As someone that has now actively stopped counting how many tattoos they have on their body as it’s so hard to keep track, I know a thing or two when it comes to getting inked. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding to go under the needle for the first time. There is the initial fear of the needle itself, there is the deliberation about whether the tattoo will be something you want to adorn for the rest of your life, and there are also the weeks and months of tweaking you will inevitably do to the design before you give your artist the green light.
What I’m getting at here is that you want each tattoo to be special, to mean something to you. This is why indie games that touch your heart are one of the most popular gaming tattoo inspirations. Take it from me, I have two, and I hardly think they will be the last.
The indie scene is a pocket of the gaming industry that is just that little bit more intimate and wholesome when compared to the AAA juggernauts out there. These games are made with small teams, are born out of passion and a desire to break the mold, and usually, these games have much more heart and soul than the regurgitated annual cash cows like Call of Duty and FIFA. This usually means that these games will strike a chord with players, whether that be through an emotional story, a cute art style, or an OST that sends you away to another world.
With that in mind, I thought it would be best to give all of you indie fanatics a rundown of some of the best indie-inspired tattoos that I have come across, and hopefully, through doing this, it will give you that nudge in the right direction you need to hop in the chair and get your own indie-inspired tattoo. So enough pre-ample, it’s time to get into things. Here is our Best Indie Game Inspired Tattoo Ideas guide! Enjoy!
Things to Consider Before Getting Inked
A tattoo isn’t meant to be a frivolous thing, despite the fact that more than half of mine has been. This is a decision that stays with you for all eternity, and for that reason, you should be absolutely sure that you are getting something that you know you are going to love forevermore. With that in mind, here are some considerations to take into account before you get in the chair:
Color vs Blackwork
Firstly, you should consider whether you want to go with a blackwork design, a colorful tattoo, or maybe a little bit of both. When it comes to indie games, in most cases, color will probably be the better option to showcase the whimsy and joy that comes with playing these games. However, if it’s a darker, more sinister game like Hollow Knight, for example, then you might want to tone down the color palette.
Ultimately, it will be down to your own personal preference. Up until recently, I had an arm for color and an arm for blackwork, but that system broke down when I got my little Junimo tattoo. The key thing to take away here is to make sure that the design suits the approach you want to take, and remember, color tattoos tend to be a little more pricy.
Size and Placement
Size and placement are super important, especially if this is one of your first tattoos. If you go too big, then you may not be able to suffer through the pain and end up with an unfinished piece of work. Or, if you get the placement wrong, you may limit the space you have to work with if you want to get more tattoos down the line. Not to mention that if you go too small, you may limit the quality of the design as sometimes, a tattoo needs to be bigger to showcase all those important fine details.
The best thing to do is have a discussion with your tattooist and trust their advice. They have been there, done it, and have the T-shirt. They want the tattoo to look as good as it possibly can do, too, as that is a reflection of their skill and ability. A good rule of thumb is to go with a small/medium design at first, and then if that sits well with you, then go for bigger, bolder designs later. Then as for placement, Arms and Legs are the best places to start, and whatever you do, don’t start with high-pain zones like the ribs or ankles. I speak from experience.
Next, you have to consider what kind of style you want to go for. Most people tend to pick a school of tattoo and stick with that. The reason is that all the tattoos then look uniform in a way, blending together nicely to offer a complete and cohesive design when you have lots of ink.
If you go for a hodgepodge of styles, your arms might end up looking like Ed Sheeran’s. Not criticizing it; some folks like that eclectic approach, but it’s best to do that consciously rather than ending up with that look by accident.
There are lots of styles to choose from, each with its own unique quirks. Here is a rundown of some styles that you might want to take a look at:
- Stick and Poke
- New School
Then finally, you need to find an artist that you can trust. Having a place where you can feel comfortable and at ease is so important when getting tattooed, because, let’s face it, getting repeatedly stabbed is stressful enough as it is. You need to get yourself an artist that is a specialist in the style that you want to go for, you need to find a tattooist that is willing to work with you to create a design that is 100% what you want, and, if possible, you want a tattooist that knows the source material so that they can produce the best possible final product.
