40. Guacamelee! 2
The original Guacamelee is a game with a celebrated reputation as one of the best Metroidvanias in the history of the genre, so fans could be forgiven for expecting a lot from the long-awaited sequel. Luckily, Guacamelee 2 fires on all cylinders, delivering a worthy successor to its forebear. Nixing much of the bothersome side quests that dragged things out the first game, as well as adding in a string of new moves and upgrades, Guacamelee 2 doesn’t just match the quality of the original — it improves on it in nearly every conceivable way.
Fans of the more silly aspects of the original will be pleased to find that Guacamelee 2 is just as bananas as you’d expect, but the real surprise comes with the amount of depth and heart that it packs, especially in its ending. Even as there are more and more indie gems to pick from these days, Guacamelee 2 is still well worth your time. It stands apart from the pack as one of the best indies on the Swicth. (Mike Worby)
Owlboy, a love letter to adventure platformers of gaming past, is a game almost a decade in the making. It actually took the five-man team at D-Pad Studio nine years to finish the game before it launched on PC, and while that may seem like an unusual amount of time to create an indie game (especially one that consists of roughly ten hours of gameplay), the hard work paid off in spades. For a retro 2D Metroidvania-style indie game that places a heavy focus on exploration and combat, you could be forgiven in thinking that Owlboy has nothing new to bring to the table, but in fact, the game boasts qualities that are usually missing in platformers: tingling observations, unforced comedy, an engaging story, and quirky, enduring charm.
While everything about Owlboy is done with extraordinary care, what really sets it apart is the story and writing. What we have here is an exceptionally well-crafted coming-of-age tale full of really dark moments, as well as some heart-wrenching scenes. It follows the story of young Otus, a mute protagonist who studies under his domineering mentor, Asio, a curmudgeonly owl who routinely criticizes our feathered hero and chastises his inability to speak. What at first seems like a simple 2D platformer quickly reveals an incredibly deep plot involving ancient owl societies, dark secrets, abuse, and a recurring theme of failure. When sky-pirates attack the peaceful surroundings of Otus’ world — threatening to destroy the city and steal powerful relics in the process — Otus teams up with a military mechanic, Geddy, and other trusty companions he meets along the way to put a stop to the pirates before their home is destroyed.
From its heartbreaking opening (a sequence of cold verbal abuse leaving Otus with his head bowed) to its equally devastating conclusion, Owlboy ends up being an extraordinarily intimate portrait of a life unfolding, and an exceptional, unconventional game in which a boy with a disability must overcome his insecurities, find courage, and more importantly, gain confidence to save those he loves. (Ricky D)
38. Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango remains one of an elite group of 90s games that don’t seem to age. Even after a remastering, it still manages to maintain a nostalgic atmosphere, smothered in witty humor and dark themes that ensure it’ll stay a masterpiece for as long as humans are gaming. So naturally, its introduction onto the Nintendo Switch was one of momentous applause, allowing another generation to explore the Eighth Underworld just like the generation before did.
This game is a reminder as to how clever story writing can immerse a player without the need for dynamic gameplay. There are so many different emotions sharing this tale — a story of hope being driven away by greed, lust, and reluctance, all tied together with a humor that makes the journey compelling. So many games deliver on their story, but none have had the potency that Grim Fandango manages to inject.
This might be a twenty-year-old game that’s been remastered and placed into the Nintendo library, but it’s such an amazing accomplishment that it could be re-released in twenty years on a future console and would undoubtedly still stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest. If you didn’t visit Grim Fandango in the 90s, now’s the time to do it. (James Baker)
37. Pokken Tournament DX
Whether you’re in it to catch ‘em all, battle to be the best like no one ever was, or simply love the world, the lasting impact of the Pokémon series can’t be understated. However, the turn-based RPG nature of the games leaves a lot to the imagination when considering pokémon battles. Don’t get me wrong; I love the turn-based battle mechanics central to the main series titles. However, the concept of a fighting game where players can control their favorite pokémon in bouts for glory has long been dreamed of, and it’s surprising that it took so long for that to appear. The wait, however, was worth it. Pokkén Tournament, from the makers of the popular Tekken franchise, not only fulfills a long term wish of Poké-fanatics, but is a brilliantly novel new fighter all the more brilliant for its clever fan service and celebration of the franchise.
