Wednesday, January 12

Top 100 / Best Indie Budget Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 1/12/22!

A Short Hike [adamgryu] - We’ve truly been blessed over the past 6 months or so with a strong run of generally bite-sized exploratory adventures that focus far more on the wonder of nature and discovery than the normal more action-oriented fare typically out there. A Short Hike, though only lasting a few hours, seems to have that perfect ratio to keep everything tight and satisfying, never having to wander too far before you see something to be found, someone to interact with, or a hint at something you may be able to discover later with the right equipment. Moving around the scenic park you’ll encounter a variety of people, some there to help you and some in need of some quick help which typically won’t have you tromping around to find what they’re looking for. It may not have loads of depth or character development but honestly you’re likely to be so enchanted with the beauty of your surroundings and the clean simplicity of the overall experience that it won’t matter a bit. A definite recommendation for people looking to relax or younger gamers with parents trying to find them something appropriate for just about any skill level.


Kingdom Rush [Armor Games] - While one of the sequels in the series has already been released on the system (Frontiers), the OG Kingdom Rush has now arrived on the Switch. For the uninitiated, this is really what I’d consider to be one of the best examples of great games to emerge from mobile platforms, pretty well defining how to make an engaging tower defense game that’s smart, challenging, and even throws in some humor. The stages are generally well-designed, the enemy units you’ll face are varied, and you’ll be pushed to develop strategies to address specific units and bosses that will show up on some levels, forcing you to often abandon your well-worn default plans or at least play enough to upgrade those tower types so they’ll be more effective. While I’d still consider touchscreen play to be your best bet, the console controls in docked mode are still generally effective, just when things get tense you may struggle to highlight the proper spot at times. For the budget price this game delivers a truckload of great content that’s battle-worn and has been refined over time, making it an easy choice for strategy fans if you’ve not already picked it up on other platforms already.


Quiplash [Jackbox Games] - I’m so pleased that Jackbox Games has decided to release my absolute favorite game of theirs as a stand-alone title now on Switch. I’ve been a huge fan of this series (it has already gotten one sequel, and a third will be a part of their next Party Pack as well) since the get-go, mainly because it’s a game ripe with opportunity for hilarity. Players will be paired with one another randomly and given 2 prompts in each round, with the goal being to come up with the best answer that will make people laugh and vote for you. The more votes you get, the higher you’ll score, with a bonus if you’re able to snag all votes for yourself in a given round. On the adult end of the scale I’ve played this with groups back to back with Cards Against Humanity and even as notorious as that game is for laughs (only in card form, there’s currently no digital version on Switch) everyone agreed that Quiplash did a more consistent job of delivering the goods, and that’s likely because there are no limits on what your answer can be, aside from the level of taste the people you’re playing with may have. Current hot topics, known group history, even details from the current party or game may all come into play, it’s all a matter of how quickly you can pull together a clever answer that’s better than your opponent’s. With a very fair price, I’d consider the absolute best value of a party game on the eShop by far.


One Finger Death Punch 2 [Silver Dollar Games] - Ever since the early days of the genre I’ve been a big fan of a good beat-em-up. While most people immediately think of the likes of Final Fight, Streets of Rage, or any number of other classics from the late 80s into the early 90s, I look back farther with a fondness to the likes of Kung-Fu Master. Rolling with that inspiration in mind, I first got the chance to play One Finger Death Punch 2 at PAX last year and to look at it, yes, at its core it is just a two-button stick figure fighting game. However, give it a few minutes and get into the rhythm and you’ll find that it’s so much more. Yes, you have only two buttons to concern yourself with, your left and right attacks, but what’s amazing is how much the developers have managed to eke out of that system. A wide variety of enemy types (including those who’ll take multiple hits in different directions) will challenge you to be precise, essentially planning out each attack so you don’t miss and leave yourself open to taking a hit. Some will throw or shoot weapons at you that you’ll be able to avoid, block, or even grab, and keeping track of which it will be will then influence your planning for attacks since a projectile can knock out multi-hit enemies with one shot. All of this makes the game one that demands your full attention, to some degree constantly doing the math to keep track of your hits to either side. The reward for your diligence is then one of the most silly, insane, and consistently visually surprising brawls you could imagine, with crazy weapons and over-the-top special attacks of all kinds that generally left a smile on my face. If there’s a criticism it’s with the somewhat clunky overworld map that’s a pain to navigate at times, but outside of that if you love a good brawl with a surprising level of variety this is absolutely a game you should be checking out!


Badland: Game of the Year Edition [Frogmind] - While this is a title that has been around for quite some time at this point, I’m surprised by how well it has held up both in terms of its great funky art style and its simple-but-challenging play. For the most part this is a one-button game, which you’ll use to control the flapping of your little furry creature(s) to keep as many as you can alive through all sorts of obstacles and death traps, remembering that in the end you only need one to survive to move in. It’s worth noting that you’ll just want to hold down the button for the amount of oomph you need, tapping the button will end up being a dead end for you quickly. The real price here, though, is just the sheer amount of levels and content that come along for the ride for the budget price, even including local co-op and competitive multiplayer levels as well. If you’ve never picked this up, and your down for a deceptively-tricky action game that has much more polish than its budget price would imply, it’s definitely worth the plunge.


Haven Park [Fabien Weibel] - As much of an action and shooting game junkie as I am, looking for games that challenge me and provide thrills, a great game that moves in the precisely opposite direction can very much grab me. Whether something like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, or other titles out there, sometimes slowing everything down to enjoy some Zen-like calm can be very appealing. For me, Haven Park absolutely nailed the sweet spot for about 5 hours of my time and once I had started I simply had to see it through to the end, which can be difficult to do with as many games as I tend to play and review on a weekly basis. Your goal is a pretty simple one, to restore, improve, and find the many hidden secrets of this park you’ve inherited the responsibility for from your grandmother. This is an experience focused on exploration, the joy of discovery, a bit of puzzle solving, and taking the time to follow every path, check out every hunch, and simply enjoy yourself. I would say that towards the end of the game I did wish for an ability to set something up to allow myself to port around the map more quickly as I shored everything up but it’s a relatively small quibble, if you enjoy games that help you slow down and unwind this comes highly recommended.


