The exact qualities of an indie game can be sometimes hard to nail down. Usually it means a game made without financial support from a publisher and/or a game made by a small team. Indies are also often cheaper than triple-A proeductions. Things can get complicated in practice, but these two factors are a great starting point.
Indie games tend to do quite well on PC, with plenty of ways to distribute and sell your game, but they also often appear on consoles. In this article we’re going to take a look at ten indie games which landed on Xbox One. Some of them had a multiplatform release, others came to consoles some time after their PC launch, but regardless of their origins, today you can kick back on a couch and enjoy them on a big TV with a controller in your hands.
10 of the best indie games on Xbox One
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
When you look at the production quality of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice it’s hard to thinks about it as an indie title. Despite that, it was created solely on funds Ninja Theory collected from years working for publishers, and the British studio published it themselves. Hellblade looks amazing, features excellent voice acting and performance capture, a varied gameplay, and a very engaging storyline with more than a few horror elements.
Hellblade’s protagonist is a Pict warrior Senua, who goes on a quest to Hellheim, hoping to rescue the soul of her beloved. Unfortunately, she is afflicted with a “curse” that makes her hear voices in her head, which sometimes aid her, but often lead her astray. Ninja Theory made sure to portray mental illness respectfully, creating one of the most nuanced player characters in recent memory.
|Developer:||Yacht Club Games|
Shovel Knight delivers exactly what its title promises: you’re playing as a heavily armored knight whose weapon of choice is a big shovel. You can use it to dig in the ground, poke your enemies, or use it as a pogo stick to bounce on enemies’ heads. The basics are quite simple, which contributes to Hollow Knight’s charm, but don’t be misled: the game can be hard as nails.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove edition is also a special treat, because in addition to the core Shovel Knight and his story, it also features other knights, including folks like Plague Knight or Scythe Knight, who go on their own 8-bit adventures. There’s also co-op, challenge mode, and even a way to mildly customize your playable knight. Plenty of content overall, not bad for a retro-looking indie game.
Rocket League came seemingly out of nowhere, and then blasted off into incredible popularity gathered thanks to a simple, but creative premise. RL is a sports game which has you play football as rocket-powered cars. The teams are smaller, but the chaos is greater, because you aren’t by any means, earthbound: you can drive up walls, or even soar through the air if you have enough boost saved.
Since release, developer Psyonix added many more options to the game beyond just the core football. Now you can play in games with custom conditions, you can play hockey- and basketball-inspired modes. There’s also a whole lot of customization options for you to dig into, including various car models, adornments, and even special effects for boost or a goal.
The Banner Saga trilogy
Although The Banner Saga trilogy formally has a publisher, it’s been funded with Kickstarter, something that comes up for a few other games on the list. The Banner Saga mixes choice-intensive interactive story with tactical, turn-based battles to tell a story about groups of people on a journey through a harsh land suffering from an invasion of ominous forces and cultural tensions.
An important part of The Banner Saga experience is that some of your crucial choices are carried through the series if you choose to import your final saves. As a result, it creates a satisfying continuity, a single saga playing over three games. Between tactical combat, the story that draws you into it more and more with every choice, and the Norse legends-inspired setting, The Banner Saga is amazing.
Dead Cells is easily one of the finest metroidvania-roguelites you can get on the market, and it’s amazing that it managed to do all that as an indie title. In DC you’re playing, technically, as a blob of cells attaching itself to dead bodies in a fantasy prison and trying to escape. Of course, on your way stand plenty of deadly obstacles and tons of usually quite weird enemies.
On a moment-to-moment level, Dead Cells is a side-scrolling, 2D platform game with lots of precise combat. It features several zones you have to fight through before reaching your ultimate goal. The DLCs and updates added even more of everything, new zones, new enemies, more weapons, more options, making Dead Cells not only engaging, but also content-rich.
Hades was developed by Supergiant Games studio, the creators of previous indie hits like Bastion and Pyre. As the title suggests, Hades is heavily inspired by Ancient Greek mythology. In fact, you’re playing as Zagreus, the son of Hades himself, and your very personal mission is to escape from your father’s domain to the surface world, with more than a little help from Olympians and other gods.
On a gameplay level, Hades is a roguelite, dragging you back to the beginning every time you die. The good part is that you come back with currencies you can spend on upgrading your abilities and your six weapons. Hades also features a very satisfying storytelling, with many characters commenting in various ways on your most recent run and exploring the tangled web of gods’ relationships.
The core idea if Superhot is wonderfully innovative, and the execution makes it soar. The game is a first-person shooter, but when you aren’t moving the time is slowed down almost to a stop. It creates an interesting dynamic for every encounter. The best part is that after you complete the given level you can watch a fluid replay that ignores all your possible blunders.
There’s also some variety to the methods you can use to disable your opponents beyond just a basic handgun. Not much, but enough to open some interesting tactical opportunities and possibly look quite cool on the replay. Superhot blends a highly engaging gameplay premise, an interesting, 4th wall breaking story, and a cool, polygonal aesthetic. Oh, and it is playable in VR for extra immersion.
Stardew Valley is so indie it was created by just one person, and it still fully earned its position as one of the best games on Steam and in the genre. It’s not hard to see why, either. It’s a deeply relaxing, rewarding game which wants you to tend to a farmland your character inherited, and there’s something deeply compelling about games which want to you create instead of destroying.
Stardew Valley is also deeply inspired by an old school classic series Harvest Moon (nowadays known as Story of Seasons) and features a similarly old-school pixelated art style which makes the game look quite friendly. There’s also truly a lot to do in SDV beyond just maintaining your farm. You can visit a nearby town and interact with its lively NPCs, explore deep caves, even get married if you want to.
The original Guacamelee! Was already a ton of good fun, and the second ramped everything up to eleven. The game follows Juan Aguacate, a Mexican luchador who had been enjoying a happy ending he worked hard for in the first game. Unfortunately, time shenanigans happened, and he was sent to the darkest timeline to protect the “Mexiverse” form the ambitions of a corrupted luchador Salvador.
The cheesy quirkiness of the story aside, Guacamelee! 2 is a side-scrolling platform game which lets you use Juan’s phenomenal luchador abilities to good use in both combat and traversal. In addition to the usual missions, there are plenty of additional challenges you could complete, including one that can unlock the true good ending of the game if you manage to clear it.
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game was 2019’s surprise indie hit by virtue of its incredibly silly premise and friendly, pastel graphics. In UGG you are playing as a goose who gently terrorizes an entire English village with its antics. For every area you have a list of items you need to acquire and pranks you need to play on the innocent residents. Your goose mostly just does what geese do; it has no weird powers.
You can grab things with your beak, menacingly flap your wings, honk loudly and distractingly, and duck under low obstacles. It’s a simple toolset, but sufficient to mess with the goofy, clumsy villagers. As far as stealth games go, Untitled Goose Game leans heavily into gentle physical comedy instead of high-stakes heists and silent violence. Oh, and there are more tasks waiting for you after the credits!
Small teams, big successes
That’s tne end our list of the best Xbox indie games you should check out if you’re looking for a break from high-budget, immersive, triple-A megaproductions. Hopefully, you’ve found something that ignited your interest and will expand your Xbox library with new titles.