Wednesday, January 5

Top 100 / Best Indie Action Games on Nintendo Switch

Last Updated: 1/5/22!

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

Katana Zero [Askiisoft] - Katana Zero was absolutely one of the best games of 2019 and I’d be shocked it if didn’t end up in my Top 10 (and those of many others as well) for the year. While it is perhaps a bit too heavy to be a wide mainstream title, its constant focus on changing up the formula and never letting you get very comfortable is quite an accomplishment. Throw on a narrative begging to be revisited in search of greater understanding of all of the story beats and it also has a surprising degree of replayability on that front as well. As a whole it is an experience without a peer on the system and serves up a handful of intense and creative insanity well worth experiencing.

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

Skul: The Hero Slayer [SouthPAW Games] - As a die hard fan of roguelikes perhaps it isn’t surprising that I’ve found Skul to be a great challenge and a good bit of fun. In general, it keeps things simple: You don’t have a ton of skills to leverage, the head you use dictates the nature of the attacks you do have to work with, and the meta progression you get outside each run is actually pretty scant when compared to many titles out there. The result feels like a classic challenging side-scrolling slasher one run, and in another a brawler, it’s really a crapshoot depending on what head you get… but also on what mini bosses you may face early on and how your head matches up to their attack patterns. Yes, that can make it frustrating, especially in the early going as you make mistakes that you’ll end your run for… but in the roguelike spirit you learn, improve your skills, and keep fighting until what were once obstacles become more routine and you move on in search of new heads, perks, temptations, and teeth-gritting challenges.

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.

Spelunky 2 [Mossmouth] - It’s always a bit tricky to release both an original game and its sequel at the same time, but in the case of Spelunky 2 and its OG brutally-tough roguelike predecessor it works out reasonably well and either (or, even better, both) are worthy of a shot if you’re down for a challenge. Picking up as more of an entree to follow up on the original’s appetizer round, Spelunky 2 essentially takes everything into account, does quite a bit of refining, makes some cuts when necessary, and then adds some appreciated depth to what worked best. As you’d expect the list of deadly enemies and traps has expanded substantially, and you’ll quickly go through the trial and error of understanding all of the new and unique ways you’re able to die in the caves you’ll explore. That said, there are also some great treasures, surprises, and moments of elation that await you as well… if you’ve got the skills and patience to tackle the undertaking ahead of you. The result isn’t any sort of reinvention, but more of a perfecting of the formula of Spelunky. Whether you opt to tackle the challenge alone, or viably play with other intrepid explorers online, this is a polished product as deserving of “classic roguelike” status as the original.

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

The Legend of Tian Ding [Neon Doctrine] - While there have been quite a number of side-scrolling action/brawlers this year, for the most part they’ve been coming up short in one area or another. If you’ve been itching for something particularly compelling in the space, the great news is this is a game that should absolutely scratch it. What I like most about it is the overall flow of combat and how capable you are with your base abilities but can opt to grab enemy weapons to use as well, and there’s quite a variety to choose from. This sort of setup lends itself to very few extended battles playing out similarly since you’ll need to work with what opportunities you’re given without much time for planning. Throw in the many rooms you’ll encounter that will challenge you to make full use of your arsenal of traversal skills effectively and there’s plenty to be satisfied with on the platforming side as well. Put them together with a tale of a modern hero that has some colorful characters and odd humor and the package comes together to make for a terrific choice for action fans on the Switch.

Unsighted [Studio Pixel Punk] - Unsighted is interesting to me, in part because at just a casual glance, or even just a very short play session, I believe people will severely underestimate its ambition and execution. Its look and play style can certainly feel familiar, but it is the sheer volume of features and surprising elements the game brings to the table that help it stand very much on its own. Mixing a sense of open-world-ish adventure (you can tackle “dungeons” in any order you wish, and even choose your own moral path), challenging and rewarding technical combat (really gotta master the parry and counter), and a ton of ways to enhance your character with perks, gear, and even accessibility options to tone down the difficulty in a variety of ways, there’s no question of the effort that has been put in to making this satisfying for everyone. Once you’re a few hours in, and your true adventure is underway, you’ll find that the phase where you’re comparing it to other titles has passed and you’ll be immersed in this distinct world which is full of surprises and challenges. It’s a wonderful surprise, simultaneously familiar but undoubtedly unique at the same time.

Avicii Invector [Wired Productions] - While there have been quite a few great rhythm games on the Switch, it seems that room will now need to be made for another rock solid musically-based experience. Playing as a bit of a counterpoint to the excellent but almost nightmarish and grim Thumper, Avicii Invector is hardly a walk in the park but there’s just something about its style of play and its often-amazing visuals that is quite inspiring. I have no doubt that given the music being the product of the game’s namesake, who unfortunately took his own life after struggles with medical problems and depression, the search for inspiration and the positives in the world were a part of his journey that unfortunately ended too early for such an obviously-talented person. The play feels like a mixture of an endless racer and rhythm game, with periodic sections where you’ll fly through rings instead. Whenever you’re having success the tempo will progressively speed up, so it isn’t unusual to hit rough patches where your multiplier will tumble, but at least the game will again slow itself down and let you get your bearings once more. About my only complaints are how the game will sometimes have odd sections where the difficulty will go up very quickly and then almost as suddenly return to a more manageable degree periodically as well as the left trigger beats that visually hit later than my brain would prefer, resulting in periodic early beats that were close but not quite close enough for the picky mechanics on that particular element. If you enjoy playing games to a terrific and pretty varied soundtrack this is one well worth checking out.

Horace [Paul Helman] - Horace is an odd title in that much like the title character robot of the same name it is quite unassuming and humble but there’s so much more to it. In terms of the gameplay it’s mostly a smart puzzle platformer that puts up some challenge but is never too over-the-top taxing either. What makes it special though is the story of Horace and his “family”, which evolves from him being a curious sort of family “pet” to a meaningful and important member of it. There are so many magical moments of joy and sadness that feel unusual paired with the gameplay and yet given the quality of both there’s no room for complaint. Top that all off with mini games and a wide variety of surprises and though there’s not much outwardly sexy about the game’s name or main character to pull you in, rest assured it’s a real gem of an experience if you give it a shot.

