December 20 2019

Best Indie Games

As a hipster (please don’t throw rocks at me), my edict is to shun the mainstream while supporting obscure indie musical acts that no one has ever heard of. If only I was as strict with my gaming. The problem is triple AAA titles are too hard to ignore, especially with releases like Cyberpunk 2077 being around the corner.

Yet still, I feel that it’s important that I support the latest Humble Indie Game Bundle whenever it comes out. I also aspire to inspire more gamers to support indie developers and smaller studios. I hope that I can at least do that with this guide.

We’ve previously covered the best indie games on the Nintendo Switch, now let’s look at the best indie games on the rest of the big three of gaming; Microsoft (PC and Xbox One) and Sony (PS4).

Best Indie Games on PC

At this point, it cannot even be argued that the PC is the best system for gaming. Even in a PC vs. consoles handicap deathmatch, the PC will still come out victorious. So if you are indie game hunting, there is no better place to do it than on this platform.

The beauty of most indie games is their low system requirements. You don’t need a suped-up gaming rig to play them. What this means is if you have a low-budget gaming PC, no need to be ashamed, your computer should be able to handle these games.

#1 Best Overall: Cuphead

  • Developer(s): Studio MDHR, Studio MDHR Entertainment Inc
  • Platforms: Windows and macOS (Also available on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One)
  • Release Date: 29 September 2017
  • Genre(s): Offline multiplayer, 2D Platform Game, Run-and-gun, Shoot ‘em up

Once in a while, a game will come along and flip the entire industry on its head, much like Little Big Planet did – which was once an indie darling too. With a perfect 10/10 score from Steam, who knew that a mom-and-pop studio-like MDHR would be next to produce one of the most industry-defining hits of this past decade.

Cuphead Gameplay

If you grew up playing run-and-gun games like Contra, Cuphead will feel like familiar territory. Many players may find the structure of the gameplay a little unforgiving. There is hardly any reprieve to be found between all the perpetual boss fights and re-spawning. However, Cuphead does come with infinite lives and allows you to keep all your equipment between deaths.

Dying is a part of the game, so if you find yourself repeating a level for the tenth time, don’t be discouraged. To make it harder for players to telegraph each level, Cuphead randomizes enemy spawns. It isn’t as grueling as a Dark Souls-like game but the sweet satisfaction you get from completing a level can be very similar to what you feel after beating a tough boss on Souls game.

The game also features local co-op multiplayer. It is perfect for taking two-player turns if you’re entertaining a mid-sized group of friends.

Cuphead Graphics

What has made Cuphead so endearing to fans is the rubber hose animation style. It’s an aesthetic very similar to a 1930s/1940s Walt Disney or Fleischer cartoon, but without the racist overtones. Yes, the art style is fun but it also gives the game an air of dread and uneasiness. It creates an almost uncanny valley effect, especially when you consider the story. It’s an almost surreal experience.

It is a 2D side run and gunner and it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer detail that has gone into some of the animations. Even though it can zoom by pretty fast. To stay alive in this game, you need to keep moving. Nevertheless, the attention to detail and quality of animation rivals games such as Metal Slug.

It leaves me with a warm feeling knowing that games like this can still exist and attract attention in an age of expensive high budget AAA titles. Those games seem to abandon creativity for graphical realism. Cuphead’s existence is almost counter-intuitive.

Cuphead Plot and Story

Have you ever heard the story of Robert Johnson? He was a young blues musician who was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. Well, Cuphead follows a very similar storyline.

Cuphead and his brother Mugman lose the rights to their souls while gambling in the Devil’s casino. After pleading with the Devil, the brothers reach an agreement with him. They will collect all the Devil’s soul contracts before midnight on the next day.

The game revolves around Cuphead and Mugman collecting soul contracts from the various bosses in the game. Underneath the very sunny façade, there is a dark and enthralling story. When players reach the end of the game, they can make one of two choices – I won’t spoil it for you. This should increase the game’s re-playability.

