Wednesday, February 23

Top 10 / Best Indie Survival Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 2/23/22!

Don't Starve [Klei Entertainment] - Don't Starve is a roguelike take on survival with a heap of unpredictable situations that will kill you. In order to help compensate you're actually able to tune your game world quite a bit, so at least you can tone things down while you get to understand what you need to do in which order and where in order best to survive. It has plenty of content for those daring enough to stick with it, just expect a challenge.


This War of Mine [11 bit studios] - Probably the most bleak of the bunch, which makes sense given its more real world setting, This War of Mine explores the difficult life of civilians trying to survive in a war zone. Just getting through each day with concerns like food, keeping people from falling ill, and defending yourself against people who may come for you or your things can get tough. The fact that in order to survive you'll likely need to make some hard choices and do some things that will challenge your sense of morality makes it more powerful.


Forager [HopFrog] - When footage of this game was originally shown as part of one of the Nindie Directs any fan of Stardew Valley would have been challenged not to be intrigued with what appeared to be a familiar look mixed with some silliness. To be clear, Forager has little in common with that beloved indie since it isn’t as deep or varied and lacks the entire social component. The thing is, if what you loved was collecting and cultivating resources and slowly building things up Forager can quickly make you forget about all of that. The initial hour or so while you get established are definitely a bit of a grind but once you begin leveling up, investing in new skills and technologies, and expanding your footprint of islands you own there are a ton of great surprises in store for you. New exciting buildings and equipment mean some vastly improved gear and then when you begin to encounter dungeons it’s surprising how this game just keeps going. One negative, though it will hopefully get a patch, is that in at least one of the dungeons (the Crystal Caves) performance took a substantial hit with everything slowing down (though it at least remained playable). Aside from that issue though it’s an addictive loop, unlocking new technologies, finding new surprises, and working on your plan as you expand your skill tree.


Windbound [5 Lives Studios] - Starting out with an admission I’ll say that, in general, I’m not typically an automatic fan of survival games. Too often their crafting systems, to me, feel clumsy or contrived to waste your time searching for particular resources and it can bog the experience down. Where I find Windbound to be a pleasant surprise is that for whatever reason this world, and what you need to do to survive, feels relatively intuitive and even natural. You’ll struggle with scarcity in places but for the most part the challenge is in crafting your primitive weapons and materials and understanding that in order to progress you’ll need to be ambitious and use some smarts to take down native animals in order to then be able to craft better materials and so on. This makes for tense moments, to be sure, and it’s precisely those very moments when you’re facing down a hulking beast or braving a new island with potential challenges that you feel like you’re truly in a fight to survive. The mix of exploration, discovery, and fighting to survive can require some patience, experimentation, and perseverance but in general I found the payoffs along the way to be well worth it. The result I find to be somewhere between the classic Legend of Zelda Wind Waker and a survival game, and while the balance may not be for everyone I think it is a solid effort worth checking out.


Metro 2033 Redux [4A Games] - Set in a post-Apocalyptic Russia, primarily taking place in the labyrinth of subway tunnels and other areas below the surface, Metro 2033 Redux is an atmospheric and pretty gritty first-person experience. Under threat by various mutated creatures and the intimidating threat of the Dark ones you’ll find yourself struggling to survive and persevere. What makes it even more great, in my mind, is that you’re able to choose the leaner and tougher original experience that forced you to play it more sparingly as a survival game, trying desperately to conserve your resources, and a more shooter-like action game. Honestly, I found both to be viable and challenging in their own right, and the atmosphere and tense action are something the Switch, to this point, has been needing.


Maid of Sker [Wales Interactive] - Survival horror may be one of the most tricky genres I’ve seen to really make a quality game in. Whether the issue is too much repetition, too thin an overall story, or too much focus on cheap jump scares over building genuine tension many more games get it all wrong rather than right. I’ll admit that there are some elements of Maid of Sker that still irk me a bit, mostly the environment being chock full of objects you can see but not interact with and even a plentiful number of objects to pick up that serve no purpose other than to rotate them and appreciate how well they were modeled. Perhaps it isn’t a fair criticism but it is a pet peeve, though I’ll admit the areas all being bare of any detail would be a worse option, I just do wish there could be a balance in the middle. Regardless, while the game does have its jump scares I feel like for the most part they’re earned and not necessarily cheap. In the beginning you’re quite unsure of what’s happening and there’s a nice build up of tension before it begins throwing the scares at you. Another strength is in level design, the areas you’ll explore feel like they strike a great balance between not being too elaborate and confusing but also not feeling like you’re always moving directly from A to B to C with no room to make choices. Throw in some unique elements like needing to clamp down your own mouth in order to not make noises (careful or you may pass out from a lack of oxygen though) and this feels like a pretty well-planned horror adventure and certainly shows more effort than the majority of its contemporaries.


The Survivalists [Team17] - As I have noted a few times before, in general survival games haven’t tended to be a favorite of mine in the past. That said, as the genre has diversified and mixed in different elements to make the experience more accessible (and sometimes actually a bit fun), I’ve slowly become more of a fan. The Survivalists is one such genre game that breaks down some barriers to do things its own way and the combination of crafting, resource management, monkey management, exploration, and experimentation often managed to put a smile on my face. While I’d hardly consider this a hard core challenge that isn’t to say you won’t find the island to be dangerous as you first get started or if you insist on pushing ahead beyond what your gear will handle well. As always, the early game then is about collecting resources, crafting, and putting together more and more reliable and functional gear. Where this is usually a pretty cumbersome grind a great feature of this title is the ability to train some monkeys to do some grunt work for you. I’ll admit that initially I didn’t consider their management too intuitive, even with instructions, but once I got the hang of it I could rely on them just clearing every tree, rock, or other resource in the immediate area, saving me a load of time and tedium. The help in the reduction of plain grinding, a pretty smart and well-designed crafting tree, and a consistent flow of surprises really made this one of my favorite survival games to date. Though, keep in mind since I’m not a traditional fan of the genre you’ll have to take my tastes into account when considering the purchase.


Metro Last Light Redux [4A Games] - Released at the same time as Metro 2033 Redux, the original chapter of the series (you can get them together on the Metro Redux physical cart at retail), Last Light picks up where the original left off. Without spoiling the revelations of the conclusion of the first game I’ll say that while the focus in the original was generally on The Dark Ones and the threat of mutants, Last Light shifts to the monstrous nature of humanity itself as factions have overtaken the landscape and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a different kind of struggle. As with the first you’ll have the choice to play the game in more of a survival-oriented vein where you’ll need to carefully manage and conserve your resources, or in an action-forward way that more closely resembles traditional FPS play. The strength of the game is the combination of atmosphere and tension it creates, and what amounts to a karma system which will affect the ultimate outcome of the narrative depending on how you handle certain situations throughout your campaign.


Crashlands [Butterscotch Shenanigans] - By far the lightest survival title of this bunch, Crashlands is a great introductory journey into survival games. Sporting a colorful and generally cheerful look and tone you'll still need to explore, collect, craft, and be smart in combat to overcome hostile creatures you'll need to conquer in order to proceed.


Smoke and Sacrifice [Solar Sail Games] - This survival title has a mix of a main storyline driving your progress and some challenging survival play as well. You'll need to collect and manage your resources, explore to discover new recipes that will be crucial to your success, and overcome some tough combat typically feeling vulnerable and under-equipped. Still, it's an interesting take and is less challenging and depressing than the previous two titles in this category.


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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