- With each passing year, the Indie gaming library grows, and so does my backlog of games that I ever so desperately try to complete to keep up with this onslaught of new titles. The AAA scene may be delaying projects left, right, and center, but indie developers have continued to quietly go about their business and have made the most of this AAA vacuum to get all eyes on independent projects.
There are few things I love more than a global conglomerate failing to pump out a formulaic open-world flop, whilst a single developer shows them how it’s done. It warms my heart; it really does. Well, 2022 has been an incredible year for indie games so far, and we are only in September at the time of writing.
This year has been the first year since the dreaded pandemic, where we have seen a normal release cycle, and the usual pandemonium and intrigue of press releases, showcases, and live events have returned in full force. We have seen incredible games that have allowed us to escape to other worlds, games that have kept us very much in reality, but have allowed us to switch our brains off for a while. We have seen co-op adventures, cinematic side-scrollers, cult simulators, roller derby deathmatches, and so much more.
However, you may be like a lot of gamers out there, struggling to keep up with the consistent waves of indie gems. Well, fret not, my keen indie players, for we have a list of all the best indie titles that have graced screens this year. We aim to only show off the absolute best of the best, providing you the highlights so you can do less researching and worrying, and spend more time playing. So without further delay, here are our Best Indie Games of 2022 So Far! Enjoy!
Here comes your obligatory admin before the fun stuff; bear with me here. So we need to iron out what makes the game a top-of-the-pile indie in 2023. There are a lot of factors, and you might even find one or two controversial picks here, but that’s the nature of a subjective list, people! That being said, I’ll be doing my best to offer a wide variety so that everyone is catered to, and I’ll try to be as impartial as possible. Okay, here are my selection criteria:
- The games in question must have been released in 2023
- All games must have a Metacritic score of 65+ (where available)
- All games must be certified independent games
Alright then, let’s talk indie games, shall we?
Our Top Indies of 2023 (So Far)
#1 – Tunic
- Developer: ISMOMETRICORP Games
- Metacritic Score: 85%
We kick things off with a top-down Zelda-esque RPG that we reviewed earlier in the year, Tunic. Now available on all major platforms, Tunic has had the chance to captivate all gaming audiences, and it’s done so with aplomb. Why? Well, because it looks charming, it plays like a classic top-down hack-and-slash RPG as seen on the GBA, and it offers a tonne of modern gameplay mechanics to keep things feeling fresh.
It may look all cute and cuddly, but it’s actually a very taxing game that will ask you to truly master all the combat mechanics on offer and solve puzzles that will furrow the brow in order to progress. Our own Linden Garcia said it best when he said:
“Your ‘awws’ will get progressively distant from those initial avouchments of adorable graphics to more, “aww nooo, this is the third controller I’ve smashed into smithereens against my own kneecaps!”
This game has superb boss battles, tough but rewarding gameplay, and if you are a Zelda fan, this is a no-brainer. Check this one out!
#2 – Cult of the Lamb
- Developer: Massive Monster
- Metacritic Score: 85%
I’ve done quite a bit of coverage on this title, so the well of occult-based puns has all but run dry, but my affection for this game remains as strong as ever. This title sees the player take on the role of a cult leader of all things, and you’ll have to manage your flock, keep them watered and fed, and if anyone steps out of line, then feed them to a Cthulu demon from another realm, as you do. All the while fighting your way through the four bishops of the Old Faith in an act of vengeance.
It’s a title that plays out much like roguelike smash-hit Hades, and it also plays a little bit like resource management sims like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing when you aren’t off on crusades. It’s a unique blend packed with humor, cute character models, and, best of all, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, wrapping up in less than ten hours unless you really want to grow your cult to unprecedented numbers. It’s one of the best breakout IPs of the year, and one you need to check out!
#3 – Rollerdrome
- Developer: Roll7
- Metacritic Score: 81%
We move on to the indie game THPS killer. No, not OlliOlliWorld; that’s slightly later. Here we are talking out the fruit bootin’ battle royale epic, Rollerdrome. In this title, you play as Kara Hassan, a rookie contender who aims to make an impression in a competition called Rollerdrome, which is essentially a roller disco mixed with a combat arena, and yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.
