Friday, January 14

Top 70 / Best Indie Challenging Games on Nintendo Switch

Last Updated: 1/14/22!

Cuphead [Studio MDHR] - With a mix of brutal boss battles and challenging run and gun sections Cuphead is notorious for being a tough game. While the degree of difficulty is well-known for a reason, that isn’t to say that the majority of the game is impossible by any means. Much like certain classic games like Punch-Out in particular, the key to success is careful observation, learning the enemy patterns and then getting a comfort level for executing what needs to get done. The fact that it will additionally be remembered as one of the most visually fascinating games of the generation is just icing on the cake, no matter how incredible it looks it wouldn’t be well-regarded if the gameplay wasn’t there to match.

Dead Cells [Motion Twin] - This was probably my favorite game of 2018, though since it's also a very challenging title it won't be for everyone. I played a ton of it on PC in Early Access but in its final form on the Switch everything I liked about it solidified completely with rock-solid and satisfying gameplay. The fact that you can be effective with a variety of builds, its multiple paths you can follow, and satisfying progression as you make repeated attempts make this the gold standard in roguelikes for me, and it proves out what they're capable of.

Celeste [Matt Makes Games Inc] - While not a game I formally reviewed for the system this is one of those titles that can't be omitted since it is both terrifically challenging and very accessible with loads of options to make the difficulty more within your reach. Throw in a very strong story and it's definitely one of the top tier games on the system.

Hades [Supergiant Games] - OK, so I’ll admit the folks at Supergiant Games (behind the favorites Bastion and Transistor in particular) had me with the fact that they decided to make a roguelike to begin with. But, pedigree doesn’t always mean a home run (sadly, looking at you Exit the Gungeon) so I’ll admit that despite how great this game looked I was nervous as it loaded up. Given that the bar for roguelike excellence is Dead Cells, with all of its amazing action and variety, making a big splash in this territory takes some real skill. Damn, as if their past titles weren’t clear enough, Hades locks Supergiant Games in as a real force to be reckoned with, and that’s all the way up to the AAA developers. Hades is smart and stylish, fast and fluid, tough and tense… and in general among roguelikes the surprise is that I’d also consider it very approachable, even from the get-go, for anyone with some familiarity with action titles. Where it really takes things to the next level is that it starts with the rock-solid core of several well-designed weapons, each with their own base style, but then through divine enhancements and other means of modification you unlock as you go each run can feel radically different. You can enhance each skill a little or go deep in one discipline, both approaches are valid and can give you a lot of power if you can keep moving and alive. What I love is that while the range of ways you can play is reminiscent of the likes of Dead Cells the systems in this game still feel very fresh and unique. Throw in stellar voice work, more mythological figures than you can shake a stick at, and a truckload of inherent replayability that comes with any good roguelike and this is one of the top games on the system.

Neon Abyss [Veewo Games] - While it’s still what I’d consider a niche genre overall roguelike shooters are one of those that I practically consider sacred. While I’ve played and enjoyed a great number of them there are probably only 3 I’d say are pillars of sorts in the genre: The Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Throne, and Enter the Gungeon. While all of them play differently the one thing they have in common is their top-down perspective. I’ve seen attempts at side-scrolling roguelikes before, but none of them has really stepped up to the level of the greats… until now. Neon Abyss is the game-changing and genre-defining side-scrolling roguelike shooter you’ve been waiting for, it’s simple as that. For comparison purposes I’d say the game it shares the most with conceptually would be Isaac, and that’s because it pushes much more heavily into the potential for craziness and diversity in every single run. Rather than the focus being on weapons, though it certainly has some very creative ones, Abyss is much more about the absolutely dizzying number of items and how putting them together in different combinations can produce some radically-different results. While there are opportunities to make some choices, for the most part every time you enter the Abyss you’re on a runaway train of craziness and your only choice is to try to make the most of it. One run may be pet-heavy, in another you’ll be able to fly, some will give you devastating firepower, but no matter how geared up you may feel the fickle RNG gods can still take it away. If you’re a fan of shooters I consider this an absolute must-play (and hey, there’s a demo too), but even for more mainstream gamers if you’ve ever considered trying out a roguelike shooter this is absolutely one of the best options out there.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps [Moon Studios] - When reviewing games in general I try to carefully avoid hyperbole and excessive exuberance whenever possible. To that end, even with well over 1,500 reviews under my belt and so many terrific titles played, I’ve only awarded 2 perfect scores among them for Stardew Valley and Dead Cells. In the case of Ori and the Will of the Wisps I’m going to be adding to that very exclusive list with pretty well no reservations. With its nimble movement, massive scale, gorgeous environments, and combination of so many elements that feel like they’ve been carefully refined to be their most engaging it’s likely the best Metroidvania title I’ve ever played. I will warn that the platforming is probably a little more challenging than the average, requiring patience and precision, but for the most part success rests solely on your skills as the controls are spot-on and well-implemented. With there being so much ground to cover and spots you’ll want and need to return to, as you acquire the necessary skills or changes to environments to give you access, I do wish there were a few more waypoints scattered about but that’s about my only real criticism (OK, and it has crashed on me twice, but thankfully with no real loss of progress in either case). There’s a very good reason Microsoft backed this horse, and it is a gift that has been shared with Switch owners that is absolutely worth your time and effort.

Hollow Knight [Team Cherry] - Another one of the titles I didn't originally review for the system, this is another one of those games that would be criminal not to include on top lists, especially given its difficult-but-addictive nature. Throw in a very distinctive look and a combination of tough combat and traversal and it is highly-regarded for a reason.

The Messenger [Sabotage Studio] - Possibly one of the best retro console titles I've ever played, The Messenger actually feels like a collection of multiple terrific and challenging titles. Starting out as a more straight-up action platformer after many levels and challenging bosses you'll feel like you're done but then, BAM, the game expands into an epic and even more challenging Metroidvania. It blends classic sensibilities with outstanding level designs, a Shopkeeper who absolutely cracks me up throughout the game, and some of the most satisfying action I enjoyed all year.

