It isn’t easy choosing the Best Nintendo Switch Games.
It seems only yesterday that the Nintendo Switch was released. The excitement of opening up a new box and unwrapping a new console complete with a new adventure in the Legend of Zelda saga is now a distant memory. The Nintendo Switch has conveyed a multitude of emotions in its first year, from the adrenaline of ARMS to the easy-going nature of Super Mario Odyssey, from the expanse of Hyrule to the closed confines of Mario + Rabbids, there hasn’t been a reason not to take your Nintendo Switch on every journey with you.
To celebrate the Nintendo Switch’s first two years, the Goomba Stomp staff have updated the list of our favorite games we’ve played so far on the Switch. Let’s hope for many more joyous moments ahead!
The Best Nintendo Switch Games (Top 60)60. ARMS
Nintendo is no stranger to dabbling in party-style games with a competitive edge, such as the long-running Super Smash Bros. series, the burst in recent years with Splatoon and, to a degree, even Mario Kart.
But, while it might be easy to put 2017’s ARMS next to these aforementioned titles in Nintendo’s resumé (and it might fair to say it probably does belong at the end of the day),the title does things a bit differently.
The gameplay of ARMS is a bit unusual when compared to other types of fighting games, as it gives players control over characters from a third-person point of view, with a strong emphasis on agility and reflexes alone, and without much — if anything — in the way of moves or combos. In essence, it’s a modern amalgamation of “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” mixed with a bit of Nintendo’s own Punch-Out!! series.
In ARMS, you take control of a number of different characters with specific abilities and movement speeds that set them apart, and each character controls differently enough for there to be a good variety in playstyles. However, the game isn’t exactly obvious or easy to understand and get the hang of, mostly because it’s unlike anything you’ve probably played before.
Fortunately, the game isn’t bound to just motion controls, which might have been miscommunicated to a lot of people when it was first announced. In fact, I’ve hardly ever played the game with motion controls (though apparently some of the top players of the game prefer it!).
Regardless, ARMS is a lot more straight-forward as a fighting game, without much flair or variety beyond its core, focused gameplay. This isn’t a negative, as ARMS’ focus on what it does well works for those who give the game enough of a commitment to understanding its mechanics.
ARMS shines the most as an online experience, and is not much of a local “party” game. This makes it a lot more niche than other competitive games under Nintendo’s banner, and perhaps has been a detriment to lack of broader success. But, for those who do enjoy it, ARMS is an addictive, unique (especially for Nintendo) competitive experience that I hope we see more of going in the future. (Maxwell N)59. Snipperclips
Of course, that can easily lead to scissor fights that result in chaotic slashing for the fun of it, but what Snipperclips does so well is actually emphasized teamwork. While the game is playable by one person, a big part of the enjoyment is participating in all the goofy shenanigans gaming buddies will get into by experimenting. Simple controls mean anyone can play, and with two joy-cons included with every Switch, this game is ready for multiplayer right out of the box. It’s the kind of concept that fits perfectly with Nintendo’s sales pitch, a wonderful demonstration of the console’s ability to deliver entertainment anywhere. While it might not have quite the replay value or length as some other puzzlers (though DLC has fixed that somewhat), Snipperclips offers a fun-filled co-op experience that shines while it lasts. (Patrick Murphy)
The side-scrolling brawler seemed lost in time, just a memory of the 90s. Games like Streets of Rage and Double Dragon are timeless classics for those that grew up in that era, as is one of the best games on the Sega Megadrive, Golden Axe, that Wulverblade is so inspired by. Wulverblade is unashamedly trapped in the vortex of the arcade era, motivated by the nostalgic memories of many childhoods, creating a beautifully animated, modernized side-scroller for the 21st century.
Set in 120 AD, during the Roman occupation of Britain, Wulverblade gives you the sword of what closely resembles a Pict (although described as a Northern Briton) resisting the legions of the Roman Empire, which is no small feat. The treachery of the Britons that ally with the Romans antagonizes the main hero, Caradoc, to take the fight to the Romans. He is joined by the brute Brennus, as well as the menacing Merida-inspired Guinevere to return Britannia to the Brits.
Wulverblade’s lack of hand-holding is perhaps one of its strongest elements. Side-scrolling brawlers are supposed to be relentless and unforgiving, and Wulverblade doesn’t say sorry to anyone. It never questions itself, and instead only answers with more intense brute intense force, punishing hesitancy with a swift blow. For the seasoned gamer looking for a challenge, Wulverblade is a must. (James Baker)
If there’s one thing that Iconoclasts delivers on in droves, it’s personality. From the start of the deceptively somber title screen, developer Joakim Sandberg makes it clear that his game is anything but cookie-cutter. Instead, players experience a lovingly handcrafted puzzle-platformer that screams passion, design chops, and years behind the controller.
Iconoclasts’ story has grand ambitions. Players assume the role of Robin, a young mechanic wanted by the government for following in her father’s footsteps and helping those in need. The tale takes some interesting turns and provides plenty of lore between a healthy amount of dialogue with NPCs and little notes/documents contextually scattered throughout the world.
