Thursday, January 20

Top 100 / Best Indie Family Games on Nintendo Switch

Last Updated: 1/20/22!

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan [ManaVoid Entertainment Inc] - Having spent far more time with Rainbow Billy than I would have expected, I’ve become a big fan of its unique mix of adventure, platforming, relationship building, and mini-game driven combat. At a glance anyone can see that it has a very family-friendly look and feel, in particular with a key element of combat being talking to your opponent and trying to always accentuate the positive. Inevitably the majority of the time you don’t so much defeat them as wear down the emotional walls they’ve put up to enlist their aid to help restore color to the world that has been made a dreary black and white by the evil Leviathan. While that makes the combat sound a bit simple, in execution there’s quite a bit you have to consider from a tactical point of view as well. The first character you put into any lane will use their special ability (if you’ve helped develop a friendship with them), and these become critical as the game goes on and foes get tougher, and the more characters you put in a lane the tougher the mini game you’ll need to play gets. The result can lead to a surprising degree of strategy being needed at times, especially since some opponents will really throw you for a loop with special rules you’ll need to figure out and get around to be successful. Aside from being a bit on the saccharine side for the hardcore set the one fault I’d give the game is that its dialogue really tends to go on, to the point that I’ve just begun to skip a great deal of it, since it isn’t hard to glean what’s important in the conversation without needing to go through it all. Perhaps the goal was to deepen the feel for characters and their connections, but for me it more often derailed the momentum of enjoying the gameplay itself. It absolutely won’t appeal to everyone but if you love games that dare to be different and wear their heart on their sleeve I’d consider it a must-have to add to your collection.

Moving Out [SMG Studio] - While the Overcooked series is famously (or is it infamously?) known to many fans of local multiplayer I’ll admit that I consider one of its weaknesses to be broad approachability. There are just enough mechanics and features in it that manage to frustrate more than they generally entertain that after the first few levels I struggled to keep my family and friends on board. Working with some ideas roughly in the same vein, and certainly sharing some aesthetic qualities on a general level, Moving Out can be challenging but I also consider it to be more fair and thus more likely to be fun with a larger audience. In it you and your friends will play as movers who must get all manner of furniture and knick knacks out of a house and onto your truck. No surprise, it quickly can get more complicated as you’ll need to work together to get larger and more awkward pieces out. The good news is that if you’re willing to perhaps forgo a bonus and offend your customers you can also have a ton of fun busting up the place in the process, breaking windows and disregarding best practices in the name of shaving off seconds. Throw in bonus objectives that range from mildly challenging to silly that vary from stage to stage, and while people could get a little more tense early on as everyone learned the ropes for the most part it was a room full of smiles as everyone locked into their niches and got things done. Highly recommended for approachable family fun!

Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective [Darjeeling] - As much as I've tended to see people bemoan the ""kiddie"" nature of Nintendo systems over the years, it can actually be a challenge to find games on Switch that are easy to recommend for green, younger gamers who may not have their coordination together yet. Fittingly based on a best-selling children's book, Labyrinth City has so much going for it for the young, or at least the young at heart. Each new location is jam-packed with visual details, corners to explore, secrets to find, and what I'd simply call magical moments as different elements from the page come to life. Though it unfortunately won't take long to get through all the game has to offer, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of discovery I had with it, rekindling those feelings of being a wide-eyed kid looking over pages ripe with detail from my childhood.

LEGO Builder’s Journey [Light Brick] - The first thought people tend to have with a LEGO title is an action-oriented romp you can casually enjoy on your own or, even better, with a friend. Builder’s Journey isn’t in that same vein though, instead taking a very different path to provide a slower and more contemplative puzzle experience that, of course, centers on the creative use of LEGO pieces to get you through. What really made the greatest impression on me from the game though isn’t the smart use of the pieces in a very sensible context but instead the story that it tells. Without dialogue or narration of any kind the story of a parent and their child starting out on a journey together, with some sidetracks that separate them along the way, is what pulled me in the most. Completing the puzzle on each screen would give me a taste of what happens next and that tended to be my biggest driver, though I absolutely appreciated the unique challenge of making use of the trademark pieces to solve problems brought. It isn’t without flaws, with running time and occasional issues where knowing what piece you want to put where can be encumbered by the camera not cooperating well topping the list, but on the whole I still found the experience very satisfying. There’s just something special to me about the whole package of what this game offers, and given its highly accessible nature for gamers of all skill levels it’s easy to recommend… even if I wish the experience could have lasted a bit longer.

Overcooked! All You Can Eat [Ghost Town Games Ltd] - Possibly one of the best games to challenge and entertain determined groups either locally or online in this generation, Overcooked started strong and at this point where they’ve brought everything together into one package it’s tough not to be impressed. With the original, the sequel, and all associated DLC packed in there’s a whole menagerie of characters to choose from, a ton of locales and challenges to tackle, and a host of options both local and online for matching up to cooperate or compete with others. What I truly appreciate is how the challenge is still very much there for more seasoned groups but there’s also a terrific assist mode that will change everything into being much more casual and family-friendly as well, opening the door to anyone being able to enjoy plenty of prepping, chopping, cooking, cleaning, and serving. If you’ve already got both games this may be unnecessary but if you’ve been waiting to dive in or only have one of the titles this is a terrific excuse to get a great amount of content at a bargain price all in one.

Space Otter Charlie [Wayward Distractions] - It’s always a joy to play a new indie title that you’ve never heard of or seen that immediately grabs you, and for me Space Otter Charlie did precisely that. Cute, charming, extremely approachable for all ages in both its content and degree of challenge it’s a terrific title that really feels at home on the Switch. You’ll play as a spacefaring otter who needs to explore ships in search of salvage materials ranging from fuel and energy cells to a hodgepodge of random parts you’ll need to craft equipment both critical to your mission and sometimes just a bit silly and fun. I think it’s the balance of legitimately solid play where you’ll need to carefully boost around and shoot enemies and debris mixed with endearing characters, some silly costumes, and an abundance of otter factoids that just make it a joy to play. Perhaps it won’t be tough enough for hardcore folks to get deeply engaged in, but if your goal is to enjoy a well-designed game while having a perpetual smile on your face this is a terrific hidden gem on the Switch.

The Wild At Heart [Moonlight Kids] - Sometimes all you need to get excited about a title are a few evocative words, commonly referred to as an “elevator pitch”. In the case of The Wild At Heart it can simply be summed up with the words: Pikmin Adventure. While I do wish the load times were a bit less onerous, the crafting system and health were a bit more well-implemented, and that it didn’t feel like nightfall (and peril) were baked in to interrupting your exploration and puzzle solving in some areas… I’ve gotta admit, this game absolutely has me hooked. There’s a major focus on exploration and often experimentation, the dungeon-like nature of some areas and their puzzles that is an appreciated challenge, and the story and themes of the game definitely pull you in the further you go. This all combines to make for one of my favorite indie titles of the year, despite some of my quibbles with some specifics, and it should be capable of appealing to a very broad audience with its general play style and obvious influences.

Unpacking [Witch Beam] - Usually when you think of casual games puzzles and the like are usually what comes to mind, or perhaps something akin to a visual novel. With Unpacking it’s clear there are other avenues to tap though, at least when the game is laser-focused on a very specific objective… in this case something as simple as unpacking some boxes and carefully organizing their contents. These activity-based games tied to tasks most people abhor doing in the real world are a bit of a mystery. What makes it so satisfying to organize and perfect a virtual world while more often than not the mess you’re sitting within playing it remains untouched? I don’t think this game has the answers to that conundrum but there’s no mistaking the sense of satisfaction in devising the perfect drawer for putting your socks in, perhaps taking the extra step to also organize them by type or color as you go… just to make them perfect. As you progress through the game the scale of your effort continues to grow to multiple rooms as your character’s life progresses to new stages. That’s where the other magic in the title lies, the reflection on how we grow and change, and to see what special items continue to endure while so many others prove to be disposable. The result is absolutely wonderful if you’re looking to calm your mind and simply take joy in a productive task.

Carto [Sunhead Games] - Having played so many of them, unfortunately the first thing I assume I’ll see when approaching any sort of puzzle game is that it will be something I’ve seen before. What’s so wonderful is when a title takes that assumption and utterly blows it out of the water, something Carto does with heart and just very smart design. Long story, but you play as Carto and you have the ability to manipulate the world to rearrange it. Cool, yes, but where things get clever is combining this with puzzles that vary in how they’re constructed as you advance the story. Talking to various villagers you encounter you’ll find that what you’ve laid down will need some rearranging, sometimes just to make sure the edges of the various tiles work together but often in order to ensure elements like roads or foliage are placed relative to each other as they’re meant to be. Throw in some great characters you’ll encounter along the way and it’s a cheery, creative, and unexpected treasure of a puzzle adventure well worth your time.

Phogs [Bit Loom Games] - While I love great challenging roguelikes and other titles geared towards the hardcore set I’ll fladly admit that well-made family-friendly fare always puts a smile on my face. I originally got to play Phogs at PAX East 2 years ago and just in that 20 minute demo I got excited about the game’s potential with its super-cute look, characters, and style. Now, with it finally making its way to Switch, I’m thrilled with the final result. It’s smart, intuitive, adorable, and I think (most critically) highly accessible without necessarily feeling “easy” either… something that’s a rare combination even among the more than a thousand indie games I’ve played on the system. At the base you’re controlling a two-headed dog, with either you controlling them in parallel solo (doing that left/right brain thing) or with you and a friend each controlling one end. There generally aren’t many controls to learn, you’ll be concerned with movement, grabbing things with your mouth, and stretching when necessary. What’s great, though, is how creatively the game works within those general limitations to create different puzzle opportunities. If one head grabs a lightbulb the other can shine light on things, if the one end grabs a water source the other can control the flow of water like a hose. These variations keep levels generally feeling fresh with new scenarios, but the dynamic where one person’s job is to grab and hold something is also a great way to take some pressure off of a less experienced gamer in the pair, leaving the tougher or more nuanced controls to the more capable one. Of course, if you’re equally paired you can always alternate who does what as well. All in all there’s much more to this game than its cute factor (though that’s undeniable) that deserves recognition, Phogs is a smart and highly-accessible co-op puzzle experience that delivers all-ages fun and some great creative variety.

