With a sci-fi twist on an old formula, Wizard Fu’s Songbringer is a breath of fresh air. Occasional stereotypes aren’t as welcome as all the new ideas the game brings forward, but its tongue-in-cheek sense of humour accompanies a truly unique experience and gorgeous visual style. The majority of the game is generated by a six-letter word entered at the start; a seed which creates the overworld, dungeons, secrets and enemy placement. The developer himself described wanting to make a procedurally-generated Zelda and you can feel the fingerprints of that original NES game all over it. With gorgeous pixel art and so many options and routes through the story (it’s perfectly acceptable and possible to play through the dungeons completely out of order), this begs to be replayed for months to come, so this might be a good option someone looking to lose themselves in one game for a while.
Minit is a perfect example of a game that introduces a creative new concept, explores it thoroughly, and then ends before things get stale. This may be a short game, but you’re almost assured to have a blast for every minute of it, with funny dialogue, creative puzzle design, and moderate amounts of replayability all being a plus. We’d recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different than the norm, along with anybody who’s looking for a title that takes after the older Zelda games but involves less of a time investment.
Switch port wizards Panic Button prove, once again, that they really do know how to do justice to big games within the constraints of Switch's hardware design. Hob: The Definitive Edition retains all the qualities of versions on other platforms, with only an expected downgrade in its visuals serving as a caveat. With a cel-shaded art style helping negate the effect of this aesthetic sacrifice and all the improvements genuinely helping elevate the game’s overall quality, Hob's mechanical world of whirring cogs, pistons and robotic ruins brings to mind certain sections of Skyward Sword; in many ways, it's Cybertron meets Hyrule. We don't know about you, but that sounds pretty ace.
For those of you looking for something to fill the top-down adventure void while you wait for the Link’s Awakening remake, The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse is a solid recommendation with an art style that really pops on Switch’s screen. It isn’t perfect, but this is a charming, deep, and entertaining roguelike adventure, and it’s a lot more than meets the eye. While it does occasionally seem to suffer an identity crisis, and the puzzle designs are rather disappointing, it still makes a reasonable and compelling case for why it belongs in your Switch library. Both to Zelda fans and those looking for a roguelike that’s a little less focused on twitchy reaction skills would do well to investigate; developer One Bit Beyond has done a good job and we’re excited to see more from the studio.
The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is a game old-school Nintendo would have never allowed on its home consoles, as was the case until its stance softened with a previous iteration on Wii U and New 3DS. Its randomly generated roguelike dungeon-crawl gameplay mixes the combat aspects of classic 2D Zelda with cartoon gore and gunge. It might lack a lush overworld to explore, but no two runs are the same, so every dungeon is a squelchy new journey of discovery as you move from room to room in a fight for survival. As a game you can dip into for five minutes – or binge for five hours – Switch feels like a perfect fit for Afterbirth+. It’s a blend of old-school mechanics and new-age thinking; an homage to the challenge and style of old games, while simultaneously presenting itself stylistically as being something more contemporary. You can jot down or screenshot your favourite seeds, there are daily challenges, the ability to play in any of the Switch's control configurations and even couch co-op. That last feature makes this particularly attractive for anyone who wants to share some top-down dungeon combat with a friend.
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What if Zelda were a dungeon-based twin-stick shooter? It would arguably be something like Enter The Gungeon. With an obvious emphasis on combat, it plays similarly to The Binding of Isaac and developer Dodge Roll was apparently inspired by Dark Souls and Spelunky, too. It’s a brilliantly tactile, endlessly replayable twin-stick roguelike that sits right up there with the very best indie games on Nintendo Switch. With satisfying combat, random levels, and an endless supply of inventive weapons, items and secrets, it's always a total joy to play and offers a fresh, shooter-y spin on the top-down dungeon experience from the classic 2D Zeldas.
Stunningly stylish and with an irresistibly kinetic sense of motion, Kamiko is a true gem. Though it looks a bit like Link to the Past-alike at first glance, Kamiko is, at its heart, more of an action game. You'll pick one of three special shrine maidens — sword-wielding Yamato, archer Uzume, or the hybrid Hinome — and fight your way through levels filled with respawning demons and simple environmental puzzles; each is capped off with a boss. It's a quick ride, to be sure, but gorgeous pixel-art visuals, a lush soundtrack and three very different characters with plenty of speedrunning potential make it well worth coming back to. A uniquely appealing, action-packed package, this is an easy recommendation for any Switch owner.
If you’ve finished Breath of the Wild and are looking for a similarly expansive open world on Switch, it’ll be a while until a sequel proper arrives, so Skyrim is your best bet. Nintendo obviously took note from Bethesda’s fifth entry in the Elder Scrolls series when creating its latest iteration of Hyrule, and despite showing its age and having countless little cracks in its façade, it still holds up as a captivating adventure on Switch, delivering a palpable sense of space that few games before or since have managed. Open world veterans will know to expect large dollops of ‘jank’, with NPCs clipping into level geometry, making incongruous comments and countless other meme-friendly goofs that find their way into these massive, complex games. Players introduced to this style of game by Zelda, though, should prepare themselves; one of Breath of the Wild’s greatest triumphs is the incredible polish of its open world and Skyrim lacks the scrupulous attention to detail that characterises the majority of Nintendo’s output.
However, arguably more than any Zelda game that came before it, Breath of the Wild stands on the shoulders of past games from outside the company, and Skyrim is one of them. Despite its flaws and its age, it’s an easy recommendation for anyone jonesing for another truly open world adventure on Switch.
And there you have it – a plethora of alternatives that borrow from the hallowed Zelda formula to differing degrees. Honourable mentions go to RiME, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas and Anodyne, each of which channels the Zelda series in one way or another, although falling short of greatness.
Ultimately, there’s really nothing quite like Zelda, so if there’s a game in the series that passed you by, it might behove you to track down the ones you missed. Be sure to check out our guide to very best Zeldas if you don’t know your Minish Caps from your Majora’s Masks.
Of course, true fans would also shoot through the Four Swords games, Link’s Crossbow Training, Tingle’s Rosey Rupeeland and the CDi entries, and then travel back to finish the Satellaview-only BS The Legend of Zelda at the time of release – that's the only way to charge your Master Sword to maximum power, you know...
Thanks to Sumimasen for suggesting this list. Have you played any of these games? Did you find that they offered a decent substitute to a Hylian adventure? Are there any others that spring to mind? Share your thoughts below and happy adventuring!