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The 60 Best Nintendo Switch Games

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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)

ARMS 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)

snipperclips Best Nintendo Switch Games59. Snipperclips
Nintendo’s puzzle games usually sidle into the room without much fanfare, aiming to be nice little distractions from major releases, unburdened by the pressure to perform. That wasn’t the case with Snipperclips, however, which was immediately thrust into the spotlight as one of the Switch’s launch titles. This family-friendly cut-up was tasked with showing the new console’s appeal in the portable co-op arena, and thanks to some clever conundrums, inventive gameplay, and a quirky vibe, it largely succeeded. Snipperclips sees players working together to solve puzzles by slicing away at each other to create useful shapes. Need to get a ball into a hoop? Make a scoop out of your partner’s body. Want to pop that annoying balloon? Carve a sharp point by chopping away at their head. There are no limits to how you can scissor away at the creepy/adorable heroes (Snip and Clip), and so solutions are often limited only by your collective imagination.

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)

Wulverblade

58. Wulverblade

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)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Iconoclasts

57. Iconoclasts

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)

Disgaea-5-Complete-Review-1

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

55. Mulaka

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)

Best Switch Games Mr Shifty

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)

Best Switch Games Dandara

53. Dandara

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)

Best Nintendo Switch Games Kirby Star Allies 

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)

FooorKids

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)

48. Slime-san

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)

Best Switch Games Wandersong

47. Wandersong

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)

Best Switch Games Gris

46. GRIS

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)

Ape Out Review

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)

44. Wargroove

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)

Mega Man 11 Review

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)

Night In The Woods

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)

PART 1  | PART 2  | PART 3

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Halfway through my analysis of Link’s Awakening, Nintendo unveiled an adorable chibi-clay “reimagining” of that game for the Switch. In celebration of its upcoming launch, I will turn my eye from the strangest, darkest, most surreal portable Zelda to the strangest, darkest, most surreal console Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Majora’s Mask is arguably the Zelda game most open to hermeneutic critique, as its narrative themes run deep but somewhat vague, and it’s wholly original structure feels like postmodern art compared to the conservative story and character arcs of nearly every other Zelda. In this series, I will be looking specifically at the dungeon design of the 3DS version of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D. While this version makes several changes to the Nintendo 64 version, some of which are rather consequential and controversial, I am choosing to scrutinize this version because it is probably how most players currently play the game (plus, it’s the version I own that isn’t hundreds of miles away at my mom’s house). In this entry, I will be looking at the game’s fifth and final semi-dungeon, the Moon.

The moon

Upon entering the Moon, Link finds himself on a large grassy field with a single tree, four masked children running around, and a fifth child sitting by the tree. It’s a beautiful but eerie sight, with overlit lighting and and a surreal minimalism that feels like Eiji Aonuma may have taken some advice from David Lynch. While the scene betrays some obscure metaphor I can’t pretend to fully comprehend, its practical implications are far more tangible. Each of the four active children can be paid masks so Link can access their corresponding Breath of the Wild shrine-like mini-dungeon that primarily revolves a single mechanic, while talking to the sedentary fifth child triggers the game’s final boss fight.

meadow on the moon

Costing only two masks, the most accessible mini-dungeon is the Odolwa path, which is comprised of several Deku Flowers that Link must use to reach the end. Since most of these Deku Flowers are placed on moving platforms, traversing the path requires some precise timing and maximally efficient routes through the air. If Link falls, he’ll have to start over again from the very beginning, which can grow tiresome but is never too annoying because this room is ultimately fairly easy. Instead, the room is weighed down by how tedious and slow it can be, since the player will spend as much time waiting for the right time to launch themselves as they will actually controlling Link. And since the mini-dungeon contains no other challenges, this decent mechanic ends up feeling milked dry by the end.

The Goht mini-dungeon is similar in several ways to the Odolwa. While it uses Goron Link instead of Deku Link, it too is solely comprised of platforming challenges premised on its transformation’s unique movement mechanic (in this case, rolling). This is a much tougher challenge than the Odolwa path in part because it is longer and more intense. But the camera can be a unresponsive after ricocheting off treasure chests, and it can get especially frustrating on the 3DS since the system’s nub-stick feels too imprecise for the sensitive rolling controls. Though initially inventive and heart-pounding, the Goht mini-dungeon ends up feeling drab, repetitive, and frustrating after a few minutes.