I can only speak about my own personal tattooists, but each of my trusted artists does their utmost to create a calm environment, works tirelessly to make sure my designs are exactly what I want, and are all-around sound people. They are Em, Andy & Brittney if you guys want to give them a follow!
Okay, so before we get into the wealth of indie-inspired tattoos, we need to lay down some ground rules to ensure quality, variety, and good reading. Here are the selection criteria I used to curate this list:
- Every tattoo must be inspired by an indie game
- A max of two tattoos per intellectual property
- All tattoos need to be of the highest quality and appropriately sized/placed
- Must have something truly unique about them
Cool, we got there in the end. Now, controllers at the ready, and enjoy my wonderful selection of indie tattoos!
The Best Indie-Game-Inspired Tattoos
My Personal Entries
1. The Traveller
I would be remiss if I didn’t show off my own little indie designs, which pay homage to two of my all-time favorite games. The first is the traveler from Journey.
A game that even a decade on still lives rent-free in my head thanks to its incredible OST, unique gameplay format, and pristine visuals that still hold up today. I even opted for a little watercolor effect to give the illusion that this little guy is on the move.
2. Lil’ Junimo Boi
Then secondly, I have my most recent piece of ink, my Junimo tattoo, playing respect to a game that has consumed hundreds if not thousands of hours of my life, and is destined to steal hundreds more, Stardew Valley.
These sentient apples serve as the magical protectors of the forest in Stardew Valley, and I like to think that this little guy is doing his best to keep me out of harm’s way now that he’s stuck on my wrist.
3. Zagreus Hades Tattoo
4. Spiritfarer Summer Tattoo
One of which is Summer the Snake, and this traditional design with script depicting a memorable quote of hers just exemplifies how poignant and profound this game is.
5. Greenbriar Estate Tattoo
So what better way to immortalize this game than with a tattoo of the place where the story unfolds, The Greenbriar Estate?
6. Oxenfree Alex ‘Is Leave Possible’ Tattoo
I won’t throw any spoilers out there for those that haven’t played this one yet, but those in the know will know the significance of that line, and the ambiguity that comes with it.
7. Spelunky Bat Tattoo
There are so many things we could have fixated on when it comes to highlighting a Spelunky-inspired tattoo, but with all the options before me, I simply couldn’t look past this cute little bat; I mean, just look at his little face. Adorable.
8. Riebeck Outer Wilds Tattoo
Which makes it a great tattoo option, but what would you get? Nomai script? Maybe a rendering of Timber hearth, perhaps? All good options, but I think this blackwork Riebeck tattoo, with the subtle hit of purple, is one of the best Outer Wilds tattoos in the entire solar system.
9. Watercolor Jumino Stack Tattoo
Just look at the attention to detail, the vibrant colors that trickle outside the lines, the little artisan goodies along the sides, and all topped off with a Stardrop, gorgeous!
10. Cult of the Lamb Ritual Tattoo
This tattoo stays true to that art style and marries together the sinister, taboo nature of being source material, with the cute and colorful design of your wooly protagonist.
11. Limbo Dotwork Tattoo
One of the reasons why this game stood out back then was the killer monochrome art style and the pseudo-horror vibe. This tattoo does this art style justice with a bold black design and some accompanying dotwork to tie everything together.
12. Hollow Knight Shade Tattoo
In my defense, this design is a blend of dark and light, showcasing the brave knight about to be attacked by a Shade. The blend of bright colors is excellent but what I love most is the rough sketch effect that makes this tattoo look like some genuine concept art from the desk of Team Cherry.
13. Celeste Embrace Your Inner Demons Tattoo
Much like titles like Sea of Solitude and We Happy Few, this game shows the reality of depression, and in the end, how we can never be truly free of this affliction, but we can learn to live with our demons.
This is represented beautifully in this loving embrace between Madeline and her alter ego, Badeline.
