Gaming as an industry has always had a habit of taking two completely separate genres, and then slapping them together to see what happens. A lot of the time, these experiments go exactly as you would expect them to, and the developer finds out firsthand why no one else has tried to create the gaming splice that they have.
However, there are some mashups that, against all odds, come together wonderfully to create something that feels brand new, yet weirdly familiar for those who liked the two genres that helped make the new title. Think of these games as the Salted Caramels and the Pineapple on Pizza of the video game world.
We have seen AAA games like Persona, which manages to combine new components of life sim and turned-based JRPGS, or something like Portal, which combines FPS gameplay and mind-bending puzzle design.
However, as you would expect, we want to shine the spotlight on the little guys. Due to the added freedom, the world of indie dev can get pretty weird, and as a result, so can the mashups.
The good news is that we love weird here at IGC, so in a bid to embrace the absurdity, here is a list of the best Indie Genre Mashups That Weirdly Work. Enjoy!
Before we jump in, just a couple of quick rules to give you a feel for what we are aiming to do here. These are the criteria we ran with:
- All games listed must have two clear and contrasting genres that have been smushed together
- We will allow games that mash up loads of genres (The more, the merrier)
- All games listed must have a Metacritic score of 65%+
- If the two genres are similar already (such as puzzle and strategy), we won’t be including those. We want weird entries!
Okay, enough talk. I feel like an Irish mammy making a Sunday dinner, because it’s time to mash!
Indie Genre Mashups That Weirdly Work
#1- Yoku’s Island Express
Developer: Villa Gorilla
Metacritic Score: 83%
Genres Mashed Together: Metroidvania, Adventure, Pinball
We begin with a game that takes a forgotten pastime that dominated the 1980s arcade scene and makes it relevant by mashing it together with a classic Metroidvania format.
Yoku’s Island Express sees you take control of a little dung beetle who has managed to land himself a job as the Island’s postman, and while they are only a junior delivery specialist learning the ropes, you’ll still be expected to navigate the island, charm the locals and use your unique brand of skills to help restore the island to its former glory.
The story and the Metroidvania-based upgrades and problem-solving are great, but the real star of the show is the pinball mechanic that makes up large portions of the game.
To get around, you will need to platform through pinball machine segments of the map, using your paddles to whack your little beetle where they need to go. It sounds like an idea that has no right to work, and yet in practice, it feels so unique, fresh, and, most importantly, fun.
This is a game that is criminally underrated, so go and show Yoku some love!
#2 – Thirsty Suitors
Developer: Outerloop Games
Metacritic Score: 80%
Genres Mashed Together: Narrative-Driven, Rhythm, Skating, Turn-Based Strategy
Next, we have Thirsty Suitors, an unapologetically gen-z title that caters to all creeds, cultures, sexualities, and genders, offering a gripping story that acts almost like a dating simulator but in reverse.
You see, when you take control of Jala, you are returning to a town where you have caused a whole bucketload of emotional heartbreak, and instead of winning the hearts of your suitors, you’ll have to try and mend them.
You’ll have to do this through turn-based combat, where you will use emotional triggers to inflict weaknesses and then use devastating heavy attacks to fend off the advances of creeps and weirdos.
Then to make matters a little weirder, the game also offers skateboarding traversal and challenges, loads of rhythm portions, and a wealth of cooking mini-games. So, in short, it’s a teen-drama dating sim skating game, with Cooking Mama elements, turn-based RPG elements, and more.
It’s a wacky one, to say the least, but even with so many varied ideas vying for your attention, Thirty Suitors comes together to offer a whimsical and wonderful experience that you need to try!
#3 – Dredge
Developer: Black Salt Games
Metacritic Score: 80%
Genres Mashed Together: Adventure, Resource Management, Survival Horror
There have been a number of games that have shown how ripe the high seas are for horror. Subnautica is a great example, as is Iron Lung. However, I don’t think anyone would have expected a game that primarily consists of resource management and fishing minigames to be quite as chilling as Dredge.
This game sees you play as a fisherman who must make a living in the little coastal town of The Marrows, but soon expands into a tale of mystery and intrigue that will see you work alongside the Mysterious Collector to uncover the Lovecraftian secrets of the archipelago.
This game masterfully weaves Resident-Evil-style Tetris-adjacent menuing with accessible fishing minigames, but then also adds in a dash of survival horror for good measure.