Curious Expedition 2 [Maschinen-Mensch] - For me Curious Expedition 2 is everything I look for in a sequel outing. It delivers a bit more quirk and color in its characters, locations, and things to discover. It has made some small refinements to the dice-based combat and feels a bit more common sense this time around (though that could have to do with familiarity now, but originally in the first it felt like rougher going early on). It gives you plenty of opportunity to make both good and bad moves from start to finish, whether it’s in the composition of your team, taking a chance on a roll in a specific event, or taking a detour to check out a potential landmark along your route and risking your team running out of provisions as a result. There’s no question that the RNG gods can be cruel at times here, but on some runs they can also randomly save your ass so it feels fair. As strategy roguelike combinations go I believe this is one of the strongest, not just providing satisfying play but also throwing in a generous dose of personality and humor to keep you further engaged and entertained.

Tails of Iron [Odd Bug Studio] - This is a title that hit me a bit out of nowhere, took my lunch money, and is now making me earn it back one challenging battle at a time… and for the most part you can count me impressed. While I’ll admit getting started my interest was a little shaky, just because I prefer titles to get down to business a little quicker, once I was set up with my basic gear and understood the flow of combat I was fully on board. I’m not sure I can emphasize enough that if you’re not down for a challenge this may rub you the wrong way, as though there’s not much to the combat in terms of moves, the expectation is that you’re on top of every dodge, parry, and counter in order to survive. Normally I tend to turn up my nose at anyone implying “Souls-like” combat, since in most cases the challenge comes from poor or frustrating controls, but in the case of Tails I’d say it would be well applied, at least for the big battles that will tend to hold you up for a while as you perfect your strategy. Mixing together an interesting art style, a somewhat unusual story of you trying to regain your rat kingdom from frogs and other villains, and tough-as-nails combat, Tails of Iron is worth a shot if you believe yourself worthy of hard-fought glory.

Super Mombo Quest [Orube Game Studio] - There’s nothing quite as satisfying in the indie games space than to stumble onto something that immediately feels pretty special that you’d previously never seen or heard of. For me that’s precisely what happened with Super Mombo Quest, and within just a few minutes I was really able to start grooving with its fast-moving platforming action and precision that is demanding but never unfair. Progression in the form of unlocking new skills and perks, as well as entirely new forms and abilities, keeps things interesting and never dull and I don’t know if I’ve ever been held in suspense keeping an eye on my combo meter as much as I have with this game, desperate to earn my Mombo Combo on every stage. If you’re a fan of platforming with personality and depth this is an absolute must-own title!

West of Dead [Upstream Arcade] - While there are many roguelike shooters on the Switch (and quite a few of them are absolutely terrific) none of them plays quite like West of Dead. The biggest change is in the pacing, switching out arcade-style intensity with the more careful action befitting your undead gunslinger. Make no mistake, this game is absolutely a challenge, and in true roguelike fashion it’s not going to compromise it’s level of difficulty for the benefit of your ego in the early going especially. The thing is, once you get over the substantial hump of Chapter 1 (pro hint: unless you like dying don’t take on the Wendigo in the second level, he’s optional) and get your bearings, as well as a few new weapons and items for your arsenal selection, it does let up. Many mechanics for progression and flow take a page from the Dead Cells handbook, a smart move, though unfortunately the build variety and choice in that title isn’t as present here. Though I love the Mignola-esque art style the darkness mixed with funky geometry can sometimes be annoying as you'll get stuck, and the camera that tries to keep a bead on the action can contribute to occasional issues further. Though perhaps this is a title best reserved for the hardcore roguelike fans who know what they’re getting into, the game’s sense of style matched with the voice of Ron Perlman may compel some new blood to the genre as well. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

A Robot Named Fight [Matt Bitner] - If Nintendo were to decide to turn the Metroid series into a roguelike it would likely end up looking quite a bit like A Robot Named Fight, though probably a lot more polished. Your goal is to survive and that can be quite a challenge. On each run you'll encounter new ship layouts, make use of different weapons and power-ups, and likely have very different experiences, some good and some more brutal. It adds up to a compelling challenge that continues to stay fresh for quite some time as long as you don't decide to give up in frustration too quickly.

Hyper Light Drifter [Heart Machine] - The indie darling from the PC space has finally come to Switch full of its challenging dashing and slashing. You'll need to carefully choose where you decide to go, and if things don't seem to be panning out too well in one direction you should try another, as some paths are more challenging than others. Filled out with some difficult boss fights and ability upgrades that require making some tough choices of what you'll want to invest in it's an engaging experience all around.

Ms. Splosion Man [Twisted Pixel Games] - 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.

Super Meat Boy [Team Meat] - One of the original poster children of brutally challenging platforming is now on the Switch and he's as tough as ever. While simply surviving and getting through the levels can be tricky, overachievers will no doubt want to find and unlock all of the game's secret characters which often even require you to play with distinct mechanics to find success with. While it's super-challenging it's also typically not cruel, and its controls are super-tight, putting the pressure on you to execute with precision.

Wulverblade [Darkwind Media] - Full of technique, nuance, and some very challenging boss fights Wulverblade has established a new gold standard in what beat-em-ups should aspire to both in terms of story and general gameplay. A patch to pull back the challenge and make it more accessible to less skilled players was welcome and there's one particular surprise as you near the game's conclusion that you absolutely won't want to miss! The end is only the beginning!

