A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I love the Nintendo Switch, even two years after it's been on the market. Much like Nintendo's previous hardware, there are a lot of titles from Nintendo itself, but those tend to be pretty expensive - around $60 - since they're AAA titles, so it's a good thing that the Switch has garnered a lot of attention from smaller developers and it's received a ton of more affordable titles that can still provide plenty of fun.
With the eShop being flooded with affordable games from indie developers, it can be hard to know what to look for, so I wanted to talk about some of my personal favorites, so maybe you can find something you like as well. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and it's based on titles I've played and enjoyed myself, so of course, you may not agree with my suggestions, or you may know of games that I haven't tried.
To keep the list manageable and retain a focus on cheaper titles, we're not going to look at titles that cost more than $15, because at that point you start finding a lot of games that come from bigger companies, and they would make this list a little hard to get through. Games like Resident Evil: Revelations, Rocket League, Nintendo's own Snipperclips are some of the many examples you can find for $20.
When it comes to saving money, it doesn't get much better than free stuff, and there's already a nice selection of free-to-play games on the Switch, which are supported by microtransactions. While almost all of them require an internet connection, the games in this category work without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, so they're truly free. I don't think I need to tell you about Fortnite, as its popularity speaks for itself. Everyone has heard of it, and yes, it's available on the Switch, if you're still into that.
Paladins is a competitive multiplayer shooter that's often described as an Overwatch clone, and while that might be true, it does have the advantage of being free - and being on the Switch. In Paladins, you go into team battles where each team has five players, and you have to come up with the best strategies to get the best of the opposing team. There's a lot of characters to choose from - though you can only choose from a few at a time unless you pay up to unlock the others - and each falls into a different category, such as being offensive, defensive, providing support, and so on. Combining the categories and characters in the most effective way is a big part of getting a win.
There's a handful of different game modes, from simple deathmatches where you have to get more kills than the enemy team, to modes where you have to stay in control of a specific area of the map for longer or push a mine cart to the enemy's side by staying close to it while staving off enemy players. I'm usually a sore loser in video games, but Paladins is actually fun enough that losing doesn't make me want to stop playing. There's a lot of elements to the game, though, and it might take a while to get the hang of everything, but even if you don't know what you're doing, it can be pretty fun.
While paying up is the fastest way to unlock characters, it's not the only way to do it. With enough dedication and time, you can unlock anything that affects the gameplay just by playing, which is a common theme for many free-to-play games.
I have to be honest and admit that I haven't played a lot of Brawlhalla on the Switch itself, because I've had a lot of games to play, but I've known the title for quite some time before it came to the hybrid. It's heavily inspired by Nintendo's own Super Smash Bros. franchise, and while it is certainly a lot more simplistic, it is also - believe it or not - the biggest reason I chose not to buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
I discovered Brawlhalla a few years ago on Steam through some friends, and it wasn't until I bought the latest entry in Nintendo's franchise (at the time, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS) that I realized just how much I preferred Brawlhalla. It's definitely not as complex, but it ends up feeling a lot faster-paced and easier to pick up and play, while Nintendo's franchise has, in my opinion, more of a learning curve.
While I'm not crazy enough to say that Brawlhalla is better than Super Smash Bros., the fact that is completely free does tip the scale in its favor for me, and if you're also reluctant to buy Nintendo's game, you should definitely give Brawlhalla a look. The game's developer was recently acquired by Ubisoft, so you'll find a familiar face there in the form of Rayman. Just like Paladins, not every character in the roster is immediately available unless you wanna pay up, but you can unlock specific characters permanently by playing through the game.
Let me get this out of the way right now: Warframe is going to make every other game on this list look pretty bad. Free-to-play titles can have a pretty long lifespan because they're supported by continued updates over long periods of time that also keep the revenue stream flowing, but not many of those games are quite as great as Warframe.
I've seen it being compared to Destiny, and while I can't vouch for that comparison (since I've never played Destiny), I can say that this is easily my favorite free game on the Switch, and one of my favorite Switch games in general. There is so much content in this game, especially when you consider the fact that it's free, it's pretty insane. The game just turned six years old (obviously it hasn't been available that long on the Switch), and it's still getting significant updates with new content, gameplay revamps, limited time missions, and more.
What really sells me on Warframe is that it doesn't make you depend on other players for anything. There's a big focus on the campaign, where you play against AI enemies, so you don't need to wait for your friends to be online to play, you can just pick it up and play it whenever you want, as long as you have an internet connection. And if you do want to play with someone, the game is mostly cooperative, which is my favorite kind of multiplayer experience. Warframe has been the best and easiest way I can play games with my girlfriend, and it's just been great.
There's a lot going on with Warframe, and you will almost certainly be overwhelmed by the game when you first jump into it, but you don't have to understand everything right away, and things start to make more sense as you get used to it. You can customize the appearance and weapons of your character, enhance them with mods, get companion robots or dog-like creatures, forge new weapons, or buy them, and so on. There is, apparently, a PvP mode too, but I'll be quite honest to admit that I haven't even touched it so far. The campaign has a ton to offer, and I don't really have any interest in playing against other human players.