Pumpkin Jack [Nicolas Meyssonnier] - Ah, tis the season for games that deliver at least a spooky feel, even though I’ll acknowledge more often than not Halloween season games tend to be a bit lacking in overall quality and simply hoping to capitalize on peoples’ urges. While by no means a horror game Pumpkin Jack may be one of the best games I’ve played that leans into the Halloween-y spirit with a timely release, delivering high-quality platforming plus a fair amount of variety with a reasonable degree of value. You obviously play as the Jack-o-Lantern headed Jack, jumping, dodging, and slashing your way through a variety of well-constructed stages that consistently change up what you need to do and have plenty of secrets to find without going overboard. In particular I appreciate that the camera tends to do a great job of giving you the right perspective pretty naturally and I rarely had issues with depth perception when making tough jumps to small platforms which usually plague lesser 3D platformers. Where I think the game shines the brightest though are the action-driven sequences in between the platforming sections, including a fast-moving escape from a burning barn, wild horseback rides, a riff on the classic minecart sequence in a few places, and more. Throw in boss fights that have some smart variety to them and while visually it may be a bit rough around the edges at times (though there’s no denying its aesthetic style is perfect for this time of year) Jack and his crow companion absolutely deliver a treat of an experience a mere week before Halloween.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens [WayForward] - While I’m a relatively recent fan of the Shantae series, having just been introduced to it in the collection release on Switch a while ago, I’m definitely getting into the groove and enjoying what feels like its consistency. Some great characters, perhaps a bit on the silly and dramatic side, backed up by rock-solid action platforming and more often than not varied and exciting boss fights. Clocking in completing my first full runthrough of this edition in a bit under 8 hours for the most part I’d consider it satisfying, though I will offer some nitpicks. While I won’t fault the game for generally being highly accessible with plentiful healing and opportunities to collect coins to be used for upgrades, that does diminish the excitement of big battles that don’t revolve around some puzzling and pattern solving. Especially in the fights against Risky Boots I sort of gave up on trying to be subtle and would just full-on blitz her with attacks until she was done, usually only needing to heal twice at most before it was done. Certainly that was my choice but at the same time her battles tended to be highly repetitive and only iteratively harder each time so my indifference felt earned. While some trappings like the enemy card system that would give you up to 3 incremental improvements to a particular skill or attack were nice they, along with the majority of the magic system attacks, felt a little under-utilized. Nice to have, but mostly non-essential so a bit wasted. Bear in mind, I’m being a bit picky only because I think the game was terrific and I just want to see it refined further and get better. While I wouldn’t call it perfect I think it’s a terrific title that gamers of just about any age or skill level could likely enjoy. There may be a few sections that will push you, and there are spots where figuring out where to go next can be a challenge, but its upbeat tone, polished presentation, and accessible fun are hard not to enjoy.

Two Point Hospital [Two Point Studios] - Sharing a thought, in many ways I still have a real beef with EA and the fact that they absorbed and pretty well ruined at least two classic studios that were dear to me. One was Origin, and the other was Bullfrog. One of my favorite titles Bullfrog made, that I’ve found myself returning to repeatedly over the years, was their sim classic Theme Hospital. If you’re familiar with the game all I should have to say is that Two Point Hospital is pretty well an enhanced remake of that classic to make the sale, it even has the same PA announcer voice (creepy fact but it provides glorious flashbacks). For people unfamiliar with that title it’s essentially a very goofy hospital simulator where you can explore your OCD tendencies, setting up rooms and providing proper benches, bins, and snack machines to keep people happy. Oh, and you’ll also want adequate treatment rooms, doctors, and nurses as well. The further into the game you get, the more it slowly diverges from its inspirations though many of the basic details remain the same. If you’re a sim fan the Switch has had a tough run to date, with too many games that have failed to be interesting, were hampered by terrible interfaces, or some combination of both. Thankfully, Two Point Hospital addresses all of those normal issues with smart and silly play, a highly usable (and generally unencumbered) interface, and plenty of details you’ll want to focus on to have the best hospitals in the business.

Heave Ho [Le Cartel Studio] - While having played so many indie games on the Switch is interesting and exposes you to all sorts of takes on multiple genres one admitted downside is that it can also make you a bit jaded. When it comes to my family, who are often asked to partake in helping me evaluate multiplayer games, I’d say the rate of that happening is far more accelerated. Conceptually Heave Ho may be simple, working solo or with up to 3 friends to simply grab and swing your way from the start to the finish line without falling, hitting spikes, or meeting your splattery demise in some other way. However, there’s a certain charm to it that pretty well immediately made everyone laugh and have a good time. Even after repeatedly getting frustrated in certain spots, especially when trying to keep from dropping costume-unlocking coins that can up the challenge significantly at times, the fun cut through the difficulties for everyone. Solo does work, and is great for honing your skills, but the game is absolutely meant to be played with friends, the more the better. Overall, this may be the best and most accessible multiplayer co-op game on the system.

New Super Lucky's Tale [Playful Corp] - For me New Super Lucky’s Tale marks a bit of an exciting time on the Switch, and as a fan of classic platforming. While there are many games that have aimed for hitting the mark of the likes of the classic Mario franchises like Super Mario 64 nothing has really proven up to the task. While some may consider it blasphemous I’m here to say this title has absolutely hit the mark, and done so with its own sense of humor and style rather than being derivative. Smart and varied level design, a mix of 2D and 3D platforming which are both very successful, and some nods that absolutely put a smile on my make for more than a handful of hours of family-friendly enjoyment.

Star Wars Pinball [Zen Studios] - If you’re either a massive Star Wars or pinball fan you can stop reading the review now and just buy this… rest assured, they’ve got you covered. Falling into the category of maximum, bordering on preposterous, effort, Star Wars Pinball isn’t just a few random tables. It’s an outright collection right out of the gate and represents an amazing value with 19 tables spanning the movies (including the more recent one-shots, for better or worse), TV shows (though, sadly, no Holiday Special), and even popular characters. Rather than phoning it in with relatively generic table layouts and throwing in sound bites to accentuate the action the folks behind the game have made a real investment in trying to imbue each table with unique character, many of them taking full advantage of the virtual nature of the game to concoct tables that wouldn’t be practical (or even possible) in a physical form. That does likely mean that not everyone will love every table but at the same time I applaud the effort and it really does make the depth of the total package remarkable. Throw in a Career mode that tries to include some elements of variety with objectives and challenges to complete and this is a great example of a game package swinging for the fences to deliver the full value of its price of admission.

Miles & Kilo [Four Horses] - While sharing quite a bit of DNA with last year's cute retro runner Kid Tripp, Miles & Kilo really refined and nailed things down to produce a satisfying experience worthy of inclusion on this list. Cute, challenging, and well-paced the alternating between the more traditional platforming when playing as Miles and the then it becoming a runner when Kilo is pulling him along keeps things fresh and fun throughout its relatively modest runtime.

Steamworld Dig 2 [Image & Form] - Widely, and quite deservedly, regarded as the best one of the best early indie games on the Switch (though perhaps Stardew Valley would have something to say about that) Dig 2 essentially took everything that already worked well with the original and improved upon it. Far more hand-crafted, full of humor, and exemplifying the ""just one more run"" treasure hunting loop it is very satisfying but also challenging to both your mind and reflexes. To get everything you'll need to work through some tough trials but it is a very rewarding ride.

Jackbox Party Pack 7 [Jackbox Studios] - My family and I have become massive fans of the Jackbox games over time, having played through each party pack at some point. The unique format, where you’ll be using your phones (or a tablet, or a laptop) as controllers is what makes it a very versatile game at parties as pretty well everyone should already be ready to play. Most games are geared for a minimum of 3 people (though I’d say most you need a minimum of 4 to be remotely fun) up to usually 8 but the provision to allow additional people into the game as the audience is a great feature that can get loads of extra people along to enjoy the ride and vote for their favorites.

A Monster's Expedition [Draknek] - One thing I’ve learned over the years as someone both on the programming end of software and on the consumer end is that creating experiences that are “simple” by nature is often anything but. With that in mind, there’s a certain effortless quality to the clean and well-planned rule progression and puzzles in Expedition that I really appreciate and admire. With minimal direction and some simple experimentation you’ll pretty understand each new element added to the rule mix as you simply try to make your way around a series of islands, enjoying some unusual artifacts with amusing descriptions along the way. It’s light but still challenging, for the most part establishing and then carefully following a slow and steady progression in complexity and difficulty the further you get. A great example of work invested to convert what could just be a puzzle game into more of an enjoyable puzzle experience worth checking out.

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

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure [ustwo] - It’s weird how at times in certain genres when it rains, it pours, and exploration-based discovery titles are currently out in force. Alba may not be a very long or meaty game, but its wholesome characters, super-chill wandering and discovering, and even inclusion of the element of getting great snaps of the local wildlife at least makes it a joy. Feeling incredibly well-suited to the Switch, a joy whether in handheld mode or docked, I appreciate its slightly more distinctive sense of style and tone even among its other laid back contemporaries. If you’re looking for something to take a few hours to enjoy, simply taking in nature and a bit of wonder along the way, this is a great option for you on the eShop.

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

My Singing Monsters Playground [Big Blue Bubble Inc] - With release timing that isn’t ideal in such close proximity to the latest Mario Party, and having been let down by many titles attempting to steal even a sliver of its oxygen, Playground is actually a pleasant surprise. If you’re looking for the full boardgame conceit that does add some strategy and flavor to the proceedings, this will sadly disappoint. However, if you or your family trends towards impatience and just want to get down to the action, this is a game that will absolutely have everyone covered. Tackling a series of mini games which get actively chosen by the person in last place (a nice touch), you and your friends will compete in a surprising variety of free-for-all, 2-on-2, and 3-on-1 events, trying to earn gems that will help determine the final winner. For the most part you can consider it Mario Party without any of the board aspects and you’d have the right general idea. The mini games themselves tend to be the star here, and having seen so many games try to compete in this space and fail miserably it’s terrific to see one that’s trying its hardest to mix together enough variety, simplicity, fun, and complexity all at once to justify participation by people of pretty well any skill level. In the end Mario and company don’t really need to fear this title if you’re a fan and are willing to pay up for the fun. If, however, you’re looking to get a taste of that action at a lower price point and are willing to sacrifice some polish and nuance this is a great option to be aware is out there.

