The Nintendo Switch is now Nintendo’s fastest-selling console in history. The new hybrid gaming system’s popularity is due in no small part its formidable line-up of first party games. Exploding onto the market with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo quickly followed up with a torrent of successful games such as Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and now Super Mario Odyssey has brought the console home to a strong finish for 2017.
But let’s not forget about some of the lesser-known titles that stepped up to fill the gaps between Nintendo’s major releases. The Switch’s major selling point – the blending of home and portable gaming – means the console is fine-tuned to enhance accessibility and ease of play. While most people will jump straight to Mario Kart when looking for a multiplayer game, there are countless hours of fun to be had from the Switch’s indie titles which offer unique multiplayer experiences for a fraction of the cost.
This list focuses on what we consider to be the best casual multiplayer games that are available for under $20 AUD, so you can pick up and play with your friends at any time without breaking the bank.
Astro Duel Deluxe
Astro Duel Deluxe is classic arcade fun, complete with pew-pew sound effects, devastating power-ups and satisfying instant replays so you can relive the moment your spaceship squelches a friend over and over again. Glorious.
In this fast-paced game you control a ship rocketing through a plethora of space-arenas on a mission to ruthlessly run down your opponents. Your actions are basic: move, shoot, and dash. Each player’s ship essentially serves as an extra life, but once this protective layer is gone, your little pilot has no choice but to float helplessly through space and try to avoid being crushed by any opportunistic foes. With a variety of challenging maps littered with asteroids and special weapons, the defenceless pilots must use everything at their disposal to defeat their enemies and protect their fragile little bodies.
The game supports up to 6 players and has a variety of modes to choose from. Gameplay is balanced, rewarding players on a losing streak with extra weapons and shields to help them on their way to victory. The controls are simple, the gameplay is self-explanatory and rounds are lightning-quick, making this a great game to get the party started, or for when you need to kill a few minutes.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Join the fight for love in this adorable co-op adventure that will have you and your friends yelling commands at each other as you scamper to coordinate your efforts and defeat the evil forces of Anti-Love.
In Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, you and up to 3 friends traverse space in a multi-functional battleship, fending off baddies and rescuing cute space-bunnies. When it comes to operating the battleship, everyone has a unique part to play. The ship’s interior has multiple battle-stations and each corresponds to a specific function like thrusters, shields and weapons. Players can only command one terminal at a time, so effective communication is crucial. There’s no use having everyone on the guns if there’s no one to stop the ship drifting inexorably towards its demise.
The bright neon environments and quirky premise of this game will delight players both young and old. It’s a perfect cooperative game for those not so keen on the competitive aspect, and the randomly generated worlds present a new challenge every time you play.
The tagline, “Fast-paced Rocket Dodgeball Arena” couldn’t be more spot-on. Subtract the pain and humiliation of an actual ball to the jaw, and here you’ve got the perfect dodgeball experience that you can play on the go. Plus, there’s no more trudging back to the sidelines in front of your jeering classmates.
Rocket Fist is a local multiplayer game in a similar vein to Astro Duel Deluxe that requires players to destroy each other in quick-fire battles that take place in tight arenas. Each player begins the round equipped with the signature rocket fist which acts as a projectile to fire at your opponents. But there’s a twist: after you fire a shot you’ll need to retrieve a discarded fist before you can attack again. Frantic sprints ensue as players dash for the nearest weapon in the hopes of getting off a sneaky shot while their opponents are disarmed.
For those wanting to hone their skills there’s also a simple player campaign, but Rocket Fist really shines as a fast-paced multiplayer experience that will keep you coming back for more of the bite-sized matches.
Astro Bears Party
Imagine Tron. Only, replace the futuristic light cycles and digital landscape with spacesuit-wearing bears dashing across the surface of a tiny ball equipped with nothing but jetpacks and cheeky grins. That’s what you’re in for with Astro Bears Party.
Each match begins with 2-4 bears on different sides of a small planet. They proceed to run around and weave colourful ribbons made of what I can only assume is the same stuff as lightsabers, because the instant a bear touches it – they’re out. Players must try to outwit their opponents as they create convoluted mazes, jeptpack over the deadly trails or try to dash ahead to cut off other bears. The chaos intensifies with more players, but this game is still addictive with 1-on-1 matches.
A good test for your reflexes, Astro Bears Party is a surprisingly delightful romp for such a low price tag, and each short match is bound to be met with a few laughs.
Most of what players do in this game is die, so it makes sense that it has the word ‘Death’ in the title. But don’t let that deter you! We all learn from our mistakes (and besides, you’re playing as easily replaceable robots so you can all just relax).
Death Squared has 1, 2, or 4 players take control of little robotic cubes and work together to solve puzzles. The aim is to navigate all cubes to the goal while avoiding obstacles in a variety of Portal-esque testing environments. It sounds simple, but the real hazards here are your teammates. Fail to communicate effectively and you may find yourself inadvertently vaporising your buddies or forcing them off the edge of the stage to tumble tragically to their doom. Finding the correct solution is all the more satisfying after a few harmless deaths, but if you’re going to get to that stage you’ll need to master the art of working through the puzzles together.
This light-hearted puzzle game is made even better by the comic banter exchanged between a sassy AI assistant and a programmer observing the players throughout the challenges (just watch the ridiculous trailer above for an idea of what you’re in for). This gives Death Squared an added dimension of humour, making it one of the more entertaining brainteasers you’ll find on the Switch.
Become a murderous little ball and attack your friends!
It’s possibly the simplest concept for a game on this list, and it’s definitely the game with the simplest controls. But simple is good. It’s so simple, in fact, that even your simplest friends can join in on the fun!
De Mambo is a frantic fighting game where players knock each other off the screen in a style reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. Players move and attack using only the control stick and a single button. It’s as accessible as they come. The destructible stages add an extra degree of urgency as you battle it out, and often it’s merely a matter of staying alive long enough for your opponents to go whizzing off the edge of the stage in order to win.
De Mambo is what the Switch was made for – a pick-up-and-play game with short matches perfect for playing on the go.
Are you a budding or established pyromaniac? Are you looking to burn off a little steam, literally? Well, this is the game for you! Now you can burn things to your heart’s content all from the safety of your home. Not only is it fun, it’s also a much healthier and safer outlet than, say, going out and burning things in real life.
In Little Inferno you’re the proud owner of the titular Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace and your goal, as we’ve established, is to burn things. Burn all the things. Wood, toys, a miniature moon. Into the fireplace it goes! Create interesting combos to unlock more things to burn. It’s easy, endless fun for everyone. The Switch remake of this Wii U classic incorporates a new two-player mode, so now you can huddle up close to the flames with a buddy and reduce innumerable items to ash together!
Little Inferno sits closer to some kind of profound, otherworldly experience than a traditional video game, so it makes sense to go on this strange and wonderful journey with a friend. Plus, working together means you can double your efficiency, burn more things and stay warmer. It’s cold out there, after all.
Conga Master Party
What says “party” more than the infamous conga line? Practically anything, actually. But that’s never stopped conga-lovers before, and it’s certainly not going to stop them now. With Conga Master Party, you can celebrate this cringe-worthy and inaptly named “dance” from the comfort of your living room (where no one can witness your shame).
The aim of Conga Master Party is to make the longest continuous line of dancers. From the moment you step onto the dance floor the game is afoot. You must steer your brave solo dancer across the room to recruit dancers and grow your following. Battle it out with your groovy friends to find out once and for all who is the King or Queen of boogie.
The multiplayer modes have enough variety to keep you playing for many rounds and the soundtrack is sure to get you grooving in your seat. It’s silly, it’s absurd, it’s enthralling. It’s conga.
Putty Pals has you team up with a friend to complete platforming challenges as two balls of putty who, judging by their delightful gibbering and expressive googly eyes, are indeed pals. Putty pals!
Putty Pals was designed as a cooperative game and, although it’s possible to play solo, the puzzles are best experienced with a friend. Players must work together to bounce off one another, hold hands (which is about as adorable as you would expect, and a refreshingly innocent game mechanic) and solve colour-based challenges to complete the 28 available levels. The main campaign can go by quickly, but there are plenty of collectables along the way as well as time trials for those looking for more of a challenge.
There’s something heart-warming about Putty Pals that is more than the sum of its bright visuals and cute characters. The casual, relaxing environment really focuses on fostering teamwork and communication, which is a wonderful change from competitive games. It’s perfect for those who want a stress-free, couch gaming experience.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Before anyone calls me out on this, I know I’ve cheated. This game is actually $21, but believe me when I say that extra dollar is worth the investment. It’s my personal number one pick for the list, so I think I’m entitled to a little wriggle room. It’s my list, anyway, I can do what I want!
In Octodad: Dadliest Catch you take on the role of an octopus posing as a human who lives a surprisingly well-established life as a successful and beloved family man. Players control one or more limbs to guide our stretchy hero towards completing a variety of mundane chores while avoiding detection by his family and others. These everyday tasks are made all the more difficult by the fact that, well, he’s an uncoordinated octopus. The combined effort required to succeed here takes a special kind of teamwork – one that must transcend the laughs and the wacky humour of the game.
Although Octodad: Dadliest Catch is also brilliant when playing by yourself, my suggestion is to get another three players and try – just try – to get the hang of working together to master Octodad’s movements. Regardless of whether you succeed or not, you’ll be in for a laugh.