LudoNarraCon 2021 is here, and the third annual digital showcase once again celebrates indie games with a focus on history. It’s often my favorite type of game, so I’ve spent the last week digging through dozens of Steam demos provided by Fellow Traveler, the Australian publisher and event organizer.
While I can honestly admit that every demo was interesting and often different from anything I’ve ever played, I’ve narrowed down my list of the best games from LudoNarraCon 2021 to these last 10.
Note that my impressions are based only on the demos of these games, so look for full reviews when they launch in the weeks, months, or maybe even years to come. But if you’re like me and love innovative indie games, keep an eye out for them.
Those who know me might be surprised to see an anime game make this list since I never really liked the genre, but that’s part of why I put it here. It surprised me too.
Kraken Academy uses anime characters in the dialogue and 8-bit styling otherwise to tell an interesting story where players arrive at their new school, make friends, deal with teachers, and learn about the trials and tribulations of their new setting. It is a bit like Valley of stars in a school, which is enough to pique my curiosity.
Lake are all my favorite parts of Death stranding – quiet and lonely trips, picturesque music, mail delivery work – without any of Kojima’s quirks. It’s a much more grounded story that takes place in 1986 in Oregon and centers around her central character, Meredith Weiss, as she returns to her hometown for reasons that aren’t entirely clear at first.
I can tell that something is brewing Lake, and I can’t wait to find out what it is. In the meantime, the game is beautiful and relaxing, so that’s good too.
City buttonThe main directive is to be cute, and he nails it. Early in my practice I wasn’t sure what kind of game it would be, but as the demo ended I started to get a feel for it.
It’s a storytelling adventure game about keeping what’s important to you, and it features a bunch of characters who would be right at home in a kids’ cartoon. With a promising mix of seriousness and silliness, it is sure to appeal to gamers who enjoy sane games.
More at home
Even before I play More at home, I knew I would appreciate it. That’s because a text-based intro reveals the game’s origins as a product of a 2016 game jam inspired by the Fermi Problem. Often referred to as the Fermi Paradox, it is a theory that grapples with the incongruity between the likelihood that we will share this universe with other intelligent lives and the little hard evidence we have so far to show for. this assumption.
More at home seems to wrap its alien story around a more human story too, and I’m interested on both fronts.
The longest road in the world
I would call The longest road on Earth, the series’ biggest risk taker. Presented in retro-bit black and white graphics and telling a wordless and slow story, Longest route seems to be a lot more on how are you feeling when you play it than just how you play it.
This is one of those games that wants you to fill in the details yourself, and I’m happy to make you do it. This one won’t be for everyone or maybe even most people, but so far it’s for me.
Tunic is perhaps the most high-profile game on this list, as it’s the only one I remember getting its own projector during a presentation at E3.
Beginning in 2018, I got to see the demo I would be playing this week behind closed doors and spoke to the game’s solo developer, Andrew Shouldice. He then revealed what I had confirmed this week; although Tunic looks charming, his enemies are less inviting. Prepare for a Zelda and Dark souls offspring in Tunic.
No shade intended for these other games, but Unpacking is my favorite game from the LudoNarraCon 21 showcase. Its simple directive to unpack the boxes and arrange empty spaces to live in is oddly meditative, and the nostalgic visuals and relaxing music certainly help paint this picture of Zen.
Like others on this list, Unpacking wants players to tell their own story using gentle nudges from in-game context clues. I’ve found these stories can be sweet, sad, or a bit of both, but whatever story you want tell the story, the gameplay itself is serene.
Wayward strand looks and even sort of plays like a children’s novel. In a semi-science fiction setting, players take on the role of a young girl and aspiring journalist who travels to her mother’s work aboard a floating airship that now serves as a retirement home. It’s your job to learn the stories of its residents, whether they are cranky, comfortable, forgetful or otherwise.
I like Wayward strand for the way it captures that sense of wonder when you’re a kid and finally see where your parents are working. You feel like a VIP for the day, like everyone already knows you, and you see a whole new side of mom or dad. Wayward strand has this en masse.
Mind scanners is the game that made me most uncomfortable, but I really mean it in a good way. It’s one of those UI games where you’re fed on-screen storytelling but interact by pressing buttons, flipping switches, turning dials, and more.
The idea is that you are responsible for analyzing and, if necessary, clearing the minds of people who are thought to be mentally ill, but you quickly learn that the meaning of “well-being” cannot be. -not for you to define.
Think of it like Papers please in a hospital with the same disgusting feelings of uncomfortable choices you have to make.
Chicory: a colorful tale
Chicory immediately reminds me of the classic healthy game, Wandering song, which I learned later, makes a lot of sense as some of the team in this game made this one as well.
The elevator pitch for Chicory Maybe is an easier sale too. This is an interactive coloring book, where doodling and coloring inside and outside the lines solve puzzles and advance a cute story about a cartoon dog. It seems like a great family game so far, but anyone who feels artistic should enjoy it, no kids are required.
These are just my favorites from the series, although there are a lot more demos available. You can find out more about LudoNarraCon on the official show website.