Friday, February 4

Top 70 / Best Indie Roguelike Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 2/4/22!

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


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


Children of Morta [Dead Mage] - While I have played (and generally enjoyed) a ton of roguelikes of all flavors on the Switch I can’t say any of them has been quite like Children of Morta. Played from a top-down perspective and with a serious dungeon crawling style it’s challenging, has an absolutely fantastic art style, and features multiple character classes to play that are each viable and have distinctive feels. The run-to-run progression, opportunities that represent risk and/or reward, and unpredictability of precisely what you may face are all on point as well but what pushes the game the extra mile for me are the quick but poignant story threads you’ll slowly encounter as you get further in. At its core this is a game with family themes and beats and for me it really amplified the connection I have to both the game and its characters. That extra degree of care is uncommon in the genre and it really elevates it to the top tier of roguelikes. If you’re down to grit your teeth a bit and eat it on one run and then find success by the skin of your teeth the next Children of Morta is a terrific example of what roguelikes are capable of in talented hands.


Nuclear Throne [Vlambeer] - Though it’s pretty clear in places that Nuclear Throne has aged a bit since its original release, its unapologetic degree of challenge and a wide variety of builds still make it one of the best twin-stick shooters on the Switch. This isn’t a game you’ll really ever master per se, you’ll just have deep runs where things click and you’ll find success. With some great unlockable characters, each with their own style of play, Throne has no shortage of personality and continues to push you with a “just one more run” mentality to work to get further. If you’re ready for a challenge, and can deal with its visuals having aged a bit, Nuclear Throne absolutely delivers one of the best roguelike shooting experiences on the system without question.


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


Slay The Spire [Mega Crit Games] - While deck building games would usually fall into the category of titles I’d file under “an acquired taste” the Switch now has 2 rock solid titles with that style of play that have proven mainstream friendly this year. While SteamWorld Quest went more story-driven and static though, Slay the Spire very much embraces a roguelike approach instead that keeps it challenging and surprising across many attempts you’ll make with its heroes that each have a very different style. There’s definitely a learning curve here, as you’ll need to experiment with different combinations of cards to work out which synergize the most effectively together and which you’re better off without. For true roguelike or strategy fans this is absolutely a title you won’t want to miss out on, it easily lives up to the positive buzz it has been receiving.


The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth + [Edmund McMillen] - One of the very first games available for the system, as I was already a huge fan from the PC space it was a Day 1 purchase for me and I absolutely have no regrets. One of the most weird, somewhat obscene (which could be perfect, if you're like me), and consistently challenging as what you're working with can vary wildly from run to run... it's simply one of the best roguelikes on the system.


Dicey Dungeons [Terry Cavanaugh] - OK, so perhaps at this point the concept of a deck-building strategy roguelike has been played out a bit… but what if you added an additional layer of RNG madness with dice just to spice things up? That’s precisely what Dicey Dungeons does and, damn, if that doesn’t reinvigorate things a bit and further increase the challenge and fun of tackling classical turn-based combat. Depending on which of the game’s classes you choose, which in themselves will often shake up your approach, the game is really about making a commitment to your strategy based on the cards you have and then learning how to take whatever rolls you may get and turn them into success. Of course, if the RNG gods are really determined to piss on your parade, disaster may still be coming for you… but that’s really the nature of roguelikes and inherent in risk versus reward concepts it plays with. There’s no doubt that the game’s presentation errs on the simpler side but if you’re a strategy fan such details fall away when you’re so hyper-focused on the battle of the moment and turning what would seem to be a random garbage roll into a winning combination. This is a game that has very much earned its high marks with a great concept that has been executed incredibly well, taking what has become familiar and raising the stakes even further.


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.


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.


Atomicrops [Bird Bath Games] - For me, Atomicrops is a story of early frustration, followed by a slow warming up, which eventually became a pretty deep and addictive love. Among the many roguelike shooters on Switch it absolutely stands apart, and getting the hang of how everything works is thus an unfamiliar challenge. Are you supposed to tend your crops? Go running out into the areas to the north, south, east, and west to find seeds and supplies? Focus on making money? Make sure to plant and cultivate roses as quickly as possible since they’re an alternative and powerful currency as well? The answer to all of it pretty much turns out to be “Yes”. I don’t think there’s only one strategy or set of tactics that will make you successful but since the game provides you with very little overall guidance and there are simply a staggering number of power-ups and pieces of equipment you may encounter you’re going to need to try and fail quite a bit before you’ll have some “Aha!” moments and feel like you’ve got your feet under you. The thing is, once I turned that corner and finally began to know just enough to pick the power-ups that best suited the situation in my current run, wisely choosing how and when to invest and in what, I got hooked and had to keep playing until I finally completed Year 1. Outside of a lack of much helpful guidance, which really can make the early game a bit of a bummer, my only other major complaint is that as the screen gets full of stuff happening at night and there’s chaos everywhere, at times you’ll swear you’re taking damage but can’t tell from what. It happening only once in a while you can write it off as you just missing something but the more it happened (once every few runs) the harder I would look and there were times I legitimately had no idea what killed me, never a good thing, but obviously not something so common I couldn’t be successful. If you’ve been feeling like roguelike shooters have been feeling too much alike and in need of an evolution be sure to give Atomicrops a shot, I think it’ll “grow” on you.


