From the very get-go, the Nintendo switch fell into our hearts and shortly thereafter fell into its stride as the perfect platform for indie games (Nindies, for those hip youngsters out there). Week after week, we’ve gotten to see indie games come out in droves on the new platform, with the occasional AAA 1st party game for good measure. This exciting prospect attracted indie developers of old and new alike — Seeing such older hits like the Binding of Isaac and Shovel Knight, while attracting new heavy hitters with 2018 game of the year contending indies like Celeste and new retro darling The Messenger.
With such a rush of indie games into the Switch online marketplace, what decides who is going to be the next big Super Meat Boy and who falls to the bottom of the pile? Luck? Maybe sometimes. But for these five incredible indie games, just one glaring problem kept them from video game stardom.
5. Subsurface Circular
Many have awaited the next projects from indie developer/writer Mike Bithell, the brilliant mind behind hits such as Thomas Was Alone and stealth game Volume; Subsurface Circular was the people’s answer. SC (as it shall henceforth be known) is a thoughtful story-centric game that hearkens back to classic text-based adventures. When I say “story-centric” I mean that good stuff. The stuff only the man who gave us a heartfelt narrative about a rectangle could create. The story centers around a detective (YOU) who is investigating the disappearances of robots within the area. Now just sit back and let the dialogue tantalize you.
Its Bad Circuitry:
Oh boy, I really hesitate on this one, as this is one of my favorite titles on the Switch. First things first, This is not the first release of SC out into the market, with the game originally being released in 2017 for PC and later on IOS. But this was not the arrow to the knee that crippled the title. That would be its length. SC can be easily completed in one sitting, clocking in at about two to two and a half hours. Granted, this game was designed to be a bite-sized and completed quickly. But even though this title was received more than warmly among critics, a game that is shorter than many movies is a hard thing for gamers to justify, especially when they can just watch it played on YouTube or Twitch.
From an indie publisher that brought players beloved games such as Goat Simulator, the PixelJunk series, and Prison architect, comes a brand new semi-top-down adventure with absolutely stunning pixel art design and interesting take on the games of old — meet the gorgeous Songbringer. In this fantasy-adventure players face off against dungeon bosses with added features of off-the-wall creative and unique story beats, as well as liquid smooth sword swinging game-play. It is exactly the weird new throwback spice needed to create something fresh for a nostalgic crowd. It had the chance to be the next Hyper Light Drifter.
Its Sour Note:
But having the chance to be the next Hyper Light Drifter is exactly the thing that made this game fall on hushed ears. Coming out in a time now littered with top-down pixel art indie titles that all seemed to want to scratch the same itch, Such as Necropolis, Below, Hyper Light Drifter, and more. Despite Songbringer easily being able to hold its own, it was tough just to get noticed. But even when it did, it truly couldn’t stand up to the comparison with such a smash hit as Hyper Light Drifter. Through nearly bad timing alone, no one gave Songbringer the chance to sing.
3. Cave Story+
There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of this Legend. Cave Story came out on the internet back in 2004, astounding the world with some exhilarating side-scrolling shooting action. It was truly the indie darling of back in the day; developed by only a handful of people and releasing for free and exploding. The game developed a legacy and became an indie swan song. Eventually releasing again as Cave Story +, it gave gamers more of a reason to pick up and try out an indie that has aged surprisingly well.
Its Age-Old Problem:
The trouble with this legend’s journey to Nintendo’s new platform is that Cave Story + came out a whole SEVEN YEARS AGO, and hasn’t made any significant changes or improvements. Though with game-play that has almost held up to when it very first came out it has a chance to find its true home on Switch, right? Well… It re-released for 30 DOLLARS. 30 big ones for a game that was initially released for free 14 years ago. Those two things, age, and price were enough to rebury this dug up treasure.
Severed is the most unique to make an appearance on this list. It is an absolutely stunning looking game with vibrant colors and minimalist (but gorgeous) art. It was the next game brought to us by Drinkbox Studios, the developer behind the hit (and also beautiful) Guacamelee series. This next outing is a first-person exploration game in which you utilize the Switch’s touch controls to slash your enemies in their weak points to take pieces of their body to use for yourself. Sounds perfect for the Switch, right?! The game begins throwing in the need to juggle multiple opponents at one time, and with each enemy being a small puzzle within itself, creating tense and exciting moments throughout.
Its Killing Blow:
The truth is, even though many people had never heard the name, this is not Severed’s original home. It was originally released for the Switch’s doomed (but still great) older cousin, the PlayStation Vita. With the Vita’s measly sales and player base, even though Severed was well received, the game came and passed without much notice and fanfare from the mainstream crowd. So, when Severed finally came to a console that could do it service, it had some years behind it, as well as not having the marketing and punch of a brand-new release. With all of these things sitting on top of this great title, Severed just couldn’t breathe in the new air it wanted to.
1. The End is Nigh
Flashback to a time where just a few indie greats lead the charge of indies into the mainstream. Out of these few games, it is hard to argue that Edmund McMillen’s phenomenon Super Meat Boy wasn’t the head of the pack. With slick, responsive, and cutthroat gameplay, Super Meat Boy took the world by storm. McMillin then followed SMB up with the disturbingly delightful rogue-lite arcade game known as the Binding of Isaac, which actually has a successful and cozy home on the Switch now as well. It seemed that McMillin could do no wrong. He then followed up these two games with the End is Nigh, his triumphant return to responsive and difficult platforming, harkening back to his Super Meat Boy days. The End is Nigh, as a spiritual successor, arguably triumphs over Super Meat Boy with slower but more intricate and difficult gameplay, focusing more on shear simple skill overcomplicated controls or any power-ups. Combine these features with a simple yet beautifully dark art style, a new cohesive world, and McMillin’s trademark humor, then SPLAT! You have another recipe for an indie phenomenon.
Its Fatal Fall:
For almost every reason this game was to be incredible (and is incredible) is exactly what sank this game. Though TEIN is polished and slick, people have come to expect interesting and inventive things; the same people that brought Super Meat Boy and then the Binding of Isaac in a dull gaming world. Even though McMillan was one of the top names for the platforming genre, returning back to a very similarly styled platformer didn’t get anyone’s blood pumping because it was pretty much nailed the first time he took a swing. So, due to an almost flawless platform jump back into the comfort zone, it ended up slipping to its gory globy messy death. This fact then compounded with an astonishingly quiet marketing campaign, TEIN fell off right out of the gate.
In this modern age, with wisdom gained through years of experience and the technology available to nearly all creators, the sheer amount of near perfect games is astounding. Heck, even the worst games are far more playable than they have any right to be. As with any change, such an incredible refinement in the industry has also proved to have some side effects. I wrote about these games and their mistakes that put them where they’re at today not because I ever believed they were bad games. Some of these games have actually been my favorite experiences I have had on the Switch to date. I can say with complete honesty, people should know about these games. I believe many games we look back on as unforgettable memories many of us young gamers played would have shared the same fate as the ones on this list. GoldenEye’s aiming is garbage. It was also some of the best memories I’ve ever had with a multiplayer game. Final Fantasy VII had conflicting graphics that had as many polygons as Mario’s nipples today. It also showed me that video games could truly bring a world to life. All legendary games had numerous flaws but that didn’t stop them from being legends. In fact, sometimes those flaws made them what they were. Don’t overlook games because a single flaw, a single marketing problem, a single review score, or a single price point has kept them out of the fame in the video game industry. So many games have tremendous amounts to offer each gamer.
What indie games do you think barely missed out on their time in the limelight?