Wednesday, October 28

Top 20 Indie Racing / Flying Games on Nintendo Switch


Given that both the racing and flying genres on the Nintendo Switch haven't been the best represented it seemed like a good idea to make a list that puts them together to improve the chances that these top-tier titles will get the attention they deserve.

Horizon Chase Turbo - Oh, to go back to the arcades, hearing the sound of quarters being dispensed from the bill changer, and diving into some classic gaming fun. Horizon Chase Turbo is a love letter to arcade racing greats like OutRun (a personal favorite) but it delivers so much more than that. With its smart pick-ups on the tracks, some great hidden unlocked cars, and more content than I ever would have imagined it's not a nostalgia cash-in, it's a celebration of classic arcade racing that will have you entertained and challenged for many hours if you want to find it all. One of my Top 10 Indie Games of 2018, this is a retro racing gem!


Everspace: Stellar Edition - As a massive fan of the classic Wing Commander series this is a title that easily caught my eye while it was on PC. There's absolutely no doubt that it nails the space combat aspect very well, offering up variability with its roguelike structure, multiple ships you can experiment with and a variety of weapons as well. While it doesn't quite have something akin to the space opera I always enjoyed it absolutely delivers with its solid and challenging gameplay.


Hotshot Racing - With its low-poly look coming straight out of classic Sega arcade titles like Daytona Racing we have Hotshot Racing, and while it may not have incredible depth or nuance damn if it isn’t a whole lotta fun. There’s nothing too complicated, you’ll choose from an assortment of international racers who each have their own flair (I love my boy Viktor), choose which of their cars you prefer, which each are tuned a little differently for variety, and hit the tracks. This is full-on arcade racing, with plenty of bumping and jockeying for position to put your opponents into the wall on turns and then conserving your boost to be sure you can fly across the finish line. The boost-building mechanic, which has you either power-sliding around turns or drafting your opponents who are ahead of you puts just enough technique in the picture to make you work for it and provides a little room for skill and strategy as well. For kicks aside from the main championships the Arcade one-off races can be switched to a cops and robbers mode as well as elimination, helping to provide some variety as well. It’s an absolutely outstanding old-school, fun, and great-looking arcade racer.


Rebel Galaxy Outlaw - As an old school fan of the Wing Commander series I’m always excited to take on any new space sim promising dogfights, exploration, and excitement. Typically new attempts at the genre have a tendency to be incomplete in some way, lacking in their combat, coming up short in terms of an overarching story, or just not putting together all of the pieces in a thoroughly satisfying way. While not without its faults in a few areas I’d say anyone looking for that nostalgic sort of experience with Wing Commander vibes (well, specifically Privateer), or simply someone who enjoys a well-made space sim with RPG-like elements and some actual story will likely dig the hell out of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. Starting out from extremely humble beginnings, flying what essentially looks like a space garbage truck, you’ll take on missions that offer some variety from hauling cargo to clearing out bogeys to perhaps going on the shadier side of the law. What you choose will carry some consequences in terms of where you’ll be able to fly or land so don’t take that decision lightly. One of the game’s downsides is that it can get to be a grind, working simpler missions to buy new ships or gear, and that can make for some repetition. Don’t worry, if you try to tackle anything outside of what you’re capable of the game will quickly and almost rudely tell you so as you’ll get blown to bits. Combat can be intense, but I think the left shoulder button which essentially allows you to let your ship fly itself to pursue a target is the key to it all remaining fun. You’ll often be taking on numerous enemies at once, so letting the ship keep pace while periodically dodging and fine-tuning your aiming to maximize damage is more practical than trying to do it all yourself. Feel free to try to do it all yourself but pretty quickly I found its use invaluable to staying alive. With a great deal of freedom, choice, and trouble to get into Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is probably the best overall package of a space sim on the system, delivering both rewarding combat and a story with characters that helps to knit everything together. 


Inertial Drift - While some people prefer their racing to be a bit rough around the edges, banging around turns and defying any sense of realism, others prefer to go the other direction and focus on nuance. That’s certainly the case for the aptly-named Inertial Drift, which won’t give you the arcade-like thrills of bumping into your competitors (when you do race against a single opponent you don’t make contact with them, they’re always effectively ghosts), but instead focuses on skilled drifting, which offers great fun and challenge in its own right. The big differentiator here is that the right stick controls the angle of your drift, which is a brilliant idea, and really allows you to have fabulously-precise control of your car through turns, and as you get better your understanding of how best to turn versus drift continues to evolve. There’s no doubt the degree of challenge is also higher here, but if you find yourself struggling initially I’d very much recommend choosing a different racer and car. Every vehicle has its own associated technique with it in terms of how you approach turns, whether just letting off the throttle, braking, or whatever it may be. Each feels very distinct and I could see where different people could prefer each particular style of racer. To top it off the hand-drawn sort of art style looks pretty amazing, so if you prefer nuance to trading paint this may be the racer for you.


Riptide GP: Renegade - While it has far more in common with traditional racing games than my beloved Wave Race this mobile conversion looks great and is generally very satisfying on the Switch. It has a pretty solid variety in tracks that range from being very closed courses to a few that get into open water a bit and this helps keep it interesting. The alternative stunt mode may be a little hit or miss in some regards but the slalom mode is an excellent test of your water-based racing skills. Online play is included as well but for the price of admission I found the pretty challenging single-player mode to be pretty thoroughly satisfying.



