Another year, another huge pile of excellent new vidya games sitting on Switch eShop. If you managed to play everything that caught your eye this year, we’re deeply envious! With so many great games, it was once again hard to keep up, even when many people found themselves with some unexpected free time in 2020.
Yes, this year we were once again spoiled for choice and forced to deal with the terrible reality of too many great games and not enough time. It’s the holiday season now, though, so if you’re sitting back and wondering what to play, we’d like to point you towards the twenty gems below that you might have missed — the best hidden gems on Switch in 2020.
We’ve asked for recommendations from Nintendo Life readers on a couple of occasions, but every single one of the games below was reviewed by Nintendo Life and scored at least an 8/10 (one of them even got the very top score possible!). We’re more than happy to highlight them again in this end of year period (as we did last year) in the hope that you’re able to catch them before the first haul of 2021 arrives imminently.
If any of the titles below are already part of your Switch library, bully for you! If, however, you’re looking for something to play and these gems passed you by, they’re sitting there right now on the Switch eShop. Enjoy!
Publisher: 505 Games / Developer: Paul Helman
Horace is something very special — the only vaguely negative thing we can say about it is the fact that there are so many spectacularly brilliant indie games on Switch already vying for your attention that we fear Horace may fall somewhat by the wayside. If you have any interest in superb level design, excellent storytelling, terrific art, evocative music, great characters, hilarious situations and emotional gut-punches, Horace is a no-brainer. It’s moving without being manipulative, clever without being smug, and nostalgic without being a lazy rehash. It’s a platformer, but it’s so much more than that.
So yes, Horace is another indie masterpiece, and every gamer who enjoys quality experiences should play it; a masterpiece that owes so much to its medium, but has the strength, creativity and identity to stand alone as something very, very special. Buy this. Check out our interview with the two-person development team if you need more convincing.
Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment / Developer: Moonsprout Games
Developer Moonsprout Games was probably relieved to get this loving homage to Nintendo’s Paper Mario series out the door and on the eShop before The Origami King was announced just a couple of months later. Bug Fables is a superbly polished independent tribute to the first two Paper Mario games – but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its own, strong identity. The sheer familiarity is a little bit wearying at times – seriously, it’s like it’s been traced over in places – but Paper Mario with the serial numbers filed off is still a very good time. There’s plenty to see and do, a rather compulsive card game to play and hidden secrets all over the place. Add all this silky-smooth performance, a splendid soundtrack and turn-based combat that’s never less than engaging and you’ve got a surefire winner here.
Publisher: PQube / Developer: Stone Lantern Games
Evergate is a wonderfully designed puzzle/platformer that starts off strong and goes from strength to strength over the course of its campaign. Every new world you encounter here adds a new twist to proceedings, gradually becoming more complex as it layers mechanics on top of one each other, enabling you to experiment and come up with your own unique ways to bound across its intricate levels. Speed-running here, for us, feels like it was tacked on for no real reason but, besides this one little misstep, this really is an essential purchase for puzzle/platforming fans and a standout example of its genre on Switch.
Check out our interview with Stone Lantern if you’re after more information on the story behind the game.
Publisher: X.D. Network / Developer: Freebird Games
To The Moon is a powerful interactive story. It’s a short game but it manages to make its players directly confront uncomfortable situations and emotions with which we’ll all struggle at some point in our lives. Mental illness, death, heartbreak, tragedy… it’s all in here, and handled honestly within a brilliant narrative setup that allows us to watch a lifetime deconstructed, layer by layer, revealing the very human mistakes and unavoidable interruptions of fate that shape how our lives ultimately turn out. All in a matter of four or five hours.
Publisher: Retroid Interactive / Developer: Retroid Interactive
By removing the basic ability to turn direction whilst walking, Wunderling proves itself to be an incredibly addictive ‘Goomba-sim’ platformer that boasts excellent level design, brilliant writing, and adorable visuals. Its impressive accessibility means that almost anyone can pick it up, but it simultaneously remains challenging enough to keep you engaged for hours.
Check out our interview with developer Retroid for more details on this cute little platformer.
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: No Code
Stories Untold is a chilling adventure that manages to draw us right into its world through the ingenious use of its UI and perfectly realised lo-fi aesthetic. Through the walls of old technology and complicated machinery, it creates a uniquely strong bond between player and narrative, giving you a real sense of place within its world as it slowly corrupts and twists from the comfortingly familiar to something else entirely. It’s one of the best interactive horror stories we’ve ever played and a perfect fit for enjoying alone in the dark on Switch.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Paladin Studios
Good Job! Is a wonderful surprise that everyone should try out. Thanks to its hilarious physics, seemingly menial tasks have the potential to descend into utter carnage – whether intentional or not – and its grading system means there are plenty of opportunities to replay. Slight technical hiccups aside, Good Job! is absolutely guaranteed to have you in fits of laughter.
Publisher: Fellow Traveller / Developer: Jump Over The Age
A very pleasant surprise indeed, In Other Waters is a bit of a minimalist masterpiece that you’ll often want to dip into for a more contemplative experience than the majority of the Switch’s library. It has found a perfect home on the handheld, the form factor of which massively works in the favour of the game’s mood and atmosphere to create an exceptional and unique experience. What you’re getting here is a story that you’re an integral part of, and it’s one of the coolest, cleverest games we’ve played in a long time. An absolutely first-class effort.
An exquisite bike racer-cum-trials game with tight controls, varied courses, and uniquely zen-like presentation. At once calming and demanding, Lonely Mountains: Downhill looks and feels like no other game on the eShop. Barring one or two disappointing technical issues, it’s an absolute freewheeling delight.
Publisher: Night School Studio / Developer: Night School Studio
Afterparty is certainly an acquired taste, but—like a fine wine or a good beer—it’s definitely worth the effort. From beginning to end, Night School’s follow up to Oxenfree is a thoroughly enjoyable narrative experience that draws you into a hellish world that you (ironically) won’t want to leave. Branching paths and a smartly implemented drink system add plenty of options for replayability, and though the performance leaves something to be desired, Afterparty proves itself to be a visual treat. We’d give Afterparty a high recommendation to anyone looking for a good story to immerse themselves in; this is one that goes down real smooth.
Check out our interview with Sean Krankel from Night School for some behind-the-scenes thoughts.