However, the overarching narrative isn’t the reason to play Iconoclasts. That honor belongs to the game’s masterful level design, imaginative puzzles, and top-notch production values. Though players start out quite outclassed with a simple stun gun and eventually a giant wrench, both of these receive upgrades throughout the course of the 12-15-hour campaign that completely changes how players can interact with the environment. This is to say nothing of the combat, which itself contains puzzle elements when figuring out how to approach different enemy types (especially when it comes to boss battles). All of this is brought to life via some of the best sprite-based animations I’ve ever seen in a video game.
Iconoclasts ended up being one of the best-feeling games I played on the Switch. It controls like a dream, and the occasional weapon upgrades are meaningful and fully fleshed out. The supporting characters are all well-written (even generic lackeys) and genuinely fun to watch interact with each other. Iconoclasts‘ story isn’t anything to write home about, but its world-building, character dialogue, tight gameplay mechanics and gorgeous pixel work more than make up for it. (Brent Middleton)
56. Disgaea 5 Complete
Some of the best Strategy-RPGs aren’t necessarily known for their story as much as their characters (i.e. Fire Emblem), and Disgaea 5 Complete is no exception. Main protagonist Killia is a serious, stoic demon, constantly keeping the player guessing about his mysterious past as he’s pulled into working with Princess Seraphina to overthrow a tyrant attempting to rule over all of Hell. The rest of the party is full of quirky and lovable characters led by over-the-top Seraphina, meathead Red Magnus, and sweetheart Usalia. Despite lacking traditional cutscenes, all the characters are all brilliantly brought to life through rock-solid VO, expressive character sprites, and fully voice-acted static story sequences featuring beautiful high-definition 2D character portraits. The campaign is full of campy, lighthearted humor that refuses to stop until it has you cracking a smile.
Outside of its memorable characters, Disgaea 5 is all about its classic strategic gameplay. Players move up to 10 party members around a massive variety of grid-based levels and battle it out using loads of different attacks and abilities. The name of the game is carefully positioning team members to execute chain attacks in an attempt to wipe out the enemy while clinching the stage’s “top bonus” reward. Disgaea 5 features almost 50 classes of fighters to choose from, each with their own special attacks and evilities. The gameplay is routinely kept fresh by way of varying battlefield elevations, environmental effects, and status effect changes via Geo Symbols.
Disgaea 5 Complete is truly the hardcore tactical RPG that the Switch needed in lieu of Fire Emblem last year. The main campaign is lengthy, the battle system is deep, there’s a surprisingly robust amount of player and hub customization, and with the ability to level up each individual piece of gear, the game never truly ends. If you love silly yet fleshed-out characters, top-notch tactical gameplay, and a seemingly infinite amount of stats to keep track of, Disgaea 5 Complete is a total must-buy. (Brent Middleton)
Mulaka will be a first for many, a slice of Mexico’s rich history that gamers haven’t often savored, a taste of the past that will inspire our own curiosity. Based on the ancient Tarahumara tribe in Northern Mexico, players embark on a journey as a Tarahumara Shaman — known as a Sukurúame — while seeking the power of the demigods to conquer the environment and defeat the soul-eating creatures from Tarahumara lore.
The Legend of Zelda inspiration can be seen throughout Mulaka, from its angular Nintendo 64 graphics similar to Ocarina of Time to its bumbling NPCs that have a variety of personalities and customs. The artwork is clean and simple, and yet beautiful at the same time, allowing the player to easily immerse themselves in unfamiliar territory.
The beauty of Mulaka is its unique setting, familiar gameplay, and the joy it unleashes through every pixel. Mulaka has opened up a whole new world, delivering a game that you feel like you’ve played before but able to maintain a mystery. This is the beginning of great things for the developers, Lienzo, and there will already be huge anticipation as to how they push the series forward and continue our journey across Mexico. (James Baker)
54. Mr. Shifty
Entertainment media has a long history of borrowing and reworking existing ideas. The indie games sphere has most certainly adopted this as its de facto mantra, and we are frequently the benefactors of genre refinement. This can be detrimental to genres that are oversaturated (looking at you, Metroidvania), but when a genre is as niche as the one that seemingly contains only Hotline Miami, tinkering with that formula certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Enter Mr. Shifty — the version of Hotline Miami with gore turned down, and phase-shifting turned right up.
Much like its obvious influence, Mr. Shifty is played from a top-down perspective, as players are tasked with moving from room to room and taking out large numbers of enemies along the way. You don’t use any guns in Shifty, but thanks to the eponymous hero’s shift ability, you won’t miss them. At the press of a button, he can shift through walls, bullets, and even enemies, allowing for breathless movement around a combat area, flanking enemies and dodging bullets like a demigod. Taking out enemies also fills a meter that, when full, grants a slow-mo ability that automatically activates when Shifty next gets shot at, and sees him flying through the level like Fry on 100 cups of coffee.
