Friday, February 18

Top 50 / Best Indie Strategy Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 2/18/22!

Grindstone [Capy Games] - There’s nothing I like more than a surprise game that shows up, slaps you around a bit, and leaves you thirsting for more. With its pretty wacky (and seriously violent) cartoon-like style, smart mix of puzzling and strategy, and a terrific surprise specifically in the form of Daily Challenges that will ensure I keep coming back for more, Grindstone absolutely delivers the goods. If you’ve played a variety of puzzle titles before the base mechanic will be familiar, your typical goal is to try to chain as many enemies of the same color as possible. Past that though I can’t say I’ve played anything like this since Grindstones that are dropped for high enough combos then allow you to change to a new color in the same chain, leading to even bigger combos. Now add in a touch of temptation with chests that will coax you into lingering on a board longer to unlock a new blueprint for usable gear, special monsters that will demand you consider how to take them off the board, and even some wild boss battles and the 200+ levels will give you plenty to think about. The cherry on top is the Daily Greed Challenge though, which will challenge you to a sequence of tough levels, providing you with options for perks at each step and truly pushing your strategy and sense of daring to the max if you want to be competitive on the leaderboards. It’s rare that puzzle games are a treat from top to bottom, and add in that it is drenched in great cartoon carnage and Grindstone is a game you’ve got to at least give a moment to check out.


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.


SteamWorld Heist [Image & Form] - With multiple skill levels available SteamWorld Heist is a game that anyone, from a tactical strategy newbie to a grizzled veteran, should be able to enjoy. Well-designed, looking fabulous on Switch, and thoroughly engaging it offers a rewarding combination of careful planning and then execution in aiming that I can’t get enough of. Pulling off a tricky ricochet shot from across the room is such a rush, just remember that when you inadvertently end up blowing up a crewmate a little later because you didn’t plan it out well. While battles can be aggravating at times the great news is that every time you try placements and layouts will tend to vary either a little or a lot so you may have just had a bad break. If you haven’t yet checked out SteamWorld Heist you owe it to yourself to give it a shot, it is unquestionably one of the best games on the Switch.


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.


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


Loop Hero [Four Quarters] - The thing I tend to love most about indie titles is their ability to surprise with remixes of gameplay elements you’ve never seen before. Sure, it can be risky business, and potentially crash and burn, but without such experiments we’d never see original titles like Loop Hero. Part RPG, part strategy, and part roguelike you won’t have an active role in the combat taking place as your hero makes their way around the ever-evolving pathway of the title. That said, you absolutely will be responsible for their success (or lack thereof) through the careful management of their inventory, the town you’ll slowly build to help support them, and shrewd placement of various tiles along the path that can both help and certainly hinder their chances for survival. The trick is that without carefully consulting a guide (which, in this case, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend) how best to approach these placements is a bit of a mystery, and for the best results will require some experimentation and perhaps some luck as well. For people who enjoy a challenge there’s simply nothing else like this on the system, and while it lacks the satisfaction you’d have if you were actively involved in combat there’s a great element of suspense every time you decide to extend your current run just a little longer, hoping your battered hero can weather the storm and bring back even more loot. It’s unusual, inventive, and absolutely worth checking out.


Lost in Random [Zoink] - Full disclosure, up front I’ll admit that I’ve always tended to be fond of games from the Zoink crew, in particular finding their off-beat sense of humor to be great fun. In the case of Lost in Random I really think they’ve stepped it up though. Taking on an ambitious visual design that borders on being Burton-esque in many ways and mixing it with a terrifically dark and distinctive story would already have made me quite happy. However, what really won my heart was the game’s fabulous melding of strategic deck-building and brawling action, resulting in an overall feel of combat that I found utterly unique and that I can only hope to see occur in even more games down the road. I’ll admit that my enthusiasm for those battles, getting to test out my carefully-selected combination of cards, tended to make the more story-driven adventure beats in between feel a bit more bland in comparison, but that’s also where the developer’s trademark humor and quirky characters tended to help keep me happy even as I lusted for more combat. Undeniably distinctive, even if not always perfect, this felt like a perfect compliment to the coming holiday season with its darker tone, and I’d hope that even people who have come to dread seeing the term “deck-builder” would see how its pairing with consistent action makes all the difference.