Picross S6 [Jupiter Corporation] - The Picross series has been around for so long at some point that it has become a sort of puzzle game staple, but that can also make people a bit numb to it. While it is true that S6 is more along the lines of a new set of levels released on the same engine that isn’t to say the experience is in any way disappointing. On top of traditional Picross, doing it’s 2-color pixel art thing you have the more challenging (and possibly divisive) Mega Picross which does add a new layer of consideration to up the difficulty. Color Picross, added to the series a few iterations ago, is also a great challenge, though I’d still say I’ve seen multi-color interfaces implemented in a slightly better way overall. For me the real meat is in Clip Picross and the Bonus puzzles though, as they get quite a bit tougher still, and appropriately you’ll need to do the work cutting your teeth on the easier stuff to then unlock the bigger and more complex challenges. If you’re a big puzzle fan, and particularly if you’ve taken a break from the Picross series for a little while, this is a rock solid place to pick it back up and enjoy its polished play and steadily-increasing challenge level.


Spelunky [Mossmouth] - One of the last OG indie titles to finally come to Switch, Spelunky promptly gave me a nice slap in the face to remind me of just how quickly I could utterly fail in a game. As one of the earliest and most staggeringly popular tough-as-nails roguelikes out there this is a game chock full of things that will gladly kill you, and in the early going most of your runs will be capped off with a “Oh, I’m not supposed to do that” moment as you meet some new enemy or trap type and aren’t quite prepared for the pain it is set to bring. All that said, when you get to a new level or zone for the first time there’s nothing quite like that thrill… right before you discover something new again and in many cases promptly die once more, just to start all over again. While there’s no doubt roguelikes have lunged ahead with newer ideas, to a degree leaving Spelunky feeling a bit dated and perhaps more on the sadistic side than the average, the fact that it’s very easy on the pocketbook at a mere $10 and still has a fair amount of charm to go with its brutality make it a must-own for anyone who loves roguelikes and may never have had the chance to take it on.


Cat Girl Without Salad [WayForward] - 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.


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


Ghost Grab 3000 [Matt Glanville] - While I have a great appreciation for epic games that feature massive worlds and complex storylines for me to discover over many hours since I grew up in the arcades I also appreciate a tight experience that challenges me and is fun in bursts. With its relatively-simple ghost chaining mechanics and simple-but-smart controls Ghost Grab 3000 does a great job of scratching that retro itch and making me say “Just one more round”. Your goal is to catch ghosts bouncing around the screen in your beam and then zap them. Sure, you could do this one at a time but first it wouldn’t be very fun and second you’d get a sad and paltry score for that effort. The way to rack up points is to chain as many together as possible before you collect but that ends up making for a very crowded and chaotic screen full of roving enemies and their many bullets. Thankfully you have a trusty dash that makes you temporarily invulnerable and a limited number of EMP blasts at your disposal which can be used to get yourself out of jams and rack up as high a score as possible. It’s all just about the leaderboards and scoring as high as you can in the end but if you’re looking for a quick and challenging fix it’s an excellent choice at a very low price.


Spellbreak [Proletariat, Inc] - Have you been feeling like Fortnite has become a bit played out? I have… though I think I felt that way pretty early since I always considered the quick-build types complete BS but I digress. Spellbreak is hoping that whatever your grievances may be with that mega-successful free-to-play juggernaut that you’ll give it a look, and considering the price of admission being nothing I think they’ve put together a total package that justifies taking the time. There are absolutely elements in the match structure and gameplay that are the same, dropped onto a large island, there’s a storm that will continue to encroach in order to force players to fight each other within a reasonable time frame, and options to run solo or with others. Where the game veers off into its own territory is where I really appreciate the differences though. In place of weapons everyone is desperate to grab to have any shot of survival Spellbreak instead goes with a magical base, with you choosing which element you want as your core and then allowing you to pick up a secondary gauntlet for another elemental power to compliment. Where the creativity comes in is how you can make combined use of these powers in some situations, opening the door to some more interesting tactical choices when you’re attacking or even evading enemies. Fortnite veterans who aren’t put off by the differences should quickly feel right at home, but even people new to these sorts of games should find the learning curve reasonably accessible. Since it’s cross-platform in theory there shouldn’t be an issue in finding opponents, so get out there and get some spellcasting on!


Downwell [Moppin] - If you’re looking for something that’s quick to pick up and put down (you know, a great mobile experience) Downwell is a great and challenging option. You’ll continue to push further and further in as you get more used to the nature of the challenges at each level but don’t be surprised if you still manage to bite it in the first zone, there are spots where things simply will snowball on you and you’ll end up dead in a hurry. Getting comfortable on which perks and weapons work best for you is key, and you’ll need to find the balance between taking it slow and knowing when to just try to fall to avoid a nasty situation. As an old-school arcade fan its classic sensibilities make me very happy.


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!


Pang Adventures [DotEmu] - Doing a remake or remaster for a classic game can be a tough task. Fail to respect the original sufficiently and the purists will begin squawking loudly. Fail to innovate and you’ll get hit by another camp. Being successful means finding a balance of the needs of both sides and Pang Adventures does this admirably. There’s no mistaking this is all about popping bubbles classic Pang style but whether solo or with a friend there’s enough new stuff here to keep retro gaming fans happy and challenged for a little bit.


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


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


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


Reigns: Kings and Queens [Nerial] - Borrowing its left/right swiping interface from the likes of apps like Tinder, Reigns is all about making choices and then living (though more accurately in this case, dying) with the consequences. While it's been said ""It's good to be the King"" you'll also find that trying to keep everyone happy amidst the everyday chaos of royal life is enormously difficult. As you get further and further in you'll gain new cards to help manage the madness (and sometimes add to it as well), providing this game with a fair amount of longevity and variety as well.


