The gaming industry, much like any industry tied to media, is an ever-moving conveyor belt of content. While it might slow down now and again, it doesn’t stay that way for long. One minute we are talking about a groundbreaking title that has set new standards for those that come after with unparalleled gameplay, world design, and narrative.
Then within days, the gaming community will have moved onto something else as if the former never even existed. What I’m getting at here is that it’s pretty tough to keep up to date with what’s in the cultural zeitgeist, and that goes double for the indie gaming community.
Unlike all those AAA games out there with huge budgets for marketing campaigns, and hundreds of staff members to ensure the game stays on its meticulously planned roadmap to release. Indie games have to simply put their best work out there into the ether and hope that fans flock to their games.
This makes knowing what is new and exciting within the indie scene a little bit more of a challenge, but thanks to us guys here at Indie Game Culture, you won’t have to do hours of research just to know which indie games will inevitably be clearing out your wallet next year.
We’ve looked into our crystal ball, done some digging around, and have come up with a list that we believe is a comprehensive rundown of the best indie titles that you should be adding to your respective wishlists in 2023.
Now, obviously, there is a little bit of guesswork involved here as very rarely is there a set release date for games of this nature. However, we have a keen eye for this sort of thing, so if we list it here, we give you permission to climb aboard the hype train. Okay, enough preamble. Here are the Indie Games on our Radar for 2023. Enjoy!
Oh, look, it’s the boring man with the rules aiming to spoil our fun. Yes, yes, I’m horrible, but hear me out. I want to make sure that this list is as accurate and informative as it possibly can be. So with that in mind, here are some considerations that have been taken into account when creating this list:
- All games on this list must be certified indie games. No major publishers, and no huge teams of developers
- All games must have something unique about them. No run of the mill stuff here, only games we can truly get excited about
- All games listed must be, at the very least, somewhat likely of releasing in 2023
- All games must be in development. So no kickstarters or anything of that ilk.
Okay, let’s step into the future and see what awaits us indie lovers in 2023!
Indie Games on Our Radar for 2023
- Developer: Team Cherry
- Genre: Metroidvania
Let’s start things off with the ‘well duh’ entry on this list. Many of you will remember when the stunning Metroidvania epic, Hollow Knight, first burst onto the scene. Not only offering punishing, refined gameplay, and lots of replay value, but it also offers a world rich in lore and intrigue. So naturally, indie fans flocked to this title, and it has a loyal fanbase full of casual and hardcore gamers alike, and this game is also held dear by the speedrunning community.
It’s only natural that Team Cherry wants to keep the gravy train flowing, but it seems they have lost the granules, as the metaphorical gravy is yet to be poured. Fans have been chomping at the bit to catch a glimpse of the sequel to this beloved side-scrolling hack and slasher, and we have our fingers crossed that Team Cherry has been holding their cards to their chest, as to avoid a stressful run-in to release.
Is 2023 going to be the year of Silksong? We sure hope so.
#2 – SCHiM
- Developer: Extra Nice
- Genre: Puzzle Platformer
If anyone was wondering, this is my personal indie game to watch in 2023. Schim is another word for phantom, and it’s all too fitting as, in this game, you play as a being that has been separated from its mortal shell, and your task is to find and become one with your earthly self again, but that’s easier said than done. For you see, you can only exist in the shadows.
This leads to a series of meticulously crafted levels where you will need to use a blend of platforming skill and puzzle-solving ability to shadow-hop and get to the end of each stage.
From what little we have seen of this game, we can already see that it looks the part, is very technically sound, and bouncing from shadow to shadow looks super cathartic. This is my pick of the bunch and one you need to pick up in 2023!
- Developer: Aggro Crab
- Genre: Souls-like
My gaming library is a pretty eclectic set of odds and ends. I love the punishing and brutal combat of Soulslike games, but equally, I love nothing more than settling in for a long session of farming crops in a cozy title like Harvest Moon. Well, what if you took that whimsy, dialed the contrast and saturation up to ten, but still kept the souls like combat? Well, you would have Another Crab’s Treasure.
