The sheer wealth of software coming to Switch eShop on a weekly basis has been hard to keep up with since launch and, try as we might, over time it has become increasingly difficult to review every Switch game we'd like to.
In 2021 more than ever, even intriguing-looking titles have had to be passed-over for one reason or another, often because we simply don't have the bandwidth look at dozens of games in busy periods of the year. It's something we struggle with and we're constantly looking at new ways to highlight games for our readers, even if we can't manage a full review.
Mini reviews are one way we've tackled the issue, and over the past year or two we've put out occasional calls to Nintendo Life readers requesting suggestions for games we've missed, and these have produced some great reader recommendations. We'll certainly continue to run those features in the future, but today we thought we'd highlight a handful of games we felt have been overlooked this year.
We've included many games below that we feel deserve more time in the spotlight, plus several worthy titles we couldn't review at the time but intrigued us enough that we'll be hunting the out over the holidays.
So, let's dive in and see some potentially undiscovered gems you might have missed on Switch eShop this year...
Kaze and the Wild Masks (Switch)
An absolute pleasure from start to finish, what Kaze and the Wild Masks lacks in originality it makes up for in the strength of its level design, responsive controls, kinetic move set and attractive visuals. Excellent, action-packed platforming through and through, with great gameplay variety and gimmicks that don’t compromise on what the game is best at — challenging, fast-paced obstacle courses and deviously-hidden secret areas. Easiest sell? Kaze and the Wild Masks is to Donkey Kong Country what Freedom Planet was to Sonic the Hedgehog. Don’t miss this one.
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Dreamscaper (Switch eShop)
Dreamscaper made its mark during the bonanza of Summer online expos, this is an action roguelike (with some puzzles too) with an interesting day / night cycle. It has an interesting blended approach - in daytime you're exploring the story and forging friendships, while at night you're fighting your way through the character's mind and dreams. A very different and stylish spin on the genre.
Inked: A Tale Of Love (Switch eShop)
Inked: A Tale of Love is a good example of what can be achieved by small but talented creative teams, making a leap from Apple Arcade and providing a reminder of the lovely diversity to be found in the Switch eShop library. Utilising a hand-drawn style not just for visual panache, but as a fundamental part of the story, this is a thoroughly pleasant and satisfying experience with smart puzzles, beautiful presentation and a story full of emotive moments.
Overboard! (Switch eShop)
Where 80 Days was about the broad implications of travelling the entire globe, Overboard! focuses instead on the minutiae of a single day, and the intricacies of interaction. It's a glorious study in how to create a delicate Rube Goldberg machine of dialogue and dependencies, as a cast of mostly terrible people waltz around each other with ulterior motives and pre-existing feelings about everything, including our Veronica and dear, departed Malcolm. It's excellent: play it.
Tux and Fanny (Switch eShop)
Tux and Fanny is a game that's very easy to skim past because it has exceptionally simplistic visuals, with a robotic voice (like in Horace) that makes it seem like a joke. Actually, once you give it a chance it's a quirky, charming and genuinely clever little game that has you set off on a varied adventure of exploration and minigames. All with the noble goal of inflating a soccer ball.
Bonfire Peaks (Switch eShop)
Bonfire Peaks pitches itself as a streamline, focused game that should also be relatively relaxing to play, with some lovely voxel-based visuals. It's a puzzle game, so it's worth keeping that in mind going in, as you shift boxes around and navigate through areas with the goal of burning your belongings. It's far more intriguing and indeed wholesome than that description makes it sound, so it could be a good option for unwinding on the Switch.
The Forgotten City - Cloud Version (Switch eShop)
The Forgotten City is a brilliant piece of narrative work that feels like a time capsule of Skyrim's jank, revitalised with a gripping story that's just long enough that it never loses momentum. It is, as always, hard to fully recommend a Cloud Version of a game that's available elsewhere in a more concrete form, but if you're accepting of the associated 'risks', this is a well-presented and brilliant time loop game and well worth a play.
