One great way to get through this coronavirus outbreak is to indulge yourself in a hobby or pastime. For some people that’s crocheting, creating a home gym or catching up on the latest shows.
For me, it’s video games. Specifically, games for the Nintendo Switch, a console I bought last Spring that has brought me nothing but joy since. For whatever reason, the Nintendo eShop has a lot of smaller budget and indie games for sale for very low prices, and I usually grab a $1 game or two every week.
Obviously, the quality of these fluctuate and some are lackluster freemium games and others are fun, one-note affairs that get boring after 30 minutes.
However, the eShop holds a lot of quality titles in the $1-20 range, and we’re gonna look at 10 of them that I recommend. Some of them you’ve probably heard of, while this may be the first time you hear of others.
10. Nintendo Switch Online
While Nintendo is notorious for not really grasping how online works (super laggy servers, mandatory friend codes and missing staple features) I still think a Nintendo Switch Online subscription is worth it.
It’s $3.99 a month and around $20 for a whole year, and besides allowing you to play games online with other people, it also offers a selection of classic Nintendo Entertainment and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (NES and SNES, respectively) games to play.
It’s for sure worth it if you don’t already have an NES or SNES classic system, as most of the lineup of those mini-consoles is included with the membership.
If you think of a classic Nintendo title, it’s most likely in the library. Super Mario Bros. 1-3 and The Lost Levels, Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, Kirby, F-Zero and a bunch of obscure games I’ve not heard of are included. There are also plenty of two-player games you can check out with a friend.
The NES games also have “special play” modes. These offer challenges such as starting you right at the final boss in a classic game like Ghosts’n Goblins or Ninja Gaiden.
Another nice feature is the suspend point system. Now if you die or get stuck in a game you can hit a button and rewind time back to before your demise. Games of the NES era are notoriously hard, so this swings the balance back in your favor.
Besides allowing you online access, it may just be worth the price of admission to have a constantly updating arcade of Nintendo classics to play with some of the amenities of modern gaming.
Peace/Death is a puzzle game of sorts. You play as a lowly reaper working for Death itself, who has to decide where the dead souls that come from Earth must go: Heaven or Hell.
It’s a simple game at first, as you decide who goes where based on facial features. For example, people with horns go to Hell. As the game goes on, additional features are added, as is the option to send souls to purgatory under very specific conditions.
Other twists are added to the gameplay to make it constantly engaging and chaotic, such as phone calls from your boss or an intern. It’s a fun game that’s worth a look, as it’s usually on sale for five dollars or less.
8. Tetris 99
Who doesn’t love a good game of Tetris to pass the time? This version is free to those with a Nintendo Switch Online membership and has a battle royal mode, where you race to keep your stack lower than 99 other foes.
The system is pretty deep, and there are ways to use successful combos to block other players from attacking you or take the fight to others. I could never get it to work, but it’s a good time nonetheless.
Tetris is a game that’s simple to understand, fun to play and rewarding for those that know how to make quick moves. The battle royal mode is a great evolution of the series and keeps the player engaged until the end. No hiding in Retail Row in this one.
In addition, you can buy a $10 DLC that allows you to play by yourself in normal Tetris or two other modes. It’s always a good time waster and has been given a modern update for the Switch.
7. Gunman Clive Collection
Gunman Clive started out as two indie titles for the Nintendo 3DS and is a complete package on Switch that’s usually on sale for $4.
The story centers around a small town in the 1800s that’s facing an attack from a gang of bandits with futuristic weapons. Players can choose to play as Clive, Ms. Johnson or Chieftain Bob. They each play differently, as Clive shoots bullets as his primary attack, Johnson has a bit of a longer flutter jump and Bob attacks with a powerful spear that’s only good at close-range.
The first game has Clive fight to save the Mayor’s daughter, then he finishes the fight around the world in the second game.
Gameplay consists of platforming challenges and shooting enemies in a 2-D side scroller, with occasional powerups giving upgrades to Clive’s gun. Every now and then there are boss battles that present a nice challenge to the player. It’s comparable to the Mega Man series. It can be pretty hard at times but was never discouraging.
The graphics are also very stylized and simple, with the visual flair reminiscent of watercolor paints. The second game has more varied environments that still fit the minimalist style with a proper western soundtrack for the aesthetic.
The games are a bit on the short side with 36 levels between both titles. However, there’s definitely enough there to warrant a purchase and I give it my yeehaw seal of approval.
I love Broforce. It’s a run and gun action game in a similar vein to Contra, with 8-bit graphics, destructible environments and a robust roster of playable characters lampooning some of the biggest tough guy movie heroes you can think of.
For instance, you play as Rambro, Indiana Brones, Bronan the Brobarian, Ellen Ripbro and the Brondock Saints just to name a few. They each have their own abilities and play differently, some being more useful than others. You randomly switch between them when starting a level, dying or rescuing a fellow bro. There’s a shocking amount of diversity of playstyles you can try with each bro.
The levels are varied in atmosphere. One minute you’ll be rumbling in the jungle, later you’ll be climbing a towering skyscraper, avoiding forces from the ground trying to topple the whole building and the next you’ll be deep underground fighting an alien invasion.
