Inspired by: the original top-down Grand Theft Auto games, Drive, the '80s
Both games in this collection offer some of the most addictive and rewarding (not to mention ridiculously violent) experiences you can play anywhere. The Switch versions don’t bring anything particularly new to the table, but if you’re looking to experience these games for the first time (or again) on a portable platform, this is the place to do it. The sequel is the lesser of the two games here but the pixel art visuals and synthwave soundtrack of both have aged incredibly well since 2012 - probably because nostalgia for this retro aesthetic still burns bright in 2020.
Inspired by: the Contra series
For those longing for a time when side-scrolling shooters ruled the roost, Blazing Chrome is exactly what you're looking for. Perfect for short sessions, its slick gameplay and old-school art direction make for an astonishingly fun game full of explosions, epic set pieces and spectacular boss battles. Its brutal difficulty may not be for everyone, but if you're up for the challenge, then get ready for one of the most accomplished 2D action titles in years. The immensely disappointing Contra: Rogue Corps proved just how wrong you can get a retro-style revival - Blazing Chrome gets it so, so right.
Inspired by: Advance Wars
As far as strategy games are concerned on the Switch, Wargroove is one of the best titles you can find on the eShop. Extremely deep and diverse strategy gameplay, ridiculous amounts of replayability, and charming presentation all combine to make this one an easy recommendation to anybody looking for a deep and cerebral experience for their Switch. Advance Wars is returning in Re-Booted form on Switch, but Wargroove stands as a worthy successor to the cult classic franchise. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp has some stiff opposition to contend with thanks to Chucklefish's efforts.
Inspired by: old Neo Geo Pocket Color brawlers from the Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown and King of Fighters series, among others
Pocket Rumble's arcade mode is slight, but it's a useful training tool. Multiplayer is where the game excels, though, thanks to a diverse (albeit small) lineup of characters. Fighting games can be complicated things, off-putting to newcomers with their wide array of moves and techniques, but Cardboard Robot Games has crafted a fun and easy to learn experience here, bundled up in a wonderfully nostalgic audio-visual imitation of the old Neo Geo Pocket Color brawlers. By employing just two attack buttons and simplifying the special moves, it may not offer as much depth as some fighting games, but there's still enough to keep even a genre veteran happy here. Working well with any controller, the game is good fun and perfectly suited for quick bursts of play, whether that be in online battles or playing tabletop against friends.
Inspired by: the Donkey Kong Country series
With games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze keeping the series alive with new custodians at the helm (Retro Studios, in that case), Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair provides a glimpse at where the original developers from the Rareware days might have steered the DKC series. Mixing in some top-down adventuring into the platforming to change the pace up a bit, Playtonic's 2.5D sequel strikes a wonderful balance which offers the best of both worlds. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a fantastic platformer that pays tribute to Rare's past and we absolutely adore it.
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Inspired by: Macross (anime), '80s twin stick arcade games
GALAK-Z isn’t a game for everyone: its rogue-lite nature, its high difficulty level and its punishing policy on death (even in its easier Arcade mode) will infuriate some players who are just expecting a quick blast of non-stop action, or a standard twin-stick shooter, for that matter - it isn't. Treat it like the slower-paced exploration and survival game it’s supposed to be, though, and your patience will be rewarded with some genuinely satisfying space combat and a wide variety of customisable parts (not to mention its brilliant mech upgrade), all wrapped up in a fantastic ‘80s style aesthetic.
Undertale is a brilliant and smartly designed game that understands well what makes a good RPG work; so much so that it can upend expectations and deliver something that’s almost a satire of the genre. It surprises you often and in many unique ways with excellently written characters, a genre-bending battle system and a solid soundtrack that make this one an easy recommendation, especially to RPG lovers. Do yourself a favour and give this one a download.
A spiritual successor to pinball classics Alien Crush and Devil's Crush, Demon's Tilt isn't going to be to everybody's tastes with its single table, often obtuse mechanics and sometimes brutal difficulty, but if you have even the slightest interest in pinball games then you really should check this out. While more tables would have been welcome and it's a shame that some of the visual effects have been toned down on Switch, what we have here is a game of stunning depth and complexity which rewards methodical players who aren't afraid to invest a lot of time learning all of the secrets and hidden tactics. The ability to play the game in portrait mode makes this Switch port even more appealing.
Who says the beat 'em up is dead? Fight’N Rage is one of the must-own action games on Nintendo’s console. Its surprisingly deep and satisfyingly weighty combat engine combined with three strong and varied player characters and a host of cleverly-designed enemies elevate it above the usual button-mashing experience perhaps expected of entries in this genre. It’s got an excellent arcade mode that branches off in various directions as you make your way to the final boss battle, as well as a ton of unlockable modes and extras to keep you coming back for more. Whether you’re a learned fan of old-school beat ’em ups or you just like pummelling the life out of mutant punk pussycats and monkeys dressed as Bruce Lee, you owe it to yourself to experience what Sebastian Garcia has created here; it’s easily one of the best beat’em ups we’ve played.
Inspired by: 16-bit run 'n' gunners, '80s sci fi
Huntdown is a delightfully detailed and expertly crafted throwback to old-school run 'n' gun arcade shooters. The 16-bit graphical style is immaculately recreated whilst adding lots of modern bells and whistles to proceedings, including a fantastic soundtrack and audio design, optional CRT filter and an arsenal of heavy-duty weapons that chew scenery and enemies to pieces as your bounty hunter makes their way from boss fight to excellent boss fight. The flow of levels may be quite repetitive but the moment-to-moment gameplay, overall sense of fun that comes from the level of carnage you can dish out, surprising amount of hammy spoken dialogue and constant pop-culture references all combine to make this one an easy recommendation, and another excellent addition to the Switch's action catalogue.
Gorgeous to behold and equally delightful to play, Timespinner is yet another top-notch Metroidvania to add to the list on Switch. A lack of tough exploration challenges and an under-utilised time-freeze gimmick aside, it succeeds in using the popular genre as a vehicle for a genuinely intriguing science-fantasy tale that will motivate players to explore every inch of its fantastic pixel-art world.