The 'Indie Game' industry today has become a broad concept that encircles many things.
It is generally dependent on the studio that develops it, and these can range from one man to a small-scale organization falling just shy of the developer team standards of a AAA studio. Rather, the idea is to understand indie games in opposition to AAA games.
As the AAA gaming industry must chase or at least stick to safer gaming trends that have been proven to sell, indie games have the creative flexibility to go against the grain. In an industry that has begun to stagnate in its mainstream trends as it gets richer, indie games are largely what bears the duty of experimenting and innovating in video games as a medium.
The following are among the top 5 recent indie releases made by small developer teams with big ambitions.
5 best indie games that fans of the genre should get their hands on
1) Easward (2021)
Platforms: PC, Switch
Eastward is the debut game from Pixpil, a Shanghai-based band of developers. When they started working on Eastward, it was a passion project between three friends. The team grew to 12 full-time employees over the course of development, and the level of polish in Eastward already has a clear impression of a studio in its veterancy.
Other than its charming retro-fashioned visuals, the big draw for this action-adventure game is the seamless way it narrates the journey of Sam and John, its two lovable protagonists trudging through a post-apocalyptic world of awe and whimsy.
2) Sable (2021)
Developer/Publisher: Shedworks/Raw Fury
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One
Sable revokes many of the strong points in BAFTA-winning 2012 indie masterpiece journey. It is set in a sand-clad rocky valley, and mostly revolves around exploration and discovery.
In place of Journey's silent desert, though, Sable works a more feature-complete adventure game with a different world-building mystique of its unique nomad culture.
Sable is the journey of the eponymous protagonist towards earning the right rite-of-passage mask for herself, for which she must delve into Tomb Raider-esque puzzle solving and platforming across its world.
3) Carrion (2020)
Developer/Publisher: Phobia Game Studio/Devovler Digital
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Carrion takes the horror-game standpoint of giving the player the reins of the predator rather than the victim, and dials it up a notch. In it, the player controls a living, mutating organism that has a number of tools to dispatch and break through cowering humans and obstacles of the lab facility, its birthplace.
Its gritty, visceral depiction of violence is near-unmatched, calling back horror classics like Manhunt (2003).
4) Unsighted (2021)
Developer/Publisher: Studio Pixel Punk/Humble Games
Unsighted takes great inspiration from Deck13's underrated 2015 RPG, CrossCode. It has the same hybrid, deep combat system interweaved with clever isometric platforming, and a JRPG-worthy story to prop it up.
Esthetically, its pixel art and exploration music also has hints of Hyper Light Drifter, but its fast-paced combat goes closer to the parry-intensive action of Sekiro. Overall, Unsighted is among the most criminally underrated indie offerings of the past decade, and admirers of CrossCode should definitely not miss out on it.
5) Inscryption (2021)
Developer/Publisher: Daniel Mullins Games/Devolver Digital
Inscryption takes the oversaturated genre of deck-building roguelites, and manages to pull through with a completely unique take on the niche. On paper, the game is not revolutionary as a grid-based card battler: its animals represent individual cards with set attack and defense stats, and the first one to defeat the opponent's hand (i.e. tip the scale, quite literally) wins.
What makes Inscryption such a unique experience is its surprise twists, turns, and eerie atmosphere that almost pits it with the horror genre. These exhilariting surprises are so unexpected and so many that they alone add another layer to its roguelite experience.