Nintendo, in recent years, has shown a lot of love for the indie side of the video game industry. They have encouraged many developers to make new games for the Switch and support those who have already done so. Starting in February of 2017, Nintendo began to produce Directs specifically to cover indie games coming to their platforms. Dubbed the “Nindies Showcase” for North America, these Directs would concentrate mostly on independent developers and what they had planned for release on the Switch. Nintendo just had one of these showcases on March 20, showing some new and surprising games coming out. Here are a few from the presentation and a few others announced outside of it that I’m looking forward to.
Release Date: April 18
Initially releasing back in 2017 for Microsoft’s Xbox console and Windows, “Cuphead” was meticulously developed by Studio MDHR to have the look, feel and sound of cartoons from the 1930s. “Cuphead” is a run and gun platformer that offers players a challenging set of levels and creative bosses. According to Studio MDHR’s website, they were responsible for traditional hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds and original jazz recordings for the game. I immediately knew I had to play this game as soon it was announced. I am a big fan of difficult platforming games and the style of this one was unique enough that it caught my interest. This is definitely the most surprising indie title that was announced during Nintendo’s Nindies Showcase. “Cuphead” was meant to be a Microsoft exclusive game, showing that there might be some sort of close partnership between Microsoft and Nintendo. I think this partnership is fantastic. More Microsoft games could potentially come to the Switch and perhaps a few Nintendo titles would appear on future Xbox consoles. Obviously, not every exclusive would be shared between the two platforms, and nothing big like Mario or Halo would be shared, but a select few titles to share between consoles would be neat. Look forward to jazzy action platforming when the game runs on to Switch on April 18.
Release Date: April 18
Devolver Digital is one of the bigger publishers of indie games. They’re known for mostly the “Serious Sam” and “Hotline Miami” series. This year they’ve already released a quirky platformer in “Pikuniku” and a bloody beat ‘em up game in “Ape Out.” One of their next games is “Katana Zero,” which was just announced to be coming to the Switch in the Nindies Showcase. “Katana Zero” is a slick, fast-paced action platformer made by Askiisoft. It’s visuals are neo-noir inspired and has gameplay almost reminiscent of “Hotline Miami,” except in 2D form. There are set levels throughout and the mission is to kill every person inside by any means. There is also some remnant of a mysterious story that suggests that perhaps not everything is as it seems. Shown off in the trailer as well is a bullet time of some sort where you are able to deflect enemy bullets with your swords. I see this title as another “Hotline Miami” for me, something that I probably won’t be good at but will still love to play. The game promises breakneck action when it slices on to Switch on April 18.
‘SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech’
Release Date: April 25
There have been four other games in the SteamWorld universe that Swedish-based developer Image & Form Games have created. “SteamWorld Tower Defence” was their first game in the SteamWorld series. It was released digitally on the Nintendo DSi and was, as the title suggests, a tower defense game. “SteamWorld Dig” and “SteamWorld Dig 2” were platforming games that boasted Metroidvania gameplay wherein players mined to explore deep into the Earth’s surface. And “SteamWorld Heist” was a turn-based, strategy/shooting game that had players overtaking various spaceships. Now, Image & Form games looks to diversify its lineup once again with “SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech.” This latest SteamWorld title was announced during a European-based indie Direct back in January. Quest has players take control of a band of heroes going through a steampunk-inspired fantasy world taking down evil along the way. What sets this title apart from some other turn-based games is its card system. Players will have to put together a deck from the over 100 cards included in the game. It has a very appealing, hand-drawn art style and cute little mushroom monsters that I don’t want to fight but will probably have to. If you like dragons, gold, swords or killing innocent magical creatures, pick this game up at launch on April 25.
‘Cadence of Hyrule’
Release Date: Spring 2019
Another surprising announcement from the Nindies Showcase, an indie game that is officially a Zelda game. Now, this isn’t a mainline Zelda title that’s being developed by Nintendo, but it’s still coming exclusively to the Switch and has Zelda characters. “Cadence of Hyrule” is being developed by Vancouver-based company Brace Yourself Games. It’s a rhythm action game where every move is set to a beat. Brace Yourself Games has, so far, only completed one game: “Crypt of the NecroDancer.” Cadence is basically the same gameplay as Crypt, except with a Zelda skin over it. The game will feature 25 remixed Zelda beats as players work their way through the randomly generated overworld and dungeons. The reason this game is such a surprise is because Nintendo is trusting an indie developer, and a Western one at that, with one of its most important franchises. I enjoy this partnership between Nintendo and a smaller studio. It shows they have trust in other developers to make good games and it allows the smaller studio to get more attention for itself. The game also looks very promising as well. I love the Zelda franchise to death and am always excited for more of it. Look forward to defending Hyrule with gusto when “Cadence of Hyrule” drops on to the Switch this spring.
‘Castle Crashers: Remastered’
Release Date: Summer 2019
“Castle Crashers” is one of those games that just encapsulates the word ‘fun.’ I originally played the game when I bought it on my PS3, my first Sony console. I’m a loser and I didn’t have many friends before high school, so I played the game solo. Even just playing the game by myself, I could tell that it was something special. “Castle Crashers” is a hack and slash arcade game featuring four player co-op. Players take control of differently colored knights going through various levels in a magical kingdom trying to save your kingdoms’ princess. The gameplay gets repetitive, but never in a bad way. The simplicity of it actually adds to its charm. Aside from just the hack and slash action, there are constant upgrades that you may give to your own knight and little animal orbs that give you different skills to collect. Crash castles with your friends sometime this summer when the game is expected to make its debut on the Switch.
Release Date: 2019
Another platformer on my list, and this shouldn’t be surprising by now. “Cyber Shadow” has been developed for around a decade now by Mechanical Head Studios, a one-man studio run by Aarne “Mekaskull” Hunziker. The game apparently impressed Yacht Club Games, developer and publisher of the amazing “Shovel Knight,” enough to publish the game under their label. “Cyber Shadow” is a platformer starring a ninja in a desolate world overtaken by robots. It is very reminiscent of “Ninja Gaiden” on the NES. It features fast-paced gameplay with a lot of it looking like it takes skill to conquer. It takes a lot of dedication by many to make a video game, and to have only one person largely overseeing the development of one is astounding. I am looking forward to anything Yacht Club Games is putting out, even as a publisher, for the foreseeable future just because of how much I love “Shovel Knight.” They’ve shown lots of dedication for “Shovel Knight” and I expect to see a similar attitude to “Cyber Shadow.” Look forward to cybernetic ninja action later on this year.
Indies remain a very important part of the video game industry. They allow smaller developers to tell their story through a very popular medium. They bridge gaps between larger releases as well if people get impatient on what to play next. There are indie games that are better-developed than some AAA games. There are fantastic developers out there that do not get the attention they deserve for their consistent good work on games. Highlighting indies is a way to bring these developers and their games to light. So, support indies in between the yearly releases to support devs and provide diversity to the video game industry.