Curse of the Dead Gods [Passtech Games] - Roguelikes have exploded in popularity in the past few years, with games like Dead Cells and Hades showing the way the last 2 years in how to make top-tier mainstream titles in the space. Curse of the Dead Gods may be a bit too challenging for a more generic crowd, but if you’re a fan of more challenging far in the spirit of Darkest Dungeon or (I wasn’t going to say it, since I hate when people say it) Dark Souls, it’s a title that does “hard” right. Absolutely swimming in the “risk versus reward” mentality every room you choose, every side passage you run into hoping for loot, and every bit of healing you benefit from at the cost of further corrupting your soul is about giving you choices and (often) then making you pay for them. When you first start out corruption feels like the enemy you’re fighting, and to a degree that’s true, every 100 points of it you receive you’ll take on a new curse. But even the game’s curses are often a matter of perspective and once you embrace them, and get some meta progression perks going, things get challenging and fun. Combat is tough, with your dodge and parry being essential to survival, and there’s a rhythm to it that takes getting used to but that plays with terrific (and appreciated) precision. Once you’ve got a handle on the combat, have made some smart investments with your meta progression, understand which weapons best suit your style, and have learned to use curses to your advantage whenever possible, you’ll find a deep, challenging, and rewarding roguelike well worth your attention.

Death’s Door [Acid Nerve] - Opening with a pretty minimal understanding of what’s going on, Death’s Door gets off to a bit of a rocky start. Once you give it a bit where you understand its relatively simple but effective controls, and you make a bit of progress, the picture does get clearer and that allows a sense of satisfaction to settle in nicely. Playing out as a sort of slasher adventure with a satisfying number of puzzles, as well as an abundance of secrets, Death’s Door isn’t for beginners but for the most part is never unfair either in its degree of difficulty. You’ll need to be quick, make periodic upgrades that suit your style of play, and always try to be a bit curious about every possible way you can go to be sure you don’t miss anything to get the most out of it. In particular the formidable bosses you’ll face can require a mix of skill, patience, and a fair amount of luck… but that’s what makes getting through them all the more satisfying. Smart and stylish, if you were a fan of Hyper Light Drifter or games like it, Death’s Door fits perfectly into that same space, finding the balance between adventure and challenging-but-satisfying combat.

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

Risk of Rain 2 [Hopoo Games] - Having played both the original Risk of Rain and the Early Access version of this sequel on PC I’m pretty well-acquainted with both the level of challenge it provides, and of how chaotic the combat can tend to get in a hurry if you don’t keep up with the spawn rate of your enemies in spots. In many ways they aren’t very nuanced, your objective is to move through environments as quickly as you can, killing enemies along the way, in search of the teleportation shrine that will move you to the next area. Every moment you waste essentially powers up your enemies but that can also be a positive as blowing through a horde or two will give you some loot to spend at randomly-placed boxes, kiosks, 3D printers, and equipment like healing drones or defensive guns. Each stage then culminates in a challenging blow out boss fight. A load of classes, including a new one added in the latest patch, and the ability to team up online all make for plenty of ways to engage in great action… just be warned that if you’re seeking context, story, or nuance that isn’t what this game is about. It’s much more of a throwback conceptually to the days of arcades where the onslaught needed no explanation, you just needed to be ready to do as much damage as you can to get as far as you can before dying… and then starting all over again.

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.

Steel Assault [Zenovia] - Run-and-gun shooters were absolutely a consistent staple in the arcades and on consoles back in the day, and that puts a certain amount of pressure on developers in the current day to do anything that feels new and exciting. What’s great is that sometimes just small things can really make a difference and the grapple in Steel Assault quickly became the star of the show for me. Giving the game a feeling that sits somewhere between a classic shooter like Contra and the beloved Bionic Commando, there’s just something refreshing about the flow of this game that’s very satisfying. That’s not to say that, by any means, it’ll be an easy run. You can expect to crash and burn quite a bit, with the expectation being that you’re really on top of how best to use your grapple quickly and effectively even while under fire, and that can sometimes require some diligence to get through tough spots. I think the challenge is also exacerbated a little by checkpoints that sometimes feel a little spread out, though conceptually they usually make sense and some areas are simply bigger and tougher than others. While in terms of raw content the game technically isn’t a very long one, getting to the point where you’ve got the skill and experience to be able to blow through it all will take some time, making this a great challenge for classic arcade fans.

Bloodroots [Paper Cult] - This is a title that got me excited the first time I saw it in a Nindie Direct and that I was even more thrilled with when I got to play it some last year at PAX. The silly and almost arcade-like kinetic action as you sweep through levels like a tornado of destruction, using whatever implements are available, to dispatch your numerous enemies is a thrill. I was concerned that it would somehow burn itself out, running out of ideas and somehow losing its edge but those worries were unfounded. New challenges, weapons, and scenarios continue to challenge you throughout, moving between more free-form destruction levels and those that require precision and smart use of what’s made available to you. If there’s one concern I have with the game I’d say that it may be a bit tougher than the average person would like, and one of the reasons for that is that there are times it feels overly picky. Sometimes this is a simpler thing like you being close but apparently not just close enough to grab a weapon as you blow by but then there are stages where you’ll need to jump from a moving barrel to another but nuance isn’t one of the game’s strengths and without nailing the jump you’ll repeatedly die. If the game were only slightly more forgiving, leaning further into the fun energy and high-score-chasing chaos than being so picky about precision I’d consider it just about perfect for anyone. As it is, everything is still a load of fun, just be ready for some rough spots where you may need to walk away for a bit to let your rage subside.