Players will need to decide whether to stay out at night and brave the perils of the deep in the hope of catching another prize fish, or head home and make do with their modest haul for the day.
It’s a competent mash-up of cozy gaming mechanics and chilling horror that inexplicably works, making this a recent indie gem you need to pick up and play.
#4 – Neon White
Developer: Ben Esposito
Metacritic Score: 89%
Genres Mashed Together: First Person Shooter, Platforming, Parkour
If you’re someone who loves the art of Speedrunning, then you might want to try Neon White, a game that allows players to speedrun Speedrunning.
Neon White tells a tale of a group of criminals that have earned the chance to compete to earn a spot in heaven rather than descend to the fiery pits below. The group of former gangsters will need to defeat demons and burn through stages at pace to rise through the ranks and become heaven’s unlikely champion.
The story has a rather gripping anime feel to it, but the real star of the show is the platforming meets FPS approach. Players will need to master free-running, optimize their paths to the finish line, be sureshots with their weapons, and will need to adapt their usual gaming habits to think like a speedrunner. It’s not about doing things right; it’s about doing them fast!
Neon White was many Indie fan’s favorite title of 2022, and it’s easy to see why. So if you want to see what all the fuss is about, jump into this one and get going!
#5 – Rollerdrome
Metacritic Score: 79%
Genres Mashed Together: 3rd Person Shooter, Arcade Skating, Battle Royale
As someone who grew up with the THPS series and still skates as a 27-year-old man, I’ll play just about anything that pays homage to games of this nature, but usually, this leads to disappointment as few have ever captured that lightning in a bottle again. Well, this all changed when Rollerdrome came along.
Rollerdrome is an arcade skater that sees you play as Kara Hassan, a combatant in Rollerdrome, a fight-to-the-death competition where players will need to rollerblade around, racking up combos and moving with style and flair. But equally, you’ll need to use an arsenal of weapons to blow enemies to kingdom come until you are the last person standing.
The way that the game intertwines the combat and skating mechanics is brilliant, such as requiring players to perform tricks to reload their weapons, for example, and overall, the arcade-feel of this title makes it perfect for short sessions, but equally, very hard to put down.
If you somehow missed this rollerblading bloodbath, then you should boot up and get playing real soon.
#6 – Cult of the Lamb
Developer: Massive Monster
Metacritic Score: 82%
Genres Mashed Together: Dungeon-Crawler, Roguelike, Management Sim
We have seen management sims about dying in the form of Spiritfarer, we have seen management sims that have us coral inmates in the form of Prison Architect. We have even seen games that have thrust us into the role of budding Powerwash-related business owners in Powerwash Simulator. Yet, somehow, Cult of the Lamb tops them all with an even more peculiar format.
This game plays like a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler where you will have to go out on crusades to gather items, beat bosses, and progress the story. Nothing all that peculiar there. However, when you aren’t out there hacking and slashing, you’ll be back at your compound running your cult.
Through manipulation, intimidation, and oozing pure charisma, you’ll need to control and expand your flock to gain enough influence to progress the game, making this a 50/50 split between action and resource management.
It’s dark and taboo, yet cute and cuddly at the same time. So if you like your cozy games with a bit of edge, then Cult of the Lamb is a great choice.
#7 – Crypt of the Necrodancer
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Metacritic Score: 87%
Genres Mashed Together: Roguelike, Dungeon Crawler, Rhythm
Rhythm games have been around forever, but they have pretty much been the same ever since Parappa the Rappa was a relevant character in the gaming scene.
The music plays, button prompts roll across the screen, and you press when it hits its mark. That’s the traditional format, but occasionally we see games that break convention, and one of the first to do this within the rhythm genre was Crypt of the Necrodancer.
This is a game that offers a top-down Zelda-style adventure, mixed with fundamental roguelike elements. However, the real draw of this game is that you can only move your character to the beat of the soundtrack as it pulses as you play.
Through a grid system, the area of play will light up briefly, indicating when players can move, and they can then move a space to explore, attack, or retreat, depending on the situation. Oh, and you can even import your own tunes if you prefer, which is pretty awesome.
It’s a game that pulls no punches and, to this day, still offers one of the hardest gaming experiences perhaps ever. However, if you want a rhythm-based challenge, there is no better option than Crypt of the Necrodancer
#8 – Cuisineer
Developer: Battlebrew Productions
Metacritic Score: TBA
Genres Mashed Together: Cooking, Resource Management, Hack and Slash, RPG
I thought about adding in the resource-management meets restaurant management sim Dave the Diver on this list, but then I thought, ‘Hey, let’s give into recency bias, just for fun’.
