The Nintendo Switch is a super-popular device among indie studios. Thanks to well-documented tech, it isn't just an easy and familiar platform for most devs to work with, but it also has mass appeal due to its portable nature.
With that said, it's only obvious that nearly every new indie game also gets a port to Nintendo's hybrid machine.
From 2D platformers, isometric RPGs, and pixel-art roguelites to 3D action games, open-world survival, and fast-paced racers, there's a massive catalog to pick from on Nintendo Switch.
Most of these are smaller-scale projects, understandably due to budget constraints or cut-down ports for the Nintendo Switch's low-powered hardware.
Regardless, a handful of indie titles are impressive showcases for the tiny Nvidia Tegra X1 driven handheld device, whether port or built from the ground up.
Here are 5 of the best-looking indie games on Nintendo's current handheld
5) The Turing Test
Taking notes from the actual Turing Test experiment hosted by renowned scientist Alan Turing, this is a first-person puzzler from Bulkhead Interactive. It features protagonist Ava Turing, one of several members of the International Space Agency sent for research to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.
After waking from cryostasis, she realizes her fellow members are missing and must head deep into the puzzle-laden base headed by the Technical Operations Machine (or T.O.M.), an AI built to oversee their progress.
Puzzles require Ava to use her energy manipulating gun to divert power from one point to another. It's one of the cleaner-looking Unreal Engine 4 games on the Nintendo Switch. Unlike several ports on the platform, it retains a host of bells and whistles that usually get axed, like ambient occlusion.
It's visually simplistic, with monotone-looking corridors, but it works to the game's aesthetic. The Turing Test was published by Square Enix Collective (the Japanese publisher's indie partnering initiative) and originally released for PS4. XB1 and PC in 2017.
4) Yooka Laylee & the Impossible Lair
In 2019, developer Playtonic Games released a self-contained follow-up to their 2017 3D platformer. Yooka Laylee & the Impossible Lair follows the chameleon-bat duo on another journey to track down the nefarious Captial B after being summoned by Queen Phoebee.
It isn't a traditional sequel in the sense that it is an entirely different kind of game to the studio's previous entry in the same franchise; Impossible Lair follows in the footsteps of the iconic Donkey Kong Country games, first developed by Rareware for the Super NES.
The title is one of the best Unity engine projects on Nintendo's handheld. It boasts a beautiful 3D cel-shaded art style with plenty of detail, such as light sources casting dynamic shadows.
The game runs at 765p when docked and 540p when portable. However, it runs at a blistering 60 FPS - something that's rare for a multiplatform game on the Switch.
3) Fast RMX
Acting as an updated version of the 2015 Wii U original, Fast RMX is a lightning-fast sci-fi racing game inspired by the likes of Wipeout. The premise is simple: players blaze along swerving tracks while keeping an eye out for boosters that make the ships go from breakneck speed to Mach-9.
German development studio Shin'en Multimedia has an interesting history with Nintendo consoles. The wizards at the team have been in the game since the Gameboy era, known for all kinds of impressive technical showcases - take Iridion 3D's amazing sprite-work on Game boy Advance, for example.
Or the twin-stick shooter Nano Assault EX on the 3DS, which wouldn't look out of place on an Xbox 360. Fast RMX is another technical marvel, showcasing high-quality lighting and PBR (physical-based rendering) materials. To top it all off, it's a 1080p 60 FPS game when docked and is still a looker 5 years since launch.
2) Outlast 2
The sequel to the acclaimed 2013 first-person survival horror game was met with a lot of enthusiasm on its announcement. It follows the events of the original as cameraman Blake Langermann tracks down his wife, who has been kidnapped by an insane cult after the duo crashlands in Arizona.
The gameplay retains the first game's gut-wrenching atmosphere and tense hide-and-seek/chase segments against terrifying foes, backed by heavy use of the camera’s night vision.
Using a custom variant of the Unreal 3 engine, Red Barrels' game runs at 1008p (yes, not a typo) when docked and 720p when handheld - both at 30 FPS but with similar fidelity to the other platforms.
While there are noticeable differences between the portable and other console versions - like parred back vshadows and missing subsurface scattering on character models' skin; they're largely masked thanks to the game's dark setting.
The studio has made a name for itself among the horror-game community, and fans eagerly await the arrival of their upcoming project, Outlast Trials.
1) Ori & the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios' latest gem, originally released for Xbox One and PC in 2020, made its way to Nintendo last year. It is a direct follow-up to Ori & the Blind Forest, released in 2015. Separated by a storm, Ori sets out to find his friend Ku on a journey. It is a Metroidvania game, similar to the first, but it ups the ante in many ways this time around.
Overhauled combat system, more maneuvers for the little dodge-rolling spirit, and a larger scope in general for level design. The Nintendo Switch port, in particular, is an interesting case because it's not just another custom Unity showcase but also because it translates over well to the Nintendo system.
Running at a dynamic 900p when docked and 720p when portable, it also targets 60 FPS and hits it a vast majority of the time; in fact, it runs consistently better than even the Xbox One version.
As detailed by Digital Foundry, the key here is smart design and careful reconstruction and mapping of a project to target platform.
The stable performance coupled with the heart-stopping visuals combines to create an experience that's one of the best ports on the Nintendo Switch and one of the most stunning games of this generation.