Best Indie Games on Steam

Best Indie Games on Steam

Having hundreds of employees and hundreds of contractors is a surefire way to make an excellent game but what about when you have a tiny team and a very limited budget? Well, that’s the challenge Indie (independent) Game Developers face.

Due to their limited budgets and fundamental need to acquire new customers, indie game developers flock to Steam. Steam is a platform for PC gamers to buy, download and play games from a huge variety of developers. Over 10,000 games are being added to steam every year and the overwhelming majority of them are made by indie developers.

What is an Indie Game?

Let’s define what we mean when we say “indie.” There are a lot of opinions regarding the term “indie.” Let me set some ground rules that I followed when qualifying games as indie games:

  • The game was made by a studio that is privately owned
  • The game was made by a studio that doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars or hundreds of employees
  • The game must have a Metacritic score of 75 percent or higher.
  • All games must have role-playing elements in them.

With that out of the way, let’s discuss the games themselves. Here are the top 15 best Indie Games on Steam, in no particular order.

Inscryption

  • Developer: Daniel Mullins Games
  • Genre: Roguelike Deck-Building
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.7
  • Steam Review Score: 97% Positive
  • Release Date: October 2021

If you’re a fan of deckbuilding or card battler games you’ll love this game. It’s not only an excellent card game, but it contains a lot of fantastic references to other card games and card game metas. Paired with an amazing art style and mood, there’s a lot to love. 

Without spoiling the game, the story is much deeper and more interesting than you would expect. It’s incredibly difficult to write about this game and what makes it incredible without spoiling the surprises. The game is chock-full of surprises and if card games are your thing, you should play Inscryption.

Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire

  • Developer: Mega Crit Games
  • Genre: Roguelike Deck-Building
  • Metacritic User Score: 7.5
  • Steam Review Score: 97% Positive
  • Release Date: January 2019

Slay the Spire is perhaps the ultimate roguelike card game. Since its release, it has made its way onto many all-time-best game lists which would certainly be appropriate for this game.

In Slay The Spire, you play as one of four decks and battle your way through a randomly generated map to the final bosses. The catch is, you start with barely any cards and you must acquire them throughout your journey.

The game design in this game ensures that each attempt at beating the final bosses game will have a unique path. There will be different cards in your deck, there will be different charms in your inventory. All of these factors, and more, are what allow Slay the Spire to be endlessly re-playable.

Undertale

  • Developer: Toby Fox
  • Genre: 2D RPG
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.4
  • Steam Review Score: 96% Positive
  • Release Date: September 2015

It wouldn’t be an indie game’s list without one of the most popular indie games, an indie darling titled Undertale. In this game, you progress through a linear story confronting a variety of enemies and meeting a colorful cast of characters. The writing and music in this game are probably the highlights although the unique battling style deserves mention as well.

One of the most interesting aspects of this game is that the player can choose not to kill every enemy and it’s entirely possible to play the entire game without killing anything. That’s fairly unique when it comes to RPG games and games at-large. Undertale has lots of great things to offer, if you like RPGs and narrative-rich games, check it out!

Here’s everything you need to know about Undertale.

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

  • Developer: Nicalis
  • Genre: Action Roguelike
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.4
  • Steam Review Score: 97% Positive
  • Release Date: November 2014

Another indie darling: Binding of Isaac, has made it onto the list! This game was perhaps one of the first indie games to capitalize on the roguelike formula for replayability. This game is a top-down shooter action game where the level layouts and loot are randomly generated. Each playthrough will be different and it has a ton of depth. 

On top of all of that, the game has a unique art style and premise, playing as a fetus. The aesthetic isn’t a hit with everyone but it’s certainly not something you will see out of a AAA game. The gameplay is solid and on that merit alone, it’s worth a buy!

Super Meat Boy

  • Developer: Team Meat
  • Genre: 2D Precision Platformer
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.2
  • Steam Review Score: 94% Positive
  • Release Date: November 2010

Following up Binding of Isaac on the list is Super Meat Boy, another game that is relatively dark and grim. The creators of Super Meat Boy certainly were not averse to adding cartoon blood and gore to their game. This game is a precision platformer meaning the character requires very fine control to avoid getting splattered by a variety of environmental hazards.

Once you get your hands on this title you will be sucked into a world that requires a lot of work to explore. The level of challenge in this game is what drives people to keep trying over and over, and it’s what makes beating the game so fulfilling.

