The Nintendo Switch can only be viewed as a success story. It has sold more units at launch than any other Nintendo platform in history.
Yet people buy game consoles for the games. To date, the Switch only really has one high-profile game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.
If you bought the console for Zelda, or are thinking of doing so, what do you play when you’re done? The eShop is still pretty thin, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems in there. Here are the five best that are out right now and exclusive to Switch. (Best of all, most of them cost under $30!)
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Action | $13
If you’re playing solo, this should be your first stop after Zelda. The platforming action genre has been a staple of gaming since the 80s, helped in no small part by games appearing on Nintendo’s own 8- and 16-bit systems. Today, though, there’s no team in the world better than Yacht Club Games at crafting these experiences.
Spectre of Torment is a brilliant game that builds on 2014’s spectacular Shovel Knight with new levels, new bosses, new music, new items and — owing to the shift in protagonist — fun new abilities. While keeping the near-perfect control setup and quirky sense of humour, the game adds a feeling of inertia as you climb walls and slide around on Specter Knight’s massive scythe. This is probably the most interesting chapter in the saga so far, both from a gameplay and a story perspective.
If you’ve yet to experience Shovel Knight, you could instead pick up Treasure Trove, a $32.50 collection that includes Specter of Torment plus the original game (now subtitled Shovel of Hope) and the first expansion Plague of Shadows. That’s a whole lot of pseudo-retro goodness for the price, and it entitles you to more content in the future too.
Snipperclips — Cut it Out, Together
Puzzle | $30
If on the other hand you’re looking for an excuse to hand one of those Joy-Con controllers to a friend for some two-player (or even four player) action, your best bet is this unique and hilarious puzzler.
It’s hard to describe, but essentially each player is a paper shape that can run around, rotate its body and make a whole bunch of really weird facial expressions. When two shapes overlap, one player can press a button to cut a silhouette of itself out of the other player. There’s hundreds of puzzles that will require you to take certain forms — for example a hook to grab a container or a cog to turn a wheel — but players need to work together as you can’t alter your own shape, only that of others.
When you get down to business the game can be very smart and have players feeling like a well-oiled machine, but it frequently descends into madness as the temptation to cut everyone down to size overtakes one of the players. Though you can technically play it alone, the chaos and collaboration of working with a partner or group is the absolute highlight here.
Racing | $27.99
Clearly modelled after Nintendo’s own underutilised F-Zero franchise, Fast Racing was an incredibly speedy sci-fi-themed racing game for Wii U. With Fast RMX, the experience has been refined and expanded, but the blistering goodness at its core remains exactly the same.
With a big resolution bump over the Wii U version, a solid 60-frames-per-second performance (even in splitscreen multiplayer) and improved lighting and effects, the already beautiful races — which take in everything from the desert and the rainforest to deep space and futuristic cities — look even better here.
RMX comes with a total of 30 tracks to race through alone or with friends, including all the tracks from the original game and all the additional courses that were available to purchase separately, plus a handful of brand new ones. If you manage to dominate all of them you can try your luck in hero mode, where your boost meter is also a health meter, you have to come first to proceed and if you crash or lose all your health you start over. It’s brutal.
Blaster Master Zero
Shooter | $13
Another throwback to a simpler time, Blaster Master Zero is a reimagining of a cult 80s NES game. Yet while Shovel Knight does something fresh with the retro look and sound, Blaster Master sticks incredibly close to its source material. During some scenes, if the action wasn’t displaying in widescreen, you might believe this was actually a 30-year-old game.
The game alternates between two modes, either driving around the overworld in a tank blasting everything in sight or running around on foot doing the same. In the former mode the action looks almost identical to the original Blaster Master, but when outside the tank the camera moves to an overhead perspective for a slightly more modern look.
It’s a fairly simple premise but there is some nuance here (like the rotating weapons system that has your shots’ power tied to your health), and the core shooting mechanic is a lot of fun. On a machine that’s yet to embrace any of Nintendo’s own gems from yesteryear, Zero is a great way to get your nostalgic kicks without having to deal with the limitations and frustrations that come with an authentic old game like Blaster Master.
Party | $69.95
Friends are an absolute must for this one. It’s a big asking price for what is essentially a collection of 28 brief tech demos, but with a crowd around it can make for some funny and awkward moments and get everybody involved with its non-threatening gameplay. Plus, it’s the only game on Switch so far that really shows off everything the Joy-Con pads can do.
The small controllers stand in for everything from guns or swords to a bottle of champagne or a cow’s teat, as players compete against each other and typically look ridiculous in the process. The key differentiator between this and other party games is that for the most part players interact with the controllers and each other directly, as opposed to controlling anything on the screen. In fact after explaining how the game is played the Switch or TV changes to a score screen and players are left to their own devices.
Some games show off the controllers’ “HD Rumble”, technology that can deliver an impressively varied tactile sensation to your hands. This includes one game where you need to rotate the controllers and feel a click to crack a safe, and one where you pretend they’re a box of marbles and have to count how many balls are inside. There’s even a game that makes use of the right Joy-Con’s IR camera, turning it into a sandwich that can detect how many bites you take within the time limit.