Cuphead Sound and Music

To match the anachronistic aesthetic of the animation, the soundtrack consists of mostly up-tempo horn centric jazz (hot club jazz). Which makes sense, since hot jazz was conceived around the early 1930s.

The only issue I have with the soundtrack is that it sounds excessively clean. It’s not grainy enough. It doesn’t sound like it’s being played through a Depression-era radio or a record player. The sound effects and animation have an authenticity that I don’t feel the music has. But it’s not a big deal.

Cuphead Overall Review

We don’t need to sit here and try to convince you that Cuphead is an amazing game. It’s won numerous awards and has earned notoriety from respectable publications such as Entertainment weekly, GamesRadar, Game Informer, etc. If you have a close romantic gaming partner, there is no indie game better to bond over than Cuphead.

But don’t run to us if it backfires and ruins your relationship because of the harsh difficulty level.

#2 Most Creative: Untitled Goose Game

  • Developer(s): House House
  • Platforms: Windows and macOS
    (Also available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox one)
  • Release Date: 20 September 2019
  • Genre(s): Single Player, Stealth, Puzzle

The greatest asset that independent developers have is freedom of creativity. Untitled Goose Game is a testament to this. It owes its success to Gen X and millennial humor. This is why it has spawned so many memes and become one of the biggest sleeper hits of 2019.

Untitled Goose Game Gameplay

Games usually put you in the pants of a bad-ass. You’re either hero or anti-hero like Kratos from God of War. But sometimes a game will come along and let you play as the troll.

Well today, that game is Untitled Goose Game. Players get to control the unnamed titular character as he waddles around causing trouble. The game is set in a farming village, separated into different sections. Each section requires you to perform a set of objects before you can proceed into the next one.

The gameplay is pretty linear but it gives you enough freedom to complete the objectives your way. The developers have admitted that the Hitman series was one of the biggest influences in making Untitled Goose Game. That influence can be felt in the stealth gameplay and the multiple ways the game allows you to complete an objective.

But don’t worry, you won’t have to assassinate or kill anyone. Like the goose, you can honk, flap your wings in anger, run, and move objects. Interacting with the villagers is key to completing most of the objectives. In terms of replay-ability, there are hidden objectives to find. Which is perfect for anyone who’s a completionist.

Untitled Goose Game Graphics:

As stated before, Untitled Goose Game owes its success to meme and social media culture. In a way, it can be said that it owes its existence to the very same culture that made it so famous. The developers were inspired to make the game after a conversation sparked by a stock photo image of a goose. These days, the most viral memes come from stock photography.

The game has an endearing art-style filled with incredibly smooth cell-shaded graphics. It’s weird how the human characters can be so expressive, considering how they don’t have eyes or noses. Which means they primarily have to use body language and thought bubbles to emote.

It’s incredibly cartoonish (in a good way) and the humor feels a bit British. Despite the animation style, the goose’s waddle and movements look realistic. The game isn’t very system-intensive either. It can be run with as little 4GB of RAM and a modern integrated GPU.

Untitled Goose Game Plot and Story

Games these have become conduits for modern-day storytelling. It seems to me that many developers have forgotten how to make games fun. Hideo Kojima is an absolute legend but we have to admit to ourselves that Death Stranding is more about the story (as confusing as it is) than it is about gameplay.

We already live in a world that un-ironically takes itself way too seriously, so why should our games do the same? That’s why it’s important for studios like House House to step up from time to time and remind us of the absurdity of life.

The point of me waxing philosophical here is because Untitled Goose Game doesn’t have a deep story. You play as a troublemaking goose. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you neither. There’s a huge surprise.

Untitled Goose Game Sound and Music

The sound is one of the best aspects of the game. Since the game doesn’t have any dialogue, a lot of focus has been made on making the game’s sound effects as engaging as possible. Every pad across the grass, rake drop, footstep, basket drag and shutting door sounds like it is supposed to.

