The term ‘hidden gem’ gets bandied around a lot when talking about video games, and often erroneously. Of course, sometimes the game in question truly went unnoticed and unloved by the masses and is worth digging up, but more often than not the game either isn’t actually 'hidden' (an occasionally overlooked entry in a long-running, celebrated franchise, for example) or it's simply too rough around the edges to be a real ‘gem’, despite having some redeeming facets (or very vocal fans).
There’s a reason many games don’t rise to the top of the pile, but the situation on Nintendo’s Switch eShop right now makes discoverability a huge problem. Genuinely brilliant games can easily find themselves drowned in the waves of software flooding the store each week. It’s an issue faced by all digital content storefronts and Nintendo has yet to address the problem beyond its daily highlighted game hidden in the 'Featured' tab and the occasional roundup through the News Channel.
We've gone digging and collected below a selection of brilliant Switch games found off the beaten path. Several of them feature in the current 'Go Digital' sale, although you'll frequently find them on sale at other times, too. All these games were awarded 9/10 by this very website but most flew under the radar and were quickly lost in the endless scroll of eShop releases. If you’re sitting at home suffering from paralysis when faced with that never-ending wall of games, why not try punching the first few letters of these titles into the search bar and investigating some underappreciated gems buried on the eShop? It’s a varied bunch and you’re sure to find something to get you excited.
So, may we present - in no particular order - our humble suggestions for the best hidden gems on Switch...
A slice of Viking strategic combat right out of the heart of Scandinavia’s indie development scene, Bad North joins the likes of Element at the vanguard of a wave of smart yet intrinsically accessible real-time strategy titles. Swedish developer Plausible Concept calls it ‘micro-strategy’ and it's the perfect encapsulation of a minimalist approach that covers everything from unit management to the Monument Valley-style isometric art style. With enough enemy variance to convince you you’re playing an interactive episode of the Vikings TV show, this endlessly entertaining sea of bitesize battles will teach you to fear - and love - the sound of the oncoming horde.
This one tended to polarise critics when it launched, but we absolutely love the first-person roguelike action it serves up. While some of its procedural generation can sometimes make for an unnecessarily challenging experience, City of Brass more than makes up for it with the sheer creativity you can have exploring its Arabian Nights-themed maps. With genii to imbue you with wacky powers and the ever-tantalising need to collect more gold (as well the option to compete with others via the leaderboards), Uppercut Games has produced one of the most entertaining roguelikes to swing onto Nintendo Switch. And you can throw ghost chickens. What more do you need?
One of the 'best known' games from this selection, it's one of those you probably made a mental note to check out before getting distracted by something else. Do yourself a favour and hunt it down, though - the Nintendo eShop would be a considerably more exciting and interesting place if it were packed full of games like Ape Out. It’s a refreshingly original experience that more than deserves a place in any Switch owner’s library. Difficult, frenetic gameplay, a strong art direction, and an even stronger jazz drum soundtrack make this the sort of memorable game that you’ll likely keep coming back to over and over for another few runs in arcade mode. We’d give Ape Out a strong recommendation to anyone looking for a distinct and unforgettable game for their Switch collection; it’s a bit of an acquired taste, but well worth your time.
While this turn-based affair might look, move and feel just like a real board game, Armello is actually a completely original creation - and one that does more than simply doff its cap at the world of tabletop gaming. From the deep tactics of its living board game gameplay to the sheer charm of its world-building and animal character designs, it's a quest filled with back-stabbing, political power plays and rampaging monsters that’s different each and every time you play. It’s at its absolute best when played in multiplayer, that human factor making for an even more unpredictable battle for the corrupted throne. You’d be doing yourself a disservice not to add this anthropomorphic tale to your wish list.
It’s impossible to not be caught up in the puzzle platforming charms of Planet Alpha. The product of one man and a small indie team from Denmark, it’s a game that runs remarkably smoothly considering the detail of its environments and the vibrancy of its art style. The platforming won’t necessarily blow you away - especially if you’ve become trained in the twitch arts of Hollow Knight and the like - but with some brilliant puzzles, a rewarding balance between endangered stealth and peaceful exploration, and some of the most intense set-pieces we’ve ever played on Switch, Planet Alpha has secured a place as one of the console's best indie releases and it deserves your attention if it passed you by.
While it lacks any storyline and the randomised nature of the missions may strike some as lazy, arcade-style dogfighter Sky Rogue has plenty of gameplay where it counts. The jet combat action is superb, aided by excellent controls, a wide range of weapons and plenty of stuff to unlock. The 12-stage campaign mode will keep you coming back for quite some time – thanks largely to the unique roguelike approach where death means losing everything, but the experience gained means a better chance of success next time around – and the ability to rope in a friend in co-op adds even more longevity. Granted, when you do eventually complete the game there's not a great deal to bring you back, but it will take quite some time and effort to reach that point – and you'll have had such a blast you won't feel short-changed.
Aegis Defenders is a fantastic game, brilliantly blending the tower defense and platforming genres in a unique way to produce a memorable and enjoyable experience. Lovable characters, interesting lore, plenty of secrets, engaging gameplay, and gorgeous presentation combine to make this a must-have title for your Switch. We would recommend this to anybody looking for a detailed world to immerse themselves in, or to somebody looking for that next game to play through with a friend. Aegis Defenders is a real gem on the eShop; don’t miss out.