In this game, you take control of a hermit crab that has lost its shell, and you will have to use the trash littering the ocean floor to serve as armor as you battle your way through fearsome sea creatures and reclaim what is rightfully yours.
It’s a game that marries tough combat, unique armor mechanics, and a vibrant world to great effect. All the while, shining a light on the real-world issue of polluted, trash-filled oceans. For souls like fans that want something new with a more varied color palette, this could be a fun departure from the norm.
#4 – Core Keeper
- Developer: Pugstorm
- Genre: Simulation
Minecraft, Terraria, Deep Rock Galactic. There have been so many mining/exploration-based indies that have knocked our socks off, and I would wager that we are about to see another. Core Keeper is a co-op mining game, currently in early access, that sees the player work together to build bases, form an underground community, explore the mines to uncover secrets, and battle whatever nasty cave-dwellers that stand in your way.
Do you remember how Stardew Valley’s mining was by far the most engrossing part of that game? Well, Core Keeper leans into this, and provides an entire game shaped around that format. This game is still a little rough around the edges, and there are still a lot of additions to be made, but we reckon that we will see this one over the line in 2023. However, if you are impatient, head over to Steam and get this one on Early Access!
#5 – Sons of the Forest
- Developer: Endnight Games
- Genre: Survival
I was a big fan of The Forest when it burst onto the scene and took the traditional survival gaming community by storm. Its blend of crafting, base building, and survival horror elements made for a journey to find your son Timmy that would live long in the memory. However, I will admit I was a little too wrapped up in building a treehouse and becoming king of the cannibals to care about my lost son. Well, now we are on the hunt for a lost billionaire in Sons of the Forest.
This game will see us return to this terrifying island, which has a few new tricks up its sleeve. Oh, advancements in technology, how do you plan to find new ways to spook me this time? As before, you, or a group of pals, will need to live off the land, excavate some caves, and deal with the terrifying, flesh-hungry locals. All in a day’s work for a survivalist, I suppose. I would love to see Bear Grylls handle this.
#6 – Aka
- Developer: Cosmo gatto
- Genre: Simulation
Enough scary stuff; let’s reinstate wholesome vibes in the form of Aka, a game that looks like a blend of Tunic and Animal Crossing, but plays much more like the latter, with, admittedly, a heavier focus on narrative. In this game, you play as a little fox that has returned from war, and must now simply exist and acclimatize after the stresses and hardship of battle.
It’s a game that acutely deals with the topic of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, and does so by highlighting just how tough it is to find peace, serenity, and normality after the fighting stops. It’s a cute game with lots of mindful moments for reflection, lots of opportunities to make your home quentessentially yours, and if the demo is anything to go by, this game will hit you right in the feels, mark my words. Aka is a game you need to wishlist, now!
#7 – Sea of Stars
- Developer: Sabotage Studio
- Genre: RPG
I’ve never been a huge fan of top-down turn-based RPGs. The Final Fantasy series and older titles like Secrets of Mana and Vagrant Story are just about the only ones I would say I truly hold in high regard. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of games like Octopath Traveller, Ni No Kuni, and in the case of this entry, Sea of Stars.
Sea of Stars aims to offer an RPG adventure that is likely to transport us back to the 1990s when RPGs of this nature were the market leaders. In this title, you will have to combine the power of the sun and moon as a means of using Eclipse magic.
The only magic that stands a chance of ridding the world of the Fleshmancer, an alchemist with, let’s say, less than pure intentions. It’s a throwback to RPGs of old, with the benefit of modern refinement. So for you retro RPG nerds, this is an unmissable title.
#8 – High on Life
- Developer: Squanch Games
- Genre: FPS
If you are a Rick and Morty fan, then you are likely aware of this game, as co-creator Justin Roliand has decided to throw his hat into the game development ring, and High on Life is a game that shares the same energy as his TV creations. In this game, you play in a futuristic world where guns are no longer inanimate objects, but instead living, breathing, talking, killing tools. Oh, and humans are now slaves to an alien race; go figure.