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


The 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.


True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 1 [Goblinz] - Who knew that having played a number of horror-esque games on the Switch that the one that would be the most consistent and compelling to play would really be a casual title. Another elevated hidden object game, True Fear managed to be a bit creepy and weird throughout but never lost focus on providing great gameplay first and foremost. I'm hoping to see Part 2 come to Switch as well to see where things go as this puzzler didn't disappoint.


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.


Circa Infinity [Kenny Sun] - Simplicity in games is always a bit of a double-edged sword. Making something easy to pick up and play is great, but that can oftentimes make it hard to provide depth or a significant challenge. Somehow Circa Infinity manages to thread the needle on a high level though, keeping things simple with just left/right controls and a jump, while also continuing to up the ante level after level in terms of its challenge. The simple goal is to continue to jump in order to land on the next ring, continuing to do so until you get to the center. The challenge comes in the form of a small variety of foes who you’ll deal with in different combinations as they test your timing and skills. I’ll admit at first I was thrown off trying to control my character thinking in relative terms, but once I got my brain to lock in to it just being right and left I got right into the game. Great for kicking around only a handful of minutes at a time, this is a nice and challenging arcade-style retro romp.


Dojoran [Nautlander Studio] - It’s always great to run into humble and inexpensive indies on the eShop, and if you’re into precision platforming that’s handled surprisingly well for being a budget title Dojoran is an unexpected treat. You’ll play as a simple frog in this black-and-white jaunt, avoiding spikes, splatting slugs, and trying to grab special items along the way. Outside of that simple assessment, granted, there’s not much more than that going on, but this seems to be a great example of a developer having a concise vision for what they want to make and then executing it very well. It’s by no means a revolution, and against the top-tier titles in the space it’s certainly quite humble, but there’s no denying it gets the job done and is a pretty fun and challenging ride while it lasts.


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


Luckslinger [Duckbridge] - As a fan of games that subvert expectations and are determined to simply be a bit weird, Luckslinger puts a smile on my face. At its base it’s a retro-styled side-scrolling Western gunslinger that has you shooting, reloading, jumping, and rolling as you make your way through levels and take out your foes. If it were only that the game would just be middling. But add in an attack duck, a luck mechanic that can help or hinder you, a cavalcade of weird characters and humor including a minister who spits some great rhymes, and cut-scenes that randomly throw in modern musical beat drops or other incongruous elements and it just becomes something unique. There’s no doubt the play, especially in the shootouts with bosses, can get tough and will demand that you work out how best to use what luck you have to your advantage. That said, the promise for what weirdness may come next, sometimes prompting a laugh, is a pretty great motivation to figure it out. Tack on a budget-friendly price and this is just a welcome detour from the typical that I thoroughly enjoyed.


PAKO Caravan [Tree Men Games] - Taking something old and juicing it up to help make it feel new again can be tricky business. Having seen quite a few indie titles tackle the challenge of improving on the simple-but-addictive play of the classic Snake without an obvious success, that fact has been thoroughly proven. PAKO Caravan, thankfully, manages to pull off the magic trick with a simple-but-effective visual style, some key enhancements to make things a little more interesting and challenging, and forcing you to continue to adapt to slightly different vehicular behaviors as you progress to keep you from feeling too comfortable. There are no brakes, you’re trying to avoid obstacles and your own caravan as you continuously add to it, and additional objectives like knocking down cones or collecting letters incentivize some risk-taking to claim stars that will continue to unlock new scenarios. I do wish the turning controls weren’t quite so consistently on the loose side, as your momentum can be hard to counteract when you often are spending time along an edge or dodging obstructions, but as a refined version of a classic it does its legacy proud.


Pinkman+ [Ratalaika Games] - While there are an abundance of challenging retro minimalist action platformers out there I don’t find that I often recommend them. Whether too picky, too dull, or just lacking a certain charm more often than not they feel like a vehicle for getting something out on the eShop on the cheap without imbuing the experience with some essential fun. Pinkman+ stands out for me as something more though, offering the right mix of solid controls, a steady progression of new elements to keep the challenge level up, and tough but not lazily brutal difficulty that more often than not feels fair even while kicking your butt on some stages. The fact that it has such a rock-bottom price really makes it a superb deal for people who don’t mind a Super Atari or maybe C64-esque minimalist look but a terrific feel that seems more modern.


SNK Vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millenium [SNK Corporation] - While there has been a whole series of conversions of the fighting games from the Neo Geo Pocket, and many have been decent, until this point none of them quite felt worthy of more broad support than folks looking for some nostalgia. While there’s no getting around the limitations of it being tied to that much older hardware, with the reduced screen area for gameplay and 2 buttons for control most notably, as a fan of fighting games from both companies the representation in this specific title makes it noteworthy. With a mix of characters from multiple series on both the Capcom and SNK sides, as well as options to play with a singular fighter, paired up for a tag team, or in a team of 3, there’s ample opportunity to choose the style that suits your preference. In addition, don’t let the 2-button set-up fool you, it’s truly impressive how many moves they were able to cram in for each fighter, all with a feel of flow that’s easy to get into hitting signature moves and executing satisfying combos. While obviously there are more technical and visually-impressive fighters on the system this budget-friendly and surprisingly deep fighter shouldn’t be counted out, it’s a winner.