At the game’s core is a colorful cast of Pocket Monsters comprised of fan favorites, and a blend of the franchise’s many types of pokémon. Each pokémon has its own unique move set, despite being grouped into one of four categories of fighter — Standard, Power, Technical, or Speed — with types assigned to give a general impression of how the character will play. Despite having a roster of totally unique characters, as well as two variations of featured pokémon that play completely differently than the ones they’re based on, Pokkén is remarkable for its overall balance and ease of use. Mastery of its unique characteristics, however, will separate the simple trainer from the Pokémon Master.
Most notably, Pokkén Tournament DX features two different styles of battle in a single match. The first, Field Phase, is a free-range, 3D arena mode where players can traverse the entire map. Dual Phase plays more like a standard 2D fighter. Both phases impact character move sets and play to character strengths differently, and only by landing a heavy hit can a player shift phases. Consequently, mastery means having a handle on a pokémon’s move set regardless of phase. Fairly unique to fighters, Pokkén Tournament also features Support Sets, duos of pokémon that can be summoned once a specific meter has been filled. These support pokémon feature varying charge times and abilities, and provide an interesting level of strategy, as only one pokémon can be selected per round, while the other will be fully ready for the following round, providing a decent amount of strategy and plotting on the part of the player.
The game also features a Synergy Meter that allows pokémon to unleash a special move or transformation when ready, and feature some fantastically designed cut scenes when these moves are pulled off. The result of all this is a diverse fighter featuring some of the most recognizable pokémon around, enjoyable fighting mechanics and gameplay — including a sort of rock, paper, scissors take on different move types — exciting special moves, fun supports, and an incredibly unique phase system to keep players on their toes. Pokkén Tournament DX is a fun fighting diversion for fans of the franchise, and a refreshing fighting escapade for fans of the genre craving something new. (Tim Maison)
Teens alone on an island squaring off against deadly forces is nothing new in the horror genre. One doesn’t need to look far to come up with a list of similar stories and truth be told, Sony’s Until Dawn quickly springs to mind when thinking of a comparison point. On paper, the premise of Oxenfree may seem like a clichéd thriller, but really, Oxenfree is a near masterpiece, a blend of mind-boggling sci-fi, and subjective storytelling that serves as a singular and timeless piece of gaming. These high school seniors aren’t just fodder — they’re three-dimensional characters with complex inner lives that you don’t often see in video games. The mystery that unravels as you explore every corner of the island is really just a MacGuffin, an excuse to navigate the heady dynamics inherent to a group of hormonal, troubled teens. The real charm in Oxenfree is the character development, and like the majority of great horror films, Oxenfree explores the theme of isolation, both in a literal sense and in a figurative sense.
Like most walking simulators, Oxenfree‘s story also branches depending on the choices you make, and it’s possible to get one of a few different endings. But no matter what ending you get, sacrifices must be made. And that’s the beauty of Oxenfree — by giving players the agency to tell the story they want and creating emotional connections to the characters, every ending comes with a heavy price to pay. While the horror elements are what grant Oxenfree its narrative urgency, the character interactions are the best part of the journey, and like most games that offer players a choice, the results of your decisions — much like with life itself — aren’t always satisfying.
In closing, Oxenfree is an astonishingly imaginative, poignant, genre-defying tale of loss, grief, guilt, revenge, and time travel wrapped in a ghostly mystery that’s just as dark and disturbing as adolescence. (Ricky D)
Released by French indie studio The Game Bakers, the fast-paced action game Furi is a combination of hack-and-slash swordplay, twin-stick shooting, and non-stop action. It’s also a game consisting entirely of boss fights of escalating difficulty. There are no levels to explore, no disposable cannon fodder, and no puzzles to solve. It’s essentially a series of extremely difficult boss fights strung together by extremely stylish animated cutscenes.
