Game of the Year Hidden Gems 2022
Image: Nintendo Life

Another year has gone by and we've seen a positive smorgasbord of new Switch eShop releases, with handfuls of games launching each and every week.

Naturally, we've been unable to cover everything that's graced the Nintendo Switch in 2022; we are human after all (or are we..?), but we've done our level best to dig deep and surface games that might have gotten lost in the flood.

There have been so many excellent new indie titles this year, we've often found ourselves torn over how to spend our finite time and resources, especially during particularly busy periods of the year. Things will inevitably slip through our net, unfortunately, and we've put calls out for reader recommendations of titles that we missed — and you lovely readers have consistently risen to the task.

So today we'd like to showcase a clutch of games that we feel might have fallen under your radar, whether due to launching at an inopportune time or for simply being a little bit obscure. The list consists mostly of games that we've reviewed but feel need a bit more love, along with a few titles that we didn't manage to cover on the site but have enjoyed after the fact and want to highlight.

So without further ado, let's dive in and take a look at some hidden gems and underrated Switch games that you might have missed on the eShop this year...

OneShot: World Machine Edition (Switch eShop)

A short, compelling point-and-click adventure game originally developed in 2014, OneShot: World Machine Edition has an endearing, sombre story in which developer Future Cat makes you – the player – a character. The quest of Nico, a cat-like child, is framed as a game installed on a PC that functions as both a menu and narrative device and Niko will frequently break the fourth wall to address you by your Nintendo Switch profile name as you guide her through a dying world.

Unlike the adventure games of two or three decades ago, none of the puzzles stumped us, yet the dopamine rush hit us all the same when things slid into place. Before we knew it, the credits rolled, and we sat back, pensive from its bittersweet ending. A Very Good Game.

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Haiku the Robot (Switch eShop)

Haiku the Robot is a game that has all the hallmarks of the non-linear platformers that came before it (enter a zone, find an upgrade, use upgrade to access new zone, repeat) but with some stellar world-building and a GBA-inspired art style, this really isn't one to miss. Haiku's journey through the post-apocalyptic landscape plays out like any good Metroidvania should and with a brand new game mode added within the first few months of its release, the replayability value has never been greater. Robots have never been cuter, nuts and bolts have never been more annoying, and the apocalypse has never looked so good.

If you're looking for a way into the genre, this certainly throws you in at the deep end, but fans of all things Metroidvania will undoubtedly find a lot of fun to be had here.

Let's Build A Zoo (Switch)

There is a lot to love about Let's Build a Zoo. Players can get stuck into the minute details of managing their own zoo or they can take a more relaxed approach to building an animal empire, but the amount of freedom is really what makes this game stand out among other management sims on the market. The sheer variety of animals on offer and the charming visuals make up for the monotonous music and sparse tutorials. This is a solid choice if you're looking for something fun to play at a bargain price.

Strange Horticulture (Switch eShop)

Strange Horticulture’s biggest struggle is shoehorning itself into the Switch’s little screen and thumbstick controls. It does that well enough to preserve its wonder, but if you have a PC to play it on, that might be preferable. It comes from a very simple place: a one-screen playfield with basic, heavily scripted interactions. But that is the perfect backdrop to throw the player’s new discoveries into sharp relief and bring an eerie world and gripping mystery to life. This irresistible immersion stems eventually from a quiet and unassuming start, so stick with it – it’ll grow on you.

Windosill (Switch eShop)

Patrick Smith's delightful Windosill is a breezy, playful, and rather magical little journey through a series of enchanting puzzles, with a unique aesthetic that very obviously influenced the art style of the likes of Donut County and Monument Valley. The wonderfully laid-back and often trippy vibe here elevates what is actually a rather simple and short experience — you can blast through it all in less than an hour — into something that really does have the power to stay with you long after you've completed its charming collection of challenges.

Finding Paradise (Switch eShop)

Finding Paradise is a worthy successor to the superlative To The Moon. This second adventure in the series may not quite manage to hit the emotional highs of its predecessor, but there's still a complex, engaging, thoughtful, and wonderfully well-told story to sink your teeth into here in a game that will linger long in the memory once you're done with it. RPG Maker XP does cause a few little niggles with traversal and transitions between scenes, but these are minuscule issues that are well worth putting up with for the fun you'll have with the core narrative over its five-hour running time.

Tinykin (Switch eShop)

As a whole, Tinykin is more than just a wholesome, stress-free 3D platformer or 'Pikmin Lite'; it's a lesson in appreciating the simple things in life, including the help from those around you. Even with a mass of collectibles and a free-flowing storyline to follow, Tinykin never feels cluttered or overwhelming. Despite feeling a lot like a certain Nintendo series when you first pick it up, the game has enough of a unique identity to separate itself from the pack, offering a pleasant, pure platforming spin on Pikmin.

Penko Park (Switch eShop)

Despite its repetitiveness and short length, Penko Park is still a wonderfully charming 'successor' to Pokémon Snap. From the delightfully creepy atmosphere to some fresh new upgrade ideas, Penko Park is successful in both honoring its roots and creating its own identity. Fans of Pokémon Snap would be remiss to overlook this game and will surely have a great time discovering everything that Penko Park has to offer.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth (Switch)

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth doesn’t take too long to beat — even the most curious/thorough/careful player is unlikely to go over the 10-hour mark — but when the adventure’s this much fun and as densely packed with creativity, does it matter? At the end of it all you’re far more likely to feel satisfied than short-changed, and Deedlit’s tale is a surprisingly touching one regardless of how much or little you already know about Lodoss. If you're after something with the flavour of Symphony of the Night that doesn't feel like a shallow knock-off, this is a fine alternative.

Beacon Pines (Switch eShop)

Beacon Pines presents a rich world filled with deeply considered, not to mention adorable, characters. The beautifully crafted art, paired with a soundtrack that both captures and sets the mood, make for a wholly enjoyable experience. It might not be for those who prefer action, but it is a lovely and compelling story that sees Luka, Rolo, and Beck delve into a bevy of unique situations. You might finish it in less than a workday, but it’ll stay with you for much longer.

Wobbledogs (Switch eShop)

Do you ever wish you could be a dog breeder? No, probably not. But Wobbledogs fulfils the dream all the same, except instead of gorgeous little puppies, you're making cuboid abominations with the help of comedically-bizarre breeding rituals that involve dogs laying eggs and periodically going into cocoons. Do it right (or very, very wrong) and you'll mutate your dogs into having six legs and wings, or one leg and a look in their eyes that says "why have you done this, father". It might sound like mad science, but Wobbledogs is the most fun you can have with selective breeding without getting an ethics committee on your case.