Wytchwood (Switch eShop)
Wytchwood is a crafting game, through and through — and a good one. It smartly puts its focus purely on the act of gathering materials to create a wide range of objects, with little else to distract from the core crafting mechanic. It’s backed up by a great soundtrack and a reasonably well-told but ultimately forgettable tale as you trawl through the various areas searching for ingredients. Trying to locate specific items can at times feel exhausting and drags down the pacing of the game, and the gorgeous visuals are unfortunately hampered by a slight frame rate jitter. Ultimately though, Wytchwood is a relaxing and addictive jaunt into the world of crafting.
TOEM (Switch eShop)
Like a great album you put on at the end of the day to wind down, Toem is an incredibly relaxing experience that you'll wish you could experience all over again once it's finished. It almost makes us want to start capturing photographs of the world around us, but sadly, we don’t have a duck dressed as a lighthouse keeper to show them to. If only.
Beast Breaker (Switch eShop)
Beast Breaker is the epitome of a hidden gem, and we would highly recommend you give it a shot. Like its main character this game may be small, but it proves to be exceedingly effective at what it sets out to do. Creative, engaging gameplay and a surprising amount of depth combine to make for an experience that may surprise at just how much it hooks you.
Apparently Fuga: Melodies of Steel is such a hidden gem it didn't even show up on this list. (Seriously, where's the Fuga review? It's been out for months and is an incredible game)
Peoples, take a note for these games.
Curse of the Dead Gods is a good pick. Can't say I've heard of much more of these. I guess that makes them "hidden." Also, thanks for reminding me about 80 days.
Monster Train, god damn what a game. Actually really interested in Evertried; this article may have pushed me over the edge.
Meanwhile mine (Battle Cats Unite) still hasn't came out for the US, but it did get an English version....for the SEA region.
Whatever, I still bought it. lol
I'm shocked that Fuga: Melodies of Steel still hasn't been acknowledged yet. It's part of the same series as Tail Concerto and Solatorobo and is made by the .hack// devs. Practically no sites have reported on it since it released
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights was a hidden treat for me. I recommend it to anyone who likes metroidvania games.
Kaze was one of my favorite platformers of the year. My friends and I had a blast passing the controller after every death. If you like good platformers at all, support this company
There's a couple of shmups from the same dev called Starhunter DX and Space Moth Lunar Edition that are well worth playing and can be had for pretty cheap, even without a sale. Not sure which one I prefer, I like them both. And there is another shmup called Eschatos which is absolutely superb. It's only available in Japan for now though. None of these 3 games have been reviewed yet by NL. I'd give the first 2 a solid 8 and Eschatos a 9.
Not sure if this is classed as a hidden gem but it needs to be played by everyone who likes classic 90's shooters. Dusk, what a game! 10/10 and my game of the year.
@Anti-Matter Haha, this is a list of underrated gems, not shovelware junk.
It's Darksiders 3.
What where you thinking NL, when you gave this outstanding game a 4/10? 🤔
I played all of (near 100%) Kaze and the Wild Masks. 2D platformers are my favourite genre and it's a fun game, but I didn't find it amazing. It brought nothing new to the table and was a little repetitive at times. Good and worth a play but certainly not one of the best platformers available on Switch. I rated it 7/10. The NintendoLife 9/10 review seems super inflated to me since the main advertisement for the game even in the review seems to be 'copying a lot from donkey kong country tropical freeze but not quite as good'
Glad to see Monster Train acknowledged on the site. I was very disappointed that NL didn’t review it. It’s a real gem of a game that more people should play.
I didn’t like Kaze at all. Big 2D platformer fan, but eh. It was pretty boring.
My eShop wishlist continues to grow exponentially.
Overboard was great, very well written and darkly hilarious.
@KevinLo9 Definite yes. If you've any interest in card-battlers and/or roguelikes, Monster Train demands your attention.