TOEM [Something We Made] - I don’t know whether it was triggered by a pandemic that had everyone stuck in their houses and wishing for a chance to appreciate the world around us but this year has produced a string of pretty amazing exploratory adventures, with TOEM being the latest to join the club. Formerly featured in one of Nintendo’s Indie World Directs, this somewhat quirky and very calming title sports a distinctive black and white hand-drawn art style and encourages you to see everything in the world around you, down to the little things like hidden bugs or the occasional shy monster. It will likely only take most people around 4 hours to finish, a little more or less depending on how determined you are to work out every quest available to you, but if you’re looking to enjoy a consistent stream of odd surprises and interactions mixed with what are generally pretty sensible puzzles it really scratches that itch well. Among its recent brethren it’s perhaps a little longer and more varied in where you’ll go and what you’ll do, but with the photo taking there can be times where you’ll know what you need to do, but doing it in a way that the game recognizes can be tricky too. While it isn’t perfect, and may well be too sedate for some folks, I found it to be an enjoyable journey that helped me relax and feel great for a few engaging hours.

Jenny LeClu: Detectivu [Mografi] - One of the more overall neglected flavors on the Switch has been single-player experiences I would consider to be both appropriate for people of all ages as well as accessible. In addition, while female leads have become far more common in the past decade young women are generally more neglected. Enter the bright, quick-witted, and sassy Jenny LeClue, a young detective who it seems can turn just about any situation into an opportunity to investigate. The conceit of the story is that she’s a literary character who has had her time in the limelight but whose author is being pressured to do something radical with, in order to boost flagging interest. What follows is a wonderful, and sometimes unpredictable, adventure that you’ll have periodic opportunities to at least influence a little while solving a variety of puzzles. It’s smart, has a terrific lead character, and should be a good time for all ages.

Skellboy [Umaiki Games] - When it comes to action adventure titles it is no doubt a challenge to do something that somehow feels fresh and new. With an ability to switch out your body parts to take on new abilities, sometimes paired with some humorous circumstances, Skellboy at a minimum manages to have elements that are all its own. Granted, the exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat tend more towards the traditional, but since these areas are all handled well that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the pre-release version of the game has some stutters and pauses on area transitions a forthcoming patch has that issue in its sights so hopefully they’ll soon be a non-issue, though thankfully even when I ran into the issue it never managed to interfere with the action. Overall, while Skellboy may skew more towards a family-friendly degree of challenge than some may be looking for it’s a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. I wish the body part changing dynamics had been explored a bit more thoroughly, making for some tougher or more creative choices of combinations to shake things up a bit further, but regardless this is an easy title to recommend to anyone looking for a fun adventure just about anyone can enjoy.

Wunderling [Retroid] - Who ever said that puzzle games had to be for casual gamers? Oh sure, Wunderling could likely be enjoyed by just about anyone with its relatively simple one-button mechanic where you’re only able to control your character jumping… but to simply complete each level would be setting aside my favorite aspect of the game. The secrets, oh the secrets that this game has. Whether we’re talking about chests which will give you all sorts of silly gear to customize your character’s look, cassettes that will let you play music from the game’s soundtrack, or even an occasional hidden warp pipe that will take you to truly diabolical levels it’s the “hidden” challenges that accompany the standard game that have me hooked. Oh, and did I mention that the game’s premise and winks in the direction of Nintendo’s premiere franchise made me giggle and reconsider (only for a moment, mind you) my cruelty to the lowly Goombas out there? I love a game that works for everyone but then has an aspect daring the hard core folks out there to step up to the plate!

Forager [HopFrog] - When footage of this game was originally shown as part of one of the Nindie Directs any fan of Stardew Valley would have been challenged not to be intrigued with what appeared to be a familiar look mixed with some silliness. To be clear, Forager has little in common with that beloved indie since it isn’t as deep or varied and lacks the entire social component. The thing is, if what you loved was collecting and cultivating resources and slowly building things up Forager can quickly make you forget about all of that. The initial hour or so while you get established are definitely a bit of a grind but once you begin leveling up, investing in new skills and technologies, and expanding your footprint of islands you own there are a ton of great surprises in store for you. New exciting buildings and equipment mean some vastly improved gear and then when you begin to encounter dungeons it’s surprising how this game just keeps going. One negative, though it will hopefully get a patch, is that in at least one of the dungeons (the Crystal Caves) performance took a substantial hit with everything slowing down (though it at least remained playable). Aside from that issue though it’s an addictive loop, unlocking new technologies, finding new surprises, and working on your plan as you expand your skill tree.

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech [Image & Form] - Despite my feeling that it lost some steam towards the conclusion, SteamWorld Quest is easy to count among the most polished and engaging games on the system. Similarly to Heist it has managed to take a style of play that may not be as familiar to people and that may seem intimidating at first and make it highly accessible. There’s just so much potential in the decks you can put together that with some determination not to repeat yourself you could easily replay the game and have it feel very different due to your change in tactics. Yet again Image and Form have managed to take their SteamWorld universe to another very different place and yet deliver the same sort of high quality experience people have come to expect from the series.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair [Playtonic Games] - Retro games or those that attempt to recapture a certain vintage feel can be a tricky business and there’s no doubt that in such an oversaturated market with abundant choices hitting just the right notes must be tough. The original Yooka-Laylee absolutely nailed the presentation and even many gameplay mechanics of the Banjo-Kazooie series but perhaps was a bit too dated and sometimes empty or sterile to excite in this modern era. With Impossible Lair the target seems to have been instead set on the classic side-scrolling platforming of the likes of Donkey Kong Country and this time it all just feels like it comes together to make an experience dense with smartly hidden secrets and a wide variety of classic platforming challenges that just feel right. While perhaps the endgame may not rub everyone the right way as a whole Impossible Lair put a smile on my face, both making me nostalgic for the games that served as an inspiration and impressing me with a great deal of care in making the experience distinctive in its own right.

Figment [Bedtime Digital Games] - This is probably the most action-oriented and challenging game in this small list but it also has a somewhat sad family-oriented story that and small moments that touched me as a parent. Trapped in the subconscious and trying to repair the damage done by a horrible accident this action puzzler will make you think more than fight and is full of original creative songs and hand drawn art at every turn.

Marble It Up! [Marble It Up, LLC] - I'm a massive fan of the arcade classic Marble Madness as well as a fan of Sega's Monkey Ball games so Marble It Up! was a lot of fun to check out this year. While it may not have loads of content the degree of challenge will probably keep less hardcore gamers from conquering it all too quickly. Throw in some diabolical hidden secrets that take some serious work to obtain and it's a very unusual type of game that controls well and is a lot of fun to play.

The Adventure Pals [Massive Monster] - With a look and quirky sense of humor that feels like it came from a Cartoon Network show, The Adventure Pals is a silly platforming adventure full of surprises and some smart gameplay. The fact that the challenge generally remains pretty modest and the abundance of weird characters and situations consistently brought a smile to my face made it an easy game to consider for this category.

Jackbox Party Pack 2 [Jackbox Games] - In general the Jackbox Party Packs are all a lot of fun and which one you'll prefer will probably have more to do with the personal preferences of you and the people you're playing with. Over time the pack my own family has tended towards the most is Party Pack 2, in particular for its inclusion of versions of Quiplash and Fibbage, but mostly because my kids absolutely love the weirdo Earwax. One player will choose an odd prompt and the rest will be given several descriptions of sounds to choose from. The goal is to pick 2 sounds that best represent the prompt and given the random nature of what you have to work with this can force people to be a bit creative. If you have a large group one great feature of all Jackbox packs is that beyond the limits on players for each game everyone else can join in as members of the audience to vote. All are a lot of fun and a great way to liven up your party.

A Juggler’s Tale [Kaleidoscube] - With its marionette characters and associated string-based challenges, rhyming narration, and a healthy dose of charm A Juggler’s Tale is certainly unique. Playing out as a sort of puzzle adventure you’ll continue to be presented with scenarios where you’ll need to work out how to survive or escape from what’s usually some calamitous set of circumstances. As you could expect from moment to moment the results can thus vary, and at times if you’ve missed some visual cue you may find yourself feeling a bit stuck, though thankfully the answer is always somewhere nearby at least. There are times where the controls can feel a bit on the dodge side, sometimes resulting in failure even when you know what you want to do, but for the most part you do get accustomed to some of the quirks and learn to work with them. While the adventure only lasts a few hours it is at least memorable, in particular because of the narrator who makes everything you’ve done feel just a bit more grand.

Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! [Mr. Nutz Studio] - While the genre struggled in the early days on the Switch, the beat-em-up has proven to be alive and well on the Switch, including some titles I’d consider genre-defining that have arrived over the last 2 years. Asterix and Obelix, taken from the French comic, are characters I’m not at all familiar with so I can’t comment on their use here, though I will note their personalities as well as the unusual characters they interact with in the story, do provide a decent basis for light humor. Gameplay-wise you’ll be dealing with the contrast between the smaller and more precise Asterix and the much larger and brawling Obelix, though since the controls are the same for each at a high level they perform similarly. The play tends to be pretty traditional, though perhaps a bit light on overall strategy compared to some more accomplished titles, but I do appreciate the inclusion of some secret spots on the periphery you can find and that help to encourage exploring the space. Playable solo or with a buddy what strikes me most is that within the genre this may be the most stripped down but still enjoyable titles I’ve played in the space, and with the co-op I could see this being a great title to play with a younger or less experienced gamer, helping to bring them into the fold a bit more gently. It isn’t the most complex or satisfying brawler out there by a fair margin, but there’s something to be said for its sense of humor and accessibility that many of its brethren lack.

