There’s definitely one thing I can commend Nintendo for: their boosting of indie titles.
Nintendo is, of course, well known for their flagship IPs such as the Mario and Zelda series but when it comes to games outside of those, they’ve always seemed to lean towards family-friendly and indie titles. Their Indie World program puts a spotlight on the indie releases available on the console, with their Indie World Direct’s allowing for these titles to get the attention they deserve. This year may have been a so-so year for gaming, but I truly believe that 2021 was a fantastic year for indie video games and it seems like Nintendo agrees. Nintendo posted an Indie World video today showing off the 15 best-selling indie titles released in 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s an absolute goldmine. Let’s have a look!
Cyber Shadow is a linear action platformer that looks a hell of a lot like a Metroidvania. It’s reminiscent of old-school Ninja Garden titles and packs a whole lot of great quality gaming in a neat six-hour package. This one harkens back to the era of NES action platformers while bringing in awesome 8-bit visuals and memorable boss battles.
Of course Unpacking is here, it’s everywhere and we love it. Coming out of Australian studio Witch Beam, Unpacking is a beautifully designed pixel-art puzzle-based story game that takes you through the years of a person’s life via the contents of their moving boxes. You can read our Unpacking review here.
Tetris Effect: Connected
Tetris Effect: Connected takes the absolutely wild rendition of Tetris that is Tetris Effect and adds a robust multiplayer expansion. The Connected version introduces all new modes like the time-stopping 1v1 Zone Battle and the incredible co-op Connected mode where up to three people can work on one big Tetris board together. This game is insane and amazing.
Stick Fight: The Game
Don’t you just want to go back to the era of Flash games with funny little stick figures sometimes? Stick Fight: The Game gives you just that and a whole lot more. The ridiculousness of this game mixed with the complexities of its level builds make it an escapade of ridiculousness to partake in with your buddies.
Curse of the Dead Gods
If you’re hungry for more roguelike games after playing Hades, then Curse of the Dead Gods might just be what you’re looking for. It follows a similar isometric skill-based playing style but this time you are not the son of a god, you are simply a man.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
God, this game is beautiful. Ender Lilies is a dark fantasy 2D action RPG where you play a young girl trying to unravel the mysteries of a world that has been destroyed. With the enemies you defeat, you gain their strength. The art style of this one really makes your eyes pop out, and the journey that you take through it is challenging and tragic.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
I’m happy this psychological horror title made it onto the Switch so a whole new batch of people got to experience it. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! brings the terror of the visual novel base game and adds a whole new layer of storytelling the make it all the more morbid. Warning: This title does include depictions of depression and suicide.
Spelunky 2 is a total gem. Released 12 years after the critically acclaimed and influential original, this sequel takes the initial concepts introduced in the first game and greatly expands them. This time, you’re on the moon! You play the daughter of the original protagonist and find yourself spelunking the big ball of cheese in the sky to find your missing parents.
[Hooting and hollering voice] Rooooooooad trip!
Road 96 is a story-driven adventure inspired by storytellers like Tarantino, the Coen brothers, and Bong Joon-ho. It’s set in 1996 (that’s when I was born!) and follows a bunch of nameless and faceless teenagers as they set out on the open road and try to get through the politically-muddled world that it’s set in.
Subnautica & Subnautica: Below Zero
When I played Subnautica and its sequel Subnautica: Below Zero, I genuinely felt like they were horror games, and then I realised it was because the ocean is a vast and terrifying place. This double pack contains the two underwater survival games, both of which put you in the deep dark seas of planet 4546B.
Littlewood is just a neat little package of sweetness. You’re dropped in a world that has already been saved from evil, which is pretty convenient. It’s your job to rebuild the town around you and make friends along the way. It’s a very chill and relaxing RPG that’s great for fans of titles like Stardew Valley and Garden Story.
Islanders: Console Edition
Islanders: Console Edition is a minimalist strategy game that looks like a simple sandbox title. While you have the freedom to build itty-bitty cities on gorgeous islands, you only have half an hour or less to do so with limited space and resources, and the placement of buildings and use of resources must be meticulously thought out. Luke Plunkett puts it best in saying that this game is “a perfectionist’s dream“.
Slime Rancher: Plortable Edition
Surely every indie game fan has heard of Slime Rancher by now. The game has been out for a number of years but the Plortable Edition (incredible name) made it’s way to the Switch last year. You play as Beatrix LeBeau, a young rancher who leaves Earth to collect colourful and cute slimes. The portable option of Slime Rancher is a must-have.
Eastward is, as Renata Price puts it, a “love letter to EarthBound and classic Legend of Zelda games“. This game is a perfect example of attention to detail, with every aspect of it feeling purposeful. The beauty of its pixel world is akin to Unpacking in a vastly different way, and the music bangs.
Axiom Verge 2
Axiom Verge 2 is a Metroidvania that is just as good as its predecessor. While it is part of the same story as the first game, this sequel boasts all new characters, powers, and enemies. It’s a masterful feat of sole development by Thomas Happ, and will not disappoint fans of the genre.
That’s all of them! A good amount of these titles are also on sale on the Nintendo eShop so they’re definitely worth checking out if you can get them for a juicy price.