Cuisineer shares a lot of similarities with Dave The Diver in the sense that players will need to run a restaurant, and equally, they will have to go out when not running the lunch service to gather ingredients and materials needed to keep expanding and developing their business.
However, the key difference here is that Cuisineer offers more of a roguelike dungeon crawler feel to progression that isn’t unlike the aforementioned Cult of the Lamb.
You’ll go out on adventures to get more and more rare ingredients to make progressively complex meals. You’ll also gather materials that can then be used to get your hands on stylish furniture to make your restaurant look the part.
Plus, the game has RPG elements like equipment and weapon upgrades so you can be the most fearsome culinary warrior around.
It’s cute, colorful and has that essential ‘Just one more day’ gameplay loop we all crave. If you’re sold, be sure to hop into this one.
Developer: Brainwash Gang
Metacritic Score: 82%
Genres Mashed Together: Metroidvania, Platformer, Motocross
If you’ve played games similar to Trials: Fusion, you’ll know that Motocross platformers are a niche but very fun brand of games. However, they tend to be a little one-note.
Well, enter Laika: Aged Through Blood, a game that takes the traversal present in Motocross platformers, and then gives you an arsenal of weapons to fend off enemies in a Western Metroidvania setting. They lovingly refer to this blend as a Motorvania.
The game boasts incredible animated visuals, and a rich tribal narrative that tells a story dripping in spite and vengeance. Plus, it has a wealth of quests and bosses to defeat in a world that is nuanced and lovingly created.
It’s gritty, gory and demands respect in a saturated field of Metoridvanias, ranking up there with the finest the sub-genre has ever produced.
It’s a hard game, and the controls do take a lot of getting used to, but if you want a Metoridvania that seeks to galvanize the genre and stands out from the crowd, Laika is an obvious choice.
#10 – Ultimate Chicken Horse
Developer: Clever Endeavour
Metacritic Score: 80%
Genres Mashed Together: Platformer, Party Game, Mario Maker
Now we have a genre blend that is so seamlessly executed that it makes you wonder how no one ever thought of it until Ultimate Chicken Horse arrived on the scene.
In this game, you play with a group of friends, and the goal is to place booby traps and platforms in set-level templates, and the end goal is to make it as difficult as possible for your opponents to get from A to B, while carving out a safe path for yourself to get the end zone. It’s essentially competitive Mario Maker, and it’s super intense.
Not only does the game offer incredible party-game antics to enjoy. The game also has a great soundtrack, a batch of colorful characters, and a wealth of customization options, allowing you to build, play, and compete for the best global times on various custom-built levels.
It’s a platformer where everyone can get involved. So if you are looking for a new multiplayer, game to fall out with all your friends over, then Ultimate Chicken Horse is the game for you.
#11 – Rocket League
Metacritic Score: 85%
Genres Mashed Together: Football, Racing
It’s hard to pitch Rocket League as an indie game, considering it’s under the Epic Games umbrella these days. However, we are mainly looking at the quality of the genre-mashing format here, and considering it was present way back in 2009 in Rocket Leauge’s predecessor Super Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Cars, we think there’s no doubt that the football meets Automobile combo is deeply rooted in the indie scene.
Rocket League is a game that essentially makes the Top Gear episode where they played football with cars, and uses that concept to create a genuinely phenomenally crafted team-based multiplayer game which is still one of the top esports titles around.
Through using rocket propulsion, flipping through the air, and working as a team, you use your RC cars to score goals, dominate on the field, and then proceed to spam ‘What A Save’ in the chat.
It’s a game I have personally lost thousands of hours of my life to, and while I never reached the lofty heights of Grand Champion rank, It was still a blast trying.
#12 – Golf Story
Developer: Sidebar Games
Metacritic Score: 78%
Genres Mashed Together: RPG, Adventure, Golf/Sports
This is a game that doesn’t get the love and respect that it perhaps deserves, probably because it is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, which is just a tad weird.
You Switch players will probably already know and love this one, but for the rest of the class, Golf Story is a game that, rather unsurprisingly, involves the player taking on the sport of Golf. You’ll play as a down-on-their-luck guy who just wants to rekindle a passion for the sport he and his father bonded over.