Fierce Deity Mask

The Gyorg mini-dungeon is similar to the previous two mini-dungeons in that it requires Link to traverse a path from start to finish that is designed around its constituent transformation. However, here the challenge is less about controlling Link than finding the correct path forward, as the mini-dungeon’s layout is essentially a one-way water current maze. That means the entire experience is based on monotonous trial-and-error navigation, with the only exception being when Link has to jump out of the water at the end of each section, which is really difficult to consistently pull off. The blind pathfinding combined with an inconsistent (though theoretically enjoyable) move makes this part of the Moon especially obnoxious and not remotely skill-based.

Finally, the Twinmold mini-dungeon is a combat gauntlet where Link fill faces several of the game’s toughest baddies back-to-back. Though it doesn’t channel any individual mask, the smart selection of enemies makes for consistently engaging combat, even if the fights can be made a bit too easy with the Great Fairy sword and ample heart containers. This mini-dungeon features by far the the most vibrant and varied art, which result in some of the best-looking spaces in the entire game. After each battle, Link must lay down a Bombchu to explode a hole in the wall. This is a fun challenge, though it would have been nice to have a few extra Bombchus since correctly timing and placing them can be a hit-or-miss endeavor. As a whole, this mini-dungeon is by far the best of the bunch, and the only one that dabbles in more than one mechanic and feels like an expansion of its dungeon.

Majora in Majora's Mask

The game’s final boss fight is a three-phase epic of outstanding variety and character. The first phase, Majora’s Mask, has two phases in itself. While the first phase mostly just has Link wait for an opportunity to fire arrows and attack after it falls, the second phase is especially clever as it has Link reflect a beam with his Mirror Shield to attack not just Majora’s Mask but three transformation masks which have joined the fray. In practice, aiming the beam can be tough, but it’s a wonderful concept. The second major phase, Majora’s Incarnation, just maniacally runs around, moonwalks, and sometimes fires balls of light. He poses no real threat and has the most shallow moveset of any boss in the game, but he exudes character and embodies the Dionysian chaos that defines the game’s titular mask. Finally, Majora’s Wrath is a comparatively deep fight against a giant humanoid Majora with whip-like tentacles. Though he initially presents a threat and is tactically deep compared to Majora’s Incarnation, Majora’s Wrath can be easily bested with the Fairy Sword in a surprisingly short amount of time. And if the player has access to the incredibly powerful Fierce Deity mask, any challenge this boss fight may present is quickly nullified, making the final battle a complete and utter cakewalk. 

In terms of presentation, the Moon may be my personal favorite part of Majora’s Mask. Its surreal, eerie, seemingly metaphorical setting feels mysterious despite cutting to the game’s thematic and narrative core. From the moral quandaries about identity the children pose to the gorgeous-but-uneasy field Link arrives on, the Moon is overflowing with quirk and oddball charisma. But in terms of design, the Moon is almost inarguably the most monotonous and least refined of the dungeons. Several of the mini-dungeons that comprise the Moon are trial-and-error slogs built around the subpar platforming mechanics of the transformation masks, and they completely ignore those masks’ other traits. This is especially problematic in the 3DS version of the game, where swimming as a Zora and rolling as a Goron feel in need of adjustment. Meanwhile, several of the mechanics these mini-dungeons test are barely required previously, such as hopping out of the water as a Zora or bouncing off corners as a Goron. Furthermore, much of the art in these mini-dungeons is drab and characterless, while some areas require an undue amount of magic use. And while the game’s final boss trio is vivid and vivacious, it also lacks depth and difficulty. As a whole, both the multi-phase final boss and the dungeon itself feel reminiscent of the final dungeon in Link’s Awakening, which is fitting given that I’m writing this in anticipation of the upcoming Link’s Awakening remake. It is short, aesthetically singular, and heavily reliant on a varied final boss, but as a dungeon is woefully underdeveloped.