Kunai [TurtleBlaze] - Kunai was a title that left me excited but a bit uncertain from its PAX demo last year. I loved the look, and the ability to use your kunai on each side essentially as grappling hooks to aid in traversal and even combat seemed ripe with potential, but it was hard to see whether or not it would all come together in a way that would help it break through to being something special. I’m happy to report that having played through the final product there’s nothing I can think of that feels missed. The gameplay is challenging but fair, its traversal elements are well-designed and feel great, and its mix of smart design and fun combat help it to push its way to standing among the best Metroidvanias the system has to offer. Admittedly, there were times where the combination of backtracking and not being 100% sure where to go next could be aggravating. Though, in general, the game’s map tries to help there were situations where it didn’t have quite enough detail to lead the way. Small quibbles like that aside, Kunai absolutely delivers the goods and with its unique grapple mechanics stands tall even in the somewhat crowded Switch Metroidvania space as one of the best on the system.

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.

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.

Pinball FX3 [Zen Studios] - While the base game hit the eShop in 2017, the periodic release of new table packs has kept this retro gaming engine very relevant ever since. In particular the acquisition of the rights to produce tables based on the classic pinballs from Williams should make every retro gaming fan very happy. Already having released a handful of packs from that agreement, as well as a few notable original packs of their own, Pinball FX3 will likely handily stay on yearly lists for quite some time.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards [Yacht Club Games] - While I haven’t formally reviewed any of the previous Shovel Knight games I’ve been a quiet fan of the series since it started. Between its lovingly retro look, the team’s ability to infuse new life into mostly established elements and enemies by changing the protagonist’s abilities up each time, and overall smart design the franchise is a master class in great game design and execution. With this last chapter in the series they’ve managed to one-up themselves further by introducing not just the fresh (and somewhat challenging at times) mechanics of the boisterously silly King Knight, but also a full-fledged deck battling card game in the form of Joustus. While there’s, no doubt, some risk in having attention shift between two radically different styles of play since people may strongly prefer one to the other, given the quality of both I think the final product proves to be superior in the end because of the combination. If you’re late to the Shovel Knight party there’s a real feast to be had with the Treasure Trove collecting them all together, but if you’re looking for a stand-alone retro game with variety King of Cards is an excellent choice.

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

Guacamelee 2 [DrinkBox Studios] - While I really enjoyed the original Guacamelee I actually thought it got a bit more hype than it deserved overall. Whatever qualms I had with it got absolutely body slammed into oblivion in its outstanding sequel though. I initially got the bug playing it with 3 strangers at PAX East and having an absolute blast. Whether going it solo or with some friends it's just an outstanding Metroidvania brawler full of challenging fights, great upgrades, tons of silliness (I love beating people up as a chicken), and some of the most brutal puzzle platforming level design as I've seen if you want to grab every power-up and secret. Just an all around top tier title.

Mark of the Ninja Remastered [Klei Entertainment] - While it may be a port of an older title I can't say that I've played any other game that has nailed making stealthy play as fun for me as this one. Smart, tense, and full of both opportunity and options for how to approach completing levels Mark of the Ninja is just one hell of an action experience not quite like anything else.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition [WayForward] - Oddly up until this year I'd only consistently heard good things about Shantae but I'd never had the chance to indulge for myself. Well, now I'm a bit disappointed that I've missed out on it up until this point. Some smart level design, a great bright and colorful art style, and varied action and options for play all make this a pretty deep well of gameplay choices for you to explore for quite some time.

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

Teslagrad [Rain Games] - Revealing too much about Teslagrad would ruin some of the fun of discovery and growth in it but suffice it to say that from start to finish it is a creative and engaging action puzzler. Over the course of its runtime you'll slowly have your powers revealed to you and you'll then be pushed bit by bit to apply those powers in new and increasingly creative ways. Very much worth checking out, it leaves you to explore and discover things in your own way, only ever giving visual prompts but never explicit direction.

Astalon: Tears of the Earth [LABS Works] - I tend to have a love/hate relationship with retro throwback games of various kinds. Sure, I have fond memories of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras but I’d be a fool to claim that many of those titles couldn’t be improved upon when viewed through a modern lens and with current hardware. That said, when a developer manages to nail the “feel” of those games of the past without falling into all of the pitfalls true games from that era tend to have, it can be something pretty special. Managing your party of three heroes, each possessing their own style of attack, stats, and special abilities, you’ll explore some pretty large areas consisting of a variety of rooms connected in various ways. What’s also great is that every time you perish (which will happen, possibly a lot) you’ll be able to spend gems you collect in each run that you can then use to upgrade your characters or enable special abilities with. When you mix this all together the result is a retro title with both an authentic and modern feel in parallel, and a pretty great experience for people who appreciate a well-made throwback experience.

Bladed Fury [NExT Studios] - While side-scrolling slashers have been around for quite some time, and tend to show up in some abundance, I’ve more often than not been disappointed by them historically. Too often settling in too early with locked-in attacks and combos and facing too many enemies that work as decent fodder but fail to really satisfy, setting up and experience that sucks you in and then keeps you engaged is obviously a challenge. Enter Bladed Fury, a very stylized and sexy slasher visually, but also one with a well-told story, a strong set of core moves, and enough variety in enemies and upgrades to remain engaging throughout… though it does feel like it ends a bit quicker than it could. While mechanically the timing and feel of some attacks can take time to learn, and this can make countering some enemies and their attacks tricky, in the end it feels fair and helps compel you to hone your skills rather than just mash away at buttons. If you’re up for a pretty decent challenge, some great visuals, and love to mix things up and make things bloody this is a great choice.

Boomerang X [DANG!] - With indie titles I’m always tickled when I encounter something just a bit different that feels fresh and challenging, and for me Boomerang X (though perhaps a bit on the short side overall) fits nicely into that groove. Quickly acquiring the said boomerang, which I prefer to imagine as the legendary Glaive from the movie Krull (yes, it has one less prong and looks different, but this is my Colwyn fantasy!) you’ll very consistently be given some new move or technique and then a series of trials that will push you to show mastery of that new skill. Once you’re rolling you’ll be dashing, floating in slow-mo, and picking off enemies who get increasingly challenging like a pro… though each new and tougher variant you may need to puzzle over before understanding how to take them out. Perhaps the rough handful of hours you get is appropriate, as it keeps the title from overstaying its welcome, but I still would love to see a few more levels of craziness to really push my skills tacked onto the end just to give the solid design its full and fitting due. If you’re a fan of accurate shooting while on the fly and some quick-moving traversal this should satisfy you pretty much completely.