You will hear all of this because the game does not have continuous background music. Music will play at the beginning of the level or when something important happens – like a villager getting angry.

Most of the music consists of a piano played at different tempos depending on the mood or situation.

Untitled Goose Game Overall Review

Untitled Goose Game is perfect for children and adults. It is packed with humor, puzzles, great sound, and decent re-playability. Controls are easy to learn and master. It’s no surprise that it picked up the Breakthrough Award at the Golden Joystick Awards.

It was also nominated in two different categories for The Game Awards 2019.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to try the game, then I don’t know what is.

#3 Best Graphics: Firewatch

  • Developer(s): Campo Santo
  • Platforms: Windows and macOS
    (Also available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox one)
  • Release Date: 9 February 2016
  • Genre(s): Adventure, Interactive Story, Exploration

A key reason as to why most people avoid indie games is that not a lot of them are graphically impressive. When choosing an indie game, you have to forget about photorealism or 4K and UHD graphics.

Yes, they may have a creative art-style or innovative gameplay but the majority present themselves in nostalgic16/32-bit visuals. You know an indie game when you play one. Firewatch shakes this stigma off by being one of the most ambitious indie games of recent years.

Firewatch Gameplay

Firewatch is what some snooty gamers would call a walking simulator. But it’s a lot more than that. It’s about exploration and making choices that will affect how the rest of the game plays out.

The game is played from a first-person perspective but it’s not a first-person shooter and it doesn’t give you the intense heart-thumping action of a 3-D platformer like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

The controls in the game are used mainly to interact with the objects and clues you find around the vicinity as well as cycle through dialogue choices. The controls are easy enough to learn very quickly.

Nonetheless, Firewatch’s value isn’t in the complexity of its controls but its story.

Firewatch Graphics

The game is played from a first-person perspective of the main character. It’s completely 3-D. Like most entries in this guide, Firewatch was built using the Unity engine. The game looks great, not in a Crysis 3 sort of way. More like a Team Fortress 2 sort of way. The way objects look, particularly in the interior of the lookout, is well done. It is overly filled with smooth textures, which is not always a good thing.

For instance, up close, the rocky areas look like they’re made up of crumbled chocolate. The greenery is passable though. When I said that the game looks great, I meant that the game looks great for an indie game.

Firewatch Plot and Story

Firewatch is basically an interactive choose your own ending adventure. The story takes place in 1989 Wyoming. You play as a fire lookout named Henry, posted at a lookout tower in Shoshone National Forest.

As Henry, you’ll investigate strange happenings around the forest. Much of the gameplay and story revolves around Henry checking in with his supervisor, Delilah. Communication is established using a walkie-talkie. Whenever Henry finds a clue or important object, dialogue options will appear on the screen.

The story changes and advances based on the dialogue and exploration choices you have made. In the game, Henry also interacts with a slew of other characters such as two drunken girls. This interaction is a catalyst for the rest of the events that happen in the story.

I don’t want to reveal too much but I can say that the story is engaging, enthralling and creepy. Where Untitled Goose Game was about the gameplay, Firewatch is about the story.

Best Indie Games on PS4

For the past two console generations, Sony has been extremely supportive of indie developers on their flagship consoles. For instance, who can forget Journey? Not only was it ranked 5th best PS3 game of all time by PlayStation Official, but it also has one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time.

We hope that Sony carries on the indie tradition when the PlayStation 5 comes out. For now, let’s explore the top three best indie games available on the PlayStation 4.

#1 Best Overall: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

  • Developer(s): Ninja Theory
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & Microsoft Windows)
  • Release Date: 8 August 2017
  • Genre(s): Psychological thriller/horror, hack & slash, adventure game

Some of you may be surprised to see Hellblade on this list, considering that it was developed by Ninja Theory. At the time of Hellblade’s development, Ninja Theory was technically an independent studio. Or rather, they described themselves as an Indie AAA hybrid studio.

