Quality Games On A Budget
Nintendo Switch has just turned a year old, and already the system has no shortage of quality games to play. Even before a flurry of big-name third-party ports release for the system–Bayonetta 2, Skyrim, L.A. Noire, and Doom–there were already a ton of worthwhile options on Switch. There are Nintendo’s flagship titles, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Splatoon 2, and a variety of other Switch games you may have missed. Beyond that, though, there’s a burgeoning selection of games that cost no more than $20.
These budget-priced games are not a concept exclusive to Switch, nor is this system the only place to find many of them. But given the system’s only a year in, it’s incredible how the platform is bursting at the seams with games to play. Particularly, if you’re just getting a system now, it can be hard to find things to play, in part because the Eshop needs some work.
In the gallery above, we’re highlighting Switch games that are available for no more than $20 on the Eshop. This is far from a comprehensive list, but if you’re looking for a cheap Switch game to pick up, you can’t go wrong with any of these options. Many are not Switch exclusives, but it’s often the best platform to play them on, thanks to newly added features or the sheer convenience of having a version you can play both on a TV and on the go. These games are presented in no particular order; they’re simply titles that are worth a look.
For an analysis of Nintendo Switch’s first year, be sure to read our feature discussing the console’s various successes and failures. In addition, you can also check out our features detailing all the Wii U games we ported to Switch, 13 things we still want to see from the console, and the best games on the console as of 2018.
Celeste ($20 / £18)
Celeste is a magical game that will challenge you in a multitude of ways. Its platforming is really, really hard, and you’ll likely get frustrated at your fumbling fingers for failing a jump or at your slow brain for not figuring out how to get to the next safe zone. But when you get to that checkpoint, it’s satisfying to know your fingers and brain aren’t, in fact, useless.
More than its platforming, though, Celeste’s story is challenging. The main protagonist, Madeline, is faced with a horrible journey–both climbing a mountain and battling her own mind–and at times it’s not easy to watch her suffer. The game’s writing is such that it’s easy to project that suffering onto yourself, and that can make it tough to face playing the next level.
But you should absolutely do so, because it’s a story with an ending worth the struggle and a cast of characters so endearing you’ll be rooting for them to succeed. Just expect to fail a few leaps of faith along the way.
The Sexy Brutale ($20 / £18)
The Sexy Brutale is a quirky little puzzle game co-developed by Tequila Works, the studio behind beautiful adventure game Rime. Its essentially Groundhog Day: The Game–you play through the same day over and over, but with each runthrough you learn more about the creepy mansion you find yourself in. After seeing one character shoot another, you might go and find the gun and prevent the bloody murder by replacing real bullets with blanks. A number of these murders are interconnected–solving one puzzle might prevent one murder, but that could change another branch of time elsewhere in the house. There’s no way of preventing every murder in one go, but discovering and tinkering with the different timelines is where the fun lies.
And with it being playable on Switch, you can live the same day countless times anywhere you want. Suffice to say, we’ve played it over and over again–groundhog day indeed.
Crypt of the NecroDancer ($20 / £18)
Roguelikes (or at least roguelike elements) have been one of the most popular trends in gaming over the past handful of years, but few have taken as interesting of an approach to the genre as Crypt of the NecroDancer. Originally released on PC and other platforms before making its way to Switch in 2018, NecroDancer tasks players with navigating a dungeon to the beat of the music. Rather than simply move in the direction you wish or attack the enemy that’s in your path, you and your enemies’ actions are tied directly to the (always excellent) soundtrack. It’s essential that you always be doing something–not taking an action at the next beat resets your combo, meaning you’ll earn less gold or deal less damage, depending on the items you’ve acquired. Particularly as the music becomes more fast-paced, this lends a real sense of tension and excitement to every moment: you need to constantly be considering your next action while accounting for how nearby enemies will react to your movements. It’s an experience with few points of comparison, but it’s nonetheless one that you’ll certainly want to try.
Battle Chef Brigade ($20 / £18)
Battle Chef Brigade puts you in control of an aspiring young chef named Mina as she fights to become the best cook in the land. But this isn’t your typical cooking game; rather than choose from pre-set ingredients in front of you to make a simple dish, you actually have to hunt and gather them yourself, making use of Devil May Cry-like battle system to eliminate them in the wild. You then have to take what you gather back to your kitchen, throw it in a pot, and cook it in a match three mini-game. F
rame this within an Iron Chef-like cook off where the clock is ticking against you and you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting into. The juxtaposition between the two core mechanics of hunting and cooking make for a tense, fast-paced experience that’s both memorable and fulfilling.