For deep dives into other levels from Majora’s Mask, as well as levels from other classic Nintendo games such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, click here.

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‘Link’s Awakening’ for Switch Review: A Recurring Dream Nearly Realized

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Charming as it still is, going back to the Game Boy’s Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening can produce mixed emotions, as modern convenience has not been kind to its two-button control scheme and other annoying quirks. Yet, the draw of Koholint Island’s bizarre story and oddball atmosphere persists — so much so that Nintendo has decided to give their aging experimentation a very welcome Switch facelift, with pleasant visual updates and added accessibility that should mostly satisfy longtime fans and help initiate newcomers. However, a distracting lack of polish and ambition blurs the vision, and holds this otherwise enjoyable remake (re-imagining?) back from attaining the sublime dreaminess it deserves.

Link's Awakening for Switch house

That has little to do with the base game; Link’s Awakening for Switch is essentially the same great experience Zelda veterans will remember, albeit prettier and with some quality-of-life additions along the way, such as dedicated buttons for common actions (like swinging a sword or dashing, thankfully), useful map markers, and bottles for fairies (sorry Crazy Tracy, but you’ve become obsolete). Link also moves in eight directions now, which feels much better (though he can still only dash in four), and the world scrolls by in a more seamless fashion, allowing tantalizing peeks into neighboring areas that weren’t visible before.

Obviously those are great tweaks, and they help Link’s Awakening for Switch flow away from the sometimes stilted pace caused by constant menu-opening that could make the original a bit of a slog at times (especially when a lot of item-swapping was necessary). There’s also a bit of extra content this time around, the most notable being a dungeon editor at the location of the former Camera Shop, and some additional dolls to win at the claw game that can be placed in various houses around the world as decorations. None of these perks contribute in any meaningful way, but hey — if you’re into arranging previously played dungeon rooms into booby-trapped mazes for your Zelda friends to test out like lab rats, then maybe Dampé’s house will get some use.

Link's Awakening For Switch

No, the pitch here is basically that the Switch version is still the same old Link’s Awakening, but better looking — and for many, that will be enough. Koholint’s new plastic sheen projects a more playful, friendly vibe that makes for an agreeable, relaxing journey. Some of the darker aspects may not land quite as hard as they did with those stark, black-and-white pixels (the Game Boy Color version also had a more cheery feel), but there’s something about the rubbery trees, fuzzy grass, and rippling ponds that suggests a less-melancholy island of misfit toys.

And with a collection of some of the strangest characters of the series, as well as a surprisingly poignant story, this small-scale adventure has lost none of its appeal as an engaging Zelda title. Sure, there are a few times where inexperienced players might get stuck at a particularly opaque puzzle, and though the wise owl and phone weirdo Ulrira give plenty of direction, sometimes you just have to set out and explore. Poke around a bit. That’s how games used to be, and it’s actually refreshing when Link isn’t being pushed along; there’s a beautiful (and manageable) world out there, filled with all sorts of secrets to uncover.

Link's Awakening for Switch desert

Beautiful, that is, when the frame rate isn’t taking a nosedive. The biggest disappointment with Link’s Awakening for Switch is not in the decades-old game design, but in the remake’s current performance. That seamlessly scrolling world tries to hide its loading, but stumbles quite frequently when doing so. Every time Link enters town, transitions to another area, or steps out of a cave or house, the visuals chug to catch up, largely stuttering until they can stabilize again. As someone who usually doesn’t care about such things, I was surprised at how much these short-but-jarring dips took me out of the pleasant atmosphere and affected my enjoyment. A Link Between Worlds set the top-down Zelda standard for buttery smooth gameplay, and it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect similar polish when remaking one of the franchise’s most revered entries.

Instead, Link’s Awakening for Switch remains rough around the edges in this and other ways as well, niggling though those issues may be. It’s not uncommon for items dropped by enemies to get stuck on geometry (why does it always happen when you really need that heart?), and swinging the sword feels a bit awkward and clunky, occasionally only registering a hit on one enemy despite multiple being struck. Link also waddles a tad on the slow side, and the platforming actions feel loose — nit-picks for sure, but noticeable in their lack of refinement.