Don’t let the high-budget story, graphics or sound fool you. Only twenty people worked on this game. Much of Hellblade’s budget went into developing it. Very little was left for marketing. What saved it from complete obscurity is the rave reviews and awards it received. Some games’ greatness is hard to ignore.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Gameplay

Team Ninja is often confused with Ninja Theory. Not just by name, they’re both known for developing some of the best hack and slash games.

Although it was widely criticized by fans (justly so), DmC: Devil May Cry’s status as one of the best hack and slash games of the 2010s is undeniable. Hellblade is a little more cerebral (literally) and story orientated. It feels like a precursor to 2018’s God of War with less action.

I cannot stress this enough, but players expecting a free-form action-filled hack and slash from Hellblade will be disappointed. Yes, you will encounter enemies, that you’ll have to defeat with a slew of heavy, light and medium attacks but despite having some of the most realistic and fluid combat, it still feels secondary.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The story is intriguing enough to follow and the world is worth exploring. But players not looking for that sort of thing may find themselves bored.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Graphics

Graphics are exceptionally great. Especially for an indie game with as little resources as this one had.  They are AAA levels of great. Well, almost.

Hellblade was built using Unreal Engine 4. Graphically, the environment looks great. From the foliage to water and fire. Light and darkness are important parts of the gameplay. Especially when you’re exploring through the game’s various caverns and caves.

The game is set mostly on the borders of Helheim. The environment feels visceral, dark and hopeless. It looks post-apocalyptic. It’s unnerving and lonely. There are basically no NPCs.

Senua’s movements do not feel or look stiff. This is important because her body language and movement is an important part of the game. There is no HUD or map. You’re basically forced to focus on what’s going on around you.

The cut-scenes use mix in-game graphics with live-action scenes. This makes the experience all the more surreal.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Plot and Story

Hellblade is celebrated for the way it handles mental illness. Ninja Theory ensured that the subject was handled with great care by consulting some of the world’s leading psychiatrists.

The story follows Senua, a Pict warrior on a quest to save the soul of her deceased lover from Helheim. Well at least on the surface. The truth is more about her quest to come to terms with her past, her mental illness and her grief.

It’s a journey into her mind as much as it’s a journey into Helheim.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Sound and Music

The voice acting in Hellblade is exceptional. It’s an integral part of the game after all. The voice cast did an amazing job, particularly Melina Juergens as the main character.

Chipo Chung played the narrator. “Into The Badlands” fans may recognize her as The Master. To make Senua’s psychosis and auditory hallucinations more realistic, the development team recorded the voices that play in Senua’s head using binaural technology.

It is advised that players use headphones to fully experience and appreciate the sound. This will give you the feeling of being in Senua’s head. With a great pair of headphones, you can hear the ‘Furies’ as well as she can.

This gives the game a sense of immersion unlike any other. The music is mostly a Celtic tribal blend. It’s heavy on the drums and usually plays during battle. Otherwise, the game is filled with very quiet moments where the only presence to keep you company is the voices playing through Senua’s head.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Overall Review

Hellbade was a passion project by the developers at Ninja Theory. You can really feel the heart and care they put into it. That’s why it’s won over twenty different awards. What you get here is a cinematic experience more immersive than Black Mirror Bandersnatch.

Because Ninja Theory is now a Microsoft owned entity, Hellblade’s sequel is an Xbox Series X exclusive. It’s one of the launch titles. While you won’t be able to play it on your PS4 (or PS5), it’s still worth purchasing and playing on your PS4.

#2 Most Creative: Gris

  • Developer(s): Nomada Studio
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Also available on Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows & iOS)
  • Release Date: 26 November 2019 (PS4)
  • Genre(s): Platform, adventure, puzzle-solving

Gris was initially released on the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows. Near the beginning of winter 2019, the developers, Nomada finally released a port for the PlayStation 4.

Gris is another example of what a small studio can create when it’s not pressurized by sales and marketing statistics. When it’s not bogged down by the desires and expectations of a large platform or studio. Gris’s defiant existence isn’t the only reason why you should play it.