Like other games mentioned here, it's easier to unlock content by spending money, but almost everything can be unlocked by just playing, and limited time missions can sometimes give you access to items that would otherwise be hard to get. The Nintendo Switch port of Warframe was handled phenomenally, it runs very well even in more graphically intense scenes, and it gets updates alongside other versions of the game. This is a game that I absolutely have to recommend you check out.
If none of those games float your boat, there are a few more free options, many of which are more focused on mobile devices, such as Pokémon Quest or Fallout Shelter. These can be fun, too, they just don't stand out to me especially.
Free (with Nintendo Switch Online)
In addition to the games above, there are some games on the Switch that you can technically download for free, but they require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which costs $20 per year. There's only a couple of things that fit in this category, but they're worth mentioning.
One of the benefits Nintendo touted to its Nintendo Switch Online subscription is the ability to play classic NES games at no additional cost. I've expressed my opinion about this offering in my anniversary article, so I'll avoid repeating myself and keep it short: I wouldn't buy any of these NES games separately, but the fact that I have access to them without having to pay anything has allowed me to try out a lot of games that I wouldn't have touched otherwise.
Another good thing about the app is that it includes both local and online multiplayer, so you can play with your friends even if you're not in the same room, which is a first for this kind of re-release from Nintendo.
The service debuted with 20 titles, but it expands on a monthly basis, and it's now at 35 unique games, with three more coming on April 10. There are also special editions of some of those games, which alter aspects of the game to offer a different experience. In some of them, you start out with every power-up you'd usually find throughout the game, in others, you might have secret content unlocked right out of the gate.
Among the most popular titles available are Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and soon, Punch-out!!. My personal favorites so far - though I haven't played them all - are Super Mario Bros. 3 and Metroid, and that's mostly because I feel like they aged better than some of the other titles. I wasn't part of the NES generation, and going back to play some of those titles can be hard for me, so I have to cherry-pick the ones that I feel are manageable. This is part of the reason I hope Nintendo will bring games from more recent consoles to the service, too.
Tetris 99 was a big surprise for a lot of people when it was announced, and the concept itself is just pretty interesting. It's pretty much the Tetris experience you know, but blended with the battle royale format which was popularized by Fortnite. You go into a room with 99 players at the same time, and as you make combos and destroy more lines, obstacles are sent to other players to interfere with them, all the while they do the same to you.
Games start out pretty simple and easy enough, but as more players get kicked out, you start being targeted by more attacks, so things start to get pretty intense about halfway through. During the game, you can choose who to attack - random people, the best-performing players, and so on, so you can try to find the best strategy to be the last one standing. There are also time-limited events every now and then, and you can win real prizes. Recently, Nintendo offered 999 Gold Points for My Nintendo (equivalent to $9.99 or €9.99) in one of these events, and more will be happening in the future.
Gunman Clive HD Collection ($4.99)
I couldn't make this list without including Gunman Clive, especially given that the Switch ports come bundled in a single $5 package. Gunman Clive and Gunman Clive 2 originally debuted on the Nintendo 3DS, and they were one of the few indie titles that got my interest right away, thanks in big part to their unique art style and animations.
You play as one of three characters (a fourth character is unlocked by beating the game once), each of which providing different mechanics and challenging you in different ways, and you try to take down a gang which has kidnapped one of the other playable characters. The games are relatively short, but that actually ends up making them easier to replay with each character to challenge yourself with the different abilities they have.
Gunman Clive 2 is the most varied of the two, evolving upon the original in almost every way. The color palette is much more varied, there's more enemies, more gameplay styles, including on-rails shooter sections, and more. For a relatively short game, it provides a lot of variety, and I highly recommend checking them out. If you're interested in more by the same developer, Mechstermination Force was released earlier this week - it's more colorful and modern-looking than the Gunman Clive titles, but it costs $12.
Kamiko is another short-burst game that I found pretty enjoyable. It doesn't last very long, but it's fun and challenging enough without being frustrating. It's an action-adventure game with a top-down view and a retro-style look where you play as one of three characters, each with a different weapon, to save the world from demons. The plot isn't really a selling point for the game, it's more about being straight to the point and easy to enjoy.
There are four worlds to explore and get through, each with an accompanying boss fight at the end. There are some hidden items to collect if you want to unlock everything, but admittedly, there's not a lot of reasons to get them unless you really like the game's soundtrack. Nonetheless, for $5, there are certainly worse games out there.
This is another title that I feel the need to mention because I've followed the development team for some time now and I love most of the titles coming out of there. It's developed by Atooi, a company that resulted from the split of Renegade Kid a few years ago. Xeodrifter, like most Atooi games, is a retro-inspired platformer. You explore a variety of planets overrun with enemy creatures, collecting power-ups along the way in order to try to power your space ship after it was hit by a meteor.
