Indie games – simple productions made by individuals and smaller development teams. Although not as big as AAA games, there are still a lot of incredibly fun hidden gems you should be aware of.
The List of The Best Indie Games
Check out some of the best indie games of all time. Keep in mind that there are too many great games to mention them all on the list – due to the limited space we had to skip a few amazing productions. Moreover, although all of the featured games started as indie, their current status may be different, as it’s not uncommon to see games being sold to bigger companies.
Baba Is You
Puzzle games often have some hard-coded logic and laws you need to obey in order to complete the increasingly difficult levels. But what if you had the power to alter the game’s logic to make your task easier?
Baba Is You takes quite a different approach to the puzzle genre as it allows players to change the behavior of game objects. In fact, it does not only allow to but it encourages to – the entire game revolves around this single concept, resulting in quite an interesting gameplay that can be hardly compared to anything you played before.
The game is tile-based – logic tiles can form rules that are enforced during the game. For example, if there are three blocks that read “WALL”, “IS”, “STOP” next to each other, it forces a rule that makes walls solid and impassable. If you move one of these blocks away, the rule breaks, and walls are no longer solid, making them possible to cross and giving you access to new parts of the level.
|Genre:||Construction and management simulation, real-time strategy|
Factorio lets you design, build, and manage a possibly infinitely large industrial factory complex – there’s much fun to be had if you love planning and min-maxing your creations to their fullest potential.
Factorio is all about creating a factory that produces all sorts of things with the ultimate goal being to build and launch a rocket, but it’s much more complicated than first meets the eye. You will start with nothing but some basic tools and bare hands, forcing you to manually mine some coal and iron to make things going.
However, as you play, most of the tasks can be automated to a certain degree – conveyor belts will transport half-products between assembling machines tasked with creating ammunition, engines, solar panels, and tons of other useful stuff, pipes will transport all kinds of fluids, such as water and crude oil, and research labs will consume science packs to unlock new crafting recipes. Take care of electricity, build trains, and protect your base from evil aliens – there’s always something to do.
The Witness is a unique puzzle game in a mysterious 3D low-poly environment that is full of bright colors and beautiful surroundings.
The Witness is all about solving puzzles, where you need to connect two points with a continuous line. What makes the title so fun is its non-linear nature – you are free to explore the entire island from the very beginning. However, there is a catch. The puzzles may use some specific rules you need to learn first. For example, black dots on the board mean that the line you draw must go through all of these dots.
The only way to learn the rules is to complete tutorial puzzles – each biome on the island focuses on explaining how one particular rule works. Only when you learn all the rules, you will be able to complete the game. We don’t want to spoil too much, but once you discover how well the puzzles blend into the environment, you will be left tongue-tied and you will start seeing them where you would expect them the least. It often encourages you to think out of the box and it’s all just mind-blowing.
Bastion is a platform game that will take you to a fantasy world of floating islands that appear out of nowhere as you are nearing them. Fast-paced combat and dynamic voiceover are the game’s defining features.
Bastion focuses on a character called simply the Kid, as he tries to investigate, and hopefully do something about, the recent events that fractured the city of Caledonia into many floating pieces and turned people to ash. The game has a cool stylized art style and gives players some fast-paced action when it comes to combat, but the most interesting feature here is probably the narrator that comments on your every move as you play, making the title an adventure you can truly call your own.
The Stanley Parable
|Genre:||Interactive story, adventure|
Speaking of games with interesting dynamic voiceover, one can’t forget about The Stanley Parable, a game built entirely around this concept.
The Stanley Parable tells the story of Stanley, an ordinary employee tasked with an ordinary job of pushing the buttons he’s told. But one day things change – the instructions stop flowing in, forcing the man to investigate what’s going on. As he explores the office building, he is accompanied by the narrator who comments on his every move. What makes it fun is the fact, that the narrator tries to tell the story and expects Stanley to follow his directions. He, as a player, may choose not to do so, which often leads to some interesting plot twists.
Stardew Valley is one of those addictive management games that look simple at first, yet once you start playing in the evening, somehow you realize it’s 5 a.m. already.
The game focuses on taking care of a farm but there’s much more to it than first meets the eye. You can explore the world, collect various items, go fishing, cook delicious dishes, meet interesting characters, sell your crops to a local merchant, collect resources and build simple constructions, and even attend to various seasonal events. It’s your chance to become an important part of the local community, so give it all you’ve got.
There aren’t many 2D roguelike platformer titles available to play and Spelunky targeted this exact niche. Apparently, people needed a game like this, judging by all the favorable reviews the game’s got.
