Friday, February 19

Top 30 / Best Indie Competitive Multiplayer Games on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 2/19/21] While it can be a lot of fun to join up with friends, family, or even strangers in cooperative games locally or online sometimes there’s nothing you want more than to knock someone around and show them you’re the best. The goal with this list isn’t necessarily to provide the top scoring games in this category but to also try to emphasize the diversity of titles available on the system in order to try to satisfy tastes of all types. Keeping that in mind these are the best indie titles for getting some competition going with.

Super Mega Baseball 3 [Metalhead Software] - Getting right down to it there’s just something about the Super Mega Baseball series that taps into what love and nostalgia I have for baseball as a sport, particularly in video game form. While I could see where some sports fans could be irritated by the lack of MLB teams and players for me it takes me back to the days of playing games on the NES or in the arcade against friends, though obviously the degree of complexity on all levels has appropriately increased. What then seals the deal, and what impressed me so much about this title, is how scalable the experience is in terms of depth and difficulty. If you just want to just kick around in some exhibition games, great. A whole season? Sure. Manage a franchise including all of the trades, potentials for injury hardships, and customizing just about anything you can think of? Without the worries of a license it’s all available to you. Throw in the ego system which will allow you to tune the difficulty up or down incrementally as your skills grow and it can remain as easy or tough as you choose. The statement that this is the best baseball title without question on Switch may be easy for lack of any legitimate competition whatsoever but more than that it is one of the best baseball games I’ve ever played, period.


Killer Queen Black [Liquid Bit] - After having heard so much about this killer multiplayer arcade title I was interested to see what the fuss was all about. While the core of the game is ultimately reliant on playing with as many as 7 other people (4 to a side) in this case the developers have gone the extra mile to ensure it can be played across platforms so availability shouldn’t be as much of an issue as we sometimes see with Switch-exclusive multiplayer titles. One note is that there’s definitely a learning curve, and thankfully there are a multitude of offline tutorials that try to break everything down from the multiple paths to victory, to what roles people can play, to simply learning how to follow what’s going on since things tend to get hectic. While it may feel a bit on the simpler side, depending on your taste, this is a game that just about anyone should be able to pick up and get in to and it absolutely offers up a both a co-op and competitive multiplayer experience that nothing out there can rival.


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!


Skullgirls 2nd Encore [Lab Zero Games] - While I’ve consistently heard nothing but great things about Skullgirls from my friends who are massive fighting fans up until PAX this year I’d never gotten to check it out myself. Watching the game being played it’s hard not to be impressed by the diverse and beautifully-animated characters, some of which have some of the craziest moves and specials I think I’ve seen. It’s also very apparent that this is a pretty technical fighter, which was where my one real concern with the game cropped up. What’s a bit shocking though is that in general for someone like me who has played a fair number of fighters for the most part the moves that trigger the on-screen chaos feel natural and mostly intuitive. Simply experimenting on the fly moves and even combos seemed to come to me pretty easily. From there it’s all about the flow of gameplay and the best word to describe it is intense. Solo players should appreciate the story mode that provides some background for the very odd menagerie of fighters, but everyone should appreciate the choice to go 1-on-1 or up to 3-on-3, providing for plenty of opportunities for changing tactics and generally catering the matches to your liking. Available online play is definitely appreciated, though it’s important to note that even great indie titles on Switch don’t tend to have online communities that survive for long. While there have been very good indie fighters on the Switch I actually think this one is the best.


Rocket League [Psyonix] - As a game that I've already spent well over 800 hours playing on the PC I'm thrilled that Nintendo fans finally have their opportunity to play this excellent title. While the concept of rocket-powered cars roughly playing soccer may seem ridiculous, once you get your first taste of airtime and scoring crazy goals or making last-second saves you may well get hooked as so many others have already. While getting started isn't too hard even hundreds of hours in there will always be new skills and tricks for you to master. While compromises on the visuals had to be made to get it on the console the focus on the buttery frame rate was the proper choice in priorities. If you've never given it a try it is well worth checking out.


Duck Game [Landon Podbielski] - As long as you’re able to find people to play with whether locally or online Duck Game one of the best multiplayer experiences you’ll find on the system. It’s diverse, deep, has many times the volume of content you’ll find in any of its competitors, and it maintains a brisk pace whether in the match or loading the next stage. While some AI ducks to fill in gaps or quack against would help provide a little extra longevity or fun when you’re on the go, there’s still no denying that Duck Game is at the top of the Switch multiplayer food chain.


