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The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

While the Nintendo Switch launched alongside one of the greatest AAA games of all time in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Switch has become known as an indie machine to many. After all, the portability of the Switch makes it an ideal console for indie games. Plenty of previously released indie games, such as Hollow Knight, have received increased attention and acclaim after landing on Switch. It’s become a win-win for developers and Switch owners. If you’re a new Switch owner or simply looking for something new to play during your morning commute, we’ve put together a running list of the best indie games on Nintendo Switch.

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Dead Cells

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Motion Twin calls its breakout indie hit a RogueVania, a mashup of games with classic Castlevania and Metroid gameplay. Throw in the fact that Dead Cells has permadeath and brutally difficult enemies and you have a recipe for the perfect “one more try” type of game.

Dead Cells truly shines for its addictive gameplay and wide array of secrets. With a bevy of weapons to uncover and a bounty of secret areas to discover, each time you play Dead Cells, you feel like you learn and find something new.

Although it features permadeath, you do have the chance to get permanent upgrades at the end of each area. Eventually, if you stick with it, you will ultimately see the credits. It’s all about the journey, though, as this dark and enthralling world is hard to leave and even harder to forget.

Cuphead

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

StudioMDHR’s astonishing Cuphead has made the jump from Xbox One/PC to Switch. The port runs wonderfully both in console and handheld mode, retaining all the glory of the 1930s cartoon art style and animations.

Cuphead is a challenging game, but it never comes across as unfair. Minimalistic mechanics let you focus on the task at hand — the multi-phase bosses — while enjoying all of the excellent animations and sounds.

Cuphead is worth playing for the art style alone, which is as impressive now as it was upon its original launch in 2017. The engaging boss fights and crisp mechanics make it a pleasure to work through, even when the going gets exceedingly tough.

Katana Zero

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Developed by Askiisoft and published by the venerable Devolver Digital, Katana Zero can be aptly described as a sidescrolling version of Hotline Miami. You play as a samurai in this neo-noir infused thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Each level is broken into rooms filled with gun-toting and sword wielding baddies.

Like Hotline Miami, one hit and you’re dead. Armed with a sharp blade and a dash ability, the rooms play out like puzzles. It has a Superhot-esque flow, as you have the ability to slow down time, which helps in deflecting bullets back to their origin.

Fast, stylish, and challenging, Katana Zero is a fantastic experience from start to finish. The gameplay will hook you instantly, but the story and writing arguably steals the show.

Enter the Gungeon

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Enter the Gungeon combines dungeon crawling and twin-stick shooting mechanics with a rewarding and addictive rogue-like loop. Think The Binding of Isaac but more arcade-like and chaotic. As you plunge deeper into the dungeon, you’ll be rewarded with a bevy of loot, neat lore, and plenty of secrets.

What’s especially cool about Enter the Gungeon is that you learn something new each time you play. This is partially done by its approach to rogue-like progression. While all of the rooms remain the same, the enemies, treasure, and even locations of the rooms change.

It’s all a matter of learning each room and tweaking your strategy as things change. Definitely challenging but always a good time, Enter the Gungeon is ideal for short spurts in handheld mode.

Ape Out

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Ape Out mixes jazz music with over-the-top violence to stunning results. From a top-down perspective, you play as an ape attempting to escape captivity. Minimalistic visuals and simplistic mechanics allow the core loop to take center stage.

You have two mechanics at your disposal: grab and throw. Throwing lets you turn guards into a bloody mush, while grabbing uses them as human shields and sometimes leads to guards shooting other guards. It’s a tough but fair game thanks to randomized levels.

The jazzy soundtrack pounds along in the background, becoming a separate mechanic itself. Snare drums beat consistently and boom faster as you approach danger. Cymbal crashes mark the deaths of enemies. The result is an absorbing experience that compels you to try again and again until you’ve led the ape to freedom.

Hyper Light Drifter

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Hyper Light Drifter is an ode to 8-bit and 16-bit adventure games, set in a distinct world reduced to shambles. This top-down adventure features extremely challenging gameplay with a neat gimmick.

Your main weapon, an energy sword, has to strike enemies in order to charge your supplementary, ranged weapons. This means you have to master melee combat to have a chance against the onslaught of enemies.

Rounded out by a beautiful soundtrack and fantastic animations, Hyper Light Drifter is a moving experience with an understated, but powerful story.

Broforce

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Broforce is an awesome and hilarious run-and-gun. Your job as an action hero parody is to save your bros from terrorist captivity. Your commanding officer is none other than Nelson Brodela, and all of the playable characters riff on action heroes.

For instance, you can use a whip in combat while playing as fake Indiana Jones, or you can light enemies up with immense firepower as a pseudo-Rambo. Broforce shines for its great controls, excellent design, and challenging levels.

This side-scrolling action game has just enough of a mix between action and platforming to make for a consistently varied experience.

Downwell

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

Downwell, a game about a man falling down a well in a park, has been available since 2015 on mobile devices. Rendered in black and white, the premise is simple: Make it to the bottom. Since you’re falling at a rapid pace, you would think you’re already ahead of the game, right? Not so fast. Avoiding obstacles, enemies, and projectiles is an arduous endeavor that forces you to think and move on the fly.

As a rogue-like, each time you make your descent, the layout of the well changes. With guns attached to your boots that only recharge when you touch the ground safely, it’s a constant battle between the offensive and defensive. Power-ups are rewarded at the bottom of each stage, but each level ups the challenge. Basically, no matter what you have in your arsenal, you’re always facing an uphill battle (ironic, huh?).

A round of Downwell can last anywhere from seconds to a handful of minutes, depending on your skill level. On Switch, it’s a perfect game for quick bursts in handheld mode. The $3 price makes Downwell a steal, but you should splurge for the Flip Grip to play Downwell comfortably with a vertical orientation.

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