Gris Gameplay

Gris is a 2D platforming game with a heavy emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving. There’s not much action in the opening stages of the game.

You’ll only encounter enemies later in the game. The objective is to collect as many abilities as possible as a means to traverse and travel through the many locations in the game. Since it’s a platformer, controls are relatively easy to pick up and learn.

Gris Graphics

Gris runs on the Unity engine. A favored option for most indie developers. The art-style is very reminiscent of Journey, particularly the character design and environments.

The game is a 2D platformer but the locations feel alive and often contain loads of great visual imagery. Whether its nebulas smoke clouds or an area lighting up with color, the game feels very lively and dynamic. Even the most desolate portions of the game.

There are far-off mountains and forests, which makes it feel like you are not stuck on a singular path. It’s as if there is more to a location but your character just chose to walk this particular path because it will lead her to her objective quicker.

Gris Plot and Story

As with most art or stylized indie titles, Gris’s story is very abstract. The titular character has no discernible origin or surname. Her name is just Gris, kind of like Cher or Madonna. You have no background information on what planet she’s on or what time period the game is set in.

Which works for most casual gamers. The less story there is, the more focus placed on the game mechanics. The game is not completely devoid of a story though. Besides the beautifully designed settings and art, there needs to be some motivation to keep players interested.

The game begins with the titular character waking up in the palm of a statue. It’s a statue of a woman, floating in the sky (don’t ask me). The statue crumbles after Gris tries to sing out but can’t cause of her missing voice.

This leaves Gris plummeting to the earth below. As she explores and travels through its many locations, she finds giant structures that seem to be powered by stars. She can unlock new abilities by collecting these stars.

The final ability unlocked is her singing voice, which she uses to re-assemble and revive the statue woman. There’s a metaphor hidden somewhere here but I’m not sure what it is.

Gris Sound and Music

As you can tell by the story, the sound is an important part of the game. For the most part, the soundtrack is calm and relaxing.

The music was composed by Barcelona based band, Berlin. Their Bandcamp bio reads: “Berlinist dreams about music and makes music like dreams”. They did an exceptional job in creating the various soundscapes and music for the game.

It really fits like a glove.

It’s a very dreamy experience. The only time the music picks up is during the latter dark stages of the game when the main character encounters enemy creatures.

While there isn’t much dialogue in the game. Although, the game does use Berlinist’s vocalist to play Gris’s singing voice. The sound effects are also rich and clear. You can hear Gris’s footfalls and the swoosh of the wind while exploring the most desolate areas of the game.

Gris Overall Review

Just like Hellblade won the award for Games for Impact from the 2017 Game Awards, Gris did the same in 2019. There’s a deeper meaning to the game that honestly flies over my head. But maybe it won’t be lost to you.

However, this is not to say that the game is pretentious or unplayable for those who don’t have the depth to truly understand it.

There is a great enjoyment to be had, whether you have a degree in humanities/English literature or not.

#3 Best Graphics: Dear Esther: Landmark Edition

  • Developer(s): The Chinese Room
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Also available on Xbox One, Microsoft Windows & OS X)
  • Release Date: 20 September 2016 (PS4)
  • Genre(s): Adventure, art, exploration

Dear Esther is the granddaddy of all walking simulators. Games like Firewatch wouldn’t be a thing without it. It has been dubbed as the most successful walking simulator of all time.

It’s another testament to the necessity of indie creativity. For those of you looking for a game that is narrative-driven, then the PlayStation 4’s version of Dear Esther may hit the spot for you.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Gameplay

Dear Esther’s charm is in its minimal gameplay. There are no complex control schemes to learn. Like most walking simulators, the game is presented in a first-person view.

Your main objective as the player is to explore through the empty island. Not only do you find new areas on the island, but every area you find unlocks a new piece in the overarching narrative.