Link' Awakening for Switch bird

None of this twists Link’s Awakening for Switch into some kind of nightmare — far from it — but this remake seems like a wasted opportunity to retune an ancient instrument into a modern marvel capable of hitting the highest notes, and that’s not quite what’s happened here. What we get is a very fine edition of a fantastic game — one that will give longtime fans a great excuse to return to island exile, and hopefully introduce a whole new generation of players to one of the Zelda franchise’s most interesting and off-beat adventures. But though it’s certainly the best version yet of this classic, Link’s Awakening for Switch doesn’t quite reach the definitive summit.

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‘Blasphemous’ Review: For God’s Sake

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I’m not a religious man, but have often found the gruesome and twisted fiction it can give rise to utterly fascinating. As such, Blasphemous instantly barged its way onto my radar with its gloriously macabre Kickstarter trailer back in 2017. Brooding and grisly, it evoked almost exactly what was eventually delivered in the final product, and — despite a number of technical flaws — the wait was definitely worth it.

Rather than putting it off until later in the review, the Dark Souls comparisons might as well be nipped in the bud at this early juncture. From its visual theme, narrative techniques, and gameplay bullet points, Blasphemous sets out its stall to be a mysterious and challenging affair of swords and monsters. It takes those familiar Souls facets and combines them into a non-linear Metroidvania platformer, and it’s a formula that has rarely been done with as much flair as it is here.

Defeating a boss feels suitably epic

Those familiar with FromSoftware’s narrative leanings will know what to expect from the story in Blasphemous — that being not a whole lot of surface-level understanding. The opening is mainly utter nonsense, comprised of your typical oldey-timey English and dogmatic scripture, and it doesn’t get an awful lot clearer as players fight through the campaign. However, nearly all the collectible items and powerups have readable lore at the press of a button, and piecing together these scraps of information will gradually reveal a greater comprehension of the story.

Players take control of The Penitent One — a masked man who seems to be permanently crying tears of blood — in a quest to reverse the effects of ‘The Great Miracle.’ This cataclysmic event devastated mankind as punishment for ‘The Age of Corruption,’ where everyone was basically really bad at religion and…blasphemed a lot? As a result, everyone in the world is a malevolent, murderous zealot intent on turning The Penitent One into The Pulverized One.

The abhorrent imagery, imposing scenery, and melancholy world of Orthodoxia really is a morbidly fascinating one. Featuring fully hand-painted, pixel-art cutscenes, its visual style is akin to an old Amiga game like Prince of Persia or Another World. Rarely have 16-bit graphics been used to paint such a grotesque scene, and as such, it’s an astounding game to look at. The excellent sprite work comes to life (or perhaps that should be death) with gory combat and executions, while enemies — particularly the bosses — are a thing of depraved, disgusting beauty.

Just what the hell is going on here? Horrific…

The combat, however, is perhaps a little too simplistic, relying heavily on the executions (usually triggered after performing a perfect parry and counter) to do the heavy lifting for a single basic sword weapon and a handful of extra powers. This is one of the biggest missed opportunities of Blasphemous. Keeping players engaged in labyrinthine, often confusing Metroidvania titles is key, and without an enticing loop of unlocks it can be a little difficult to maintain interest in exploring the world. Not every game has to be Dead Cells, but using the same sword that cannot even be enhanced (yet seems to power up by itself, despite you not leveling up in any way) denies players an important level of tangible progression.

However, simplistic combat doesn’t mean the game is simple — oh no, sir — as it can be extremely punishing — especially the bosses. What Blasphemous has to help players instead of new weapons or stat building is a litany of other sundries. Rosary Beads add various passive buffs like shorter cooldowns, damage and elemental resistance, and higher defense or HP. Relics enable environmental assistance to access new areas through platforms or vines, and Mea Culpa Hearts provide buffs at a price — higher strength at the cost of defense, etc. Prayers, which are essentially magic attacks that use up your expandable Fervor meter, can also be unlocked. They’re largely disappointing, as are the small number of abilities that can be unlocked using Tears of Atonement (souls, basically), which amount to only a handful; those movesets are then upgraded rather than expanded upon.  

