I’ve been a student on full-time placement for a year. It involved getting on a couple of cross-town trains each day, cozying up to the somehow-already-sweaty commuters at 8 o’clock. That’s all in the past though, and one thing it did do for me was drive home my appreciation for the Nintendo Switch. The ultimate time sink, it saved me from awkward eye contact with Birmingham’s professionals, and got me playing games I’d normally not have the time to boot up, whether that be on my PC at home or anywhere other than on that specific journey.
So here are my 5 picks for the best Switch games to save you from that dreary Wednesday morning sweat fest.
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Enter The Gungeon
This roguelike top-down shooter is perfect for short bursts. In it, you’re tasked with fighting through randomly-generated hallways, shooting down all manner of enemies in a hugely charming setting, both aesthetically and design-wise. The variety of characters you can play as offers enough variety for each run to support different play styles (I usually choose the one who has a dog), and a plethora of items and guns can be found along the way.
Initially, ‘short bursts’ will be the only way to play, as you’ll die before you even get to the first boss. Once you get the hang of the mechanics, though, it becomes a delightful frolic in which you feel like you’re getting to know the world around you despite the gungeon’s random generation and frenzied bullet storms.
It’s so good in those quick goes though. One run saw me through a train trip, and the game somehow straddles the line of being both hard and easy to put down. Enter The Gungeon’s design encourages you pick it up and leave whenever you feel like it, with occasional respite between battles in the form of treasure, shops, or empty rooms, and after each floor you can save and quit should you need to turn off your system. The way the game works just oozes replayability too; I still come across new guns I’ve not tried before as there are almost 200 of them. A personal favourite of mine is the ‘Shell’, a literal shotgun shell that shoots shotguns. If that can’t convince you of the charms all over Enter The Gungeon, then I don’t know what can.
This one surprised me. It’s kind of a FTL: Faster Than Light-like experience. You’re tasked with flying your blocky crew around cute looking blocky landscapes in a stylised, cartoony WWII bomber. Leave your base, bomb some places, come back, all the while using your various gunner positions to fend off enemy fighters trying to sink you over the Channel.
It really is as simple as that. Each time you get back to base, you can spend points earned on missions to upgrade your plane’s kit and the crew’s gear, whilst levelling them up in their designated skills. There’s a surprising amount of depth and freedom in this system – do you want your navigator to double as a mechanic or a gunner? Which do you need most? What are the drawbacks? Do you want lighter armour in order to carry heavier guns? I’ve ended up spending whole train trips organising my stuff at the hangar, but similarly, you don’t have to pay as much attention to it if that isn’t your style.
This game works best as a distraction from the rest of the world because the gameplay is engaging enough to take you out of the train carriage, bus, or horse-drawn cart, and into the skies. Balancing your entire crew goes from 0 to 100 extremely quickly when enemy fighters start peppering your wings, and working out the best timings to use the crew’s special abilities is essential lest you make a mistake and lose one of your squad forever.
Sure, it isn’t the kind of game I’ll play for hours on end, but in those short bursts it hits the spot.
I guess I really like flying planes in games? Rogue Aces puts you in the seat of the fighter pilots you’ve been picking off in Bomber Crew.
Kind of. It’s more of a 2D side-scroller where you’re tasked with taking down several different targets, from other aces in the sky to full on air bases. You can take down bombers and zeppelins too, so perhaps my comparison is valid here.
It’s another game that works best in short bursts. The variety of game modes and intriguing control scheme, which uses the right stick as the variable throttle allowing for some intricate tricks, allow for easy pick-up-and-play fun, whilst still offering a level of challenge should you want it. I personally found it immensely satisfying the first time I bailed out of my falling plane and landed in the enemy fighter bearing down on me. Sure, it was a fluke, and I barrelled into the watery depths of the ocean a couple of seconds later, but it was a moment.
Rogue Aces is full of those moments, ones you can create for yourself, ones that make each and every play session memorable. Definitely worth a look!
Darkest Dungeon is a bit less whimsical than previously mentioned games. We take control of a ragtag group of mercenaries, mutants, and fallen heroes who must venture into dark, dark places. Fighting monsters and various other forms of evil is not the main hurdle though – the dungeons constantly assault your team’s mental stability. Running low on torches leaves you with a significant dilemma with regards to balancing your physical and mental health. Do you light the last of your torches and risk the later sections being a hellish nightmare? Or do you take the hit now and risk an enemy jumping out at you, surprising your party and scuppering your battle plans?
It isn’t an easy game. Your party members will struggle, permanent debuffs will occur when they spend too long alone in the dark, or when their companions die, and some of your hamlet-dwellers may even refuse to fight alongside certain classes, for example deeming the shapeshifting ‘abomination’ characters unholy.
Darkest Dungeon is a spooky, challenging adventure into the unknown, and it’s one that will test your strategies and patience. It’s far from welcoming, mind. The first time your strongest character is bumped off unceremoniously is tough to take, but if this kind of challenge seems like your cup of tea, then Darkest Dungeon’s Switch version will be right up your street.
It’s the kind of game that’ll play on your mind when you get off of the train, and even get you to start thinking up strategies and alternative plays you could’ve made to survive. You might hate it, but you might not be able to stop thinking about it.
Into The Breach
I love a bit of turn-based strategy action. Gameplay that allows me to sit and think about possible outcomes, weighing up opportunity costs and potential downsides to each move before committing to a course of action is super satisfying when it works out, and a learning experience if it doesn’t. Into The Breach is the embodiment of this, mixing these strategic requirements with a dose of roguelike randomness. The result is a delightfully intense game perfect for small bursts.
Tasked with taking down invading aliens, you must figure out how to defend the civilians with your few mechs. There are often more aliens than mechs, which requires you to prioritise and make hard decisions in each stage. Do you take the extra damage to your mechs face-tanking a bullet to protect a city? Can you manipulate the enemy in such a way that they damage each other? Usually it isn’t as simple as other strategy games, as your resources are extremely scarce and you must be frugal with your actions. Each stage is short enough to pick-up-and-play, whilst also being easy enough to sit and be consumed for hours on end, trying to optimise your strategies and ensure the smoothest possible victory.
Key to the game’s theme is an intriguing mechanic which, when you fail, opens a ‘breach’ into another timeline, allowing you to start all over again. Your actions technically have consequence – each failure is permanent in that specific timeline, you’re only trying again in a different one. It’s a world you’ll be sucked in by, and a game that will shorten those long stretches of delayed trains and unpleasant passengers.
So if you’re stuck for a time-sink, I encourage you to check these out. Just make sure you don’t miss your stop!