Stick Fight: The Game [Landfall] - Oh how perilous the eShop is in the budget category, filled with games that look like they could be promising but with many letting you down. On the flipside of that  you have Stick Fight, a title that’s very unassuming in its appearance but that uses that formula to heavily under-promise and over-deliver on the experience. There’s not much to know about playing this multiplayer brawler (which works wonderfully locally but also online… we’ll see how long it can last though, as is always the issue with small games with online play), you’re able to jump and attack and that’s really all you generally need. Sure, you can grab a variety of weapons to then do some serious damage with (careful, some of them can be lethal to you as well), but if you’re quick and determined some flailing and luck can be a highly effective strategy no matter what weapon your opponents may have. Where the game gets to the next level though is really with its loads of arenas and settings that really change things up. In some cases the environment itself is outright lethal and simple survival will be necessary, in others the best strategy may be to destroy the environment and hope you can leave yourself somewhere to land. Heck, there are also times simply standing still and letting your opponents get themselves killed is a legit strategy. Considering the budget price this title carries it absolutely delivers a superb multiplayer experience that’ll have you and some friends fighting to wear the crown. If only it would do some stat collection to see a breakdown of who won, by how much, and a bunch of fun additional facts about the chaos!


What the Dub? [Wide Right Games] - There are absolutely some amazing party games out there on the Switch to enjoy with friends, but if you’re on a tight budget perhaps the general need to buy them in bigger, and thus more expensive, packs makes them feel like a risk. Going ala carte is more convenient but unfortunately there aren’t that many inexpensive and funny options out there. Thankfully you can now get What the Dub and have a blast, all for less than $10. Granted, there’s only style of play but fortunately it’s a good one sure to spark creativity and laughs. Everyone will be shown the same incomplete brief clip with the dialogue for typically just one actor omitted. Your goal is to come up with something funny for them to say that will win you votes and the admiration of your peers. Depending on how quick thinking you and your friends are the results most certainly could vary, but the sound of the automated speech person reciting your line in its typically stilted fashion can sometimes add yet another element to enjoy.


Destrobots [7Levels] - With loads of local multiplayer titles out there on Switch it’s a tough business to find a way to stand out in the crowd. In the case of Destrobots, for me, the fact that it feels like it takes a page from the Bomberman series, while playing in a completely different way, helps it pretty effectively towards that goal. Taking control of your bot you’ll have the ability to shoot twin-stick style (though not with precise analog aiming, instead with strictly 8 directions possible) or use a spin move to try to deflect incoming fire or at a melee attack. A variety of offensive and defensive power-ups will continue to appear around the arena, helping to incentivize everyone to stay on the move rather than trying to hold any given position for long. Aside from the power-ups it’s the game’s stages, with many featuring special elements that make play both more strategic and unpredictable, that give me some Bomberman vibes and help to give the game more longevity than its average competing title. Add in the fact that it sports a very fair budget price makes it worthwhile for anyone looking for a game to enjoy with some friends.


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


Home Sheep Home [Aardman Animations] - OK, so charming and clever puzzle games that work as well solo as when playing with others are covered pretty well on the Switch, as are cute and fun multiplayer mini game collections… but usually games don’t necessarily do both well. Home Sheep Home, with its very cute Aardman Animations drawn characters, may be a budget title but has a degree of care and polish that feels like a real bargain. In the game’s main puzzle-solving mode you’ll be in control of 3 sheep, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that you’ll need to control together with friends or cycling through them on your own to solve a series of clever puzzles. While some core mechanics are always in play, usually centering on making the most of their individual abilities, the variety in these brain teasers really keeps the experience from falling into any sort of rut, and it really makes the experience fun to pick up and put down while giving you a compelling reason to return for more. Though perhaps the additional multiplayer mini games aren’t a revolution but considering they’re just icing on the cake I was surprised to find them more enjoyable than the typical Switch local multiplayer fare as well. Overall, for the very reasonable price of admission, this is a well-made and refined combo of a game that should provide plenty of entertainment for its modest price tag.


Pixboy [Oaky Games] - As I saw someone note on Twitter the other day, responding to my post about this game: It seems almost impossible to believe that, on a far more powerful modern console, there are people thirsting to return to a game that looks and plays like it is from the original Gameboy hardware. Perhaps it seems like an unusual thought, and yet here we are. But hey, if the games can all be so easy on your bank account, convey a classic sense of gameplay the likes of Super Mario Land and some others, and also throw in a fairly high degree of challenge in places that will make you grit your teeth a bit... bring it on. Pixboy may not have the novelty of various means of getting around in order to vary the style of play, but what it does have are some fun and tricky stages with plenty of jumping, hidden areas, and some real nuance as you master not just your jumps but the art of falling, compliments of your parachute. What it lacks in overall length it makes up for in pretty rock solid stage design, crisp controls, secret nooks and crannies aplenty, and authentic old-school platforming play.


The Alto Collection [Snowman] - Conversions from the mobile space are always a bit of a tricky thing to review on a full-fledged gaming console like the Switch, too often lacking the depth of play to justify not just getting and enjoying them on your phone. Alto’s Adventure is actually a title I originally enjoyed quite a lot on my phone, delivering a somewhat arcade-like experience where you’re alone on your snowboard trying to avoid rocks and obstacles while making smart jumps, pulling off a flip here or there, and working to make your runs last as long as you can. In this Collection it is joined by the sequel, Alto’s Odyssey, which is no doubt similar, changing out snow for sand, but manages to throw in enough new elements like hot air balloons that it stands on its own. One thing I’ve come to truly appreciate in game design is the task of making one-button play accessible, engaging, and even challenging and very few pull it off well. The people behind this collection have nailed it though, so while it may not be well-suited to long play sessions and lacks in true depth it’s perfect for taking your mind away from the world for a little while and maybe making you grit your teeth a little in spots. The fact that it does so for a very budget-friendly price is just icing on the cake.


Akane [Ludic Studios] - If you appreciate great pick-up-and-put-down play sessions that are intense and keep you coming back for more Akane may be a great match. For the most part the objectives feel like they’re in a sweet spot where they’ll push you to complete them but they also aren’t unobtainable by any means. While I wouldn’t call this a roguelike there are some similar principles at play that I appreciate, with the ability to change up your gear in order to alter how the game plays in small but meaningful ways. For the right audience this is absolutely a budget title you won’t want to miss.


