Nintendo never paid that much attention to indies before the Switch. First party heavyweights like Mario and Pokemon dominated the Wii and DS, but everything changed with the arrival of the handheld hybrid. It’s an open secret that Nintendo has stopped trying to keep up with Microsoft or Sony’s arms race for eye-popping graphics, and as such, blockbuster titles don’t always launch on the Switch. To make up for the gap, Nintendo has made itself a haven for creative indie masterpieces - and there are a lot to choose from. So the help you out here are ten of the best Switch indie games you can play right now!
1. Stardew Valley
You have to remember before dabbing and TikTok, people planted pumpkins to have fun. Sure, it was mostly a distraction from all the Black Death, but gentle soil-tilling still makes a surprisingly enjoyable pastime today. Stardew Valley puts you in charge of a farm where you’ll decide what to grow, what animals to rear, and how to decorate your kitchen. But there’s a surprisingly deep story too - you inherit the farm from your grandfather in a town that’s slowly being taken over by a greedy megacorporation. You must choose who to side with: nature or capitalism, and the result is a campaign that lasts years to bring the ailing town back to life. A single day cycle lasts around 20 minutes, so Stardew Valley is a perfect Switch game for short bus commutes, and we've even got some Stardew Valley tips to help you out.
2. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
It’s hard to read this title and not feel directly threatened by the devs. It’s even harder to play Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes without your voice rising several octaves. The game turns your Switch console into a handheld bomb, which can only be defused with the help of your pals holding the defusal manual. Wires must be snipped, levers must be flipped, and complex numerical sequences decoded through careful communication. The portability of the Switch means this is one of the best Switch indie games - if not the best - for large groups to play anywhere, as long as you print out the manual and bring it in a binder.
3. Golf Story
There are surprisingly few games about grief, and even fewer ones that combine it with golf - the latter of which is, perhaps, more understandable. Still, Sidebar Games is bravely leading the charge for this new subgenre with Golf Story. It’s an RPG sports adventure that tasks you with reclaiming your childhood love of golf after the death of your father and two decades of ignoring your clubs. A scalpel-sharp script, engaging story, and gorgeous pixel graphics make this a fantastic game even for those who’ve no desire to step out on a real life driving range.
Sometimes getting through a day with anxiety feels like climbing a mountain. So much so, Towerfall developer Matt Thorson decided to make an entire game about it. Celeste is the story of a young woman called Madeline who must reach the top of a dangerous peak to take back control of her mental health. It cleverly uses platformer mechanics to physically represent the abstract idea of anxiety; while you’re barely making a leap, there are people in the world spending every day feeling like they’re clinging to a cliff edge. Tight inputs, instant respawns, witty one-liners and five BAFTA nominations make Celeste a must-play.
Oxenfree has one of the best stories in an independent game on Switch. If deep narrative adventures are your jam, this supernatural mystery will be a worthy addition to your Nintendo library. It follows a group of five fascinating teenagers who are trying to find their way back home after being stranded on a haunted island. A gorgeous 2.5D art style oozes with sinister dread, and be careful, because your choices will affect your final ending. Though let’s face it, that just means it’s the kind of game you’ll end up playing more than once.
6. My Friend Pedro
My Friend Pedro is the ultimate bullet time game that stars a sentient banana. While surely that’s enough for you to leg it to the Nintendo store with fistfuls of cash, GR bosses have solemnly informed me I have to write 100 words per entry. So here goes. In this gun-fu action-platformer you must jump, dodge, and time slow through a labyrinth of side-scrolling levels while taking out legions of armed soldiers. You do this with guns, a skateboard, a piece of talking fruit, and more than a few frying pans that can ricochet bullets round corners. Few people other than John Wick know how being this badass feels, and you can play levels again and again until you’ve reached combo-chaining mastery.
7. Night in the Woods
This bitingly dark comedy stars a cat called Mae who drops out of college and returns to her hometown. Really, Night in the Woods is a game about the small milestones of growing up: the smell of your old room, late-night hangouts with pals, and the small seed of existential angst that blooms at the beginning of your 20s. There’s a sinister central story, but much of your time will be spent exploring the town and getting to know its cast of inhabitants. Somehow it toes the line between entertainment and delivering scathing commentary on rural America’s economic hardships without ever becoming preachy. All in all, Possum Springs is a town that’s worth a visit, and it's one of the best Switch games you can play, hands-down.
StudioMDHR’s Cuphead was one of the most dazzling games of 2017, and now it’s made the jump to Switch. The port runs brilliantly both in docked and handheld mode, preserving the full splendour of the Fleishman-esque 1930s animations and easily making it one of the best Switch indie games to play right now. Cuphead is a constant stream of boss battles with a first rate soundtrack and brought to life by truly unique art. It’s a masterclass in game design, balancing intense difficulty with fair mechanics that reward mastery - but only buy it if you like a challenge. This run and gun action game’s steep difficulty curve can prove caustic for those who prefer gentle inclines.
Annapurna is indie publishing’s fairy godmother, and she brought Gorogoa to the ball with a flourish. One-man-band James Roberts developed this unique puzzle game over six years, hand drawing and re-drafting every frame. Its stunning panels contain an ambitious, fantastical story about a boy and a mysterious monster, which you must explore, overlap, and tinker with to move on to the next image. If you’re a fan of Monument Valley, this should be right up your street. Gorogoa is like no game before it, and won’t hold your hand with visual clues or dialogue; you’re on your own, but it’s well worth the wordless effort.
10. Bad North
The endless isles of Bad North may look pretty with their muted pastel hues and cutesy, teeny villagers, but the hordes of viking ships on the horizon don’t let you ever get complacent. Your job is to repel waves of enemies in this real time strategy game with one of the cleanest UI systems I’ve seen. Each island is procedurally generated - meaning you’ll have a different experience each playthrough - and opening the door to varied strategies depending on whatever heroes you pick up along your odyssey. Considering Plausible Concept made Bad North in just a year, considering it's one of the best Switch indie games to play right now it’s impressive stuff.