It’s a surprisingly long game with well-done mechanics, and I give it a hearty recommendation, as it works as a full-fledged game and a satire on “bro culture” and the military-industrial complex. You’ll also love it if you’re a fan of puns. A solid $5 indeed.
5. Superola and the Lost Burgers
What a strange game. Superola is about the titular character, a llama (I think) that rushes to action to stop invading sentient hot dogs that want to steal the world’s burgers. Our hero runs through most of the cliched video game environments you can think of to track down the tasty treats.
Each level is an endless runner-style gauntlet where you can either jump over enemies and obstacles or blast them to bits with a ray of energy you gain after finding burgers. Different mechanics are added to the mix, such as rhythm minigames, levels where you man a vehicle and rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock battles.
It has a quaint flash-animation style and constantly references video game history as well as a plethora of memes in its cutscenes and backgrounds. It features chip-tone music that sits right on the border of endearingly catchy and incredibly annoying, especially if you continuously fail a hard level.
This game hovers around the $5 or less range and it is a fun little homage to meme culture and video game history that’s worth a look.
4. Duck Game
Duck Game is from Adult Swim Games, so you know it’s gonna be weird. Like many Switch titles, it is a 16-bit style melee game where up to four players fight in an arena full of weapons and obstacles.
There are guns, grenades, proximity mines, swords and net shooters that can incapacitate your foe. In each match, players die in one hit and it goes on until there is one duck left standing. The game goes on until someone acquires 10 wins. The arenas are varied in style and offer a lot of avenues for players to avoid death.
In addition, there is a single-player mode where you can play missions with specific goals, like using the chainsaw sliding mechanic to run through an obstacle course or breaching a room full of sky ducks and ending them.
The game usually is on sale below $20. It’s definitely more fun with four people and the controls are a bit wonky to get used to but Duck Game is brimming with chaotic action that will keep you and your friends in a frenzy until the end.
3. Any Jackbox Party Pack
Jackbox Party Packs are a fun way to stay connected with friends even outside of the quarantine. For those not in the know, each pack consists of five games that can be hosted on one console. From there, up to eight people connect to the server on a phone or tablet and play along. It’s popular at social gatherings and is used by many streamers.
The games are simple and fun. Take Quiplash for instance: players answer a prompt and try to make the funniest response possible and go head to head with other players’ responses. Everyone votes to decide which one was the best.
The more creative your group is, the more fun it will be, especially in games like Tee K.O. or Drawful, which require some artistic talent. Depending on the people you play with, the games can be either very wholesome or as vulgar as possible.
Each pack usually goes on sale from $20-30 and if you have a good internet connection and good friends to play with it’s definitely worth looking into. It provides an experience that can be tailored to the people playing it.
If you like a good solitary platforming game experience, few offer you something better than Celeste.
Celeste is a story about a determined (some might say stubborn) girl named Madeline who sets out to scale the huge Mount Celeste. It’s not clear at first why she does this but as you go on her adventure and indulge in some funny interactions with the mountain’s denizens, it becomes clear and engrosses you in her journey.
The game’s controls are simple: you move through dangerous terrain and jump and climb to safety. Madeline also has a special trick up her sleeve, a dash ability that can be used on the ground to move faster and get past gaps or can be done in midair to give you that extra boost to access harder to reach places.
It is amazing how far Celeste stretches that mechanic, adding in items that refill the dash in midair, platforms you have to dash into to get across large chasms and more.
The game is brutal with its difficulty but takes a modern approach to help struggling players out. There is no life system and you start at the beginning of the screen you were on when you die. If you get too frustrated, there is an assist mode that allows you to change the games’ settings and get through the challenge in a way you’re comfortable with.
The game is usually on sale for $15 or less, and I recommend it if you like pure platforming games like Super Meat Boy. It also helps that the game has great, atmospheric music, endearing characters and a story that has a lot of depth and can get emotional at times but I won’t spoil it here.
1. Shovel Knight
I bought Shovel Knight for the first time last year for $20, as it is on sale every now and then. However, it’s worth the full $30, as this is a steal for pure bang in your buck content.
An example of a Kickstarter campaign done right, Shovel Knight is an old school platformer harkening back to the days of the NES, filled with ever-changing traversal challenges, ruthless boss fights and a litany of charm from the various characters you meet along the way and environments that were clearly composed with passion.
The original campaign is worth the money by itself but as a result of stretch goals being reached, there are three additional campaigns that are worth your time. In these, you play through remixed (oftentimes completely redesigned) levels as a new knight with different powers.
Plus, an 8-bit fighting game, Shovel Knight Showdown was added to the package and it is a very solid Super Smash Bros. style fighter.
The four campaigns offer hours of engaging gameplay, charming settings and a treasure trove of content for platform game fans.
In its short time on the market, the Switch has become a hub for indie games due to the layout of the eShop and due to how easy it is for developers to craft games for the system.
While I bought the Switch for the big games like Super Mario Odyssey and Smash Ultimate (which haven’t disappointed) I wasn’t ready for all of the fun and exciting indie titles offered. I never really played many indie games before this and there is a thrill to buying these cheap games and seeing if you got a stinker or a keeper.
There are far worse ways to spend your time and maintain your sanity at home than playing the games listed above.