This isn’t to say the game is easy. Shifty might have superpowers, but he ain’t no bullet sponge, and a single hit from an enemy will bring the proceedings to an abrupt end. As is to be expected, it’ll take a fair amount of trial and error to complete a stage, but this all adds to the fun of trying to figure out the most effective and/or stylish way to reach the goal. It straddles that line of repetition and addictiveness really well, especially when bolstered by the Switch’s handheld capabilities. I still don’t know what this Hotline Miami/Superhot genre is called, but Mr. Shifty is a very able addition to it. (Alex Aldridge)
For as many twists and turns as they take, the stale caverns of the Metroidvania genre rarely alter course from formula, the tried-and-true gameplay rarely strays from the established path, so when something like Dandara comes along, its minor deviations can feel like a breath of fresh air. Instead of the usual running and gunning, the titular protagonist here must plot her course through the various rooms by employing a multi-directional dash that allows her to reach to certain areas on the floor, ceiling, and walls to which she can stick (think Spider-Man crossed with Nightcrawler). This unique method of movement makes every room and battle almost its own puzzle, adding a layer of strategy even to traversal, and ensures that players pay close attention to their surroundings — which is perfect for finding secrets.
Add to that a curious visual design that is at the same time incongruous yet clear in its visions, and there’s a funky vibe going on here. One minute Dandara is fighting giant bugs in a pixelated pine tree forest, and the next she’s shooting cat soldiers amidst rundown urban streets, all while a cosmic backdrop frames the action. Yet, it all makes sense, and Dandara conveys its story with focused melancholy and a tinge of hope. The action can get clunky during the few bullet hell sections, but mastering the movement leads to the thrilling satisfaction of ricocheting through the world at ease — and points the genre toward the discovery of new ways to explore. (Patrick Murphy)
52. Nintendo Labo
Just when you thought Nintendo couldn’t get any more ‘Nintendo,’ they made up Labo. Labo is less a singular game and more of a catch-all for various software and related peripherals that are cardboard cut-out kits for the Switch. Thus far, there has been a variety kit, a robot kit, a vehicle kit, and a forthcoming VR kit. While most of the software has been well-executed, it has also been a little shallow, and there has yet to be a single game that has captured the hearts and minds of cardboard enthusiasts. Instead, it is the unique experience that is building a cardboard fishing rod or robot that makes Labo something special. And that experience is infused with Nintendo quality and charm. While perhaps more aimed at kids and quirky adults, Labo is unlike anything out there, and is definitely a special addition to the Switch. (Marty Allen)
51. Kirby Star Allies
Kirby Star Allies feels strange when compared to the rest of the Switch’s lineup. It doesn’t change around its franchise’s formula as dramatically as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or innovate on series traditions as well as Super Mario Odyssey. It’s not as expansive as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or as polarizing as Pokémon Let’s Go. It feels like the same Kirby game that Nintendo fans have been playing since Kirby’s Adventure released on the NES in 1993, a factor that might explain why the pink puffball’s latest adventure didn’t exactly light up Metacritic upon release.
But, sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with more of the same.
Coming from the American South, Kirby Star Allies reminds me of old-fashioned, Southern comfort food. Both have been around for what feels like forever, they rarely change, and they aren’t exactly the trendiest items in their respective categories. However, they’re both satisfying, filling, and spirit-lifting after a long day at work. Certainly, Star Allies could have done more; it lacks a sense of spunk and creativity that every Nintendo franchise has found in the past few years, and its technical performance leaves much to be desired. But, like one doesn’t scowl at the calorie count of a twelve-inch dinner plate piled with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits, one also shouldn’t scowl at one of Nintendo’s most conservative franchises for refusing to innovate.
Sure, Kirby Star Allies is more of the same easy-going platforming that fans have seen for the past twenty-five plus years, but with Nintendo innovating on nearly every one of their franchises and introducing new elements that aren’t always popular with longtime fans, more of the same lovable Kirby we’ve grown to love over the years isn’t exactly a bad thing. (Izsak Barnette)
50. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
As far as Kickstarter stretch goals go, this is a Cristiano Ronaldo bicycle kick. Koji Igarashi and Inti Creates promised an 8-bit spin-off from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and drive a stake through my heart if they didn’t deliver. Curse of the Moon looks, sounds, and feels just like the 8-bit Castlevania titles on NES. Players can swap between four different characters (a la Castlevania III) on the fly as they progress through a handful of beautifully crafted levels — each of which culminates with a challenging boss fight.
It strikes a real chord for the talent Igarashi possesses when it comes to effortlessly crafting titles within the genre he helped to define. What could be dismissed as a throwaway, token effort to appease the backers of the main event ends up as a very sufficient starter to the main course. It’s got everything a game of this type should have: the moody castles, the pulsating chiptune soundtrack, restrictive jumping, whips, candles to be destroyed — it’s all here, and it functions on a much higher level than a simple box-ticking exercise. Thanks to the decades of experience gained in the aftermath of the titles it apes, Curse of the Moon feels respectful and refined in equal measure.