Kaze and the Wild Masks was great, but it's pretty pricey for an indie 2D side scroller with pixel graphics. I definitely recommend it to any fan of the DKC series, but even with sale price and using gold points it was steeper than a lot of comparable eshop titles
@FishyS I enjoyed it a lot but yeah, 9/10 is pretty high for a game that's so derivative. Have you played Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair? It's a far better and more creative take on the DKC formula in my opinion and probably my favourite non-Mario/ DK 2D platformer out there
EVERHOOD!!!!!! How is Everhood not on this list. A game that absolutely no one is talking about, that you gave a 9/10, and that is my favorite experience this year outside of Returnal and Bowser's Fury.
I thought Kaze was brilliant, if a little derivative. Blue Fire is the only other one I played from this list. It was legitimately great, but also a tad disappointing because it was so close to being something truly special. With a few changes here and there, it could have been one of my all-time favorites.
Islanders is a great cheap relaxing puzzle game!
I bought TOEM last night; haven't played it yet but it looks right up my alley
Been considering Kaze and the Wild Masks, Tadpole Treble Encore, There is No Game: Wrong Dimension, and Blue Fire for a while now too; also curious about Bonfire Peaks
I picked up Kaze on black friday - it's a great Donkey Kong game
Those 3 games i posted are not shovelwares, especially Kitaria Fables (indie game that made by developer from my country Indonesia 🇮🇩)
And let's not forget Pups and Purr Animal Hospital that made by Nippon Columbia, the Japanese developer who dedicated their girlie games from 3DS era.
Every peoples have their standard for what it called hidden gems.
What is junk for one people, is a hidden treasure for other peoples.
Well, I’m buying Tux and Fanny, so thank you for this list. And I’m contemplating There is No Game. I’d simply forgotten all about it. For some reason, I passed on it. Maybe I should change that
I’ve played a decent amount of these games. There’s a fair number of 7/10 and 8/10 tier games on here and I hope people decide to take the plunge on a lot of them, thanks to this article. You’d be a fool not to at least try Islanders, which is a wonderfully relaxing game, or the Forgotten City, which is absolutely the best narrative experience in game form we’ve received this year. Forgotten City is tied for me for second best game this year. While I played it on PS5, I absolutely recommend playing it in whatever format you can play it.
Astalon Tears of the Earth is an indie with GOTY quality IMO and severely overlooked. NL did review it but somehow claims it to be a short game, which has me convinced the reviewer did NOT complete the game but just assumed they were near the end long before they actually were.
Some of the most satisfying exploration I have EVER experienced in a game.
I really hate the Switch version of Islanders. The PC version is SO much better.
Super Impossible Road should be on the list.
Been contemplating giving DUSK a try, almost pulled that proverbial trigger! GOTY tho , that is heavy praise..might have to check it out now. Eh! I’ll check next time your on but hit me up for some Risk of Rain 2 multiplayer…really unique game.
I loved Blue Fire. It was the best 3D platformer I played this year.
Eastward was at the top of the charts when it was released but even at that time it felt like it was being overlooked and skipped over. No spot for it in the site’s top ten list or even this list is tragic.
Also, Everhood. It’s criminal how overlooked that game is. I don’t think them emulating the look and style of Undertale did the game any favours and probably explains why many skipped over it but still, it’s well worth a go and so worth a spot on this list.
Nice to finally see someone mention Tux and Fanny!
Are they incapable of including DDLC Plus on any end of the year list? Lol
Kaze is a gem! It's definitely worth a close look, plaformer fans
@JBone I completely agree. It certainly needs a permanent price cut if they want to sell more copies.
Blue Fire seemed to fly under most people's radar. But it was phenomenal. Only trouble with a release early in the year is that a lot of people forget. Seems like years ago.