Inertial Drift [Level 91 Entertainment] - While some people prefer their racing to be a bit rough around the edges, banging around turns and defying any sense of realism, others prefer to go the other direction and focus on nuance. That’s certainly the case for the aptly-named Inertial Drift, which won’t give you the arcade-like thrills of bumping into your competitors (when you do race against a single opponent you don’t make contact with them, they’re always effectively ghosts), but instead focuses on skilled drifting, which offers great fun and challenge in its own right. The big differentiator here is that the right stick controls the angle of your drift, which is a brilliant idea, and really allows you to have fabulously-precise control of your car through turns, and as you get better your understanding of how best to turn versus drift continues to evolve. There’s no doubt the degree of challenge is also higher here, but if you find yourself struggling initially I’d very much recommend choosing a different racer and car. Every vehicle has its own associated technique with it in terms of how you approach turns, whether just letting off the throttle, braking, or whatever it may be. Each feels very distinct and I could see where different people could prefer each particular style of racer. To top it off the hand-drawn sort of art style looks pretty amazing, so if you prefer nuance to trading paint this may be the racer for you.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill [Megagon Industries] - If there was a major genre on Switch to argue may be the worst represented, whether AAA titles or indies, it could be sports. Given how much diversity that’s possible in the category this is a bit of a surprise but it’s where we find ourselves. When a genre title does then show up there can be a concern that fans on the platform are so starved for a new experience that they’ll jump on anything. In the case of Lonely Mountains: Downhill you shouldn’t have such a concern, at least depending on the type of experience you’re looking for. Part discovery and exploration, part precision, certainly part frustration, and I’ll gladly throw a bit of luck onto the pile as well, it’s an experience not quite like anything I’ve played before. Your goal is pretty simple at first, simply survive the tough ride from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Along that ride, though, you’ll see the hints of what’s in store for you as you then try to shave seconds off your time. You’ll swear you see what could be a trail off to the side, you’ll hit an intersection with a path coming from a completely different direction, or you’ll even see a spot you’re certain must be a jump. What follows is usually a grueling run or two where you’ll basically try to map out what’s possible, typically learning the hard way how not to execute certain sections as your rider plunges to a bloody (and often undoubtedly lethal) fall. No problem, you’ll pop right back to your last checkpoint and try again… and again. As a warning I’ve seen the game stutter at times as it scales in and out of the action, and there are angles where the brilliant tilt shift perspective look works against you with elements blocking your view from the foreground but the unique experience, the open-ended nature of how you tackle your run, and the sheer beauty of the different trails and mountains you’ll encounter make this an outstanding game like no other that’s absolutely worth a look if you don’t mind the challenge.

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

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

Don't Starve [Klei Entertainment] - Don't Starve is a roguelike take on survival with a heap of unpredictable situations that will kill you. In order to help compensate you're actually able to tune your game world quite a bit, so at least you can tone things down while you get to understand what you need to do in which order and where in order best to survive. It has plenty of content for those daring enough to stick with it, just expect a challenge.

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

Into The Breach [Subset Games] - Coming from the people behind the infamous FTL (which somehow still isn't on Switch), this bite-sized strategy title works in pretty quick and concise rounds that will demand your careful attention. Progress will come slowly at first and you'll likely need to make some sacrifices in order to ultimately succeed but this is a well-designed strategy title that will make you work for your success.

Overcooked 2 [Ghost Town Games Ltd] - The sequel to this frantic cooking hit managed to amp up the insanity a bit while toning down a few of the rougher edges from the original. If you don't have people to play with locally online is now an option, though that can make effective coordination quite a bit trickier. While the game is playable solo, taking on a more puzzle-like feel at times, it shines the brightest and most fun when played locally with some friends, just be ready to coordinate, communicate, and keep your cool as the game throws your well-made plans into the crapper as stages play out in unexpected ways.

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

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

Has-Been Heroes [Frozenbyte, Inc] - It seems appropriate include this first game I reviewed for the system and prepared a pretty extensive tips and tricks guide for. Dismissed by much of the games press for its substantial level of challenge before its Day 1 Patch looking through many of the complaints about it I think the biggest issue was too many people didn’t understand its mechanics and were trying to smash their way through. This is a deep strategy roguelike and once you understand its systems defeating its bosses is a supremely satisfying feeling. Pair that with post-launch patches that have refined the difficulty and added additional content there's a staggering amount of terrific content in this game!

Thumper [Drool] - As has been the case with quite a number of games I’ve enjoyed on the Switch to date I would gladly recommend Thumper to anyone, but would throw out two caveats as well. First, while I don’t think being good at rhythm games is necessarily essential to you being successful in the game, there’s no getting around the fact that being able to feel and anticipate the beats will help you immensely. The second is that this game gets to be extremely challenging, playing it has maxed out my personal intensity to the point that my thumb hurts from me mashing down the A button with apparently all of the force my hand can exert. I would expect that it is a game many people who decide to buy it won’t ever finish just because at some point the bar feels just a bit too high. Regardless, if you like its aesthetics, its pounding beats, and a stiff challenge, there’s really nothing holding me back from recommending it whole-heartedly.

Dandy Ace [Mad Mimic] - While I’ve been a fan of roguelikes for quite some time it’s only been in the past few years with top-tier titles the likes of Dead Cells, Hades, and more that they’ve really been catapulted into more mainstream gaming circles. That, of course, invites games looking to capitalize, but matching the high standards of stand-outs like those is a real challenge. While Dandy Ace isn’t quite as polished and impressive as Hades in multiple areas, I’ll at least give it credit for its visual and stylistic flair as well as hearty degree of challenge and (eventual) variety. As is the case with pretty well all roguelikes that have meta progression the early running will tend to be more repetitive and rough, as you won’t have access to much variety or power in the cards you’ll use to power your attacks. That said, if you’re willing to experiment with what you have you’ll find the game’s enhancement system, allowing for stacking cards to add secondary abilities to your attacks, quite versatile if you’re willing to take some chances and learn what overall style of play works best for you. If you’re a roguelike fan and have been searching for your next fix that will keep you on your toes this is a great option.

