’ve ever dreamed of fully unleashing your dark side.


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


Super Daryl Deluxe - For me there's something really funny about such an unassuming (and honestly dumb-looking) burnout of a kid looking to save the day. Sort of working as a side-scrolling action RPG you'll need to carefully choose which of Daryl's many ridiculous powers to use for success. Facing off against a menagerie of enemies that are almost as unusual as Daryl himself this is an oddball title with a ton of content that doesn't skimp on the challenge.


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.


GoNNER - 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!


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


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


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.


Helheim Hassle - Where weird games are concerned I may be one of the subgenre’s biggest fans. Granted, the style of play in them varies wildly but if you’re bringing some laughs, plenty of WTF moments, and gameplay that deviates from the norm I’m typically down for it. Helheim Hassle really nails all of those critical areas with gusto, and the result is one of the most bizarre and creative action platformers I’ve ever played. You see, the hook in the game is that your character Bjørn is able to remove his limbs and as you gain the ability to completely disassemble yourself the weirdness and unique challenges of reconfiguring your various body parts to gain different benefits becomes clear. However, it isn’t just the silliness of moving around as two arms and a head or any number of other combinations that works, it’s the planning and execution behind the puzzles that will test you with the need to pick the right limbs for the right reasons. You may need to trigger a lever that’s hidden away but you’ll need to trigger a platform, make a quick jump, be able to talk to someone, and then be sure once you get there that you still have an arm to work with. Doing that can actually get to be a bit of an undertaking in places and experimentation is definitely the key to success. Pair those smart and creative mechanics with an absolutely bizarre sense of humor, and legitimately funny characters and dialogue I’d say are only rivaled by the likes of the (former) folks at Zoink Games, and you have one of my favorite games of a year where a good laugh is very much appreciated.


No More Heroes - There’s something to be said for being authentically original, for me that’s especially the case for when the general plan is to be just a bit crazy. No More Heroes is, in many regards, the antithesis of big business design by committee game making. It’s cartoonishly violent, has many over-the-top characters (who you’ll mostly be killing), a storyline that charts a dark and bloody path but is still also consistently silly, and a protagonist who is ridiculous on many levels. Your goal is to literally cut a path through the world’s top assassins to take your place at the top, and on that journey there will be a ton of bloody madness. Sequences where you’re simply plowing through big bads and their minions are broken up by completely bizarre mini games and activities like spending time with your cat to help break things up, which does help to distract from what can, at times, be a bit of a grind. Also, the fact that Travis (your character) is a pretty sexist pig and there are an abundant number of provocative angles taken featuring the female characters may be a bit much for some people to take now, making the game feel a bit dated on a level besides the overall look. While it is by no means a perfect game if you can deal with the flaws it is absolutely a rollercoaster of violence and weirdness that can be quite a lot of fun. 
 

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


Goat Simulator: The GOATY - Among the many weirdo physics games I’ve played there’s never been anything quite like Goat Simulator. At a highly counter-intuitive level it somehow manages to be goofy, charming, and fun. That is, if you can accept that the entire plan behind it is to make a game using what look to be a ton of generic assets thrown together, blended into an unusual soup, and then served to you “as is”. If the thought of playing a janky game full of clipping and questionable controls completely turns you off you absolutely won’t want to consider this game, it will drive you up the wall. However, if you want to experience one of the most pure (and unusual) sandbox games there is, you should check out some video and get a feel for it. This GOATY edition that has come to Switch has more variety and weird goat-y-ness than should perhaps be allowed, but if you’re open to seeing the fun in it I’d say it’s absolutely worth checking out.


Cat Girl Without Salad - When it comes to weird games I’m a bit of a connoisseur on the Switch, I’ve even set aside an entire category for them specifically. Whether it’s a quirky sense of humor, unexpected gameplay elements, or just developers daring to be different I appreciate the risk of putting something left of center out there. In the case of Cat Girl Without Salad the folks at WayForward have managed to scratch pretty well every itch I could have with regards to entertainment, though I’ll very much note that befitting the budget price on the game this is a light snack of enjoyment and in no way a meal. With that in mind the strange and often hysterically funny running dialogue doesn’t get the opportunity to get tiresome, if you were going to have to repeat each level dozens of times I’m sure it would get old. But with a relatively mild degree of difficulty (though the third mission is a legit challenge) on the whole it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The thing is, aside from the great humor and unusual characters the surprise is that as a shmup it stands pretty well on its own as well, even throwing in unique weapons inspired by classic video games that generally blew me away with their creativity. While you may not love them all I’d wager at least a few of them will suit your tastes and they really elevate the shooting experience beyond the ordinary as well. For being a game inspired by an April Fools joke this is a title that shows far more love and craft than you’d expect, and as long as you don’t mind it being over too soon it’s highly recommended.


Zarvot - While mechanically this is a sort of shooter adventure in terms of gameplay it's the presentation and story of Zarvot that makes it entertaining. You'll play as a cube named Charcoal who, together with his friend Mustard, set out to get a great gift to cheer up their friend Red. Somewhat randomly on the way you'll face enemies you'll need to shoot it out with, some crazy weird boss battles, and all sorts of odd story beats. It's odd, charming, and for the most part gorgeous as well.