Miyazaki, you bastar… oh, wait

What was unashamedly billed as a Metroidvania crossed with Dark Souls then feels more like the former than the latter in its gameplay, but a key element Blasphemous takes from Miyazaki’s masterpieces is that enemies only respawn when you rest at a Prie Dieu (which also refills your health flasks). It’s one of the most needed adaptations to the Metroidvania formula; nobody likes accidentally going the wrong way and having to kill all the same enemies again just to get back to where they started.

And go the wrong way players will, as Blasphemous breaks Metroidvania rule 101: don’t get the map wrong. The map isn’t terrible per se, but it is just slightly lacking in certain facets, which can make the journey through Orthodoxia needlessly annoying. By far the most egregious issue is that you can’t exit the map by pressing the map button again. Instead the jump button is used to exit, which will also make your character jump upon returning to the gameplay. It sounds pedantic, but with as many pitfalls and death traps as Blasphemous has, I certainly didn’t appreciate constantly jumping without intention, and died more than once because of it.

It might have taken an hour, but man was this satisfying

When players do die in Blasphemous, a marker will be placed on the map showing where they fell in order to help guide them back to reclaim lost Tears of Atonement and regain the portion of their Fervor bar, which gets gradually reduced with each death. This is helpful until realizing that the map can’t be zoomed in; having markers and a legend is all well and good, but when all you can do is view the map from a very zoomed-out angle, they might as well not be there. It makes finding those potential secrets — or even normal room dividers — much more difficult to pinpoint than they should be.

Unfortunately, Blasphemous is not only sprinkled with little design niggles, but it’s also quite buggy, and at times feels a little unfinished. At one stage I had the game soft lock so that I couldn’t use any of the trigger buttons (to heal or dodge), while another incident saw a boss glitch off the screen, initially attacking nothing before righting itself and appearing from thin air to kill me. Frame drops are also pretty constant — especially when playing in handheld mode — creeping down to single digits in busier areas, and when combined with the buggy camera, can lead to more than a few pitfall deaths.

I couldn’t move the camera that fast even if I wanted to (and I never would)

None of these issues truly spoil the experience, however, and so Blasphemous ends up as an intriguing and challenging title that easily holds a place in the upper echelons of its genre. As cynical as putting Dark Souls mechanics in a Metroidvania seems on paper, the execution here is largely successful, and ensures that the game can be regarded as more than just a pretty thing to look at. Its difficulty may put some people off, as might its vague story or numerous bugs, but the rewards of seeing the gorgeous new areas while brutally executing new enemies will keep hardcore purists going until the immense satisfaction of the final victory.

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What’s Love Got to Do With It? Link’s 5 Best Almost-Romances in ‘Zelda’

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 14th, 2016. 

****

For all the fairy tale aspects and emphasis on collecting hearts, the Legend of Zelda games aren’t exactly known for getting overly lovey-dovey. Despite having two characters who are clearly meant for each other, Link and Zelda have been basically all about business over the last thirty years, putting work before pleasure. Sure, there have been the occasional sideways glances or insinuations in between killing the pig monster that’s trying to take over their world, but otherwise the relationship has mostly stayed strictly platonic, full of the kind of stiff mutual respect that leads to underpopulation.

Zelda, of course, is burdened with the many responsibilities that come with running a kingdom constantly under siege by the forces of darkness, as well as presumably having to consistently fight the urge to give in to Stockholm syndrome during each of her many kidnappings. So basically, she’s pretty busy, really focusing on her career right now. She’s also royalty, so that’s intimidating (and most likely requires a similarly noble suitor). And Link? Don’t mistake his oversleeping for laziness. This guy needs his rest so he can slay monsters and push boxes that should be way too large for him to push. The Chosen One just doesn’t have time to play the Hyrule Field, and frankly, just like with a superhero, it’s probably best he doesn’t get to close to anyone.