Dying to get on the Monster Train, but I don't want to buy it until I'm done with Slay the Spire, and I'm not there yet. Once I ascend all four characters I think I'll be ready for a new deckbuilding obsession.
@FlapjackProMax @Anti-Matter I can vouch for Kitaria Fables. I haven't played a ton of it yet, but it's not shovelware. It's pretty good stuff so far.
@larryisaman Eastward unfortunately drags a bit at the start, which I think is why a lot of people bounced off it, but it really is something special. The sprite art is rightfully praised for being best in class, but I became more attached to the characters than I expected…Would def recommend that anyone who gave up on it at least play a bit into the New Dam City chapters (maybe a couple hours into the game?)
The Legend of Tianding is one of my hidden gems from this year. If you're a fan of Guacamelee and Kung Fu movies, you'll enjoy it!
@FlapjackProMax Damn man, I don’t have any particular yin to play YouTuber life either, but it’s okay to let people share things they enjoy without shooting them down…
Overboard has been on my wishlist for months—really looking forward to checking that out. I guess I’d recommend Skate City, but I feel like it got a decent amount of coverage when it came out. Single-plane skateboarding with a satisfying control scheme, robust mission structure, with great lo-fi beats on the soundtrack…
The only reason Unavowed is not included is that people don’t know it. Best point and click adventure on switch.
Recently starting playing tails of iron and so far its really won me over. Medieval mice fighting frogs in a hand drawn, challenging, 2d action rpg narrated by Geralt of Rivia.
Wanted to play Blue Fire but never got around to it, hopefully I will at some point though because it looks like something I’d enjoy a lot.
The most underrated game of 2021 is Wrestling Empire. If you enjoy wrestling and/or the Aki N64-games, give it a try. It's silly fun.
@JasmineDragon Monster Train is an excellent side dish to Slay. Often when I get frustrated on Slay I jump onboard the train for a bit and then, once again, try (and fail) to climb the treacherous spire.
Project Starship X. Really. Is so great, it has lots of replay value and is always on sale. You should not pass on him. I've played like 50 hours on it and love every inch of it.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Is it too soon to call it "underrated"? I feel that it's getting kind of lost in the barrage of Christmas releases and eShop sales and way too many people are overlooking this gem. I'm still half way through it, but it's already looking likely to become one of my all time favorite games.
@Rich_Uncle_Skeleton It’s definitely one to adjust your expectations for when going into it. Trailers made it look like a complete 2D Zelda-like game, and there’s a definitely a lot of that in there; but it’s much more life sim than anything else for the majority of the game. Loads of walking around, loads of talking and doing errands. I didn’t mind the glacial pace once I settled into what the game actually is, but if anyone is looking for anything more action oriented I can see why they’d be turned off early in the game.
It’s not perfect by any stretch and some parts totally kill momentum in a game that’s slow as molasses anyway (the Monkollywood bit was probably the lowest point of the game for me) but it looks gorgeous, has an interesting story with great characters and the soundtrack is just brilliant. Shame it’s not getting much love!
I don't like mobile games and the videogame market is now so oversaturated there's barely enough time to play the 'big releases' so it's hardly surprising that I have no interest in any of these games.
@JasmineDragon Yeah that one was more legit, admittedly. The other two though...
@Rich_Uncle_Skeleton I wouldn't, normally, but he's posted those same pictures in multiple threads.
That's the thing about the internet! You share your opinion in an open forum and others can respond with their own.
No love for A Short Hike?
@SpaceboyScreams there were so many articles on NL, it's not hidden anymore
Removed - flaming/arguing
I've put Inked and Tux & Fanny on my wishlist, because they looked interesting, so nice to see them on here.
I like that this actually feels like an hidden gems list.
Kaze and the Wild Masks - A great (and cheaper) alternative to Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze.
Dreamscaper - haven’t played much of this but the premise intrigued me and I will sit down with it properly soon.