The story being told feels sometimes unrelated to your presence on the island. Nevertheless, it provides good motivation to keep trudging forward to find out more and complete the story.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Graphics

The game’s history is longer than people thing. It was first released in 2008 as a free-to-play game. Mostly to showcase the Source engine’s abilities. Since then it’s been re-mastered using the Unity engine and re-released on various platforms.

In Dear Esther, it doesn’t feel like you’re walking around as you explore the island. You feel more like a disembodied spirit floating around it. Maybe this was intentional. Maybe it was a way to keep you focused on the island’s various vistas and sites. It’s a bit like slowly zooming through street view on Google maps.

The graphics are great. Some of the more rocky areas aren’t textured as well as they could be. This is a little unfortunate. But the water looks great and so does the foliage around the island. There are also caverns and old buildings worth exploring.

The fact of the matter is that the graphics have to be at least good to keep players interested, even though it is short. The average run-time is around one hour and thirty minutes.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Plot and Story

The player-controlled character does not seem to have an intrinsic story of their own. As I’ve stated before, you feel like a disembodied spirit haunting this island. Or a visitor of some sort, scanning through the island.

You’re never told why you’re on this specific island or why. You’re left to draw your own conclusion by what you’ve seen on your explorations and the overarching story that’s revealed to you as you walk around the island.

Esther’s story is revealed to you in the form of a narrator reading a host of letters. Each letter that is read is related to the area you’ve just found – in one way or the other.

To increase the game’s re-playability, new and different audio fragments are revealed with every play-through. It’s a very innovative way to experience storytelling. And don’t be fooled, despite all the work it took to bring the island to life, it’s all about the story.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Sound and Music

The sound is everything you’d expect from an art game. Far-away sounding flutes, violins and soft pianos. Jessica Curry, who won a BAFTA award for her work on Everybody’s Gone to Rapture, composed the music. She was also nominated for a BAFTA for her work on Dear Esther.

The game has a few quiet moments, particularly the portions where you’re just walking around before discovering another area that will unlock a new sound fragment.

You can’t hear your own footfalls for the most part – not even when you’re walking through a cave. You would expect some echo but it just does not happen. What you do hear is the other noises a cave would make. Like drips of water.

It’s the same for the games grassy areas. You hear the wind running through the foliage and trees. The only thing to accompany you through most of the game is the narrator’s voice. Which is at times deep and ominous.

Dear Esther: Landmark Edition Overall Review

Dear Esther is a great game to relax to after a long day at work. Dear Esther is for anyone looking for a short escape that doesn’t have a huge learning curve. It’s a good introduction to new gamers. It can be finished in one sitting but it’s also worth revisiting, just in case you feel that you’ve missed something on your first playthrough.

Best Indie Games on Xbox One

The Xbox One doesn’t have a roster of exclusives as impressive as the PS4’s but luckily, most indie games are cross-platform games. This isn’t to imply that there are no indie exclusives. For instance, before its release on the Nintendo Switch, Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the best exclusives on the Xbox One.

The following list proves that the Xbox isn’t just about Halo and Gears of War. You can also support indie developers on this platform.

#1 Best Overall: State of Decay 2

  • Developer(s): Undead Labs
  • Platforms: Xbox One (Also available on Microsoft Windows)
  • Release Date: 22 May 2018
  • Genre(s): Survival horror

Who doesn’t love open-world games? While media centered around zombies has lost its luster over the last decade, people still can’t get enough of open-world survival horrors. Gamers still want to feel like Rick Grimes in the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead.

State of Decay won’t let you be a badass like Rick or Frank West from the Dead Rising series, but it’s still one of the most impressive indie titles in the world.

State of Decay 2 Gameplay

State of Decay 2, just like the first game, is a zombie apocalypse game. In order to survive in the game, you’ll have to form your own community of survivors. Scavenging and fighting off zombie hoards is a huge part of the game.

As well as recruiting. It’s a single-player game with multiplayer in it. You can have up to three of your friends in co-op play. To survive the zombie apocalypse, you’ll need to fortify your settlement with everything useful that you’ve found while scavenging.