Beyond Blue [E-Line Media] - Perhaps it’s the pandemic or the challenges of parenthood talking, but as much as I enjoy blowing things up or slashing them to pieces there’s real power in games that help you calm things down and find some inner peace. There’s no doubt that the ocean is a great environment for inspiring a sense of calm, and Beyond Blue makes pretty effective use of it. You’ll always tend to have an objective to complete but while the environment is hardly limitless, some curiosity and a willingness to explore often yields satisfying results, encouraging you to frequently pause for a moment to take the wonder around you in as fully as possible. All manner of sea life, great and small, surrounds you, and you’ll be encouraged to scan them all to collect and review data about a pretty wide array of creatures. Granted, perhaps what story there is may not necessarily inspire you, but for me the effort went into the right direction, emphasizing the beauty and wonder of the seas. If you’re just looking for a great way to appreciate the natural world and unwind this is a terrific option for doing just that.

Centipede: Recharged [SneakyBox] - Taking classic arcade titles and trying to give them new life in the modern era tends to be a challenge, and I’ve definitely seen both great successes and utter failures to date on the Switch. While Centipede may not be near the top of my list of favorites from the early arcade era, I did spend a significant amount of time playing it both in the arcades and on my trusty Atari 5200 back in the day. Recharged absolutely makes the right moves to honor the basics of the game and give it a push towards being more modern with a pretty wide array of power-ups that absolutely change up your strategy depending on what you happen to get. Scorpions and fleas absolutely remain your worst enemies, poisoning mushrooms that will send any centipede hurtling down towards you and continually spamming new mushrooms onto the screen respectively. In addition to the enhanced classic arcade mode there are a number of challenges as well that build specific scenarios to survive, which is a nice touch. About my only complaint is that the soundscape of the game is so ordinary and honestly pretty quiet, the sounds of the various enemies in the original title were outright iconic and were essential to building the classic arcade wall of cacophony. The lack of their inclusion, or even at least subtle nods to them, is a disappointment as they would tip you off to what was coming. A minor criticism perhaps, but it’s one critical area that should have been honored to put a cherry on top of this otherwise rock solid arcade update.

Cruis’n Blast [Raw Thrills] - When it comes to over-the-top, crazy, and almost excessively arcade-style racing I’m not sure anything out there can quite match the classic Cruis’n series. Cruis’n Blast, rather than looking to make strides to evolve or reinvent itself in any remote way, comes to the Switch fully embracing everything (and I do mean this in the best complimentary way) stupidly ridiculous about its lineage and puts it right in your lap whether you love or hate it. For anyone more remotely interested in realism or tight control mechanics you can just keep moving, this won’t be an experience for you. However, if the thought of racing with your neon-lit and juiced-up triceratops as you plow through your opponents, doing backflips and barrel rolls over ramps along the way, sounds plain AWESOME this will be your jam. The adherence to even goofy-ass things from yesteryear like every car surface being highly reflective, something nobody would ever do now but that was all the rage back in the day, is a sign that this port was made with respect and love. Will it deliver hours of entertainment? That would depend on you and whether your goal is just to “beat the game”, which could take only a few hours, or whether you plan to enjoy unlocking and tricking out everything, sucking in the goofiness of it all either solo or with some friends. While not for everyone, I absolutely respect the love and care put in by the developers to honor the essence of Cruis’n, no matter how ridiculous some of it may be to more modern (or simply more “hardcore”) gamers.

El Hijo [Honig Studios] - Stealth games, in general, usually aren’t my bag for whatever reason but while El Hijo heavily involves that mechanic there’s enough charm and variety that it works for me. Initially trying to escape from the monastery he’s been dropped off at and then in search of the people who wronged his family there’s not a lot of story but it’s easy to understand and relate to so that works. As you’re introduced to new spots to hide in or even move through there can be a learning curve at times so it’s critical to check out anything that looks like it has potential or you could waste time trying to get through a spot using a far tougher plan than is necessary but I also appreciate that it seems in places there’s not only 1 way to get through. It won’t be a match for everyone but its cute style and clever variety keep it enjoyable, interesting, and sometimes challenging throughout.

Epistory: Typing Chronicles [Fishing Cactus] - Forgive me, but I’m an absolute sucker for games that do things differently… in fact, I tend to seek them out. One of the least represented styles of games out there is the typing game genre. With the only truly memorable title I can recall in the space being Typing of the Dead (which needs to be on Switch, BTW), it’s simply a rarity out there. So when something like Epistory comes along with that style of play as the hook and then pairs it with a unique art style and a very pleasant fantasy story it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll be smitten.So, yeah, making sure you have the proper setup to play this could be a challenge. You’ll need to hook up a keyboard via the USB port in your dock and then, depending on the length of your cord and how your Switch is situated, there may be some challenges. If you can overcome that though, what awaits is just a taste of something different, and if you’re not pretty nimble typing you may find it’s a bit too tough for you when things get more intense. What strikes me as a bit odd is a criticism that the more you play the more many enemies and words will begin to repeat themselves… as if this isn’t a reality in all games of all types, and for some of the trickier things in the game’s vocabulary you’ll be wishing the well wasn’t quite so deep since things like more scientific terms you’re less likely to know on sight so they can be a challenge. For me the game is chock full of enchantment and is simply a breath of fresh air, so if you’re able to manage a way to get it set up in a way that playing it is viable I’m happy to recommend it.

Garden Story [Picogram] - When it comes to relatively chill adventures in more of a classic style the Switch has pretty great representation already and can now add Garden Story to the list. Playing as the little grape Concord, you’ll take on the mantle of your area’s Guardian, doing a bit of learning on the job as you try to complete various tasks to keep the residents happy as well as give the beatdown to the encroaching threat of The Rot. There’s a satisfying and generally more action-oriented vibe to your daily activities as you do what you can to help people to gain perks and support as well as upgrade your abilities. While it’s not terribly elaborate in its world and storytelling it’s a relatively familiar sort of gameplay loop that has that sort of “one more day” pull as you hope to see what comes next. Recommended for fans of games in the vein of Stardew Valley and some other farm simulators that are itching for just a bit more combat to spice things up.

Get-A-Grip Chip [Redstart] - It’s always terrific when you stumble onto a game that offers a flavor that’s a little new but somehow vaguely familiar in its mechanics all the same. Get-A-Grip Chip is one such title, having you focus almost entirely on the smart and effective use of your character’s handy grapple. It will allow you to climb, swing over hazards, and slingshot yourself into secret areas peppered throughout its 30 levels across 5 increasingly-challenging worlds. This is one of those titles that feels like it gets the challenge just right for mainstream audiences, pushing its charm and accessibility throughout while still offering up carrots to more determined gamers to try to refine their technique to speed run levels and compete in the online leaderboards. While not quite in the category of what I’d consider a pure budget title at a mere $15 it still feels very appropriately priced and delivers a great experience gamers of any age should be able to enjoy.

Hoa [Skrollcat Studios] - Ah, the struggle to properly evaluate games that aren’t really made for you personally as the target audience. Hoa is a naturalistic puzzle platformer with a simply incredible and vibrant art style first and foremost. At that point I don’t doubt quite a large number of people are on board. Where the game may lose people is with the fact that it is also absolutely clear it was made to be “family-friendly” which, for many, can be translated to “not very difficult”. For people with gamers-in-training out there it’s absolutely well worth a look, as it does a fair job at working the mind as well as the reflexes, though in general with a gentle touch. For people who can enjoy games as they’re intended, who also appreciate outstanding game art, it’s also probably going to be a real treat. If you’re not so much in that direction and get bored with well-worn play that is often very gentle with the player it’s likely to, instead, be a bit aggravating no matter how great it may look. All that said, I absolutely appreciate the clear love and earnest effort behind Hoa, and would recommend it to anyone who won’t be disappointed by its relative ease.

Hot Wheels Unleashed [Milestone S.r.l] - Having spent a fair portion of my childhood playing with the cars, tracks, and quite a few playsets there’s absolutely an element of nostalgia in Hot Wheels Unleashed that comes in waves and puts a smile on my face. I can only imagine what weight this collective love for the property, and the associated expectations it comes with, put on the shoulders of everyone working on this project. For the most part the great news is that the resulting game is quite a lot of fun even without leaning entirely on the many iconic cars and playsets the franchise brings to the table. Perhaps I’d prefer an element like combat to spice things up a bit more, but going the “toy-sized track within a full-sized environment” route does manage to help compensate to a degree for the missing ability to blow up your competitors. It doesn’t completely lack in technique either, as you’ll need to work on your drift turns (which also then fill your boost gauge) and carefully manage any situation where you may catch air or encounter transitions between a real-world surface and the track since those can quickly lead to disaster if you’re not careful. In terms of things that hold it back the almost mobile-esque unboxing system and the seemingly ever-present hard sell efforts for you to buy DLC for the game that just released can rub the wrong way. That said, the main “local play” mode that switches up scenarios for you to unlock gear, online multiplayer, and a track editor all help to compensate with plenty of opportunities to explore, expand your virtual car collection, and bask in the glory of this iconic franchise.

KeyWe [Stonewheat & Sons] - Cooperative games that rely on a mix of careful communication and a fair degree of control dexterity have really come into fashion, when done well, on the Switch. KeyWe may be one of the most unusual ones to date, with you and a friend each taking control of one of these odd birds as they try to use their limited abilities to help keep a local post office up and running. With a handful of mailroom tasks that vary in their details, as well as a number of more offbeat and silly overtime activities to participate in there’s quite a bit more variety than you’d assume to the game since your little kiwi buddies are severely limited in their inherent capabilities. While the game can be played solo, to a degree, that really does rob the game of the majority of its charm, with the goal being to either bring friends together or rip them apart as they struggle to both plan and adapt on the fly in order to keep efficiency up and everything delivered on time. If various forms of food prep have become a bit stale and you and a buddy are looking for a new challenge this provides ample opportunity for some fun and frustration as well.