Build a Bridge! [BoomBit Games] - While Build a Bridge doesn’t manage to match the more inventive and silly fun of something like Bridge Constructor Portal, among the more traditional bridge builders on the system I’d say it’s probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most. Granted, a lot of that boils down to having the controls working well and without kinks, something the other titles have hopefully patched by now, but first impressions can be vital. I wouldn’t say that Build a Bridge breaks any major ground in evolving the genre but if you’re a fan of physics-based titles and are trying to make a decision I can’t find any reason not to recommend it.


Gato Roboto [Doinksoft] - Probably the game’s biggest flaw is just that it’s over in roughly a handful of hours, though its budget-friendly price is very appropriate for the quality and duration of the experience. Even if you’re not pulled in by the cute premise, there’s no question this is a title that is laser-focused on packing your time with the game with variety, some challenge, and fun. Its limited runtime makes it tough to say whether it really approaches the quality of Nintendo’s own franchise, but it is by no means in its shadow, just bear in mind it borrows very liberally from the series and aside from the art style and silliness of its main character it does little to change the formula. But if you’ve been waiting to enjoy the adventures of Samus on the Switch this may be the closest you’ll get to that feeling on the console and it’s a lot of fun while it lasts.


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


Octogeddon [All Yes Good] - Aside from it feeling like it may take its sweet time to hit its stride Octogeddon works in a satisfying manner both in terms of being an action and a strategy game. Success isn’t only about execution or planning, you’ll really need a solid combination of both (and perhaps a little luck) to weather some of the scenarios and boss fights you’ll be put up against. Somehow feeling both complex and simple at the same time this budget title entertains with its sense of humor, some truly surprising weapons, and a smooth ramp up in difficulty that will challenge you without necessarily being overwhelming. Recommended for budget game lovers for sure.


OTTTD [SMG Studio] - Tower defense titles are extremely common in the mobile space (for good reason, they’re well-suited to touchscreen controls), and have found success, but can sometimes be lacking on the more dedicated Switch. OTTTD, or Over-the-Top Tower Defense, is an aptly named title that tries to use a little personality, multiple controllable units, and more varied strategic choices than usual in order to get some attention. Where many more generic titles in the genre fall flat and feel predictable, OTTTD likes to throw periodic surprises at you and ends up being pretty entertaining in the process.


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


Strikey Sisters [DYA Games] - For people who are willing to get over the initial hump of getting used to Strikey Sisters there’s plenty of challenging stages and bosses to conquer. In general, there aren’t many titles emulating the classic Breakout, and among the ones I’ve played this is probably the most unique and interesting, but it’s also probably the toughest as well. While it won’t be for everyone it’s a fresh and unique offering in the Switch eShop.


Super Crate Box [Vlambeer] - It’s always very cool to encounter games that have simple designs and very few rules but then manage to be so well-implemented that they suck up your time. Super Crate Box is such a game, one that I was introduced to at PAX and that I was eager to spend more time with on release. At its core this is an arcade platform shooter where your goal is to survive and beat your highest score, the trick is that shooting enemies doesn’t move that needle, only picking up new crates advances your score. The hitch? You never know what weapon that will give you. It could be relatively weak sauce weapons you’ll struggle to hold enemies at bay with, it could be something powerful that you may want to keep long enough to help get the situation under control, or it could be a weapon like the Disc Gun that represents as much of a threat to you as your enemies. Throw in an endless flow of bad guys and a relentless pace and this is one of the best pick-up-and-put-down budget titles on the Switch, offering you a quick hit of action that consistently delivers a challenge that feels great for a single playthrough or perhaps a string of an hour or more if you’re determined to get further than you have before.


Switch 'N' Shoot [Matt Glanville] - Overall, Switch ‘N’ Shoot appears to have had a very focused vision for its design that was well-implemented. It’s simple but challenging, easy to pick up and put down but compelling in a “just one more run” sort of way. Throw in a look and style that would make it feel perfectly at home among the classics of the early arcade era (including freaking fantastic side art that nails the retro feel) and you have a solid budget retro arcade shooter that’s well worth checking out.


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!


Clouds & Sheep 2 [HandyGames] - While I never got to partake of the original Clouds & Sheep, thankfully the complexities of the storyline didn't hinder my enjoyment of the sequel. Just kidding, this is just a straight-up cute resource management-type game where you'll need to care for your sheep, provide them with water, food, and perhaps an opportunity to find love as well. While it looks simple you'll quickly find yourself sucked in to a greater challenge than you'd expect, combining clouds to cast lightning down to kill poisonous plants and trying to tend to the wishes to your flock to keep them happy and yourself flush with stars that you'll use as currency.


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.


MagiCat [Toge Productions] - It's a tough business releasing a platforming title on a system that Mario helped build, Nintendo gamers generally have a pretty high expectation for quality within that space. Finding success in this space where numerous pricier games have failed MagiCat offers surprisingly satisfying and smart gameplay. While its hardly pushing the hardware this is a great example where quality wins, even at the low end of the pricing spectrum.


Minit [Devolver Digital] - Perhaps one of the most oddball concepts that absolutely worked well came to the Switch in the form of Minit. With only a very limited amount of time every day to go out, explore, and try to figure out what you need to do to progress it plays out quite differently than anything else you've ever played. In some spots you'll simply need to map out and keep track of which areas are where and in others you'll need to apply that knowledge to rush around and try to complete a critical task before time runs out. With a quirky sense of humor and just a very different play style it's a refreshing experience.


ShadowBug [Muro Studios Ltd] - When everything is clicking the fun and flow of ShadowBug is quite a rush. While it could have probably had some success as a more pure action game the inclusion of some crafty puzzle solving creates a terrific balance that elevates the experience quite a bit. The attempt to allow for play in docked mode is valiant but the reliance on the ever-wonky pointer controls falls a bit flat, though in terms of speed and accuracy that method of control would have still been inferior anyway. If you’re looking for something that’s fresh, fun, and continues to throw in twists and surprises with its level design ShadowBug is well worth checking out!