Worms W.M.D. [Team17] - While some of the installments of the Worms franchise haven't always delivered fresh changes WMD both looks incredible and adds a number of elements that make it stand out. Crafting adds a strategic component to matches and generally allows the early phase to remain more traditional before the more lethal and ridiculous weapons begin to come into use. Vehicles like the tank, helicopter, and mech suit provide temptation as well as they can change the match quickly if used well. Finally, there are some bonus single-player campaigns that are legitimately difficult and worthwhile in their own right. Even if you've been away from the franchise for some time, or you've never given it a try, this is an installment worth giving a shot.


Crystal Crisis [Nicalis] - All in all Crystal Crisis is a game laser-focused on a specific style of play that absolutely delivers a great value with various modes, characters, and quite a bit of personality as well. While it is always more fun to match up against human competitors the mode variants at least make playing solo feel a bit different as you work to unlock everything. Online play is exciting and works well enough, the question is always sustained support but the inclusion of it is welcome. If you’re looking to get your puzzle on in style Crystal Crisis serves up an eclectic group of characters to choose from, plenty of visual flair, and all for a reasonable price. Puzzle fans should definitely give it a look.


Flat Heroes [Parallel Circles] - While it may look visually pretty simple, featuring geometric shapes for the most part and a very clean design, the gameplay is surprisingly versatile and challenging. You'll quickly find your little cube has a nimbleness and flow akin to Super Meat Boy and all of those moves will get put to the test over the lengthy campaign. You can then take those skills to Survival mode to put them to the ultimate test or take on your friends in some surprisingly varied local multiplayer modes as well.


Swords & Soldiers 2: Shawarmageddon [Ronimo Games] - All in all Sword & Soldiers 2 is a clear step up from its predecessor in pretty well every way. Artistically it is far more elaborate and full of character, the campaign storyline is as odd and silly as ever, the units are far more diverse and interesting, and the inclusion of online multiplayer is a cherry on top. While it may err a bit on catering to the lighter side of strategy make no mistake, the game is capable of being as complex as you can handle if you’re playing against another human, even if the solo challenge may not be as impressive. It’s well worth adding to your library if you’re in search of something fun but still satisfying in between bigger titles.


Tumblestone [The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild] - All said Tumblestone is a very strong contender in the action puzzler space and sets itself apart by not trying to imitate what is successful and instead finds its own way, and it does so quite successfully. The emphasis moreso on puzzle solving is an engaging twist but that’s not to say that the game slows down or is meditative. In mutli-player mode I can assure you it is quite the opposite as the sounds of everyone in my family very rapidly pressing buttons to set up matches was very audible and other than that people generally made no sounds as they were that intensely concentrating on trying to win. As I said the need for precision and seeing patterns so that you don’t trap yourself are both absolutely vital and it makes for compelling gaming sessions. If you really love great puzzle titles Tumblestone is a title you won’t want to miss!


BlazBlue: Central Fiction [Arc System Works] - If you’re looking for a rock solid fighting game experience that’s quite approachable and has a large roster of characters that isn’t Smash, BlazBlue is very much worth checking out. The more you’d appreciate the various storylines and narrative silliness the more the package has to offer, but the best case scenario would obviously be having someone local to play with to get the most out of it. If you have last year’s Cross Tag Battle it’s a tougher call. There are some nice new characters and nuances to the fighting but I’d say unless you’re interested in the narrative content it may be a stretch. Regardless, it’s a high quality and approachable fighting game that’s a great alternative to the more well-known series out there.


Rocket Fist [Bitten Toast Games] - Delivering fast and pretty hectic action Rocket Fist reminds me most of playing Super Bomberman on the SNES and having a great time with my friends. Playing out like a fast-paced arena-based game of dodgeball you'll try to control fists and ricochet them off the walls to hit your opponents while you try to keep out of trouble yourself. Add on a pretty terrific single-player campaign, complete with the incredibly cool and fun Uncle Knuckle, and Rocket Fist has a lot to offer for an affordable price.


Meow Motors [ArtVostok] - Though there’s no question that this is a “budget racer” that can’t compete with a premium genre-defining title, Meow Motors holds its own very respectably. In pretty well every area it addresses the failings of its competition, providing racing that’s varied, nuanced, and satisfying. It looks very respectable, runs smoothly, and sucked me in pretty easily with engaging play I’ve been missing in this space for quite some time. If you’ve been itching for a viable alternative to Mario Kart for a price that won’t hurt your wallet, Meow Motors is absolutely the indie racer to go with.


Crawl [Powerhoof] - Probably one of the most balanced and creative local multiplayer competitive games I've played Crawl does a whole lot right, setting the stage for frantic fun with you and up to 3 friends. Each of you is trying to play as the hero, set on reaching Level 10, facing the final boss, and escaping the dungeons. The trick is that everyone else will play as spirits, capable of triggering traps or summoning monsters to try to bring the hero down. As the hero levels up to maintain balance the spirits are given wrath points that they can use to upgrade their monsters to make them decidedly more lethal. What's fun is how the dynamic among the spirit players quickly shifts from being cooperative at first to a free-for-all as the heroes health wanes, with each wanting to strike the killing blow to take over and have their shot at glory. Inventive and intense fun for a group of competitive friends!