Kill It With Fire [Casey Donnellan Games LLC] - While possibly not an ideal game for arachnophobes, Kill It With Fire is what I’d consider a “wacky physics type game” done right, as long as you have patience with its quirks. Each stage consists of multiple rooms full of objects that you’ll want to pick up and sometimes inspect, eventually finding a hidden creepy crawly that you’ll want to squish. While initially you’ll need to use the clipboard that displays your objectives early on you’ll find some hairspray that, when paired with a lighter, will let you have a bit more fun, just be careful to conserve your “ammo” and try not to light the whole place on fire in the process. As you go you’ll find new gear to help you be more effective and have fun, and with patience you’ll often find hidden rooms and goodies to reward your diligence. As is the case with many games with this sort of feel it is by no means perfect, but usually it’s the quirk and oddity that help add to the fun… and there’s nothing quite as satisfying and lighting a red spider who’ll spawn spiderlings on fire, then having them all come out flaming while running around causing general chaos. An odd treat.

Kitaria Fables [Twin Hearts] - Family-friendly action adventure titles have a fair amount of representation on the system, but with its cute characters and pretty basic overall controls, Kitaria Fables manages to pretty easily establish itself as a great option. While the story, for the most part, runs along familiar lines, keeping it simple seems to work nicely for the title, giving you reasons to keep moving around to discover new areas and challenges, but also never bogging things down. A dash of crafting and cultivation help to add some meat to the game’s bones once you get rolling, and some weapon choices help to give you some nice combat options to work with as you face a variety of foes. Further, throw in the ability to play along with someone else co-op style and it positions itself very nicely for a parent or older sibling to play along with a less experienced gamer-in-training as well. While by no means as polished or deep as the top-tier titles in the genre the general accessibility, friendly characters and tone, and plain cute charm or Fables should be perfect for people who just want to just take their time and enjoy themselves, no matter what their age.

Mail Mole [Talpa Games] - There’s no doubt that releasing a 3D platformer on a console that Mario built (and currently has quite a few titles out on as well) takes some guts, and while Mail Mole can’t be considered up on the high tier that franchise occupies it also has some charm and mass appeal that help it to be at least notable. Your goal will be to burrow your way through a variety of themed stages, jumping when necessary, throwing in some dashes, and collecting carrots and turnips before delivering the mail in each locale. While this isn’t too difficult early on the further you get there’s a steady increase in challenge but in general it’s a pretty smooth ride so even younger players should be able to do well with it. I do think that the button hold and release style jump and just the general layout of the buttons is lacking (it would be nice to be able to map them or have alternatives) but since there are at least only a few controls so it isn’t so bad. There are times where the fixed camera can be troublesome for seeing the action as well but on the whole it usually does a fine job and removes a layer of concern less veteran gamers can have trying to keep track of the direction they’re moving in while trying to pan the camera at the same time. If you’re looking for a slightly different flavor in your Switch platforming be sure to check this one out, you just may dig it.

One Hand Clapping [Bad Dream Games] - OK, so to start I’ll admit that this isn’t your ordinary game and that’s both a good and a bad thing. At a minimum you’ll need to have a microphone with a USB connector to even get started (plugging it into the port in your dock), and a reasonable degree of confidence in your ability to not so much sing as be able to somewhat reliably match and control your pitches. Assuming you’ve got those bases roughly covered, One Hand Clapping is absolutely a unique experience mixing up some puzzle platforming with the use of your voice in a variety of ways. It starts simple, just needing to sing to trigger elements on the screen, but as you move on you’ll need to show some more refinement and sometimes a bit of creativity to solve puzzles that will put some demands on your vocal chords. While it generally works well I’ll admit that every once in a while the game seemed to get confused about whether I was singing a high or a low note, but for the most part it worked well enough to keep things moving. If you’re looking for a new twist on a music and rhythm game that won’t penalize you for not keeping up with the latest hits but still use your vocal instrument this is a great choice to have.

PiCTOOi [Atooi LLC] - The Switch has had quite a 3 (or 4, depending on how deep you’re looking to go in the roster) way race in the Picross puzzling space, with each series having their own flair. I would have thought that meant the space was completely full and in need of no further options but now PiCTOOi has arrived to set me straight. The core gameplay is still the same, featuring various pictograph images of varying sizes that you’ll need to use your savvy as you look at the numbered patterns on the horizontal and vertical axes to plot out carefully. Now, to be clear, while some competitors feature multi-color puzzles this is more old school with only one set, so its complexity is lower. This really has more of a purist feel with less focus on trying to provide feedback to help you complete puzzles in the interface, giving it more of a Sudoku feel where you’ll need to grit your teeth and carefully work out which spaces get a colored block and which should be disabled. Somewhat in that vein the other major feature is its Brain Age-esque presentation, complete with a little robot (I reject him being a lightbulb!) who’ll gladly give you supplemental info about each puzzle, and a calendar feature so you can track your consistent play as a mental exercise towards your health. Fans of Mutant Mudds (and some other Atooi franchises) will also likely be tickled by a diorama mode that will reveal a number of game art pieces bit by bit as you complete collections of puzzles. About its only weak point is what feels like a painfully long pause as you close each puzzle to go back to the menu but in general I’d say Picross fans now have 4 legitimate contenders for the crown that will likely see a winner tied more to personal tastes as each has their own distinctive flavor.

Squabble [Atomic Realm] - I’ve stated before that when it comes to local multiplayer games my family has become pretty jaded over time, too often having been burned by all-too-familiar mechanics or just bland play that gets repetitive far too quickly. To pretty well everyone’s surprise Squabble took a well-worn general format and made it come to life though, leveraging a pretty diverse set of weapons you can grab, but then further sweetening the deal by having both a primary and secondary use for each item to spice things up and introduce a bit of strategy. There’s no question that the play is hectic, but if you’re smart and make effective use of what you’re given there’s no need to button mash and panic. The additional Capture the Flag mode also works well, using a layout that has more than one path and which sets the stage for tense match-ups. There may be a question of longevity potentially, as alternative stages that get unlocked can only add so much to the mix, but I’d imagine if you stick to bursts of play a competitive group of friends should be able to continue to have fun with this one for quite some time.

The Lightbringer [Rock Square Thunder] - Certainly there are plenty of 3D action platformers on the Switch, and they take a variety of forms from intense to more casual. The Lightbringer sort of splits the middle, offering opportunities for challenges if you want to be a completionist but keeping things light if you’re just along for the journey. What’s interesting is how streamlined this experience is, feeling more like a 2D platformer moving in straight lines rather than an open adventure where the goal is exploration. Secrets will be hidden along the way, making you detour a little or double back a bit perhaps, but in general you’re always moving in the direction you want to and in many regards that’s a refreshing change of pace. Some poetic voice acting helps to advance the story, which just gives things a different feel overall as well. While by no means as epic an adventure as you’d normally see in a 3D action platformer, The Lightbringer feels like a solid, steady, and enjoyable adventure that respects your time and delivers generally no-filler thrills… something I can definitely respect.

The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf [OSome Studio] - Whenever approaching a licensed property, especially one associated more with kids, veteran gamers are going to come to the table with a healthy amount of earned skepticism. The Smurfs, in particular, have been featured in many games through many generations over the years, but I’d say few have been notable. Mission Vileaf, for me, is a pretty refreshing break from the mold, offering up a great opportunity to explore their three-apple-high world and save the day. The family-friendly 3D platforming is broken up by reasonably simple combat and use of your ever evolving Smurfy gear, clearing the infected vegetation and dispatching corrupted critters. Difficulty is thankfully defined up-front to allow for a wider range of skill levels, and the ability for someone to join in co-op style to lend assistance makes it a terrific option for gamers in training. It may be lacking in overall complexity, and it won’t go toe to toe with the best the genre has to offer on the system, but it’s still a Smurfy good time if you’re open to the experience.

TOHU [Fireart Games] - Right out of the gate I was honestly a bit nervous with the look and feel of TOHU, concerned that it would go firmly down the cute and quirky road but come up short in terms of variety and challenge. I’m happy to say that for the most part that impression was completely wrong though. Quirky as it may be, this is a puzzle-filled adventure that has a pleasing degree of variety, at times is even a bit challenging, and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction as you progress for the most part. I do wish the story were a bit better defined in order to help you better understand and appreciate the world and its characters, but if you’re simply looking for a rock-solid point-and-click adventure that delivers more and better puzzles than its average competition you should be satisfied with the experience.

Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town [imaginarylab] - The point-and-click adventure has been around since roughly forever and the sort of renaissance the genre has enjoyed over the past few years, care of indie developers, has thoroughly proven it can still have legs. Willy Morgan is a title created in the image of the old LucasArts classics, featuring a fair amount of creativity, quirk, and entertaining dialogue, but I also found it to be well-executed. The challenge, more often than not, in these games is to make puzzles unique without also making them a bit inscrutable. While opinions could vary I’d say that among its brethren I found the problems that needed solving here to be pretty smart and, for the most part, sensible… something that can be hard to say when you spend a fair amount of time hitting strategy guides to make sense of things in many other adventures. Throw in a clean and somewhat unique animation style, deviating from the classic pixel-art look, and adventure fans should consider adding Bone Town to their travel itinerary.

YouTubers Life 2 [U-Play Online] - While the original YouTubers Life was certainly novel there was just something about it that felt more one-dimensional to me overall so it didn’t quite click for me. With this second crack at what’s essentially a life sim mixed with trying to find success as a social media icon I think they found a better and more satisfying balance in things. One part learning the ropes of how best to manage your time and finances, and the other exploring how to start from nothing and leverage every trick and technique possible to get eyes on you and build a following it may be a bit repetitive in some of the tasks you’ll need to repeat quite a lot, but that doesn’t mean you can simply go through the motions and gain a following without learning some strategy and tricks of the trade. While some may want to play the game to get a taste of the lifestyle of a social media icon, if anything I found that it reinforced the things I would imagine would make it miserable after a while. Constantly trying to find ways to mine trends and maintain an appearance of being happy and affable must be truly exhausting and when trying to caption and hashtag my 50th or so post that really began to settle in. Still, this offers an experience that’s pretty unique so if you’ve ever had aspirations to being a social media star it will likely have more to offer you than yet another farming sim for sure.