To note that Furi is not for everyone is to belabor the obvious. Not that any game will please everyone, but truth be told, Furi is one of those games that only a small percentage of gamers will appreciate. On the surface, Furi may seem like it’s all about style, but dig deeper and you’ll appreciate the level of craftsmanship that went into making this indie gem — that is, if you have the patience and skill to progress far enough.
Furi is a difficult game to enjoy because it’s so damn difficult. To enjoy Furi is to master your attack, a process that will involve having to start over again and again, causing immense frustration. Regardless, Furi is the product of a studio to watch out for, and may prove to be one of the more rewarding and rage-inducing gaming experiences in many a year. (Ricky D)
34. Darkest Dungeon
Intense and oppressive, yet lacking any particular need for rhythm, Darkest Dungeon is a tactical, squad-based dungeon crawler with team management mechanics. It features permadeath, so your many heroes are always at risk, and there’s no save-scumming to pull them back, making it especially devastating to lose a high-level hero you’ve been with for some time. However, not only is mortality an issue, but so is sanity. A heavily Lovecraftian game, Darkest Dungeon inflicts all kinds of mental and emotional strain on your heroes, leaving you to manage who risks going back into the dungeon, and who sits the next one out.
With awesome Mignola-esque artwork, the actual best narration ever by Wayne June, and brutally tactical combat, Darkest Dungeon is not only one of the best indies in years, but one of the best games, period. (Michael Riser)
33. The Messenger
Sabotage Studio’s debut game The Messenger was one of 2018’s breakout hits, garnering positive critical reception and even winning Best Debut Indie Game at The Game Awards. The game begins as an action-platformer that is very reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden on the NES, complete with a retro, 8-bit aesthetic and killer soundtrack.
Initially, the story presents itself as a generic quest requiring you to journey to the peak of a mountain and deliver a mythical scroll in order to save humanity. However, about halfway through you encounter a twist in the narrative that grants a special ability that not only changes the fundamental game design, but the graphics and music update to reflect a SNES-era 16-bit game!
Gameplay is very straightforward in The Messenger, and is centered around a ninja who wields a sword that can be used against a variety of enemies. As you progress, more abilities are unlocked that allow you to traverse levels differently. Though it’s mostly a solo experience, The Messenger does feature a small cast of memorable characters, including the incredibly funny Shopkeeper, who will undoubtedly give you a few good laughs.
The game is well-paced and features a challenging set of well-designed levels that contain many optional secrets to be uncovered. The second half of the game really opens things up to become an unforgettable experience, with boss fights that are fair, but will test your skill as a player. If you’re a fan of retro or indie gaming, or looking for a new game to sink your teeth into, The Messenger is one of the best indie platformers available on Nintendo Switch. (Matthew Adler)
32. Fire Emblem Warriors
The Fire Emblem series has a lot to do with the overall success of Nintendo in 2018, thanks to Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for Nintendo 3DS (a faithful remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden) and Fire Emblem Heroes, the free to play mobile game that proved a financial hit for Nintendo. Warriors may not fully please hardcore fans, but it’s great for those new to the series. And while it may not be perfect in its execution, the charming cast, addictive gameplay, and various modes are reason enough to sink plenty of hours into this game.
In short, Fire Emblem Warriors is an orgy of frenetic combat, a blood-letting on a titanic scale, a ballet of butchery that moves in perfect harmony with its thunderous gameplay. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the game! (Ricky D)
31. Into the Breach
A turn-based strategy game from the makers of FTL: Faster Than Light, Into the Breach pits players against the monstrous Vek in a fight over the future of mankind. Lest its narrative sheen seem superficial, Into the Breach is actually one of the deepest strategy games of the generation, but it’s the especially tight design that makes it stand out from other great TBS’s like X-COM 2 and Mario and Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.