Still, there have been hints of love over the last few decades, with Link’s opportunities extending to relationships of tenderness and awkwardness alike that have offered hope of a Happy Ever After for the hero in green. Unfortunately, he’s killed fans’ hopes by blowing every one of them, whether by tragic twist of fate or simply running away in embarrassment. Oh well. Here are the best of the “almosts”:

saria-romance

Saria

Throughout all of the Zelda games, one thing has become apparent: Link doesn’t really do guy friends. This trait is on full display in Ocarina of Time, but while Link may never be bros with that jealous jerk Mido, that doesn’t mean he’s all by his lonesome. His companionship with an actual Kokiri is clearly a deep, meaningful one, and so Saria becomes one of the most endearing characters in the game. Sure, Malon is cute in that farmer’s daughter kind of way, but she seems more in love with horses than heroes, and besides, with a dad who can’t take care of himself, you know the honeymoon would be short. But Saria genuinely cares. She gives Link an ocarina, a pretty cool gift if you’re a forest person, and she teaches him a song so that they can always be in contact (hint, hint). Add to that the long, sad, lingering look on Saria’s face as she watches her “friend” cross the bridge to adventure, and you know there was something going on.

So after defeating Phantom Ganon in the Forest Temple and revealing Saria as the Sage of Forest, her resigned acceptance that their carefree days are behind them is a bittersweet acknowledgment (and reminder) that duty will always come before happiness. Mido’s revelation later that she had been waiting all this time for Link’s return doesn’t help with the melancholy, her unfulfilled pining just another casualty in the fight. But hey, at least she gets to hang out with a bunch of other misfits who are similarly trapped by their fated responsibility! Including…

princess-ruto-romance

Princess Ruto

I’m not sure that anyone has thrown themselves at Link more than Princess Ruto. As a spoiled brat being carried around inside a giant fish that ate her, Ruto develops a one-way relationship that culminates in her believing the two to be engaged when she hands over Zora’s Sapphire, all while blushing profusely. These aggressive signals couldn’t be any more obvious, but Link does a great job of playing it cool and clueless. She really doesn’t pull too many punches though, and it’s hard to explain why he doesn’t bite. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their lives with someone who’s rude, entitled, and bossy? So what that she’s an entirely different species and any offspring would be freaks of nature?

Even when older Link meets her later, she finds time to bring up their love life amidst all the seriousness of being a very important Sage, scolding Link for making her wait so long, then explaining how she can’t be with him until her duties are over. It’s all hilarious until you think about what would happen if Princess Ruto ever really did get free. Sorry fish lady, but the princess for Link is in another castle.

marin-romance2

Marin

With its tropical setting, one would think that Link’s Awakening would be one of the best chances for Link to find true love, but alas, even though he meets the girl of his dreams (who even looks like Zelda!), yet again it’s not meant to be. It’s hard not to instantly relate to Marin and her fascination with the young lad who washed up on Koholint’s shore. She has been trapped on an island her whole life, imagining a big exciting world out there beyond the vast ocean’s horizon, and yearning to see it. What kid (and many adults) can’t identify with that feeling? Link represents discovery, adventure, and the enthusiasm and verve she displays because of this is infectious. She definitely likes him, but does she like him like him?

Though quick to chide Link for hitting a cucco or smashing a jar, she’s rather shy about her feelings, but a couple of things slip. Sitting side-by-side on a log at the beach, she reveals her deepest desires and asks to know everything about him (before awkwardly laughing the question off), and later on top of a mountain, nearly confesses something before being interrupted by her father. The game itself even seems to think Link has a shot, asking after the hero “acquires” her and holds her high above his head like a treasure he just found, “Is this your chance?”

Sadly, however, Marin’s story may be the most heartbreaking of all Link’s ladies. She knows that when the Wind Fish wakes up, all of Koholint, herself included, might vanish into memory. She pleads with Link that “some day you will leave this island… I just know it in my heart… …Don’t ever forget me… If you do, I’ll never forgive you!” Marin just wants to exist, to feel, and Link, the person who has awoken that inside her, is destined to be the one that takes that from her. Getting the best ending to the game reveals some hope that maybe these two will meet again one day, in a magical land far away.

midna-romance

Midna

Has Link ever had a more fully-formed relationship with anyone than what he shares with the impish former ruler of the Twilight Realm? Following the classic Hollywood arc, the two start out bickering and irritated with each other, Midna constantly hounding her wolfish companion, with Link begrudgingly powering through the pain in order to get to the princess he actually likes. Naturally then, over the course of many trials and monster-shaped obstacles, the two slowly began to develop a mutual respect and liking for each other, as tragic backstories are revealed and codes of honor are put on full display. By the end, when sassy beast turns into great beauty (a nice twist on a classic fairy tale trope), Link is left speechless (big shocker), much to Midna’s delight. “What? Say something! Am I so beautiful that you have no words left?” This is called flirting, people. If I was Link’s wing man he would’ve received a nudge in the ribs right here.

