What are the world’s best indie games?
Gaming has always had many great developers, big and small. Yet there’s something about independent game developers that stands out they tend to release games that are nothing but pure satisfaction. It could be that the ones who are behind those games have a passion for making the best video games, which translates into gameplay and storylines.
Over the last decade, the indie gaming community has been able to compete and even surpass most triple-A studios. Frankly, they rarely disappoint despite far more limited resources. Creators craft indie games with a rare kind of dedication and dignity.
Since there are so many games that expand through consoles and PC, it would be impossible to go through all of them. Here’s a sampling of some of the best indie games.
Best Indie Games: DUSK (2018)
New Blood Interactive gave everyone a game that would later birth a whole genre called “boomer shooters.” Retro shooter just doesn’t sound as appealing, after all.
DUSK takes the best elements of games like Quake, Blood, and Half-Life, puts them in a blender, and turns them into one of the most horrifying and amazing creations ever made.
You play as a treasure hunter who arrives at the town of Dusk. A group of cultists have turned this place into an unholy battleground. Using whatever weapons you can find, you must take on the town and its monsters to escape with your limbs intact.
What makes DUSK so good is how accessible it is for everyone. This thing can run smoothly even on the worst PC setups. Plus, Andrew Hulsult brings in an authentic banger soundtrack that will get you ripping and tearing as you get into it.
DUSK wears its influences on its sleeve and executes them well. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it never had to. Sometimes, a couple of shotguns and sickles work well enough to make the simplest games fun.
You wake up in a bed of flowers. One of those flowers tricks you and tries to kill you before a goat woman named Toriel saves you. From there, you explore the Underground to make your way to the king for a chance to find your way back home. Along the way, you meet rather unusual and colorful characters.
Undertale stands out in more ways than one, making it one of the best indie games. Not only is the cute cartoony pixel art nice to look at, but there are also different outcomes depending on how you play.
In most role-playing games, you’re expected to kill enemies. Here, relying on emotional strength gets you further than physical violence.
Whether you play as a pacifist or a killer affects how characters treat you. A majority of players take the pacifist route because of how much they come to sympathize with and appreciate the characters they meet.
Combined with an enjoyable soundtrack and unique designs, Toby Fox’s Undertale has something for everyone.
The 80s Best Indie Game: Hotline Miami (2012)
The ’80s have never been more violent than this. Hotline Miami is arguably the most fun top-down shooter ever made, which lands it square on this list of best indie games. With its unique art style, ’80s-inspired music, and dark tones, this game takes a formula that most gamers would overlook and turns into a neon-colored barrage.
You take on the role of a masked hitman known only as Jacket, who embarks on a personal quest against the Russian Mafia. You can wear different masks throughout the game, and each new mask gives you new abilities. Hence, this best indie game comes with a lot of replayability. Also, both you and your enemies die with one hit, making strategy a huge component of the game.
What makes the game unique isn’t just how many different ways you could replay the level, but its unique storytelling. First-time players will feel confused and unsure of what’s going on. Once you start taking it all in and breaking it down piece by piece, Hotline Miami turns into something compelling and even horrifying.
Hotline Miami was a critical success and even gained a sequel. Jacket rides again in Payday 2 as a playable character just in case people didn’t get enough of this chicken head slasher.
Best Indie Games: Hades (2020)
It’s a beautiful day in the Underworld. Hades is a rouge-like RPG that will have you on the edge of your seat. If you like ancient Greek lore in your games, this is one of the best indie games for you.
Zagreus attempts to leave the grip of Hades. Using the help of his friends and the gods of Olympus, you begin your trek across the Underworld to go back to the surface.
Hades has a beautiful art style that can be appreciated even with an isometric perspective. Gameplay is very addicting and nerve-wracking, as a single mistake could cost you everything. However, it’s not a bad thing to die and go back to the beginning. In fact, this allows you to meet up with different characters and build friendships along the way. This, in turn, affects the items you use for your runs, the weapons you come across, and even the challenge you faces.
Rouge-likes are not for everyone. Still, when you see the story it’s trying to tell you, Hades proves itself an enjoyable game even if you are stuck in Hell.
VA11-Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (2016)
Not every cyberpunk dystopian game needs to be full of gunfights and action.
VA11-Hall-A, or just Valhalla for sanity’s sake, has you playing as Jill Stingray, a bartender who makes drinks for a very interesting clientele, including dogs for some reason. Seriously, you will see a dog in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses.
Players learn all the ins and outs of making drinks. Apart from that, though, it feels like this best indie game is a throwback from the ’90s. The anime aesthetic combined with an amazingly beautiful soundtrack adds a lot of character. Rather than being part of some hacker’s cell or a corporate war with large factions, you chat with people who have to live in the environment.
Valhalla does a good job of bringing in a very calm and relaxing world. The tales you’ll listen to while you serve drinks will make you laugh, cry, and think about some of these people. With multiple endings, we promise you will come back to Glitch City to be mixing up Piano Mans for days.
Best Indie Games, Horror Version: OMORI (2020)
OMORI is a game that has garnered some controversy, but also grew a loyal fanbase. Hence, OMORI earned its place on this list of best indie games. The amazing pencil art style and Gameboy color graphics make this game stand out from other RPGs. Still, don’t let the cutesy style fool you. This is by every definition a horror game like no other.