Here, battles take place across small eight-by-eight grids that ensure every nano-choice carries weight. Meanwhile, a broad swathe of deeply customizable characters and units add a personalized depth to every encounter. This is a game for people who love their systems intricate and deep, yet Into the Breach is somehow also a roguelike, meaning that despite its finely tuned pacing and balance, a wide array of randomized elements make every round unique. Along with its roguelike constitution and customizable combat units, Into the Breach also features multiple difficulty levels and an enjoyable in-game achievement system that make it endlessly replayable. For those Advance Wars fans left out in the cold or Fire Emblem devotees devastated by delays, rest assured there is already a strategy game on Switch whose bite-size matches pair especially well with Nintendo’s hybrid console. (Kyle Rentschler)
30. Puyo Puyo Tetris
Puyo Puyo Tetris was released alongside the Switch in Japan when it launched, and within a few months everywhere else. It, like many early Switch games, was buried under the success and rave behind Breath of the Wild, but Puyo Tetris definitely deserves some time in the time spotlight for being one of the best multiplayer games on the console. While the game was released on just about everything prior to the Switch, it remained Japan-exclusive until the Switch port.
Puyo Puyo Tetris combines all the elements of its two namesake games into one chaos-induced puzzle game. There are five different game modes to play from, but the real draws are the Swap and Fusion modes that combine both Puyo Puyo and Tetris on the same grid, and force players to stay on their toes to rack up combos and clutter up their opponent’s field. There are bright colors, goofy looking characters, and funny sound effects to go along with a crazy amount of depth to the game thanks to how well the mechanics of both Puyo and Tetris mix.
The portability of the Switch also makes it really easy to play. You can very easily move and rotate pieces with just one joy-con, making it one of the few games you can comfortably play with just the two joy-con halves included with the Switch. There’s a somewhat healthy online community for the game, so you’re not stuck with only playing local if you can’t constantly round up a Puyo posse. There also a rather eccentric and funny story mode to the game that takes itself about as seriously as you would expect it to.
Cheap, fun, and great on-the-go are all reasons that Puyo Puyo Tetris should be in every Switch owner’s library. (Taylor Smith)
29. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!
Nostalgia is an addiction that the older generation is often powerless to resist. When Nintendo announced Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee!, they knew it was the children of the 90s that were going to buy into this charm offensive, with any doubts about the two games being quickly dispersed.
Curiously, the nostalgic elements of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! are merely a facade, with much of the gameplay mechanics drawing from Pokémon Go in one form or another. Notably, catching a pokémon is borrowed straight from that mobile title, with much of the gameplay centered around catching as many as possible. This is made easier by wild pokémon that appear visibly on the screen, with the tall grass acting as a loose spawn point. While it’s easy to argue that Pokémon: Let’s Go is an experiment by Game Freak, many of the mechanics introduced could easily be used in any future Pokémon adventure.
Creating addictive gameplay and wrapping it all up in memories of Pokémon Yellow is the best present we’ve had from Nintendo this year, and we didn’t even know we wanted it. Essentially, what has made Pokémon: Let’s Go such a raving success isn’t that it’s what we expected, but it’s everything we thought we didn’t want, but now do. We’ve been seduced by Nintendo, and now we’re craving more; the new generation can’t come soon enough. (James Baker)
28. The Binding of Isaac
From the brilliant mind of Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen, The Binding of Isaac could best be described as the perfect Nintendo paradox, both staying true to a classic Miyamoto formula while diverging into thematically dark territory. It is a game that seeks to explore religious fanaticism through a comical lens, offering both great surface gameplay and deep lore for longtime fans. Despite its controversial religious themes, The Binding of Isaac‘s core elements are as classic Nintendo as a game can get. Inspired by the dungeon crawling gameplay of The Legend of Zelda, developer McMillen combines the standard stage bosses, powerups, and treasure rooms with a modern procedurally generated level design to ensure that no playthrough is ever the same. By mixing the roguelike elements with a top-down viewpoint and twinstick gameplay, the game combines the stressful and fast-paced appeal of Ikaruga with the nostalgic charm of A Link to the Past.