The game might not necessarily be very long, but levels have multiple routes, and there are three difficulty levels, which is more than enough for the incredibly meager asking price. What’s more, this is the exact type of game speed-runners love, and I’m sure it’ll appear to be destroyed at a GDQ in no time. Until then, we mere mortals can enjoy one of the more satisfying retro throwbacks of the year. (Alex Aldridge)
49. Floor Kids
Over the last 30 years, the combination of hip-hop and video games has had decidedly mixed results often failing to translate across the gaming medium, thanks to many cheap cash-ins by artists and video game companies looking to make a quick buck. That’s not the case with Floor Kids, a labour of love from Montreal-based duo JonJon and Kid Koala. This indie breakdancing game from Merj Media, released on the Nintendo Switch in late December, is one of the best games you’ll find on the console to date, mixing likable personalities and wall-to-wall toe-tapping music to paint a picture of a subculture that promotes diversity among its audience. It happens to be one of the freshest gaming experiences for quite a while, and you don’t need to be a hip-hop fan to appreciate it. Even as it pays earnest homage to turntablists and beat jugglers, Floor Kids is great fun, stitched together with energy, intelligence, and verve, and enhanced by a surplus of breakbeats that will make you want to get up and dance.
Floor Kids is a welcome addition to the Switch library. On the surface, it’s a fun rhythm game that’s easy to grasp, but if you dig deeper, Floor Kids does a superb job showing the form’s incredible complexity and technical diversity, and makes a persuasive case for breakdancing as both an art form and a form of self-expression. All in all, Floor Kids is one of the most enjoyable experiences we’ve come across in gaming as a whole. Those gamers who would automatically bypass a hip-hop rhythm game should give Floor Kids a second look. (Ricky D)
Slime-san is a deceiving game at face value. Browsing the myriad of indies on the Switch eShop, one might mistake it for just another retro-style game without any real identity. With today’s focus on high fidelity graphics, it can be easy to forget that strong gameplay is what separates a decent game from a stellar one. That one elusive factor is what made Slime-san hands-down the best indie platformer on the eShop before Celeste rewrote the script earlier this year.
Everything in Slime-San‘s design has a purpose. The game’s striking three-color art style isn’t just unique — it’s also ingrained into the game’s mechanics. White surfaces are neutral, green surfaces can be phased through, and red surfaces mean instant death. Over the course of 400 rooms (or 800 for those brave enough to weather New Game+) Slime-San consistently finds ways to twist those mechanics in ways that keep players on their toes. Just like any great platformer, Slime-san manages to masterfully tread the line between tough and unfair; if you find yourself repeatedly dying at a certain jump or obstacle, you always know it’s your fault.
Remember earlier when I mentioned retro-style games without a strong identity? Slime-san manages to set itself apart with endearing little characters and a vibrant, seedy world. The majority of the game consists of platforming your way back up through a giant worm that’s swallowed Slime-san and his bird pal whole, but those looking for more context can find it. Developer Fabraz took the time to create fully realized, explorable environments both inside and outside of the worm, each complete with a colorful cast of characters, as well as a few extra areas that go a long way in adding personality to an otherwise straightforward collection of platforming challenges. It’s the entirely unnecessary yet wholly welcome additions like these that make Slime-san feel like a true labor of love. If you like challenging, innovative platformers that have personality in spades, you can’t go wrong with this one. (Brent Middleton)
The power of song will save us all.
Among the prodigious heap of wonderful Switch titles, a simple little indie called Wandersong tells a heartfelt story, and sings a tune all its own. The game begins with players trying to pick up a sacred sword to slay an intimidating beast. You’re terrible with that sword, really just no good at all. The thing is, you’re a bard. Your voice is your tool, your weapon, and your heart, and you sing your way through the problems of the land. Mean ghosts? Troublesome demons? Unruly pirates? Sing a song.
At one point, your grumpy friend (who is a witch) insists on using magic to take down a nasty beast. You insist on trying to talk to the monster. It works. Throughout the game, you sail the seas, start a band, meet some mermaids, fly through the air on a broomstick, fail a lot, make many friends, and keep picking yourself back up while singing again and again. It plays wonderfully and looks great, with a cutout style reminiscent of Paper Mario and Steven Universe, but with an identity all its own.
The mechanics are simple but effective — an 8-pointed color wheel controls pitch and tone. But the folks who created this title — Greg Labanov and friends — manage to keep the simple idea fun with gameplay twists. As the story progresses, they turn tropes of the hero’s journey on their head in order to craft an engaging and beautiful tale about the power of hope and friendship. It all could come across as too sugary, but the developers are self-aware, keeping the heart of the game front and center. The result is a fun and meaningful game that dares to embrace a message of love and non-violence, a notion that is always welcome. You can keep your rugged cowboys — I’ll be singing over here. (Marty Allen)
GRIS follows the emotional journey of a young girl through an ethereal watercolor world, beginning with the main character losing her voice, while all color in the world around her is also removed. As you progress through the game, individual colors are added back in at certain points as the landscape slowly begins to spring back to life.
At its core, GRIS is a platforming adventure with light puzzle elements. As you navigate the serene environments, you will encounter scenarios that require you to use any abilities you’ve gathered along the way in order to progress. Certain areas aren’t accessible when first approached, only to open up later when players gain the correct ability. The game is also designed in such a way that encourages exploration, as it does not tell you where your next ability or objective lies. Much of the narrative is open to interpretation, which gives the experience an even more unique, art-like approach.