Signs of the Sojourner [Echodog Games] - There’s just something about this game that feels so brilliant and yet there’s also something unassuming about its nature that makes me worry people will skip over it without a thought… and that would be a shame. Mixing diverse and pretty interesting characters, a story that slowly plays itself out and likely would take multiple playthroughs to completely appreciate, and a brilliant take on deck building strategy used as a representation of human interaction it’s absolutely unique. Starting out from your hometown, choosing to either follow a trade caravan or venture out on your own in search of goods for a store you’ve inherited, you’ll encounter all manner of people in different areas who, at first, you may struggle to be on the same page with. Your conversation is either successful or a failure based on the strength of your limited deck, but even if you struggle early on with each conversation you’re able to inherit one card played by your partner but you’ll have to sacrifice one of your own in the process. As you progress it really all gets to be about the added attributes some cards can carry that are critical, sometimes allowing you to survive a tough conversation with someone you aren’t necessarily vibing with… but there’s just something about the entire construction of the game, its mechanics, and its story that are fascinating and kept me wanting to visit “just one more town” and make it easy to recommend.


Kingdom Rush [Armor Games] - While one of the sequels in the series has already been released on the system (Frontiers), the OG Kingdom Rush has now arrived on the Switch. For the uninitiated, this is really what I’d consider to be one of the best examples of great games to emerge from mobile platforms, pretty well defining how to make an engaging tower defense game that’s smart, challenging, and even throws in some humor. The stages are generally well-designed, the enemy units you’ll face are varied, and you’ll be pushed to develop strategies to address specific units and bosses that will show up on some levels, forcing you to often abandon your well-worn default plans or at least play enough to upgrade those tower types so they’ll be more effective. While I’d still consider touchscreen play to be your best bet, the console controls in docked mode are still generally effective, just when things get tense you may struggle to highlight the proper spot at times. For the budget price this game delivers a truckload of great content that’s battle-worn and has been refined over time, making it an easy choice for strategy fans if you’ve not already picked it up on other platforms already.


Kingdom: Two Crowns [Noio] - Since I was already a pretty big fan of the first installment of the Kingdom series (New Lands) that arrived on the system I suppose it’s not a great surprise I’m an even bigger fan of its more refined and content-laden follow-up. I somehow missed it when it arrived on the eShop but now with the release of the free Dead Lands DLC I’ve finally gotten the chance to see how much the title has grown while retaining pretty well everything I appreciated about the original. This remains a very subdued, at times a bit slow, but also somewhat tranquil and often outright beautiful title filled with discovery, experimentation, and a fair amount of failure as you try to maintain a critical balance of your human and monetary resources, as always trying to expand, build, and survive in what can often be a hostile world. All of the different flavors you can choose from, each with not only their own art style but also variety in what you’ll encounter and need to work out how to utilize properly for success, really take the core gameplay that was already solid and satisfying to a new level. If you enjoy slow burn strategy where you’ll need to work out how best to proceed without much direction this should absolutely be your jam.


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.


Timelie [Urnique Studio] - While time manipulation puzzling has been done before in the indie space, there’s an element of visual polish and flair that helps Timelie stand out nicely. There is a bit of a learning curve at times, as you’ll need to experiment with different methods and taking risks to proceed, but for the most part the game’s stages are designed well so they’ll sort of force your hand in trying different tactics since those you’ve used to that point won’t work any longer. It’s a solid puzzle experience that feels fresh, doesn’t overstay its welcome or get too incredibly onerous to complete, and often leaves you feeling satisfied after you’ve plotted out your perfectly-planned path and then get to watch it executed, sending you on to the next stage.


Sentinels of Freedom [Underbite Games] - While the Switch has been enjoying a fair selection of quality turn-based strategy games more recently, there’s nothing out there quite like Sentinels of Freedom. Most obviously the fact that it involves you controlling a group of superheroes who are determined to defeat evildoers big and small is thematically different, but the fact that you’re able to construct your own custom hero in terms of aesthetics and powers really ups the ante and stands apart from most of the competition in the space. Now, I may have a weakness for the title since it makes me nostalgic for a very similar game from years ago on PC called Freedom Force, but I think the effort here is sufficient that this game can stand proudly on its own merits, something that doesn’t always happen. What makes it fun is the comic book style of art, some of the silliness that comes along with the heroes versus villains cheesy dialogue, and the variety offered by how you construct your hero. With experimentation comes an element of the unexpected, and I don’t doubt that some combinations will work better than others, but being able to put your own stamp on a hero for me is a great creative touch that easily got me invested. In terms of downsides I’d say the typical mission can be a bit overlong, with the game simply throwing waves of enemies at you at times, paired with the fact that sometimes the specifics of what you need to do aren’t maybe as clear as they should be. Still, even with its faults there’s an energy and spirit to the game I appreciate and if you’re patient with its shortcomings there’s a lot of fun to be had with it.


Through the Darkest of Times [Paintbucket Games] - While games are a great vehicle for departing from reality and enjoying an escape they’ve increasingly been used as a means to put players in sometimes uncomfortable situations in order to convey ideas and foster greater understanding. Through the Darkest of Times does just that, putting you in the position of leading a group of rebels during the rise of Nazi Germany, challenging you to handle both the minutia of everyday tasks but then also often making the tougher calls involving who you choose to trust and what courses you may choose to pursue, and they often can have grave consequences. The difficulty is that as you play you’ll learn that simply trying to avoid risk won’t tend to be sustainable as you’ll lose the morale of your team and the safety net of your supporters, this means that caution always needs to be balanced by a degree of aggression, though choosing your battles and areas of focus is always worthwhile. In particular each member of your team has their own background, strengths, and weaknesses, and as you get into tougher situations you’ll need to be mindful of who you’re sending where in order to maximize your results. Of course all of the missions are interspersed with personal stories from your team members as well as encounters you’ll have yourself that will challenge your morality and whether you may need to endure one bad outcome in the name of preserving your overall mission. It’s a very unique experience and one that will leave you to ponder life in that place in that time… and hopefully provide perspective on how things have changed as well as how some remain disturbingly the same.


Cardpocalypse [Gambrinous] - While deck building and battling games were never something I got into physically, I’ll admit that in the digital space they’ve managed to get me pretty hooked. While we’re still somehow waiting on the well-known Hearthstone to make its way to Switch (I hope), with smart titles like Cardpocalypse available it hasn’t been too painful to wait. What makes the title notable is the schoolyard RPG aspect of it, where you’ll play the new kid in town trying to make friends and build a solid deck along the way. If you’re just looking to get down to business you’ll have the option to do that as well to a degree, but the joy here is in navigating Jess through the travails of Elementary School clique politics with some smart deck building and opportunities for customization along the way.


Hard West [CreativeForge Games] - All things considered, for the price Hard West is a surprisingly competent tactical turn-based shooter than gets more right than it gets wrong. It somehow manages to channel many elements of the X-Com formula for combat properly while also setting itself apart with new ideas of its own. While I wish its overall story were more cohesive and would allow for greater carried consequences for choices you make along the way, the degree to which you feel like your choices can matter is still appreciated. If you’ve been frustrated with the somewhat lacking quality of the other indie titles on Switch in this genre to date, rest assured that Hard West is currently the best of the bunch by a fair margin.


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


Broken Lines [PortaPlay] - Let’s face it, while there have been quite a few titles out there that have decided to try to take on the likes of X-Com and its well-regarded tactical strategy combat, none have really come close. Either wisely looking to sidestep the issues others have had, or simply wanting to innovate and come up with something similar but unique, the developers behind Broken Lines use tactics in a similar way but with the action playing out more dynamically once you’ve set it up. Now, this made the tutorial a little rough around the edges at first (at least for me) as understanding how movement and actions are managed, as well as mechanically how you need to specify them as you intend requires some orientation. Once it clicked though I was really impressed with the result. While it may not be perfect, your units each have different roles and appropriate skills to match. You’ll need to learn how to use them each effectively and appropriately, moving carefully to be sure the right people are in the right places once you’ve made visual contact with the enemy. The end product is refreshing and new, generally feels fair, and makes combat feel quite dynamic. If you’ve been disappointed by the lack of X-Com on Switch and that to date no indie titles have really come close to the mark it has set you should give Broken Lines a look. It goes in a new direction, but in general it feels like a good one, and I’d love to see it explored further in the future.


Curious Expedition [Maschinen-Mensch] - If you were to try to give The Curious Expedition an elevator pitch it would best be described as the love child of classic Civilization and The Oregon Trail in my mind. Your goal is to choose a figure from history, understanding their various perks and weaknesses, and set out on an adventure in search of fortune and glory, but understanding that inevitably bad things are likely to happen as well. In terms of presentation it definitely shows its age, and that may put some people off, but if you put that aside and come to understand things like the game’s unusual approach to combat (you’ll need to hit the tutorial or you may be very confused jumping right in) its charms can sneak up on you. Considering there’s nothing quite like it on the Switch, this budget-friendly exploration title offers plenty of surprises and occasional silliness, testing your strategic decision-making and, no doubt, your luck.


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.


Faeria [Abrakam SA] - Truth be told only recently have I been able to play deck-building games of any kind that I’ve found interesting. Usually the inclusion of roguelike elements is what hooks me but as some other strategy card games have come along they’ve begun deviating more and more from the traditional mold and that has made them more interesting. Faeria falls into that “more interesting” category for me by throwing an element of strategy into the mix with land management that adds a layer of complexity to the more traditional aspects of these card battlers. Now you can not only defeat your enemies through sheer force with a better deck (or perhaps some luck), you can outmaneuver them by controlling energy points and with some patience and planning even dodge or divide some of their defensive resources, leaving their hero vulnerable. My main complaint is that the console controls take some getting used to, and though they do ultimately make sense I do think they could have been handled more thoughtfully or at least initially explained better since the right trigger use in particular threw me off initially a few times. If you’re a deck building fan or just appreciate smartly-designed strategy games Faeria is absolutely worth a look and rises above the norm with some new ideas that really add depth to play.


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.


Space Crew [Runner Duck] - When it comes to strategy games we’re finally to the point where the Switch has a fair amount of diversity. One of the more unusual entries in the genre was Bomber Crew, a strategic simulation where you’d take control of a flight crew on a bomber, trying to manage your people as well as the plane to successfully fly missions through what were usually quite hostile situations. Space Crew is the sequel to that outing and the move to the final frontier not only benefits the challenge and excitement with new aesthetics, it also brings quite a lot of variety to the missions and threats you’ll need to contend with… resulting in far more surprises and overall depth in the process. Probably the game’s biggest weakness is in the control scheme, which is admirably mapped to the controller (still sadly no touchscreen support) rather than a mouse and keyboard, but has a learning curve to it and when things get hectic. This can unfortunately add to the chaos as you try to move your crew around and keep your ship from being blown to bits, but carefully slowing the action down and trying to take a breath can help you keep it together. Since it deviates significantly from the rest of the strategy pack on the console and offers up plenty of customization options both in your gear and in aesthetics if you’re so inclined it makes for a compelling challenge if you’ve tired of X-Com clones.


Tower of Time [Event Horizon Software] - Genre-blending is one of the things I appreciate most in the indie space, at least when it is well-executed. In the RPG space there have been multiple takes on turn-based tactical action, many with traditional strictly-defined grid and some allowing for more freeform movement around the field. I’m not sure any have set themselves up quite like Tower of Time though, taking on more of a straight-up RTS feel in many ways. If you’re a strategy fan this will likely be a huge win, and an opportunity to enjoy a better story and general structure than you’d normally get. If you’re an RPG fan hopefully you’ll like taking combat elements that can often feel stale and overdone and replace them with something that should provide a new challenge. Throw in some well-defined characters, ample rewards for taking the time to wander around an explore, and some challenging battles as you try to optimize your skills against varied foes, and it is a package with its own distinct flavor, trying to set itself apart from its competition… and finding success for better or worse depending on how traditional your tastes may be.


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


Little Town Hero [Game Freak] - When you’re a game studio responsible for what may be arguably one of the biggest and most successful franchises in the world it must be challenging to break away and do something very different. They’ve proven themselves in the past by making some smaller titles like the excellent HarmoKnight in particular, and in the case of Little Town Hero they’ve again plotted out a pretty unique direction and made something worthwhile. The emphasis in the game is on strategic turn-based combat against some pretty intimidating monsters who mean to do your town and friends harm. The hook is that while elements of the battle system may feel familiar and similar to concepts in some tactical RPGs or even deck-building games there’s nothing I’ve ever played quite like this. Getting up to speed with this takes time, as do the battles themselves which tend to be a pretty drawn out affair, but the result tends to be quite rewarding if you have patience and the right mind for it. Layer in a pretty light-hearted story with fun characters, a great art style, and plenty of charming polish and this is absolutely a unique title that stands out on its own and should be rewarding for the right audience.


OTTTD [SMG Studio] - Tower defense titles are extremely common in the mobile space (for good reason, they’re well-suited to touchscreen controls), and have found success, but can sometimes be lacking on the more dedicated Switch. OTTTD, or Over-the-Top Tower Defense, is an aptly named title that tries to use a little personality, multiple controllable units, and more varied strategic choices than usual in order to get some attention. Where many more generic titles in the genre fall flat and feel predictable, OTTTD likes to throw periodic surprises at you and ends up being pretty entertaining in the process.


Space War Arena [Playchemy] - While overall Space War Arena is only a middle of the road strategic challenge, it fits into the Switch lineup pretty nicely without too many competitors in the same semi-casual space. Well-suited to playing on the go or in docked, and managing to do a fair job of balancing being accessible while still satisfying genre fans it sits in a nice sweet spot where either could likely get some enjoyment out of it. Managing to counter your enemy, turn the tide, and squeak out a tight win is always a thrill, and helps make the game suitable for just about anyone.


When Ski Lifts Go Wrong [Huge Calf Studios] - While the system has a number of bridge building physics games, this one takes that general premise and does some new things with it. The most obvious difference is in the structures you’ll build, replacing the roadway with chair lifts, gondolas, and ski jumps. To further add to the fun there are scenarios where you’ll get a small degree of control over your specific target skier, working to nail tough jumps and to grab bonus coins. While it’s not perfect it’s also a welcome aggressive attempt to get the genre moving in newer and more creative directions.


X-Morph: Defense [EXOR Studios] - I’m really impressed by everything the folks behind this game have put together. The campaign is challenging and at a satisfying length, and if you really want more there’s already additional DLC content available as well. The mix of strategy and action it offers is pretty unique and in general the presentation of the destruction and carnage really helps make it all exciting. You’ll need to make some tough choices at times, and if you get too distracted by the action your defenses can really fall apart, but that all adds to the challenge and fun. If you’ve ever had any affection for tower defense games you owe it to yourself to see this example of the genre being taken to a new and more exciting level.


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.


Ironcast [Dreadbit] - Somewhat picking up the mantle from the popular Puzzle Quest series, Ironcast constructed a very compelling, though unlikely, combination of Victorian era England, steampunk mechs, roguelike elements, and strategic gem matching. Through the campaign you’ll be challenged to manage your various systems to keep your mech operational while you try to pinpoint the weaknesses of your opponents to take them down. A great mix of genres made this something worth checking out.


Kingdom: New Lands [Noio] - This is a game that’s very hard to categorize but Strategy seems to be the best banner to put Kingdom under. Starting out as a king (or queen) with no Kingdom to speak of you’ll need to explore your lands on horseback to find gold to help you enlist commoners to your cause. You’ll need to try to construct some basic defenses pretty quickly because when the night comes so do monsters that will relentlessly attack until daybreak. It is a challenge to manage growth, money, and your people to shore up a safe base but then to seek out the ship on each island that you can then repair and use to move on to the next island, for an even steeper challenge. Creative, very different than anything I’ve played, and it made a great impression!


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.


Fort Triumph [Fort Triumph LTD] - Let’s be honest, though many games have attempted to capture some element of the X-Com style of tactical strategy combat, very few have done a decent job of it. What I like about Fort Triumph is that it borrows some great general features from that franchise but then adds in some new tweaks and smart abilities that are a bit different and fresh. This means you’ll at least need to change up some of your typical planning to take the best advantage of the opportunities they afford you. Though the view of the field tries to be helpful with a free camera there are situations where it can still be hard to see precisely what you want to, and it can lead to some unusual shots as well of the action as it unfolds. What may win or lose the day will be the fantasy setting and the more contemporary sense of humor to things, for some pulling it away from being stuffy and serious but for others it could perhaps be a bit grating. A solid effort with strategy appeal, but perhaps not groundbreaking either to pull in new people to the fold.


Jars [Mousetrap Games] - With a visual style somewhere between Tim Burton and the characters in Don’t Starve, there’s a timeliness to the creepy general vibes Jars gives off. While getting the hang of how best to make use of your limited resources for the most strategic benefit can take a few tries in some cases, this works out to be an odd and faster-paced variation on tower defense in many regards. In each scenario you’ll have items you’ll need to protect, and then vials you’ll need to break, which can contain your creatures and items you’ll use or various types of critters who’ll be trying to wreck the things you’re trying to protect. From stage to stage the degree of difficulty and intensity can vary a bit wildly, so you’ll need to be ready for anything, but with quick thinking and action you’ll always ultimately have the means to succeed at your disposal, you’ll just need to work quickly and effectively, and sometimes have a very sound plan ready to go. I will say that the interface for managing your critters and their perks, which is absolutely necessary for your success, can be a bit clunky with console controls, but aside from that and what your tastes are in challenges, this at least stands out as a very different flavor of strategy on multiple levels in the eShop and that alone may make it worth a glance for genre fans.


Ganbare! Super Strikers [rese] - This is one of those titles that I like to imagine back to its initial elevator pitch: “OK, so you really love sports, right, and soccer (or football, depending) is a worldwide phenomenon game. So you take soccer, and you combine it with turn-based tactical strategy like you may see in those X-Com games you love. Won’t that be awesome?” You know what, I have to admit it is weird but in many ways it really is unique and quite a bit of fun! You’ll set up your players in the formation you prefer, hit the pitch, and methodically move your players and ball around the field trying to score. You’ll have to keep an eye on your players stats, not relying on anyone too constantly so that when their chance comes they won’t falter in the numbers game play plays out for whether your player manages to evade their opponent or even control a tough pass someone made to them. As things move on you’ll then additionally concern yourself with equipment that can provide stat boosts but also can essentially give players special attacks and defensive moves as well, layering on even more variety and opportunities for smart management of resources. While this may not be a combination everyone will appreciate it’s a smart hybrid I wouldn’t have anticipated that works far better than I would have expected.