Crown Trick [NExT Studios] - Among the many genres and subgenres roguelikes have managed to infiltrate I can’t say that a tactical turn-based adventure-ish RPG is one I’ve run across to this point. If there can be more compelling examples along the lines of Crown Trick I’ll just say now I’m all for it. This is a title I originally saw at PAX East and left me feeling iffy about the affair. Whether that was just that the demo wasn’t structured quite right, or the time allowed didn’t really allow me to dig in I don’t know, but the more time I’ve spent with it the more it has impressed me. There’s absolutely a learning curve for understanding what makes the game tick, especially when it comes to fighting bosses. It’s amazing how survivable encounters with tough enemies can be if you’re patient, observe the environment and your opportunities there well, and make effective use of multiple spells and abilities you’re able to have at your disposal. Attack, move, set up Spell A, blink (your ability to teleport away or out of trouble), Spell B, attack, attack, move, and repeat is similar to how many of my battles played out. Elemental damage plays a huge role in things and that’s where the environment comes in. I found I tended to have my battles play out in only a subset of my environment and if I’d moved further in even more opportunities would have presented themselves so don’t hesitate to move around and see what you have at your disposal if your enemies look too formidable. Summed up Crown Trick looks fantastic, plays very smart, has a fair amount of great risk and reward opportunity, and presents a roguelike challenge that feels fresh and addictive. It’s definitely worth a look.


ScourgeBringer [Flying Oak Games] - There’s something about ScourgeBringer that deep down brings back my nostalgia for being in an arcade, pumping quarters into a game that consistently kicks my butt yet still puts a smile on my face. Be warned, ScourgeBringer is a tough and intense slashing and shooting experience with runs that will often end too quickly as you just couldn’t get in the groove. What makes it so worth it are those runs where you break out and get on a tear though, getting the right combination of perks and some luck on your side to smash some bosses and prove to yourself that it can be done. Of course meta progression is also a key part of you building success and overall I’d say the pacing of gaining currency to unlock some absolutely vital abilities feels about right, with you at least gaining 1 coin if you can defeat the first sub-boss. It can sometimes take a run or two to then feel comfortable making use of your newfound power but things like your heavy hit deflecting bullets or knocking enemies into each other are incredibly important to have when you’re in the heat of things. None of the above would matter if the game’s engine wasn’t up to the job but in terms of performance, fluidity, and mechanics I really can’t find any flaws with it. If anything some people may find the action too fast, and watching it can be a bit crazy, but when you’re in the moment it’s extremely satisfying how responsive your character is as you dash around the screen slashing, deflecting, stunning, and smashing. ScourgeBringer is yet another roguelike that stands alone with a pretty unique hook and overall flow while delivering a satisfying degree of intensity and challenge that the hardcore set should find compelling.


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


Sparklite [Red Blue Games] - Since I’m a huge fan of roguelikes and their ability to revitalize and alter how you play more classic genres I’ve always wondered how it would pair with the Legend of Zelda. Sparklite takes quite a traditional track, working with weapons and mechanics reminiscent of the Zelda series but keeping the world a bit more compact, generally making for quicker runs if nothing else. Once you get your bearings and understand how elements like badges work you’ll be off to face a pretty stiff challenge, especially in the early going. Just be ready, until you’re sufficiently geared up to take on the bosses (especially early on), you’re likely to get a bit frustrated. Some quibbles over the somewhat clunky menu, no provision for a more easily available mini map, and other nuisances can creep in at times but there’s no doubt that this is a high-quality adventure that’s challenging, inventive, and rewarding.


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


Steredenn - Binary Stars [Plug In Digital] - Moving in a very different direction Steredenn is a bullet hell roguelike space shooter that has some truly bonkers weapons and challenges. While you'll have more traditional options in your arsenal the inclusion of some crazy melee-based weapons changes the formula around a bit and encourage experimentation to find the weapons that suit your play style and the variety of scenarios you'll need to be able to survive.


Enter The Gungeon [Dodge Roll] - At the time of its announcement as one of the most anticipated roguelike shooters for the Switch among the people ""in the know"", Enter the Gungeon is as preposterous as it is bullet-laden. Full of personality, bizarre enemies, over-the-top bosses, and some truly ridiculous weapons you'll never quite be sure what to expect each time you go down into the Gungeon. If you're up for the challenge it delivers its own flavor of bullet hell with a distinct sense of flair.


Tumbleseed [aeiowu] - I consider Tumbleseed to be one of the best games on the system that very few people gave a chance. In part because it is something completely different and then due to its initial difficulty level it made itself a bit of a tough sell. With its Four Peaks patch it significantly improved on its accessibility and set things up in a way that would both be more friendly to more casual players and not punish people quite so much with unexpected issues like auras that would attack you the same as they would your enemies. Quirky, unique, and full of charm it is well worth taking the time to know and appreciate.


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


Pathway [Robotality] - Elevator pitch time: Set off on an adventure with a party of your choosing with a wide variety of skills. Every step of the way is filled with the potential for fortune or peril, with you sometimes being forced to make tough decisions about how to proceed with the hope it’s the right one. Whenever you’re thrown into combat it’ll be pretty solid (if a bit on the well-worn and generic side) tactical fare, with your needing to carefully manage your people, their cover, and supplies in order to survive. Oh, and Nazis! All in all while I wouldn’t say Pathway does anything that strikes me as revolutionary, I really dug the narrative elements, the diversity of the characters you can set out with (with quite a number to unlock), and the tough but fair challenge I typically faced.