Monster Train: First Class, If you’re a fan of Slay the Spire, this is another deck builder equally as brilliant as STS. This game got my longest playtime this year. Content for days. Lots and lots of strategic versatile play styles. It’s a 10/10 alongside STS.
Curse of the Dead Gods - Has been compared to Hades but the only similarity is the top down camera perspective and that it’s a dungeon crawler roguelike. It’s very much it’s own game (compared to Hades at least) with its own systems and unique challenges like a parrying system, customisable load outs and lots and lots of curses and darkness😁.
Blue Fire - A great 3D platformer. Very much felt like playing a game that was crossed between Dark Souls, Zelda and Hollow Knight. It has its faults and is far from perfect but devs have been listening and slowly improving the game. Has potential. There are some hardcore platforming challenges to be found here.
Undermine - my latest pick up in the Christmas sales, it looks very nice. I’ve read from multiple sources that while it isn’t innovating in the slightest, it is a masterclass in rogue-like dungeon crawling.
@Rainz Hey there, yeah I really really like Dusk haha. I've got right back into 90's shooters on Switch, like Doom 1, 2, 64, Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. For me, Dusk can sit proudly among the classics. It has a really great theme and enemies, the maps keep getting better as you progress and the graphics and sound design are superb. It's a great time.
@Oppyz666 Cheers for mentioning that. I buy a lot of shmups and I knew there was one I liked the look of but I forgot the name of it. Project Starship X is that game. I just checked and it's not on sale at the moment but I've added to the wishlist and will get it for sure. I'm playing Ultimate Tiger Heli just now, great game.
Dope! Thanks for the synopsis breakdown. Still deciding between DUSK vs QUAKE at the moment. Might come down to a coin toss! Btw…is there any multiplayer in DUSK??
@Rainz You can't go wrong with either. There is no multiplayer mode in Dusk unfortunately,just a meaty campaign and an endless mode. I just put it on there and it seems they've patched the gyro controls. I think they worked fine with Joy-con but on the Pro controller they felt very odd. Now they seem to work as they should. So the game just got even better.
Forgot to say about Risk of Rain 2. It hasn't really clicked with me yet. Not really enjoying the feel of shooting yet. I was getting tired from playing it. I'll go back to it though. Any small tips for starting out would be appreciated.
Much thanks for the info, always appreciate when devs include some gyro support. Shame gyro is not used more often as it’s almost like one of the exclusive features of the Switch. So seamless when it’s done right! Your powers of persuasion are leaning me toward DUSK at the moment!
Risk of Rain 2. It’s a different beasts altogether. The game emits a very weird vibe, literally everything is trying to kill u at all times. I’m far from an expert but the game eventually clicked for me. Definitely play around with the characters available to suit your style of play as well as introduce you to the varying styles of play it provides. The game does almost zero hand holding , trust I’m still figuring out many aspects of the game. Essentially , kill the enemies to gain $. Once u have enough u should start to see your character upgrade rather quickly once u start opening the blue canisters and boxes laying about. Always stay moving in that game. Once you’ve acquired enough $ and weapons/upgrades locate the Teleporter and get ready for an intense boss battle. The game is relentless, your always fighting for your life BUT once you find the right mix of weapons/upgrades u can become a 1 man army and it really opens things up. Still need a deeper dive in the game, my longest run was just under 1 hr and whatever level I was on was just INSANE by then lol. I still have to give the multiplayer a real go, if I see u online sometime I’ll send an invite! Hope that helps somewhat!
Kaze and Blue Fire! Yes to both.
@Anti-Matter 😂😂😂... future furry incoming. Anyway I'm sure they are nice games but I can't get myself to download a game where the main character is a cute kitten named Mittens
"A fine and varied selection and no mistake." ROFL!! 😂 I like this note at the end of the list. I guess there has to be one definitive best hidden gems list, why not this one?
Cloud games shouldn't be considered for any of these lists.
@Dixy_Normus Wow so masculine dude
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