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


Streets of Red - Devil's Dare Deluxe [Secret Base] - With a distinctive art style, multiple characters that play quite differently, and a slew of pop culture nods Streets of Red is a very self-aware beat-em-up. While it isn't a terribly long game there's enough challenge and variety offered up by its numerous characters (some of which need to be unlocked) and crazy bosses that it can be fun to return to periodically, especially if you have some friends to enjoy it with.


6Souls [BUG-Studio] - When you’re looking for something to kill some hours on a budget it’s really easy to appreciate the ability of the indie gaming space to deliver some fun on the cheap. While 6Souls is by no means an amazing puzzle platformer, it’s hard to be too terribly harsh on it when the asking price is so reasonable. Very much playing out in a traditional style, the challenge will be working with what reasonably limited techniques you have to get through levels and hopefully try to pick up as many additional pick-ups as you can as you go. While not generally in the “frequent rage quits” class of difficulty, there are definitely spots where you’ll need to work a little harder than is typical, especially if you’re trying to grab everything you can on each level. While its combat is on the weak and limited side, the platforming controls are at least reasonably responsive, and while it will hardly win any awards it’s a very affordable pick-up that will keep you occupied for a few hours.


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


Asteroids: Recharged [SneakyBox] - These Atari classic reduces have been interesting, if sometimes a bit underwhelming, but one constant that Asteroids reiterates is that the core gameplay devised decades ago now still fundamentally does hold up well. For the most part this is what you’d expect, with you piloting a ship, shooting asteroids and UFOs, trying to stay alive as long as you can and typically not wanting to fly around too much since you’ll need to counter your momentum if you want to stop and the edges of the screen tend to be deadly. Also consistent with the series, power-ups have been added to the mix, and since they come along randomly from run to run things can vary pretty wildly. Since the main mode and chasing that leaderboard may not be enough, quite a number of challenge levels are also there to test you, which helps to round out the package and help make it feel like a worthwhile budget purchase for arcade shooting fans.


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


Black Widow: Recharged [SneakyBox] - As someone who, oddly, never actually played Black Widow back in the day, I want to be up front that unlike many classic arcade refreshes in this case I have no potential for rose-colored feelings over this redux. In some ways that’s a shame, since I think it’s at more of a disadvantage than its Recharged brethren, but since it’s ultimately a twin-stick shooter I’ve still obviously got thoughts. I like the use of the theme, with you playing the part of a spider in her web, and you’re shooting at various assorted bugs who pose a few different threats to you which you’ll have to quickly recognize and react to accordingly to stay alive. The randomness of the power-ups you’ll be able to leverage really crank up the arcade unpredictability factor, sometimes bailing you out when you need a save, and other times not so much. The addition of the challenge stages, consistent with the Recharged series, also adds nicely to variety and longevity as it will throw different objectives at you to conquer. In the end, for a budget price, it’s reasonably good, but I would be remiss not to note the preponderance of great twin-stick shooters out there on the eShop and though this has a novel theme I wouldn’t say it breaks away to distinguish itself among its competitors. One comment I will make is the one-life style of it makes for some frustratingly brief runs where you have no opportunity to bounce back, a bad break lingering near the edge without helpful power-ups you may just end up needing to start over.


Faircroft's Antiques: Home For Christmas [Ocean Media Games] - When you play multiple titles in the same casual series there’s no doubt that there’s often a baked-in consistency that’s both good and bad. On the one hand consistent quality and a guaranteed degree of satisfaction if you enjoy their play is reassuring, but you then do risk it becoming more dull even if the content is changed up. In the case of this Christmas edition hidden object game there’s no doubt that everything about it is consistent with the other release in the series, however in this particular case there’s something about the “home for the holidays” vibe and interactions with family that gives it the edge for me. If I’m going to dip my toe in the casual pool a little family happiness and positivity of the season are a plus. It won’t offer much if you’re not a fan of hidden objects and mild puzzles but if you want to relax and enjoy family interactions ala The Hallmark Channel it’s a feel-good package.


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


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


Orbibot [PSGames] - As an old school arcade fan I’ll just plain admit I’m a sucker for any game that remotely resembles the classic Marble Madness. I can’t help it, rolling a ball around, and the unique challenges that can present, just always has some appeal to me. Orbibot, stripped down to its roots, is built on a mix of focused and careful control and what can often be clever action puzzles you’ll need to work out solutions for and then execute. While its low-budget price gives it a reasonable degree of latitude for lacking in polish there are times where a bit of jankiness in the controls can be an obstacle, most often tied to the fact that the camera must be managed constantly, and in some areas of some maps that can present some challenges, especially when precision is often required to keep yourself on the track. Then there are just small details like the hidden items (that look kind of like tiny piƱatas) that are both not explained but then also not reflected in the main menu interface so you’re then unable to know whether you may have even gotten them all in a given level. For what you’ll pay it’s not a bad deal or experience, it’s just in that space where it’s merely good and you just wish a little more effort had been expended to get it another rung or two higher on the ladder of success.


Sir Lovelot [pixel.games] - Challenging retro-style platforming on a budget often isn’t pretty, with many titles simply showing poor overall design and hiding that behind the guise of deliberate difficulty. Refreshingly Sir Lovelot, while being rough around some edges, manages to deliver more than its price would imply with thoughtful level design full of hidden secrets, reasonably-good controls, and even a bit of cute charm to boot. While at first finding everything on your initial run through a level will be common but pretty quickly if you want to find it all you’ll need to take a critical look at everything and even take some risks to check on your hunches. It’s not necessarily a deep or lengthy experience but among many contemporaries that don’t often show much effort or polish it’s a stand out in the budget space for putting in some genuine effort.


Trash Quest [Francis Vace] - When you’re looking to score a decent game on a budget you can’t always afford to be overly picky, but thankfully with some help you can often find some solid deals out there. While it isn’t very impressive visually, and certainly won’t hold your hand very much, if you enjoy Metroidvania-style exploration as well as some tricky puzzle platforming, Trash Quest is worth a look. Taken as a relatively small, short, and challenging package to fill some time, completing it initially, and then competing on the leaderboard for a quick clear time once you know what you’re doing, for its low price it has quite a lot of value to offer for the right crowd.