Bake 'n Switch [Streamline Games] - While there’s no doubt that the Overcooked franchise has been wildly successful, and can be an absolute blast to play with friends or family, in terms of accessibility I’d say it’s a mixed bag. Not only does the chaos and switching between many tasks require some level of coordination and cooperation, there’s a certain degree of pressure and challenge to it that may be too much for less experienced gamers. I think that’s where Bake ‘n Switch comes in and delivers an alternative that can be similar, and still gets to be more and more challenging as it goes, but feels a bit more friendly since it helps reduce the individual chaos a bit by making it easier for each person to lock into set roles. The character you choose isn’t just cosmetic, that decision also defines (to a degree) what you’re best at, with your special ability even further reinforcing that. Now, if people get hung up on picking a character they like visually but are uninterested in which role they should then play (fighting off mold, combining breads, baking, etc) that may backfire a bit but if you’re looking to optimize your potential for success everyone should do their best to stay roughly within the roles and run with it. One notable thing the game doesn’t have is an ability to play it solo, though. You’ll need to have someone to play with locally or a friend you know you can hook up with online (sorry, currently there’s no matchmaking) and for some this may be a dealbreaker so it’s important to note. However, if you’re looking for something to meet up and play with friends periodically online or have people over for some fun playing together this may be a more broadly accessible answer to cooperative (or competitive if you like) kitchen cookery.

Fledgling Heroes [Subtle Boom] - There’s no doubt a good reason for people to debate whether games like Fledgling Heroes “need” to be on Switch. With a one-button mechanic for play, controlling when your various bird characters flap their wings, yes this is a game that you could enjoy on a mobile device without the need for physical controls even. That said, the colorful and appealing art style, variety of ways the different birds you’ll unlock play through their levels, customization options (if you’re into them they’re a plus, if you’re not I’m not considering them essential to positive feelings though), and even reasonable challenges you’ll hit in order to get through the loads of stages impressed me. With different objectives and critical skills required in many cases I often found myself adjusting in my seat, digging in, and forcing myself to take it seriously to get to the next level. Even with quite a number of other titles to get to last week I also found it easy to return to this title because it was challenging but not necessarily taxing, and so easy to just pick up for a few minutes and put down. It may not be pushing the hardware to its limits by any means but if you enjoy playing something lighter and more relaxing that will still make you work this definitely fits the bill.

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

Nexomon: Extinction [VEWO Interactive In] - While there have been a few stabs at taking on Game Freak and the Big N’s mega-franchise they’ve tended to be at the higher-dollar level with other big companies trying to jumpstart their own franchises-to-be with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads. I’d say some have fared better than others in that space but none has had anywhere near the sheer longevity of Pokemon. Finally, with Nexomon: Extinction, we’re seeing an upstart indie take it on and deliver it to market at a very modest $20 price point. How does it stack up? Well, if you’re expecting the bells and whistles to make it more akin to the current generation games you’ll find it lacking, but if perhaps you’re a lapsed fan who has walked away for a few years or just prefer the classic era of Poke-titles I’d say you’re in for a real treat. Granted, there’s no mistaking the degree the overall concept, progression, and feel of the combat are heavily borrowed but to its credit Nexomon at least flexes its muscles in enough places that it distinguishes itself. In particular I really enjoyed the curveballs in the story, the often highly self-aware sense of humor, and just the general flow and feel of the dialogue that makes up the connective tissue between battling, capturing, and cultivating your team. If you’ve ever been a Poke-fan or perhaps were always nervous to spend the cash to take the plunge for the first time, Nexomon is a satisfying and well-made indie-fied version of the franchise that’s worth checking out.

Radical Rabbit Stew [Pugstorm] - If you’re looking to make a splash on the Switch eShop who can resist some cute killer bunnies mixed with very accessible puzzle action… and boss battles! There’s just a spirit to Radical Rabbit Stew that makes it generally fly by. Perhaps the nature of the puzzling isn’t necessarily original, but there’s a flair in the execution that simply made me laugh. In order to save your friends you’ll need to take on these carnivorous cottontails, smacking them around to ricochet into pots for stew. Of course you’ll want to also figure out how to get the special coin on each stage just to prove who’s boss. New mechanics are introduced at a pretty steady pace and they’re either given a simple explanation or you’ll discover them on your own through a set scenario in-game, a function of clever design that I appreciate. Throw in some boss battles (something you normally don’t find in puzzlers) and this is a clever and fun package of a game that should be enjoyable for all ages.

Wintermoor Tactics Club [EVC] - When you think of the tactical RPG genre the words “accessible” don’t normally come to mind but Wintermoor Tactics Club is just that sort of surprise. Not only does it offer up a pretty friendly and well-crafted introduction to many traditional tactics concepts, it does so with a roughly relatable (well, to a degree at least) core crew of nerds who just want to be able to keep their role-playing club going. Having a challenge thrown at their feet with the need to defeat all rival clubs at head-to-head battles (relax, it’s just some snowball fighting) the group initially despairs but then realizes that the strategic lessons they’ve learned dungeon-crawling could pay off in real life if they treat it as one of their gaming sessions. With great (and some weird) characters, a steady but fair progression in concepts and difficulty, and some pretty smart overall battles to be won along the way this is a great introductory tactics game that just about anyone should be able to follow and perhaps develop an initial love for the genre with. For veterans, yeah, it may be a bit too simple for your tastes, but even then there’s still the enjoyable story of people you may well find something in common with who are worth rooting for.

A Hat in Time [Gears for Breakfast] - When it comes to 3D platformers and you’re looking to release on the console that Mario helped make you’d better be ready to deliver. A Hat in Time has a cute look and certainly some strange situations and characters which helps to serve as a solid base. Where platforming is concerned while it doesn’t quite reach the level of polish (and in places, performance) that Nintendo’s mascot mustachioed plumber hits there’s no doubt that it is swinging for the fences at every step. This includes some control mechanics and level designs that deviate from what you’ve come to expect and in particular that aspect is one I appreciate about the title. The density of secrets and things to collect on any given level can be a bit overwhelming, and early on I wasn’t always sure when I was supposed to be trying to collect them (it adheres to the Mario 64 template of focused missions to complete per run), but more often than not the experience left me with a smile on my face to be playing a new platformer with a different style and sense of humor that felt rewarding. While a patch to file down some rough spots would be ideal I’m glad I’ve finally played a new platformer series that gets more right than wrong and am hoping to see more of it in the future.

Dead End Job [Ant Workshop Ltd] - As a huge fan of twin-stick roguelike shooters, and with plenty of excellent ones already on the Switch, my interest is always piqued by a new contender in this space. Coming to the table with an art style and sense of humor that reminds me of classic Ren & Stimpy was a strong opener, but if it didn’t have solid gameplay to back it up I was ready to drop the hammer. The result is a surprising one, and even with what I’d consider a crowded space of solid roguelike shooters on Switch I’ll argue Dead End Job has managed to carve out a space somewhat of its own. Progression is a bit different here, working almost like a roguelike RPG, as you’ll accumulate experience when you collect ghosts (you can even get perks where you’ll get bonus experience for capturing them quickly together, highly recommended) which will level you up and give you access to 3 random (and thus the roguelike element) perks. Until you die you’ll continue to hold on to every perk you’ve accumulated, which first places a heavy incentive on staying alive but also making the experience more accessible than the competition. If you’re looking for a lighter and more friendly shooter that’s a bit silly, weird, and ultimately quite approachable even for less experienced gamers, Dead End Job is a good time with a style all its own.

Pikuniku [Sectordub] - Pikuniku is generally over too quickly, both solo and in co-op, and it may be too simplistic or silly for some folks but for me it was a joy pretty well the entire time. Focused on discovery, some creativity, and filled with strange surprises and quirks, it absolutely feels at home on the Switch and would probably work for people of any age or skill level if they simply have some patience. I’d love to see a sequel with even more funky fun, and am hoping to see more easygoing titles like it on Switch in the coming year.

de Blob [Blue Tongue Entertainment] - Playing through the game as, you guessed it, a blob who is able to take on colored paint, your task is to return vibrant color to your now mostly drab and monochromatic. Invaders have taken over, robbing the city of its personality and culture, and your job is to revitalize it all once more. This is best done by following the pretty simple mission structure which you can activate by going to well-marked checkpoints. Some involve coloring certain areas specific colors, others will feel like a checkpointed race of sorts, and some require you to use a specific color in quantity to restore major landmarks back to their former glory. You’ll need to be careful to be on the lookout for pools of ink or the few types of enemies that are lurking about but in general as long as you remain in tune with where a water source is (to cleanse yourself of the murky ink) you’ll be able to recover when you make a mistake once in a while. Light, fun, and generally quite accessible for all ages this is a terrific title for the whole family.

Gelly Break [Wild River] - If I were to tell you that there was a game this year that managed to blend together elements of smart 3D platforming with twin-stick shooting I probably would have laughed. If you then told me that two people working as a team, each controlling one aspect of that pairing of genre feels, could have a great time doing it I would have been amazed. Gelly Break is an odd bird and mixes a colorful and light feel with some clever and challenging play, the fact that it can appeal to 2 gamers that have different preferences in play makes it a treat.

Wandersong [Dumb and Fat Games] - Another adventure game that takes its own path when it comes to resolving conflicts in this title you'll play as a bard who ends up using his vocal talents to try to help save the day. Colorful, creative, and full of positivity for the most part Wandersong keeps the difficulty manageable and emphasizes the joy of exploring and using music to solve a variety of puzzles.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles [Prideful Sloth] - On a general level if you were to make a game with a spirit similar to that of the Zelda series and then remove the combat you'd have Yonder. Where some may find the lack of conflict a bit bland the emphasis on exploration, some creativity, and questing in Yonder made it refreshing to relax and simply enjoy.

