After a year and a half in change with the Nintendo Switch, it’s become the system that I just can’t put down. While I was drawn to the system by the likes of its already healthy roster of first-party games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and many others, more and more I’ve been shedding the image of the Switch as simply my “Nintendo Machine” (as I’m sure others might see it as). Instead, it’s been becoming much more of a core experience in my daily gaming life, mostly to the fact that the Switch is gradually becoming my destination for indies games.
Coming off this week’s Nindies Summer Showcase from Nintendo, I couldn’t help but find myself just as excited by the system’s growing roster of indie games as I have been excited by the Switch’s marquee titles. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is very much the Switch game that I’m most looking forward to playing later this year for sure, but I’ll certainly be putting plenty of time into the lineup of indies that Nintendo has been securing over the past year or so, and the Switch is swimming in quality indie titles at this point in its life, both old and new.
Given that the release schedule for first-party Nintendo games on the Switch has been a little slower this year compared to the breakneck pace that Nintendo brought its games to the system last year (especially in its crucial launch year), relying on an extensive catalog of indie games to bring to the system is a smart move by Nintendo to help bolster their line of games in between major releases. Where last year we saw nearly one major first-party release a month from Nintendo through titles like Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids, and so on, this year those gaps between releases have been filled by a wealth of indie games. It’s encouraging to see how Nintendo has embraced indie development on the Switch, lovingly referred to as “Nindies.”
While indie games have been no stranger to Nintendo’s past systems, the breadth and scope of indie games coming to the Switch feels like it already far surpasses what we’ve seen on Nintendo’s consoles before. More and more, the combo of a Nintendo Switch and PC launch is becoming the norm for many indie games in the place of when PS4 and PC were the sort of “default” destinations for indie games. Part of this certainly comes down to the fact that the Switch, at least last year, had a much smaller library of games to draw from compared to the vast expanses of other console libraries like PSN or Steam, so the market for competition among indie games was much smaller in combination with the buzz surrounding the Switch’s release.
That has changed quite drastically this year as Nintendo has pushed for more games on the eShop, with the company saying earlier this year that it was aiming for a range of 20-30 indie games coming to the Nintendo Switch eShop each week. Though a push for quantity has already started to make the Switch eShop teeter towards oversaturation, it’s at least encouraging to see that among the bestsellers lists of games on the Switch each week, indie games regularly have ranked high among the top sellers. Recent releases like Hollow Knight and Okami HD have still been near the top of the charts in recent weeks since their release, while extraordinary stalwarts like Stardew Valley and Minecraft have held on to their spots in the bestseller charts for months after their release on the Switch.
Though the Switch will inevitably become susceptible to the same sorts of oversaturation and problems of search-ability that have plagued other game marketplaces like Xbox Games Store, PSN, and Steam, the attention that Nintendo is bringing to indie games through their steady stream of Nindie Showcases and Directs at least have drawn attention to many of the most notable indie games coming to their storefront, much like Microsoft did a decade ago with their “Summer of Arcade” initiative to draw attention to the (at the time) burgeoning lineup of indie games coming to their platform.
Over the past month or so alone, I’ve probably put time into well over a dozen different indie games on the Switch that run the gamut from old favorites to new releases, and most importantly it’s allowing me to finally get to those indie games that I’ve “always been meaning to play.” Over two flights during my vacation last week, I took on the challenges of Celeste and got about halfway through the game, which is the tough as nails platformer from TowerFall creator Matt Thorson that already has gotten “Game of the Year” consideration from numerous places. After playing a few levels in Celeste, I dabbled a bit in between runs in Dead Cells, and when I needed a break from such demanding games, I hopped over into the story-driven experience of Night School Studio’s Oxenfree.
These are all titles I’ve meant to have a go at for quite some time, and having the ability to hop into them all so seamlessly is definitely what is driving me to bring my indie game experiences over to the Switch versus other platforms, especially given the usually less demanding technical requirements versus other third-party, AAA games that (usually) I would play on PC. While most of these games are widely available across consoles and PC–and some of them I already have on either PS4 or PC–having the option to play them on the Switch has opened up my play options beyond collecting these indie games on Steam where they (inevitably) will go dormant in my library because of the next new game that’s out on PC, or the latest PS4 exclusive on the horizon (in this case, that will be Marvel’s Spider-Man).
Where on Steam I’ve collected many of these games in the hopes that one day I would get to them, on the Switch they are becoming titles that I am more than willing to hop into, even if only for a few minutes at a time. Within the portable setting of the Switch, I find myself drawn more and more to dabbling in a handful of games than immersing myself in one game for extended periods of time, in the same way that I would play shuffle between music on my phone in Spotify.
Over a year and a half after launch, the Switch has already proven itself to me as a system that I pretty much carry around with me daily, and Nintendo’s diligence in bringing a much steadier crop of games to the system (at least compared to that of its predecessor, the Wii U) already has made me a firm believer in the Switch as a versatile and engaging platform to play games on. What I wasn’t expecting though was the fact that the Switch’s portability is more than just a convenience, but also a gateway to being a bit more experimental and open-minded to the breadth of games that I’ve now been playing thanks to its growing library of indie games.
While I’m currently playing the likes of indie games like Dead Cells and The Messenger, down the line I’ll have plenty of other games in my Switch backlog that I haven’t quite gotten to yet like Hollow Knight or Furi. I’m planning to pick up both Hyper Light Drifter next week and Into the Breach, which managed to stealth launch for the Switch earlier this week. In any case, I have a massive roster of indie games old and new to pick up and play, and in the years past where I had indie games strewn across PC and various consoles waiting to be played, the Switch has finally given me a place to call them home.