Best Indie Games

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While mainstream games have plenty of benefits, indie (independently made) games often take more creative approaches to gameplay and story that large companies won’t risk doing.

Whereas big blockbuster games are going for mass market appeal, indie projects tend to be more collaborative and unique.

When you want something new to play that’s a bit off the beaten track, these indie games are the perfect way to scratch that itch.

Stardew Valley (2016)


Creator: Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone
Developer: Sickhead Games
Genre: Farming Simulator
Rating: E
Steam Rating: 10/10
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Android, Xbox One, iOS

One of the best indie games ever, Stardew Valley evokes nostalgia for games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing—then takes it to a new level.

Best of all, your protagonist is free to romance whomever you want, including queer romances, while you toil away on your farm day after day.

 

Braid (2008)


Creator: Jonathan Blow
Developer: Number None
Genre: Adventure, Platforming
Rating: E
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Android, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Classic Mac OS

Many people credit Braid with rejuvenating and kickstarting the indie game industry. Its plot is mostly interpretation, and the creator has never confirmed anything one way or another.

What’s more, its music is spectacular, and gives you a mystical feeling as you complete the increasingly complex puzzles and move through the platforms.

 

This War of Mine (2014)


Developer: 11-bit studios
Genre: War, Strategy
Rating: M
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Android, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux

This game is a proper punch to the gut. It depicts war—not from the point of view of a super-soldier or assassin, like so many other video games, but from the viewpoints of unarmed civilians struggling just to survive the day.

It hurts to play this game, but it is poignantly refreshing compared to a market largely glorifying violence and warfare.

 

Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)


Creator: Lucas Pope
Developer: 3909 LLC
Genre: Lovecraftian horror
Rating: T
Steam Rating: 10/10
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Microsoft Windows

This fun, black-and-white game utilizes fantastic shading that enhances the horrific monsters attacking the ship.

The sheer number of bizarre accidents and attacks that occur on the Obra Dinn seems almost comical, when you approach the end of the game. However, it is fun to play detective, and discover the fates of every crew member.

 

The Stanley Parable (2011)


Creator: Davey Wreden and William Pugh
Developer: Galactic Cafe
Genre: Interactive fiction
Rating: E
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, iOS, Linux

The first game to break down all of the narrative elements of a story—without sounding like your old English teacher—The Stanley Parable is surprisingly insightful.

Throughout gameplay, you’ll wonder about your choices, and the consequences of playing games in general. It’s a philosophy class wrapped in a delightfully exciting package.

 

Night in the Woods (2017)


Creator: Alec Holowka
Developer: Infinite Fall
Genre: Adventure, Platforming
Rating: T
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux

This game perfectly sums up the despair of adulthood, as well as the ennui of life in a boring town.

At the same time, however, it also captures the nostalgia we all have for our childhoods, only to find that things will never truly be the same.

With a cast of wildly different characters, this game’s best feature is its realistic dialogue.

 

INSIDE (2016)


Developer: Playdead
Genre: Puzzle platformer
Rating: M
Steam Rating: 10/10
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Nintendo Switch

This game follows a boy who can control the bodies of strange, zombie-like creatures roaming the city.

Made by the creators of Limbo, INSIDE utilizes the same 2.5D gameplay: there is some depth of field, but it is not entirely a 3D game.

 

Heaven’s Vault (2019)


Creator: Inkle
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Rating: T
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch

Easily the best indie game in many years, Heaven’s Vault combines cracking codes from a long-lost language with the excitement of archaeological discovery.

Think of it like Indiana Jones, but way more accurate.

 

Darkest Dungeon (2015)


Creator: Tyler Sigman
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Genre: Rogue-like, Strategy
Rating: T
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Linux, iOS

In Darkest Dungeon, you valiantly send your team of heroes through impossible dungeons.

When your heroes die, they never come back. Because you have a minimal amount of resources, you need to ration them wisely and think strategically to defeat the eldritch abominations invading your home.

 

The Beginner’s Guide (2015)


Creator: Davey Wreden
Developer: Everything Unlimited LLC
Genre: Adventure
Rating: E
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux

Simply put, this game is emotionally devastating.

Made by the creator of The Stanley Parable, The Beginner’s Guide takes players behind the scenes of game development.

It explores the ethical struggles one endures when their creation grows so popular it takes on a life of its own—and the creator is then expected to churn out more and more.

 

Her Story (2015)


Creator: Sam Barlow
Genre: Detective, Investigation
Rating: M
Steam Rating: 9/10
Platforms: Microsoft Word, Mac OS X, Android

This game is unlike any other.

You play as a protagonist watching through archived police interviews concerning a sudden death. While you watch the tapes, you must decide which parts are true…and which are lies.

Piecing together the evidence, you then search for answers as to what really happened.

Obviously, commercial, mass-market games aren’t going anywhere. They exist for a reason: to appeal to a large number of people, and make a lot of money in the process.

And, while there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, they can be incredibly fun to play—there is something special about a well-made indie game.

Creators are freer to express themselves. Characters are often more dimensional, as well, and gameplay can take turns you’d never expect, making for a unique experience unlike any other.

For more gaming recommendations, check out the best video game soundtracks, or the best survival horror or visual novel games.