Games out there made by Indie Developers.
When it comes to game design and game development, you may think it’s best to leave it up to the industry giants. But there are some seriously great and beautiful games out there made by Indie Developers.
When we talk about Indie games, we all think of the small developers with a small team of staff and even smaller budgets, but somehow, they still manage to provide us with amazing games. The majority of games these developers give us wouldn’t normally make it past the idea stage in major studios, and it’s the freedom of the small studios to focus on art and story elements that makes Indie games so special.
There are several games that were once Indie games like Minecraft and Rocket League, but because bigger developers brought out the studios, they are no longer considered Indie.
No Man’s Sky for me would have made this list, but due to the Triple-A price tag, I do not believe it counts as an Indie game.
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What defines an Indie Game? - Indie game development and Game Design
An independent game affectionately referred to as an indie game is designed, developed, and released solely by the developers or creators without any monetary input from a publisher.
Two notable indie games include Super Meat Boy and Fez, featured in 2012, Canadian-made film Indie Game: The Movie. The film follows developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy) and developer Phil Fish (Fez) through their struggles navigating the trials of indie game development.
Some indie games have become very successful as their popularity soared through the medium of online streaming and lets plays. Titles like Minecraft, Rocket League, and even Fortnight all started as Indie titles made by a small team of developers.
Without the financial support of a publisher, Indie games often rely on digital distribution to get their game to the players.
In recent years the number of players favoring digital downloads has risen exponentially, especially with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic keeping players at home. This major shift in the game industry has made it possible for indie developers to deliver their work to people everywhere, seeing a spike in the overall popularity of Independent Games.
From the Developer Ninja Theory, this game was nominated 21 times at various awards and won 12 thanks to its blend of hack and slash, puzzle-solving, and psychological horror. Hellblade takes a lot of its inspiration from Norse Mythology and Celtic culture whilst also depicting psychosis in a way no other studio would dare to do.
The game follows Senua, a Pict warrior who suffers from Psychosis, but she believes she is cursed and unaware of her real condition. She is haunted by the Darkness and constantly hears voices that are referred to as the Furies.
As Senua makes her way to Helheim to rescue the soul of her dead lover from the goddess Hela she is confronted by Norseman, who are determined to block her progress.
The gameplay is divided into two parts; the first, Senua walks freely and can interact with her surroundings, often getting directions from the voices in her head. With no heads-up display or tutorial, the voices can help and hinder you as not all they tell you can be trusted. The game also features a narrator that will often break the fourth wall by speaking to you directly.
The second part of the gameplay is the fighting which does become repetitive due to the basic controls. Senua has three types of attack, Heavy, Quick, and Melee, whilst also being able to dodge attacks. When Senua is hurt, she will drop to the ground, and you are forced to press the corresponding button as fast as possible before you receive a fatal blow; this becomes harder the closer to death she is. Death is also dealt with intriguingly. Each death feeds a tattoo that will grow, and the player is warned once it reaches her head, the game is over, and the save is deleted, but all is not as it seems.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a masterpiece of a game. The amount of research that went into making the game portrays Psychosis as accurately as possible and shows us how it affects the mind and the work of art the story develops into.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is available to play on Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
By Cold Symmetry, as a love letter from the developer to the Dark Souls franchise, this game evokes a deeper emotional connection not normally seen. With its dark atmosphere and challenging gameplay, the passion from the developers oozes through into the game.
The player starts as a Foundling creature and must fight their way through Fallgrim, a dark and terrifying underworld. As the Foundling is extremely weak, it must possess shells of fallen warriors to enable it to survive. Each shell has a different playstyle and back story; these are Harros, the Vassal, Tiel the Acolyte, Eredrim the Venerable, and Solomon the Scholar. The story unfolds slowly as you fight enemies and die more times than anyone would like to admit, although a second chance is given if you die in a shell! When this happens, you can reclaim the empty shell, which restores your health. Melee combat is the game’s focus which shows in the slow and methodical fights to attack, dodge and parry. The player also has an extremely limited amount of consumable health items, and this forces you to get to grips with the health leaching mechanic needed to survive.
The world is very immersive, and survival demands awareness and precision, with the biggest letdown being the long loading times.
Not a game for the easily frustrated but fans of the Dark Souls Franchise will feel very much at home.
Mortal Shell is available to play on Playstation, Xbox, and PC.
Developed by Dodge Roll, the game is set on the fictional planet of Gunymede, a strange planet inhabited by firearms-related lifeforms. The Gungeon is a shape-shifting dungeon on the planet that utilizes procedural generation for its levels.
You play as one of four starting protagonists, with more unlocked throughout the game, as you descend into the firearms-themed dungeon to find a time machine that has the power to kill the characters’ past. Each character has a different reason for doing this, which is told through the endings of each character. This makes the game highly replayable, as you will want to see all the endings. Another reason to keep replaying is the non-player characters that can be rescued as you progress. All rescued characters reside at a safe level above the Gungeon called the Breach. This safe place is also where you spend the in-game currency earned by defeating bosses on each floor.
All the rooms on every level of the dungeon are predefined, but the constellation of rooms on a floor, enemies that appear, and treasure are all procedurally generated. This is where the game shines as every run-through feels different, and with over 300 different guns and items to find and combine, something new is around every corner.
Enemies vary in strength, endurance, and attack behavior whilst the players’ attacks can range from simple shots to a complicated mix of shots fired at the same time. This provides a unique and difficult challenge on every floor, although, at times, the difficulty can seem extreme.
One for players that enjoy high replayability whilst not minding a challenging experience.