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


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.


Void Bastards [Blue Manchu] - While I’ve seen a few titles try to step up to the plate to establish a solid roguelike FPS to date nobody has really nailed the entire formula. Whether because the roguelike elements were out of balance or shooting itself just wasn’t well-implemented, that has left room for someone to come onto the scene and show how it can be done right. Finally, with the release of Void Bastards, it seems like someone is squarely on the right track, just be ready to struggle a bit as you get the hang of things. You control what are essentially disposable criminals, each with different quirks (ala Rogue Legacy), and through perseverance you’ll begin to make your way further and further along in your mission, shooting, crafting, and sometimes simply running away in order to survive a variety of enemy encounters in space. Initially it can be a bit overwhelming as you learn the ropes, knowing which ships to try to hit for what supplies, how to deal with different threats, which shipboard systems are best to try to utilize and how, and also just when to know you need to panic and get the hell off a ship before you die. Perhaps unsurprisingly this can lead to there being a bit of a hump to get over, equipped with just enough crafted gear and earned experience to help yourself get further along. If you’re a major fan of roguelikes or have been hoping to see a new formula in your FPS gameplay this is absolutely going to be worth checking out.


Airheart - Tales of Broken Wings [Blindflug Studios] - This is a game that splices together twin-stick shooting, careful exploration, and crafting, but then throwing in roguelike procedurally-generated levels as well. The result is unique and quite challenging, but also very smart when it comes to technique, making it a truly memorable journey. It’s gorgeous, at times serene, and then knows how to get down to business with plenty of shooting action and nuance if you’re willing to take the time to get skilled at using your harpoon. It’s very much the crazy mix of exploration, “fishing”, shooting, crafting, and a number of situations that will catch you by surprise and challenge you. While perhaps a little rough around some edges, I highly recommend giving it a try.


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


Hell is Other Demons [Cuddle Monster Games] - All things considered, Hell is Other Demons is a very good platforming shooter that plays smart, is challenging, and ultimately will support a wide variety of styles through its varied weapons and upgrades. While in docked mode the characters may look a bit chunky that means in handheld mode everything is very easy to see and helps make play on the go all the more viable. Each increasingly-powerful weapon you get to work with tends to encourage different styles of play and that keeps things consistently interesting and exciting. This is yet another shooter deserving of your time and attention and it deserves a place among the top tier of titles in the genre on Switch.


Juicy Realm [SpaceCan] - When it comes to roguelike shooters I’m both a tremendous fan and often a picky critic. We’ve been absolutely spoiled on this system with some incredibly varied top-tier titles that range from having a quick hit arcade feel to ones that are a slower burn and almost adventure-like. That makes it tough for new titles to break in, needing to throw down something pretty impressive to crack through and compete. Juicy Realm is absolutely a game that does just that, using its somewhat unusual art style and characters to suck you in, but then making you work hard to survive while working with some bizarre weapons and a fair amount of risk and reward as you try to go the distance. Varied initial characters are complemented by even more that can be unlocked, and while the random nature of the weapons you may encounter tends to make them a little more alike each person’s special skills can make a massive difference depending on how you prefer to play. Small complaints like the exits sometimes being far harder to spot than they should be are there but the core gameplay makes it easy to ignore completely so you can just keep playing. Throw in progressive powering up, new weapon unlocks, and ways to increase your burden for more rewards and this could easily become your go-to shooter on the system for quite some time.


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.


Moonlighter [11 bit studios] - One part Zelda-esque combat and dungeon exploration and another part shop simulator Moonlighter is a title that looks great and plays in a truly unique way. By night you'll go into dungeons in search of adventure and loot that you'll then need to carefully price to sell for the best price possible in your shop by day. You can then use your money to improve your shop, attract new vendors to town (including a blacksmith and armorer you'll very much need), and upgrade your gear to let you take on progressively tougher challenges.


Neon Chrome [10Tons] - I'd originally fallen in love with Neon Chrome on PC where I beat the game 4 times and it kept getting more intense and fun each time. Having to start out from nothing on the Switch I came to appreciate how much I had learned to lean on some of the game's most potent enhancements but I was more than happy to make it work with whatever I had and make my way to the Overseer all over again. It's challenging, exciting, and you'll need to work with what you're given but if you love twin-stick shooting it is among the most satisfying of the games of this type I've played.


Boyfriend Dungeon [Kitfox Games] - Elevator pitch time… so what if the goal was to make a game that fully embraces and meshes together intense slashing roguelike combat and… a dating sim?!? Yeah, I know, right… these things just seem to naturally belong together, for sure. Despite the clash in styles, and though not without some flaws, I have to throw my hat off to the folks at Kitfox Games for putting earnest effort into getting both right in parallel, not obviously neglecting the quality of one for the other and making their genre-bending only a half-hearted effort. The definite risk is that while it does a good job on both ends of the spectrum it wouldn’t necessarily stand up to the best in the genre on either side. Particularly on the roguelike action side since the combat, though decent, isn’t as fluid and varied per weapon to the level that other games in the eShop have set the bar to, but it’s certainly enough to keep you entertained. The only other criticism I would have is that conceptually wanting to have the best weapon for you in dungeons can put you on a very different path from who you want to get to work with romantically, so when this is in conflict it can make things a bit weird, even if the dialogue generally allows you to keep the tone and mood under control to a degree. It’s a weird one, for sure, but it works surprisingly well on the whole.