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

Flynn: Son of Crimson [Studio Thunderhorse] - There’s something to be said for games that know what they want to be, even if not necessarily revolutionary in any particular way, and are then executed with a high degree of care and quality. For me Flynn is one such game, adhering closely to the classic 16-bit action platforming template and in general then simply staying the course with a steady stream of new weapons and abilities to keep things interesting through its handful of hours of playtime. Through the use of your weapon-based attacks and magic you’ll work your way through puzzles and a fair amount of combat, with the periodic changes to new zones changing up the enemies and obstacles you’ll face nicely. In terms of the bigger picture, both in terms of the narrative and overall design, perhaps the more paint-by-SNES-era-numbers essence of the game holds it back from being a truly inspired stand-out title. However, if you’re a fan of the era it undoubtedly emulates some of the best it had to offer and feels both retro and just a bit satisfyingly modern at the same time on Switch, making the odds of it being a hit with genre fans pretty solid.

Greak: Memories of Azur [Navegante Entertainment] - When you’re this far into a system’s lifespan, making a splash with a game that not only has a distinctive look but that’s in a way that still feels fresh can take some work. I’d seen Greak last year at PAX with an early-ish build and already there was no question that a great look was already established but in my time I was only able to see the potential in the character-swapping mechanics. I’m happy to say that on release the final version works nicely, still possessing a great simple-but-attractive look, smart puzzle elements with each character having their own feel and usefulness, and even relatively simple but satisfying platforming and combat to work as the connective tissue between everything. While I wouldn’t put it at the very top tier within the overall puzzle platforming genre, I’d say there are some better stories told or titles with more diverse and compelling action, I do have to tip my hat to it being a well-made and engaging title genre fans absolutely should check out.

Unbound: Worlds Apart [Alien Pixel Studios] - While they weren’t initially very well-represented on the Switch, in the past 2 years the Metroidvania genre has been thriving thanks to a wide variety of indie titles. With that in mind, doing things a little differently would likely be a good idea, and that’s where Unbound makes a case for its potential success, by leaning a bit in the opposite direction most titles choose. While exploration and rewards for persistence are building blocks all titles in the space should have, and that are represented well here, rather than placing an emphasis on combat as most games do within the space, Unbound leans into the puzzles instead. Through the creative use of portals and a variety of powers you’ll wield as the game moves on you’ll be able to navigate through some tough challenges that vary in style and difficulty, making for an experience that never is quite able to get dull and that will put you to the test in some cases to work through how to properly make your way through some intricate maze-like level design. While perhaps not as ideal for the action-oriented set I found the more cerebral approach in this case to be satisfyingly refreshing compared to the norm.

Undermine [Thorium Entertainment] - As a connoisseur of roguelike titles of all stripes Undermine had me excited at first glance. With its pick-axe throwing protagonist(s), quite varied power-ups and potential curses, and some tough-as-nails bosses to battle it feels fresh while pretty familiar so genre fans should quickly feel right at home. My main warning would be that you should be ready for a pretty slow and deliberate grind, with results and satisfaction taking a bit longer to achieve than what I’d consider the average. That said, it also has a much longer tail of content to continue to unlock as you chip away at meta upgrades and new hard won gear. There are certainly a number of titles in the category with more flash and craziness, but the deliberate and more measured pace of Undermine, as well as a steady stream of new things to discover for those who are willing to invest in it, this is a pretty unique and worthwhile addition to the upper shelf of titles in the category on the Switch.

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

KLAUS [La Cosa Entertainment] - While puzzle platformers are represented in abundance in the indie space, there are definitely ones that put in some extra effort to stand out. While it may lack some of the bells and whistles the titles at the top tier possess, KLAUS has a lot more going on within it than its initially straightforward presentation suggests. Steadily alternating the focus from pretty smart puzzles, to challenging platforming, to stages with a blend of both the great thing about this title is that it doesn’t settle into a pattern of simply dishing out more of the same but tweaked to be slightly harder. Hidden secrets, some boss fights, and some stages that will simply have to be seen to be understood await, and at a very reasonable price as well. Throw in a story that reveals itself slowly as you play and it’s an overall package that should exceed just about any reasonable expectations you may have.

Panzer Paladin [Tribute Games] - While I have a great deal of nostalgia for the 8-bit era since I played a ton of games back in those days, going back can be a bit rough. While there’s an undeniable essence to many classics of that generation their gameplay typically hasn’t aged well. Indie titles looking to recapture that time often seem to struggle to find the balance, working to incorporate many vintage elements while marrying them with modern sensibilities… and the results have varied pretty wildly in all directions. Panzer Paladin, for me, stands out from this crowd quite a bit, not even loosely based on any firm precedent from the era I can think of and thus unburdened by expectations. The result is a game that absolutely respects the looks, sound, and many staples of 8-bit gaming and yet feels contemporary most critically in terms of its weapon variety and challenges. One element retro fans of the likes of the Blaster Master series will recognize is the smart inclusion of an ability to jump out of your mech and work on foot, leaving you vulnerable but still very capable (as I learned completing some boss fights with my mech ruined but determined with my whip to finish the job). The hunt for secret areas, weapons, and boosts is rewarded with a fair degree of consistency and in some stages you’ll find you may need the help, especially in terms of being geared up for the game’s generally tough boss battles. In terms of games celebrating the 8-bit era I’m quite confident in declaring Panzer Paladin the king of the retro hill as it somehow feels both old school and modern in the same breath, coming up with a mix of elements that keep the action consistently engaging with no real fat to be trimmed. It’s a high-quality effort from top to bottom.

