Friday, February 11

Top 15 / Best Indie Simulation Games on Nintendo Switch

Last Updated: 2/11/22!

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

Suzerain [Torpor Games] - If you’ve ever pondered what it would be like to take control of the reigns of government, or perhaps that being in charge is all upside and basking in the adoration of your country, Suzerain is here to give you an education. After a pretty lengthy opening set of questions that help you establish your perspectives and the events that will help shape the leader you’ll be at the point your take control, you’ll be in charge and the challenges of being the one calling the shots is pretty immediately apparent. With limited resources and what could be fleeting support of your staff or people if you make unpopular decisions, the game does an effective job of keeping you feeling like you’re constantly being pulled in both directions. Will you favor the good of the people or the elite? Focus on short-term investments that can be measured as progress and provide more immediate dividends or in longer-term projects that could be more transformative? Armchair quarterbacking governmental leadership is much easier when you don’t need to concern yourself with both the intended and likely unintended consequences of your combined decisions but here you’ll get a taste of how difficult threading that needle effectively can be. Consistently well-written and quite replayable as you try to correct for mistakes you made in previous runs, Suzerain is an engaging and thought-provoking experience that illustrates the diverse challenges of being the person in charge.

King of Seas [3DClouds] - Whenever you embark on a journey while raising your Jolly Roger on the high seas, pretty well everyone out there is going to evaluate the experience against the genre-defining Sid Meier’s Pirates. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, and there’s no doubt that going back and playing that title now isn’t all that hot, but it set a crazy bar long ago and the fact is nobody has hit all of the things it did right since. Out of the gate King of Seas actually shows quite a bit of promise and captures the essence of fun seen in that classic title with solid ship-to-ship combat, plenty of incentive to explore, latitude in how you want to get your business done through trade or more violent means, and an amusing sense of humor. The problem is it doesn’t feel very ambitious to break too far beyond that, leaving it with a feeling of some potential unfulfilled. Throw in some general glitchiness and hitches from time to time and while it’s the most satisfying swashbuckler on the system, to be fair it doesn’t have much in the way of respectable competition either.

112 Operator [Jutsu Games] - Simulations can be a tricky business on consoles since they typically feature more complex controls better suited to the PC, but the ones that get it right are sometimes a real treat. While it won’t be a flavor everyone will love, 112 Operator fits this mold well, though part of its success has to do with the relatively simple controls you’ll quickly become accustomed to. With the means of control out of the way you’ll be able to enjoy a surprisingly intense game that, perhaps at a distance, seems simplistic or dull, but when you’re immersed in the moment can be heartwarming or tragic at times. Your work as an emergency switchboard operator will put you right in the thick of things, monitoring incident reports and dispatching the proper personnel to handle a variety of scenarios. Where the game truly shines is in the calls you take, which will put you right on the spot to make sometimes very difficult decisions on the fly… which can lead to happy successes or absolute tragedy. It’s the unexpected that can really make 112 Operator compelling, and I understand that as you play it more and more the novelty of certain calls may diminish, but I’ll absolutely admit that having someone on the other end of the line relying on me to help them through a very tough situation is unique and quite compelling indeed.

WRC 9 [KT Racing] - While simmy racing and I don’t often get along I can at least appreciate titles that are meant to appeal to folks looking for a tougher challenge. In the past the WRC series has always felt to me like it was on the edge of having the entire package put together but this iteration seems to have really found the right balance quality in all of its aspects to be worthy of attention. Rally racing here will be a challenge to get used to as you’re not just dealing with windy and usually narrow tracks that have no shoulder, but then throwing in weather and surface type considerations as well. Getting the feel of how to make optimum turns will take some investment and early on my tendency to oversteer was also hard to get over. Behind the racing there’s then an entire team management component as well, adding another layer to the experience as you’ll need to be savvy about your personnel in the hopes of making your life progressively easier with new sponsors and refinements in your racing performance. Granted, there’s really no competition in this space right now but if you’re bored with the relatively simplicity of the platforms many more arcade-oriented racers WRC 9 has proven to be worthy of your time.

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

Pure Pool [VooFoo Studios] - While I’ve never been super serious about playing pool it is a sport I’ve enjoyed in quite a number of pool halls and friends’ homes over time. There have certainly been pool simulators that have come and gone over the years, but while there were some good ones I can’t say it ever quite felt like they properly captured the entirety of the experience for me. That changed with Pure Pool, as in just about every regard it has managed to pull me in. Whether it’s the crisp and detailed visuals, the accurate and tight controls, or the helpful but not too helpful visual assists for working out the angles of your shots I’m not sure how much more you could ask from a simulator for the sport. Then, going the extra mile beyond the mere mechanics of the experience on the table, there are a lot of new avenues that will force you to improve and broaden your game here beyond mere 8-ball, 9-ball, and snooker. Special challenges will force you to maximize your efficiency, carefully set up your next shot, and then execute as you try to do things like clear the table in a short amount of time. Throw in support for taking on challengers locally or online with cross-platform support and billiard fans should have a great opportunity here to bring the pool hall experience home with them or anywhere they go.

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw [Double Damage Games] - 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.