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.


Demon's Tier+ [COWCAT] - With indies I always find it so thoroughly satisfying when games manage to take me by surprise. What, on the surface, looked like a run-of-the-mill budget action RPG instead turned out to be more of a twin-stick shooter in many regards that has just enough roguelike elements (and fair degree of challenge) to make the grinding you’ll inevitably do to unlock better weapons/character classes/equipment worthwhile. Is it Earth-shatteringly great? No. But all the same, for a modest price I was surprised how compelled I was to return to it until I beat the game at least at the first skill level. Every once in a while the mission I’d need to complete to finish the level would feel a bit unfair, the dungeon a bit too funky in its random layout, but that does tend to come with the territory when you’re trying to keep things fresh. Overall, it’s a satisfying experience on a budget with plenty to unlock and improve your runs with in search of glory.


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


Jet Set Knights [Ratalaika Games] - This is absolutely one of those titles that sort of shows up out of the woodwork and gives you a pleasant surprise… at least if you’re an old-school arcade aficionado like I am and can appreciate the simple but effective gameplay. Your goal is simply to protect the queen (princess?) who is at the bottom center of the on-screen castle using whatever means are available to you. Starting only with a trusty sword you’ll get the opportunity to use several weapons and abilities, some of which are even very powerful, in order to hold off a steady flow of enemies who would do her harm. I do wish there was at least some more minimal instruction initially as item icons and some other aspects require some trial and error to understand for their proper use, but since there’s simply not that much to it I suppose it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of things. Since what you get varies each time through you’ll need to simply be ready to improvise and do your best to survive through wave after wave. It’s not going to change the world but it honestly feels like it could have been a contemporary of some classic arcade games back in the day, which is admirable.


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


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


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.


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


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


Ding Dong XL [Nickervision Studios] - In the end this is a very low-budget title that very much earns what little it asks for. No, this isn’t a title that will likely occupy you for a terribly long time but as a palette cleanser of a time-waster for a reasonable price it’s probably among the very best options on the system. Throw in some silly unlocks to replace your ball (my favorite is a dachshund’s head) and it won’t change the world but it’s far more entertainment for some spare change that it needs to be.


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.


Mana Spark [BEHEMUTT] - Despite my complaints I was surprised at how much the loop of Mana Spark got me hooked. There’s some smart tactical combat here that’s challenging in a different sort of way, the need to make use of the environment and your secondary item to lure enemies around as a method to kill them is fun and a bit different. While it is lacking in polish and won’t appeal to people looking for more twitchy shooter-style fun Mana Spark does manage to carve out a place for itself as a solid alternative for people looking for a roguelike with a slower pace and some smart gameplay.


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


1001 Ultimate Mahjong 2 [NAWIA GAMES] - If you haven’t been eager to play Mahjong on the Switch, I doubt a review that has positive things to say about it will likely change your mind (though that would beg the question of why you’re reading it). However, if you enjoy well-made casual gaming 1001 Ultimate Mahjong is a surprisingly strong choice. With its variety of looks and thoughtful features it may be the best title of its kind I’ve played, and I do enjoy a good game of Mahjong once in a while.


Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers [Pocket] - Anyone who had a NES back in the day should probably remember RC Pro-Am and the great racing it offered up. While not completely the same by any means Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers is probably the only game I've played since those days to give me that vibe. While it likely won't take you long to get through all of its circuits and the Party modes are cute but not terribly deep the somewhat unusual control style it uses works like a charm and it can be fun to unlock new vehicles while it lasts.


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


Horizon Shift '81 [Flump Studios] - Overall, as a vintage gamer, I’m not sure how to convey how thoroughly impressed I am with Horizon Shift ‘81. While its looks are thoroughly of the earlier era of arcade action its gameplay is absolutely modern and extremely challenging, but in a way that puts a smile on my face. With decades that have elapsed since that era I’m shocked at how many new ideas and refinements have been made in this game, combining things in ways I can’t recall ever seeing before. If you’re a big fan of arcade shooters you owe it to yourself to check this one out!


I Am The Hero [Crazyant] - This surprisingly-good side-scrolling brawler has more than a cool look going for it. The core moveset you begin with is already pretty deep but the fact that you're then able to unlock former enemies to take control of as well, each with their own unique styles themselves, keeps things pretty diverse and interesting. While many of this kind descend into button mashing the various ways you need to deal with enemies and a push to keep your combo meter up help elevate this budget title to being worth of your time.


Puzzle Puppers [Cardboard Keep] - With a pretty disgusting level of cuteness Puzzle Puppers manages to make solving some clever puzzles a bit of fun. With a scalable degree of difficulty depending on how efficient you're insisting on being to maximize your score it can also be pretty accessible. Throw in a pretty reasonable price and it's a great casual challenge for all ages.


Super One More Jump [SMG Studio] - While in the early going the game will feel almost painfully simple for each new group of levels you unlock new concepts will be introduced and the degree of challenge will typically make a considerable jump. You’ll soon find yourself moving from laughing the game off as too easy to questioning your core gaming abilities when you’ve managed to die about 10 times in a row just trying to perfect the timing to grab that one gem without then dying. Best played in short bursts it is a great pick-up-and-play title with a load of charm, over 100 core levels, and unlockable content that will put your reflexes and sanity to the test. To boot if you can find some friends who dig the core gameplay it has multiplayer modes to offer up as well. It’s a pleasant surprise of a gem in an overall unassuming package.


The Adventures of Elena Temple [GrimTalin] - Retro games can be really challenging to get ""just right"", somehow toeing the line between being true to vintage gameplay and being trapped by it. With platforming action that took me back to my Atari 5200 and Commodore 64 days Elena Temple managed to be a nostalgic rush but also, aside from its pixel graphics looks, managed to feel at home as a modern game as well. With a bite-sized length to match its budget price this is a game any retro fan should thoroughly enjoy.