Blade Strangers [Studio Saizensen] - Without a doubt the biggest surprise for me was this title from the folks at Nicalis, starting out with a new fighter combining characters from a number of properties. The inclusion of as unlikely of fighting characters as Shovel Knight and even more oddly Isaac could have been a throw-away move but they all played surprisingly well in their own ways. Throw in a definite sense of style with powerful metered combos and it was a lot of fun.


Party Golf [Giant Margarita] - In truth the name Party Golf is deceiving, while there are modes that play a lot like a simple golf game the true fun in this title is switching up the rules to play a number of pretty unusual variants. Control generally couldn't be easier, you pick your angle and power with the analog stick and then fire. Rules will generally dictate that the first person to get to the hole gets the most points but if you keep exploring the game options you'll find all sorts of ways to have fun with some friends.


Roof Rage [Early Melon] - OK, Smash fans, hear me out. When it comes to fast-paced and somewhat crazy fighting Smash tends to be in a class all its own. That said, I’m here to tell you that someone has managed to capture a fair amount of that energy and surprising depth and put it into a budget pixel fighter. Roof Rage may just have a stable of pretty familiar and generic fighters overall by appearance but its fighting action is a pleasant surprise, especially when combining the pretty diverse combatants with the numerous stage layouts you’ll contend with. In general fighters feel responsive, their individual attacks have enough variety to encourage experimentation, and for the most part the game exceeds what I would have expected from a title at this pretty humble price point. If you’ve been looking for something with the spirit of Smash to enjoy with some friends and can live without the wild and wacky power-ups Roof Rage may be a great choice for your next throwdown.


Runbow [13AM Games] - While this is a hold-over from the previous generation this multiplayer runner is a lot of fun. Though in principle it's a pretty simple affair the color-changing platforms and power-ups more often than not result in the winner simply being the lone, or at least the longest-lasting, survivor of the race. Its single-player mode is also challenging fun but whether locally or online this is a terrific party game pretty much anyone can understand pretty quickly.


Varion [Rundisc] - While there are quite a lot of multiplayer arena shooters to choose from they're often hard to tell apart from one another. Varion smartly adds a wrinkle to the formula that changes things up significantly, you'll only be able to destroy your opponents with shots that have ricocheted off a wall first. Match this up with some minorly maze-like arenas and you have the makings of a multiplayer game that requires a bit more skill, or at least a healthy dose of luck, and that easily stands out from the more run-of-the-mill competition on the eShop.


Tricky Towers [WeirdBeard] - Offering up a mix of iconic tetronimoes with a tower-building mechanic and some real concerns with gravity and your creation topping over this title can make for a lot of fun with friends. You'll get to choose between helping yourself or hurting your opponents when you get power-ups and certainly sending a massive version of one of the pieces to an opponent's screen can make for a bit of evil fun if it catches them by surprise. A very different kind of fun with a more cerebral edge to it.


Mantis Burn Racing [VooFoo Studios] - If you're a fan of tight controls, drifting, and top-down racing ala Micro Machines and the like Mantis Burn Racing is a game you'll want to check out. While the original campaign mode can get a bit dry and repetitive in spots the DLC pack snow, hover, and battle packs really even out the whole package to provide a little something for all tastes. I personally preferred the carnage of the battle mode but high-speed thrills were also exciting and challenging in the others. The addition of well-implemented online play is the icing on the cake.
 

Pocket Rumble [Cardboard Robot Games] - As a whole Pocket Rumble stands up very well as an extremely budget-friendly fighter that has few frills but delivers what is most crucial. Looking and playing great whether in docked or handheld mode it’s light, easy to get into, and has a surprisingly-diverse roster with some very unusual characters. Throw in Online support that even competitive games with higher prices have been known to lack or implement with higher instability and it very much delivers a fair value for its humble price tag.


Knight Squad [Chainsawesome Games] - I’ll just put it right out there, while I love the spirit of the movement to bring back local co-op games and the part the Switch has to play in it reviewing the average title in the space can be brutal. With a spotty history of some really lackluster titles that start to feel the same my family has become skeptical at best when I tell them we have a game to play together. That said, when I hit ones that offer up something better-than-average it makes me appreciate them all the more. Where Knight Squad succeeds isn’t necessarily through originality or innovation, though some of its modes are clever in how they’re set up, it instead takes a very kitchen sink approach… and on the whole it works more than it doesn’t. With support for up to 8 players, and with the ability to make as many or few of those bots as you’d like, you’ll have your pick of a surprising number of modes that include playing solo or as teams, a surprising number of power-ups that can quickly turn the tides if used well, and plenty of fun top-down chaos. Given its pretty reasonable price and overall variety I walked away impressed, and given how jaded I can tend to be with this sort of title that’s a bit of an achievement in itself.


