The Best Indie Games Of 2023

2023 saw so many good games coming for nearly every genre, from horror titles like Alan Wake 2 to friendlier platformers like Super Mario Bros. Wonder. But it isn’t only the AAA industry that spoiled us this year, there were also plenty of Indie games too.

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From challenging action to mind-bending puzzles and emotionally charged narratives, these titles showcase the creativity and passion of indie devs.

The sheer quality and inventive mechanics these games bring make them a must-play, even if they aren’t genres you’d normally play. And while you could consider Baldur’s Gate 3 to technically be an independent game, that one gets enough praise as it is, so it won’t be on the list.

14 Blasphemous 2

While there are plenty of games that are as entertaining to play as they are to watch, few have the potent art style of the Blasphemous series. The second entry cuts no corners, having some of the most visually striking bosses of the indie scene, and tight gameplay to go along with it.

The game continues to be a strong mix of soulslike and metroidvania, with a story of sin and miracles so full of allegories it’s hard to understand, but it more than makes up for it with a well-made spectacle and satisfying combat.

13 Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals

Indie games can offer plenty of action-packed content, but they’re also able to give us more introspective stories, with puzzles about stopping to think rather than jumping on blocks. The Oxenfree series is all about the quieter stories, and this second entry even expands on the enigmatic character of Maggie Adler.

While most games don’t require encyclopedic knowledge of previous entries, in the case of Oxenfree 2 it’s highly recommended to have at least a single playthrough done of the first game. A lot of characters come back, like the mentioned Maggie Adler, and both titles complement each other really well.

12 Cassette Beasts

With the Pokemon series refusing to evolve into something greater, the indie scene has taken the torch and created their Pokemon at home. Cassette Beasts is not the first to attempt this, and it will hardly be the last, but it does enough with the formula to warrant a look.

On a basic level, the game works just like any other creature-collecting game; add creatures to your portfolio and summon them in battle. Cassette Beasts changes some of it on the story front, since you transform into a creature instead of being a cruel master, and the twist on how elemental types work gives a much-needed depth to this type of formula.

11 Laika: Aged Through Blood

While a lot of indie games push the boundaries of difficulty, few do it while incorporating a refreshing new take on combat. Laika’s motorbike-based encounters are really hard to get used to, but once you get into the flow of things, it’s hard to put down.

The game comes with a few ways to lessen the blows of constantly dying, with its soft-ish penalties and abundant checkpoints, although dying because you did an accidental flip while standing still is always frustrating. Still, experiencing the game is well worth it, and the art and sound design are always of the highest quality.

10 Wall World

Roguelikes are the bread and butter of the indie scene, so it’s only natural that a few make the list. But Wall World brings its own flavor to the formula, not one unheard of but one we can have more of: base defense combined with resource collection.

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What Wall World does best is, on the one hand, its progression: It’s nearly impossible to beat it without any upgrades, but the ones that remain after each run make the exploration of the Wall stay entertaining. On the other hand, the fact that there’s an actual ending you’re working towards is appreciated, since that’s not something present in all roguelikes.

9 Viewfinder

First-person puzzlers aren’t something new, although there’s always some innovation to be found in this space by many talented creators. Viewfinder’s own twist revolves around pictures, and changing the world around you with them.

The gist of it was seen during the game’s demo, and while the full release doesn’t explore too many new frontiers, it’s still inventive enough to warrant a playthrough. Wrapping your head around the logic introduced in these games is always the best part of them, and Viewfinder is unique enough to keep you thinking about it even after you beat it.

8 Venba

Venba is definitely not winning any awards for the longest game to beat, but it does have some nominations in the Game Awards for a reason. It has a real story to tell, one about the hardships of immigration, and how we see the value of things once they’re gone.

Yet it isn’t just a visual novel, since it comes with cooking-themed puzzles, and they’re more than set dressing. You’ll have to figure out the correct order and measurements of each meal, all the while managing Venba’s own memories of the recipes and hardships of her life outside the world she was used to.

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6 Pizza Tower

Pizza Tower might look like a half-baked game at a glance, but its art design is part of the appeal, evoking the frantic animations of old 90s cartoons like Ren & Stimpy. Yet the main draw of the game isn’t the art style, and it certainly isn’t the story, but how the game plays.

The game feels like a Sonic game that decides to go faster, having you run towards your goal as you collect power-ups, but the momentum that you get is what decides where you can go, letting you break walls or run up them. The pure chaos on display is one that has to be experienced, so don’t let this one slip you by.

5 Dredge

Games based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft usually revolve about hiding from monsters, or hiding from creepy shadows, yet Dredge manages to tell an authentically Lovecraftian tale while being all about fishing. And the dread is still there, since something is lurking below the waters where your boat travels.

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Dredge offers a mystery that builds up as you interact with the people within it, giving you a mechanic of fishing and inventory management to lure you into a sense of security, while amping up the unsettling of the plot as you go on. It shows that lovecraftian stories can be told in more than one mold, making you want to Dredge up what mysteries they may hide.

4 Sea Of Stars

This year had us spoiled by RPG options, from journeying into medieval kingdoms to futuristic space travel. Among them, one of the better options is Sea of Stars, an indie title that has little to envy from medieval or space-fearing adventures, since it itself works as a tight package that has it all.

The gameplay has clear inspirations from classics like Chrono Trigger, yet Sea of Stars knows how to expand the formula with modern ideas, like timed attacks and even a parry system. The art, level design and gameplay are all worthy of recommendation, so if you consider yourself an RPG fan, this is a must-play for sure.

3 Jusant

Playing Jusant comes with a feeling of discovery, both in the central mechanic and with how the story is presented. If you want to understand the plot, you’ll have to search every corner for notes of how the people here lived, but it’s not mandatory to enjoy the game.

The best part of it comes with the climbing mechanic, and how each chapter evolves beyond the core tools you have available. Some areas have intense winds that propel you forward, while others have a scorching sun that drains your stamina; everything done to keep you on your toes as you traverse the mountains.

2 Cocoon

The central mechanic of Cocoon revolves around the different orbs you find, and the worlds that are held within; something that seems simple at first glance grows in complexity, making you keep track of where you left each world and how they interact with one another.

These puzzles are the main appeal of the game, but it still has a story to tell, even if it can be hard to understand. Cocoon is about ecosystems working in tandem to reach a balance, including more modern mechanical systems, and how tricky it can be to have them all integrate naturally.

1 Bramble: The Mountain King

A game that seems to be going under everyone’s radar is Bramble, a game based around Nordic fables with heavy inspiration being drawn from Limbo. Still, the game carves an identity of its own, and several moments of the game stand out as the most impactful of the year.

It’s not a perfect game by any means, but it does delve into cultures not often covered in games, which is how it oozes originality. While the connective tissue of each level might be lacking, the different worlds you explore more than make up for it.

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