Crying Suns [Alt Shift] - When it comes to strategy games, on a general level it feels like the Switch hasn’t been terribly well-represented as a whole, though there are some standouts. One advantage of the lack of competition is that when well-made entries show up, they should be able to hope to clean up a bit from people starved for a bit of a challenge. On pretty much all fronts Crying Suns should satiate that hunger, delivering an outstanding sci-fi story, some decent ship-to-ship tactical combat, and a bit of nail-biting suspense as your ground parties attempt to collect artifacts planetside while hopefully not being annihilated. With loads of potential encounters to either help or harm your efforts the roguelike elements really help provide some longevity as you try to make your way through each chapter, perhaps running into a bit of luck one time and crashing and burning the next. All in all, it feels pretty unique on the system and demonstrates the power of the roguelike formula to spice up just about any genre.


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


Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager [Goblinz Studio] - In order to keep things fresh developers have a constant challenge to mix and match genres and play styles in new ways. Sometimes this game alchemy can go awry, but with some luck they can result in glimmers of hope in the form of something unexpected and fun. Starting with the mold established by titles like the glorious Dungeon Keeper 2, a great first step is that you’ll find yourself on the other side of the coin, working to thwart heroes in their quests for glory and protect your amassed horde of riches. From there it charts its own path pretty much though, and the result is a blend of strategy, a bit of tower defense, turn-based combat, and resource management. Now, at first this is a bit rocky as you’re let loose with only a moderate level of direction, and your first run will likely show growing pains as you not only try to understand how to make effective decisions, but even some fundamentals around what pitfalls to avoid and where to spend your resources most effectively to suit your preferred style. Being a roguelike, unpredictable circumstances will make this a challenge but thankfully the game’s humor and bits of originality help it to distinguish itself with plenty of flavor to enjoy for strategy fans.


Metallic Child [Studio HG] - OK, so to start I’ll admit that just on paper I was already rooting for Metallic Child a bit. An anime-style roguelike beat-em-up brawler? Yes, please! OK, so the story feels a bit to filler-y and getting down to business took longer than I would have preferred. Add to that the fact that the style is more grindy than technique-driven and the tendency to get down to button mashing in places feels a bit inevitable. To boot, I’ll admit that in order to maintain the hectic pacing of things I didn’t usually do much thinking when encountering power cores and upgrades, rolling with my gut and letting the chips fall as they may. The thing is, even with those observations and criticisms it’s still a damned fun time and will keep you challenged to refine your techniques with the different weapons and equipment you can find to stay alive and keep going. It may be a bit on the chaotic side, even among its brethren in the roguelike action space, but it still delivers some intense fun if you’re game for it.


Monster Train First Class [Gambitious] - While I’ll admit to having a bit of deckbuilding strategy fatigue, there have been a number of titles on Switch in the past 2 years that have kept the quality of incoming titles in that vein hard to ignore. Aside from having a clean and attractive overall appearance, what First Class absolutely does right is to offer up a small, but smart, wrinkle into the normal summoning routine while peppering in a healthy dose of roguelike choice and unpredictability as you chug your way along the track. You see, your train’s core is on the top level, and with your enemies coming in on the bottom, that means you’ll be able to lay units on different levels to try to take them out as they make their way up. As you can only fit 2 units on each level, and the deck includes cards that can allow you to move units up or down after they’ve been placed, the planning here is absolutely vital as you take on higher and higher-level foes who are awash with HP. It can be easy to get jaded when yet another title in a genre having its moment comes along, but as long as developers keep making an earnest effort to keep them from all being mind-numbingly similar it’s great to periodically stumble into ones that are getting things right.


Neurodeck [Tavrox Games] - While the fact that we’ve been inundated with roguelike deckbuilders over roughly the last two years can make new entries easy to be frustrated with, when they come to the table with a novel approach it can still be exciting. I wouldn’t say that in terms of mechanics Neurodeck does anything all that unique, the setup is pretty standard with you starting out with a set and standard deck, trying to be smart about how you leverage what you have in order to win matches and then add to or enhance your deck for future challenges. What makes the game unique is how the majority of cards you use are related to mental health coping strategies or supports, while the foes you’re up against are phobias or other mental obstacles you are looking to overcome. As someone with family members possessing a wide variety of these issues there’s something really wonderful about the attempt to either educate people who are unaware of all of these issues and treatments, or perhaps just provide some positive reinforcement or understanding for those who are afflicted themselves or have loved ones who may be. I do wish there was some more complete storytelling here to further flesh out the characters you play as, and the troubles they may face, but I respect any attempt to help people better understand mental health issues, especially if they can be challenged and entertained at the same time.


Space Scavenger [Red Cabin Games] - There’s absolutely no denying that fans of twin-stick roguelike shooters, like myself, have an embarrassment of riches on the system. Great news for fans, less great news for developers trying to stand out from the formidable pack. In the case of Space Scavenger the hook is customization, in this case literally getting configure the build of your ship, LEGO-style, assembling parts the best you can within the rules to suit your style, but more often than not make lemonade out of lemons with as you improvise your way to success. While the first area acts as a decent primer to get you started, don’t fool yourself to think it stays that easy for long. You will absolutely be challenged to cobble your way to success, making the most of what you have on hand, and then strategically selling and then buying gear in periodic shops to try to put yourself in a position to succeed. Whether streamlined or bulked up, depending on your gear different strategies for configuring your ship may be in order, opening the door to a pretty smart learning process as you determine what works best for you and what pitfalls to avoid based on experience. In terms of the pure shooting action of things it may lack the intensity of some of its peers but as a total package there’s no denying it has some appeal with the hook of patching together a spaceship that’s all yours.


