Indie games exist as the game development industry itself functions. But throughout the last decade when multimillion blockbuster projects crowded the market, the definition “indie game” is used much more frequently. Nowadays, they call modest projects with minimal budgets as “indie”. And as a rule, independent developers have more freedom (and wish) for experiments while regular blockbusters can’t allow that luxury.
I can’t call this list a typical top-rank of games of all times. Consider it as a start of discussion, not an ultimate sentence.
Great new indie games appear every month. That is why our top-lists will appear at least several times a year. Here you can find games we recommend today.
You will hate Rain World unless you find right approach towards it. It looks like a platformer first, but it is not: this is a cruel survival game. The first hour of a game does not correlate with expectations: controls are slightly uncomfortable and not that intuitive as in most 2D-games. You just need to learn it (you can and need to learn everything in this game, but sometimes it still doesn’t help.
After you get used to things, Rain World becomes amazing. You play as a slugcat who is at the bottom of food chain and you have to survive in the mysterious and destroyed world. Rain World is angry and probably one of the most tensed and atmospheric 2D platformer games we used to play.
The game can offer simplifying settings in case you want to make the gameplay easier. Still, I wouldn’t do that. Rain World limits player’s possibilities in order to prevent him or her from gaining control over the game. But it is logical. It is not “unfair” or “poorly developed”. It just does not care about you at all.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
My team consists of a skeleton who mastered the poison magic, a dwarf pirate and a flame breathing lizard prince. Till the end of a game, one of them will become a god.
Many developers tried to resurrect isometric RPG genre by giving it a modern look but only a few of such games can really be called as those reminding of past times and great RPGs to recommend not just for players feeling much nostalgia.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes the traditional fantasy adventure structure and adds a stunning bunch of abilities filling several action panels, side quests serving as a rest from the main plot but valuable on their own, and the level of detail people usually expect from big budget RPG games.
Every member of your team has own goals, plot line and life, and they can replace your character in case he or she dies. You can even choose any party member to be the dialogue initiator. Still, greeting people as a skeleton is not the best idea.
Original Sin 2 has a great plot, involving quests, strong characters with arcs requiring nearly 100 hours of walkthrough. These features are significant improvements of the first game part which was a very good RPG already.
What we really like in Original Sin 2 is that every time you ask “Can I do that?” you most probably can.
Create as many save files as you want in order to find out what happens if you kill this or that NPC or enter the forbidden area or jump over the wall instead of solving another puzzle. Larian created an RPG with the open ending which lets you play as you want and then gave it a great story and combat system.
Steamworld Dig 2
SteamWorld Dig 2 is a 2D metroidvania where you need to dig tunnels in a completely destroyed world. You collect resources, take them to the surface, improve your gear and go back to digging. As upgrades appear, you discover new areas possible to explore and ways to explore them.
The magical combination of exploration and resource collecting is exactly what makes survival games so calming. It lets you develop in your own tempo.
You start experimenting with different devices and using them in new ways, and you start digging tunnels differently. No matter what you do, you always get progress. One thing smoothly turns into another, so you want to get deeper and deeper to find more new items.
You do not always have to eliminate aliens, Nazis or trolls in a fantasy, sci-fi or postapocalyptic setting. Still, this formula is used in most cases. Gone Home was not the first game making a step aside from these stereotypes and offering an interesting story with a meditative gameplay, but it was lucky to appear exactly when many people had enough with AAA-projects impossible to distinguish them from one another.
An additional success reason for Gone Home was the fact that the Fullbright studio almost totally refused the cinematic storytelling and relied on completely different solutions. It is interactive as you walk around the house and explore stories of its inhabitants, but the game pushes you to think over these stories. There are many “walking simulators” in our times, but Gone Home is different because of a deep story asking a bunch of important questions.
Games are great because they let us live someone’s life. For instance, Snake Pass allows being a snake and Papers, Please with its top bureaucracy level lets you become a border control service officer living in a totalitarian state.
Games are usually weak to pass the moral side of problems, but Papers, Please which is full of quite complicated rules rare to appear in such projects gives the player the actual power upon fates of people standing in a queue before the control point. The game makes you keep those rules strictly because otherwise you will have to pay the fine and bring nothing to your starving family. And the process of paper checking itself makes you feel unconfident.
Once you find inconveniences in documents, you feel like a real detective, but then you understand that your decision took away the possibility of a person to get home, and that’s not very pleasant feeling. Yes, it is a game about bureaucracy, but it is so tensed! After they gave me the key to a weapon chest for my job successes I wished to give it back. That’s not the game where weapons could be interesting for me.
I still remember a person who never became a citizen of a fictional state of Papers, Please: an old man carrying fake documents time after time. There could be gender confusion, wrong bit date, someone else’s passport photo, etc. Every time his mistakes were more obvious but his careless mood remained unchanged.
I rejected his pass and he just smiled saying he’s going to come back. Like if I was a waiter in his favorite restaurant. Papers, Please is the game requiring tough decisions from you, but the most guilty deed for me was that I never allowed that positive old man to pass the border.