Accessibility is of paramount importance in video games. For example, if someone struggles to hear the dialogue, subtitles can give you the same information in text form. If someone can’t distinguish between two colors, they can be made more distinct with symbols or a custom color palette. And if someone struggles to get through a game, they can get a helping hand through assist mode.
The video game industry has been trending positively in the last couple of years in terms of more studios making more of their games accessible. You may have stumbled across the headlines about how The Last of Us Part 2 has over 60 accessibility features and how Assassin’s Creed Valhalla included many accessibility options for players to fidget with.
But that’s just the world of big blockbuster games. So I feel it’s only fair to hold those with multimillion-dollar budgets accountable for my general assessment. But still, indie games are packed with clever, helpful, and thoughtful accessibility options.
In this guide, I will review some Indies with great accessibility features.
Selection Criteria For The best Indies with Great Accessibility Features
Making a list like this naturally begs the question: What does “great” mean when referring to accessibility?
The adjective “great” is often used to describe something above average. With the gaming industry and its end consumers pushing for more inclusive and accessible games, indie developers are dropping accessibility features left and right to make their games “more inclusive.” However, including a repetitive, wishy-washy feature at the bottom of the settings section of your game does not make your game inclusive, nor does it earn a spot on this list.
For this list, I’ll be going over some of the best accessibility features that either
- Excelled at designing an already existing accessibility feature
Some of the games included in this list may not be bringing a new feature to the table. Instead, they refined and perfected an already existing feature. For instance, assist mode and god mode have been around forever, but recent releases have mastered this craft.
- Carefully crafted a new but much-needed accessibility feature
When a game developer addresses a new part of the disabled community in their design, the gaming industry accessibility standards are pushed forward. As a result, some of the games in this list have earned their place by including new accessibility features.
- OR creatively engaged with the community to make their games accessible
It’s easy to follow a preset template when including accessibility features in your game. However, some developers go the extra mile and conduct their own forms of research, which clearly yield better results.
#01 Hades: Carefully Designed God-Mode
Hades is a fast-paced action rogue-lite that has quickly become one of my favorite games. It’s a game that wants you to see its ending, which is a challenging task to start with, and it gets more difficult as you play. For some people, persevering enough to see those ending will be a barrier. However, considering how much of this game is about its plot, I’m thankful that the game’s developers put in a way to ensure that as many people as possible can see how Hades finishes.
Supergiant Games included a difficulty mode setting in Hades called God Mode. It is an incredibly well-thought-out accessibility setting that will ensure Hades is entirely for most players without reducing the difficulty of the actual challenges you’re facing. God mode is an example of a video game difficulty that rewards players for their perseverance, translating their hard work into their ability to progress.
So what is God mode? Well, it’s an optional leveling system that can be switched on and off as you play without penalty. God Mode in Hades gives you a 2% defense buff for each death while it’s active to an upper limit where you take 80% less damage from attacks. God Mode never makes it so that the game has forever lost its challenge because as soon as it has helped you complete a run, it knocks the challenge up a little higher to compensate. That’s an exciting game design as it ensures players can progress but makes them continually try again and again to earn it.
What I like about God Mode in Hades is that it doesn’t impact the rest of the way. The game’s progression is balanced. A lot of easy modes in games will cause enemies not to use some of their more powerful attacks or make you so strong that enemies now fall into a couple of basic attacks.
They fundamentally change the experience of the game you’re having as a player, and while sometimes that’s desirable, it’s often not needed. By keeping all the enemy attacks present and your damage output, you’re still being presented with the standard difficulty version of the game. You’re going to get better at dodging; you’ll get more practice at timing. When it’s safe to attack a particular boss, you still face the base game’s challenges. However, you have a better chance of leaving the other side intact.
God mode in Hades is a perfect blueprint of how all developers could do something like this. Everything will get a bit easier every time you attempt, whether successful or not. If you persevere enough, you can eventually overcome these problems. You can see the richly crafted world you might be invested in. I wish we could see more games implement difficulty like this in the future.
#02 Revita: Game Speed
Roguelikes are and remain a genre that is winning more and more fans. Perhaps it is not the most satisfying; in fact, it is not even the most recommended to get started in video games, but there is no doubt that it is one of those genres that hook you into playing for hours if they are well executed. Revita is one of those games. It does not innovate or create anything extraordinary. Still, it is a good sample of the genre. It’s solid and very accessible for all those who want to get started in the roguelike genre.
