Our gaming expert has chosen the year’s best indie games so far. These games range from artistic triumphs to retro-inspired adventures and can be played on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
Sometimes, even the greatest indie games can go unnoticed when popular titles like Baldur’s Gate 3, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and Alan Wake 2 receive lots of praise from fans and media. That’s why I’ve written this feature to highlight the top indie video games of 2023.
In 2023, I’ve had the opportunity to review indie titles for various outlets like The Guardian, Edge, and WhyNow Gaming. The quality of games this year has been awe-inspiring. Choosing my top ten favorites was tough, but these are the ones that caught my attention. They stood out for their creativity, quality, or simply because they made me laugh.
10 Best Indie Games in 2023
1. A Space for the Unbound
Publisher: Toge Productions / Chorus Worldwide
Developer: Mojiken Studio
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch Players 1
A Space for the Unbound, created by Mojiken Studio, is a game that follows the journey of Atma and his girlfriend Raya as they navigate life in a suburban town in 1990s Indonesia. Raya receives strange reality-warping powers, leading to a series of unexpected events. The story ultimately explores themes of loneliness, friendship, and coping with mental illness. A Space for the Unbound is mostly about solving puzzles by finding objects in the town. But it also has fun mini-games inspired by Street Fighter II and Ace Attorney. The artwork is fantastic, with beautiful pixel art versions of real Indonesian places.
2. Chants of Sennaar
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch Players 1
Chants of Sennaar is a language-learning game developed by Rundisc, a French developer. While it may not initially seem exciting, Inkle’s Heaven’s Vault was a brilliantly fun experience a few years ago. As you climb a tower resembling the Tower of Babel, you will gradually decipher the languages spoken by the people living there. You match symbols from signs and speech to objects and ideas. You keep track of your guesses for each character and gradually expand your knowledge of the language. It’s important because it feels great when your guesses are correct.
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Geometric Interactive
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch Players 1
Cocoon took about six years to make, and you can tell. The game is polished, and every moment is meaningful, without any filler or busy work. It lasts around six hours. In summary, it’s stunning and clever. In the game, your insect-like character dives into spheres with different worlds inside. You can carry these spheres on your back and take them inside other spheres, like a Matryoshka doll. It creates a world within a world within a world experience. The game involves solving puzzles by hopping between spheres. It is designed to be easy to play, with a simple control scheme using just one button. It is why Cocoon is considered one of the best indie games on the Switch.
4. Cassette Beasts
Publisher: Raw Fury
Developer: Bytten Studio
Platform: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch Players 1-2
Cassette Beasts takes a unique approach to monster catching, adding fresh ideas to the Pokémon formula. It stands out among other attempts to replicate Pokémon’s success. Bytten Studio, a developer, brings a creative twist to well-known game design.
Instead of catching beasts, you record them on cassette tapes. Then, you can transform into the recorded beast by playing the tape on your headphones. You can combine with your friends’ creatures to make stronger, brand-new monsters and explore the mysterious island of New Wirral at your own pace. You can complete tasks in any order that you prefer.
Developer: Black Salt Games
Platform: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch Players 1
Dredge by Black Salt Games is a game inspired by Lovecraftian horror. You control a fishing boat in a cursed archipelago, where your sanity gradually deteriorates at night. In the plot, you retrieve cursed relics from sunken ships for a shady collector. To do this, you must upgrade your old boat by fishing and selling your catch. It’s dangerous out there. Even a small collision can damage your hull or engine. At night, terrifying hallucinatory rocks and eerie shapes are in the mist.
6. Dave the Diver
Platform: PC, Mac, Switch Players 1
In 2023, a game called Dave the Diver, developed by Mintrocket from Korea, became a surprise hit. It sold over a million copies in just one week after its launch. It’s similar to Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing and Digital Sun’s Moonlighter. During the day, the main character, Dave, goes diving for fish; at night, he serves them at a sushi restaurant. The main gameplay involves finding rare fish and selling them to increase money. Upgrades help Dave dive deeper and encounter more unique and risky marine creatures. However, the game also features beautiful pixel art and an exciting plot where Dave discovers clues about an ancient civilization in the ocean. It is among the best Indie games on this list.
Publisher: Enhance Games
Developer: tha LTD
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5 Players 1
Like other best Indie games on this list, Humanity, a game by LTD, is all about guiding large groups of people toward a bright pillar of light. You control a ghostly Shiba Inu that can make the people change direction, jump, and more. It’s like combining Lemmings with a sheepdog trial. The concept quickly evolves into genres like stealth and real-time strategy and introduces antagonists called The Others. It is a highly imaginative and visually stunning experience, with numerous human drones rushing on the screen. You can play as a human in VR; there’s a great level editor. It means there’s a lot of user-created content for you to explore.
8. Killer Frequency
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Meta Quest 2 Players 1
I was surprised that Killer Frequency, a game made by Team 17, didn’t get much attention this year. It’s a unique and funny game that I enjoyed playing. You’re a DJ who messed up and got sent to work the late-night shift at a small radio station in a 1980s US town. Suddenly, a famous serial killer shows up, and there’s no help until morning.
You receive calls from people being stalked by a murderer. Your task is to help them escape by giving directions using any available information, like building plans or pizza leaflets. Success brings immense relief in tense situations. Failure can be fun and funny, especially with excellent voice acting and clever setups.
9. Planet of Lana
Developer: Wishfully Studios
Platform: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One Players 1
Planet of Lana, developed by Wishfully Studios, has a reminiscent vibe of a forgotten Studio Ghibli film. The skies are beautiful, with fluffy clouds that remind me of Kiki’s Delivery Service. The main character is a young girl who looks like she belongs in a Ghibli film, with a slightly silly run. Add her adorable cat-monkey companion, and you have the ingredients for a Ghibli masterpiece. You can consider it among the best Indie games.
Additionally, Planet of Lana has a cinematic feel. Lana embarks on a journey through atmospheric ruins and discovers forgotten technology while trying to rescue her friends from an invading robot army. However, the true star of this fantastic puzzle platform is the cat-monkey.
Platform: PC, Mac Players 1
Videoverse, created by Lucy Blundell (also known as Kinmoku), takes you on an emotional journey into the communities formed around games. In Feudal Fantasy, you take on the role of Emmett, a big fan of the mid-2000s game. Emmett plays the game on a fictional console called Shark. He connects with other Feudal Fantasy fans on a social network called Videoverse, similar to the Wii U’s Miiverse and Instant Messenger. Videoverse is about to be shut down because the new Dolphin console replaces the Shark, which could ruin the community where Emmett feels at home. It’s a lovely portrayal of shaky teenage relationships and longing for fleeting places erased by advancing technology. Videoverse is considered among the best Indie games to play.