Sunny has a dream version of himself called Omori. He goes to this world that is purely cheerful and full of amazing friends, flowers, sunshine, and toast. However, Omori seems pretty secluded and even withdrawn. When something starts attacking him and his friends, the game truly begins.
OMORI tackles the themes of depression and suicide, which of course can trigger some. The psychological horror blending in with exploration and turn-based combat set OMORI apart from other RPGs. Many compare it to Earthbound, yet it stands out as unique.
Despite how people would feel on the subject of suppressing emotions and fear along with self-isolation, OMORI is a game that will always have a loyal fanbase.
Mullet Mad Jack (TBA)
This is a unique one among out best indie games… it’s not technically released yet! After being lucky enough to check out the Alpha build, Mullet Mad Jack just might end up being the next best thing. How do we know this? Well, based on what was present in the Alpha build and what they were going for, we can already see that Mullet Mad Jack is already punching above its weight.
The year is 2090, and humans and the internet have somehow co-existed to a point where people need the dopamine to continue living on. The Peace Corps send you out on a dangerous mission. Infiltrate a building controlled by killer robots to save the Influencer Princess.
The best way to describe this game is that it’s a first-person Hotline Miami in a ’90s anime. In fact, throughout the entire game, you will see a variety of easter eggs and nods to that era of VHS anime and video games. The catch is, though, that you have 10 seconds to live and you need to kill in order to get likes which increases your chances of survival. Oh, and there are also rogue-like elements so every run will have randomly generated levels!
Mullet Mad Jack is fast, frantic, and fun. All the things that made the ’90s what they were before. While not everyone can get access to the Alpha build to play it yet, rest assured that this game will be worth the wait. If there’s one thing the ’90s have taught us, it’s that big cars, neon lights, and mullets never go out of style.
The Penitent One awakens as the sole survivor of his brothers. He is now on a holy journey.
A curse dubbed The Miracle infects the land of Cvstodia. Armed with your blade, your faith, and your curse, the Penitent One crosses the land to defeat the horrid monsters of The Miracle.
Blasphemous started as a crowdfunding project and delivered on every front. The gameplay is reminiscent of Castlevania with influences of Dark Souls mixed with it. All of the beautiful and horrifying art styles were inspired by Spanish Catholic art styles.
Blasphemous 2 drops very soon and fans are excited to see how this game can top the next one. Until then, there will be plenty to explore and discover, along with DLC that expands the tale for even more dark and punishing tales for the Penitent One to experience.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (2019)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is arguably one of the best indie games to ever come out of a Kickstarter campaign. Backed by Koji Igarashi, who worked on the Castlevania series since Symphony of the Night, this game is the Castlevania game that fans always wanted but Konami never gave them.
A castle is infected with a horrible curse. Demons and monsters roam the land while a girl named Miriam is sent to investigate. She must now fight her way through the hordes of demons to save both humanity and herself, as a curse is slowly infecting her body.
Immediately, you see Bloodstained as a modern Symphony of the Night all the way down to the Metroidvania gameplay. The characters are made with amazing detail and the graphics are really colorful. There are also a number of hidden easter eggs and DLC that will keep you going back to this game.
Did we also mention that there’s a DLC where Igarashi shows up in a boss fight?
Outer Wilds (2019)
Outer Wilds is the best game of 2019 period. Okay, there’s a little more to that. You are an alien put into the space program sent by your planet. Your task is simply to go explore the solar system to uncover some mysterious powers that are at work. One of those is being stuck in a never-ending time loop.
What makes Outer Wilds so amazing is that it’s a calming and enjoyable space adventure. It’s more about the journey you along the way than the destination. It doesn’t rely on combat or action, and it doesn’t need to for this to be a good game. Sure, it’s fun to shoot down spaceships or get into a lightsaber duel. Also, being able to hop into a rocket and take off into the void of space is very enjoyable.
Outer Wilds takes an already amazing concept and takes it in another direction. Makes you want to turn on some relaxing music and sit at a campfire roasting marshmallows!
Hollow Knight (2017)
Do you know how they say it’s not the size that matters? Well, in Hollow Knight, it definitely feels like they took this as its premise. This beautiful dark best indie game has a lot going for it and a loyal fanbase even after all this time. Even more impressive considering we still haven’t gotten Silksong. We’re never getting Silksong, are we?
You are a bug knight who is on an epic journey across this hostile land. You are off to discover an ancient and mysterious kingdom that is underneath the village of Dirtmouth. It’s here that you’ll meet different bugs, both good and evil. Plus, it’s all up to you to save the land.
This 2D Metroidvania is appealing in more ways than one. Once again, it borrows elements from Dark Souls and literally makes you vulnerable in more ways than one. You learn how to use your abilities and needle in more ways than combat. Also, your heart will immediately melt when seeing the Ghibli-inspired art style. It’s as close as it gets to playing a fairy tale!
Shovel Knight (2014)
Shovel Knight remains a good example to all indie developers of what hard work can do. They were the earliest examples of a small studio that had a vision and set out to do it.
You are the titular Shovel Knight, who after a small celebration, his partner and girlfriend Shield Knight gets taken. Armed with your trusty shovel, wits, and treasure you uncover, you will go after tough and ruthless enemies as you go to rescue Shield Knight.
Shovel Knight is a real homage to the old 8-bit era of video games. Not just in its graphics, but also in its insane difficulty. That being said the game is not impossible and it will make victory feel all the more deserving. More importantly, Shovel Knight is a great tool that shows you don’t need to be a triple-A studio to make a great game.