After much apprehension from gamers during the initial stages of its release, the Nintendo Switch has managed to surpass and even utterly destroy all expectations for its success. The hybrid stationary and portable console has been on the market for just over a year now, and its screen has already been graced with heavy-hitters such as “Super Mario Odyssey,” “Splatoon 2” and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” which garnered over 100 “Game of the Year” awards in 2017.
With all three exclusives qualifying as system sellers and a myriad of remasters and ports from the company’s earlier systems and competitors, Nintendo Switch owners have quite the assortment to choose from.
Not to be overshadowed by franchise greats, however, is the vast collection of independently developed, or “indie,” games eager for a home on your console. Whether your schedule just opened up for the summer or you’re a broke college student, like me, seeking a cheap alternative, indie games have got you covered. Here are some favorites to keep you occupied for months — or at least until “Smash 5” releases and consumes your life.
Developer: Matt Makes Games
“Celeste” places you in the shoes, or climbing boots, of a young woman named Madeline as she attempts to scale the fabled Celeste Mountain. Throughout her trek, she confronts both her mental health issues and the mountain’s many trials.
As expected from a game centered around climbing, the main genre is platforming, in which characters traverse a level by leaping between walls, natural terrain and other structures without falling or being knocked off the stage. Although the game itself can be quite difficult, if you desire a true challenge and are already a fan of the genre, “Celeste” might be right up your alley.
As you work your way up the mountain using jumping, climbing and dashing abilities, various mechanisms and traps appear to assist you or throw a wrench in your plans. Should you fall prey to one of these traps (and you will), Madeline will be sent back to the beginning of the stage.
The main story is short in comparison to the average video game, but committing to the search and discovery of the collectibles and extra levels in your quest to reach the summit will net you at least 35 hours of gameplay. In addition, the soundtrack is a fantastic companion for the duration of the game and has been nominated for multiple awards.
The music and the entire game have been critically acclaimed by a majority of gaming media sources for their ability to tell a great story within a genre usually devoid of any real plot. If you enjoy Super Nintendo-era styled platformers and a true test of skill, make room for “Celeste” on your Nintendo Switch.
2. Stardew Valley
After landing on the same pesky spike for the fifth time, you may decide the climbing lifestyle isn’t for you and opt to try your hand at farming instead. The character you design at the start of “Stardew Valley” abandons a draining corporate job and moves to a farm left to him or her by a deceased grandfather. After arriving in the titular town, the player is able to plant crops, raise livestock, form bonds with other townsfolk and explore the elegant 2D world.
Unlike “Celeste,” this farming simulator provides an outlet for relaxation and is as difficult as you choose to make it. The gameplay mechanics are far from basic but are simple to learn and utilize to construct the perfect farm.
However, your focus doesn’t have to stay on farming, as the game never penalizes you for choosing to dedicate in-game time to something like combat or fishing, instead. A single player can progress through the game several times and have a unique experience with each successive attempt.
“Stardew Valley” has already appeared on other gaming platforms, but the dual functionality of the Nintendo Switch complements the game perfectly. Its task-driven nature creates an addictive atmosphere for players, who can now sit on the couch for hours and then take the game to-go for breaks between classes or at work.
For fans of “Harvest Moon” titles, casual gamers and individuals looking to break into gaming, “Stardew Valley” is a worthwhile purchase that will cultivate, at minimum, months of enjoyment.
Players lacking several in-game years or actual years to devote to a piece of land might find contentment in the (much) shorter experience offered by “Kamiko.” In order to defeat four demons threatening the striking pixel art world, one of three shrine maidens must capture four gates and battle the enemies inside.
Much like classic role-playing games (RPG’s), each character has a different class: Yamato acts as the warrior with a sword, Uzume excels with a bow and ranged attacks and Hinome covers the middle ground with a shield capable of melee attacks and boomerang-like qualities. George R. R. Martin and “Game of Thrones” have nothing on this plot twist. I, too, was expecting a mage.
The story doesn’t expand beyond the characters described above, and a typical run takes about an hour to finish. Before you denounce my recommendation in outrage, it should be noted that players are intended to beat the story three separate times, once per character.
The combat system is where “Kamiko” shines. All three classes are a blast to use and control differently from one another. Three hours is still an exceptionally short game, but further replay value manifests itself in the form of “speed running,” or trying to finish the game in the shortest amount of time possible. The developers anticipated this gaming niche and included an optional timer for players who want to monitor their completion speed.
Overall, “Kamiko” delivers a sharp, yet simple combat system for fans of classic adventure or RPG titles pursuing a small distraction for a cheap price on the Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Brainseed Factory
“Typoman” boasts one of the most unique game premises I’ve seen to date. Taking control of the “hero”— a complex stick figure cleverly constructed by the letters H-E-R-O — you navigate a dark, surreal environment full of words and letters in order to fulfill the trope bestowed upon you by the protagonist’s body composition.
With the power to manipulate the words, you can solve puzzles and alter the setting. Always proceed with caution, though, as not every word you create is a benefit to the hero.
While classified as a platformer and certainly maintaining the appearance of something nine circles deep, “Typoman” revolves around the puzzles and doesn’t require the same level of skill and emotional control as the previous platforming title on this list. The continuing process of finding the correct word results in a rewarding style of gameplay and plenty of surprises when the environment reacts contrary to your expectations.
This mechanism is also the main method of storytelling and is more effective than it seems. If you take the time to examine each stage, piece together the narrative and admire the gorgeous drawn graphics and ink typography, the short playtime is amplified significantly.
Assuming you haven’t already played “Typoman” on a different platform, it deserves a spot on your Nintendo Switch for succeeding in atmosphere, plot and gameplay while not being afraid to push the envelope in all three areas.
5. Golf Story
Developer: Sidebar Games
I’ll admit, I’m not usually a fan of sports games and this game wouldn’t have interested me if not for the immense nostalgic love I still hold for “Mario Golf: Advance Tour,” a favorite from my childhood.
The plot of “Golf Story” follows an individual with an inherited love of golf as he attempts to achieve his dreams for a final time. Playing out across eight courses, players are free to explore, complete side quests, play mini-games and, of course, golf.
In that way, “Golf Story” acts more like an RPG than a typical sports experience. As you progress through the game, stat and equipment upgrades are available to flesh out the role-playing aspects.
The gaming community has, at large, sung the game’s praises. However, some have criticized the golfing system for feeling too repetitive throughout the campaign due to its simple, but nostalgic, mechanics. In my opinion, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game.
The system is reused because it is intuitive, and the originality of the remaining features more than compensates for its repetitiveness. Players will laugh at the snappy dialogue and remain compelled throughout the entirety of the story, which is a rarity for a majority of sports games.
Regardless of your knowledge or interest in golf, “Golf Story” is a joy to play and the storyline will pull you into the protagonist’s world and refuse to let up until the final hole.
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