Don’t you love it when inclusive design and accessibility come together? Revita’s often been praised for its accessibility, but its most outstanding accessibility feature is game speed adjustment. You can adjust it anywhere between 50 and 200%.
When it comes to platformers, game speed adjustment should be a must. You can turn the game speed down to 50%, but the game can go up to 200%. It’s just a great design that casts a wide net for different players. Those who want more of a challenge can turn the speed up, while those who need it a bit slower can turn it down. So you have the option to get the best of both worlds.
#03 Boomerang X: High Contrast and Visibility Options
This is a first-person shooter, but not what you would typically think. It is probably one of the purest yet most chaotic things I have played in quite a while, and that is not a bad thing, partially due to the gameplay and style that it has itself.
I want to bring your attention to this game’s wide variety of accessibility features. Yes, you do need some usable vision to be able to play this game. Because whether you have a vision impairment, motor disability, or just being overwhelmed with things that are on the screen because trust me, this game can get overwhelming pretty quickly.
Its most prominent accessibility feature is high contrast mode, which makes some enemies different colors. Another option is extra visible required enemies. This is a wave-based arena-type shooter in which you have required enemies and enemies that you don’t have to kill, but if you do, it can help you get specific power-ups. For example, you could highlight the required enemies in a specific color.
There’s so much going on in Boomerang X; it’s a chaotic game. However, with the gameplay modes and options and the accessibility features, you can change the enemies, the high contrast, and the highlights to make all chaos more manageable.
#04 Moving Out: Toggling for Low Mobility Players
Moving out is a ridiculous physics space moving simulator that brings a new meaning to couch co-op. What sets moving out apart from the others is the game’s commitment to accessibility. You can tell the devs from SMG Studio thought about inclusive design from the beginning of development.
In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, the CEO of SMG studio stated: “The goal for us as developers is to allow anyone that has any ability to play and enjoy moving out and based on my time playing the game.” I believe they have achieved their goal.
A feature that you do not want to miss is the titles for grabbing and throwing objects. These two options are available at Character Select only. Players with low mobility need toggles to play. When starting a new game, you’re asked to choose to play with settings from assist mode on or off. Assists mode features extended time limits, which impact the time needed to complete a level to achieve gold, silver, or bronze.
It also features an option to remove certain dangers like ghosts or pesky haunted pianos from your game. Two other things about assist mode are the ability to proceed to the next level if you fail or miss a time limit and allowing items to disappear once they’re in the movie truck.
#05 Chicory, A Colorful Tale: Pushing the Limits
In Chicory, you play as a little anthropomorphic dog character who, after the world suddenly drains of color, mysteriously finds a magic paintbrush and takes it upon themselves to take up the mantle of painting the world back to colorful life. It’s one of the best examples of accessibility in a game I’ve seen in a long time, and that deserves the spotlight.
When first playing through Chicory, one accessibility setting, in particular, stood out to me. Misophonia is a condition where a person has uncharacteristically strong negative emotional responses to certain types of noise. The noises that trigger responses in those with misophonia can differ from person to person. But one category of sound that is a common trigger is wet sounds, such as slurping or splodging.
As Chicory is a game about painting, in-game sound effects fall into this category involved in painting. In the game, Chicory has a toggle in its settings menu to turn off all wet sounds, something I have never seen a game do before and which is undoubtedly a positive to see in other titles. This is a feature I would love to see become more common getting into the rest of the Settings menu.
Chicory is a game that moves accessibility forward in an exciting way. In this case, it is the misophonia setting. It looks at a group of disabled players who are rarely thought about and adds something. Chicory hasn’t just looked at best practices of what other games are already doing to be accessible but has thought carefully about what their game uniquely might cause problems for people and what solutions don’t yet exist but could be helpful and implemented.
#06 Dead Cells: It’s Never Too Late
Dead Cells is a side-scrolling roguelike that needs no introduction, released around five years ago. In July 2022, Breaking Barriers, a new accessibility-focused update to Dead Cells, which aims to bring the game’s tough but eventually beatable level of challenge to a wider variety of players, was released.
This update allows text sizes in various game areas to be individually adjusted. However, while these are the only text-altering options in the accessibility menu, they’re not the only ones available in the game, as a few accessibility settings are hidden in other menus. For example, players can choose several different fonts in the video menu, including one more approachable to dyslexic players.
While this new set of accessibility settings will help a bunch of new people play Dead Cells more effectively and have more fun with the game, it is a shame that these settings weren’t added to the game until five years after its original release. In any case, I’m confident it will get me back into playing, and this time I might see the end of that game.