As the staggeringly punchy electro soundtrack plays in the background, you’ll use a medley of weapons to take on the fearsome house players and survive the onslaught that awaits you in each stage. Oh, and you’ll also need to rack up as many combos and sick moves as you can while avoiding those lasers, rockets, and bullets. Okay, so maybe it’s not as chill as popping kickflip, but for those looking for a surge of extreme-sport-related adrenaline, few games will scratch that itch quite like Rollerdrome.
#4 – Stray
Developer: Blue Twelve
Metacritic Score: 83%
It’s hardly a surprise that ‘that cat game’ has made it into this list. For a while there, everyone and their mother was talking about this cute indie property, and for good reason. This game sees you take control of a Stray that has inadvertently fallen into a forgotten world and must team up with a robot companion to discover the secrets of this world and make their way to the surface. How, you ask? Well, by climbing, clawing, meowing, and being a general menace. You know, typical cat stuff.
It might seem that this game lives and dies on the gimmick that you play as a cat, but as the story develops, you’ll begin to see that this title has much more to offer than just some cat-related gags. Don’t fret, though; there are plenty of those too. It’s a game with a surprising amount of emotive moments, and thrilling gameplay. So if you somehow managed to miss this title, jump in now and see what all the hype was about.
#5 – OlliOlliWorld
Metacritic Score: 84%
As promised, we have another indie meets skateboarding title with the return of the OlliOlli series. OlliOlliworld is the natural follow-up to the previous titles in the series that places you on a skating conveyor belt and asks you to shred from point A to point B with as much style and speed as possible. Think of it like Trails Fusion or Sonic the Hedgehog, but with more candy-colored visuals and whimsy.
OlliOlli is definitely one for the THPS fans who want an arcade-style skating title that emphasizes fun and chaos over realism. As a skater myself, I know that flip tricks are hard, and when gaming, you sometimes want to put that to one side and embrace the pure escapism that comes with a controller in hand. OlliOlliWorld really leans into this, offering a skating masterclass that is easily the best game in the series to date.
#6 – Weird West
Developer: Wolfeye Studios
Metacritic Score: 81%
Next, we have Weird West, an immersive RPG adventure that lives up to its name. In this peculiar re-imagining of the wild west, anything goes, and you’ll need to decide whether it’d your cunning, your sharp tongue, or your fast trigger finger that keeps you out of trouble.
With a Borderlands-esque cel-shaded art style, and a fast-paced top-down format not unlike games like The Ascent, Weird West delivers one of the most engaging and genuinely fun experiences we have been gifted this year.
It blends the retro isometric RPG format seen in games like Wasteland and Disco Elysium with modern-day shooty-shooty, bang-bang, and I am absolutely here for it. So if you want a deep RPG that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then Weird West is a top-tier option.
#7 – Sifu
- Developer: Sloclap
- Metacritic Score: 81%
As someone that worked their way to the lofty heights of an orange belt, I know absolutely nothing about martial arts. I don’t have the discipline, and god knows I don’t have the flexibility either. However, through Sifu, a roguelike beat-em-up like no other, I learned how to kick ass and take names.
This title tweaks the typical roguelike format, using the power of a magic talisman to resurrect the player, with the caveat that the player will age, lowering their health, but granting the wisdom of new skills and traits. So essentially, the game is about finding that balance between youthful athleticism and experience.
It’s a classic tale of spite and vengeance, it looks stunning, and it’s as hard as nails. You’ll need to master this game’s deep combat to succeed, but the good news is that when you do, the feeling of satisfaction outweighs the anguish of the many inevitable deaths. Well, at least it did for me. If you like fast-paced hack-and-slash gameplay that is unrelentingly tricky, this is for you!
#8 – Thymesia
Developer: Overborder Studio
Metacritic Score: 72%
Here’s another one that we covered quite recently, and it’s a bit of an anomaly. Team 17 is putting their name behind a Dark Souls clone; surely not. Well, that’s a little cynical, as this game isn’t a Souls clone exactly. Thymesia takes the Souls formula and tries to put its own spin on things to mixed success.
The game uses plague-based combat that urges players to swap weapons regularly and essentially bank their dealt damage, all the while avoiding the hulking behemoth’s swings and stomps as they go. The gameplay is for sure the highlight of this title.
That’s not to say that the story and the visuals are bad; they just aren’t going to knock your socks off. It’s almost unfair to compare Thymesia to Dark Souls, but in terms of world-building and aesthetics, they are poles apart.