Turmoil [Gamious] - Games that were made for the mobile/tablet space coming over to Switch can often be a dicey proposition. Gameplay that works for touchscreens and often more casual players doesn’t always translate as well on dedicated gaming hardware. In the case of Turmoil, though, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, with it delivering a pretty smart strategy and resource management experience in a relatively humble package. You’ll take control of a tycoon-to-be, invest in a plot of land, and then work with the resources available to you to try to strike it rich. Finding the oil can be a challenge in itself sometimes, especially trying to do it efficiently and with an eye on cost effectiveness since drilling costs time and money… something you may overlook though if your initial wells have run dry. Not only do you need to focus on trying to keep your wells pumping, you’ll also want and need to keep an eye on the prices refineries are willing to pay, considering whether to store your oil and wait out better prices or deciding to take what you can in the event prices will continue to go down. There’s certainly some luck at play in your success in terms of how much oil is in any given plot but the real trick is in making the most of what you’re given. Overall, a smart and unique experience on the system.


Volta-X [GungHo] - One of the most challenging types of indie games I run across are the ones I really admire for being daring, combining styles of play in unanticipated ways, and being unapologetic in their approach… but it doesn’t quite all come together. That’s very much the case with Volta-X, which mixes giant robots, some real-time-ish strategy, team and relationship building, base and resource management… a veritable kitchen sink of concepts, but then pairs them with some interfaces and menus that make them more difficult to navigate and keep up with than it should be. You’ll need to pretty carefully work out how best to utilize your team, upgrade their skills, keep working on new parts for your robot, keep an eye during battles on which areas need help and which of your crew may be on their last legs, work out how they’re spending their time back at base, be sure to navigate through the story screens to be sure you’ve gotten rewards and all tips for missions… do you get the idea that the game is simply a lot? Yeah, it is, and that’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand it really tries to give you a lot of bang and depth for your buck, you can chart a crazy number of paths to success and do things pretty well your way… but all of that flexibility can make decisions a bit bewildering to begin with, and then when you regularly notice you had some opportunity buried in a screen you could have pursued or made use of a battle or two ago it can be frustrating. If you’re up to the challenge and are out to enjoy a pretty wild ride of light strategy and resource building mixed with some tropey story beats and giant robot battles it can be a great time, just you may need to be patient with it and excuse its warts in a number of places.


Holy Potatoes! We're In Space?! [Daylight Studios] - In the end I was a bit slow to warm up to the game’s charms but once I hit my stride I began to really have some fun with it. As strategy games go it is pretty light, but that also makes it quite approachable. I believe that having a plan and investing your money and resources wisely makes a difference but on the whole I’m also not positive you couldn’t do pretty well simply stumbling through things at many points as well. If you’re down for some silliness mixed into your casual strategy it’s a pretty good fit and it seems very reasonable for the asking price as well.


Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game [Fantasy Flight Games] - While deck building and card battling games have made their appearance on the Switch in a few different forms, none of them has been quite like this. A common approach is for these titles to go the “freemium” route with things like loot boxes, random drops, and incentives to invest some money to improve your chances. Instead, LotRACG opts for an up-front price where you’ll have access to everything and will be able to build your deck strategically as you progress rather than having to figure out how best to work with that new hot drop you got that doesn’t fit well into any of your decks. Of course, the other massive leg up this title has is the benefit of grounding in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, with characters, races, creatures, and stories both familiar and new. If the slow burn of deck building and strategy are in your wheelhouse you’ll want to give this title a look as it shows both polish and care, opening the door to plenty of challenging and rewarding play.


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.


The Shrouded Isle [Jongwoo Kim] - Ultimately the game is almost more of a puzzle to be solved with its strategies taking time to uncover and understand. There’s really no tutorial per se, you’re just thrown into the situations and will need to work out your path from there. Expect many early failures but as you observe and try out more strategies the game’s strategies will slowly become more apparent. A slow burn that may ultimately be repetitive but that throws new variations on you every time The Shrouded Isle should appeal to strategy fans who like a challenge and something that veers off from the norm.



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!