Tesla Force [10Tons] - My feelings on this title swung around a bit since, at first blush, Tesla Force has a ton in common with 10Tons previous release of Tesla Vs Lovecraft, changing out a more arcade-like roguelike shooter for a more traditional roguelike style. However, once I invested some time and began unlocking new playable characters, perks, and weapons, everything quickly came together. In particular playing as Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft, who both differ in feel from the original Tesla quite a bit, kicked my enjoyment into overdrive. Navigating the map in each zone is also a great addition, as it forces you to do some planning to be take advantage of potential perks in some areas along the way, while being mindful that lingering too long will allow the doom clock to tick away another hour, making all of your enemies more formidable. Yet again 10Tons has proven that they’re kings of making great twin-stick shooters, now I’m just hoping they can revisit another earlier favorite of mine and revisit Neon Chrome to give it an update.


Colt Canyon [Retrific] - Whenever a new roguelike shooter arrives on the scene you know I’m there with a degree of eagerness to see how it has turned out. The thing is, the hill to climb for roguelike shooter greatness has continued to get tougher over the years, honestly the Switch has been blessed with so many great ones of all types that claiming a prime spot on the pile is a challenge. Enter Colt Canyon, a game I’ve checked out at PAX before but aside from having a pretty simple and old-school pixelated look never made a huge impression on me. Whether it has been tweaked since those demos I’ve played or whether in the rush through appointments didn’t allow me enough time to truly get engaged with it I’ll admit my impressions were pretty far off the mark. Taking into account the variety in the heroes you can choose (they need to be unlocked but honestly this wasn’t hard to do), the weapons you’ll encounter, and the various perks you’ll have to choose from if you take the time to find people who have been held captive, the result is pretty challenging and satisfying. Moreso than most roguelike shooters the emphasis here is on using your dash and melee attacks as much as possible. Ammo isn’t necessarily scarce but your carry capacity limitations can deplete your rounds pretty quickly in a big firefight, guns are noisy and attract attention so stealthily chipping away at bad guys can be preferred, and for many guns the reload time can make them a liability when things get crazy. Put together this all makes for a shooter that has a very different flow than its competition, and paired with a pretty modest price I consider it to be worth a look if you’re itching for some pretty challenging shooter action.


Dungeon of the Endless [Amplitude Studios] - I’ll admit that when I first started playing this title it was a struggle since there’s a distinct lack of explanation to much of what you need to do. That said, with experimentation (and quite a bit of failure) I slowly was able to understand what I was playing and it started to grow on me. Mixing together elements of dungeon crawling with tower defense, and topped off with what can sometimes be a crushing roguelike mentality, I can’t say I’ve played anything like it and that really makes it interesting. Your goal is to slowly proceed through each level of the random ship you’ve found yourself crashed into, carefully scoping out each individual room and clearing them out. Using what resources you find and power available to you you’ll be able to enhance rooms you clear, either setting them to help build resources or have various defensive properties to help for what comes next. The tricky part is that once you find the way to the next floor one of your party will need to move the core, leaving them vulnerable, while you hope your created defenses or other crewmembers help keep them alive. The indirect control you have over your crew takes some getting used to, especially when things get tense, but once you’ve got a handle on it all this can be a unique and challenging experience.


Fury Unleashed [Awesome Games Studio] - With a comic book-inspired look, a pretty wide array of over-the-top weapons, and challenges aplenty Fury Unleashed is a roguelike platform shooter with plenty of personality. You play the role of the somewhat stock 80s-style hero, buffed up and ready to kick ass, and over the course of the game’s major chapters (which each are made to look like their own comic book, each with their own theme and enemies) you’ll be sorely tested. This isn’t a game you’ll come out of the gates tearing through, you’ll need to grind and earn it, slowly customizing your perks, gaining access to better starter gear through challenges, and coming to understand how best to be effective in your runs. In the end it is really about moving quickly and decisively, keeping your combo meter up so that you can earn health “ink”. It may seem counter-intuitive, that in order to try to heal yourself you’ll need to be aggressive, putting yourself at risk to lose more health, but that’s how this experience rolls. The thing is, you’ll have plenty of wild weapons, ranging from simpler guns to grenade launchers, sawblade guns, and more as well as devastating melee weapons, grenades, and even a deadly stomp attack at your disposal. Once you get into a groove and understand how to approach specific enemies you’ll begin to have more success, just look out for some of the game’s tough-as-nails bosses as well. If it weren’t for the variety and personality in the game the level of difficulty could have been more of a bummer but there’s just something about the whole package that kept me wanting to come back for more.


