What Are ‘Indie’ Video Games?

Indie games are what keep the game industry alive and going, inspiring new developers and touching the hearts and minds of players in ways that conventional Triple-A games can’t. Their experimental art styles, storytelling styles, and game design are unlike anything else and are known to push boundaries.




17 Most Underrated Indie Games

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

With all the naming and terminology going into categorizing games, it could be difficult to understand what’s truly indie and what’s considered more to be Triple-A or the games that fall in between. So here’s an in-depth dive into indie games and their differences with other games that are not quite indie but also not quite Triple-A.

What Defines Indie Video Games?

A montage of indie games, featuring Oddworld: New N' Tasty, Celeste, Hollow Knight and Observer: System Redux

What does it mean to be considered an indie game? The two big determining factors are the budget and the size of the development team. These are generally private independent game developers with an original IP and minimal participants.

Ultimately, indie games are the culmination of the hard work and game design efforts of a very small team of people with very little funding who are determined to make their vision come to life.

With these constraints, indie games play around with design to form their own unique identity and help create some of the most mechanically and visually creative narrative experiences in gaming.

Indie games are the gold standard for getting exposure to different art styles, mechanics, or storytelling you normally wouldn’t see from the standard fare of action-adventure titles from Triple-A developers, especially if you want to search for something new, original, creative, cozy, or just mind-blowing.

While sometimes indie games can come with larger budgets (often thanks to successful crowdfunding from fans), you would typically see very small production costs on average compared to amounts like $540 million for Red Dead Redemption 2 and $220 million for The Last of Us Part 2.

Some indie games are self-published by the developer, which can sometimes be even a single developer or a duo and rarely ever exceeding 20. But other indie teams are able to secure publishing from indie-focused game distributors.

Since the majority of indie games are not beholden to publishers, the gameplay content they wish to expand on or include is at the discretion of the developer and can take more leaps, as Phil Fish did with Fez (as documented in Indie Game: The Movie).

And some indie games even manage to have famous Hollywood names among their casts, which is a trend usually seen with the more massive budget Triple-A games like Death Stranding and Cyberpunk 2077.

Some of the most widely known indie game publishers include Annapurna Interactive, Humble Games, Team17, and Devolver Digital.

And if you want to discover even more about what it’s like to actually develop an indie game, the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie provides a very intricate look at developers working on Braid, Fez, and Super Meat Boy.

How Are Indie Games Different From Double-A And Independent Triple-A Video Games?

Three-image geometric pattern collage of Amicia and Hugo fending off rats in A Plague Tale: Innocence, Jak in Immortals of Aveum using red magic, and May solving a puzzle in It Takes Two.

Double-A (or AA) games surpass indie but are not quite to the scale of being considered Triple-A. They have bigger budgets and a bigger development studio and sometimes receive publication by a major distributor like EA or Nacon.

Sometimes, you may hear about independent Triple-A studios, which are similar to Double-A and are essentially indie studios usually built by game industry veterans who strive for higher-quality titles than standard indie games.

Both AA and Triple-I studios have a history of working with Triple-A titles or have experienced founders and developers of Triple-A titles. These also sometimes have multiple development studios across regions and are made up of teams of 50 to over 100 employees.

However, these are still filled with similar aesthetics of innovation and creativity as indie games. Here are some examples of Double-A And Triple-I games:

It Takes Two And A Way Out – Hazlelight Studios

Hazlelight was founded by writer and director Josef Fares following his debut game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The studio has 72 developers and has now published two games with EA as EA Originals. They are A Way Out and It Takes Two.


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Some of the very best kids’ games are made by independent studios with a little budget and a lot of passion!

Both games tell very different stories but elevate fully co-op narrative-driven gameplay and experiences. A Way Out offers the suspense in carrying out a prison break, and It Takes Two is a whimsical journey of love between a husband and wife who’ve become toy dolls.

A Plague Tale: Innocence – Asobo Studio

Asobo has previously worked on Microsoft Flight Simulator and Pixar video game adaptations like Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. In 2019, the studio launched its first original IP that presents a unique and emotional stealth horror game.

A Plague Tale: Innocence incorporates a rat swarm where up to 5,000 rats will populate in environments and need to be scared away by fire or area puzzles. The sequel, Requiem, has as many as 300,000 rats.

While a singleplayer journey, the game follows a brother and sister, Amicia and Hugo de Rune, which feels like you’re playing co-op. You have a slingshot and must use your surroundings to calculate the best stealth options.

Immortals Of Aveum – Ascendant Studios

Ascendant Studios is an example of an independent AAA game studio. Founded in 2018 by Bret Robbins, a creative director on the original Dead Space, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011), and Call of Duty: WW2 campaigns, Ascendant’s new game set out to combine spellcasting with first-person shooters.

Immortals of Aveum feels like Doom, Forspoken, Ghostwire: Tokyo, and BioShock all rolled into one new fantasy setting. The graphics, character designs, voice acting, and environment art will convince you it’s on the Triple-A scale of Bethesda or Bungie and not made by a newly formed independent studio.

What Are Some Notable Indie Games And Developers?

Four-image collage of the main protagonists from Her Story, Oxenfree, Disco Elysium, and Hades.

A great thing about indie games is just how many terrific ones you can find across each genre of gaming. Whether it’s a puzzle game, platformer, metroidvania, first-person shooter, RPG, or horror, chances are you’ll quickly become a fan of many. Here’s a list of some of our best indie games of all time.

Indie games also excel in the walking simulator genre, with Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch, a game mixing different art styles and perspectives, and Campo Santo’s Firewatch, a game mixing 3D graphics and text adventure, making it into our best walking simulators of all time list.

Some of the most notable indie developers in gaming today include Supergiant Games (Bastion, Transistor, and Hades), Night School Studio (Oxenfree, Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, Afterparty), Sam Barlow and Half Mermaid (Her Story, Telling Lies, Immortality), Red Barrels (Outlast series), Team Cherry (Hollow Knight), ZA/UM (Disco Elysium), and Jonathan Blow and Thekla, Inc. (Braid, The Witness).

If you want to check out which are the best indie games you can find on certain consoles, we have available the following lists:


14 Indie Games You Can Play For Free

The indie gaming scene offers something for just about everyone, and some of its best games are even free to play.

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