The Switch has been something of a run-away success. Since its launch last March, Nintendo’s cool little hybrid console has captured the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere. And the game that helped it do it? The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While we can’t help but dip back into the brilliant little launch title, we’re here to help you break this addiction and get your Zelda fix elsewhere. Thankfully then, there are more than a few awesome indie games like Zelda to get your teeth into.
Here’s our pick of the best indie games that channel their inner Link and get those Zelda nostalgia juices flowing:
Hyper Light Drifter
Developer: Heart Machine
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac and Linux and coming to Nintendo Switch
Hyper Light Drifter might not look like a Zelda game, but don’t let its darker colour palette fool you because it bears many a Zelda likeness. Exploration and combat will feel incredibly familiar to anyone who’s wielded Link’s sword in the past.
There aren’t any dungeons to speak of, but your wanderings are all focused on opening up a path to defeat an incredibly tricksome boss. In some ways, Hyper Light Drifter is like crossing Zelda with Dark Souls, especially as there are regularly ridiculous difficulty spikes. But, if you’re willing to take on those bosses, those looking for an alternative Zelda adventure will be rewarded. If you can hold out a little longer, you can even play it on Switch too, with the game heading to Nintendo’s console later this summer.
Ittle Dew 2
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4 and Xbox One
Both Ittle Dew 2 and its predecessor ooze Zelda DNA. Not only does the protagonist run around in a green top and brown trousers with blonde hair and a little bumbling sidekick, it’s also a top-down game where you go through dungeons filled with puzzles and treasure.
Combat here takes quite the backseat, with the game instead preferring to focus on solving puzzles by having you push blocks, flick switches, press buttons and using various items. You can actually get through the game with nothing more than the stick you’re given at the beginning, but finding all the other gear is half the fun.
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
Developer: Cornfox & Bros.
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Android, iOS, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch
We’ve started with Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas as it could easily pass for an official Legend of Zelda title. It’s got the visual style and some of the gameplay tropes of the GameCube title The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, while elsewhere it’s very reminiscent of A Link to the Past with its three elemental emblems you find.
In a quest to find your missing father, Oceanhorn sees you sailing between an archipelago of bright and colourful islands, exploring dungeons, completing puzzles and using the items you’ll find to explore previously inaccessible areas. It’s Zelda through and through.
The puzzles aren’t quite on the same level as Zelda, but it’s a great way to ease your sadness after eking out every Korok Seed from Breath of the Wild.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux, PS4, Xbox One and coming soon to Nintendo Switch
Imagine playing a Zelda game where you only have a minute to live. That, in a nutshell, is the concept behind Minit.
Created by indie duo Jan Willem Nijman and Kitty Calis, these two developers decided to make the antithesis of the kind of AAA adventures they’d worked on before. Having contributed to the making of sprawling time sinks like Horizon Zero Dawn, this time around, the duo wanted to make something that felt more immediate.
In Minit, you spawn as our cute little titular hero and are free to explore the world around you… except you only have a minute to do so. With the clock ticking on each playthrough, you have to plan each move with military precision as you attempt to track down a crucial item. Once you’ve got yourself an item, thankfully it stays with you for the long haul.
Yet with winding mazes, devious enemies, and even incredibly slow talking NPCs standing in your way, playing Minit is a surprisingly tense and compelling affair. This game is not only a blast to play, but has huge streaming potential. If you’re after a fun new twist on the Zelda-like genre, then you’ll definitely want to pick up this little indie gem.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Developer: Edmund McMillen
Publisher: Nicalis Inc.
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS, iOS and Nintendo Switch
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is another game that riffs on The Legend of Zelda‘s dungeons, but rather than focusing on the puzzle elements, it’s more concerned with the enemies that lurk in the darkness. The procedurally generated dungeons will fling literal sh*t at you as you try to come to terms with the fact that Isaac’s mother wants to kill him, God wants to punish him and the Devil is trying to deceive him.
It’s not quite as heartbreaking as watching Zelda cry in Breath of the Wild, but the fact that Isaac is a little naked child attacking the various enemies in hell with his own tears is fairly brutal.
Developer: Analgesic Productions
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac and Android
We’ve always been a fan of the weirder Legend of Zelda games like Majora’s Mask and it seems like the guys behind Anodyne share that sentiment. It’s another top-down game with dungeons and puzzles to conquer, but its story and presentation take on a dream-like quality with plenty of weirdness including enemies that insult you.
In another nod to Zelda, its one weapon – a broom – evolves to have a variety of uses that you’ll need to solve puzzles. At one point you’ll use the stick end as a club to beat off enemies, while later on, you’ll need to move piles of dust around to trigger switches and more.
It’s certainly got that feeling of the portable Zelda entries, including Link’s Awakening, but that strange tone means it’s always gunning for comparisons to Majora’s Mask in all the best ways.
Legend of the Skyfish
Developer: MGaia Studios
Publisher: Crescent Moon Games
Platforms: Android and iOS
Unlike the other entries in this list, Legend of the Skyfish is a mobile exclusive – at least for now. This touch-centric adventure is a gloriously simple homage to the puzzles in Zelda games of old. Using an incredibly powerful fishing rod, you can move around the world, trigger switches and take on fishy enemies that are now walking the land in service of the evil Skyfish himself.
But it’s so like the traditional level-based Zelda dungeons in that you can use the environment against the enemies, including spike traps that are triggered as you walk. It’s also incredibly creative with the limited toolset you’re given. Basically, all the puzzles and attacks revolve around the hooking mechanic, but the myriad ways to use it makes sure it always lets you be as creative as possible.
Super Chibi Knight
Publisher: Armor Games
Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux
The last entry in our list of indie games like Zelda is a lesser known game called Super Chibi Knight. Unlike Zelda games, this is a 2D side-scroller where you move through a world map fighting monsters and exploring dungeons using items you’ve collected along the way. You level up your character using XP collected from fallen enemies and sacks labelled with those initials, just as you did in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – although without the obvious sacks.
It’s nice for a game to pick out a feature of one of the lesser celebrated Zelda entries and make it their own.
Plus, there’s also a gorgeous family tale behind Super Chibi Knight in that this is the product of developer Nick Pasto and his (then) eight-year-old daughter Bella, who actually handled most of the creative direction. She’s also the voice of the game’s young heroine, which just gives it that extra aww factor.