That being said, souls games don’t come around all too quickly these days, so if you need something to tide you over until the inevitable Elden Ring sequel, then this is something to quell your insatiable appetite for sadistic gaming experiences.
#9 – Bear and Breakfast
Developer: Gummy Cat Studio
Metacritic Score: 72%
A cute and cozy resource management game. Oh, you’ve twisted my arm; go on then! Bear and Breakfast is another game in a long line of quaint, cozy simulation games akin to Stardew valley and Animal Crossing, but it manages to cross the treacherous generic chasm, avoiding the lifeless clones below, and offers an experience that feels new and fresh.
The game provides an interior design aspect, not unlike The Sims, but marries that with an open world to explore, a crafting system, and lots of quests to get stuck into. Think Don’t Starve but without all the stress.
The title’s core premise is to run a BnB in the middle of the woods, but before you know it, you find yourself infested in the woodland creature’s lives, and unraveling mysteries of the forest. That’s a lot to manage, alongside making perfect crispy bacon for your guests.
It’s unrelentingly cute, and addictive and keeps players invested for the long haul. So if you need a new wholesome gaming fix, this is the game for you!
#10 – Ooblets
Metacritic Score: 74%
Speaking of cute and cozy resource management sims, it seems we have a back-to-back cuteness overload. Here we have Ooblets, a game that has a very different art style and format to the game above, but strikes that same adorable chord nonetheless.
This game takes a more outlandish and ‘Random’ approach to things, offering a format that is a blend of Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Pokemon, and Dance, Dance, Revolution.
The game sees you farm your land, decorate your home, collect creatures called Ooblets and participate in dance battles. It doesn’t sound all that cohesive, and sometimes it’s not, but you can’t deny that it’s a lot of fun.
It’s very much a ‘you get you of it what you put in’ kind of game, as the story isn’t worth sticking around for. However, the sandbox nature of this game and the abundance of cute features and adorable animations help cover the cracks. It’s definitely worth a try!
#11 – Session: Skate Sim
Developer: Crea-Ture Studios
Metacritic Score: 69%
As a skater, this one had the potential to be my personal game of the year, or one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Thankfully though, this proved to be the former, or at least very close to it.
Session had been in early access for what seemed like a lifetime, always playing catchup to games like Skate and Skater XL. However, it seems that patience has paid dividends as this finished product, while not super polished, is simply incredible. The level of detail when it comes to the physics, gameplay, and overall feel when skating is sublime.
There are tonnes of features that are handmade for dedicated skaters, the areas you skate feel huge, everything feels like a spot that needs to be conquered, and it’s also not bad to look at too.
Is it for the casual player? No, not at all, as the game is relentless in its pursuit of teaching you the real-world physics and mechanics of tricks and movements, but that’s what I love about this game.
It’s an honest-to-goodness Skate simulator. So if you love realism and the challenge that comes with getting the perfect pinch on a crooked grind, then you need to try Session!
#12 – Trek to Yomi
- Developer: Flying Wild Hog
- Metacritic Score: 71%
As someone that has a Journey Traveller tattoo plastered on their arm, I am a fan of a high-concept indie game. So when I heard of this cinematically inspired samurai epic, Trek to Yomi, I was immediately interested. For all intents and purposes, Trek to Yomi is a pretty standard side-scrolling action title, but that’s not why this game stands out from the crowd. The reason why this game has caught the attention of the masses is because of the production value that has gone into the visuals and presentation.
This game bases its art style on old Japanese cinema and theatre, making use of a monochrome overlay, stunning set pieces, camera work, and sublime backing tracking to the intense action on screen. Then to add value, the game also has simple but fun combat mechanics, and a story steeped in history. Think Limbo, but with katanas. This is one for the film festival nerds among us.
#13 – Potion Permit
- Developer: MassHive Media
- Metacritic Score: 72%
What happens when you mix Honey with Jasmine, Daisies, Iron Ore, and Bear Claws? Well, you’ve either made the strangest stew in the world, or you just might be practicing alchemy in Potion Permit. This little hidden gem is a stunning example of how to provide a Stardew-Valley-like experience without trying to reinvent the wheel.
This game sees you play as a chemist arriving in a quiet little town tasked with curing the resident’s ailments, setting up a successful business, and hopefully, getting a few folks to like you. That won’t be easy, though, as the last chemists really did a number on Moonbury.