The music in GRIS accompanies the visuals perfectly, with each area creating a different auditory experience. Some areas are filled with a full string orchestra, while others may include the delicate notes of a single piano as you journey through the world.
GRIS is a beautiful experience that plays similarly to games like Journey, ABZÛ and Flower. There are limited action sequences, with the majority of the game filled with moments that tie visuals and sound together in a way that words simply don’t do justice. (Matthew Adler)
45. Ape Out
In Ape Out, Gabe Cuzzillo and his small team have crafted something unique that comes highly recommended. This game is equal parts beautiful, thoughtful, exhilarating, and fun. The sum of its parts is a creation that is all-too-rare in games — something fresh and unlike anything else. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t playing it, and unable to put the controller down in order to give each board ‘just one more try.’ To have that gameplay experience put together with so much artistic flair makes for the kind of experience that is worth killing for. Again and again and again.
Ape Out is a rhythmic pulse of thrust-push-kill fun. Ape Out is the kick drum rolling right into to the snare and a crash just as you crush that guard a hair before he pulls the trigger. Ape Out is blood trailing behind you when you can’t take another shot, then crossing through the green door of freedom and into the jungle beyond at the last moment. (Marty Allen)
Wargroove is an epic, beautiful love letter to the lost (but not forgotten) classic strategy series, Advance Wars. Following the same formula of Nintendo’s collaboration with Intelligent Systems, Wargroove tells the story of the trials and tribulations of Princess Marcia as she leads her kingdom in the wake of her father’s assassination. Players will recruit troops, capture towns, fight the undead, and — if you play as well I do — get stuck on the same missions for hours.
Wargroove is not an easy game, and sometimes it’s not even a fair one. Objectives may change in the middle of a battle, making a difficult fight almost impossible — until you replay it, knowing what’s coming, and beat it without a modicum of effort. Some units never seem to be worth their excessive cost, and map design often doesn’t allow for the interesting positioning tactics that the game otherwise tries to encourage. The story — while better than anything put forward by Advance Wars — is nothing to write home about, either.
However, objectives are mixed up at a decent rate between missions, stopping the game from getting too repetitive during overly long, socially-unacceptable binge sessions. New units are introduced at a healthy rate, and the game is absolutely loaded with content. There are three separate single-player modes (including the brilliant “Puzzle Mode,” in which the player has one turn to win a battle from a predefined position), and each requires a significant time investment to complete. On top of that, there is online and local multiplayer for up to 4 players, and it’s possible to craft not only your own maps, but your own entire campaigns.
Above all else, Wargroove is a wonderfully produced game with tense battles, gorgeous sprite work, a generous amount of content, and absolutely tons of heart. It hearkens back to an era when games were simpler, but no less wonderful affairs. It’s an expression of pure joy, and while there will be some debate as to whether it manages to live up to the legacy of its obvious inspiration, Wargroove is a worthy investment for any fan of classic turn-based strategy. (Rowan Ryder)
43. Mega Man 11
Mega Man 11 proved two things: that the nonsensical numbering system of Mega Man games means absolutely nothing at this stage, and that Capcom has finally figured out a way to make a really good Mega Man game without having to resort to a NES engine.
Mega Man 11 won’t look instantly familiar to veteran players. Its visual style caused more consternation that the game could potentially share more similarities to the terrible Mighty Number 9. Luckily, despite its neon-tinged HD visuals, the game feels just like home for Mega Man fans. A home filled with misery, frustration, and death. So, a funeral home I guess?
Effortlessly recounting the physics and feel of the NES classics, Mega Man 11 is how the game should have been modernized a generation ago. Capcom wasn’t satisfied with just a faithful graduation to a jazzed-up graphical style, and made several changes to add fresh mechanics and subvert expectations. Unlocked weapons now completely alter Mega Man’s appearance (rather than a simple color palette swap) and feel more significant than ever before. The Double Gear System, allowing Mega Man to power up his weapons or slow down time for a finite period, was a brilliant way to make the game both more interesting and more welcoming to newcomers.
Of course, it’s not that welcoming, as Mega Man 11 is just as difficult as we’ve all come to expect. Some bosses now have several forms; the as giant, hulking mechs filling the screen are a far cry from Sheep Man. Thankfully (and in direct opposition to an absolutely dreadful save system), Dr. Light’s shop can be accessed after any game over to stock up on helpful powers and extra lives to ensure the mere mortal can actually complete the game. It’s not how the hardcore players do it, but some of us have other things to do with our lives, right? (Alex Aldridge)
42. Yoku’s Island Express
Yoku’s Island Express is a tiny, bite-sized game of incredibly good original content. Originally released for the Nintendo Switch in late May of 2018, this adorable game is a total mash between a Metroidvania and pinball. Upon hearing that, it doesn’t sound like it would work as a concept, especially because the game is utterly cute, but it absolutely does, like mixing together something salty with something sweet. You play as Yoku, a dung beetle who washes up on a small island and is immediately put in charge of the local postal service. The laid-back lifestyle Yoku was hoping for is quickly diminished as the “God Eater” begins killing the island deities. Yoku must find the leaders of three religious factions and bring them together for a ceremony of healing.