Going Under [AggroCrab] - As an enormous fan of anything roguelike Going Under has been on my radar since I first saw it announced, billing itself as a sort of insane 3D beat-em-up where you can pick up just about anything to use as a weapon. When I got the chance to check it out at PAX East this year I could see the promise of the fun in it, and I began to see the humor that actually serves as one of the game’s surprising areas of appeal, but there was just also something that didn’t quite click for me. With the full release now available to me I still feel like something’s missing in the formula that somehow keeps it from true greatness but that isn’t to say it can’t be fun to take for a spin of challenging and often chaotic combat. Since you’re able to use so many sorts of objects you find laying about, and in a pinch you won’t always have ideal choices around you, it does have a rough early learning curve. Weapon durability, range, effectiveness… you’ll generally just need to experiment to get a feel for these things. The same can be said for many perks and items you’ll have to work with, the brief descriptions aren’t always as instructive as they could be so it can be a bit of a mess until you sort it out. The skewering of corporate culture is spot on and often hilarious if you’ve ever worked in a cubicle farm, so that helps bring the experience up but it may be offset by meta progression that, compared to its competition, doesn’t feel quite as helpful as normal… perhaps making the grind to success feel a little less rewarding on the way. I have mixed feelings about it in the end, really appreciating the silly tone and its addressing a flavor of roguelikes I haven’t seen much of to this point but at the same time missing the spark in it that drives my enthusiasm to recommend it with more than somewhat above average force. Roguelike and beat-em-up fans should appreciate and enjoy a change of pace, but everyone else will probably be fine missing it.


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


Nowhere Prophet [Sharkbomb Studios] - In the last generation I’ve been surprised to see the deck-building strategy genre not only move from the fringes into the mainstream on the back of titles like Slay the Spire or the more casual SteamWorld Quest, but also continue to find ways to crank up their associated degree of challenge. While the frustration that tends to come hand in hand with that is sure to turn a portion of the audience away, for everyone else it tends to lead to deeper and more satisfying play. That’s what has happened with Nowhere Prophet, a roguelike strategy deck-builder that stacks more potential for failure onto you than normal as an additional layer of risk and reward comes into play. Your units who fall will still be able to be used, as a bonus even at a lower action point cost, but if they fall a second time they’re gone for good. This absolutely throws a wrench into your plans at times, but when the planets align it also opens the door to decisive wins if you can capitalize on hurt units while minimizing your opponent’s ability to punish you for it. As always there will undoubtedly be quite a bit of initial grinding as you get accustomed to the nuances of the game’s strategy, and its sometimes devastating consequences, but since you’ll be earning new cards you’ll need as you go your progress tends to turn around pretty quickly once everything clicks. Sure, you’ll curse the RNG gods at times for their cruelty, but that makes the satisfaction of success all the more sweet.


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


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.


20XX [Batterystaple Games] - As a non-fan of Mega Man the roguelike nature of 20XX at least appeals to me more than that series as a whole. The quick pick up and play nature of it, and never quite knowing what to expect, is fun and I appreciate the inclusion of the two base characters who play out very differently. If you happen to be both a roguelike fan and someone who appreciates the Mega Man X series I’d say it is a pretty easy title to suggest, if you’re only into one of the two your mileage will likely vary. Even with quite a bit of competition in this genre on the Switch 20XX is a pretty unique package, making it noteworthy if you’re a fan of challenging platforming and boss fights.


Hand of Fate 2 [Defiant Development] - Part card-based game of chance, part classic D&D-esque dungeon exploration, and part action game Hand of Fate 2 has a style all its own. I thoroughly enjoyed the original and was pleased with the refinements they threw into the sequel, mainly in the form of making the action much more varied and challenging. There are runs where it will feel like the Dealer's cards are simply not on your side but when you can then get on a good tear with some luck and decent equipment it can be a thrill as well. Just a unique title worth checking out.


I Hate Running Backwards [Binx Interactive] - Though I initially struggled with it, wanting it to be a twin-stick shooter, once I got into the unique rhythm of I Hate Running Backwards I became a big fan. Here you'll need to stay focused on eliminating your lethal enemies while also spinning to destroy things in the environment to accumulate experience for upgrades. Roguelike in nature you won't be able to predict what choices you'll get in what order so each run can feel very different, though it's always challenging. Throw in multiple characters, including ones that can be unlocked, that can play very differently and it's a pretty deep game if you give it some time and attention.


Wizard of Legend [Contingent99] - Even with as many roguelikes as I’ve played Wizard of Legend is a bit of a surprise, but that cuts both ways. On the one hand, if you take the time to collect a sizable number of spells the sheer variety of what’s in the game guarantees that at some point you’ll likely find a combination that suits your style and even personal sense of flair. One the other, given the random nature of what you’re offered, with bad luck it could take quite a while until you find that mix and you’ll be feeling like you’re never quite clicking while in combat. It’s interesting because while mid-run you’ll sometimes have an opportunity to change out or add to your spells, unlike most roguelikes you can really play with your base configuration to try to suit it to your style of play. If you’re up for a pretty substantial challenge, Wizard of Legend provides that in spades and given that its feel is absolutely unique that helps to blunt the fact that it can also be frustrating as you try to put together your ideal build.


Evertried [Dan Domingues] - Strategy hasn’t tended to be a very common flavor for roguelikes on the Switch (well, at least ones that aren’t deck-builders) so when they appear it’s always a bit refreshing. Elevator pitch wise probably the easiest way to set expectations for how Evertried plays is to think in the vein of Crypt of the Necrodancer, just removing the rhythmic element and throwing in some unique skills that you’ll choose from to spend your in-game currency on within the run to best suit your style. It’s nice that because of the element where enemies only make their move when you do you can throttle the speed of things to be quicker if you’re in the zone or slower if you want to be more contemplative. There’s no doubt it can be challenging, especially as learning how best to deal with individual enemies can be a trial and error affair at times but as you work out core strategies to deal with each you continue to feel more effective the more times you jump back in. I would say that some of the controls weren’t necessarily as intuitive or as well explained as I would have preferred but ultimately that’s a temporary problem so not a killer by any means.


Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos [Heliocentric Studios] - As a huge fan of roguelikes and someone who appreciates games that can bring people together I’ll come out and say I have mixed feelings on this title, though as a whole I think it gets more right than wrong. Working as a sort of rogue-ified version of the 16-bit likes of Link to the Past you’ll find yourself in a world of procedurally-generated dungeons to conquer, loot to collect, and also dead bodies to pile up… and many of them will be those of your fallen heroes. The fact that you can party up locally or online is a plus, and a pretty unique feature within the genre, so that’s very much appreciated and playing with others helps make up for the absolute lack of any real story which really just charges you with soldiering on because of “loot and reasons” pretty much. All that said, I can’t help but feel like the experience is a patch (or a few) away from realizing its potential. In its current state the early game and meta progression are painfully slow and that makes for too much dying mixed with a lot of repetition. Having to unlock each class and upgrade them to make them viable feels like an unneeded chore and with so many choices inundating you for upgrades the overall experience feels unfocused. Throw in a tendency towards cheap deaths to traps (and freaking snakes in pots) and rather than it feeling like you’ve died because you need to refine your skills it feels a bit like it’s purposely slowing you down just because it can. There’s a lot in the game to like and as time goes on hopefully some targeted patching will help it meet its full potential.


Skeletal Avenger [10Tons] - As a die hard roguelike fan I’m always eager to check out something new in the space, and Skeletal Avenger has some merits that help it at least get off to a reasonably good start. While not visually terribly diverse or exciting, what it does offer up is an approachability you don’t normally find in roguelikes, skewing a little more towards letting you feel powerful before cranking up the difficulty and smacking you down. While there aren’t a tremendous number and variety of weapons and items to work with you can usually get equipped with gear that suits you on an average run, but depending on the whims of the RNG gods you’ll definitely get some runs where it just never comes together. The real issue here tends to be longevity and that’s tied to a comparative lack of real variety as you grind away. Granted, the competition in this space is pretty tough to match, but in the end this just comes to the table as a serviceable roguelike dungeon crawler, not necessarily a great one.


Ring of Pain [Twice Different] - With a variety of titles proving that the tight and challenging strategy of a roguelike can make for compelling play it’s not hard to see some of Ring of Pain’s influences. Much moreso than I think any other game of its kind I can think of, I certainly credit it with having a quick and pretty no-frills flow that is focused on keeping you moving… though at times it’ll feel like your current run was over before it started as a result too I suppose. What’s most intriguing is the way all of the cards on the current level are present and, with some strategy and luck, how they can interact with each other to both your benefit and detriment. This does make for a brutal learning curve at times, and perhaps some experimentation, but it’s also an element that helps set it apart from the more generic pack. If you’re willing to stick it out through the initial beatdowns and get a hang of how best to handle your various choices and risk/reward prospects there’s a solid game here, just expect a fair amount of frustration to come along for the ride, it’s not called Ring of Pain by accident.


The Red Lantern [Timberline Studio] - Typically when you hear about roguelikes your mind conjures up images of action-oriented and intense play, whether slashing, jumping, or shooting. In the case of The Red Lantern there’s none of that though, with the roguelike essence revolving instead around your character who is looking for direction and meaning in life being able to try repeatedly to successfully reach a remote cabin in Alaska with her budding team of sled dogs. Make no mistake, there’s no question that you’ll fail, and depending on your luck or skill that may only be a handful of times or many more. But really the game is less about you reaching your goal and more about the many experiences and hardships you’ll face along the way. Scarcity of resources tends to be the earliest killer, your limited meat, bullets, and means to create fires make your chances remote at best. Thankfully you and your dogs never really die, when you fail you’ll just find yourself back at your van and ready to take on the challenge once more, hopefully with some new perks you gained from your previous run. I’d say if you’re just out for a game to complete the experience will probably not be a satisfying one, the joy in the game is the storytelling and your character’s interactions with her dogs and nature with smart writing and a message about learning to find yourself and learn to survive no matter what the odds.


Black Future '88 [SuperScarySnakes] - Roguelike shooters have been a staple for me on the Switch, generally providing a great outlet for intense play for some period of time that will feel familiar to a degree but ever-changing. Typically these games tend to be top-down affairs but in the case of Black Future ‘88 you’ll be taking on a cyberpunk and pretty bleak world full of robots and inevitable death. There are undoubtedly elements that work very well here, the visual style and weapon variety are both exceptional, multiple base classes offer up pretty different feels to keep your runs fresh, and the fact that biologically you’re literally racing against the clock representing your demise will keep you moving. Where it falls down a bit is most often visual clarity. Between occasional elements moving in the foreground and just a lack of clarity in the action when a lot is going on at once it can be pretty easy to lose a truckload of health or even die without really knowing what the cause was. That’s not to say it isn’t hella fun,it just adds to a general frustration factor due to death often being quick and perhaps the reason behind it being a bit too ambiguous.