Most people would settle for lowering their handicap a little, or getting a birdie on a tricky course, but your player character goes all out, and aims to play on the pro tour.
So to achieve this unreasonable goal, you’ll need to complete quests, collect collectibles, and sink putts to earn enough cash and reputation to make it to the big leagues.
It’s a game that has a surprisingly touching story, and offers gameplay variety beyond any other golfing title around, thanks to the RPG blend, and while it’s still a golfing game, it’s one that actually makes the sport seem cool. So stick on some cashmere, slip into some khakis, and get swinging!
#13 – Supermash
Developer: Digital Continue
Metacritic Score: 49%
Genres Mashed Together: Genre Mashing Generator
This one is a bit of a wild card entry, not only because it was critically panned across the board, but also because the game itself is a facilitator for mashing genres together instead of a deliberate mash of two ideas.
In Supermash, you begin by selecting two different genres that you want to smash together, and then the game takes over, building a unique blend for you that is different every single time you mash themes together. You could blend a shooter and a platformer, or a turn-based RPG with a beat-em-up; it’s up to you.
The premise for the game is that you, a retro game store clerk, finds a magic game console that can auto-create games based on old classics of each genre, and you can customize your criteria to create a game that is tailor-made to suit you.
You can build games that offer a challenge, games that are full of weird bugs and glitches, or offer a gripping story worth getting invested in.
We will concede, that due to the absolutely ridiculous scope of the project, it’s a novelty that can wear thin pretty quickly, but for those initial hours where you roleplay as a game-dev let off the leash alone, we would recommend you give this one a try.
#14 – Monster Sanctuary
Developer: Team 17
Metacritic Score: 74%
Genres Mashed Together: Metroidvania, Creature Tamer RPG
Team 17 seems to really get a kick out of blending Metroidvanias with other genres, because after the success of Yoku’s Island Express, along came a Metroidvania meets creature tamer called Monster Sanctuary.
An easy way to think of this one is that this is roughly what would happen if the Pokemon franchise was thrust into a 2D sidescrolling Metroidvania setting. It seems like a bridge too far to employ platforming, exploration, and deep turn-based creature combat into one title, but somehow Monster Sanctuary makes it work with ease.
This game is all about using the right companions for the right situation. You can use your monsters to traverse previously unreachable areas, you can use them to solve environmental puzzles, and of course, you’ll need to build a synergized team that can lay waste to all the enemies in your way.
The game begins as a 50/50 split of the two genres, but we will concede that by the end, the game is very much an out-and-out monster tamer where combat is king and exploration is secondary.
But putting that aside, Monster Sanctuary is a seamless blend of two popular genres, and well worth checking out if you’re sick of modern Pokemon games.
#15 – Orcs Must Die 3
Developer: Robot Entertainment
Metacritic Score: 79%
Genres Mashed Together: 3rd Person Shooter, Tower Defence
Then we wrap things off with a game that offers a rich blend of multiplayer fun, high-octane action, and deep, nuanced strategy.
Orcs Must Die is a series that offers gameplay not unlike Fortnite’s Save The World mode, where players will need to protect their base by not only using weapons and skills to kill Orcs, but also using resources to build traps and machines capable of lending a hand and automating the killing. It’s essentially Bloons Tower Defence, but you’re also out there on the field slaying Orcs.
Thanks to a range of brand-new levels, weapons, a new campaign, and a wealth of new challenge modes to choose from, the third in the trilogy is bigger and better than those that have come before, offering a never-ending wave of Orcs you’ll need to deal with in creative and brutal ways.
It’s about as hands-on as a strategy game can get, placing you in the fray amongst the chaos. If that sounds like a bucket load of fun, then grab a weapon and prepare to defend your fortress!
Then just before we put down our molecular gaming splicer and stop mashing cool genres together, here are some mash-ups that are cool, but just fell short of making our top fifteen:
- Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
- Blood Bowl
- Moonstone Island
- Bullets Per Minute
- Metal Hellsinger
- Catherine Full Bodied
- Brutal Legend
Mix It Up
So there you have it, fifteen weird indie mashups that defy the odds and come together wonderfully to serve as some of the best indie games on the market.
Not all mashups are great, but we hope that developers continue to take big swings like this in the future, because when it comes off, it tends to be something pretty special. We hope we have added some peculiar combos to your wishlist, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture.
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