Death’s Gambit: Afterlife [White Rabbit Interactive] - Beneath the veneer of this very attractive side-scrolling Metroidvania-ish action RPG beats the heart of ambition… though in measuring the results you could argue the degree of success may vary. Right from the get-go the good and bad of the depth of the combat systems presents itself with more than a handful of classes you’ll be able to work with. While you can see some general info on them and do a sort of mini test drive with them this is both great (since it opens the door to multiple playthroughs and tastes in combat) and a bit too much too soon as you have yet to really get a feel for the mechanics of the game that will be paired with it. I think that the thread of the developer working so hard to provide for player choice and variety is woven throughout and how people will respond to that may vary wildly. For the hard core set it will likely be a godsend, and when paired with the generally challenging (please, I hate calling things Souls-like, I usually consider that a bad sign when in marketing material) combat everything will come up roses. For people who were hoping more for a well-structured Metroidvania with rock solid combat, mechanics, and a satisfying and well-defined upgrade path… it can all seem to be a bit much. Whether the game is for you likely rests on that central question. It looks great, is challenging, and while I wouldn’t consider its mechanics “perfect” they’re better than the average… but depending on the investment you want to put into needing to hone your character and experiment there may be less overwhelming options out there that will be a better fit.

Eldest Souls [Fallen Flag Studio] - For me, Eldest Souls is a bit of a pleasant surprise. You see, whenever I see any game that’s tough and is in any way implied to be a bit like Dark Souls, my interest level immediately drops. I can respect games that are inherently meant to be hard and, done properly, a solid boss rush title can be exhilarating and maddening all at once. More often than not, though, I’ve found games in this category to be hard for the wrong reasons. Whether it’s over-complicated or shoddy controls, sluggish movement or simply enemies who feel like damage sponges who bring little to no fun to the table, I often find games in the space to be sloppy and tedious. Eldest Souls, however, pretty quickly got its hooks in me and made me pretty happy. The much larger bosses you face are absolutely intimidating, and you won’t likely have a very easy time dispatching them, but the elements are all in place where almost every time you walk away knowing your loss was on you and your lack of execution. Throw in plenty of opportunities to upgrade your hero on different paths to help the play better suit your style and this is a title worth boss rushing to if you like a challenge.

Klang 2 [Tinimations] - When it comes to music and rhythm games there are those titles that take a familiar road, often mapping buttons to specific spots you’ll need to hit in rhythm, and then those that veer off to do things their own way. In the case of Klang 2 on the one hand the controls are much simpler, not making you worry over multiple buttons, but on the other the focus on needing to aim directionally at different types of targets takes the challenge to a different level. Throw in its neon-like visuals matching up well with its often EDM-style tracks and it’s an energetic assault on your senses that can be quite thrilling. The one concern is the degree of challenge once you get over the first handful of stages, sometimes with difficulty spikes suddenly taking your current great performance and wrecking it quickly with patterns that are visually hard to discern, sometimes requiring a few passes just to be positive what sequence of things you’ll need to do in order to get through them. While it may not appeal to all rhythm game fans, people with a taste for more modern music and who enjoy something with a different sense of style than what the genre traditionally provides will want to pick this one up.

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.

Super Impossible Road [Wonderful Lasers] - Rolling onto the scene and feeling like the marriage of Super Monkey Ball, a futuristic racer, and an exercise in calculated risks and insanity, Super Impossible Road certainly makes an impression on Switch. In principle the goal is simple, regardless of the specific event type: get to the goal at the end of the track as quickly as possible. Whether that’s by trying your best to stay on the often-windy track, taking your chances jumping off the side and trying to land on a lower section of track, or some combination of all the above, you can bet none of the options will necessarily be easy. One of the best ways to at least try to give yourself all the help you can is to tune your craft with equipment that best suits your style, usually with a focus on your grip of the track or your ability to control yourself in the air. Whether you try to find a balance and stick with it or even move between a few configurations to best suit the given event and track layout is up to you. Make no mistake, the game earns its name in spades, and racing against others tends to lead to a lot of risk-taking and paying the price, but if you enjoy gritting your teeth and working to “git gud” there’s nothing quite like this on the system.

Cook, Serve, Delicious 3 [Vertigo Games] - Following up the previous delectable outing on Switch, CSD3 is back with a new somewhat silly story with your empire having been reduced to rubble and starting over in a food truck. Aside from that, and how it has some influence on the presentation and how you’re able to customize it’s more of the same tense and quick action, new recipes, and more fun. As was the case before, this is a title I’d hesitate to say is great in docked mode because using a controller for the action is workable but can leave your fingers in knots whenever things get a bit crazy (which happens often). Playing using the touchscreen is far easier, though sometimes the on-screen buttons you’ll need to press can feel a bit small I’ll admit when you’re trying to be precise. Regardless, for fans of food prepping games I’d consider this series one of the best I’ve played, offering a fair challenge but also to a degree letting you pick your poison since you control your menu and the meals you’re looking to repeatedly prepare quickly. It’s a challenging food-frenzied blast if you can keep up.

Depixtion [DevHour Games, LLC] - While for many years the Picross series has sat safely at the top of its own puzzle kingdom, seeing threats from other comers but never really breaking a sweat to match or surpass them, the times they are a-changin. Rather than strictly copy the formula that has been so consistently satisfying some smart competitors have changed things up, trying new things, and some have found success. One such title is Depixtion, which on a general level follows the same playbook, but if you’ve been feeling like the typical Picross title trends a little too much towards being easy, you’ll want to give this one a look. The big difference comes from the way colors are handled. Breaking the spectrum up into 6 colors (Blue, Yellow, and Red… plus light and dark for each) on 3 distinct boards that are overlapped to produce the final colors the challenge here is pretty real. Where most titles will allow for a degree of “smart guessing” once you’ve filled in a fair portion of the puzzle, that method here would make any such attempts risky at best. If you’ve been thirsting for some tougher challenges in your Picross puzzling Depixtion has you covered.