Wildfire [Sneaky Bastards] - Stealth-oriented games have never typically made for my favorite experiences but there are times when the mechanic is either used wisely or it’s merely an option you have in approach. In the case of Wildfire there’s no doubt that biding time and sneaking around can be essential to survival, but it’s also a side-scrolling puzzle platformer that puts some fun powers at your disposal, allowing you to be a real bastard on the offensive as well. You’ll play as a simple villager who it turns out has a special ability to wield magic, the most fun form of which is a flair for pyrotechnics. Working to liberate your fellow countrymen from capture you’ll need to move between careful sneaking and opportunistic action, sometimes very rapidly as situations tend to devolve into chaos quickly at times. You’re powerful but hardly invulnerable so you’ll need to make judicial use of your powers to maximize their effectiveness, often by carefully considering enemy movement patterns and things like high grass in the environment. You could sneak by perhaps, but wouldn’t it be fun to light it on fire as they walk through it, catching them ablaze and sending them running? For the most part it’s really up to you how you play things the majority of the time, though with level bonuses that reward certain goals you may well choose to play the level both ways as well. With a consistent flow of new abilities to experiment with and revel in Wildfire is a pretty unique puzzle platformer with a ton of flair that’s well worth a look.

OlliOlli: Switch Stance [Gambitious] - While lacking the variety and skateboarding craziness of something like the Tony Hawk series both the original and sequel included in this pack are more well-made than your typical stunt-focused title. In many regards, even after all these years, I’d say Olli Olli remains the gold standard for the stand-alone stunt game. If offers enough flexibility to reduce the feeling of a repetitive grind that tends to set in with the genre but at its core there’s just something fun about the way everything flows when you get a great run going, even when you then bail on your landing and have to start over again. If you’re in the mood to get your stunts on this is probably your best bet on the Switch.

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.

Bombslinger [Mode4] - Asking the question perhaps nobody answered: How do you finally give the tight gameplay of the classic Bomberman series a single-player implementation that works, Bombslinger may not be terribly refined in places but it delivers the action where it counts. A roguelike structure, some power-ups that give you creative powers of destruction, and challenging boss battles really demonstrate what the classic Konami series has been missing the boat on all along. While local multiplayer is supported it doesn't hold up as well as single-player but it's worth noting it's available as well to add value.

Flinthook [Tribute Games] - The exciting and dangerous life of a swashbuckling bounty hunter is the focus in Flinthook, and the mix of shooting, swinging, and dodging enemies and traps gives it a distinctive feel. With a pretty wide variety of upgrade paths as you progress you'll need to learn from your mistakes and to a degree simply "git gud" to track down and then defeat the nefarious criminals you'll be presented with.

Velocity 2X [FuturLab] - Making games that feature multiple play styles is always a bit of a risk, as getting either of them wrong can really sour the experience. However, when a game like Velocity 2X comes along and does a great job in both areas, in this case space shooting and running and gunning platforming, it does make them far more memorable. You'll move between both styles pretty often, starting out in the more traditional space shooting mode but then needing to go on foot to unlock or disable defenses getting in your way. Full of upgrades and a steadily increasing degree of challenge this was a great addition to the Switch lineup this year.

Splasher [Splashteam] - While anyone and everyone looking at it saw a 2D Splatoon of some kind the kinetic and deep gameplay give Splasher a flair all its own. You'll acquire the ability to paint surfaces with different types of goo that will help you make your way up walls and bouncing through difficult passages. The gameplay is fast and frantic and once you beat the levels for an added challenge speed running them is quite a challenging thrill as well.

Aspire: Ina’s Tale [Wondernaut Studio] - From an “elevator pitch” angle there’s something great about being able to cite popular and successful titles as a shorthand to describe other ones succinctly. In the case of Aspire, whether it was intentional or not, the easy choice is the gorgeous and smart adventure GRIS. Right off the bat the game’s great aesthetic style is on display, and the action has an old-school cinematic feel in line with classics like Prince of Persia. All of this works pretty well, and it makes an impression, but there are also some cracks in the facade that hold it back from the next level in spots. The first is that I think the game takes it a little too much for granted early on that people will experiment to understand both the nuances of the controls and how best to contend with your enemies. The second is that exacerbating that issue are hiccups with the at-times finicky controls when trying to interact with objects under duress. Granted, with a little repetition you’ll work things out and progress, but they are rough edges in an otherwise compelling adventure that could discourage gamers in the early going.

Blaster Master Zero 3 [Inti Creates] - One of the surprise redux hits in this generation has been the return of the Blaster Master series with the Zero titles, which have managed to carefully respect the essence of the original game while fleshing elements that were less notable out further. Considering the very reasonable price point, this is a pretty great retro action adventure with varied challenges… though also maybe feeling a little redundant in terms of play at this point. However, this title completes a sort of trilogy story arc in a satisfying fashion if you’ve been following the previous two titles, and continues to ramp up the relative level of difficulty from the other two titles as well. But for people new to the series it may be more ideal to go back to the first, see how it goes, and then work from there rather than jumping in on this last chapter since otherwise you may be a little lost in terms of the story and mechanics that are a bit taken for granted as understood at this point.

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

Cyber Hook [Blazing Stick] - Having originally checked it out at PAX East last year, Cyber Hook was a title I was pretty eagerly waiting to see in its final form. A neon-lit parkour title with a mix of running, jumping, some shooting, grappling, and a fair amount of crashing and burning it’s just a very different experience altogether. I’m happy to see that the final product does seem more polished and diverse in its level designs, though that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t have an occasional rough edge you’ll encounter. The main thing I love about it is the almost Spider-Man like flow you’ll need to get into in order to sling yourself around the course. Now, getting to the point where you can execute that can take some work, execution is everything and jumping from your grapple line can be tricky to get the hang of pulling off consistently… but when it clicks it can be very satisfying. While the likes of speedrunners will, no doubt, hone their runs to perfection what I enjoy most is the improv of it all. Your plan will tend to go south quickly and often and the fun is in recovering and pulling it off anyway, in many ways reminding me of the same sort of thrill I got from the under-rated ClusterTruck. This won’t be a game that will work for everyone, but it’s different, challenging, plays well in quick bursts, and can be just as entertaining, if not more, when runs go wrong as when they go right.