In fact, most of their interactions over the entire game comprise of her playful teasing, the type of schoolyard antagonizing that is akin to pulling someone’s hair and running away. If Link’s the kind of guy I think he is, these insults will only add to the liking. On top of that, her mysterious nature and later trusting openness can only strengthen the interest. Of course, what it could easily boil down to is just that really, they’re the perfect match: she’s funny and talks a lot, while he’s well, Link.

Unfortunately, he stays true to silent form, and after a brief pause at the end where she clearly wants to admit her feelings but (I’m assuming) feels awkward with Zelda around, Midna departs back to her own dimension, never to be seen again, all because a certain green-clad idiot just stands there and lets her destroy the Mirror of Twilight (with a tear nonetheless) having never told her how he actually feels! Stupid Link! Rookie mistake, pal. Live and learn, plenty of fish in the sea, and all that crap.

zelda-romance

Zelda

Ah, but which Zelda? Well, in the entire franchise, there are really only two with whom Link had any real chemistry beyond teaming up to save the kingdom, but the best of those is the one that wasn’t even a princess. In Skyward Sword, Zelda is a happy youth, the kind of spirited person that everyone is drawn to, a force of positivity and happiness. She also has had a crush on Link for years, as the two have been particular friends since they were kids, much to the annoyance of a jealous Biff-type schoolmate of theirs. This really is the boy-next-door meets girl-next-door story that has less of a fantasy feel than the other games, feeling more grounded and accessible.

Much of this realistic feeling is owed to the amount of awkwardness between the two whenever they’re left alone in the beginning and things start to get real. Zelda often fishes for compliments on her choice of clothes or weirdly, her harp, while Link stammers his way through the several “aw, shucks” responses. This is all highly endearing in a puppy love sort of way, but throughout the game we are reminded as well of how deeply these two really care for each other, with Zelda risking her life without a moment’s hesitation to save Link from falling, or the goddess’ plot exploiting the fact that Link would “throw [himself] headfirst into any danger, without even a moment’s doubt” to save her.

Still, though there are many acts of bravery and sacrifice on both sides that outwardly prove love, the beating heart of Link and Zelda’s relationship in Skyward Sword lies in the small moments, glances, and gestures that have players rooting for these two crazy kids to come through in the end. Zelda nervously folding her hands in his presence, Link’s embarrassment at the implication of a kiss, the playful way she is constantly pushing him off the edge of high places and endangering his life, etc. While the end makes no guarantees, as one of only three people living on the surface, this is Link’s best chance to make a life for himself outside of killing things.

Ten bucks says his “be aloof” strategy drove her straight to Groose.

***

And that’s it! So, while romance has never been a main focus of the Zelda series, that doesn’t mean Hyrule doesn’t have a pulse. Link’s made a life out of collecting hearts, and despite all the misfires with the ladies and fish ladies, Link’s still young. He’s just got to get back on that horse and find someone that’s not his horse. After all, it’s dangerous to go alone.

Though you could always choose the bottle…

Link-romance

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Indie Games Spotlight: Apple Arcade (Almost) All the Way

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Apple Arcade Indie Game Spotlight

We love indie games here at Goomba Stomp – after all, they can offer some of the most groundbreaking, creative experiences out there. However, with so many coming out every single week, it can be hard to know which of them deserve your attention. That’s why we’ve started our new Indie Games Spotlight series, where we’ll highlight some of our favorite new independent games every other week.

Our inaugural issue is dominated by the recently released Apple Arcade. Apple’s ambitious new service has brought with it plenty of standout titles to discuss, including some from respected creators like Devolver Digital and WayForward.