The mechanics operate like an open-world exploration mixed with pinball, then mixed with platforming. I personally binged this game in one day after I picked up; it was nothing less than addicting, and as soon as I put my Switch down to take a break, I’d be reaching for it minutes later and play for another handful of hours. This quick indie game is a must-have for any switch library, and can even help brighten your life in a tiny way. (Katrina Lind)41. Night In The Woods
Defining what a game is can be a tricky thing. Indies have been at the forefront of experimenting with exactly what that definition can be. Night in the Woods is ostensibly a narrative adventure game in the same vein as Oxenfree and Life is Strange. While it tells a heartfelt story, it does so in a way that only a video game could.
The story follows Mae, a lackadaisical college dropout utterly intent on avoiding responsibility. She returns home to Possum Springs, a dying town strangling the life out of its inhabitants. Here she whiles away the hours, coming to terms with her past, present, and future. Along the way, she sees old friends and faces, confronting unpleasant facts whether she wants to or not.
The game offers a fairly tactile experience, especially for a narrative title. At random points in the story, simple game mechanics pop up. Sometimes it’s swinging a bat at flying fluorescent lights, other times it’s reaching out a gangly paw for a slice of pizza.
The art style for Night in the Woods is somewhere between Richard Scarry and Wes Anderson. It lives in a stylized reality where humanoid cats walk on electric lines and hang out at the local Snack Falcon. Dreamy synth and offbeat folk punk paint a picture of life going by at a snail’s pace.
While comparisons may be drawn to Oxenfree and Life is Strange, I’d argue that Night in the Woods does what they do, but better. It tells a wholly unremarkable story about wholly unremarkable people in a wholly unremarkable town. But therein lie the most interesting bits. Where Oxenfree and Life is Strange frame their narratives around extraordinary circumstances, Night in the Woods wallows in banality.
Night in the Woods, while undoubtedly a game, also captures an experience. It makes you invested in its characters, but it does so by reaching for something unabashedly boring and human. Unlike other narrative games about millennials, Night in the Woods doesn’t come up with a magical solution that solves all your problems. Rather, it shows you how you can cope with them. (Kyle Rogacion)
PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘The Artful Escape,’ ‘Foregone,’ and ‘Tunic’
This past weekend, PAX South 2020 brought a huge variety of promising indie games to the show floor in San Antonio. Here are just a few of the most remarkable games I got to try, including a hardcore action game, a classic adventure, and an experience that can only be described as dreamlike.
Simply put, Tunic is a Zelda game, but foxier. Tunic takes significant inspiration from the classic Zelda formula, complete with an overworld to explore, puzzles to solve, enemies to fight, and a protagonist clad in green. My demo even began by leaving me weaponless and forcing me to venture into a nearby cave in order to discover my first weapon.
Yet there’s nothing wrong with following such a traditional formula. At a time when Nintendo has largely stopped creating new games in the style of its classic Zeldas, it’s left up to other developers to rediscover the magic of the original gameplay style. Based on my time with the game, Tunic achieves exactly that, reimagining the charm of A Link to the Past for the current generation with gorgeous visuals and modern design sensibilities. The biggest difference from its predecessors is its green-clad hero is a fox, and not a Kokiri.
All, that is to say, is that if you’ve ever played a 2D Zelda, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from Tunic. It starts by dropping the foxy little player character into a vibrant, sunny overworld, and true to form, your inventory is completely empty and the environment is full of roadblocks to progress. Simple enemies abound, and although its greatest Zelda inspirations lie with those from the 2D era, it also includes an element from the 3D games due to its inclusion of a targeting system in order to lock onto specific opponents. What followed next was a linear, straightforward dungeon that focused on teaching the basics of exploration and item usage. It was extremely simple but hinted at plenty of potential for the full game later.
Tunic’s gameplay may hearken back to the games of old, but its visual presentation is cutting edge. It features gorgeous polygonal 3D visuals, loaded with striking graphical and lighting effects, making its quaint isometric world truly pop to life. My demo didn’t last very long, but the little bit I played left me excited for Tunic’s eventual release on Xbox One and PC. It could be the brand-new classic Zelda experience that fans like myself have long waited for.
These days, nearly every other indie game is either a roguelike or a Metroivdvania. Just by looking at Foregone, I immediately assumed that it must be one of the two based on appearances alone. Yet when I shared those assumptions with the developers, Big Blue Bubble, the response in both cases was a resounding, “No.”
Foregone may look like it could be procedurally generated or feature a sprawling interconnected world, but that simply isn’t the case. The developers insisted that every aspect of the game world was intentionally crafted by hand, and it will remain that way in each playthrough. Likewise, although there is some optional backtracking at certain points in the game, Foregone is a largely linear experience, all about going from one point to another and adapting your strategy along the way. In a generation where nonlinearity reigns supreme, such straightforward design is refreshing to see.