Spelunky takes place underground, where you, as an anonymous adventurer, will have to explore caves, jungles, mines, and other well-designed locations in search of valuable treasures. The game is filled with action – levels are full of devious traps and dangerous monsters that are only waiting for unaware explorers like yourself, and they will surely enjoy some fresh human meat, so you better be quick if you don’t want to become someone else’s dinner. Grab the loot and rush to an exit.
Who would have thought that a game that could be best described as a border-crossing officer simulator will meet with such a positive response from a gaming community?
The game is quite addictive and incredibly fun, maybe because it offers something entirely different, that was never seen before. In Papers Please you will be tasked with checking the papers of whoever tries to enter the glorious country of Arstotzka. Check if the documents are valid, if all the information is correct, and if the man has all the necessary permissions if any are needed. However, there’s something more to it. Moral choices. You will often need to choose between being loyal to your country and not being a douche to the people trying to cross the border – depending on your priorities you will be able to get one of the dozens of available endings.
|Developer||Coffee Stain Studios|
Speaking of simulators that unexpectedly became incredibly popular, it’s also worth noting Goat Simulator – a game that was designed to just make fun of all other simulators, yet turned out to be an incredibly playable production.
Goat simulator was meant to be an answer to an increasingly popular simulator genre that spawned tons of crappy titles some time ago. It’s more of a meme game with some obvious bugs, some of which were left purposely unfixed to increase the game’s “memeability”, often leading to some ridiculous situations during play. Gameplay-wise you will control the titular goat and explore the nearby surroundings in order to complete various challenges, such as performing certain stunts od causing mass destruction for extra points. It’s funnier than it sounds when you take into account the controls, the ragdoll, and the goat’s ability to lick objects in order to drag them around.
You surely do know this one. A simple voxel-based game that gives you a unique opportunity to play around in a sandbox environment, where your creativity is the only thing that limits your possibilities.
Minecraft doesn’t need an introduction. A hugely popular 3D game, where you can mine and place blocks in a sandbox voxel-based environment in order to create your own world. You can build whatever you want here and the sky is the limit, as worlds are virtually endless, allowing you to create extremely large and complex constructions. Create your own homestead or build an entire town for increased immersion. Survive the night, get yourself better equipment, and go down below to find and mine these precious diamonds. Just be careful not to fall into a lava pool, or you will lose everything you had.
Limbo is not just a game, it’s an eerie experience and a piece of art you don’t want to miss. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not an easy game and it will try to surprise you on numerous occasions.
The game is a side-scrolling platformer with puzzles for you to solve. What makes the production stand out from the crowd is its art style – greyscale visuals with only silhouettes of objects being visible result in a dark and spooky atmosphere that adds a lot of value in terms of immersion. Developers describe Limbo as a trial and death game, so expect to be surprised and killed multiple times before you can figure out how to solve a certain puzzle or beat a certain sequence. It’s not frustrating, though – the game maintains a healthy balance between difficulty level and joy factor.
Most good indie games are unique in one way or another, so it won’t be surprising if we tell you that Fez also does something we didn’t see ever before.
At first sight, Fez looks like a simple, colorful 2D platformer game. However, it quickly becomes obvious that there’s more to that and the game gets another dimension. While it still appears as 2D, you get the ability to switch perspective and change the position of the camera to appear not only in front of your protagonist, but also behind him, and on each of his sides, giving a sense of 3D in a 2D world. Rotating the world is essential to gameplay and mastering this ability is required to solve most of the game’s puzzles, allowing your character to get to seemingly unreachable areas.
If you love fast-paced dynamic action and retro-themed worlds, then Hotline Miami would be a perfect title for you to play.
The game takes place in 1989 Miami and focuses on a character often referred to as the Jacket, who performs various assassination missions in response to messages he gets on his answering machine. Gameplay-wise it’s an extremely fast-paced title that will test your reflexes to the limit – you will explore numerous locations full of armed enemies, and one bullet to your head is more than enough to end your adventure, forcing you to act quickly and eliminate evildoers before they can react and call for help. While the stealth approach is possible, going full Rambo style is often encouraged. Just remember, failure is not an option.
|Genre:||Run and gun|
Cuphead is an amazing game for several reasons. However, although it delivers amazing and smooth gameplay combined with jazz and funk music, it’s probably its hand-drawn animations that draw the most attention.
Cuphead focuses on a character of the titular Cuphead, a boy with, as you might have already guessed, a cup for a head. His task is to defeat powerful beings all over the world as a means of paying the debt to the devil. The game has some side-scrolling levels, but it is largely focused on difficult boss encounters – each boss is entirely different and has its own theme, giving a sense of uniqueness. Defeating the boss requires you to learn its moves and attacks first, so you can know when to dodge and when to strike. Cuphead feels like an interactive cartoon from the ‘30s – it perfectly mimics not only the visuals but also the humor of old animated movies.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
|Genre:||Battle royale, platformer|
It’s not that common to see a recently released game on a list of the best indie games of all time, but we feel that this choice is justified.
Fall Guys is a game where dozens of players compete against each other in a series of short mini-games. Players that perform the worst during the round get eliminated, making the competition fiercer as the match goes on – the goal is to be the last man standing and no one wants to be left behind. Despite the highly competitive nature of the game, the gameplay is incredibly fun and addictive – it’s a simple and casual source of entertainment that may serve as a perfect way of relaxing and relieving stress after an exhausting day at work.
Kerbal Space Program
|Genre:||Space flight simulation|
If you love learning things that may give you a better understanding of how the world really works, you should try Kerbal Space Program – a game that lets you run your own space center.
Kerbal Space Program gives you the opportunity to become the head of a space program run by a species of small green humanoids who make silly faces when you put them inside a rocket – no one can say for sure if they’re excited or scared, though. Although one should remember that KSP is just a game, it still does a great job at explaining some things related to launching a rocket, changing orbits, docking in space, landing on other planets, or using massive celestial bodies to perform a gravity assist maneuver that changes the trajectory of a rocket to reduce its fuel usage, so if you are wondering how any of these things work, you should give the game a try.
Super Meat Boy
This one is not for the faint of heart – it’s an incredibly difficult platform game, where it’s entirely possible to spend half an hour or more while trying to beat a level.
Super Meat Boy is best known for its unforgiving gameplay, where one silly mistake is enough to make you restart the entire level. And mistakes are common here, due to the fast-paced nature of the game that often requires you to make a jump without thinking if it’s safe to do so, leaving you praying that this time you won’t land on this damned sawblade. The good thing is that the levels are quite short, which significantly cuts the frustration, but it’s still a difficult game that doesn’t care if you are too slow – if you love a good challenge, it’s definitely a must-play.
|Genre:||Role-playing, dungeon crawl|
|Developer||Red Hook Studios|
Speaking of difficult games, Darkest Dungeon is also not the easiest production out there, but instead of testing your reflexes, this one will test your strategy and planning skills.
Darkest Dungeon lets you command a party of heroes and explore dungeons in search of loot and glory. It somewhat reminds of Japanese role-playing games but has more depth when it comes to gameplay. The enemies you meet are not the only danger that you need to be aware of – hostile creatures are no less threatening than famine and diseases that will kill your adventurers if neglected. The core gameplay element is the Affliction system – witnessing bad things may negatively impact heroes’ stress level, leading to lowering their efficiency in battle or even causing a heart attack that can instantly kill them.
Rocket League is a game that combines football with driving rocket-fueled cars – a perfect game for those looking for some crazy sports action.
Rocket League focuses on multiplayer and sees two teams of players competing against each other as they drive cars and try to put the ball inside the enemy team’s goal. It sounds simple, but things get insane once you realize that the cars use rocket engines that allow them to fly above the pitch for a short duration, taking a game to the air. It takes a lot of practice to master flying but scoring aerial goals once you finally get the hang of it feels incredibly satisfying.
For the final game on the list, we’ve got Terraria – a game that some could describe as Minecraft in 2D, but it’s quite unfair and disregards the game’s own unique spirit.
Terraria is a 2D sandbox experience in procedurally generated worlds, where you will be able to mine all kinds of resource blocks and use them to craft various items. While it does sound oddly familiar to Minecraft, it’s worth noting that Terraria is much more focused on exploration and boss fights. Although there’s no character progression, there is world progression – completing various events and encounters gives you access to the new ones. It also rewards you with new and more powerful gear, such as stronger pickaxes that can mine more types of resources and do it faster, making your life somewhat easier.
What is an Indie Game?
Indie games are games that are usually made by individual people or small and often inexperienced development teams. What makes indie games so interesting is the fact, that due to the lack of big publishers saying the team what their video games should look like, developers are free to try new gameplay ideas and mechanics, often coming up with something unique and innovative. There is, however, the other side of the coin – small teams usually don’t have a budget of large ones, which significantly limits the possibilities.
One way to overcome this difficulty is to pray for a successful crowdfunding campaign, but more often than not indie developers must have another full-time job to make a living, leaving them little to no time to develop their own creations, which leads to much longer development times. You surely did hear about games that took people five or even more years to finish – it takes a lot of effort and dedication to make a game without a proper budget, but due to all the freedom that indie developers get and creative ideas they’re able to implement as they see fit, once the game is done it may quickly turn into a commercial success.
We carefully browsed the entire market of indie games and we chose the titles we believe can be considered the best indie games of all time. Check out the list above and pick your favorites – did you know all the games we mentioned?