Most people buy Nintendo consoles primarily for their first-party games. With the Switch, Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild alone were more than enough reason to pick up the versatile console alone. Since then, Nintendo has supported the system with plenty of high-quality titles, but there are way more games worth your time that can get overshadowed by the bigger releases.
Indie titles in particular can easily slip under the radar, or games that just didn’t have a big marketing push. With there being a slight lull in any major first-party titles coming out, now is the perfect time to look at some of the hidden gems on the Switch that just might end up becoming some of your all-time favorites.
While Paper Mario: The Origami King is by no means a bad game, it did leave fans of the older Paper Mario titles — specifically the fan favorite Thousand Year Door — craving that more traditional RPG formula the series has moved away from. Bug Fables not only has the same 2D art style of a Paper Mario, but also harkens back to the old turn-based combat style, action commands and all. The game sees you control the main trio of adventurers across seven chapters full of interesting characters, tricky puzzles, side quests, secret bosses, and plenty more to discover in the rich world of Bugaria.
If you’ve heard of To the Moon, then odds are you’ve heard about just how impactful its story can be. This is the shortest game on the list, which could be a positive for some, but only because it wastes no time in telling the exact story the developers set out to. Don’t go into this one expecting a breezy tale, however. This game is about real issues that might hit very close to home for some. The story focuses on two doctors who allow their patients to relive their entire lives within their minds before they die and live out their greatest desire in life they weren’t able to accomplish. Johnny, their latest patient, has the last wish of going to the moon. There’s no combat in this game, but if the story resonates with you, as it has for many, it will stick its claws in you and never let go.
Don’t write this one off as just being a traditional boring golf game. What the Golf is anything but what you expect it to be. While it might start out as you expect, every level of this game will surprise you in funny, unique, and charming ways. To say how would give away what makes the game so special — that sense of wondering how they will change things up next level. This is another shorter experience, but basically the polar opposite of To the Moon. If you just want to turn your brain off, have a laugh, and play something that is only tangentially related to golf, this is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Rhythm games have one major hurdle that most fail to clear, and that’s how to integrate the gameplay and the visuals. You need to be able to focus on timing your button presses to the music, which usually leads to background elements being fairly basic or bland so you aren’t distracted. Sayonara Wild Hearts can be described in a number of ways, but basic and bland would never be words that come up. The art is striking and bold with slick animation and action to match. And, because the actual gameplay is integrated into the scenes playing out, you can enjoy the visual spectacle and fantastic music and hit all your notes at once. Plus, none other than Queen Latifah narrates the entire experience.
Good Job! brings together two styles of gameplay that are rife with potential for hilarious moments together: Physics-based puzzles and cooperative gameplay. In a similar style to the Overcooked games and Job Simulator, this quirky little title asks you, plus a friend if you play in local co-op, to do a bunch of boring tasks around the office no one else wants to. While that might not sound like the most fun thing to do in a video game, the gameplay is where it all comes together. Trying to set up a projector or water plants without completely wrecking the entire office is often much harder, and more entertaining, than you would expect.
While Good Job! brings the laughs through your own interactions, Afterparty is one of those rare games that actually attempts to be funny through writing. And, for the most part, it is successful. Coming from the developers who made Oxenfree, this is another narrative-driven adventure game with plenty of player choice. You take on the roles of Milo and Lola, two friends who find themselves as two of the newest arrivals in Hell. The only hope for these two to escape this fate is to outdrink the devil himself. Because of how much your choices can impact the narrative, this is one you will want to replay at least a couple of times to see where this adventure can end up.
If you’re sick of all these heavy story games and just want a game you can turn your brain off with and relieve some stress, look no further than Huntdown. This side-scrolling shooter is unabashedly ’80s inspired, complete with big hair, eye patches, and extreme levels of gore … or at least as much gore as the pixelated art style can depict. You play as a bounty hunter cleaning up the streets of criminals, but the story is only thick enough to prop up an excuse for you to blast your way through the beautifully grimy levels. Play alone or in co-op in this classic arcade experience.
This game got a decent amount of attention when it first launched, but not so much when it made its way onto the Switch. Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the most unique puzzle experiences in all of gaming, let alone on the Switch. The premise is simple: You must investigate what happened to the crew of the titular ship, all of whom are either missing or dead. How exactly are you meant to figure this all out? By using your special timepiece that allows you to travel back in time and observe the final moment of a person’s life. If you find games hold your hand too much when it comes to puzzles, this title will be perfect for you.
The setup of Spiritfarer may not make it sound all that fun or heartwarming, but the fact that it quickly rose very high on many people’s top games of the year should tell you that it is absolutely more than it seems. The game places you in the role of a Spiritfarer named Stella who runs a ship to carry spirits into the afterlife. Each spirit you pick up has a story you can learn, but you must ultimately say goodbye once they’re ready to move on. Mixing up the gameplay beyond just dialogue are a few calming activities like fishing, farming, crafting, cooking, and upgrading your boat. Like To the Moon, how much you get out of this chill experience will depend on how invested you are able to get in the stories of these well-written characters.
How could we make a list of hidden gems without including at least one Metroidvania-style game? In this case, Gato Roboto flew under basically everyone’s radar for no good reason. You play as a cat in a big mech suit for crying out loud. Fans of the genre will already know how this game works: You explore a big, maze-like environment picking up new weapons and items to reach previously inaccessible areas. It isn’t a particularly demanding game, and it won’t ask you to sink dozens of hours to fully explore the game’s world, but it is perfect if you want a solid Metroidvania experience with a style all its own.
The classic arcade beat-’em-up genre has seen a small revival in recent years, but none have hit all the right buttons like River City Girls has. Technically part of the Kunio-kun games, like River City Ransom, this game doesn’t require you to know anything about this niche series before jumping in. Everything about this title is just oozing with personality, style, and effort on the part of the developers. The art is sharp, bright, and inviting; the combat slick, responsive, and satisfying; the story charming, funny, and unobtrusive — and it’s all wrapped up in one of the best soundtracks you’ll listen to all year. Toss in a world map with secrets to find and side quests to take on, a light RPG system to work through, and fun cameos to come across, and there’s basically nothing more you could want from a beat-’em-up.
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