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

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

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

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.

Glyph [Bolverk Games] - I’m a fan of games that combine elements from multiple titles to make for a new experience so Glyph, featuring a mix of 3D platforming ala Mario and others with a healthy dose of Marble Madness (or Monkey Ball for younger gamers) mechanics firmly checks the box for unexpected. Of course with the rolling element the challenge becomes more focused on managing uneven surfaces and controlling your inertia, so even sometimes simple level layouts can be troublesome in the beginning as you get a feel for the physics of it all. That said, once you get it down, the game does a fabulous job of throwing challenges at you in a steady stream for regular gamers but also tempts more daring folks with hidden secrets that will send the needle much higher for difficulty. Sure, the rewards are generally just simple cosmetics, but for people determined to get everything the game has to offer it’s going to get pretty bumpy and you’ll need to truly master all aspects of controlling your spherical character on all sorts of uneven terrain and obstacles while making sure your jumping and landing games are on point. With plenty of content for the average gamer and loads of hair-pulling action for the pros this is a pretty unique platformer with wide appeal.

Jetboard Joust [BitBull Ltd] - As an old-school arcade fan I'll admit I've been a big fan of indie titles that have come to the Switch putting a twist on classic gameplay. Jetboard Joust undoubtedly cribs heavily from the likes of Defender from back in the day in particular, but by adding roguelike elements, different weapons, and even bosses it differentiates itself quite nicely. Make no mistake, this won't be easy at first, even if you're familiar with the general mechanics of trying to keep innocent people from being grabbed by enemy craft and flown to the top of the screen... then turning into more formidable foes you'll need to deal with. The alternative weapons are different enough from one another that I'd imagine people will have strong opinions about their most and least favorite, and I appreciate the way they can change how you play and add a wrinkle of strategy to the mix as well since their ammo is limited. This won't be a game for everyone but for a budget-friendly price anyone who appreciates classic arcade games and a challenge should absolutely pick it up!

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.

Olija [Skeleton Crew Studio] - With it’s very retro pixelated look you could walk into Olija expecting a similarly old-school experience, but you’d be wrong. That isn’t to say there isn’t some vintage essence to be found, the way the somewhat limited narrative is presented feels reminiscent of older times, as does the level design that will require careful exploration and perhaps some leaps of faith at times. You’ll be pushed to experiment and work out platforming puzzles but this is rarely a stumbling block, more often it’s just a great excuse to take advantage of its pretty solid mechanics and fluid style. Olija is an unusual title that somewhat defies simple explanations, effectively mixing the feel of old school cinematic adventure with sometimes tense combat and plenty of smart platforming as well. The result is a refreshing oasis in the typical doldrums of the early part of the year.

Smelter [X Plus] - Appropriately named, as it combines elements of multiple styles of gaming, Smelter is a game that defies a simple explanation. One moment having you tackle enemies as a side-scrolling adventure, the next having you take on tough precision platforming levels (that are optional, but who can turn down a challenge), and then finally challenging you to engage in some real-time strategic combat in the initial going it can be a lot to take in. While I wouldn’t say all aspects are firing on all cylinders, for me the strategic element felt more bolted on than polished enough to stand on its own when compared to the other areas, it does make for an engaging experience that keeps things interested and a bit unpredictable at times. While I’d still say the thrilling opening anime sequence overshadows the in-game excitement a bit (it’s pretty damned cool and taps into my child of the 80s brain heavily) even with as many titles as I’ve played through on the Switch this stands out as being its own thing, and pretty confidently so, making it notable and worth a look.

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.

Treasures of the Aegean [Numskull Games] - Treasures is a pleasant surprise of a game, to some degree delivering an experience that’s familiar with its platforming style, but then throwing in a serious twist with its unusual story and time reset mechanic. The goal every time you start out is really to cover ground, find relics, solve some puzzles, and continue to unlock more and more mysteries in the hopes of averting catastrophe. There’s no doubt that the platforming action is the star, for me to a degree evoking a feel of a faster and far more modern Pitfall, but the story also helps set it apart. What may be the critical difference for people is how you feel about a lot of covering the same ground, trying to grab or decipher what you may have seen but missed on previous runs. It’s absolutely unique and noteworthy, but I’d guess reactions will be mixed on the total picture of play.

Alwa's Legacy [Elden Pixels] - Games that aspire to capture the look and feel of earlier eras can be a mixed bag, but when executed well can be quite a treat. Alwa’s Awakening was a rock solid entry in that vein, providing a challenge and plenty of great puzzles and boss fights with a vintage 8-bit look. With Legacy we’ve now moved into the 16-bit era and an overall look that’s appropriately far more vibrant and genuinely beautiful in places. With a small collection of spells you’ll acquire relatively quickly the game will challenge you to make smart use of them, both for conquering what can sometimes be tricky puzzles and platforming challenges (especially if you want to grab everything) and taking on some tough bosses as well. I would say more often than in most games I got into dead ends where I needed to more quickly understand I wasn’t meant to try to complete that area just yet, but some of that is due to a style of defying the obvious path. While sharing a whole lot of DNA functionally with its predecessor Alwa’s Awakening, Legacy ups the ante with a terrific 16-bit makeover and some new and worthy challenges.

Batbarian: Testament of the Primordials [Unspeakable Pixels] - What’s interesting with indie games is their consistent ability to seem familiar at first but then consistently surprise you by defying expectations. Barbarian is one such title, having the look and initial feel of an old school Metroidvania from the 16-bit era but then upping the typical game in the areas of puzzles and the number of secrets to be found. I was pretty well amazed in just the first few hours how many secrets were just hinted at that I gave a shot, thinking like it is in many games that it was just me being too eager to find something cool, but then finding my instincts had been right. For me there’s just something highly satisfying about that and I found myself spending as much time trying to find secrets as worrying about progress. As can be the case with the genre, getting lost can be an issue as you try to squeeze out everything there is to find and then get back on the main track. However I didn’t generally find myself backtracking too far in most cases and that kept the game from dragging as you need to get around as some games do. While perhaps it may not quite be a must-have experience I’d expect genre fans will find it to be a consistently pleasant surprise.