#07 Celeste: Assist Mode and Photosensitivity
In “Celeste,” you control the protagonist of the same name who seeks to reach the top of the mountain of the same name, which may imply that sometimes you are the one that sets your own obstacles, and it is up to you to overcome them, be brave, face fear and reach your goals.
Now, after you select a new game, there will be an option to turn on Assist Mode. This will allow you to modify the game to fit your needs.
Since this is a platformer and timing is critical, there’s an option to slow the game speed so that you have enough time to react. You can slow it by as much as 50%. Other portions of the game require you to jump, hold onto walls, and the time your next jumps. There’s an Infinite Stamina option, so you have as much time as you need to jump.
The next mechanic in this game is the Dash. Essentially, this is like a double jump. The assist option will let you switch to two dashes or Infinite dashes. There’s also a dash assist, so when you hit the dash button, the game will effectively pause and let you select the direction.
There’s also an invincibility option, so you don’t have to worry about obstacles. If there’s a point where you aren’t able to progress, you can skip the chapter if you’re in assist mode.
Playing the game as is will require a lot of patience and perseverance, but that’s what the game’s all about. This game will focus on dealing with depression, describing how it feels from the main character’s point of view and how she wrestles with it in her life.
#08 Tunic: No Stamina and No Fail Modes
Do you want a Zelda-like game with difficulty elements reminiscent of Souls-like games? Tunic is the answer, and it’s not only a tribute to the Nintendo classic but a title with its own identity, with a retro-modern essence that you shouldn’t miss.
The two important options for me, which I enjoyed and was glad were implemented, were the no stamina and no-fail features. You don’t use stamina when you dash or attack. I believe it’s more apt for dashing than attacking. Using an attack with no stamina essentially means you’ll drop to one HP most of the time, and that’s no fun.
With the no-fail feature, you never die; you can play the game more for the story than the combat, or you can favor the overall gaming experience instead of the challenge of fighting bosses. You can turn these features on and off at any point throughout your playthrough.
So if you’re having trouble with a particular boss and want to get past it at that point, just put no-fail mode on, beat the boss, and then put it back off and give yourself a challenge. Huge hats off to the developer.
#09 The Vale Shadow of the Crown: The Accessibility Game
Being unable to see is a significant handicap in front of an audiovisual medium. That’s why The Vale: Shadow of the Crown caught my attention since it was presented a few years ago. The idea? To offer an action RPG that blind people can enjoy since there is no visual aid, and everything is based on sound.
In The Vale: Shadow of the Crown, you will not see anything on the screen beyond the menus. Even so, moving through each option will tell you what it is, so yes, a blind person can play and move through all the options without any problem.
You will discover the story through “scenes,” where there will only be audio. On-screen, you will only see some particles, which can reflect rain or help you know that you are moving. While playing the game, I would stare at infinity (well, my bookshelf), imagining how the events were happening visually or how the characters and scenarios I encountered would look.
The audio work in The Vale: Shadow of the Crown, and above all, in the performances, is stellar. When arrows are in the middle of a battle, you will hear them break the wind and hit your sides. You will hear the bustle of people in the square or the tavern and the sound of the surfaces you walk on.
Then, there are the fights. How will you know where they will attack you if you can’t see anything? By the sound! But you will not only fight, as you will also have exploration areas where you can avoid obstacles (such as cliffs or sleeping guards) on the way to an objective or even hunt animals using your bow.
The journey of Alex and the Shepherd will captivate you from the first moment, and the princess will win your heart as one of the great heroines of recent years. All are breaking a barrier so a new audience can enjoy this beloved medium. Can you ask for more?
Question: What is accessibility in video games?
Answer: The Game Accessibility Special Interest Group (GA-SIG) of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) defines video game accessibility as the ability to play a game even under restrictive conditions, be they functional limitations or disabilities. Conditions, whether they are functional limitations or disabilities, for example, sensory or motor disabilities.
Question: Is the Xbox Adaptive Controller Good?
Answer: This controller is designed primarily to meet gamers’ limited mobility needs.
Question: What aspects of the game should accessibility features cover?
Answer: As of today, accessibility features tackle the games’ difficulty level, reading load, playability controls, audio controls, image and video design, and in-game communication options.
Making games accessible is a challenging process for creating games that contain different features so that all players have an enjoyable experience, especially when talking about people with disabilities, as each has their own needs.
On the other hand, game developers and companies need to keep disabled gamers as part of the process. The more people we include as an industry in games, the better everything will be.
Let’s welcome all disabled gamers as the gamers we know they are. Let’s make games accessible to everyone.