Drawing inspiration from a biblical tale, the game places the titular Isaac on the run in his basement from the fervent Mom. Convinced that God is testing her faith, Isaac’s mother seeks to sacrifice her son because of her religious devotion. Over the course of a single playthrough, players will battle skeletons, monsters, embodiments of sin, literal poop, and much more, eventually having a bullet-hell showdown with a very powerful Mom in one of many possible final boss fights. Along the way, Isaac will power up his shots and abilities with a plethora of different items, taking various morbid and comical goods to increase his damage, health, and stats.
The eventual Switch release of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is truly the definitive edition of the adventure. The title boasts numerous unlockable characters, hundreds of additional powerups, and a variety of different game modes, ensuring that plays will continue descending through the basement, battling Mom and more in increasingly various ways for countless hours. A favorite of speed runners and Let’s Play streamers, The Binding of Isaac is easy to pick up yet almost impossible to master, offering a steady challenge for players of all skill types, and guaranteeing the ‘just one more run’ level of addiction. (Ty Davidson)
27. Salt & Sanctuary
Salt & Sanctuary wears its inspirations on its sleeve. It borrows the lore, character progression, class system, and even checkpoint system of the Dark Souls series along with the world progression, level design and the non-linear landscape of the earliest Castlevania games. Paying homage to two of the most beloved video game franchise while still finding your own voice is no easy task, yet the two-person team at Ska Studios made not only one of the best indie games in recent memory, but arguably the best couch co-op game available on the Nintendo Switch. After sixty-five hours exploring every nook and cranny, fighting every beast and villain, collecting every weapon and item, and memorizing the labyrinth of environments you must journey through, all I wanted to do was play the game all over again. Salt and Sanctuary is so good, I honestly think this might be one of the most under-rated games ever made.
The game may not be original, but it’s undeniably exciting and at times awe-inspiring. From the electric guitar/synth soundtrack to the predominantly hand-drawn animation to the gratifying combat, as well as local cooperative play, Salt and Sanctuary puts a lot of triple-a titles to shame. (Ricky D)
26. Katamari Damacy ReRoll
Katamari Damacy is the ultimate video game safe space. Imagine you could take all your worries and annoyances, then roll them up into a giant ball and shoot it into space — sounds good, right? Then imagine if you could also roll up almost literally everything else in the world, causing absolute chaos to help your dad — the giant King of All Cosmos — repair the galaxy, all while listening to a funky Japanese soundtrack. No matter the mood, Katamari Damacy will make you smile, and a port to the Switch must have been an absolute no-brainer to maximize its addictive ‘one more go’ appeal.
There’s very little to the game: you start off with a small katamari ball, collecting small objects like sushi and paper clips, and gradually increase its size to eventually collect enormous things like giraffes and cars. To assume there is no challenge in Katamari Damacy is foolish, however, as there are numerous levels that add a puzzle element to rein in reckless rolling. Sometimes you might have to collect as many swans as possible (don’t even think about collecting more ducks than swans — that’s just not graceful), while other times you might have to collect the biggest bear you can find. The game can be made more difficult if players fail to grasp what is a pretty bespoke control system that exclusively consists of different combinations using both analog sticks simultaneously (don’t bother with the motion controls), but perseverance can make it second nature in no time.
Being a remake of a cult classic, many will already know the appeal of this beautiful, chilled-out game, but it retains a niche appeal today, and there’s no better time or place to get into the series than with this faithful hi-res remake of where it all began — one that you can take with you anywhere. (Alex Aldridge)