Evergate [Stone Lantern Games] - I’d consider Evergate one of those sneaky indies that has a look that gives one impression but whose level of challenge and action move in a very different direction. Your reasonably cute character won’t be casually exploring and completing stages at their leisure, this is a strap in and get ready to push yourself experience pretty well from the get-go that will have you gritting your teeth and working on your timing and accuracy just to complete some levels, let alone grab every spirit orb or manage to also complete the course very quickly. To its credit, in each successive area you unlock new wrinkles will be added to the mix to increase the complexity of your runs and force you to experiment to uncover the optimum path in each stage, the trick will then be executing that plan. Layering on top of that as you collect more orbs and progress you’ll also unlock access to new perks and abilities that will range from convenient to outright crucial in choosing which ones to use on more challenging stages. While the controls make sense and do work I can’t say they feel particularly natural, you more just get used to them with practice. It’s not a killer of a problem, but the scheme did strike me as unusual and perhaps even a bit awkward given the intensity of play… you just hate to feel like you messed up because your fingers were in knots. If you’re a fan of challenging platforming this will hook you up nicely.

GoNNER 2 [Art in Heart] - I absolutely adore the original GoNNER but I won’t deny that it’s a love that wasn’t easy to develop in the early going. The fact that the sequel is so similar in its approach to the gameplay experience shouldn’t be a surprise but also somewhat inherently makes it a tough sell for more than a niche-y crowd no matter how much fun it can be once it gets rolling. The GoNNER experience initially is all about exploration, experimentation, discovery, and probably hitting up boards and FAQs as you try to find the game’s various heads, weapons, and additional gear or at least a reasonable explanation of what some of them do. The reason for this is there’s no help text or guidance of any kind in the game, and if you walked into the experience without at least knowing that a reasonable percentage of gamers would possibly just stop playing out of frustration. So, OK, you’ve got some heads, weapons, and gear so next you’ll play with combinations to figure out which work best for you. To the sequel’s credit there’s some new crazier stuff to find as well as a new-ish perk system so more than ever I think the “ideal build” will be more of an open question. Now, once you’re at least feeling set and geared up, as well as armed with a knowledge of what the heck you’re doing at times, you’re ready to work on getting that multiplier up, making the game go a bit crazy, and basking in the chaos of it all. Much like the original there are just things that make GoNNER 2 a challenge to love, but for those who do stick with it through the substantial initial difficulty curve it’s just a quirky and unique platform shooting roguelike experience like no other.

Ibb & Obb [Sparpweed] - Local co-op games are obviously pretty well-represented on the Switch, and they range from light and silly to pretty involved at times. The bulk I’d wager somewhere on the easier end of the spectrum, whether in terms of their puzzles or at least mechanically, benefitting people who are perhaps playing with a less seasoned gamer. Ibb and Obb is by no means inaccessible to the more casual crowd but it doesn’t take long before it is clear that both players are going to need to be able to think through their puzzles and then be able to execute as well to proceed. While the stronger player can usually opt to take the “tougher road” to move things forward here the game uses colored gates to essentially force both players to tackle challenging spots evenly, a move I appreciate. For such a visually simple title that provides little in the way of direct guidance it’s also surprisingly intuitive, typically doing a great job of easing you into new concepts like the need to use momentum and then expecting you to be able to apply that to more complicated situations. While best suited to local co-op play there’s an option to hook up with someone online as well, which is a nice touch but undoubtedly will make things tougher without direct communication as you’ll need to work together almost constantly. While it may be on the harder side if you’re playing with a more casual friend this is one of the better co-op titles on the system.

Super Meat Boy Forever [Team Meat] - Fans of one of the OG teeth-gnashing platforming challenges from the early indie days have been waiting for a number of years to see Meat Boy make his triumphant (and brutally tough) return, and with the arrival of Forever… there’ll be mixed reactions?!? This may not be the sequel everyone was hoping for as the style of play has been changed completely, even if the degree of difficulty hasn’t subsided at all. Where before you had full control over Meat Boy (or any of his unlocked contemporaries) to work through loads of platforming challenges, this new entry in the series has taken on a form more consistent with an endless runner. There are positives as well as pitfalls to this choice, with the streamlining of what you have to worry about possibly making the experience more accessible but leaving the experience mostly with very picky timing on everything you do in its place. Since you’re unable to freely move many levels also take on more of a puzzle-like feel as you try to work out your path (hopefully picking up pacifiers along the way and maybe finding hidden secrets) since you’ll simply die if you get to the edge of the screen and turning isn’t always something you can pull off wherever you’d like. The big upside is that every time you play through the levels are bound to lay themselves out differently, giving the game immense replay value, but whether or not you’re down for the new format that may have come at a high price for your enjoyment or perhaps your expectations.

Blasphemous [The Game Kitchen] - From first glance during a Direct there was no question that Blasphemous, visually, was something pretty special. With a dark and gothic tone all its own, this is certainly a stand-out in the Switch library. What may be divisive for the average gamer will be the degree of difficulty that comes along for the ride. Owing much to the likes of Castlevania in its overall style and feel, with you slashing your way through enemies, finding power-ups and secrets all about in a non-linear way, the old school sensibilities of those original games is also in full effect here. This is an unforgivingly tough game, one that will prompt controllers leaving peoples’ hands, whether being put down or even thrown. If that sounds like your jam I’d say the experience is pretty easy to recommend, though perhaps it doesn’t do a great deal to stand out from its inspirations in terms of innovative gameplay. If you’re not a seasoned gamer and aren’t looking for a title to kick you down and coldly tell you to “git gud” repeatedly you’ll likely be better off taking on something a bit less ambitious though.

Caveblazers [Yogscast] - On the whole Caveblazers is a ton of challenging fun and currently has no direct competition on the Switch. If you can get over and live with the difficulty hump it gets marginally easier with experience and possibly as you get new perks but every run will throw new choices and challenges at you, never letting you get too comfortable and making subsequent runs swing between getting destroyed in the first minute or two to rolling through a few bosses before getting taken down. If you’ve been looking for a new kind of challenge, and can deal with its quirks, it’s a solid choice.