Fuze4 [FUZE Technologies] - Have you ever wondered how games are developed and what it takes behind the scenes mechanically to make it happen? Have an interest in learning how to code with the motivation being to make your first game? If so, this will be of interest to you. Sporting a library of assets, tutorials walking you from baby steps to more advanced concepts, a variety of examples that you can tinker with to see how things are done, and full keyboard support (thank god), FUZE4 is a lot to take in. There’s a great deal of opportunity at your fingertips if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, and unlike books or online courses that have you learn in a vacuum the advantage here is the ability to more immediately appreciate the fruits of your labor.

Megaquarium [Auroch Digital] - Simulation/building games have always been a genre I think of the PC for in general, and indeed many have their roots there. While they can be ported over to consoles, more often than not the PC-based core tends to be very noticeable and a mix of clunky menus and controls hamper the experience with a controller. Megaquarium exhibits practially none of those issues, is both intuitive and controller-friendly as a whole, and if you’ve been itching to get your build on it may be just what you’ve been looking for. The goal is to take on an aquarium that’s either new or in need of help, get your tanks and gear to support them set up, manage the aquatic and vegetative life in each, and then oversee the expansion and maintenance of it all to keep it growing and thriving. While perhaps lacking in the extra thrill you can get from something like Rollercoaster Tycoon this is still a very competent and rewarding sim, and it scratches an itch I’ve had on the system for a while now nicely.

RiMS Racing [RaceWard Studio] - Oh, the challenges of being a racing fan on the Switch. While there have been some pretty solid titles over the years it’s definitely one of the genres with pretty thin overall representation and variety on the system. Bearing in mind some reasonably-good recent arcade-style racers RiMS Racing is a title in a completely different direction, going for a pretty hardcore simulation style that is about far more than just the action on the track… and whose overall difficulty level on it won’t be for the patience challenged. You won’t just be doing the normal team and equipment management, there’s a really hands-on aspect to the maintenance of your ride, having you actively participate in a mini-game-like way breaking down or assembling your bike components and even jumping into the role of a member of your own pit crew. It’s a big swing sort of move that I’d imagine people will either love or hate but I respect the choice that’s been made to run with the simulation angle at full speed with no hesitation. If you’re on board with the heavy management and participatory elements the only other warning is that the racing controls can be very fussy, in particular with the lack of analog triggers for acceleration and braking making for a challenge in feathering them both to avoid throwing yourself off your bike. If you’ve grown bored of arcade racers this moves as far in the other direction as you could ask. It may not be as accessible as perhaps would have been wise, smoothing out its rougher edges, but it’s unapologetically committed to doing things its own way.

SnowRunner [Saber Interactive] - Realistic all-terrain driving games are an odd breed that has emerged in popularity in more recent years, and to date hasn’t been represented too well on the Switch. They can be hard to get used to at first as your enemy isn’t another driver or often even the clock, instead the focus is on simply overcoming the elements and a variety of horrible driving conditions to break through and deliver your loads. There’s no doubt that the controls in SnowRunner aren’t perfect, for instance trying to figure out how to turn on the headlights was an odd challenge until finally the game prompted me on how to use them after I’d been struggling in the dark for quite some time. I wouldn’t say this is a mainstream sort of experience by any means, but recognizing that it’s a legitimate form of play in the genre a chunk of the public appreciates, it would be a shame to dismiss this pretty challenging and engaging driving title that will reward people who stick with its often slow pacing.

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

Speaking Simulator [Affable Games] - This is one of those titles that is likely to divide people firmly between the lovers and the haters, without a whole lot in between. As the game’s name implies the focus of the majority of the gameplay is in manipulating the mouth of your character, a robot, in order to get it to not just speak but also exhibit some other characteristics within your interactions that would make you seem human. The humor ensues as you go through a number of social situations where you’re trying your best to remain composed as you struggle to get your words out and eventually begin to show visible signs of wear and tear. The question will be whether the novelty of the experience can keep its grip on you as more elements slowly get added, making your undertaking increasingly challenging or hopeless depending on how you see it. It’s a tricky balancing act and it will likely vary from person to person where the needle moves, whether in the direction of frustrating or quirky and entertaining.

Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town [Marvelous Inc] - When you’re making a new iteration of a revered and classic series I don’t doubt the greatest concern lies in how great a risk you’re willing to take in changing things. The wider the audience and probably the more casual the series happens to be the higher the stakes are if you make some tweak that doesn’t end up working out. I think Animal Crossing: New Horizons demonstrates where generally keeping things the same, but then making a few key changes for the better, both plays it safe and innovates effectively. Story of Seasons, on the other hand, feels like it chose the easier and “safer” path. Generally serving up precisely what its fans expect, complete with a great (and cute) visual overhaul, Friends of Mineral Town is undoubtedly a terrific farm/cultivation RPG… but there’s no mistaking that the experience is also extremely familiar, perhaps to the point of detriment depending on your tastes. You’ll be able to farm, fish, mine, explore, attend special events, and develop relationships with your fellow townsfolk… but aside from the obvious improvement in visuals the game also feels a bit stuck in a time warp. Fans of the series, and even converts from other titles like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, will likely find plenty to enjoy here if you’re looking for the repetition and relaxing pace of the farming sim life. Just where I think the aforementioned games generally feel a bit more modern and refined this feels incredibly safe, for better or worse.

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!

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