Hades

Hades Game

  • Developer: Supergiant Games
  • Genre: 2D Action Roguelike
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.8
  • Steam Review Score: 98% Positive
  • Release Date: September 2020

One of the newest games on the list, Hades is an fantastic entry. This game was made by a slightly larger team than most indie games but still significantly smaller than an AAA game. You wouldn’t be able to tell that from playing though, the game’s art, game-feel, voice-overs, and music are all excellent. 

You play as the son of Hades trying to escape Hell. The game is structured like a rogue-like game where each escape attempt has different levels and different items. Supergiant is known for excellent games and Hades is perhaps their best yet!

Papers, Please

  • Developer: Lucas Pope
  • Genre: Simulation Puzzle
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.5
  • Steam Review Score: 97% Positive
  • Release Date: August 2013

Have you ever wanted to be a border control officer? Have you ever wanted to spend your whole day sorting through papers and documents? I bet the answer to both of those questions is “no.” Despite that, Papers, Please will be a game that will sit with you for a long time. It’s a marvelous game where you play as a border officer sorting through people’s immigration documents.

It’s a game about the nuances of moral decisions, it deals with people and their struggles. The soviet dystopian theme is very strong in this game and adds a ton of depth. Will you let the suspicious people pass for a bribe? Will you reject a poor lady that doesn’t have the right papers? The outcome of these decisions is fascinating, trust me!

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

  • Developer:  Yacht Club Games
  • Genre: 2D Action Platformer
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.3
  • Steam Review Score: 96% Positive
  • Release Date: June 2014

One of the biggest and best 2d Platformers in the indie game list is Shovel Knight. This is a game that has been consistently iterated and developed by the dedicated team “Yacht Club Games.” Originally Shovel Knight was first funded entirely by the Kickstarter community who fell in love with the art style and the gameplay.

Shovel Knight harkens back to a time when games were much more simplistic. Traverse through the world, collect items, and battle bosses. The success of this game proves that a simple game is not necessarily a bad game. I highly recommend you check this out, it’s an absolute labor of love. A retro game with a few modern twists…

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

  • Developer: ConcernedApe
  • Genre: 2D Farming Simulator
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.8
  • Steam Review Score: 98% Positive
  • Release Date: February 2016

Stardew Valley is probably the most wholesome game on this list. The goal of this game is to simply run a farm and enjoy yourself! Many NPCs live in a nearby town which you can choose to befriend or even marry if you feel up for it.

There are enemies you can fight, plants you can grow, animals to tend to, and a huge amount of social elements. Stardew Valley is probably the best indie simulation of what it would be like to run a farm in a quaint little farming town.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight

  • Developer: Team Cherry
  • Genre: 2D Metroidvania
  • Metacritic User Score: 9.0
  • Steam Review Score: 97% Positive
  • Release Date: February 2017

Hollow Knight takes a lot of inspiration from Metroid and Castlevania games which earns it a spot in one of the greatest Metroidvania games out there, indie or otherwise. You play in a dark and dingy world full of bugs! There is a spooky corruption plaguing this world and your task is to get to the bottom of it.

You will battle unique enemies, bosses and upgrade your character with a variety of interesting items. The world is massive and not necessarily linear. This is a game that heavily rewards you for exploring. Give it a try if you’re looking for a world to get lost in.

Check out our complete Hollow Knight getting started guide.

Subnautica

subnautica game

  • Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
  • Genre: 3D Openworld Survival
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.6
  • Steam Review Score: 96% Positive
  • Release Date: January 2018

Subnautica has a lot to offer its players. The goal of the game is to figure out what happened. You start the game underwater and spend your entire time exploring the depths of your miniature submarine. You will uncover clues related to the narrative to the game and recover items that help you progress and upgrade.

Monsters are lurking in the water which you will eventually be able to combat. Overall, this game has tons of depth, pun intended. The greatest attraction is the massively detailed underwater world, which is a highly uncommon locale in gaming.

Among Us

Among Us

  • Developer: Innersloth
  • Genre: Multiplayer Social Deduction
  • Metacritic User Score: 6.9
  • Steam Review Score: 92% Positive
  • Release Date: November 2018

Due to this game’s popularity, it’s unlikely you haven’t heard of Among Us but ill explain the appeal and the game nonetheless! This is a social deduction game so it can only be played with other people, not solo. The goal of the game is to complete a variety of tasks without dying.

Sounds simple enough right? Well, there’s an added complexity because one of your teammates has a completely alternate goal. Their goal is to kill everyone. Your job will be to survive and deduce who the imposter is. There will be erroneous accusations, surprises, and lots of arguments. Lots of fun to be had for all!