Creature in the Well [Flight School Studio] - With Creature in the Well there’s just so much to like and appreciate. The art style is distinct and interesting, the mix of slashing and pinball elements are unique and make for fascinating puzzles and action, and there’s no doubt that I’ve never played any game like it. Once you get a fair distance into the game and begin facing more situations that center around timers though there’s no denying that it’s probably tuned a little too far towards being challenging for the average gamer. The frustration in some of these circumstances actually would often make me feel like there’s some technique or trick to things that I missed at some point, and that I’ve made it harder than it is meant to be. However, even with a fair amount of experimenting I’ve not found a way to do better than what feels like a mix of the planets aligning and outright luck to just barely satisfy a specific module with enough power before its timer goes to zero. This leaves me a bit torn on a recommendation as I absolutely think this is a game worth playing, but whether it would be toned down a bit in general or have a more lenient difficulty setting added I do think it’s in need of some tuning to be more accessible.

Mechstermination Force [Horberg Productions] - Mechstermination Force is a pretty tight and enjoyable retro sci-fi robot stomping party… though it will typically take a few attempts to keep the robots from stomping you instead. While you’re always fighting some sort of robot and the general rules for all of them is roughly the same I’ll give credit to the developer for continuing to change things up and keep it fresh through to the end. A couple of them were super-aggravating to deal with but aside from my mobility complaints in general I can’t fault the design. If you’ve been looking for pretty intense action that’s super-light on filler Mechstermination Force will be one to consider picking up.

Clustertruck [tinyBuild] - While endless runners have become a pretty popular genre you'll find that they're almost always in 2 dimensions. This is very much for a reason it seems as typically attempts at 3D runners have been a bit of a disaster. The challenge is typically tied to the fact that you can't see your feet so ""feeling"" where you are can be tricky. Clustertruck is an unusual title that works hard to nail getting a 3D runner right and while it's not without its quirks for the most part it gets it right. Throw in the increasingly bonkers scenarios you'll be trying to run through, jumping on the tops of moving semi trucks as they crash into all manner of things (including each other), and it's a silly challenge worthy of your best efforts.

Darkest Dungeon [Red Hook Studios] - Fans of tough games have no doubt already heard plenty about this dark and difficult RPG experience with a roguelike unpredictable twist. In Darkest Dungeon the act of completing the dungeon doesn't simply return everyone in your party to normal, the toll of the adventure can have serious and debilitating effects on the people you're trying to work with. Try not to get too attached to anyone, while you can invest in keeping them sane you won't be able to save them all. Managing your party's sanity here can be just as challenging as the monsters in the dungeons themselves.

Furi [The Game Bakers] - This was a tough title to find a genre for since it isn't so much of a strict beat-em-up as a tough-as-nails boss rush title that will test your abilities and your patience. Just getting through the game's tutorial will take some work as you're walked through your myriad abilities which you'll then be expected to apply with great effectiveness against a string of increasingly-tough opponents which each will require a different combination of tactics to defeat. Though it won't be a game for everyone there's simply nothing else quite like it on the Switch.

Joggernauts [Space Mace] - While the 20-ish levels the game offers across 3 worlds doesn’t seem like much getting through many of them will take some serious coordination and perhaps even planning. Especially if you want to grab both trophies and all of the goodies along the way to help unlock new characters and some fun you’ll need to work for it. While you’ll probably be best off playing with a group that’s at least roughly in the same class in terms of core skills with time probably just about anyone can get the hang of the relatively simple controls as long as everyone works together. Or, just for giggles, it can be fun to sometimes royally screw people up as well.

Light Fall [Bishop Games] - When Light Fall is firing on all cylinders it feels absolutely incredible, and it’s easy to see where it will be terrific for people looking to get their speedrunning put to the test. The ramping up of challenge from stage to stage feels just about right and the boss battles force you to put all you’ve learned to good use. I think it’s Act 4 and the pretty abrupt change in style that will divide people, with some people undoubtedly liking the sudden stepping up of challenge and others throwing up their hands at the rug being pulled out from under them. The shame is there are some great challenges to be had off the beaten path but the game seems intent on punishing you for checking them out without offering a sufficient reward in return. Light Fall has quite a lot working for it, it just feels like it gets in the way of its own success before the story is completed.

Runner3 [Choice Provisions] - Taking it all in, scoring this game for a general audience is a challenge. On the one hand it has a ton of very cool content, with a terrific funky design, creative levels, exciting new elements, surprising unlocks, and a soundtrack that sticks with you. On the other it’s not hard to see where mainstream audiences are likely to get too frustrated with the game to bother to see a lot of it. Score-chasers and speedrunners will no doubt revel in the challenge, but the thing is that regardless of whether the game was made more mainstream-balanced those elements would still be strong. With a patch to tone things down I could easily see the game jumping up a point as it became more inviting, just right now it’s much more of an acquired taste and that’s a shame.

Rive: Ultimate Edition [Two Tribes] - While I can't emphasize the level of challenge Rive will present to you enough for people who relish the experience of dying and trying to do better the next time there's no question it delivers. The action is fast and often intense and you'll find that you need to mix accuracy and planning in your shooting with keeping in motion and jumping carefully in spots to keep alive. Full of some nice call outs to great genre games before it Rive is an acquired taste but absolutely worth checking out if you don't feel most modern shooters are pushing you hard enough.

The End is Nigh [Nicalis] - While not as viscerally-satisfying as its older sibling Super Meat Boy, Ash's quest to find cartridges and tumors in his journey across the post-Apocalyptic wasteland shares many of its sensibilities. In general it is a super-challenging affair but with its tight controls in general when you fail you only have yourself to blame. Certainly not for the easily-aggravated but when you complete some of the more difficult levels it is also incredibly rewarding.

