Beyond writing and playing video games, I also love to make video games and video game assets. I, like many kids, grew up playing flash games on the internet. In high school, I learned how to make my own games with flash and eventually progressed to making games with Unity and Unreal Engine.
Despite my hours of hard work to create the games, there wasn’t much I could do with them. The only way I knew how to sell games was through Steam, which required a $100 downpayment, something I couldn’t afford in high school. With Itch.io, that’s not an issue.
What Is Itch.io?
Itch.io is an online marketplace with a focus on indie games. Unlike most other marketplaces, it has no entry barrier, so anyone can sell their creations. Most of the site is a marketplace for both paid and free indie video games.
In addition to that, there are tabletop games, comic books, and video game assets like code, audio, and visual art. The site also provides an easy way to host game jams and more!
Indie Video Games
The website was founded around and still revolves around independent video games. These are games made by individuals and small teams with little to no funding. As a result, the games tend to focus less on realistic graphics and more on creative gameplay, art, and storytelling elements.
You can host and download games for free with Itch.io. The games you will find here are primarily from new developers showing off the new craft they are learning, but the free games can be a lot of fun to play.
Many will only take a few minutes of your time to complete, but there are quite a few gems in the mix. Not only is there a lot of fun to have with these games, but they can also be an essential step for an indie developer to build a following.
Beyond developers’ early work, you will also find many works-in-progress and games created for game jams. This is another excellent way for developers to build a following.
If you have a little bit of money to spend, you might find something more your speed in the store. Like the free games, many of these are developers’ first complete projects and are sold for meager prices, but you will also find games from more established indie devs.
You will find games ranging from the quirky horror comedy game Poop Killer for just a dollar to the artful, narrative-driven Night in the Woods for a more standard price of just shy of twenty dollars. You will even find Among Us and Celeste here, which both made our Best Indie Games of All Time list! Check out the Among Us Getting Started Guide if you haven’t played it yet!
Itch.io even hosts mods of video games. If you don’t need your game content to be canon, having someone unrelated to the original devs provide additional content is fantastic.
However, Itch.io doesn’t have the most extensive selection of mods. It has a decent amount of content for Sims 4, Farming Simulator 22, and Nuclear Throne if those games are up your alley. Otherwise, it’s pretty bare at the moment. If you’re a modder, this might be a good opportunity since there’s little competition here.
Video Game Assets
As an amateur game developer, my favorite part of the site is the assets section. Here, you can buy and/or download various individual components that can be put together into a complete game. There are so many different aspects of making a game, and very few people can do it themselves.
Art takes up the majority of assets on the site. It’s primarily pixel art in the forms of sprites and tilesets like this cute asset pack, but there are other art styles as well. Some of the assets are for sale, but most are free downloads. You can even find assets for UI and fonts.
Under the assets section, there are a lot of sound effects and voice line packs where you can get the sounds needed for your game, like this audio pack. Additionally, there is an albums & soundtracks section on Itch.io where you can buy songs to make your game more lively.
The tools section is filled with programs and code designed to make game development easier. There are tools to assist with art, audio, or game design. My favorite part of the tools section is the code you can get. Coding is tedious, so little shortcuts are always great. Dissecting lines of code can also be a great learning tool for new devs.
The tools in this section aren’t only helpful in making games either. I frequently get DAW plugins from here that I use for music outside of video games. Look how neat this is!
Beyond just downloads meant to be used on a PC, there are tangible products you can buy and sell through Itch.io. Most of the products here are PDFs intended to be printed out.
With all of the art being hosted on Itch.io, it’s no surprise that they also host comics. Most comics on Itch.io are sold as PDF downloads, but several offer high-quality physical comic books. You won’t find big names like Marvel or DC comics, but there are many unique stories conveyed with beautiful artwork like this.
There is also a books section, and from what I’ve seen, it’s primarily graphic novels and art books, like this Citizen Sleeper Art Book. If you’ve never heard of Citizen Sleeper, check out this review!
Like everything else on this site, much of the content is free!
A lot of principles that go behind creating a video game apply to creating physical games as well. Most physical games here come as PDF downloads that you print off and, with just a little work, turn into a board game or tabletop RPG. If you’re a fan of Dungeons & Dragons but want to mix things up, you will love this section.
Game Jams are events where game devs are challenged to create a video game under different restraints. The games are often judged at the end of the event as a contest. Many even have prizes for the winner. They are fantastic for improving one’s game development skills and are a lot of fun to participate in if you like a challenge.
They’re also fun to watch, as many people will stream or document their development process. Because of the time constraints, the games are typically quite short, but that also means that they’re almost always free in the end. This section has an excellent calendar that shows all active and upcoming game jams.
The Developer Logs or Devlogs section is where you can go to see updates on games being worked on. This could be patch notes for a game you like or information on a game you’re looking forward to being released. It can also give you insight into the game development process and help you in your own game dev journey.
Itch.io has a community section that is a forum for everything related to the site. You can find bug reports, more devlogs, advice for content creation, feedback, game recommendations, game jams being organized, and even job listings. If you have any questions that you think someone in the community can answer, this is where you would ask them.
Question: Do you have to download a launcher to play games from Itch.io?
Answer: No, but Itch.io has an optional app that works similarly to a launcher, allowing you to browse and start up games from a single hub. It’s not required though.
Question: Does Itch.io take a share of any profits from products sold on the platform?
Answer: Itch.io uses an open revenue sharing model, which means you get to pick what percentage of the revenue goes back to supporting the platform. They will get 10% of your revenue by default, but you can set it to anything from 0% to 100%. You don’t have to share your profits if you don’t want to.
Question: Do your games have to meet a certain standard to be uploaded on Itch.io?
Answer: There is a terms-of-service agreement to prevent malware, scams, and harassment, but there are no rules on the quality of your work. That means anyone can upload their work. This is great for new creators, but it can also make wading through content tedious if you sort by most recent. Luckily, there are many ways to sort content, and there are curated lists of high-quality content.
Itch.io is a fantastic hub for indie game developers and a wonderland of a marketplace for lovers of indie games. If you make games, want to learn how to make them, or just enjoy playing them, it’s worth your time to check it out!