Poi [PolyKid] - Somewhat of a love letter to Super Mario 64 and the era of 3D platforming it inspired Poi is a bit of a throwback. You'll open each level with an objective in mind and will need to work out the specifics in many cases of what you'll need to do as you go. The pleasant surprise is the general variety in tasks and challenges that will crop up in the form of secret levels and alternative tasks a little more off the beaten path. While it lacks the polish of AAA titles it has an earnest charm that I found endearing.

Use Your Words [Smiling Buddha Games] - Taking the format that the folks at Jackbox pretty well perfected Use Your Words isn't a collection of distinct mini games, it is instead played as a single game with 3 types of rounds. The highlight is Sub the Title, which plays out a bit like your own version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Given an often odd clip of a foreign film each player will be challenged to create their own subtitles for the scene. With some clips that are already a bit ridiculous this tends to get creative juices flowing. The other two modes, involving assigning newspaper headlines to some odd pictures and a fill-in-the-blank mode round out the fun. The pacing can be a little slow but if you give it a chance it can be a lot of fun.

Yono and the Celestial Elephants [Neckbolt] - Nicknamed ""cute elephant Zelda"" by many fans on Twitter Yono doesn't exactly start out the game with a tunic that is oddly familiar but it is one of the many themed outfits he'll have an opportunity to buy and wear over the course of his adventure. For seasoned gamers the early going will probably be a bit on the easy side, and combat never gets too complex, but for younger or less experienced gamers I would highly recommend its gentle progression from easier to more complicated puzzles as you reach the game's conclusion.

Jackbox Party Pack 5 [Jackbox Games] - The Jackbox crew have returned with another diverse batch of games meant to be played with a bunch of friends. This time they've returned with a new edition of the trivia game that started it all, You Don't Know Jack, a creative title where you'll be trying to concoct inventions to solve odd problems, of all things a robotic rap battle, a game where you goal is to avoid consensus, and even their very first attempt at an action game as well. Pretty well guaranteed to have at least one game that will connect with about any crowd these titles are a consistent source of party fun.

Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure [Vector Unit] - When you load up a kart racing game on any system, let alone the Switch, the biggest challenge is to try to enjoy the game on its own merits and not merely compare it to Mario Kart. Even trying to clear your mind and be open to only what has been put in front of you though, while Beach Buggy Racing 2 has some variety in its racing types and power-ups there’s no mistaking the feel of its more mobile-based roots. There just isn’t much nuance or room for advanced technique with the driving, so many of the power-ups are practically instant hit by nature and can’t really be avoided by their target, and in the end this all makes the experience a bit more fast food in its overall feel. That said, the asking price is far cheaper and the lack of nuance also may make it far more approachable to a casual crowd whose expectations aren’t set to the Mario Kart standard.

Button City [Subliminal] - With its somewhat simple polygonal art, abundance of color, and undeniable cute factor, Button City is a moderately laid back adventure focused on you playing as a new kid in town who quickly befriends a small group of video game warriors at the local arcade. What it lacks in dramatic depth and narrative complexity it makes up for with quirk, charm, somewhat innocent fun, and a certain positivity that I really enjoyed in a landscape dominated more by post-Apocalyptic hellscapes and conflict. In order to break things up a bit you'll be tackling a number of arcade mini games that may not all be winners but at least help to add some needed variety to things, and give the overall experience some added flavor. I'd consider it ideal for families with younger gamers or simply people who are looking for an fun adventure with colorful characters and a generally more mild than average challenge. It won't be a perfect fit for just anyone but it's a welcome ray of positivity on the eShop that I appreciate.

Fly Together! [Northplay ApS] - While perhaps not the bread and butter of the typical Switch gamer’s library titles that have a bit more of a casual feel can be a great way to unwind. Fly Together, as its name implies, even ups the ante with its value by throwing in support for multiplayer which is really where the experience shines the brightest and distinguishes itself from previous games of this type. It’s a game all about controlling the flight path of multiple planes between multiple color-coded airports. While this starts out simply enough, as you keep adding in more flights to manage at once, one that move through your area that aren’t under your control, and some unpredictable weather events, it gets to be a challenge if you want to keep earning all your stars. To help you’ll slowly amass a load of aircraft that are crucial in different conditions for optimizing your success. Solo or better with friends, this is a casual strategy game that delivers some fun without letting the stress level get too high.

Instant Sports: Winter Games [Merge Games] - Multiplayer multi-event sports compilations will always tend to be hit or miss, especially when trying to find the sweet spot where gameplay is just nuanced enough for better gamers but can still be picked up by anyone. The Instant Sports series has been a bit all over the place with its collections, with some events working but others being pretty miserable, and some attempts at elements like an overworld you can explore have been interesting but not necessarily compelling. While skewing a bit towards easy and accessible and not every event is a hit, Winter Games does just enough right to be a reasonably-good pick for families, offering a choice of more precise button controls or more loose (but perhaps fun for some) motion controls as well. In particular the Alpine Skiing, SlopeStyle, Ski Jump, and IceCross do an admirable job of being approachable while leaving room for people who are more skilled to shine. That’s not to say that Bobsleigh, Curling, and Snowball Fight are bad, I’d just say each of those falls down for one reason or another in terms of consistent challenge. Granted, the number of mini games offered is dwarfed by AAA collections, but if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly for the family to enjoy together this shows some promise.

Marsupilami: Hoobadventure [Ocellus Studio] - While for a little while the introduction of 3D platforming was seen as the path to gaming irrelevance for its 2D side-scrolling brethren, traditional platformers aren’t only still around, they’re still kicking ass and taking names. Well, some of them are. The thing is, in many regards Marsupilami is a solid title. Though perhaps control responsiveness and overall pacing are a tad on the sluggish side, everything feels pretty smart and accessible. You’re free to simply run and jump along, keeping your head in the game to simply complete the level, or take the time and effort to seek out meatier challenges and secrets that will require you to demonstrate some additional gamer cred to complete. This all somehow gives it both a family-friendly and tough-but-fair degree of difficulty that should help it appeal to a pretty wide audience. I do wish it had a little more to offer in terms of variety, to better match up against some of its stronger competition on the platform, but if you’re just out for a good time it may be a winner depending on what you’re looking for.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl [Fair Play Labs] - This is one of those titles you walk into with at least a twinge of dread as a reviewer. Not only is it a licensed game, but it is seemingly attempting to at least tangentially take on Smash Bros on its own home turf?!? The thing is, if you don’t spend all of your time picking it apart, and if you really love some of these classic Nickelodeon characters, you can still have a reasonably good button-mashing time with it. I think the biggest weaknesses for me are the lack of items to keep the middling fighting from being so easily apparent and the problems with glitchiness I ran into, which can be really aggravating in some specific stages in particular. That said, my daughter, who grew up with many of these characters, still had a blast and laughed as she’d beat me up with random animated characters in their various color-splashed cartoon levels. Depending on the crowd, things like roster depths and long-standing Nintendo lore don’t have as much pull, nostalgia and familiarity can win. For those people, this will likely be a bit of fun, just be realistic about its limitations going in.

Omno [StudioInkyfox] - Omno is a bit of a challenge to review in some regards, as on a general level it’s mechanically sound and actually provides for a nice and generally low-stakes adventure. You’re not directly given much in the way of direction to start, but with a basic understanding of how a typical action-adventure works and some experimentation you’ll quickly get up to speed. Aside from the controls perhaps being a little on the loose side, lacking a crispness you’d absolutely want and need if the action were a bit more demanding, it’s a pretty carefree affair and simply thoroughly pleasant. Alas, the rub is that I’d also say that in a crowded eShop there’s not much that makes it truly memorable, as it lacks the beating heart of a great story or the adrenaline rush of action that would help it make a greater lasting impression. That said, for a relatively short, sometimes visually stunning, and enjoyable romp, it provides a solid value for the price of admission.

Rain on Your Parade [Unbound Creations] - While most people spend so much of their lives consciously trying to be kind and courteous with others that isn’t to say they can’t have a mean streak in them. Since even in games I tend to stay the noble course I do personally enjoy those that take being nice off the table… requiring that you unleash your inner jerk that has been so starved for air. Much like Untitled Goose Game before it, Rain on Your Parade is all about letting you not only let your asshole flag fly but also to typically revel in it. Let yourself cackle as you send people running, ruin special events, and generally run amok… it’s liberating. What helps elevate it further is simple creativity and variety in the scenarios and what you’ll need to try to do, keeping the experience from being one note. There are some cases where mechanically working out the nuance of what you need to do and how can be frustrating at first, but for the most part you’ll be too busy enjoying the chaos of it all to be bothered if you’ve got virtual karma points you’ve been saving up to burn all at once.

The Game Of Life 2 [Marmalade Game Studio] - OK, so The Game of Life… you know, that board game probably everyone has played a bunch. Do you really need an electronic version of it to enjoy on the TV? Well, that would depend on what you’re looking for. In terms of gameplay it’s a streamlined and generally quick version of the classic, though it doesn’t skimp on any critical areas you’ve come to expect… just some of the rules have been played with a bit in the interests of having more modern sensibilities. While the pricing on things like the Season Pass you can get to go with it feel a bit steep I was still pleased that the base package includes more than just the plain vanilla skin and characters so at least you can appreciate what different themes can bring to the table to help keep things feeling fresh. While I don’t think my family will stop periodically playing on our Haunted Mansion edition board that we love when we’re on the road or don’t feel like getting everything out or fighting over who’ll be the banker this is a great alternative option that captures the essence of the classic game in a way that people of any age can enjoy locally or even online.

Townscaper [Oskar Stalberg] - Not so much a game as an interactive toy, Townscaper is just a different sort of experience that people will likely either adore or hate. Your tools to work with are pretty minimalistic, able to lay down small building blocks in the color you choose or remove them, but as you continue to combine more and more together your creation continues to react and change in what are often small but pleasing ways. It’s really all about trying new things and the discovery of the results, driving you to experiment further as you slowly fill up the space with your distinct creation. While I do wish there was a way to step back and see some virtual people interact with the labyrinthian 3D towns in some way, there’s still something soothing and satisfying in taking the time to build both precise and uniform (to a degree, the grid’s tendency to bend in places will thwart you at some point) as well as unorthodox and perhaps completely impractical structures. It’s absolutely unique, and in its own way satisfying, but also clearly not for everyone.