Gearshifters [Red Phantom Games] - This is a game that really has me emotionally split in two, making it a challenge to review. On the one hand I absolutely love the idea behind it, and there’s nothing else like it on Switch. Depending on how much of a “seasoned gamer” you are you may see elements of the likes of Spy Hunter, Road Rash, or even just classic arcade shooters this side-scrolling combat racer. You’ll be hitting the road with loads of enemies out there trying to stop you, and your key to survival will be doing quite a lot of failing and then upgrading your ride with the spoils of your runs to add new and better weaponry and support equipment, finding the mix of gear that helps you be your destructive best. The problems? I think the fact that it locks you into a zone once you reach it, not allowing you to fall back and grind where you’ll be more successful, backfires. In a way it feels like it is penalizing you for any early success, then dooming you to short runs where you’re really underpowered and that’s frustrating. Last, while I usually don’t make a comment on the price point, when it seems pretty seriously out of whack it’s hard to ignore it, and the current price feels quite high when considering the regular price of many strong indie titles out there for half the current price (and that generally are far stronger, even if not in the same genre and style). If just these two issues were resolved I’d probably be singing the game’s praises far more, but right now it feels like a “wait for a sale” proposition unfortunately.

Jack Axe [Keybol Games] - Tough-as-nails platformers have legitimately become a thing over the years, and in my experience with a few exceptions that break through to more mainstream success (looking at you Celeste and Super Meat Boy, in particular) people’s appreciation of them tends to vary pretty wildly. Jack Axe is sort of a no-frills take on things, locking things in pretty quickly with your somewhat limited jumping abilities mixed with a capable axe that you can throw and then dash to grab. Basically everything in the game then leans on how well you’re able to execute on those abilities, making tough jumps and surviving a gauntlet of consecutive sections as you try to reach the next checkpoint to save. What’s really odd about it though, aside from not really having any story to speak of, is that once you get started there’s really very little giving you direction, you’ll just sort of wander around to find new areas in search of gems and coins that you can then use to unlock other new areas, sometimes encountering a boss fight to conquer as well. It isn’t bad, though getting to the point where you “master” the diagonal throw consistently can be troublesome, it just feels weirdly incomplete somehow, bringing the ideas and action together in some way to give it a sense of direction, or at least personality, to take it to the next level.

Palindrome Syndrome: Escape Room [mc2games] - With escape rooms having been a pretty popular group activity over the past decade or so (with the exception of the past year, obviously) it’s not a surprise to see a puzzle title adopt that format for play. Dealing in a wide variety of brain teasers that will challenge everything from your simple powers of observation to much more complicated multi-step deduction many aspects of Syndrome feel authentic to the experience as well, though perhaps lacking in the frustrations of interpersonal communication and teamwork unless you’re playing with someone looking over your shoulder. There are a few spots and puzzles that can be a bit rockier than others, and overall the length of the experience is perhaps on the brief-ish side, but if you’re looking to hone your puzzle room solving skills or want a taste of the general challenges they often offer this isn’t a bad choice.

Sunblaze [Games From Earth] - While there’s no doubt that the likes of Celeste and Super Meat Boy tend to steal the spotlight when it comes to challenging platforming, some smaller titles have managed to make an impression as well. Sunblaze definitely falls into that category, not quite reaching the heights of challenge and polish those titles have but still throwing down a gauntlet of challenge that feels fair since the controls are pretty tight and responsive, and you’ll quickly be right back in the action whenever you die. It doesn’t offer much in the way of bells and whistles but the solid play is there and a periodic dose of Dad jokes also help give it a little bit of personality along the way.

Super Magbot [Astral Pixel] - With as many puzzle platformers as I’ve seen on the Switch it’s always cool to run across one that does things a bit differently, and there’s no doubt that Super Magbot manages that. Your right and left arms have polarities of red and blue and the layout of each level features panels of those same colors, the trick being to use your powers of attraction and propulsion to skillfully fling yourself around and make what are sometimes tough sequences work. It’s a cool idea, and for the most part everything is implemented well, but for me there’s just a hitch in it having a flow to the motions of it all, but perhaps I just never got fully into the zone. I could get the patterns down and execute them to make it through the level but I never got to the point where it felt like second nature somehow. If you’re looking for a unique challenge in the puzzle platform space it is recommended, just it may not click for everyone.

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

Mistover [KRAFTON Inc] - Fans of challenging and highly strategic turn-based play have had a number of quality picks on the system to choose from, and though Mistover has a lot on its side with great art and an interesting setup its random elements may make it a bit too unpredictable at times. There’s no doubt that when you have a pretty well-balanced party you can do some serious damage by positioning your characters correctly and making use of key skills to try to wipe out your enemies with great efficiency. The problem is that since in Mistover permadeath is very much a thing once you move past that starter party and its complementary characters you’re at the mercy of fate, and it can indeed be cruel, potentially giving you a team that’s doomed to fail before it even gets out of the starting gate. It’s one thing to need to roll with the punches and have your strategy remain fluid, it’s another when your lack of an ability to buff your team effectively or perhaps target enemy rows begins to make it feel a bit too lopsided against you. The main problem tends to be how much it feels like everything seems to fall apart at once on you, even when you’re playing as effectively as you can. If you like to grit your teeth and dig in this may be precisely what you’re looking for, but for anyone even moderately casual this may be a hair-puller.

The King's Bird [Serenity Forge] - While The King’s Bird absolutely won’t be for everyone the feeling you get when you pull off a series of tough moves and then build momentum to glide up to a ledge as intended is pretty exhilarating. If you’re looking for something deep and challenging to sink your teeth into this will definitely fit the bill and plays very differently than anything else out there. The Assist Mode options are just icing on the cake and provide multiple paths to making the game more approachable, even if you’re just like me and use it as an opportunity to tone things down to the point where you feel more confident in your skills without it. If you’re willing to put in the time it’s a quality experience.

Jotun [Thunder Lotus Games] - All in all Jotun is a gorgeous and well-made game that plays quite well as a boss battle challenge with decent elements in-between. The scale of those fights is absolutely memorable, and while they can be challenging I’d say that for the most part they’re also fair. If you are in the mood to take down some giant bosses it’s an enjoyable ride.

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

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!