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.


Starblox Inc [IlluminationGames] - With iconic titles like Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Lumines, and others out there in the action puzzle genre it can be a tricky business to establish yourself. Too often games fall into the trap of seeming to start with a base mimicking one of these classics and then settling for being a variation on that theme. Starblox Inc tackles originality by blending genres, in this case by pairing with fighting, and the result may not be for everyone but it’s at least fresh and different. You and your opponent will each have your own puzzle to work on and will try to grab pieces that are falling and then quickly arrange them to complete matches. Where the challenge comes in is that instead of working on the puzzles in isolation and then triggering attacks on each other you’ll be attacking each other directly as you try to vie for pieces. In many ways it’s a subtle change but the resultant gameplay is pretty different in an often aggressive way. Granted, this is either a mechanic you’ll embrace or be less enthused with, but you’ve got to give credit for shaking up the norm.


Day and Night [Ridiculous Games] - Action puzzlers are a challenge to get right as they need to have their own sense of personality to differentiate from the pack but don’t want to risk going too far afield with their core gameplay for fear of alienating people. Day and Night walks that tightrope pretty effectively, offering up what feels like a mix of concepts from multiple familiar classics and then throwing in a variety of elements that complicate matters in ways that make sense but are generally new. The main hook revolves around both a day and night, as well as a seasonal cycle, setting the foundation for you never being able to truly be comfortable and needing to be mindful of what will happen when things shift. Dormant blocks belonging to another cycle will activate as the time of day changes and if you or your opponent were able to do some decent planning amidst the chaos of blocks falling that can quickly turn things around. In addition the game’s power-ups can be very effective and often provide a choice of slamming them down to use immediately or letting them fall slowly to sit dormant until triggered, providing even more room for strategy. Throw in both a story mode and challenges for people to play through solo and this is a puzzler chock full of challenges and fun.


GRIP Combat Racing [Caged Element Inc] - Combat racing has always been something I've enjoyed and it's also a style of play that's challenging to get right. While its not without its flaws GRIP absolutely puts in the work to make for a thrilling and crazy bit of racing carnage. Its gravity-defying tracks set the base stage well but it's definitely the fun weapons and intense moments you get while under fire that make it fun. 
 

Swimsanity! [Decoy Games] - Multiplayer games on Switch have really just about become a challenge for me to review in many regards. Due to their abundance and a general lack of any serious differentiation at a core level between many of them it’s hard to generate enthusiasm for new ones that come along. To be sure that’s where Swimsanity’s greatest strength lies, whether you’ll fall in love with all of its modes and variations is a fair question, but there’s no denying that aside from being underwater the developers have gone to some efforts to give it a unique and distinctive feel. Probably the greatest strength it has is playing one of its competitive multiplayer modes, most of which can be played as a free-for-all or in teams. The controls are generally easy to pick up and understand, the action tends to be pretty quick, and the power-ups generally find the balance of being able to turn the momentum around when well utilized without being a guarantee of success. The co-op modes are also worth noting since they’re pretty far outside of the norm you’ll find in indie multiplayer titles, but even with that in mind they’re comparatively not able to sustain much excitement past a few rounds generally. It’s great that you’re able to take on some of this solo, but aside from it being a good way to master the controls and some nuance nobody should be looking to buy it if they’d mostly be playing alone. While online matchmaking does work I’d say the interface could/should be refined a bit more for accessibility and consistency since it can be cumbersome and isn’t what I’d consider inherently intuitive either. If you’re strapped to find a reasonably traditional and better-than-average multiplayer game to enjoy with friends it’s a fair bet, just temper your expectations from getting too high and you shouldn’t be disappointed.


Cel Damage HD [Pseudo Interactive] - Will you enjoy Cel Damage HD? If your focus is more on frantic action and less on racing, blowing up your friend with an explosive sheep only to have them come back and slice you up with a buzzsaw, the answer is likely yes. If you’re only ever going to play the game solo the value proposition drops substantially, though at least play against bots is supported and you can kick them around for a few hours while you unlock everything. However, in an eShop full of local multiplayer titles that tend to be hard to separate from one another within a week or two of playing them, Cel Damage HD absolutely stands out both visually and in terms of gameplay from the pack and that makes it noteworthy.
 

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!