I like Xeodrifter a lot because it's not quite as slow-paced as some other titles from Atooi, and everything just works really well. The controls are tight and responsive, the gameplay is smooth, and the game is just easy to flow through, even if it's not especially long. There's a bunch of boss fights, which can be pretty challenging, but not infuriating, and some secrets to discover. You might even spot a reference to one of the company's previous games, Mutant Mudds, which I thought was really cool.
I briefly mentioned Membrane in my Switch article in March, because I was lucky enough to buy for just 99 cents, instead of its usual $9.99 price tag. My lens may be a little tinted by that deal, but I found the game to be very enjoyable. It's a puzzle platformer where your character shoots out blocks that can be used as bridges and platforms to traverse each stage. You can also shoot arrows to destroy them, since there's a limited number of blocks you can have on the screen at the same time.
There's actually a good number of stages to get through here, and collecting all the items in each stage can be pretty challenging, as more and more elements keep being added to make your life more difficult. Collecting them is worth it though, I'd say, because you can unlock bonus mini-games with them, and these add that much more value.
I was especially surprised when I found out that collecting every item in every level unlocks a basketball-like game which you can actually play with two people. Even at the $10 price tag, I think there's plenty of value in Membrane, but you may want to be on the lookout for sales as I did.
Honorable mentions in this category go to Nihilumbra ($7.99) and GoNNER ($9.99) , both of which I liked, but can't recommend as wholeheartedly. Nihilumbra is a puzzle platformer that mostly falters due to its origins in mobile gaming. The game requires you to use the touchscreen, so you can't play it in TV mode. GoNNER is a high score-centric platforming shooter with a minimalistic style and animations that quickly convinced me to buy it, but has now lost its place in my recommendations to another title that I'll mention in the next category.
As you might expect, once you start climbing up the price range, you start finding more worthwhile titles, so there's a lot of good games in this category.
Graceful Explosion Machine ($12.99)
Graceful Explosion Machine is the reason I can no longer wholeheartedly recommend GoNNER, and that's because it shares a few aspects with it, but it delivers on the promise better. It's a high score-centric shooter, and it features stunning, smooth animations, colorful graphics, and very fluid gameplay.
While it has a big focus in combo chains to get the highest scores, it does feature a level progression system, with four worlds with about eight levels each. There are also special challenges where you do get tested for longer periods of time, and of course, there are online leaderboards to compare your results with other players. Graceful Explosion Machine typically costs $12.99, but it's been on sale before.
The developer, Vertex Pop, is coming up with its second title soon, called Super Crush KO, which applies a similar art style to a slightly different kind of game.
This is another title from Atooi, which I mentioned above when talking about Xeodrifter. Mutant Mudds Collection actually includes three games originally released on the Nintendo 3DS and other platforms: Mutant Mudds Deluxe, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, and Mudd Blocks. The last of the three is a block-breaking title, where you have to group blocks of the same color to destroy them before they fill up your screen, but the other two games are, in my opinion, the stars of the show.
On paper, the Mutant Mudds titles sound kind of similar to Xeodrifter - they're retro-style platform games where you control a character with a gun, trying to destroy a horde of invading aliens known as Mudds. The games flow more slowly than Xeodrifter, though, and you don't have quite the same fluidity of movement. That doesn't mean there's any less quality, though, and there's a huge amount of content in the two games, with each stage having at least one special stage inside, with the additional challenge of collecting every diamond in each one.
The games can be quite challenging, too, especially in the aptly-named Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. I recorded over 600 deaths in the time it took me to beat the whole game. Atooi has more games on the Switch, including Totes the Goat, Soccer Slammers, and the upcoming Chicken Wiggle Workshop.
You may not be familiar with the N franchise, but it actually debuted as a Flash-based game on the internet, which you can still play and download for free. N++ is the latest iteration of the franchise, and it follows the same spirit as its predecessors. You play as a gold-thirsty ninja, whose lifespan is a matter of seconds. To expand that lifespan, you need to collect more gold in each stage, so you can live long enough to finish each set of levels.
N++ has a huge number of levels - 4340, according to its game description - so you'll likely never run out of stages to play, and you can have this in your library for whenever you have some free time to make more progress and it will last you for years. This entry introduces a lot of customizability, with a ton of color themes that are unlocked as you beat more levels, so you can make the game look the way you prefer it. It also features both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes.
Garage initially got my attention because the top-down perspective reminded me of Grand Theft Auto 2, which is, to this day, my favorite GTA game. While it doesn't play quite the same, I can say I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. Garage is an adventure shooting game where you control a character in a collapsing building and you start to discover the hidden secrets of the corporation that owns it.
The game has a pretty unique look and feel, and it was surprisingly addictive. It's not a terribly long adventure, but it was so engrossing that I started playing it on a Sunday afternoon and I didn't stop playing it until I finished the whole thing that night. Not a lot of games have the ability to keep me hooked for an entire day, so Garage has definitely earned its place on this list.
There's a lot more to be found on the Nintendo eShop, and we'd love to hear about your preferences if you've found anything you like. Let us know in the comments below if any of the games on this list interest you, and what else you'd recommend other Switch owners to try!