Each year we get tons of new indie game releases, from thought provoking art pieces to RPG simulators to immersive visual novels, there’s no end to the wealth of new titles being released. Despite the rise in popularity of indie games, there are still some people that aren’t ready to give these low budget gems a chance. I’ve personally been burned in the past by subpar indie games, so I can understand the hesitance, but there are way too many great indie games out there to ignore.
Indie games can be a bit hit or miss—their lower budgets and smaller development teams usually mean fewer assets and simpler gameplay—and I can understand not wanting settle for less when you’re used to the quality of bigger budget commercial releases. But, even with the overabundance of mediocre indie titles there are quite a few gems that are just as good, if not better than some of the bigger budget game releases on the market.
These games blow everything else out of the water and if you’re one of those people not playing indie games because you’re worried about quality… here are a few indie titles I think you should check out!
Kicking off this list is the visually immersive platformer adventure game, Gris. There has been nothing but praise for this game since it’s 2018 release and with it expressive visual storytelling, it’s easy to see why. Lead a young girl through an ever evolving landscape of color as she searches for her lost voice. Gris takes players on a journey that you simply have to see for yourself. With it’s gorgeous minimalist designs, emotive soundtrack, and fluid gameplay, Gris is a game you don’t want to miss out on!
Gone Home is a first person exploration adventure game that puts players in the shoes of a young woman who returns to her rural Oregon home to find her home vacant. She must explore the home in order to piece together recent events and uncover the truth behind her family’s absence and the events that transpired while she was away. Gone Home features a non-linear gameplay style that encourages players to explore at their leisure, essentially creating their own unique gameplay experience.
I had the chance to play this game at Otakon last year and I immediately hooked on this cute action-adventure platformer. Not only is this game super fun, but how many games can you name that have a tennis racket as a weapon? Join Mia as she navigates an imaginative fantasy world full of unique monsters and puzzles, parry attacks with the help of her trusty tennis racket and the assistance of her sister Nia. Both girls are in search of their missing older sister Lia, who has been captured by The Void. On their journey they will fight alongside other Miracle Maidens and gain new skills that will help them along the way.
If you’re a huge fan of the horror genre, you’ll love Yangyang Mobile’s horror visual novel, The Letter. The game feels like a loving homage to Asian horror, drawing inspiration from Japanese horror film Ju-On and Japanese RPGs, like Mad Father. The game is told in seven connected chapters, each following a different protagonist as they attempt unravel the secrets surrounding the Ermengarde Mansion, a 17th-century English mansion rumored to be cursed by a vengeful spirit. Your decisions throughout determine the fates of each character and their relationships with one another. There are also several quick-time events and puzzles that make for a truly immersive horror experience.
The Lion’s Song is a story driven episodic adventure game set in early 20th century Austria. Each episode focuses on a different character, offering four self contained story that are connected to an overarching theme. The first episode, Silence a young composer who finds solace from the pressures of her life in the Austrian Alps—while the subsequent chapters follow an aspiring painter looking to make a name for himself and a mathematician who disguises herself as a man in order to enter a gentleman’s only club of her peers. This is a slow character centric narrative that gives players a chance to walk a mile in the shoes of three very different people as they attempt to find purpose in their lives and meaning in their passions.
Forgotton Anne is a beautiful hand animated action-adventure game that takes players into the imaginative world of the Forgotten Lands, a place where lost and forgotten objects take on a life of their own. In the game you play as Anne, the enforcer of the Forgotten Lands as she attempts to stamp out a rebellion that threatens to prevent her and her master, Bonku from returning to the human world. Complete inventive puzzles, navigate the unique landscapes, and make decisions that will determine the fates of Anne and the others trapped within the Forgotten Lands. Forgotton Anne is a moving epic fantasy adventure that feels more like film than a game.
Bright colors, energetic soundtracks, fast paced dance battles, and cute heroines, makes for a fun music themed experience in PeroPero Games’s Muse Dash. Lose yourself in the pop beats and cute characters as you tap your way through the levels of this entertaining rhythm game. Choose your favorite Heroine and advance through fantasy inspired worlds and take down enemies with your sick dance moves. The gameplay is pretty simple, but sometimes you don’t need complicated mechanics to have a good time, and for the price, Muse Dash is worth adding to your Steam library.
Journey is truly an artistic marvel with it’s minimalistic style and sweeping desert landscapes, the game envokes a sense of quiet solitude. Take control of an unnamed robed figure as they traverse the vast deserts on a journey to a distant mountain range. There is no dialogue in the game, but it more than makes up for its evolving soundtrack. Players can collaborate with other players on their journey, but communication is limited to a series of musical chimes, making for a much more intimate experience than most multiplayer titles.
Night in the Woods is a story focused single-player adventure game that follows a young woman named Mae who recently returned to her hometown of Possum Springs after dropping out of college. But, when she returns all is not as she left it and Mae finds herself drawn into the town’s secrets. While the characters are conceptualized as animals, the game makes it clear that they are all humans. Night in the Woods is a very player driven story that encourages player to explore, interact, and communicate with anything and everything. There’s a bit of a learning curve as you try to figure out the mechanics of the game, but it definitely favors a more personal gaming experience.
One Night Stand is one of the great success stories of the indie gaming scene, starting out as a small project for the one month game jam, NaNoRenO 2016 and becoming a critical success, making the jump from PC to major consoles. In the game you take on the role of someone who wakes up the morning after a drunken one-night stand, with a complete stranger laying naked beside you. With very few clues, you must piece together the events of the previous night. This is a game that is more about the journey than it is the destination, as you navigate the complexities of the situation it becomes less about uncovering the truth and more about the human connection between you and the stranger beside you. The rotoscoping animation technique further adds a gritty human quality to the story that makes One Night Stand feel more realistic than other similar titles.
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