Enter the Gungeon ($15 / £11)
Being a roguelike-style shooter, Enter the Gungeon naturally draws comparisons to games like The Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne. And while that does offer a decent starting point for understanding what to expect, Enter the Gungeon manages to rise above being a pale imitator. It feels fantastic, with a dodge-roll ability that allows you to satisfyingly evade damage with a well-timed use. There are ridiculous weapons, such as those that fire bees or a gun that shoots guns which themselves fire bullets. The well-crafted procedurally generated environments help to keep each run feeling fresh, as do the wide variety of items and secrets to uncover along the way. And co-op support makes for an especially fun, chaotic experience (although it’s unfortunate that the second player isn’t able to play as the different characters that the main player has access to). The entire game is also overflowing with personality and color, making for an experience that is as fun to look at as is to play.
Furi ($20 / £18)
Fans of Japanese action games will instantly love Furi, as it utilizes a twitch-based combat similar to fan-favorite games in the genre, like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Its premise is simple: you play as a nameless silver-haired swordsman who must fight his way out of imprisonment, facing off against a gauntlet of deadly bosses.
Aside from its striking presentation, Furi’s most memorable quality is its fast and frenetic combat, which is punchy, nuanced, and elegantly simple. It combines mechanics from both hack-and-slash games and shoot ’em ups, challenging you to handle switching between gameplay styles at a moment’s notice in the midst of a fight. If you’re a sucker for challenging action games, Furi should be at the top of your list for $20 Switch games to buy.
SteamWorld Dig 2 ($20 / £15)
SteamWorld Dig 2 expands on its predecessor in a number of welcome ways. It looks much nicer, with a better soundtrack and more interesting story, but it also expands on progression. A new mod system allows you to tailor your character to your particular style, and the varied environments provide an incentive to keep digging and new challenges to contend with. Digging your way through blocks remains an enjoyable gameplay mechanic, and particularly with optional waypoints disabled, exploring the depths of this world is a real treat.
Read our SteamWorld Dig 2 review
Picross S ($8 / £7.19)
Switch’s entry in the Picross series, Picross S, doesn’t do anything radically new, and it doesn’t have to. It offers the straightforward, streamlined pleasure of its sudoku/nonogram-style gameplay on the go. It’s the kind of game that’s perfect to have loaded up on Switch–you can easily jump in for a quick puzzle (or eight) while you’re on the go or in between sessions of other games. There’s plenty to do with 300 puzzles, and simultaneous two-player multiplayer support gives you a way to ease newcomers into the series.
Stardew Valley ($15 / £11)
Like many other games on this list, Stardew Valley feels particularly well-suited to the portable nature of Switch. The system makes it easy to boot up the game for a quick day on the farm no matter where you are, and the controls work surprisingly well–though they could still use some refinement (possibly through the addition of touch controls, which are absent). The game remains a charming take on the Harvest Moon formula and provides a nice, peaceful complement to many of the more action-oriented games on Switch–particularly in lieu of a new Animal Crossing.
Read our Stardew Valley review
Golf Story ($15 / £13.49)
Even if you’re not a fan of the real-world sport, there’s an undeniable appeal to golf games. Golf Story goes beyond simply letting you hit the links, though, taking the form of a traditional RPG that just happens to revolve around golfing. It features a charming story and a delightful, reactive world to explore, along with some trademark Australian humor.
Read our Golf Story review
Sonic Mania ($20 / £16)
Sonic Mania marks the latest attempt to recapture the 2D glory days of the Sonic franchise, and it more than succeeds. Fantastic level design and a real sense of speed help to scratch that nostalgic itch, but it also stands as a solid game among its contemporaries. Our review goes so far as to even say it might very well be the best Sonic game ever. In light of Sonic Forces’ deficiencies, at least Sonic fans have good Sonic game to play on the system.
Read our Sonic Mania review
Overcooked ($20 / £18)
Multiplayer games that can be played with a single Joy-Con are a real treat–wherever you go with the system, you’re able to easily play together with another person. And that’s good news for Overcooked, a game that becomes exponentially better when played with at least one other person. What starts out as a relatively tame game where you help each other chop some vegetables and get them served on a plate becomes a frantic rush to put out fires, get ingredients distributed between two moving vehicles, and other ridiculous scenarios.
Read our Overcooked review
Thimbleweed Park ($20 / £15)
Point-and-click adventure games have experienced something of a renaissance in recent years, and Thimbleweed Park–from adventure game legends Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick–is a prime example. The X-Files-inspired journey puts you in the role of two FBI agents that bear more than a passing resemblance to the classic TV show as you relive the glory days of adventure games. Playing on any console means dealing with a gamepad-based control scheme (as opposed to the more natural mouse controls on PC), but Switch makes up for this with touchscreen support when played in handheld mode.
Read our Thimbleweed Park review
Retro City Rampage DX ($15 / £13)
A throwback GTA Online mode aside, Grand Theft Auto has long since moved on from the classic top-down perspective of its earliest games. Retro City Rampage carries on that legacy, offering an open-world crime game in 8-bit style. What could have easily been a mere GTA clone, however, is distinguished with copious pop culture references and a distinctly arcade-style feel to its gameplay. This DX edition offers additional content not seen in the original version of the game.