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

MO:Astray [World Pavilion] - You'd think at this point in the history of gaming, given the popularity and abundance of platformers of all types, the genre would be just about out of new tricks to keep things interesting. MO:Astray is here to prove you wrong. While just the mechanics with you sliding your little slimeball around, working on your jump angles and trajectories to get yourself around, would probably suffice for most titles it takes things even further. You see, you’re also capable of taking control of creatures of a variety of types by jumping on their faces, and this can be useful for a variety of reasons over the course of the game… in fact it’s a key mechanic usually involved in the game’s multiple boss battles. While it may not look terribly intimidating in the early going, give it some time and you’ll be sucked in with challenges where you understand what must be done but you’ll be challenged to put together the precision to do it successfully. Taking on a variety of new and pretty substantial upgrades in abilities as you go you’re also never quite able to get comfortable. Just when you feel like you’ve got it all down you’ll need to incorporate a new skill with new accompanying challenges to boot. While it may edge a little further into being tough than most the included provisions for softening the difficulty a bit are available as well, making this puzzle-platforming mind-controlling adventure worth putting near the top of your list.

Projection: First Light [Shadowplay Studios] - I’ll admit that simply seeing this game for the first time I pretty well fell in love, completely digging the unusual aesthetics and the promise of creative puzzle platforming it showed. In execution, for the most part, Projection really delivers on its potential and represents a unique experience as a result. Wrapped in a story that’s honestly a bit odd, and yet entertaining, you play as quite the troublemaker who is drawn to a special butterfly and after a series of pretty silly but calamitous events finds herself in an old shadow theater and in the presence of some strange people in wonderfully ornate dress. Since there’s no dialogue of any kind these folks did often seem odd, but I ran with it nonetheless. The mechanics you’ll be playing with generally involve your ability to independently control a light source with the right stick, with the goal usually being to cast shadows using objects in the environment your character can stand on to use to get where she needs to go. While there are easier obvious ways to go with some effort, and perhaps using an object put in the right spot, what I loved was an ability to reach new out of the way places, really challenging me to experiment and often use more advanced techniques with some precision. Due to the extremely dynamic nature of the light and shadow things can at times get a little wonky and feel inconsistent, but since you’re in control of a light source that can be put anywhere I don’t see how this could have been avoided either. It’s absolutely one of the most creative puzzle platformers I’ve played in quite some time, making a beautiful title also a refreshingly unique one.

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

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

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.

Blaster Master Zero 2 [Inti Creates] - Determined not to let itself get in a rut and become too predictable, Zero 2 is a rewarding walk through nostalgia while not being content to limit itself to dated design and mechanics. While not all of the new planets and challenges you encounter may be to your liking, to the game’s credit they change things up with enough regularity that any disappointments aren’t likely to last long and you’ll likely feel better about what’s around the corner. If you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for the original, or have just been looking for a diverse and well-crafted retro-style challenge, it is a satisfying adventure.

Demon's Tilt [Flarb] - Pinball is absolutely a cornerstone of retro gaming so I’m always excited to see what people come up with to celebrate it. Normally my preferences tend to run to loving recreations of classic physical tables but in the tradition of even some Nintendo titles over the years “video pinball” has a legitimate place as well. Demon’s Tilt is very much a game with that style in mind, featuring elements that could never happen in physical form, but still adhering to familiar core mechanics to put together a unique and often challenging experience. Granted, there’s only this one scrolling main table, though it does have alternative play areas and plenty to learn, but it’s going to take some time and experimentation to tease out all of its secrets. While it can be a challenge to keep track of the ball when the action gets quick and intense Demon’s Tilt offers up a pretty intense and unique experience on Switch and is easy to recommend to any retro gaming fans out there.

EarthNight [cleaversoft] - When you see or hear the words endless runner the typical reaction is to go straight into eye-rolling mode. More often than not the genre’s staple status on mobile phones has earned that reaction but every once in a while you’ll see an exception to the typical rules and get a game that manages to stand out from the crowd as something more. With a great look, engaging roguelike elements that keep runs a bit more fresh, steady unlocks that slowly give you additional abilities and longevity, and simple but surprisingly deep play EarthNight is one such anomaly. Make no mistake, in terms of overall complexity while there’s certainly nuance to everything I wouldn’t quite say there’s real depth here, but if the arcade-like experience of trying your best, failing, and then taking it all on again hoping to improve on your last run has some appeal for you this is probably one of the best options within the genre.

Exception [Traxmaster Software] - As a massive fan who has always loved the movie TRON you know that a game set inside a computer where you play a warrior of sorts who must overcome enemies and obstacles to succeed will get my attention. While the action platforming of Exception may not quite get to the heights of coolness of that classic movie franchise it still manages to throw a unique look and feel, as well as some smart stage designs into the mix. Stages play pretty quickly (assuming you survive) and with each pivot and transformation they throw things at you a little differently. Granted, your movement at times can feel a little sluggish and perhaps there’s simply not an amazing degree of variety in enemies and situations but regardless this title has a fresh feel, looks spectacular, and generally keeps you coming back for more action.

Jet Kave Adventure [7Levels] - When it comes to reasonably-prices platformers typically retro pixel art games are what comes to mind, but in the case of Jet Kave Adventures you get a little more visual bang for your buck. You’ll play the part of Kave, a former chief who stumbles into an alien whose ship has crash landed. Once you pick up a discarded alien jetpack early on the game moves from a more traditional straight platformer to an experience that’s at least a little more involved, even if not terribly long or inventive. For me the setting and action are a bit reminiscent of Joe and Mac back in the day, but with a little extra flavor thrown in, so in general it’s a good thing. While it doesn’t break much new ground for its price it delivered more than I expected and takes a respectable stab at providing a different flavor from the ordinary for the genre on the Switch.

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

Shakedown Hawaii [Vblank Entertainment Inc] - There’s no doubt that if you’re looking for a pretty mindless sandbox where you can enjoy blowing things up, getting into gunfights, and generally being a menace Shakedown: Hawaii provides you with ample opportunities for just that. In the attempt to frame that in a story and move in the direction of some world building as you try to rebuild your empire there are some hits and misses. The story, with its quick and pretty repetitive missions, moves quickly and almost at a breakneck pace if you stick to it without running off to do your own thing. The financial acquisition part you can pretty well break if you just gobble up as much protection money early on and then just sit on the constant flow of revenue. I actually like Shakedown: Hawaii more than its predecessor in terms of the experience but there’s no denying it has some struggles if you’re looking for an experience with any depth.

Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan [Collectorvision] - Going old school can be a risky proposition at times, but when it is done right the results can be rewarding as well as nostalgic (at least for people like me). Sydney Hunter is an action platformer with a retro 8-bit look and at times a degree of challenge also reminiscent of days gone by. Your job is to explore, avoid traps and creatures who’ll do you harm, and pretty well to always be on the lookout for cracked blocks that you can swipe to reveal hidden collectibles. If you’re not good at spotting such blocks the game unfortunately gets significantly more frustrating as it will make you backtrack far more, and that’s not so fun. However, if you’ve got the itch to grab your whip and tackle thirteen stages of ancient temples in search of fortune and glory it’s a retro romp well worth checking out.

Aegis Defenders [GUTS Department] - Mixing together action platforming with tower defense, Aegis Defenders has a style all its own. While the game works well as a single-player experience sharing the responsibilities with a friend ends up making things much more manageable and fun. Work together to set up a sturdy defense and conquer the game's challenges together.

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

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.

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

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

Owlboy [D-Pad Studio] - Overall I had a fabulous time playing through Owlboy, and the fact that it surprised me with some regularity was a huge bonus. While most indie titles tend to move in the direction of a very specific style of play it manages to be a little more diverse, helping it stand out among its peers beyond its good looks. Throw on a non-traditional story and hero and you have a game that doesn’t get everything right but that, without question, invested a great deal of effort in being notable.

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

TypoMan [Brainseed Factory] - Overall, especially as an English major and true fan of fonts, I found TypoMan to be a creative delight. What it lacks in polish in places it more than makes up for with sheer creativity and doing clever or unexpected things. About the only major disappointment is that it is over all too quickly, but I hope there’s some possibility that we could see more in the future by my exerting one last trick from the game: “SEQUEL”.

Victor Vran [Haemimont Games] - While it’s inevitable for Victor Vran to be compared to the series that obviously inspired it presuming that it is merely a clone or some lesser attempt would be a mistake. It may borrow elements, but aside from having great core gameplay it also does some things very differently, and even as someone who had invested hundreds of hours into the Diablo series I appreciate there being a strong competitor out there that has dared to be different. If you’re seeking some challenging and satisfying action RPG gameplay on the Switch, Victor Vran absolutely delivers.

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.

Slime-San [Fabraz] - While some may think it has looks only a mother could love the challenging and satisfying platforming offered by Slime-San is worth getting acquainted for. Each zone has its own theme and each screen presents a serious challenge, especially for completionists. As you progress you'll have the opportunity to unlock additional slimes to help suit your personal style a little better and you'll need to be comfortable as the boss battles have a tendency to get challenging. Inventive and having some mechanics all its own it is well worth picking up. Even better the DLC packs for it are both free so there's even more content to be enjoyed for the reasonable price of admission.

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

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield [Aerial_Knight] - This is one of those titles where I'm a bit torn in terms of how I feel about it. Starting with the positive Never Yield absolutely has style to spare from its terrific soundtrack to its colorful visuals to its somewhat weird-but-cinematic story. Putting all of those elements together you're absolutely sucked in for a bit as you drink it all in, steadily applying your somewhat limited repertoire of moves to new situations to deal with a variety of threats. However, I also think there's a point where you'll realize that for all of the production value it brings to the table, underneath it all the actual gameplay itself is quite simple. With that in mind, whether you'll enjoy the game will revolve around what you're looking for. If you want to feel a bit like you're playing through a movie of sorts (with the total length being roughly the same) you'll likely dig it a ton, if you're looking for rewarding gameplay you'll likely find it unsatisfying. Credit to the lone wolf developer for making something so polished, but I'd very much recommend getting a taste of what it has to offer from the available demo before making your decision.

Disjunction [Ape Tribe Games] - Both stealth games and cyberpunk theming have been pretty popular in more recent years, and Disjunction does an admirable job of bringing together these two great tastes to make something pretty appealing, even if its stealth segments can’t quite stay fresh over its handful of hours. While the story borrows familiar elements from other narratives, whether futuristic or some classic noir tropes, the dialogue often gives you just enough room to enjoy yourself rather than merely be a passive observer. The main draw though are the missions you’ll go on, trying your best to do things quietly and cautiously, but being ready at any moment for it all to go south and getting your hands dirty. This makes for some great moments of tension, and a certain degree of observation and strategy, if you’re invested in not always having things devolve into a bloody mess as guns begin to blaze, especially since you’ll usually be outnumbered unless you’re careful. It won’t take the world by storm on any front, but it is a solid stealthy experience nonetheless.

Foreclosed [Antab] - While perhaps the results aren’t always as great as developers may hope for, I do have a great appreciation for games that take some risks in their design. With its somewhat kitchen sink-ish melange of gameplay styles including stealth, outright shooting, puzzle solving, and various action-y sequences stuffed into a very cyberpunk comic book look, Foreclosed has no lack of ambition. In execution? OK, so perhaps it can be a bit uneven in both the general quality and certainly the balance in the difficulty as you proceed. That said, I like the setting the look, and on the whole the pretty unique mix of gameplay this title has to offer. If you’re looking for more of an eclectic game that will throw some surprises and challenges at you, Foreclosed may be a bit unrefined but it can also be a pretty good time.

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

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.

Monomals [Rogue Games] - One thing I typically appreciate in indie games is their willingness to simply be themselves, damn the consequences, and how that can result in novel play. In many respects Monomals accomplishes this, resulting in an unusual mix of fishing, platforming, and a music sandbox of sorts if that makes sense. Paired with its colorful characters and presentation it has some appeal for people seeking out something off the beaten path, without a doubt, but that isn’t to say it isn’t without its warts. If you simply play along and do your best, mechanically the controls for getting some boost-y thrust to move around in the air specifically in the action levels works well enough, but if your goal is to be more effective and meet goals trying to truly understand how they work becomes more of a mystery. I won’t lie, they feel odd, and it was almost as if the more I tried to understand them the less they made sense, so I settled on simply being patient and getting where I wanted to go eventually instead. Check it out if it grabs you, just beware that different doesn’t always work.