Baron: Fur Is Gonna Fly [dogMelon Pty Ltd] - Local multiplayer games on Switch pretty well span every flavor and level of quality, making the task of bringing a new one to the eShop and get recognized a challenge. In the case of Baron: Fur is Gonna Fly first and foremost I’m happy it isn’t yet another straight up platform shooter or brawler/slasher. Instead, it is a side view dogfighting game where you’ll need to dive, loop, and maneuver your way to victory, shooting down your enemies while trying to keep your own aircraft aloft. While the controls aren’t terribly complex I’ll give credit that with the small number of moves you have at your disposal there’s room for nuance and certainly the varied special attacks you can use are generally unique and often humorous. Going the extra mile there are even some single-player modes to explore, helping to add some extra longevity. Weirdly enough my major shout out for the game, though, is for its original soundtrack which has an era appropriate sound but features songs about the game’s characters. It’s sometimes the small things, but the music was consistently funny and demonstrates the care the development team took in going all in on making the game the best it could be.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends [ININ Games] - As a massive fan of the original Bubble Bobble both in the arcades and at home on the NES I was thrilled to hear the series was getting a new lease on life. Thrilled to see that there was a means to play the original very conveniently in this new iteration I actually went and played a bit of it first just to get that warm hug of being reacquainted with its simple-but-challenging and ever-charming play. In terms of the new version there’s no doubt that visually it is now more in-line with current standards and looks attractive. Not content with it only being able to be played with a friend you also now can play with up to 4 people, and when matched with the family-friendly nature of the series that should be great for families. My complaint would be that though this new version is fun enough and charming in its own right I still think I’d prefer to play the original comparatively, there’s just something in that special sauce that hasn’t come over in the modern translation. Perhaps for people without the nostalgia for the original this will be more of a hit though, it’s cute, challenging enough, and has enough that it does its own way to differentiate itself while not walking away from the formula the series is known for completely. It does have a free update planned for later in the year as well so hopefully that can add to the fun.

My Universe: Cooking Star Restaurant [Maximum Games] - Once again the My Universe series delivers a more casual and kid-friendly take on games, this time with a restaurant experience that falls somewhere between Diner Dash and Cooking Mama, though in general without the associated pressure. You’ve opened a new dining spot where, in order to get off to a great start, you’ll be doing most of the work. Whether getting people to their seat, taking their orders, cleaning up tables, or making each meal you’ll at least be kept busy and thankfully your customers are generally very patient and understanding compared to anything else in the genre. Initially you’ll be making American fare, but then with consistent success new chefs will arrive, each bringing new cuisine and variety to your food establishment. Food prep breaks down into multiple steps, each with a relatively simple task whether chopping veggies, mixing batters, or flipping burgers and pancakes. None of these steps are typically terribly challenging so veteran gamers will want to steer clear but novices and younger kids will likely find this to be a great beginner experience to enjoy.

My Universe: Fashion Boutique [Microids] - So going completely off the board and reaching out to an unusual demographic among my normal review fare we have My Universe: Fashion Boutique. Granted, it’s likely targeted to younger girls (or anyone who loves a fashion game I suppose) but even as an adult male who hasn’t exactly plumbed the depths of the fashion game genre I’ll say I walked away pleasantly surprised by the experience. What I like is the attempt to really get you a bit more involved in things, not merely trying to match people up with their ideal outfits but also designing and then doing some of the worth to bring new fashions to life. Mini games will have you tracing your patterns, cutting out your fabric, and then sewing it together, trying to be as accurate as possible to increase your score. In the beginning you’ll only have a few articles to work with helping out in your aunt’s store but as you find success you’ll be able to unlock new styles, patterns, and accessories that will really allow your creativity in creating a look to shine. Perhaps the pacing is a bit on the slow side in terms of advancing the story along but as games for the younger set go I was pretty impressed and I think my older daughter would have been thrilled with it a few years ago (she does like it now, just before it would have been her present, not a title she was consulting me on).

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 [Frontier Developments] - Ever since the original title in the series way back in the day I’ve been a big RCT fan. While management games like this aren’t always very creative or fun (looking at a variety of theme park managers over the years, including a few duds on Switch), for the most part the proper titles in this franchise (not the terrible mobile-ized ruined ones) have been a treat. Everything about the game on the PC is here, including laying out and tweaking every detail of your rides and attractions, plotting out your research plans, managing your personnel, monitoring your guests to see what’s working and not, laying down scenery and theming to make things special, and best of all creating some truly wild and outstanding rollercoasters. The one big issue is that there’s no getting around doing all of that is pretty cumbersome with console controls. To the credit of the development team the radial menus and control scheme in general works well, though it does have a bit of an initial learning curve. Just competing against a mouse and especially a keyboard altering things like names or getting into deeper menus just takes far more time. Throw in the need to fight a bit too much with the camera in critical spots like during coaster construction and it’s hard to ignore some of the shortcomings in the control implementation. If you don’t have access to a PC that can play the game be assured, the depth of play here is 100% intact and absolutely worthwhile, just be ready to work for it a bit harder than you would where the game was designed to work first.

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.

Dungeon Stars [Furnace Games] - Despite the game’s limitations and the performance hiccups I can’t deny that there’s a quality to Dungeon Stars that absolutely got me hooked. There’s nothing quite like its “simple” clicky play, that is great to play only partially engaged but that demands just enough of your attention to keep it from being pointless. Some strategic elements and variation are nice and I won’t deny it’s exciting to find a star that unlocks special dungeons that tend to have a new pet or some great loot. While it may not be a perfect game, Dungeon Stars is a great semi-casual choice that offers up a pretty unique experience even in the crowded Switch eShop.

Quench [Axon Interactive Inc] - This is a title I initially checked out at PAX East and it made enough of an impression I was excited to get a chance to play more of it. Working a bit like a mix of a god game and a puzzler, Quench will have you using elemental powers to aid herds of animals, though primarily your initial bunch of elephants, through a variety of environments and situations. You’ll need to use rain to replenish the land or put out fires, wind to clear away sand or divert enemies, quakes to clear boulders, and lightning to zap thorny vines or even revive fallen animals. Your resources aren’t unlimited so you’ll need to work out what paths you want to take and make smart and careful use of them as much as possible to replenish the land and keep your herds moving towards their goal. With a relatively slow pace and naturalistic themes it should appeal to the crowd looking for a more soothing experience to enjoy.

Woven [Alterego Games] - Most modern games tend to feature protagonists who are ready for action and tough as nails. Moving in precisely the opposite direction we have Woven, and it’s plush main character Stuffy who ambles along with a consistently innocent and pleasant demeanor. Pairing up with a mechanical friend they set out to discover what has happened to their land and to turn things back around. The game is mostly about exploration, with some relatively simple puzzle solving and hidden textures all about to update Stuffy’s look with. While this won’t be a title that will appeal to hardcore gamers in the least with its cute characters, colorful scenery, and generally slow-paced adventure, Woven is a kid-friendly treat.

Sleep Tight [We Are Fuzzy] - Overall, there’s quite a bit to like about Sleep Tight, which manages to take a great core idea and do some interesting things with it. That said, it can be a slow burn getting to the point where it can be a serious challenge but then sort of jumps into being too hard too quickly once it decides to step things up. With a sustained campaign easily lasting more than an hour this can make for a bit more dead time getting going than I’d prefer, and the fact that there’s only one bedroom layout then contributes to things feeling too similar too often after a while. With some tweaks I think the experience could be quite a bit better, and I’d love to see a more refined sequel that places greater emphasis on changing things up, with kids all having different bedrooms to help make things a bit more interesting and an improved method of laying out your defenses.

SteamWorld Dig [Image & Form] - Ultimately, even getting on in years a bit, Steamworld Dig still works very well and is almost immediately as addictive as it ever was once you get the ball rolling. The “just one more run” feeling doesn’t have quite as strong a drive as with its sequel, where there are far more things you’re hoping to unlock, but it is still a highly satisfying experience that is well-implemented. Ultimately priced as a budget title it offers a great time for a reasonable investment.

Cat Quest [The Gentlebros] - Emphasizing the action end of the RPG spectrum Cat Quest keeps things like and generally simpler, though that isn't to say it is easy. This is a world of many terrible cat puns, dragons, and adventure and you'll need to have sharp skills in order to defeat the game's tougher foes. While at times it can get a bit grindy it is nonetheless a welcome variation on the RPG formula for people who like a little more action in the mix.

Party Planet [Teyon] - When Party Planet was announced I’ll admit to feeling some level of nervousness. Game packs like this have a history of crashing and burning critically even while they may be widely purchased by families in search of something to play together. I’m happy to report that overall I found the collection of games offered to be pretty impressive, even if often derivative, and fun to play both solo and with the family. The diverse selection of games should, in terms of both style and skill required, practically guarantee that there will be something that just about anyone, no matter the age, should enjoy.

Portal Knights [Keen Games] - Much more than the mere Minecraft-alike that people may presume I found the refined action focus and zones, each with its own monsters and supplies, to be preferable. Throw in some multiple bosses you'll need to face, three distinct classes with their own feel, and the ability to play with friends locally and online and it can be a lot of fun to enjoy with others. An accessible and engaging game suitable for the whole family.

Putty Pals [Harmonious Games] - I don't recall ever playing a game that was quite as family-friendly while also as cooperatively-focused and challenging as Putty Pals. You'll need to work together either controlling each pal independently yourself (this gets challenging as you get deeper into the game) or with the help of a friend. Making clever use of a relatively restricted set of moves you'll be jumping, swinging, and bouncing together through each level and if you're up for a challenge unlocked zones and speed run modes crank up the difficulty for more experienced pairs as well.

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!