14. Undertale Flowery Kill or be Killed Tattoo
This tattoo showcases their core philosophy which is ‘Kill or be killed.’ That may work for a genocide run, but for those that have a heart, you might want to try and avoid this evil flower at all costs.
15. Cuphead Full Back Tattoo
Just look at the amount of work that went into this tattoo; you can practically hear the vaudeville music playing in the background.
16. Super Meat Boy ft. Sawblade Tattoo
17. Kim Cat-suragi Tattoo
I always had a soft spot for Kim, even when I blew him off to share a kilo of Coke with Kuno, and this weirdly is a perfect way to honor him.
18. Firewatch Walkie-Talkie Tattoo
This tattoo shows your trusty Talkie, that will be your point of contact with the other ranger stations, and Delilah, the closest park ranger. It’s a key component of the game, and this traditional style tattoo showcases this in all its glory.
19. Stray & B12 Tattoo
Here’s another recent indie that has already been inked onto a lot of avid gamers. Stray is a wonderful indie title where you take control of, you guessed it, a stray cat, and have to try and escape the dystopian underground world you have clumsily fallen into.
The world is breathtaking, but arguably the most touching aspect of this game is the relationship between B-12 and your little kitty protagonist, so kudos to the person who decided to ink the duo on them forever.
20. Pathologic Tragedian Tattoo
One for the real indie-heads out there. Pathologic II was my personal 2019 GOTY, which may surprise a few, because Pathologic is not a fun experience, not one bit. It’s a slog; it’s depressing, difficult, and hard decisions are a dime a dozen.
Yet this is the beauty of this game, as the suffering, the hardship, and the compelling writing all make for a brutally brilliant experience. If you agree, then you might want to get inked up with a little Tragedian to help spread the word about this hidden gem.
21. Unravel Couples Tattoo
One for you lovers out there. Co-op games are hard to come by in the modern gaming world, but in the darkness, there are pockets of light that still shine bright, and one such light is Unravel.
With the release of Unravel 2, players were given the chance to team up and combine their Yarny wit to solve puzzles and traverse to the end of the game. It’s a relaxing, wholesome experience that brings people together, and if it had that effect on your relationship, then maybe show some love in the form of a tattoo.
22. Terraria Moodlord Tattoo
Terraria? Isn’t that just knock-off Minecraft? Oh, 2011 Callum, how naive you were. Terraria is much more than that; it’s an expansive, cooperative survival game with lots of charm, nuance, and a core gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more.
Perhaps because those bosses that lurk below the surface are damn tough. One such boss is Moonlord, who is captured excellently in this design right here.
23. Don’t Starve Wilson Tattoo
This is more of a concept than a hard and fast suggestion, because you could tweak this design to show off any of your favorite Don’t Starve characters. This one shows Wilson looking all broody and sinister, holding a rose.
However, you could have Wendy and her ethereal twin, or WX-78, tinkering with some circuitry. Whatever tickles your fancy!
24. Little Nightmares Nome Hug Tattoo
I’ve never seen a game marry together cute and horrifying, quite like Little Nightmares. This game offers a side-scrolling puzzle platform experience, not unlike Limbo and Inside, but it has its own personality and quirks.
One of which being the unique and unsettling world you inhabit, where gargantuan, gross monsters lurk in the shadows and your only friends are the little Nomes you encounter.
These little coneheads kept me sane throughout the short run of the first game in the series, and I, for one, fully endorse this squeezy hug design.
25. The Finch House Tattoo
Can you name a more iconic house featured in an indie game than the one you explore in What Remains of Edith Finch? I thought not! This feat of architecture plays host to some of the most profound and shocking stories within the walking sim genre, and if you loved this game, it seems only fitting that you would carefully stack these rooms atop one another, akin to this classy blackwork design.
26. Hyper Light Drifter Washout Tattoo
The era of the indie hack and slash is one that came and never really ended, and Hyper Light Drifter was one of the titles that did its part to keep the trend of fast-paced titles of this nature flowing.
This game is perhaps best known for its washed-out 8-bit style, and this design pays homage to that expertly.