Narita Boy [Studio Koba] - With an old school cinematic action adventure feel and dripping with neon-lit nostalgic ooze I have no doubt that Narita Boy is targeted squarely at people like me who practically grew up in the arcades. While this isn’t a terribly long adventure, I’ll give it credit for generally keeping a steady flow of new things to experience as you go, never giving itself much time to feel stale… which is very much appreciated since side-scrolling slashers like this can tend to get repetitive quickly. The thing is, even with all of the formidable charm it brings to the table I can’t put a finger on what made it a good time but not necessarily a great one in my eyes, even knowing it would seem on paper to be made for people like me. Certainly any time there was platforming involved the floaty jumping and somewhat loose overall controls were a bit of a bummer, followed up by what I’d say was a lack of clarity at times for where you were meant to be going or what you were meant to be doing. Overall these are pretty small complaints, and don’t manage to knock the game out of being worthwhile, but I’d say they’re worth considering as you get drawn in by its lush and stylized visuals.

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

Out of Line [Nerd Monkeys] - The great artwork and general puzzle-y adventure beats of Out of Line (as well as a timely multiversal sort of twist to things) almost immediately brought to mind the likes of Limbo, Inside, and some others. One the one hand that’s a compliment for the company its look and feel inspire, but on the other the comparison falls flat a bit in terms of the variety and scope of the story to be told since Out of Line’s overall run time is a mere couple of hours. The construction of the puzzles is smart enough, with you needing to make careful and accurate use of your power javelin in a number of ways, but in terms of the sheer variety of what you’ll face it can also feel a bit more on the one note side. If you’re down for this sort of title and don’t mind the relatively short run time and a lacking overarching story it still has its charms though.

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

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

Ultra Age [Visual Dart] - Especially given the continued “unknown date” status of Bayonetta 3, Switch fans looking to beat or slash things up with some intense combat may be feeling a little twitchy. Ultra Age is here to help you work out some of those frustrations, featuring some good ideas married with a reasonable level of challenge. I will admit that as it opened and the focus was a bit more on the game’s story, featuring some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in quite some time, I had my doubts. However, once everything opened up and I could begin moving between blade types, searching for extra crystals for gear, and tweaking my skills to better suit my slashing style my opinion turned around pretty quickly. I’m hoping not to trigger some Breath of the Wild players but your blades will degrade with use, though the fact that’s put to good use and allows you to do some nasty damage shattering them against your enemies should help make up for it. It absolutely isn’t as refined or polished as the likes of Bayonetta or the Devil May Cry series, but at half the asking price I think this comes out to a fair compromise. Given the fact that, especially in terms of indies, the pickings in this area are pretty slim Ultra Age is an appreciated effort and since there’s a demo being able to take it for a spin beforehand is a great bonus.

Raji: An Ancient Epic [Nodding Heads Games] - While this statement may inspire some eye-rolling for some people out there as a life-long gamer I deeply appreciate attempts to expand inclusiveness in video games. By this point western gamers are generally quite well-steeped in the mythology of the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian persuasions, with the gods of those pantheons providing a great foundation for many narratives. In the case of Raji I’m happy to see a completely different set of fresh deities and stories of legend coming from ancient India, and with representative architecture and musical accompaniment as well. The result is a pretty rich and unique storytelling experience that’s worthy of attention. Thankfully the gameplay also, in general, has a fresh feel with the very nimble Raji on a quest to save her brother which features quite a number of well-implemented traversal moves and plenty of options to keep combat interesting. Where it unfortunately falters noticeably is in maintaining its pacing, with combat often feeling over-encumbered and sluggish when too many enemies are on-screen. Granted, the varied moves and weapon options help to compensate for this since it makes for engaging and varied combat, but it feels like though the Switch didn’t need to skimp too much on the beauty of the visuals a price was paid in speed. While it’s over a bit quickly the rish storytelling and culture of Raji still make it a stand out worth giving a look.

Slayin 2 [Pixel Licker] - Since I’ve always been a big fan of classic arcade-style gaming there’s something about the simplicity meets challenge of Slayin 2 that really speaks to me. While on the surface it looks a bit casual perhaps, once you dig in and spend some time with it the challenge kicks in and if you’re like me you may well get hooked. Certainly unlocking the various classes, their respective weapons, and throwing in some upgrades makes for perhaps a bit too much grinding just to slowly discover which heroes and builds suit you but the variety really impressed me so I’ll take some of that frustration over being stuck with only a few overly similar heroes to work with any day. Your hero will work on 2 different planes, able to jump between them, trying to survive all manner of enemies who’ll attack both on the ground and in the air. Each class has their strengths and weaknesses depending on the situation, something even more true when tackling some of the game’s challenging bosses that some builds are just going to struggle with. That means to progress you’ll need to explore more than one build and continue to work to overcome what can get to be pretty intense action as you get further into the game. Far more deep and enjoyable than its somewhat simpler presentation may imply if you’re looking for some budget intense action Slayin 2 is surprisingly solid.

Starlit Adventures: Golden Stars [Rockhead Games] - I love it when indie titles show up that I’ve never seen or heard of and they end up being a pleasant surprise. That’s precisely the case with Starlit Adventures, a game that looks almost too cute for its own good but quickly demonstrates it packs in some fun arcade-style play in akin to the likes of the classic Dig-Dug or Mr. Driller… but with some of its own flair as well. The gameplay is a mixture of puzzle and action as you dig your way down, trying to grab keys, coins, and stars as they appear as well as taking out enemies when necessary. While this as a base is pretty enjoyable what then livens things up a bit is that there’s also a pretty wide variety of gear you can choose to run levels in, giving you some quite a number of different perks that can be critical if your goal is to grab every star on every level. The mixture of classic play, some smart puzzling, a variety of fun surprises along the way, and a great (though perhaps a bit sickeningly cute) art style really made this game sneak up on me and made me a fan!

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!