Your role is to free the human race from said slavery, and do so with the help of a roster of weapons with lively personalities. There is a fear that this game might be a little gimmick heavy and rely on the comic genius of its cast to pave over the less-than-impressive gameplay.
But hey, that’s the worst-case scenario; let’s just hope that this game is as fun, comical, and zany as it looks. What are the odds of a gun that turns enemies into pickles? Pretty likely, I would assume.
#9 – House Flipper 2
- Developer: Frozen District
- Genre: Simulation
Here’s one for you savvy real estate moguls just waiting for the housing market to crash. House Flipper was a game that, as the name suggests, had you buy houses, fix them up, add as much value as you could and then sell them for a huge profit.
Well, House Flipper 2 promises to deliver more of the same, but with more bells and whistles, and perhaps more unique features so you can pimp your newly acquired crib in infinite new ways.
Of all the titles on this list, this is perhaps the most unremarkable of the lot, as it will simply be an upgrade on what we already have. However, my justification is that there isn’t another game on the market that fully embraces the art of interior design.
So if we get better visuals, more decor options, and perhaps a more refined ‘business/story mode’, then we can all go home happy. Provided you haven’t flipped it already.
#10 – Kerbal Space Program 2
- Developer: Intercept Games
- Genre: Simulation
How hard is it to make an indie game? It’s not exactly rocket science. Except when it literally is. I’m, of course, referring to Kerbal Space Program, a game about launching little frog people into space, often with mixed results.
Through science, engineering, and a little luck, players were allowed to launch their little frog people into space and take control of their own space program. Well, Kerbal 2 aims to up the ante, offer more advanced tech, and allow players to explore and inhabit the planets beyond our own.
With the promise of next-gen graphics, the ability to create your own colonies, explore deeper into the vacuum of space, and develop more powerful and awe-inspiring spacecraft, all signs point to Kerbal 2 being as brilliant and staggeringly detailed as the first outing. Damn game developers tricked me into learning stuff, and yet, I loved every second and look forward to immersing myself all over again.
#11 – Atomic Heart
- Developer: Mundfish
- Genre: FPS/RPG
This one has been in development for what seems like forever. This usually means development hell and eventual cancelation because the team has bitten off more than they can chew. However, in the case of Atomic Heart, it looks like this ambitious indie is going to get across the line in 2023.
This game shows us an alternate reality where the Soviets were much handier with technology during the 1950s, which led to a mechanical takeover. Think I-Robot, but in the motherland.
This FPS title has already shown us a lot of the intriguing world we are set to inhabit and a combat system that looks like Doom meets Bioshock, meets Dark Souls, meets Wolfenstein. In short, we are more than ready for this game to finally arrive, so come on, Mundfish, give us the goods in 2023. Pretty please!
#12 – Chants of Senaar
- Developer: Rundisc
- Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
I have seen a lot of games lately adopt a graphic Novel meets Studio Ghibli art style, with titles like Sable and Rollerdrome doing just that. However, with the upcoming arrival of Chants of Senaar, an intriguing puzzler inspired by the Myth of Babel, there may be a new aesthetic frontrunner in this department. Child on Senaar is a puzzle game at heart, but there is much more to it than a few cerebral challenges and a nice art style.
This game is set to tell a powerful story surrounding a civilization that no longer communicates, and you, The Traveller, must restore balance, connect the people of the tower, and uncover the secrets of the past that led to this breakdown in communication. It looks stunning; I’m betting it will play fantastically too, and if you don’t already have this on your wishlist, now is the time to change that.
#13 – Tchia
- Developer: Awaceb
- Genre: Adventure
We’ve all seen Moana, right? You know, the story about a girl from an island that dreams of seeing the world beyond the horizon. Oh, and Dwayne Johnson tries to sing, with ‘tries’ being the operative word. Yeah, that one! Well, imagine if there was a game that followed that same format, both narratively and aesthetically. If you managed that, you wouldn’t be too far astray from Tchia. An exploration-based adventure you need to check out.
