Rarely is it ever easy to narrow down a great year of releases to only a few and 2019 proved to be no different. It was a year riddled with fantastic titles which made it incredibly hard to choose only six games to be nominated. The following six are all high-quality releases that definitely warrant a playthrough, even if they aren’t the selected winner. In order to qualify, the indie had to release in the 2019 calendar year. If it released in December of 2018, for example, it does not qualify and may have even been mentioned in our 2018 Nindie of the Year. Games that did not see a release on the Nintendo Switch also are not eligible. With all that being said, let’s get into the nominees.

Nominee: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair – Playtonic Games (Team 17)

The original Yooka-Laylee was a simple 3D platformer collectathon similar to Banjo-Kazooie. However, this sequel adds its own sense of style to make it stand out. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a 2.5D platformer that has its own overworld and unique level designs. Running through each section can be simple at first, but quickly you’ll find yourself chaining loads of moves together for flawless execution. Levels vary throughout each section and are never too short. They’re each well-thought-out and are never stingy on checkpoints. Not only this, but each level can be altered in order to have two ways to explore it. Although the name, “Impossible Lair,” lives up to itself and is way too hard to beat, the game itself is incredibly enjoyable. and is one of the best platformers available on the Switch. Because of this, Playtonic Games’ latest is one of the nominees for Nindie Game of the Year.

For a more in-depth look, check out our review here.

Nominee: Killer Queen Black – Liquid Bit

Killer Queen Black instantly made itself known from the minute I started a match. This multiplayer title allows for eight players to take part in a 4v4 matchup either online or locally. Players take the role of either a Queen or a Worker that has their own ways to win. The Queen is the only character that can attack unless a Worker collects a power-up to become an actual threat. There are three unique ways to win, either killing the Queen three times, filling up your beehive with pellets, or riding a snail to the team’s finish line. Every match is very hectic and high energy with no telling what can happen. Maps are vastly different from one another, as well, so you won’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again. It also helps that the game’s soundtrack is electric and keeps you energized throughout. This is one title that you’ll find yourself sinking loads of time into and wanting your friends to join you every step of the way. These aspects of the game help solidify its place as one of this year’s Nindie Game of the Year nominees.

For a more in-depth look, check out our review here.

Nominee: Cadence of Hyrule – Brace Yourself Games (Nintendo)

When Nintendo announced during one of their Nindie Directs that Cadence of Hyrule was on the way, the indie world was shocked. This marked the first time that the gaming conglomerate allowed an independent studio to work on one of their flagship IPs. Brace Yourself Games had already made a splash in the indie scene with their 2015 release, Crypt of the NecroDancer but now they reached higher levels of recognition. This spin-off title utilizes the sights and sounds of The Legend of Zelda series but with the gameplay found in Crypt of the NecroDancer. Gamers can play as both Link and Zelda as they attempt to save Hyrule from an evil force. It’s the biggest indie partnership that has been seen and is a must-play rhythm action title that you haven’t seen yet. Each step that you take aligns with the beat of the soundtrack and corresponds with enemy attack patterns. You’ll have to learn how to use the music to your advantage in order to clear out each procedurally generated dungeon. No other title screams “nindie” as much as this one, thanks to the inclusion of Hyrule’s finest, which makes this title ripe for being included as one of this year’s Nindie Game of the Year nominees.

Nominee: Slay the Spire – Mega Crit (Humble Bundle)

There’s always something special to be found when a developer is able to fuse together two genres, that are incredibly different from each other, into one enjoyable package. Slay the Spire mixes together card games with roguelikes in order to conjure up an addictive RPG experience. Spread across three acts, players must start from level one and work their way up to the end in one life. Doing so requires them to create a unique deck of cards to take down a series of enemies on each level of the spire. Every level that you complete can unlock a new card, so you’ll definitely need to pick carefully what to take with you. Certain upgrades and enhancements can carry over to subsequent run-throughs  which can help make the game a tiny bit easier as time goes one. Players are able to choose what path to take and what lies ahead of them to gain some sort of advantage, yet it’s skill that is going to keep you pushing forward. There’s so much that can go into every run through and so much that can quickly go wrong, but it’s up to you to strategize and make the necessary adjustments. Mega Crit’s latest is a tough title to put down as you’ll want to play long into the night. Because of these, Slay the Spire is one of the nominees for Nindie Game of the Year.

Nindie Game of the Year

Nominee: Untitled Goose Game – House House (Panic)

The goose is loose in House House’s Untitled Goose Game. Before the game even launched, this was one of the most anticipated titles to see a release date just by a quick clip of footage shown online. This Metal Gear Solid-esque experience puts users in the webbed feet of a goose that just wants to have a bit of fun. However, its fun is at the expense of the neighboring town’s sanity. Sneak around individual areas of a community such as a plaza, garden, and backyards in order to complete mischievous objectives and checklists. Steal a child’s glasses, drop buckets on people’s heads, and hide precious gardening tools to make everyone’s lives a struggle. It’s a great feeling watching the world around you freak out because of some mild-mannered hijinks and that’s what makes this title great. Being an obnoxious goose is something you’ve never thought that you would want to become but it’s hard to imagine not being one after playing this. Sneak around and cause as much havoc as possible until the end of the game. Yet, once you do complete the final objective, new and more difficult challenges arise that are sure to keep you coming back and creating more trouble for everyone in the game. This is a highly memorable experience that demands to be played at least just for a bit which makes it perfect for one of this year’s nominees for Nindie Game of the Year.

For a more in-depth look, check out our review here.

Nindie Game of the Year

Honorable Mentions

It was incredibly tough to narrow this list down to only six, so we thought we would list those that were in consideration but came up just short in the final tallies. In no particular order:

Winner: My Friend Pedro – Deadtoast Entertainment (Devolver Digital)

After much consideration, it was clear that Deadtoast’s My Friend Pedro is VGCultureHQ’s 2019 Nindie Game of the Year. This game is a wild ride from start to finish and is going to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. You play as a masked man who wants to kill everyone and everything in his path. Each encounter with enemies is unique and well thought out which makes you plan for how to take them out quickly and effectively. It’s not a stealth or strategy game though, users can run and gun through every section with their arsenal of weapons. Split aiming, slow motion, and physics-based puzzles are sure to make you feel like John Wick mixed with Max PayneLevels in the game each have their own enemies and design that poke fun of the video game medium while also creating a fun and fast-paced environment. Scattered throughout the world are also skateboards, frying pans, and basketballs that you can use to chain together combos and earn some top rankings. Action sequences are also mixed up with hectic boss fights, a motorcycle sequence, and platforming sections that help this truly be a unique and varied experience. This whole game is a ridiculous premise but never does it take itself too seriously to compromise the overall fun of it all. It is a bit on the short side but there are some hidden modifiers that can be found to make the game even more hectic once it hits its conclusion. Due to all of this, My Friend Pedro is one of the best indies that the Switch has to offer and makes it this year’s winner.

Nindie Game of the Year

It was incredibly tough to narrow down a great year of nindies to only a handful of titles and it was even harder selecting just one. Thank you to all the developers and publishers that have worked with us over the past year in allowing us to cover many of these releases. Another thank you to all of our readers and those who have come to the site looking for coverage on a wide range of releases. We hope you enjoyed this year’s Nindie Game of the Year and look forward to bringing you all the latest for this upcoming year!