As the indie game industry exploded, more and more excellent titles appeared across all genres. From unique shooters and RPGs to a mountain of excellent modern metroidvanias, there truly is an indie game for everyone.
While riding the heights of successful metroidvanias, roguelites, and platformers, the indie industry has sadly overlooked one element of game design – the open world. While the few open-world indie games are generally excellent, they break the open-world Ubisoft-style monotony we all know and tolerate.
ten Rust – Online Mayhem
Playing Rust is a grueling experience that you can’t help but return to. As an MMO-esque survival game, Rust is a magnet for griefers that will do their best to ruin the progress you’ve made over long hours.
Despite this, Rust’s strange magnetism draws you in again and again, until, before you know it, you’re a heartache too. Rust is a wasteland with very few rules and even fewer merciful players, so make sure you’re ready for some “friendly” rivalry before you buy it.
9 Grow: Song of The Evertree – A Soothing Life
Grow: Song of The Evertree is a fantasy life sim dedicated to making you feel as comfortable as possible. He tasks you with stepping into the shoes of a legendary alchemist on a quest to breathe new life into a landscape that desperately needs it.
While in your new home, you’ll plant, cultivate, and cultivate crops, tend to the adorable local wildlife, and house others who arrive to see the micro-environment you’ve nurtured. It is an incredibly discreet moment of relaxation.
8 A short hike – A precious memory
A Short Hike is an adorable indie title that lets you explore and climb a peaceful mountain. While reaching the top will only take around an hour, A Short Hike will keep you invested for much longer as you explore every inch of its wholesome landscape.
The unique art style on display here also reinforces the wholesome energy of A Short Hike. Its near-blurry 3D pixel graphics paint the world in a glow of nostalgia, as if you’re playing through a treasured memory that has faded for many years.
seven Don’t Starve Together – Bleak Fantasy
Don’t Starve is the poster child for the ruthless indie survival game. Every life begins when you’re thrown into a brutal world, à la Tim Burton, with little more than the clothes on your back to protect you.
Anything can kill you in Don’t Starve, and every decision you make can also cause you to inadvertently kill yourself. It’s even more dangerous than it looks, as every death will send you straight back to the main menu. The good thing about this mechanic is that it adds a ton of replayability to Don’t Starve, as you become determined to brush up and try again.
6 Subnautica – Existential Dread Simulator
Subnautica is perhaps the most famous game on this list, and its unique setting and genre fusion are part of why. Never before has a non-horror game been so scary. Hell, Subnautica is even scarier than most actual horror games.
Luckily, Subnautica lets you breathe amongst all the terror, giving you an escape pod to live in between your trips to the blue outside. It is here that you will expand your arsenal of tools and means of transportation in hopes of one day finding a way out of the unknowable abyss in which you find yourself floating.
5 Firewatch – A Lonely Wasteland
Firewatch is a game about that – spending a summer in a remote part of the Wyoming forest, watching for fires. While this premise doesn’t lead to any groundbreaking gameplay, it does establish Firewatch’s greatest strength – its storytelling.
Firewatch’s four-hour journey into the woods drips with excellent character writing, something the beautiful desolate forest around you encourages you to focus on. The relationship between the two main characters is incredibly conveyed and is an example of what a story-based game can be.
4 Terraria – More than a Minecraft clone
Many people see Terraria as just a 2D clone of Minecraft. While it’s easy to see why people might think that, this comparison massively understates what Terraria brings to the table.
Sure, mining and crafting are a big part of Terraria’s gameplay, but you’re not going to find such intricate exploration, satisfying combat, or such goofy bosses in the money-printing machine. from Mojang. Besides overlapping some mechanics, Terraria has another similarity to Minecraft – it’s still considered one of the best sandbox games of all time.
3 Chicory: A colorful tale – The soul of an artist
Chicory: A Colorful Tale tells a unique story about art, creativity and self-doubt. It’s sure to be the heartiest game on the list for any creation, and it’s bound to hit uncomfortably close to home multiple times.
Exploring the relationship between creativity and internal struggle is also carried over into Chicory’s gameplay, as the game sees you venturing the world with a magic paintbrush that can restore color to the monochromatic environment around you. Each area unfolds like a puzzle-solving coloring book, just waiting to be filled in.
2 The Witness – Kingdom of Labyrinths
The Witness is the long-awaited game of 2016 from puzzle game legend, Jonathon Blow. Anyone who was present during the indie explosion of Xbox Live Arcade will recognize its previous game, the very excellent Braid.
If Braid’s reputation isn’t enough to convince you to play The Witness, the immaculate puzzle design may do the trick. The Witness takes around 40 hours to complete for most players and not once does its host of maze-like puzzles falter. The world these puzzles litter is also expertly crafted, full of ambivalent beauty and quiet exploration.
1 Disco Elysium – A Transcendent Experience
Disco Elysium is the kind of game that can only come out of an independent studio. The range of emotions its story conveys is impressive and the depth of its gameplay is bottomless.
Set in the crumbling shadow of a once great city, Disco Elysium examines human behavior through a long list of grim situations faced by the city’s destitute citizens. Even the protagonist isn’t exempt from this exploration, as you regularly work with them to battle their inner demons.
This theme even continues to affect the gameplay mechanics of the game, turning it into an RPG where you level up through emotional and personal growth, rather than gaining combat prowess. In Disco Elysium, conversations are combat and dialogue options are spells.
Disco Elysium’s conversations manage to captivate far more than most games with actual combat systems, a huge achievement that’s one of many the game has to its name.
NEXT: The best indie games on PlayStation Plus