Overall, the game gives you a very Walking Dead like experience. Almost everything about it. Not only do you encounter friendly human allies but you also get enemy allies from enemy bases and communities.

How you socialize and interact with the human populace in the game will influence how well you survive. To protect yourself from enemies, there’s a great range of guns, tools, and explosives. Firefights are fun but a hoard of zombies can overwhelm you.

State of Decay 2 Graphics

The graphics on State of Decay 2 are generally good. Like most open-world games, the game allows you to drive and control vehicles. They don’t give you a simulated experience of driving but each vehicle handles very differently.

The player and zombie models do leave a lot to be desired though. Their movements can be little unnatural and glitchy. This drop in quality is in full display during melee combat.

The game displays dawn and sunsets beautifully. The various environments in the game are beautifully done. No complaints from me.

State of Decay 2 Plot and Story

Since the game allows you to make your own customized character with his/her own backstory, the game doesn’t follow a traditional singular narrative. All there is to the story is that you’ve been dropped into a zombie apocalypse and it is your job to survive.

You’ll have an opportunity to ebb some of the spread of the virus behind the apocalypse and there are plenty of other side missions to complete in the game. While games like Hellblade rely on an emotional connection and story, SoD 2 is about the game and the gameplay.

State of Decay 2 Sound and Music

One of the biggest challenges in making an open-world game is sound. The amount of work that goes into recording all the dialogue and sound effects is extremely time-consuming. Then you have to make it all work and feel natural in the game.

State of Decay hasn’t failed in this department. The soundtrack consists of mostly suspenseful music. The type you would hear in a horror. It makes sense; you can’t exactly play K-Pop while creeping through the dark as quietly as possible so a zombie doesn’t notice you.

The soundtrack was produced by Danish composer Jesper Kyd. He’s known for his work on Assassin Creed, Hitman, and Borderlands.

State of Decay 2 Overall Review

State of Decay isn’t the best action zombie game out there. But it gives you such a great Walking Dead-esque experience that you have to play it if you’re a fan of the show or comic books. Even if you’re not, there’s still a lot of enjoyment to get out of this game.

There aren’t a lot of indie games with co-op play. That’s one of the many reasons why State of Decay 2, as well as its DLC and expansion packs, are worth playing on your Xbox One.

#2 Most Creative: Night in the Woods

  • Developer(s): Infinite Fall
  • Platforms: Xbox One (Also available on PlayStation 4, Android, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Linux & OS X)
  • Release Date: 10 January 2017
  • Genre(s): Single-player adventure, art, platform

Over the Garden Wall is a criminally underrated animated miniseries. The first time I played Night in the Woods, it instantly gave me OtG vibes mixed with a little Bojack Horseman. Mostly due to the anthropomorphic characters and the heavy social themes.

If you haven’t figured it out by now; yes, it’s another narrative/story-driven game. However, what differentiates it from others?

Night in the Woods Gameplay

Night in the Woods is basically a 2D walking simulator. Maybe that would be an insult to the game. The game has platform mechanics. To progress through the story, players will need to run and jump as a means not to overcome enemies but as a means to explore the town and uncover its story.

The game feels like an interactive comic book. There are a few mini-games strewn out through the town of Possum Springs but even so, you can tell that it’s about the story.

This also means that any player should be able to learn the game’s controls and explore the town without much effort.

Night in the Woods Graphics

It feels a little strange referring to Night in the Woods’ graphics as graphics. They feel more like interactive illustrations. I know that these count as graphics too but we’ve learned to associate graphics with textures, pixels, and realism.

Night in the Woods has a very distinct art style. It sometimes feels similar to the animated cut out of style of shows like South Park. The scenery and character design are very charming. It’s a perfect vehicle to convey some of the game’s heavier themes.

Night in the Woods Plot and Story

Night in the Woods feels more like an interactive cartoon, more than it does a story. Yes, it has charm and humor but much like The Regular Show, you can feel the reality biting you beneath the surface. In the case of Night in the Woods, it’s a little more apparent.

