by Cameron Summerson on
If you’re looking to kill some time with a game on your phone, you don’t have to sit around and tap away on the screen. If you want the best gaming experience on mobile, you need to add a controller.
The Switch Online service, and access to Nintendo’s classic games, won’t be out until later this year. But if you’re hungry for retro-style thrills, the Switch catalog already has some choice games to choose from.
If you’re curious about Switch Online, you can read more about it with our helpful summary here. If you’re already up to speed and dying for some sweet retro-style games to fill the void in your heart until launch day, well these ought to hold you over.
We’ve even grouped the games based on the kind of retro styling and themes you like. Crave a Mario experience? Zelda style puzzles? We’ve got you covered.
Though it’s never quite cracked the mainstream, the Shantae series has been serving up rock-solid 2D platforming for over fifteen years now. The latest game in the series, Half-Genie Hero, is its first foray into full HD—and boy, is it looking great. The combination of classic 2D gameplay, hand-drawn character animation, and a sweet variety of transformation powers for the protagonist Shantae keeps this bright and spunky platformer rolling through its connected world. The base game is a steal at twenty bucks, with the “Ultimate Edition” adding on all of the DLC and costumes from its release on other platforms.
Breath of the Wild is a must-have for any Nintendo fan, but if you prefer your fantasy-flavored world-saving top-down, Oceanhorn is a lovable throwback. Mixing elements of classic Zelda with the setting of Wind Waker, the indie title keeps the old-fashioned gameplay but includes vibrant 3D graphics. Combat takes a backseat to exploration and puzzles in this action-RPG, but there are enough touches to satisfy Zelda players who prefer the portable adventures in the franchise over the sweeping scope of the console releases.
“Metroidvania” players couldn’t stop raving about the original SteamWorld Dig, and the sequel adds more of everything they loved. This platformer mixes the exploration and equipment upgrades so typical of the genre with a movement mechanic straight out of Dig Dug. It’s a surprisingly effective combination, and uniquely-styled characters and environments add to the charm. Be warned: once you get a taste of SteamWorld, you’ll probably buy the original, spinoffs, and DLC too.
Fast RMX is a shameless throwback to the likes of F-Zero and Wipeout. And that’s a good thing! The slick hovercraft designs and huge, mind-bending tracks recall the creativity of a niche long neglected, and the blistering speed is especially impressive considering the Switch’s limited graphical oomph. Multiplayer options include classic local splitscreen and online play with up to eight racers at once. This is also one of the few third-party Switch exclusives.
There’s not a true Final Fantasy entry available on the Switch at the moment, and none on the horizon, either. But fans of the classic entries might find they’re so enamored with I Am Setsuna that they don’t care. The game mixes an adapted Chrono Trigger-style real time battle engine with classic Final Fantasy story beats (specifically FFX) and a haunting atmosphere. It’s an experience that anyone who cut their teeth on 16-bit RPGs will love, and the modern visuals and music will keep less seasoned RPG fans engaged.
Other picks: Darkest Dungeon
As far as new 2D fighters on the Switch go, it’s slim pickings until Smash Bros. arrives. But who cares, when we have a fully updated version of one of the genre’s undisputed classics? Ultra Street Fighter II adapts the much-loved Super Street Fighter II Turbo with gorgeous high-res sprites and two new variants of Ryu and Ken, plus all of the original and Super roster. For those who demand the retro look, the original pixel sprites are available as well. Local and online multiplayer is supported, along with a new co-op mode.
Okay, technically Fire Emblem has only been available to western audiences for a few years. But if you enjoy the tactical turn-based combat, you owe it to yourself to check out the Disgaea series. This anime-style tactical RPG ramps both the challenge and the complexity way up, giving players insane amounts of characters, classes, weapons, special moves, and scenarios. There’s honestly way too much to Disgaea to dive into in this article, but if you’re wary of starting with the fifth entry, a remastered version of Disgaea 1 is scheduled to land on the Switch in a few months.
If your fists are craving some side-scrolling beat-em-up action, they can’t do better than Streets of Red on Switch. The game absolutely revels in its 80s nostalgia to a goofy degree, challenging players to beat up knock-off horror monsters with stock video game characters. It’s built from the ground up for local four-player co-op, like the best of the classic games it apes. And that’s a good thing, since the endless waves of grunts and screen-filling bosses will keep even the most hardcore players challenged.
Side-scrolling shooters are rare in the upper echelons of Triple-A titles, but they thrive in indie game market on the Switch. The best among them is Bleed 2, a pixelated superhero shooter with local co-op play. Players have a choice of a handful of weapons and power-ups, but the real draw here is the challenge that comes from never-ending waves of baddies and bullets. Heroine Wryn’s flight abilities lend a vertical component to the stages, and while the graphics aren’t anything to write home about, you’ll hardly have any time to look at them thanks to the game’s breakneck pace.
Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a return to glory for the shoot-em-up genre, an unapologetically brutal top-down game that does its very best to send you into convulsions. Blinding weapons, pulse-pounding music, and beautiful stage designs combine for the kind of sensory overload that genre fans drool over. The Switch release includes a new widescreen mode, the better to take advantage of the mobile-focused hardware, and multiple difficulty levels will indulge newbies and masochistic veterans alike.
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