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!


Mom Hid My Game [Hap] - Mom Hid My Game isn’t meant to be taken seriously and in many ways it is less a game than it is a series of bizarre skits. With that in mind it is more difficult to score than usual. Approaching it in terms of gameplay there’s not much to speak of so it would struggle. However, keeping in mind its apparent goals I’d say it has executed them extremely well and if you’re looking for a very “out of left field” piece of entertainment for a few hours I’ll happily recommend it.


Quest of Dungeons [Upfall Studios] - If you're familiar with the original Rogue that the roguelike game style derived from you'll never find quite as true a modern take on it as Quest of Dungeons. Much more bare bones in both complexity and presentation than flashier flare Quest makes up for that in satisfying challenge true to the original Rogue and well-suited to more casual play on the cough. That isn't to say it is easy, in particular defeating the last Dungeon is a supreme challenge to your skill and your patience.


Star Ghost [Squarehead Studios] - As a whole I both enjoy Star Ghost and am a big aggravated by it. I love that it set out to do something different, and it has very much accomplished that goal. I like that whether it meant to or not it has some very roguelike elements in its DNA that make it noteworthy and challenging. That said, there are a few elements that may have benefitted from moving the needle a little further back in terms of difficulty to make it more likely accessible to a wider audience. It’s an acquired taste as it stands, and for people seeking out a non-traditional challenge it is a solid value as well.


Volgarr The Viking [Crazy Viking] - All told a game like Volgarr the Viking will either immediately appeal to your gaming sensibilities and desire to be challenged or it won’t. This isn’t likely the type of game that will convert anyone unless you’ve been searching for an excuse to “git gud” at something that puts the bar pretty high up and won’t be compromising for the sake of your feelings. If you do take the plunge after playing for a little bit I would recommend hitting videos of the people speed-running it so get an idea of not only where some secrets are but to get some hints on how to get a flow going. They’re going to make it all look far easier than it is but it is likely you’ll learn that being aggressive can work out if you’ve got the timing down and understand how best to use the attacks and skills you have available to you. If you miss the old school days where you needed to make a real investment to conquer a game and love that feeling of accomplishment when you finally pull it off Volgarr is absolutely a great choice, for everyone else it’s probably going to be a pass.


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


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


Reed Remastered [PXLink] - While there are quite a number of budget puzzle platformers on the system, depending on your tastes or preferred method of play they’re not all created equal. Aside from many in the space not being terribly original or inspired, scaling on the Switch in handheld mode can make playing a number of them less than ideal. If you’ve been looking for a platformer suited to on-the-go play both in terms of its bite-sized levels and chunky large sprites Reed Remastered looks and plays far better than most of its competition.


Undead & Beyond [Ominous Entertainment] - If there’s one thing I love about checking out indie games it’s the out-of-the-blue surprises, games I’ve never heard of that look unassuming but deliver far more than I’d ever expect. Though it’s hardly perfect that’s very much the case with Undead & Beyond, a budget title whose looks may be a bit on the clunky side, but whose style of play is just unique (and maybe a bit twisted) enough to make for a good time. You play the part of a mad scientist who has concocted a formula to essentially create zombies. Perhaps understandably the powers that be aren’t amused so they’re coming for you. Your goal? Escape each level you find yourself in by turning anyone you encounter, giving events a nudge when you can with some gear you’ll find, and generally trying to promote chaos and carnage to allow you to escape. It may not be terribly complex or varied as you go along, but I’ll admit that watching my zombie horde meander into a room and kill a unit of soldiers in a flurry of explosions and pixelated bloodshed at least would give me a giggle. Sometimes it just feels good to be evil.


Vera Blanc: Full Moon [Ratalaika Games] - As you may know by now if you’ve read quite a few reviews I generally find narrative games to be less-than-stellar more often than not. I’m happy to say in the case of Vera Blanc, though, there’s just enough to its odd psychic investigator on the track of a werewolf storyline to make it stand out. Reading someone’s mind is akin to a game of hangman, with you having little opportunity for error but most of the time you can lock in on the thoughts pretty well, but even if you don’t use that ability there’s room for intrigue. It plays out a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure, with you needing to make choices on what to do or who to focus on, and bad choices will then appropriately lead to a dire ending of some kind, but the journey is at least reasonably well-written and sucks you in to try again with your mistakes in mind. I do wish there were more illustrated panels to help keep the game more visually interesting but what’s there is adequate, just a bit limited. All in all if you’re looking for a bit of a mystery with a decent overall hook Vera Blanc is worth a look though.


Cyber Protocol [RedDeerGames] - Helping to prove that there can be far more to a game than what it looks like Cyber Protocol was a title that seemed simple at a glimpse but once I got going with it quickly got me hooked. While its appearance is akin to retro arcade classics like Pac-Man and its various clones, this is a puzzle action game and it quickly gets you up to speed and then begins throwing you some serious challenges to both your planning and reflexes. Periodic checkpoints give you some respite but in order to grab all of the bonuses you’ll often need to go out on a limb and execute a series of moves to nab everything and then get to the exit without being destroyed. Since there’s simply nothing else like it on the system it is worthy of your attention if you like a challenge and can get past its simple appearance.


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


REKT [Little Chicken Game] - When you’re dealing with budget titles the bar for evaluation is a tricky thing to evaluate. For me the focus ultimately revolves around identifying whether the game’s goal had some ambition and then how well the overall vision seems to have been executed. In the case of REKT its goal is pretty plainly in its name, to deliver a somewhat crazy stunt driving experience. While there’s not much more to it than that I’ll give it credit for putting together elements that work pretty well. The controls aren’t over-complicated, there are multiple arenas to explore and have fun with, there are plenty of cars to unlock, and for the price if you’re seeking something to kick around for some short play sessions to stunt and have some fun it delivers. It won’t take the eShop by storm but its asking price is reasonable for what it delivers.



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!