War Tech Fighters - While there have been a few big robots battling in space games on Switch to date none of them have quite clicked for me. Though War Tech Fighters takes a little getting used to it’s the first that has put the overall package together in a way that’s compelling, if perhaps a bit repetitive. Strangely one of the elements that made me a believer is the use of the somewhat cinematic finishers that you can use to dispatch your enemies once their health is sufficiently low. You have a small boost to incentivize you doing them and thankfully the wealth of ways your mech will finish off enemies manages to make it fun, even if it ends up stilting the flow of gameplay. While it may lean more heavily on popcorn fun than some may prefer, a bevvy of upgrade options and a sense of flair help it to climb to the top of the genre heap on Switch.


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


Manticore: Galaxy on Fire - As a total package if you enjoy space combat there’s quite a lot to like about Manticore as long as you reign in expectations you may have from other series. It looks great, plays smoothly, and throws enough variety and surprises at you that it’s quite satisfying. However, if the goal is to try to take on the best in the genre there’s no questioning it has room to improve. I look forward to seeing more of the series and hope they continue to flesh out more ambitious missions against even larger-scale targets (rather than just flying around them for the most part) and make the pilots on your wing more dynamic, interesting, and even varied.


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


Skies of Fury DX - While we'll overlook the fact that for the most part it utterly ignores gravity as you loop through the air, Skies of Fury DX is an excellent and often exciting dogfighting game. Playable in pretty quick bursts, with each mission only taking a few minutes in general, it is well suited to picking up for a few minutes and then putting back down. New planes and loads of different cosmetic unlocks continue to keep things fresh and fun throughout.


Pilot Sports - Fans of the classic PilotWings have no doubt been upset that Nintendo really hasn't returned to the series now in quite some time. While Pilot Sports doesn't quite have the polish of those titles it does do an excellent job of delivering many of the same sorts of core gameplay experiences it's famous for. Flying a plane, working with a tricky jetpack, and a few other experiences are represented here in a way that's fun but can also get to be quite challenging as you progress.


The Next Penelope - As a whole The Next Penelope looks like a racer but plays out in a way that blends in elements of adventure and relies on strategy in a variety of ways. If you’re struggling in a particular level the issue will usually revolve around over-use of your powers and running too low on energy so judicious use of both should always be on your mind. While it may not be an experience for everyone if you’ve been looking for something different to throw several hours of unexpected challenges at you The Next Penelope delivers.


Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers - Anyone who had a NES back in the day should probably remember RC Pro-Am and the great racing it offered up. While not completely the same by any means Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers is probably the only game I've played since those days to give me that vibe. While it likely won't take you long to get through all of its circuits and the Party modes are cute but not terribly deep the somewhat unusual control style it uses works like a charm and it can be fun to unlock new vehicles while it lasts. 


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


Snowboarding: The Next Phase - For the price the level of polish on this title is impressive and if you set your expectations within its limits it’s a pretty strong experience with quite a lot of content. Unfortunately, if you’ve got nostalgia for the more complete titles of years past this likely will only tease you with glimpses of those experiences but never really reaching those heights from a lack of ambition. I hope to see a new title in this series return that tackles those challenges. Pretty well all the pieces are there, they just need to now be taken to the next level.


Redout - Redout is a pretty impressive racing experience that does a great job of conveying speed. Depending on your tastes, what is sacrificed to maintain that feeling of screaming down the track will lead to very different impressions. Without the color-coded boosting of Fast RMX or the consistent combat of GRIP Redout stands on its own as the most pure racer of the bunch, just understand that even though there’s a fair amount of content and plenty of tracks none of it will matter if the game doesn’t fulfill what it is you’re looking for in your racing title.


Zombie Driver - It can be a bit of a challenge to rate games that have simply been around for a while when they arrive on Switch. Even for a title I’m familiar with, like Zombie Driver, that I enjoy since the magic of initial discovery is pretty far back in the rear view mirror it’s hard to get in touch with that old excitement. That said, within a few missions, hitting the streets in a classic top-down fashion, running over zombies, picking up power-ups, and blowing things to bits it’s pretty easy to get back into the groove. This isn’t a very complex or deep game by any means, it’s an arcade-y celebration of mindless violence, blowing stuff up, and power-sliding through hordes of undead walkers. If you are mindful of its limits and don’t waste time focusing on the fact that it shows its age in a few different ways it’s a budget-friendly means to letting off some steam with some fun.


Bow to Blood: Last Captain Standing - More than anything else the positive of Bow to Blood is that it’s thoroughly unique, offering up an experience I can’t say I’ve ever had. The mix of controlling the ship, managing your crew, engaging in some combat, and then trying to plot to get as far in the competition as possible will keep you on your toes, though after awhile the missions will begin to blend together a bit in you mind as they don’t tend to play out that radically differently. If you’ve been aching for something that’ll offer a new challenge and a dose of negotiative intrigue it’s worth a look and should satisfy at least for a little while.


Rise: Race to the Future - Since there’s a general lack of racing games on Switch, in particular those that aren’t cart racers of some kind, it’s always good to see another option available. With its very attractive and polished looks Rise gets quite a bit right, pulling you in with its visuals while also including some solid track variety to keep things more interesting. Unfortunately, without any elements of combat on one side or a greater degree of nuance as a technical racer on the other, after a while the excitement starts to wane which leaves the game somewhat in the middle of the overall pack, certainly not without merit but feeling a bit too vanilla to make it a must buy. 



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!