Illustration by Grayson Blackmon / The Verge
The best games to play together or alone
The recent release of the Nintendo Switch OLED has many people rediscovering their love for the versatile handheld or experiencing what it has to offer for the first time. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or have never previously owned a Nintendo console, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite titles for Nintendo Switch.
The versatility of this console has turned the Nintendo eShop into a fantastic vertical slice of the gaming industry, offering everything from indie platformers to AAA first-person shooters. And the popularity of the console means that if a game can be ported to the Switch, it eventually will be.
You may notice a distinct lack of Marios, Zeldas, and other first-party titles on our list. While we love just about everything that springs from Nintendo, we wanted to shine a light on some of the other games available for everyone’s favorite handheld console.
Image: Supergiant Games
The latest hit from indie developer Supergiant Games, Hades is a beautifully rendered roguelike that burst out of early access and quickly accumulated a litany of praise. This snappy brawler changes things up every time you die, forcing you to adapt with the assistance of the thirstiest iteration of the greek pantheon we’ve ever seen. The closest analog to this title is the also-excellent The Binding of Isaac. However, Hades definitely upped the ante with an exceptionally balanced experience that has some of the best music and writing we’ve ever encountered in a roguelike.
If you’ve been waiting for an Advance Wars title on the Switch, Wargroove is about the closest you can get. This adorable, 16-bit, turn-based strategy game definitely pulls a lot of inspiration from the popular title while injecting its own fantasy-flavored whimsy into the mix. While the rock-paper-scissors combat style will be familiar to anyone that’s played Advance Wars, Wargroove adds a handful of new wrinkles such as hero units and special abilities that allow this strategy title to stand on its own merit.
Image: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
The underwater survival simulator Subnautica is a game that swings violently between serene and stressful and may also be a horror title, depending on who you ask. Subnautica and its arctic counterpart Subnautica: Below Zero are all about crafting and adapting to life in an alien world that is largely aquatic. Once you’ve solved how to not starve, drown, or die of dehydration, there’s still the small problem of trying to get off the planet before you become the lunch of some shadowy predator. No pressure.
Image: StudioMDHR Entertainment
Inspired by the cartoons of the 1930s, Cuphead is a platformer and bullet hell game that’s perfect for someone who loves to ice skate uphill. More than just a stylish nod to old cartoons, Cuphead is an unforgiving platformer with a high skill ceiling and little room for error. While it can definitely be frustrating, Cuphead remains an incredibly satisfying and memorable experience.
Celeste is a platformer that draws heavily from influences like Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV but feels very different. Celeste explores themes of anxiety and depression through its gameplay and the inner dialogue of its protagonist, Madeline, as she struggles to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish. The platforming is tight and responsive, but unlike its more difficult contemporaries, Celeste features an amazing array of accessibility options, which include graphical adjustments for photosensitive or colorblind players, and also allow you to alter the game speed, remap controls, or even toggle invincibility without altering the core gameplay experience.
If Diablo 2: Resurrected left you suffering from a bit of whiplash, you can always come back to the loving embrace of Diablo 3, which remains one of the best action RPGs available and is still supported by free seasonal content. The Switch version of this aging RPG may not be the prettiest iteration, but it still runs remarkably smooth on the Nintendo console, even with several players joined in local co-op. Being able to take this game with you wherever you go arguably makes the Switch version the best way to experience this fast-paced RPG.
Image: Blue Manchu
Another great roguelike on our list draws its inspiration from immersive sims like Dishonored, Prey, or the classic Deus Ex. The cel-shaded monstrosity Void Bastards has you traveling between derelict ships to gather the necessary parts for weapons and upgrades to keep you alive. However, shooting your way out may not always be the best solution. In Void Bastards, the real catch is if you die (and you will die), your replacement might be asthmatic or too tall to access some corridors, which forces you to rethink some of your more reliable strategies. The situation would seem remarkably dire if not for the distinctly British humor that permeates this game.
Image: Klei Entertainment
Anyone that enjoys collectible card games without predatory microtransactions should definitely check out Griftlands. The product of Klei (rhymes with play) game studios, Griftlands comes from the same people who brought us games like Don’t Starve and Mark of the Ninja. Griftlands is a story-driven sci-fi deck builder where shrewd negotiation is just as important as combat. This is one of the few games where a disarming remark or verbal jab can be just as threatening as a swift punch to the gut. You take on the role of one of three colorful characters, each with their own distinct mechanics and rosters of cards to collect. Each story is full of optional quests and interesting random events that ensure that no two playthroughs are ever the same.
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
Image: Double Damage Games
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
This game is nothing less than a love letter to old-school space pirate sims like Wing Commander: Privateer and Freelancer. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw draws heavily from these influences and modernizes the experience, making it accessible and controller-friendly. As a space-faring mercenary, you’ll jump between various missions in an attempt to earn an honest buck, but dodging pirates, fanatics, and the law doesn’t come cheap. You’ll need every bit of your legitimate (or illicit) earnings to upgrade your ship just so you don’t become another bounty hunter’s payday.
Image: Thunder Lotus Games
Boasting an amazing hand-drawn art style and evocative soundtrack, Spiritfarer is a game that feels like a Studio Ghibli movie come to life. The title of the game refers to your job, taking care of wayward spirits and helping them wrap up their unfinished business on the way to the afterlife. Spiritfarer ties in farming and crafting elements that’ll be familiar to fans of Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing but introduces poignant themes of loss, affection, and forgiveness in its writing for an experience that’s decidedly more mature. The game is complete but is still receiving free, substantial updates to its story.