The story follows Mae, who is forced to drop out of college and go back to her hometown of Possum Springs. Possum Springs, like many towns in America, was once a productive mining town until its mine was shut down.

Mae discovers that her town is hiding a dark secret. The game becomes about not only finding and exposing this secret, but it’s about self-exploration. It’s about understanding Mae through her various interactions with her friends and town-folk.

Night in the Woods Sound and Music

There is barely any voice acting in the game. The story and interactions are carried out using speech bubbles. There are sound effects, like the crunch of leaves as Mae walks through the autumn streets.

The music is constant. It changes tone and speed depending on which area you’re in. The producers released three albums of the game’s music on Band Camp. If you’re looking for ambient study music, you should definitely check it out. It’s a relaxing listen.

Night in the Woods Overall Review

Endearing, enchanting, charming, emotional, heart wrenching and triggering are words I’d used to describe Night in the Woods. A word you might use is boring. Well, it really depends on your tastes. If you have the attention to follow this model of story-telling then it’s the perfect game for you.

Its lack of violence, art direction and very vanilla game mechanics means that it’s the perfect game for young children too. However, there are heavy themes of loss and mental illness that can only be appreciated by adults.

#3 Best Graphics: A Way Out

  • Developer(s): Hazelight Studios
  • Platforms: Xbox One (Also available on PS4 and Microsoft Windows)
  • Release Date: 23 March 2018
  • Genre(s): Multiplayer, action, and adventure

Ever noticed how story-driven indie titles are very art-house or abstract in nature? There aren’t a lot of titles suited to meatheads like me.

This is where a Way Out comes in. It’s a prison-based action/drama game. It’s very inventive in the way it implements the story and game mechanics.

A Way Out Gameplay

Multiplayer in a Way Out is mandatory. You need two players to control the two main characters. It can be played both as an online or offline co-op.

Co-operation between the two characters is a huge part of the game. There are sections where one player will be forced to watch cut scenes while the other player will be able to control their character because each character progresses differently in the story.

The beauty of this game is how each challenge can be approached differently. It almost gives you the same freedom as Hitman when it comes to completing objectives. The game also has minigames such as arm wrestling, darts, bottle shooting, baseball, basketball, etc.

A Way Out Graphics

Another reason to appreciate AWO is because of its graphics and character design. It has very GTA IV like character designs. They aim for realism. The Unreal Engine 4 was the perfect game engine to run it.

The game is played on a split-screen. This can sometimes feel a little jarring and cramped, but you get used to it after a while.

A Way Out Plot and Story

On the surface, the game follows two convicts as they try to escape a prison. But on a deeper level, it’s about betrayal, revenge, and regret. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story but it has a lot of tropes you’d expect from a crime thriller.

The story gets a little convoluted during the middle and later stages. Your decisions in the game do affect the ending. It’s worth playing again after you’ve finished it the first time so you can see the alternative ending.

A Way Out Sound and Music

Sometimes the game’s voice acting can be laughably bad. But it’s tolerable when you don’t focus on it. The sound effects are great. The ambient background music consists of slow jazz and piano music. It works to build up the game’s tension.

It’s basically scored like a movie. It’s quiet when it needs to be.

A Way Out Overall Review

A Way Out is a great way to bond with a friend or start a fight with them. It’s an awesome cinematic gaming experience for players who aren’t looking for an artsy game with symbolism to decipher.

There’s plenty of action and suspense to keep your hands firmly on the controller and your eyes glued to the screen.

Final Words

Phew! There you have it. In this guide, we covered the top three independent games for the top three platforms. After reaching the end of our guide, I hope that you will buy more games for indie developers. Even if you don’t find any of the games in this guide tantalizing, I hope this guide serves as an exemplification of the importance of indie games and developers. As always, thank you for reading and keep on gaming.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


Mduduzi Sibisi