Read our Retro City Rampage review
Fast RMX ($20 / £17)
The likelihood of a new F-Zero game doesn’t seem terribly high, but Fast RMX is the next best thing. It offers a similar style of high-speed, futuristic racing, with support for local and online multiplayer (including single Joy-Con play) and wide variety of levels. It’s also a good-looking game, running at 1080p and 60 FPS.
Read our Fast RMX review
World of Goo ($10 / £9)
It’s been around for years, and the Switch version doesn’t bring any new content to the table, but now is as good a time as any to play World of Goo if you haven’t already. Its construction-based puzzles that task you with creating structures and other objects to fulfill a variety of objectives are still as well designed as ever, making this a worthwhile addition to your Switch library. The one noteworthy distinction with this edition is the addition of local co-op multiplayer (absent from most other platforms); it’s also one of the few games to put the Joy-Con’s IR pointer to use.
Read our World of Goo review
Little Inferno ($10 / £9)
Another of Tomorrow Corporation’s game, Little Inferno also doesn’t bring anything new to the table for Switch if you’re playing by yourself. But if you have a friend, it introduces a new local co-op multiplayer mode not seen on other platforms. For the uninitiated, Little Inferno involves throwing stuff into a furnace and watching it burn for cash (which is then used to buy more stuff to burn). Despite that simple premise, there is a deeper puzzle system at work here where you have to burn different combinations of objects together to fulfill certain requirement. It’s relatively short but features a surprisingly intriguing story and has a cat plushie that poops when burned, so it really checks all the boxes.
Read our Little Inferno review
Gonner ($10 / £9)
Switch’s portable nature lends itself well to quick, pick-up-and-play roguelike games. Gonner is an ideal example, blending procedural generation with action-platforming as you blast your way through countless enemies. With a distinct visual style and seemingly endless replayability, it’s another great match with the platform.
Graceful Explosion Machine ($13 / £10)
Shoot-em-ups are not well-represented on Switch, but Graceful Explosion Machine nicely fills that void. Rather than presenting you with an endless stream of foes, it presents confined, handcrafted levels and a variety of distinct weapons with which to dispatch your enemies. Dealing with weapon cooldowns and figuring out the ideal order in which to deal with enemies becomes a game unto itself, and this all takes place within the confines of a cute, colorful world.
Severed ($15 / £12)
Severed is one of the few games on Switch that can only be played in handheld mode, due to its mandatory touchscreen controls. It’s a dungeon crawler with a twist, as you’re tasked with slicing your way through enemies you encounter by swiping on the screen. But beyond the enjoyable gameplay and slick visual style, Severed’s story is the real highlight, as you experience the tale of a one-armed warrior named Sasha.
Read our Severed review
Shovel Knight ($10-$25 / £9-£22.49)
This is admittedly a bit of a cheat, as you’re best off buying Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which includes all three of the campaigns released so far (and more content to come) for $25. But just $10 will get you a single campaign which is more than worth the price of entry. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment puts you in the shoes of one of the main game’s antagonists, Specter Knight, as he takes his own unique journey through the same levels featured in the original game. As with Plague Knight’s campaign, the unique mechanics at play here (like the dash attack) make for a much different experience. You would be best-served by starting with the base Shovel Knight campaign, but whichever version you play, you’ll be treated to a modern take on retro platformers that bests many of the classics it draws inspiration from.
Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together ($20 / £18)
Snipperclips was overshadowed at launch by the hype around The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it remains one of–if not the–best multiplayer games on Switch. Although it can be played solo, cooperative play is where Snipperclips truly shines. You work together to solve relatively simple challenges–get this ball into the basket; pop some balloons–by overlapping your characters and cutting chunks out of one another. This allows you to shape your partner into a tool that can be used for the task at hand. There’s little else like it, on Switch or elsewhere.
One thing to note is the new Snipperclips Plus version, which offers additional content; owners of the base game will be able to purchase its additions as DLC.
Read our Snipperclips review
Although it’s a game arguably best-suited for VR, Thumper is an incredible experience however you play it. It provides a unique blend of rhythm-based gameplay and action–what the developer calls “rhythm violence”–that provides a far more intense version of the basic mechanics you see in other rhythm games. With an incredible soundtrack and levels well-suited to chasing high scores, Thumper is a game with the potential to stick around on your Switch’s home screen for a long time.
Read our Thumper review
Axiom Verge ($20 / £15)
Axiom Verge is another take on the Metroidvania style, but it distinguishes itself through its wide variety of weapons and tools–most notably, the Address Disruptor, which affects the environment and each enemy type in different ways. It’s also a game with an impressive sense of scale and no shortage of secrets to uncover, encouraging multiple playthroughs. Add in an excellent soundtrack and tantalizing story, and there’s a lot to like here.
Read our Axiom Verge review
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