Related: Among Us Getting Guide.

Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon

  • Developer: Red Hook Studios
  • Genre: Turned Based 2D Roguelike
  • Metacritic User Score: 7.9
  • Steam Review Score: 91% Positive
  • Release Date: January 2016

Darkest Dungeon is a fascinating entry. This game is very dark and grim and it takes full advantage of that aesthetic to bring you amazingly appropriate gameplay. In this game, you control a group of adventurers that are liable to get sick, go insane, or do something else equally devastating.

You and your adventurers will depart the safety of the town to crawl through a dark and grim dungeon battling enemies and bosses. You will eventually lose your key adventurers and perhaps even lose your mind a little bit. Just joking about the mind thing, or am I?

Terraria

  • Developer: Re-Logic
  • Genre: 2D Sandbox Survival
  • Metacritic User Score: 8.7
  • Steam Review Score: 98% Positive
  • Release Date: May 2011

The sandbox game Terraria is one of the best examples of an indie game with replayability and tons of activities to do. You can choose to battle bosses, go mining or sit by the beach and fish. This game has all of the complexity of a AAA RPG and all of the charm of an indie game. 

Terraria has received a lot of additional content updates since its initial release and is currently miles ahead of where it was when it launched. To see all this game has to offer, you’ll have to play Terraria for dozens of hours. A journey not many has regretted!

Unpacking

Unpacking game

  • Developer: Witch Beam
  • Genre: 2D Puzzle
  • Metacritic User Score: 7.8
  • Steam Review Score: 91% Positive
  • Release Date: November 2021 (Check out some of the best indie games released in 2021)

Some people might not give unpacking the time of day since it doesn’t look like a game full of action or gameplay. The beauty of Unpacking is a subtle one. Alongside its beautiful pixel, art and meticulous attention to sound effects is a narrative that plays out through the medium of packing.

Throughout this game, you spend your time unpacking household objects out of boxes and placing them in their corresponding places. The gameplay itself is very serene and peaceful. Over time, you will notice a narrative unpacking in front of your eyes! A strong entry, especially for gamers looking for something other than high-octane shooters.

Here’s our complete Unpacking Review.

Honorable Mentions

Steam Indie Games

We would love to keep going but had to cut the list off at some point. Here are the honorable mentions which missed the list.

  • Superhot: An fps with an interesting twist regarding slow motion.
  • Hotline Miami: A top-down shooter full of action and amazing retro vibes.
  • To The Moon: A story-rich RPG game with a beautifully told narrative.
  • Rogue Legacy: An action-packed roguelike game with tons of content and depth.
  • Bastion: A fascinating game made by the same developers as Hades.
  • The Talos Principle: A puzzle game with very well-thought-out puzzles and a beautiful world to explore.
  • Don’t Starve: A very wholesome, yet occasionally spooky game about surviving in the wild.
  • Fez: An interesting twist on puzzle games where you can rotate the levels.
  • Dead Cells: A Metroidvania game with beautiful art direction and a solid game feel.
  • What Remains of Edith Finch: A breathtaking journey through a house connected with the life story of its inhabitants.

FAQ

Question: Are there more amazing indie games on Steam?

Answer: Of course! Steam is a platform that has over 60,000 unique games! Some are made by AAA studios but the overwhelming majority are made by indies. You can search Steam by specific categories or tags which will ensure you find a game you’re interested in.

Question: Does Steam do sales or events?

Answer: Yes! Steam does three major sales each year. Indies often participate, discounting their games. The sales occur in the Winter, Summer, and Fall. Keep your eyes peeled on the steam front page for announcements regarding those sales.

Question: How can I further support indies on Steam?

Answer: Indies typically don’t have huge marketing budgets or any infrastructure to help them get publicity. This is where you come in! If you enjoyed a steam game, don’t hesitate to give it a positive review. Positive reviews help boost a game’s visibility in the marketplace.

Conclusion

There is a huge number of excellent indie games out there, especially on Steam, I tried to create this list keeping in mind to display games from assorted genres. If you’re looking for recommendations in a specific genre, use Steam’s category tags to refine your search and you’ll run into dozens of excellent indie games.

You may be asking, “but Viktor, what’s your favorite game from this list?” Well, it’s hard to pick across all of these genres since they all bring different elements to the table. If I was forced, which I suppose I am, I would select Terraria as my favorite from this list. It’s multiplayer, it’s singleplayer, it has tons of activities and tons of content. Play all of the games on this list and you’ll find it incredibly difficult to select a “best” game as well!

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