If there’s any game that seems like an accurate comparison to Foregone, it would have to be Dark Souls. From the very start of the demo, the world of Foregone is inhabited with fearsome enemies that don’t hold back. If you don’t watch what you’re doing, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and fall under the pressure. Thankfully, there’s a broad assortment of abilities at your disposal, such as a wide area of effect move that can stun enemies within a wide radius, and a powerful shield that can block many attacks. I fell many times during my time with the game, but it never felt unfair. Rather, it merely felt like I wasn’t being smart enough with my own ability usage, and I was encouraged to keep jumping back into the world for just one more run, this time armed with better knowledge of my own abilities and potential strategies.
And it’s a beautiful game too. Rather than featuring the typical pixelated aesthetics often associated with platformers, the world is actually built-in 3D with a pixelated filter applied on top of it. This allows for a uniquely detailed environment and distinctly fluid animations. Foregone looks to be a worthwhile action game that should be worth checking out when it hits early access via the Epic Games Store in February, with a full release on console and PC to follow later this year.
The Artful Escape
Bursting with visual and auditory splendor, The Artful Escape is easily the most surreal game I played at PAX South. The demo may have only lasted about ten minutes, yet those ten minutes were dreamlike, transportation from the crowded convention to a world of color, music, and spirit.
As its name would suggest, The Artful Escape is an otherworldly escape from reality. Its luscious 3D environments are populated with 2D paper cutout characters, its dialogue leans heavily into the mystical (the player character describes his surroundings with phrases like “a Tchaikovsky cannonade” and “a rapid glittering of the eyes”), and its music often neglects strong melodies in favor of broad, ambient background themes. This all combines to create a mystical, almost meditative atmosphere.
It only helps that the platforming gameplay itself is understated, not requiring very much of you but to run forward, leap over a few chasms, or occasionally play your guitar to complete basic rhythm games. This gameplay style may not be the most involved or exciting, but it allows you to focus primarily on the overwhelming aesthetic majesty, marching forward through the world while shredding on your guitar all the while.
This Zenlike feel to the game is punctuated with occasional spectacular moments. At one point, a gargantuan, crystalline krill called the Wonderkrill burst onto the screen and regaled me with mystic dialogue, while at another point, I silently wandered into a herd of strange oxen-like creatures grazing in a barren field as the music began to swell. The demo was filled with such memorable moments, constantly leaving my jaw dropped.
For those who think that games should be entertaining above all else, The Artful Escape might not be so enthralling. Its platforming is extremely basic and its rhythm minigames are shallow at best. For players who think that games can be more than fun, however, The Artful Escape is set to provide an emotional, unforgettable experience, an escape that I can’t wait to endeavor.
PAX South Hands On: ‘Boyfriend Dungeon’ Wields Weapons of Love
A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend, and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.
In most games, weapons are straightforward objects. Sometimes they can be upgraded or personalized, but at the end of the day, they function as little more than tools for a single purpose: to cut down enemies and make progress in the game. Boyfriend Dungeon, however, proposes a different relationship with your weapons. They’re more than just objects. Instead, they’re eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that are ready to mingle.
Boyfriend Dungeon is a dungeon crawler and dating sim hybrid all about forging an intimate bond with your weapons and, after demoing it at PAX South, this unique mix seems to be paying off.
There are two main activities in Boyfriend Dungeon: exploring the loot-filled dungeons (referred to as “The Dunj”) and romancing the human forms of your weapons. There’s been plenty of great dungeon crawlers in recent years, but Boyfriend Dungeon sets itself apart by humanizing its weaponry. This concept may sound strange on paper, but Kitfox games director and lead designer Tanya X. Short is confident that players have long been ready for a game just like this.
“A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.
“I think the fans of Boyfriend Dungeon have been out there for years, waiting. I remember when I was in university ages ago, I was sure someone would have made a game like this already… but I guess I needed to make it myself!” She adds that “A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.
My demo with Boyfriend Dungeon began simply enough. After a brief character creation phase where I chose my appearance and my pronouns (he/him, she/her, or they/them), I was dropped into the stylish, top-down hub world of Verona Beach. Here I could explore the town and choose where to date my chosen weapon. I decided to head to the public park to meet Valeria, a swift and slender dagger.
“Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”
Upon reaching the park, I discovered Valeria in her dagger form. When I picked up the weapon, a beautiful anime-style animation commenced in which she transformed into her human form. What followed was a visual novel-style date sequence complete with detailed character art and plenty of dialogue options to help romance your date.
The dialogue is full of witty, self-aware humor and charm – there were more than a few jokes about axe murderers along with other weapon-related puns, for example. Short herself put plenty of love into the writing. “Writing dates with weapons is a joy I never knew could be part of my job, but here we are. Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”
I loved my date with Valeria, but she’s not the only potential mate in Boyfriend Dungeon. Rather, there’s a cast of five potential partners in the game, each of them hailing from distinct backgrounds and identities. “When I was coming up with the cast for Boyfriend Dungeon, I tried to imagine as many kinds of people and personalities that I could be attracted to as possible.”
Short drew from her own personal experiences in creating the cast. “I was very lucky to meet my partner many years ago, so I haven’t actually dated many people in my life, but I become fascinated with people I meet very easily, and they can provide inspiration. Whether they’re upbeat and reckless, or brooding and poetic, or gentle and refined…there’re so many kinds of intriguing people out there. And in Boyfriend Dungeon, I hope.”
After building up this bond during dialogue, it was time to put it to the test by exploring the Dunj. Of course, this isn’t the typically dreary dungeon found in most other dungeon crawlers. Instead, it’s an abandoned shopping mall overrun with monsters to slay and loot to discover with your partner weapon.
Combat is easy to grasp, focusing on alternating between light and heavy attacks and creating simple combos out of them. Just like how the dating content aims to be inclusive for people of different backgrounds, Short hopes for the combat to be accessible for players of different levels of experience as well. “Hopefully the dungeon combat can be approachable enough for less experienced action RPG players, but still have enough challenge for the people that want to find it.”
Based off the demo, Boyfriend Dungeon seems to achieve this goal. I loved learning simpler moves and discovering new combos with them. Movement is fast, fluid, and intuitive, making it a pleasure to explore the Dunj. Succeeding in dungeons will also result in a stronger relationship with your weapons, so it’s in your best interest to perform well during combat. Of course, your weapons don’t simply level up – instead, their love power increases.
“Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”
Fighting and dating may seem like two disparate concepts, but in practice, they manage to mesh surprisingly well. “The game is mostly about switching from one [gameplay style] to the other,” Short says, “and it’s nice for pacing, since you often want a breather from the action or get restless if there’s too much reading.”
The overarching story and general experience remain relatively firm throughout the whole game regardless of your decisions, but Short encourages players to enjoy the ride they take with the weapon they choose. “Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”
In Boyfriend Dungeon, your weapons can wage more than just war. Rather, they can spread love and lead to deeply fulfilling relationships. Boyfriend Dungeon is one of the most refreshing games I played at PAX thanks to its engaging dungeon exploration and combat and its surprisingly positive view of weaponry. That’s the mission of peace that Short had in mind with the game: “It feels like a difficult time in the world right now, but that’s when we most need to find love and compassion. Let’s try our hardest to be kind.”
‘Sayonara Wild Hearts’ is the Rhythm Game of a Lifetime
Few Rhythm games can boast the sheer strength and variety of gameplay and stellar soundtrack that Sayonara Wild Hearts offers the player.
Rhythm games can sometimes be a dicy prospect. As well populated as the genre is, the possible variety in musical style, required skill set and game length can make it hard to parse whether a rhythm game will be a good fit for an individual player. With that in mind, few rhythm games nail all of these attributes as perfectly as Sayonara Wild Hearts does.
A neon-drenched fever dream of a game, Sayonara Wild Hearts tasks the player with driving, flying and sailing through an increasingly elaborate world of giant robots, sword battles and laser fights. In this ethereal plain you battle other wild hearts as you seek solace from a broken heart and navigate around the obstacles of each course.
Though this may already sound very gnarly, or even radical, if you will, what really makes Sayonara Wild Hearts work so well is the diversity of of its levels. Some stages will see you weaving in and out of traffic while dodging oncoming street cars and the like, while others will see you navigating a ship across storm drenched waters or working your way through a retro inspired shooter. There’s even a first person level that calls to mind old school PC classics like Descent.
It’s really something to see so much variety packed into a game that it nearly defies classification as a result. Few games can offer the depth and breadth of gameplay that Sayonara Wild Hearts does, and that’s part of its enduring charm.
Of course, a rhythm game is only as good as its soundtrack. Luckily Sayonara Wild Hearts soars in this regard as well. The soundtrack contains pulse-pounding beats by Daniel Olsén and Jonathan Eng, with dreamy pop vocals by Linnea Olsson. Inspired by the likes of Sia and Chvrches, the killer soundscape of the game will keep you powering through time and again in hopes of attaining the ever elusive perfect run. A rank system and collectibles keep things interesting as well.
The unique look of the game is another feather in its cap. Pulsing neon lights pump to the beat while pinks, purples and blues color the world around you in a unique 1980’s dance club aesthetic. All of the elements coalesce together to make a game that looks and feels like nothing else you’ve ever played.
As mentioned at the top, sometimes rhythm games live or die based on their difficulty and accessibility. Fortunately Sayonara Wild Hearts manages to nail this aspect of gaming too. All you need to do to pass a level is get a Bronze ranking, which is attainable even for those of low skill sets. My 5 and 6 year old daughters were able to beat several of the levels, even some of the harder ones. Better still, less skilled players can skip the more challenging areas of the later levels with a prompt that comes up automatically when a player fails three times in a row.
With a stellar attention to all of the aspects that make for a successful rhythm game, Sayonara Wild Hearts is the rhythm game of a lifetime. Destined to be listed among the best games of 2019, and in the company of the best rhythm games of all time, Sayonara Wild Hearts is revolutionary entry into the genre and one of the best indies to come along in years.
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