Bulb Boy - While it isn't a terribly long adventure Bulb Boy is a creative journey with an unusual art style that consistently challenges and entertains. You'll never quite know what to expect next and the puzzles you'll be asked to solve in his journey require a wide variety of solutions. A great weekend adventure if you're looking for something different to try out. 


Sam & Max Save the World - I will gladly and freely admit to my bias here, ever since the original Sam & Max Hit the Road made way back when for PC I’ve been a fan of this silly animal duo. Steeped with humor thoroughly reminiscent of the glory days of point and click LucasArts adventures this Telltale continuation of their legacy is well-scripted and a wonderful love letter in general to the classic feel of the genre, though in a 3D rendered world rather than the traditional 2D pixel art style. With Sam playing the relatively straight (but undoubtedly quirky) man to the somewhat unpredictable and unrepentantly nutty Max this duo moves through the game with jokes aplenty about anything and everything they’re given the opportunity to comment on. Granted, not all of the jokes connect, some of the humor now feels a bit dated, and there’ll be people who simply don’t like them as characters but for me there’s a consistent reason to keep a smile on your face throughout the game, even if as always some of the unusual methods you’ll need to employ to get through the game’s puzzles may require some quick reading of a walkthrough for hints to keep you moving.


Ponpu - While the Bomberman series is undoubtedly well-known for its terrific competitive multiplayer matches there’s no denying that its characters themselves are a bit lacking in personality and its single-player efforts to date have been inconsistent as a whole. Ponpu absolutely borrows liberally from that franchise when it comes to core concepts, with play generally revolving around blowing up walls and enemies with your bombs, but with its distinctive art style there’s no denying that it has a fat greater attempt at personality hands down. The solo campaign also happens to be pretty challenging and enjoyable in itself, making for a pretty pleasant surprise and helping it stand apart from the competition. The fun thankfully also carries over into the various multiplayer modes, with some being for teams and others being a free-for-all, but all working with the classic foundation but layering a smart element or two to help each distinguish themselves from one another. It’s a wonderful weirdo surprise, no doubt.


Vitamin Connection - One thing that’s certainly interesting about the Switch is that somehow it has managed to inspire new types of gameplay at times with its portability, easy-to-share design, and built-in motion controls. Now, granted, the results of the experiments that seem to have stemmed from these features have varied pretty wildly, but when it all comes together it can be pretty exciting. In general that’s how it feels in the case of Vitamin Connection, a title that has an upbeat and cheery color scheme (of a familiar pairing of colors, mind you), soundtrack, and gameplay that blends careful maneuvering, rotating your ship, some shooting, and a few other touches that together make the game not quite like anything else I’ve played. The fact that you can choose to tackle it solo or with a friend is also a terrific feature, and in either case you’ll be presented with challenges, albeit generally different ones in terms of the controls and what you’ll need to have under control. In the case of solo play the challenge will be a degree of left/right brain thinking, managing to have steady control of your ship and to not allow yourself to get distracted. With co-op the challenge will very much be to either somehow be in synch with one another or to use a fair amount of precise and hopefully constructive language to coordinate. With a satisfying story mode (which includes a New Game+ variation) that sports a weido silly story and a gameplay mix of puzzle, action, and even shooting elements, and then add co-op and mini games where you can revisit key parts of the story with unique variations and this is a full fledged experience that should be highly accessible for just about anyone who likes to have fun and laugh while being challenged


Pig Eat Ball - When a game comes along that has classic arcade-style sensibilities and it is just plain weird it is pretty well sure to get my attention. On both fronts Pig Eat Ball delivers, with an oddball experience and a ton of levels that are reminiscent of classics like Pac-Man but with a weirdo take and a bit more strategy involved. You see, the issue is that as you consume more balls you’ll continue to get more rotund, which can then restrict you from getting around. The solution? Throw them back up, of course. This makes for some entertainment as well as quite a bit of strategy as you try to complete the level objectives as quickly as possible yet for the most part your available skills are limited. Where the fun really kicks into gear is with the game’s sheer variety of settings and variations of levels, you really never can know quite what to expect, and that’s what really put the experience over the top for me.


Garage - 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.


Golf Zero - Who knew that a game that initially confused me quite a bit in terms of what you were supposed to be doing (it should probably be more clear in the initial stages how you should be playing) could end up making me a fan. This is absolutely one of the more unusual games I’ve played this year really mixing up a puzzle platformer with golf to make something completely new and different. You see, you’re able to make your shots while in the air, which you’ll absolutely need to do the majority of the time, and while you can’t control your shot strength (in the end, probably a blessing) time will slow when you initiate your shot, making your focus aiming one or more shots in the hopes of finding success. Where it really can get diabolical is when you then layer the objectives that need to be met for a gold medal into the mix, forcing you to go the extra mile and prove your skills further. If you’re easily frustrated this probably won’t be a good fit for you but as a lover of quirky games that take a big chance on swimming upstream I have to give credit where it is due, this is a smart and pretty challenging budget title that deserves some attention. 
 

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!