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Devolver Digital Joins the Arcade

Apple Arcade is upon us, coming with a slew of stylish indies from a variety of developers new and old. One of the service’s most immediately prominent supporters is the boutique publisher Devolver Digital, which is supported Apple’s platform with some exclusive new titles, two of which we’ll highlight below.

First is Bleak Sword, a compact brawler that takes place entirely in stylish dioramas. Inflicted with a deadly curse, players must traverse through the isometric black, white, and red environments to right the wrongs of their world. The action has been streamlined to work equally well on both mobile devices and traditional gamepads, although it has also been spiced up with some RPG elements like spells to cast and stats to upgrade. It’s available to play now for Apple Arcade subscribers.

Animated GIF

The second release is Cricket Through the Ages, which features “inarguably accurate recollections” of the game of cricket throughout human history. Some of its true-to-life scenarios include one prehistoric match between cavemen and dinosaurs, another taking place during a medieval joust, and of course, one in outer space. Featuring simple one-button controls and support for both single- and multiplayer, this historic romp may not be exactly accurate, but it certainly does look ridiculous and fun. It can be played now on Apple Arcade.

Indie Games Spotlight

Mosaic Paints a Bleak Picture of the Daily Grind

Mosaic is all about one of the most mundane aspects of existence: the daily grind. It takes place in a seemingly pristine world where there’s little more to life than clocking in and out of work and whiling away the idle hours with mindless mobile games. As reality becomes gripped in a “harrowing technological autocracy,” it tasks the player with becoming the lone rebel to shatter the façade.

With its polygonal 3D visuals and subversive narrative, it easily draws plenty of comparisons to Playdead’s iconic Inside, as well as more recent experiences in the same vein such as the excellent FAR: Lone Sails. For those looking for a more introspective, provocative experience, Mosaic should be well worth checking out. It’s available on Apple Arcade now and will come to consoles and PC later this year.

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Get your Zelda Fix with A Knight’s Tale

Between the remake of Link’s Awakening and the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild, Zelda fans certainly aren’t starved for content. However, if you want even more Zelda-like action beyond what Nintendo is offering, then A Knight’s Tale looks like it could do the trick.

A Knight’s Tale ticks all the Zelda-like boxes: stylized cartoon graphics, a massive world to explore, puzzle-filled dungeons, and simple action-based combat, to name a few. Powered by Unreal Engine and boasting of more than 30 hours of content, it’s looking like a hefty serving of Triforce-inspired goodness. Unlike most other games on this list, no Apple Arcade subscription will be required to play this adventure when it launches across all consoles (yes, including Switch) and PC this fall.

Indie Games Spotlight

Spidersaurs: Contra Meets Cartoons

Remember being a kid and waking up every Saturday, eagerly anticipating a morning full of colorful, action-packed cartoons? That’s the feeling that Spidersaurs aims to capture from its very first trailer. It presents a post-apocalyptic world that’s being ravaged by mutant dinosaur-spider hybrid and pairs this with a run-and-gun gameplay style that’s reminiscent of classic Contra games.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Spidersaurs is the pedigree behind it. It’s being developed by WayForward, the creators of all-time indie classics like the Shantae series as well as more recent hits like River City Girls. It’s safe to say that whenever WayForward is involved, a quality product is more than likely to result. It should be well worth a look, especially since it’s available now exclusively on Apple Arcade.

Go on an Emotional Adventure with Mutazione

Mutazione offers a completely different type of cartoon experience than Spidersaurs. This narrative-focused adventure game is a slow, laid-back experience populated by otherworldly characters and presented with a delicate hand-drawn aesthetic.

It tackles the topic of growing up, putting players in the role of 15-year-old Kai as she leaves home to care for her ailing grandfather in a mysterious, forested world. It teases a mixture of relaxing slice-of-life activities – making friends, playing music, going to parties – while also alluding to a broader spiritual journey. Like so many other games on this list, it’s available to play now on Apple Arcade. It’s also available for purchase on PS4 and PC, for those who haven’t dived into Apple’s new service yet.

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