Through a series of simple mini-games, a charming story, accessible foraging and crafting, simple combat mechanics, and a surprisingly expansive world to explore. Potion Permit provides a compelling alchemy-based resource management adventure that, while not groundbreaking, is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon as you melt into the sofa with a controller in hand.
#14 – Powerwash Simulator
Metacritic Score: 76%
Surely not; a game where you literally take commissions to power wash stuff clean; how does this make the list? Well, much like Lawn Mowing Simulator, this game has a certain draw to it that just can’t be explained. On paper, this is a game that sounds like a chore, and a tedious one at that, but in reality, it’s one of the most cathartic gaming experiences out there.
In this game, you run a power-washing business and scale your company as you take on bigger and bigger power-washing contracts. Then you turn up to a house, and you powerwash a driveway, simple.
It sounds stupid, and perhaps it is, but it’s a game that allows you to turn your brain off, wind down after a long day, maybe listen to a podcast in the background, and let the stresses of reality melt away like grime off a pebble-dashed wall.
It won’t be for everyone, but if you are someone that likes to game without having to really engage with what’s going on when playing, then this is perfect for you.
#15 – Coral Island
Developer: Stairway Games
Metacritic Score: TBD
Then lastly, we have a game that has sneaked in right at the death, as it was only released yesterday at the time of writing, and even then, it’s only in early access. Yet it’s done enough to warrant a mention here in my book. Coral Island is yet another game that aims to usurp Stardew and Animal Crossing from their respective wholesome gaming thrones, and against the odds, it looks like it could take a pop at the champs.
The game manages to make the player fall in love with the rich tapestry of colorful characters; the gameplay is simple and accessible, to the point that you will feel competent without having to keep a journal of crop prices, yields, and the townsfolk’s daily routines like in Stardew. Plus, there are already a lot of unique features and quirks, even in early access.
The title has a roadmap laid out before it, and it all looks very promising, especially with this strong foundation to build on. We all remember what Stardew Valley was like in 2015 compared to today. So I would definitely keep this one on your radar moving forward.
We would love to include all the standout indies of 2022, but when you have to pick the cream of the crop, some great titles just miss the cut.
Fear not, though, faithful readers, as I have made a quick list of honorable mentions that you can also check out if you are desperate to spend that money burning a hole in your pocket. Check them out below:
- Return to Monkey Island
- The Outbound Ghost
- Serial Cleaners
- Beacon Pines
Sadly there have been quite a few indie games that have arrived this year, promising a lot and then subsequently failing to deliver on those promises. It happens, but we don’t want you to waste your valuable time on these when you could be playing the cream of the crop.
So here are some indies from 2022 that you might want to stay away from:
- As Dusk Falls
- Time on Frog Island
- Hell Pie
- Slime Rancher 2
- The Mortuary Assistant
- Hokko Life
- Salt and Sacrifice
Question: What is Early Access?
Answer: This is a term that is reserved for PC-only titles. Thanks to Steam, players can play an Alpha or Beta version of games that have not been released yet. This supports the developer making the game, and is seen as a gesture of good faith, which will usually come at a discount for the player and give them access to the full game upon release at a fraction of the price.
Question: What Other Indies are Coming in 2022?
Answer: Great question that can’t truly be answered with so many delays happening over the last few years and the smoke and mirrors developers employ to keep this info hidden. However, here is a few projects we expect to see hit shelves in 2022:
• Deliver Us Mars
• Sons of The Forest
• Batora: Lost Haven
• The Knight Witch
Question: What is a Metacritic Score?
Answer: Metacritic is a well-respected aggregate review network where trusted reviewers and users give their reviews on Movies, Tv, and Gaming. It’s very much like other sites like Rotten Tomatoes but takes scores from across the industry to deliver an average score. This is, for the most part, the score that games are judged upon critically.
A Good Year to be a Gamer!
As you can see from the wide selection of hot and fresh indie games, there are so many options for players looking to play something that feels different amongst the sea of AAA projects. These titles all have their own quirks and unique assets, which make each and every one of them worth your time.
Honestly, if this year so far is anything to go by, then we can expect big things from the closing months of this year, and gargantuan things from indie devs in 2023. I hope that this list has made your wishlist grow exponentially, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.
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