City of Brass [Uppercut Games] - I have no doubt that City of Brass won’t provide an experience everyone will love, but then again that’s not a shock when games try new things. Especially on default difficulty it’s a lot to take in as you get used to the flow of combat and how best to deal with specific enemies and traps you’ll encounter. One detail I appreciate, and worth mentioning, is that the two initial character options you have to play with are a male and female, who play roughly the same. It may seem like a small thing but it’s a great inclusive move and one I felt was noteworthy. It also helps underline the point that the developers obviously put a great deal of effort into making the experience scalable up or down depending on what you’re looking for or can handle. It shouldn’t be about ego early on, take the help as you familiarize yourself with this unique title rather than get aggravated with it. Just like there are blessings there are optional curses as well, so don’t worry, there’s more than enough challenge here for those looking for it.


Hellmut: The Badass From Hell [Volcanicc] - What’s odd is that even as frustrated as Hellmut could make me as I was trying to get a handle on it all, and even with its obvious flaws, there’s no denying it can be a ton of fun to play. Once you get the rhythm of things you’ll at least get better at dealing damage more efficiently, which is a big help, though with the amount of damage you can take very quickly that isn’t to say it necessarily gets much easier. Some value adds are included, like the ability to play the gauntlet mode either solo or co-op, though for the most part I found this mode to be too slow in getting rolling compared to the intense main game so it’s a bit of a wash. The thing is, with some refinement, streamlining, and better explanations I think this could compete for a place closer to the top. As it is, it’s just a good time but one that has some real issues.


Lost Castle [Hunter Studio] - As a huge fan of both beat-em-ups and roguelikes this game is a bit like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup game for me, mixing things up to create a challenging and surprisingly varied package. While its art style may not appeal to everyone with its simplicity and in the early going you’re going to die quite a bit as you grind to unlock better weapons and upgrade yourself, if you’re patient and give it some time you’ll continue to get more formidable and smarter in how you proceed. How you gear up and make the most of your skills and items you pick up along the way really becomes the key to success as not all weapons are created equal and whether you prefer ranged weapons, close-up melee, or something that gives you the ability to do both you’ll often get many opportunities to change things up over the course of your run. If you’re a fan of both styles of play this is a great marriage of them both and worth checking out.


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


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


Monster Slayers [Nerdook Productions] - While not everyone enjoys the card battle system concept Monster Slayers does a pretty excellent job of making it interesting and rewarding if you take the time to get acquainted with it. As with all roguelikes not every run will be a winner, but by making smart decisions and carefully tending to your deck you can have a pretty good time with it as well. Its pacing and perhaps the learning curve for people unfamiliar with this style of play may not give it universal appeal but for people willing to invest some time into it there’s a deep and rewarding RPG experience to be had here offering quite a lot of variety.


Death Road to Canada [Rocketcat Games] - For people who thoroughly enjoy all of the key elements Death Road to Canada offers I have no doubt there’s fun to be had. Even if I wouldn’t necessarily call the game “deep” there’s quite a bit of content, different ways to play with variables to keep the experience fresh, and almost always a surprise or two in any given run. For anyone who isn’t a big fan of the survival and roguelike elements, though, they significantly influence the experience so it’s hard to say it can break out of being a more niche title. However, if you enjoy zombies, pop culture jokes, some exploration, and action you may be able to survive and have a great time on the Death Road to Canada.


Rogue Legacy [Cellar Door Games] - While it hasn’t aged particularly well, especially trying to follow such a strong title as Dead Cells which really took everything this game does and amped it up significantly, I very much appreciate Rogue Legacy’s vision and approach. While it may not have been the first roguelike by any means it’s the first title I personally remember showing me the potential for the genre and turning me into a fan. If you don’t have nostalgia for the title directly, or aren’t very curious about earlier roguelikes, you can pass this one up. However, if you’re a true roguelike fan you owe it to yourself to see an early pioneering title that should help you to understand how far the genre had come.


Salt And Sanctuary [Ska Studios] - All in all Salt and Sacrifice delivers what it set out to do admirably, and for myself the comparisons to the Souls series are a positive since they mostly overlap what I appreciate in roguelikes. If your expectation is a well-explained and story-rich adventure of some kind you’ll be sorely disappointed, though there are bits to observe and learn here and there the emphasis is most definitely on brutal and bloody combat. If that sounds like something up your alley it should give you a solid challenge to last you a little while, especially if you plan to experiment with the game’s varied classes.


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


The Magister [Nerdook Productions] - Pushing the boundaries to further enhance or make existing genres tends to be what indie titles do well, and The Magister definitely falls into that category for better or worse. When you define it as a “murder mystery RPG deckbuilder roguelike with tactical combat” it’s quite a mouthfull, but that would be accurate, and with so much going on it should be easier to understand the challenge of making it all work cohesively. Your first few runs will likely be rough as you come to terms with how things work. You’ll choose among a handful of candidates to play as each time, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that may or may not pay off or doom you in any given run depending. In many situations you’ll have the choice between a purely card-driven challenge using “tactical diplomacy” to calm the situation as a solution or to go for blood which pairs your deck with pretty tense tactical combat. Success and enjoyment, as is the case with many roguelikes, is about having the interest and endurance to weather early frustrations that will help you better understand how to succeed. If you stick it out there’s nothing quite like it out there and it’s a solid challenge, but if you frustrate more easily you’ll want to move on.



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!