Enter the Gungeon is available to play on Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC.
Developed by Yacht Club Games following a successful Kickstarter campaign that enabled the developers to fund the base game and all the expansions over a six-year period. Shovel Knight is a 2D side scroller that utilizes an 8-bit graphical style that makes you miss the old days of the NES platform.
The player controls Shovel Knight as he digs up treasure and fights against the Order of No Quarter. Unsurprisingly, his main weapon is his shovel, used to attack enemies head-on or aimed below when jumping on them.
The player is encouraged to collect as much treasure as possible as they fight through every level whilst keeping an eye out for Chester, a wandering salesman hidden in every level. Chester sells secondary items called Relics, including long-range projectiles and a locket that makes the player invincible for a brief period. The player has infinite lives, and the only downside to dying is the loss of in-game currency, although this can be retrieved by collecting the flying sacks found where the player last died.
Completing the game unlocks New Game Plus, which increases the difficulty, doubles the player’s damage intake, and limits the number of checkpoints on each level. The game also features a password system where players can input codes that unlock various cheats. The PS4 version contains exclusive boss battles, including Kratos from God of War.
A nostalgic game for people that enjoy old-school graphics with a well-written story.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is available to play on Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC.
Developed by D-Pad Studio, Owlboy is most noted for its long development cycle that began in 2007, but this has enabled the studio to create a visually stunning game world.
Set in the land of the sky, you play as Otus, a mute member of the Owlike humanoid race called the Owls. After pirates attack his village, Otus sets out to save it. In doing so, he uncovers the lost truth about the Owls and their history.
Otus is capable of flight, and this is where the game really shines as the movement in the air feels refreshing, although some levels do restrict this a little. The puzzles throughout the game do require some working out, but the answer is generally nearby. Boss fights are very cleverly done and require you to use every tool at your disposal in clever ways.
Throughout your journey, you gain allies that come with you whilst each having their own weapon with exclusive properties. These characters stand out through their dialogue, and although Otus is mute, his facial expressions tell you what he is thinking.
With a compelling story, artwork, and all types of incredible moments, a must for those that enjoy classic platformers.
Owlboy is available to play on Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC.
Developed by Studio MDHR and features an animation style similar to the golden age of American animation last seen with Walt Disney. The developers set out to beat the Guinness World Record for the number of boss battles in a run-and-gun game, achieving 36 total bosses.
The game is situated in the fictional Inkwell Isle, where the player controls Cuphead. A second player can also join and control Mugman. Cuphead and Mugman fight through levels across four worlds as they try to repay their debt to the devil, with the fourth world containing a boss fight against the devil himself. All worlds also contain a mausoleum where the player must complete a challenge of parrying ghosts before they touch an urn. Completing this rewards the player with a super move.
The game includes role-playing elements and branching levels accessible through a top-down perspective overworld that holds its own secrets. It is here that the player can find Porkrind’s Emporium, a shop where coins found in the levels can be spent on weapons and charms.
Cuphead does not hold back in its difficulty, but this is helped by the player having infinite lives with no apparent penalty for dying, whilst many levels are completed with muscle memory rather than reaction times. Defeating every boss on normal mode unlocks an expert mode which adds to the replayability of the game.
The game tries to educate the player through trial and error, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but special praise is reserved for the amazing art style and soundtrack, making this game stand out.
With an animated series in the works, the games focus on boss battles that will interest those that like a challenge.
Cuphead is available to play on Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC.
Developed by Mossmouth, Speluncky is credited for influencing many later rogue-like games whilst still standing out as an excellent 2D platformer.
You control an unnamed Spelunker who explores a series of caves whilst collecting treasure, saving damsels, fighting enemies whilst dodging traps. All the caves are procedurally generated. Every level is grouped into four increasingly difficult areas with distinctive items, enemies, and terrain, with later areas containing more valuable treasure.
Enemies vary from bats and snakes to man-eating plants and ghosts, each requiring you to jump on them or use your whip to defeat them. As you find items within the caves, these can be thrown or used to set traps along with a limited supply of bombs and ropes.
Progress in the game can sometimes feel non-existent, but this only encourages you to look around more and soak up everything in each area. The randomly generated levels make every playthrough unique, whilst dying only brings you back wanting more.
A game for those that like high replayability and searching through every part of each randomly generated level.
Spelunky is available to play on Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC.
Co-Developed by Dennaton Games and Abstraction Games as a top-down single-player shooter. The game created controversy upon release due to a rape scene within the game. Developers added a cut and uncut option for the level involved but have maintained the scene’s context was important to the game.
Wrong Number takes place before and after the events of its predecessor Hotline Miami from 2012, focusing on the backstory and aftermath of Jacket and his slaying of parts of the Russian mafia. The game’s focus is on three set time periods, 1985, 1989, and 1991. Unlike its predecessor, it has 13 playable characters who have their own interpretations of the story as it unfolds with intersecting plotlines. Richard, a mysterious figure in a rooster mask, also makes a comeback at different points of the game, taunting and criticizing the player for their actions. A hard mode is unlocked after completing the normal story, adding a whole new layer. Enemies are more difficult to take down, and some abilities are taken away from the player, which only makes a hard game even harder.
The game has an amazing techno soundtrack and vast open areas whilst also showcasing a lengthy story. Whilst it lacks weapon customization, which lets it down, it redeems itself by allowing every objective to be solved with multiple approaches.
The developers added a level editor after the release of the game, which allows players to create their own original stories through dialogue crafting.
A brutal game of killing fast and dying even faster.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is available to play on Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC.