Although AAA titles still dominate the market, the last decade or so has seen an explosion in indie games. Digital distribution has allowed smaller developers to publish their projects directly to online stores with little effort.
While PC storefronts such as Steam are the most easily accessible, console manufacturers like Microsoft and Nintendo are making it simpler for independent designers to get their games to the public. The Nintendo Switch, in particular, has proven to be a good home for indie titles. Its portability and unique controls make it a great choice for many experimental games. More importantly, though, the more casual nature of the Japanese hardware probably makes players more inclined to try out indie titles than they would be on other consoles.
With hundreds of options, it might seem a little overwhelming to decide which indie games you need to try out. We’ve done the hard work for you to separate the standout examples from those you can happily pass on. If you have a Nintendo Switch then you should check out these indie games.
The Best Nintendo Switch Indie Games
10. Letter Quest
Developer: Bacon Bandit Games Publisher: Digerati
For some reason, people just can’t seem to get enough of word games. Crosswords remain as popular now as they ever have. For those who prefer their word games in digital form, there are dozens of word games available on the Nintendo Switch. Letter Quest is probably the most unique among them. It takes the idea that the words themselves can be powerful weapons in the most literal way possible as you battle enemies using them.
Essentially, the gameplay boils down to having to create the longest word possible. Instead of points, longer words result in you doing more damage to the various mobs you face in each level. Combining a turn-based RPG dungeon crawler with Scrabble leads to some interesting gameplay mechanics. Topped off with colorful visuals and a great soundtrack, Letter Quest is a unique experience that is a must-play for anyone who enjoys wordplay.
9. Worms W.M.D.
Developer: Team17 Publisher: Team17
Worms W.MD. has been out for a few years and it is not exactly a Nintendo Switch exclusive. However, it remains one of the best indie games on any platform. The portable nature of the console also means this version comes with the added bonus that you can play it on the go.
While Team17 have changed things up in terms of gameplay with some of their other recent releases in the franchise, this title takes things back to basics and is all the better for it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the developers haven’t introduced some new things to proceedings. With vehicles, new stationary weapon options, and a whole host of new levels and game types, Worms W.M.D. is pretty much the most complete Worms game to be released.
Stardew Valley is very much a modern version of Harvest Moon, a series that traditionally has had most of its success on Nintendo hardware. Although this game is available on other consoles, it has found the perfect home on the Nintendo Switch as it makes a great companion when travelling.
Having become sick of city life, the protagonist has decided to go live on a rural farm owned by their family. The place is in a sorry state and it falls on you to clear the land and make it suitable for growing crops once again. As an open-ended title, it is left in your hands how to earn money. You can farm, fish, explore the world, or complete quests for the large cast of NPC characters. There are few games quite as relaxing as Stardew Valley and before long you’ll have invested far more time than you realized.
The work of developer Neckbolt Games, Yono and the Celestial Elephants is an action-adventure game that feels a bit like a simplified Zelda. You take control of an adorable young elephant who is on a divine quest to save the world. To do this, players must overcome a variety of obstacles while battling undead or robotic enemies that are littered throughout the environment.
Don’t expect too much of a challenge from Yono as it focuses more on being an enjoyable journey that contains some interesting puzzles. One that you can let your kids play without any concerns but also play through yourself if you are just looking to unwind.
Developer Shin’en Multimedia has plenty of experience when it comes to creating games for Nintendo consoles. They have worked on titles since 2001 for the Game Boy Color. One of their latest games is Fast RMX, a racing follow-up to their Wii U release Fast Racing Neo.
Those who want a new F-Zero game but know that Nintendo is unlikely to deliver anytime in the future will want to check this out. It features a very similar style to both that and Wipeout, offering fast-paced racing. For an indie title, Fast RMX looks outstanding with visuals that would rival any game on the market.
Developer: Night School Studio Publisher: Night School Studio
Adventure games have seen something of a revival in recent years, largely down to the efforts of the now-defunct Telltale Games. Oxenfree is another success story from the genre and the first game created by Night School Studio, set up by former Telltale employees. Inspired by coming of age films, it stars a young cast of characters who explore a mysterious island after hearing tales of supernatural occurrences.
There’s no way to lose in Oxenfree. Instead, the game is built around you interacting with the characters and developing your relationships. Along the way are several puzzles to complete, which cleverly combine with the ever more frequent horror elements that come as the game progresses. With the campaign lasting just a few hours, this is an indie game you can complete in one sitting as you get engrossed in the story.
Developer: Matt Makes Games Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Not all platformers need to have Super Meat Boy levels of challenge that require perfect timing. Although Celeste is far from a walk in the park, it is played at a far more relaxing pace. This gives you a chance to take in the colourful and thoughtfully designed environment without being overwhelmed by the action.
More mechanics are slowly introduced as you progress through the main quest, keeping the gameplay fresh and interesting throughout. There’s also quite an uplifting message about never giving up and overcoming your self-doubt. Few platformers manage to nail both the story and gameplay but Celeste does so in a very satisfying package.
Developer: Yacht Club Games Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Remember when platformers used to be tough as nails experiences that you could only beat after dozens of hours of hard work? The developers of Shovel Knight certainly do. They’ve created an outstanding and deeply challenging game that requires you to master the movement and combat to reach the end. As you would expect from a game that it heavily inspired by titles from the NES era, Shovel Knight is an 8-bit 2D side scroller with a retro soundtrack. It also brings interesting boss fights and expertly designed levels.
The Treasure Trove edition that is available on the Nintendo Switch combines the original game with two additional campaigns. These not only provide extra content but also let you experience the game from the point of view of some of the more memorable villains. It’s an interesting idea that provides new gameplay opportunities as they each have special abilities.
2. Axiom Verge
Developer: Thomas Happ Games Publisher: Thomas Happ Games
Originally released in 2015, Axiom Verge arrived on Nintendo Switch on October 5, 2017. It looks and plays very much like a classic Metroidvania title and borrows concepts from the likes of Metroid frequently. Fortunately, developer Thomas Happ has also introduced lots of new features, including dozens of special items and power-ups that can significantly alter the way you play the game.
The sheer number of secrets to find ensures you’ll be playing Axiom Verge long after most other games. Meanwhile, the weapons and intense boss fights provide excellent core gameplay that is fun to play while also providing a decent challenge.
1. Golf Story
Developer: Sidebar Games Publisher: Sidebar Games
Just like the vast majority of modern sports titles, most golf games are straight up simulators that try to emulate the real-life activity as realistically as possible. That is not the case with the 2017 game Golf Story. Developed by Sidebar Games, it is a role-playing adventure crossed with a traditional golf sim.
What separates Golf Story from other sports titles is that it has an actual narrative. You take control of a golfer who has hit rock bottom and wants to rediscover his love of the sport. Expect lots of fun with quirky alternatives, like disc golf, and secrets to find by driving your ball around the world.