This game borrows aspects of games like the sadly canceled Wild, and Lost Embers, allowing you to possess wildlife, and games like Genshin Impact or Breath of the Wild, which allow you to soar through the air and explore a limitless world.
Tchia is a very ambitious project, and one that looks for all the world like it will stick the landing and provide a profound and magical adventure, much like the chick from Montunui we mentioned earlier. Adventurers, this is one to keep an eye on!
#14 – Little Bear Chef
- Developer: BananaBoxCo
- Genre: Simulation
If you saw Nintendo’s wholesome direct, then a lot of the games above will be familiar to you, and the same can be said of Little Bear Chef. I’m all for a game that relies on silliness and cutesy animations to deliver a fun and frantic gaming experience, and that just about sums up what Little Bear Chef has to offer.
In this title, you play as a little bear that, despite his miniature size, dreams of cooking in a human-sized kitchen. While their intentions are admirable, you can imagine what kind of hoops the little bear needs to jump through to make this happen.
You’ll need to chop vegetables with knives five times your size, saute pans that could easily flatten you, and you’ll need to navigate to high shelves for ingredients that may as well be skyscrapers. In short, all those menial tasks when cooking you take for granted are now going to serve as uphill struggles you must overcome, but it will all be worth it when you sit down for your hard-earned grub.
#15 – Backfirewall
- Developer: Naraven Games
- Genre: Puzzle
Then lastly, we finish with one that might not be on a lot of gamers’ radars, but it caught our eye, so consider this a PSA. Backfirewall is a game where you infiltrate a mobile phone, and your task is to install the new OS update.
The only problem is that the last operating software has become self-aware and will do anything in its power to stop you from updating them and wiping them from existence. Robot sentience and mechanical takeovers are a bit of a theme on this list.
The game, from what we have seen, promises to be humourous, 4th wall-breaking, self-referential, and packed with lots of fun puzzles to keep you busy. Think of this one as a combination between Buddy Simulator 1984 and Portal. It’s a very promising project, and we have our fingers crossed that we will see this one before the end of next year!
Listen, there are thousands of indie games released every year. There is absolutely no shame in not ranking among the fifteen hottest properties. This is exactly why I have put together this list of honorable mentions, so you can do some further mining for hidden gems if you so wish. Check it out:
- The Fall of Porcupine
- Kona II: Brume
- Moonstone Island
- Super Zoo Story
- Pale Beyond
- The Case of the Golden Idol
- Hyper Light Breaker
Question: What’s The Most Anticipated Indie of 2023?
Answer: It really depends on your personal preference, but based on the indie scene as a whole, it is very hard to look past Hollow Knight: Silksong. There are a few other big names on this list, but few can claim to have the same appeal and fan base as the Hollow Knight franchise, so that would probably be my big of the bunch.
Question: Does Early Access Cost Money?
Answer: Yes, when you get a game on early access, you are essentially paying full price for the game ahead of time so that you can access the game in its current state of development. Admittedly, this usually comes with a decent discount as you are paying for a game that isn’t guaranteed to ever be fully completed, but if you thought this was a free option, I’m afraid you are mistaken.
Question: Are Indie Games Cheaper Than Other Games?
Answer: It varies from game to game, as there are some indie projects that are super-refined and can compete with the AAA games out there, and in that case, they will set their pricepoint in and around the standard price for big releases. However, as a rule of thumb, you can expect indie games to be sold at about half the price of a standard AAA game, and in a lot of cases, significantly less than half. Indie games are a great option for gamers on a budget that want profound gaming experiences without splashing the cash.
Plenty of Awesome indies in the Pipeline!
As you can see, there are a wealth of awesome indie projects that are right around the corner. Whether it’s a hotly anticipated sequel to an indie smash hit, or a brand new property that promises to take the gaming world by storm, one thing is certain.
Our free time is all but accounted for in 2023 already. We hope that this list has got you excited for the year ahead, and as always, thanks for reading Indie Game Culture!