Wednesday, March 10

Top 10 / Best Sports Indie Games on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 3/10/21] There's no doubt that one of the most sadly under-represented genres on the Nintendo Switch is sports. Even outside of the indie sphere neither Nintendo or other companies have really stepped up as much as in the past to deliver quality titles to the system. Keeping in mind that the pickings are slim there are at least a hodge podge of decent indie titles to choose from, here's a look at the ones most worthy of your attention.

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 800 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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