The Top Five Independent Games on Nintendo Platforms in 2019.
#5: Mechstermination Force
Mechstermination Force is the most consistently fun 2D boss rush game I’ve ever played. Every encounter is unique and challenging but never unfair. Each boss is uniquely designed, and realized with an outstanding degree of care and attention. From the moment you boot Mechstermination Force, it is immediately fun, and that fun never stops.
Mechstermination Force is a sort of 2D Shadow of the Colossus. Each boss has multiple weak points spread across multiple phases and varied attack patterns. To access them, you’ll not just be shooting from the ground, but rather climbing and jumping from place to place on the giant mechs. Especially since certain weak points can only be damaged with your short-range melee attack, forcing you to get up close and personal. All of this can also be done with a friend. With many of the bosses sporting multiple weak points, it is even possible for two players to completely split their attention across multiple parts of a boss. This is a gameplay loop distilled to its purest form, and it is an absolute joy.
~ John Rairdin
#4: Ape Out
Ape Out is one of the most stylish and entrancing games on Switch. The use of color and hypnotic rhythm propels you through the violent and challenging stages. There isn't a ton of variety to the gameplay, but what's there is satisfying and makes the game hard to put down. Even in death, a very frequent occurrence, Ape Out compels you to pick yourself up and try again. The procedurally-generated levels feel fresh and force you to rethink your approach on every run.
~ Jordan Rudek
#3: Baba Is You
The fact that Baba Is You’s title is a sentence is deliberate. This artsy puzzle game is all about manipulating words to change the meaning of objects in order to reach a goal. It’s baffling in spots, but more often than not, this is a rewarding, brain-bending logic puzzle masterstroke. The degree of ingenuity and creativity in Baba Is You is breathtaking at times. Figuring out the solution to a level would generally just splash a smile across my face in an “aha!” style moment that I don’t often feel while playing games. Logic puzzles don’t come more clever or rewarding than Baba Is You, and with that in mind, this is one of the best of its kind in recent memory. It just might stump you a lot.
~ Neal Ronaghan
#2: Super Mega Baseball 2
Listen, it's great that MLB The Show is apparently coming to Switch in a few years, but this system already has the greatest baseball game ever made courtesy of Super Mega Baseball 2. This is the ultimate utility player of a sports game. First off, the art and animation provides ample personality to the players and teams, emboldened by names like Hammer Longballo and Dick Burger. Underneath that goofy veneer is gameplay and controls that are easy to grasp but dripping with nuance.
You can toss a friend a controller and dive right in; basic hitting and pitching is all simple. If you want something deeper, you can drown yourself in the particulars of a more simulation-like baseball experience where you bait hitters into swinging outside or take a few pitches to try to amp up the opponent's pitch count. Truth be told, the only thing it lacks is the MLB license, but it's perfect for those who like simulation or arcade games but maybe aren't as into the MLB.
~ Neal Ronaghan
#1: Sayonara Wild Hearts
Immediately after I finished the demo for Sayonara Wild Hearts at PAX East, I paused. I was playing it handheld, nestled inside of Annapurna’s booth. I had headphones on. Could I, I wondered, get away with playing through the demo again? Unfortunately, I had to shuffle to another appointment, but I would have been content romping through the dazzling and magical showcase of Simogo’s bright, beautiful, rhythm adventure.
It’s a pop album come to life, with engaging but soothing rhythm gameplay complementing the smooth, soaring songs that span the course of the short but very sweet experience. Even in its brevity, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a gorgeous and mesmerizing game that is blissful from beginning to end.
~ Neal Ronaghan