Wednesday, February 16

Top 20 / Best Indie Sports Games on Nintendo Switch

Last Updated: 2/16/22!

Super Mega Baseball 3 [Metalhead Software] - Getting right down to it there’s just something about the Super Mega Baseball series that taps into what love and nostalgia I have for baseball as a sport, particularly in video game form. While I could see where some sports fans could be irritated by the lack of MLB teams and players for me it takes me back to the days of playing games on the NES or in the arcade against friends, though obviously the degree of complexity on all levels has appropriately increased. What then seals the deal, and what impressed me so much about this title, is how scalable the experience is in terms of depth and difficulty. If you just want to just kick around in some exhibition games, great. A whole season? Sure. Manage a franchise including all of the trades, potentials for injury hardships, and customizing just about anything you can think of? Without the worries of a license it’s all available to you. Throw in the ego system which will allow you to tune the difficulty up or down incrementally as your skills grow and it can remain as easy or tough as you choose. The statement that this is the best baseball title without question on Switch may be easy for lack of any legitimate competition whatsoever but more than that it is one of the best baseball games I’ve ever played, period.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill [Megagon Industries] - If there was a major genre on Switch to argue may be the worst represented, whether AAA titles or indies, it could be sports. Given how much diversity that’s possible in the category this is a bit of a surprise but it’s where we find ourselves. When a genre title does then show up there can be a concern that fans on the platform are so starved for a new experience that they’ll jump on anything. In the case of Lonely Mountains: Downhill you shouldn’t have such a concern, at least depending on the type of experience you’re looking for. Part discovery and exploration, part precision, certainly part frustration, and I’ll gladly throw a bit of luck onto the pile as well, it’s an experience not quite like anything I’ve played before. Your goal is pretty simple at first, simply survive the tough ride from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Along that ride, though, you’ll see the hints of what’s in store for you as you then try to shave seconds off your time. You’ll swear you see what could be a trail off to the side, you’ll hit an intersection with a path coming from a completely different direction, or you’ll even see a spot you’re certain must be a jump. What follows is usually a grueling run or two where you’ll basically try to map out what’s possible, typically learning the hard way how not to execute certain sections as your rider plunges to a bloody (and often undoubtedly lethal) fall. No problem, you’ll pop right back to your last checkpoint and try again… and again. As a warning I’ve seen the game stutter at times as it scales in and out of the action, and there are angles where the brilliant tilt shift perspective look works against you with elements blocking your view from the foreground but the unique experience, the open-ended nature of how you tackle your run, and the sheer beauty of the different trails and mountains you’ll encounter make this an outstanding game like no other that’s absolutely worth a look if you don’t mind the challenge.

Rocket League [Psyonix] - As a game that I've already spent well over 2000 hours playing on the PC I'm thrilled that Nintendo fans finally have their opportunity to play this excellent title. While the concept of rocket-powered cars roughly playing soccer may seem ridiculous, once you get your first taste of airtime and scoring crazy goals or making last-second saves you may well get hooked as so many others have already. While getting started isn't too hard even hundreds of hours in there will always be new skills and tricks for you to master. While compromises on the visuals had to be made to get it on the console the focus on the buttery frame rate was the proper choice in priorities. If you've never given it a try it is well worth checking out.

Dodgeball Academia [Pocket Trap] - While I’ll admit that when you mention a game with the name “dodgeball” right in the title you already have my attention, bear in mind that doesn’t make me an easy guarantee for positive feelings about the result. In fact, I’ll admit to some trepidation with this “Dodgeball RPG” and whether it would manage to make both ends of the equation well, since so many titles that try to go non-traditional routes have a tendency to get one piece of the puzzle right but come up short on the other. I’m here to reassure you that Dodgeball Academia does no such thing. It plays great as an RPG, with a ton of great and unusual characters, a number of bad guys to deal with, and some crucial decisions when it comes to equipment and where you put your focus for your pretty limited character upgrades. At the same time it plays incredibly well, indeed blowing away my expectations, when it comes to the action-oriented dodgeball play. Who’d have thought, the gameplay isn’t just engaging and full of technique… it’s also damned hard at times and you’ll need to make clever use of the strengths of each member of your team and their powerful Balltimate abilities when the chips are down. While I don’t mind a great RPG every once in a while it has been a long time since I’ve been this genuinely excited to return to one every time I load it up.

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

A Little Golf Journey [Okidokico] - Part golf game, part puzzler, A Little Golf Journey is hard to put in a pre-defined box. Rather than being dominated with a sliding power gauge and then concerns like trying to get your hook or slice just right, the golf side of things is decidedly stripped down here. The focus, instead, being more on planning out your path to the hole, and perhaps taking up a special challenge along the way if you keep an eye out for opportunities. Of course, the fact that a bit of a clever narrative plays out as you progress just further adds flavor and just underlines the title’s distinctive charm. If you allow yourself to get bogged down by the lack of a traditional golfing feel, or perhaps the camera that isn’t always cooperative, it may lose some of its luster, but there’s no doubt this overall experience is the only one of its kind on the Switch… and that makes it worth a look.

Super Arcade Football [OutOfTheBit] - With the general lack of options for sporting experiences on the Switch, it’s always great to see a new contender enter the ring. In the case of Super Arcade Football, definitely with an emphasis on the word Arcade, people looking for depth will likely be disappointed, but if you’re just looking for a good time that keeps things simple (but still challenging) it can be surprisingly engaging. Forgoing the use of multiple buttons for different moves or actions here you’ll stick to one button for passing, shooting, and tackling… and once you get used to things you’ll find you’re able to put at least a little bit of a curve on the ball as well to at least introduce some nuance to things. Matches are short, changing weather conditions at times are a nice touch but don’t fundamentally mess with things too much, and starred objectives that change for each match add an element of challenge to the mix to keep everything from running together completely. Throw in the ability to play with someone else (locally, or online if you’re lucky) and though this isn’t a full-blown sim by any means it’s surprisingly engaging and delivers some fun for a budget price.

AO Tennis 2 [Big Ant Studios] - Let’s face it, when it comes to sports titles, let alone more serious sports sims, the Switch library is a bit of a wasteland. While tennis may not be the sport you’d have at the top of your list to see on the system AO Tennis 2, for some of its technical issues, delivers solid play matched with what are often broadcast-like presentation elements to give sports sim fans something to smile about. Weirdly one recommendation I’d have is to pretty well skip the training as I found it a bit clumsy and even aggravating as even though it puts you through the paces of how different shots and your shot gauge work it actively made me question whether the game was an over-complicated mess somehow. Once I abandoned the training and simply dove into match play my concerns quickly subsided though, as a grasp of general smart play and tactics on the court made it easy to understand how to at least get on the road to success. Some performance hitches and periodic missed shots tied to the timing that is demanded for some of your shots cropped up once in a while but on the whole I was more often impressed by the quality of the game than I was disappointed. With some small tweaks or a degree of understanding by the player, being willing to overlook some mild to moderate shortcomings, AO Tennis 2 is a well-implemented tennis sim that allows for technique but also feels like it was built to still be fun if you just want to get your lobs and backhands on.

Golf Zero [Colin Lane Games AB] - Who knew that a game that initially confused me quite a bit in terms of what you were supposed to be doing (it should probably be more clear in the initial stages how you should be playing) could end up making me a fan. This is absolutely one of the more unusual games I’ve played this year really mixing up a puzzle platformer with golf to make something completely new and different. You see, you’re able to make your shots while in the air, which you’ll absolutely need to do the majority of the time, and while you can’t control your shot strength (in the end, probably a blessing) time will slow when you initiate your shot, making your focus aiming one or more shots in the hopes of finding success. Where it really can get diabolical is when you then layer the objectives that need to be met for a gold medal into the mix, forcing you to go the extra mile and prove your skills further. If you’re easily frustrated this probably won’t be a good fit for you but as a lover of quirky games that take a big chance on swimming upstream I have to give credit where it is due, this is a smart and pretty challenging budget title that deserves some attention.

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.

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Pro Wrestling [Orgesta] - While I haven’t played a wrestling game in years, back in the day it was fun to throw down with some buddies for some arcade-style mat action. Boxy Pro Wrestling is a pretty big love letter to those days and that style of play, keeping things pretty simple but still offering up variety and a fun wrestler customization mode. The core button presses may be the same for every wrestler but what you execute can vary quite a bit. As you get further through the circuits you’ll unlock not only new core wrestlers to play with but also currency, aesthetic elements, and moves that will allow you to create a wrestler to work with that not only suits your sense of flair but your fighting style as well. While it isn’t terribly deep and may not be as much fun to play solo, if you’ve got some friends to play with locally or matchmaking remains viable for online play, this can be a pretty fun time for a reasonable price.

Super Tennis Blast [Unfinished Pixel] - All in all for a budget-friendly price Super Tennis Blast delivers a very solid traditional tennis experience with a bit of extra flavor thrown in to boot. While it obviously lacks the depth and complexity of the likes of Mario and his friends it implements the fundamentals very well and is obviously just a fraction of the price. If you and your family or friends have been looking for a multiplayer sports game to play against each other it’s definitely worth considering.

Instant Sports: Winter Games [Merge Games] - Multiplayer multi-event sports compilations will always tend to be hit or miss, especially when trying to find the sweet spot where gameplay is just nuanced enough for better gamers but can still be picked up by anyone. The Instant Sports series has been a bit all over the place with its collections, with some events working but others being pretty miserable, and some attempts at elements like an overworld you can explore have been interesting but not necessarily compelling. While skewing a bit towards easy and accessible and not every event is a hit, Winter Games does just enough right to be a reasonably-good pick for families, offering a choice of more precise button controls or more loose (but perhaps fun for some) motion controls as well. In particular the Alpine Skiing, SlopeStyle, Ski Jump, and IceCross do an admirable job of being approachable while leaving room for people who are more skilled to shine. That’s not to say that Bobsleigh, Curling, and Snowball Fight are bad, I’d just say each of those falls down for one reason or another in terms of consistent challenge. Granted, the number of mini games offered is dwarfed by AAA collections, but if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly for the family to enjoy together this shows some promise.

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.

Snowboarding: The Next Phase [Session Games Inc] - 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.

NBA 2K Playgrounds [Saber Interactive] - At the end of the day until someone decides to give reviving the NBA Jam franchise a shot once more NBA 2K Playgrounds is your best option for arcade-style basketball. Where last year this was still true I would have struggled to give that version a positive review. This year the core game has improved enough that the recommendation is easier to give, but just understand what you’re getting if you’re unwilling to pony up additional cash to get everything unlocked right away. With as many characters as there and the slow speed of the grind to accumulate currency the odds of you unlocking your favorite players are dicey at best, at least anytime soon. That said, if you’re more about the core play than the aesthetics of it all and enjoy some good arcade basketball this is the best (though also the only) game in town.

Pato Box [Bromio] - Aside from the difficulty potentially being a bit much, though not necessarily inconsistent with the toughest foes you’d face in the Punch-Out series, there aren’t too many concerns. Traditional controls are generally pretty tight, responding quickly so you can try to keep yourself alive, and there’s also an option to go with motion controls that do work but I don’t generally favor. They seem to be about as well implemented as those in ARMS, meaning some people may find them effective but I always seem to contort myself trying to play that way so shied away from their use. The Adventure mode has its moments but, for the most part, is just ordinary with a lot of moving around to get to what you need to do with some minor puzzles along the way. I think the weirdo story beats and insights make it worth exploring, but it’s just there with the fighting obviously being the major emphasis.

Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure [Game Swing] - Overall, Stikbold is an engaging multiplayer game that has some wild action and distinguishes itself with a great idea in the form of the Wheel of Rumpus mode. While the Story Mode isn’t terribly long it is quite a lot of fun and it’s great that you have the option to either tackle it alone or with a friend. Results will vary depending on your group but if you like chaotic and raucous fun to get people laughing it sets the table for a good time.

Windjammers [DotEmu] - As a warning, for at least the first week after launch online play won’t yet be available but it appears the intent is to have the game patched shortly after launch. Assuming that online play, since the game is pretty straight-forward, won’t have crippling problems I’d consider it a “nice to have” but ultimately availability of other players will be a wild card beyond the first week or two after the game’s release… so there’s no way to predict what net positive or negative effect it will have ultimately. If you’re an old fan from the arcades or are looking for a cheaper and less elaborate sports title you can enjoy with a friend Windjammers plays well and is a solid game for what it is. If online is critical to whether you’re interested be sure to keep an eye out for news on its availability and quality somewhere around the 30th hopefully to get a more refined answer.

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions [Survios] - While the Switch has finally managed to get some fighting games rolling in the more recent years, sports titles in general have been woefully few and far between. Looking to pick up the practically unclaimed boxing crown we now have Big Rumble Boxing, which brings along a fair amount of swagger as well as characters from the Rocky-verse which is a fair bonus for fans of the franchise. The first word of caution for people taking a look is to walk into the affair thinking of it as a fighting game that features a boxing feel, this isn’t remotely a relative of the likes of Punch-Out or other 3D boxers. With that said, though it feels more like a 2D fighting game overall (though you do have the ability to dodge 3-dimensionally) the typical mass of special moves and nuanced combos don’t come along for the ride, with each general fighting style having their own flow but in general the repertoire of attacks staying limited. Depending on what you’re looking for, the result being more of a Chess-like strategic affair where you’ll be trying to work with what you have to wear down and/or psyche out your opponent to then capitalize will either seem ideal or a bit dull and repetitive.

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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