The Switch’s Place in the Indie Revolution

So last year I discussed the wealth of indie games available on various platforms that were testing interesting game ideas in ways that large AAA games couldn’t. This blossoming of indie games in the modern gaming space could probably be traced back to the Xbox Live Arcade. From there, Steam acted as a platform for these indie games. I have a lot of indie games on Steam. I have a lot of games in general on Steam. While I used to play lots of my indie games on Steam, of late that is getting increasingly difficult. Steam is awash with titles of every conceivable quality. Just recently, a game in which the player can play as a school shooter made its way onto the platform. Steam is just too crowded these days. That crowding includes fantastic games. However, these games often lost in the fray. Now with the Switch, something is happening to these indie games as they find a space in the console space.

Looking at my wishlist of games for the Switch, there is a host of indie games on the platform. Games that I already own on Steam. There is a reason why these games are on my wishlist for the Switch when I already own them. There are games like Crawl and Rocket League. These games are often most fun in local co-op. The Switch makes this process much easier. The console for the Switch is easy enough to transport from place to place. The dock and tablet of the console are about the size of a Game of Thrones book. It has two simple cables to connect. The power cable and the HDMI. When the Switch was advertised with trendy roof parties it did feel a bit ridiculous. However, with my friends, I could see myself bringing this console to their place with the promise of five minutes of set-up to play Mario Kart. Even the Wii with its wide appeal still possessed that cumbersome sensor bar.

I’ve gushed about the form factor of the Switch very recently, so I won’t repeat myself any more. The next thing that indies on the Switch have going for them is room to breathe. Nintendo seems to have a process that stops the flood of games that Steam experiences. While the eShop could use some more ways to highlight games on its storefront, the quality list of eShop games means that browsers aren’t overwhelmed but also don’t feel there’s nothing to play. Another advantage is that the size of indie games can often range in the 250MB-1.5GB range. This is perfect for the amount of internal storage the Switch has out of the box. You could load a dozen games on the console out of the box. When you have spent $470 AUD for the console, your wallet has taken a hit. You might have Zelda or Mario depending on the deal you grabbed on the console. However, when thinking about those crucial second games and so on, the Switch’s indies are there. I’ll run through some of them now.

Subsurface Circular ($8.99 AUD) – You are an android who is investigating crimes perpetrated by other androids. You do this by riding the android subway and questioning fellow passengers via a text interface. Less than ten dollars for a cerebral mystery on your console.

Battle Chef Brigade ($30 AUD) – In a universe that is part Iron Chef, part Monster Hunter, you compete in a tournament to cook the best dish. You do this by hunting monsters and then cooking their parts to create a dish. You cook this dish in the form of a match three puzzle game. A fun gameplay system and anime-esque story make for a fun time.

Stardew Valley ($16.99 AUD) – You will lose your life to this game. A spiritual successor to Harvest Moon, you inherit your late grandfather’s overgrown farm and move to Stardew Valley as an escape from modern life. What follows is a game where you get to know the people of the Valley as you farm, fish, forage, fight and mine your way to a successful farm.

Steamworld Dig (on sale at the time of writing, $11.25 AUD) – In a world populated by robots, you inherit your late uncle’s old mine. As you delve deeper, you recover ore to sell, uncover what became of the human race, and acquire upgrades on your quest into the depths of the earth.

Sonic Mania ($26.95 AUD) – Many have dubbed this Sonic’s best outing in years. A greatest hits recreation of the first three entries in the series with a modern spit-and-polish. Admittedly the game is backed by former console giant Sega, however, the game itself was developed by a small team who impressed the core Sonic team with their port of Sonic to mobile devices. This small team went on to craft a game that like last year’s N’sane Trilogy manages to bring the 90s in the modern era of gaming.

Oxenfree ($24.99 AUD) – Oxenfree follows a group of teenagers who while at a beach party run into some weird shit. What follows is a game of uncovering the mysteries of the island these teens find themselves on. There are two main mechanics that the game centres around. The radio which can be tuned at times to interact with above mentioned weird shit and the branching dialogue. In this game, the interactions between characters carry this narrative as you explore the island and its strange happenings.

Moon Hunters ($19.99 AUD) – The cult of the Sun God will take over in three days. You are a hero of the Moon Goddess. You must explore the world and find a way to defeat the cult of the Sun God. As you explore the world, you interact with people and begin to gain a reputation. When the three days are up, your achievements are immortalised in the stars. The more you play, the more achievements are memorialised. Some of these achievements give you new ways to play. Your choice in one playthrough might lead to future heroes being able to speak with animals. As you play, you find new experiences and new ways to interact with the world.

Poly Bridge ($22.50 AUD) – Build a bridge and get over it. Poly Bridge tasks you with constructing a bridge for vehicles to navigate. Easy enough, until you realise that you’re on a budget. Creating stable bridges is a feat in itself. The greatest moments in this game are when you watch the bridge collapse behind your car and pray to the gods that it will make it across like Legolas running across a collapsing bridge in the third Hobbit film.

This is not an exhaustive list, merely a selection of games that I enjoy that come in under $30 AUD. So long as the Switch continues to cultivate a great list of indies that would get lost in other marketplaces, then it had something really powerful going for it. The PS2 was the most successful console of all time because it had a library that was vast and contained a game for most types of players. The PS4 at this point in its life also has this advantage. Successful consoles are built on good libraries. Great exclusives might sell consoles but keeping players playing requires these great smaller experiences.

 

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