27. Spiritfarer Everdoor Tattoo
Okay, this may be my next tattoo; I’m not even kidding; this is beautiful. Spiritfarer makes a second appearance on this list, and rightfully so, as this design shows off a vibrant and colorful depiction of the Everdoor where Spirits are sent to the great beyond, with a Tarot card style border for added flavor.
Then just look at the constellations in the sky as an added touch of class. I’m totally getting this; I’m booking a slot; you can’t stop me!
28. Stardew Wizard’s Tower Tattoo
Two repeat appearances back to back. Stardew pops up again, and this time it’s a wonderful rendering of the Wizard’s Tower. This could be tweaked a little if you would rather swap this for the Stardrop Saloon, or perhaps one of your favorite characters outside their home.
I personally recommend Krobus because, well, Krobus rocks!
29. Minimalist Untitled Goose Game Tattoo
Peace was never an option; that’s the meme, right? Untitled Goose Game had no right to be as good of a game as it was, but here we are years later talking about it, and the many people who have tattoos of the honking menace.
This one shows the titular goose wielding a butter knife, and I don’t know about you, but a sharp knife or not, I wouldn’t be taking my chances.
30. Undertale ‘You are Filled With Determination’ Tattoo
Undertale is back again, and this time it’s another memorable quote from the game. This is a line that pops up repeatedly throughout the game to let the player know that a save point is nearby.
As someone that has been spoiled by the autosave feature, these points of respite were very much appreciated. Plus, it’s penetrated meme culture, too, as these things are known to do. So why not get a lifelong meme and be forever filled with determination?
31. The Stanley Parable Adventure Line Tattoo
While it’s far from my favorite indie game around, I understand the cultural significance of The Stanley Parable.
The Deadpool-esque 4th wall breaking narrative, the actions that encourage players to deviate away from established gameplay practices, and the incredible narrator’s performance all play their part, but if you are a square, you probably don’t know anything about this because you followed the Stanley Parable adventure line.
Mild insults aside, this is a cool design and a nice nod to an indie game that grabbed the attention of the masses.
32. Bastion Sleeve Tattoo
So why wouldn’t you sanction half of your arm to give this Bastion design some prime real estate?
33. Rocket League Kick-off Tattoo
It’s a title that offers infinite hours of chaotic football fun, and if you really like this title, then you might want to consider this Kick-off design. What a Save!
Question: Are Tattoos Painful?
Answer: Yes, obviously. What about a needle stabbing you repeatedly for potentially hours doesn’t sound painful? It’s unpleasant, but the rewards are worth the suffering, and there are things one can do to limit the pain. You can take painkillers beforehand, like ibuprofen, to stop inflammation, which makes the tattooist’s job easier too. You can ensure that you have a bite to eat and a good night’s sleep beforehand, and you can pick a placement that is in a tolerable zone on the body. No matter what you do, though, it ain’t gonna tickle.
Question: What’s an Indie Game?
Answer: An indie game is a video game that is made by an independent studio. These teams are usually very small, or in some cases, you may just have one developer doing everything, such as Toby Fox and Undertale, or Eric Barone and Stardew Valley. In short, these are games that are made on smaller budgets without AAA studio financial backing.
Question: Are Indie Games Cheap?
Answer: Usually, these types of games are sold at a lower price point than the AAA games on the market. This is for a number of reasons. One is to help them compete against the bigger names, another is the self-awareness that indie games are usually much shorter games with more rudimentary mechanics, and another is that most of the time, these studios will be releasing their first ever game, and therefore they don’t have the pre-established reputation to charge high prices.
A Treasure Trove of Indie Gems
As you can see from this collection of killer indie game-inspired tattoos, there are so many colorful and creative ways to show love for your favorite independently crafted titles.
If you are anything like me, simply scanning through this list has all but convinced you to go out there and get a new tat, and if it’s one that takes inspiration from one of the entries on this list, well, then I have done my job.
I hope that your next trip to the tattoo studio is a pleasant one, and as always, thank you for reading, Indie Game Culture!