Slow Burn Indie Games That Get Good (We Promise)

It’s a tale as old as time. Like a hit TV show which sucks for the first few seasons but then bursts into life, or an album that needs a few listens before you truly appreciate it. Sometimes, you need to stick with things before they ‘get good’, and this can also be true of video games.

This can be tricky to navigate, though, as unlike most Albums or TV shows, you’ll need to play a video game for a lot longer before you can decide whether it is good or a flop, and quite frankly, time is precious.

So, with that in mind, I want to ease your burdens and highlight some indie games that I know firsthand don’t grab the player immediately, but if you stick with them, they might just become some of your all-time favorites. So without further delay, here is Indie Game Culture’s list of Slow Burn Indie Games That Get Good If You Stick With Them.

Selection Criteria

Here are the rules we have put in place to ensure all the games listed below meet our criteria

  • All games listed must be indie games
  • All games listed need to be the epitome of a ‘slow burn’
  • All games must come good and offer a worthwhile experience

Okay, now that all that’s settled, let’s get down to business.

#1 – Citizen Sleeper

Citizen Sleeper review: a subversive sci-fi RPG with tabletop freedom -  Polygon

We begin with the android-CRPG smash-hit Citizen Sleeper, a game that I had heard rave reviews about for so long before I actually got around to playing it, but when I hopped into the game, I found myself wondering what all the hype was about. The setting, the concept, and the writing are all strong from the start, but due to the intricate systems and the rather slow and plodding start, I found myself asking, is this it?

However, if you give the game enough time to unfold all of its meticulously crafted layers and slowly reveal more and more of the world to you, you soon realize that this slow start to learn systems and gain a sense of place is absolutely necessary, and before long, you’ll be faced with lots of impossible decisions, meet many colorful characters, and explore the expansive Space station known as The Eye.

Citizen Sleeper is a game that, in the first hour, threatens to send you to sleep, but stick with it because it really is worth giving your full attention.

#2 – Pathologic 2

Gruelling but brilliant plague survival horror Pathologic 2 coming to Xbox  One next month |

Here I am going to the Pathologic 2 well again, but in my defense, if there was ever a list that this game belongs on, it’s this one.

Pathologic 2, in a nutshell, is a very demanding and ruthlessly brutal plague simulator where you will need to try and save the town from impending doom by helping those around you, making a series of tough decisions against the clock, and battling against obtuse and cumbersome mechanics as you do so.

It’s a game that wants you to suffer, and because of this, I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who played this for a short period and decided that the game is punishing and simply not fun. But if you can get past the ‘not fun’ part and embrace the gritty survival angle, you’ll find a hidden gem in Pathologic 2.

It has a wonderful, twisted theatrical narrative, deep, nuanced, and challenging survival systems, and a world that may be uninviting, but you can’t deny that it’s bloody interesting. It’s not going to be one for everyone, but it’s one that deserves to be given a chance.

#3 – Noita

Noita review | PC Gamer

Noita is a game that flips the script on Roguelikes to an extent because, in most cases, dying in a Roguelike will only make you stronger and allow you to level up your abilities. However, in Noita, the only thing you really gain from each outing is knowledge and understanding of the game’s systems. And because these systems are quite obtuse, varied and hard to grasp, some players will immediately bounce off this game.

But we are here to tell you that, if you give this one the time and respect it deserves, it will be an instant favorite for roguelike lovers. The key to enjoying Noita is to accept that you will die. A lot.

You’ll need to take time to learn how the world works, understand enemy behaviours, manage your health super carefully, and experiment with wands. Then, before you know it, you’ll be clearing the opening area without any issues whatsoever.

It’s a much less palatable roguelike compared to something like Hades or Dead Cells, for example, but if given a chance, Noita will show you that it has just as much quality as any other game within the genre.

#4 – Outward

Outward: Definitive Edition Launching Next Week RPGamer, 47% OFF

There are a lot of things that would make someone want to play Outward from the outside looking in, because it essentially looks like an open-world game with the scope of an Elder Scrolls game, mixed with the challenging combat of a Dark Souls game. However, despite this incredible pitch you get players interested, plenty of people have picked up and quickly stopped playing this cult classic.

You could argue that players don’t take to this game because the combat isn’t as refined as Souls games, and you could also argue that there aren’t a lot of tutorials, quests, and hand-holding from the developer to help players hit the ground running, but I think the thing that alienates players most, is the barren and empty world.

Outward has a beautiful world and plenty of landmarks and encounters within it, but traversing to and from these high points takes a long time. There is a lot of preparation that goes into each standout event, and generally speaking, the game is a bit of a slog.

Basically, the game often feels like it shoots for realism and shoots itself in the foot by doing so. However, this doesn’t make the game bad; it’s just an acquired taste. For that reason, I would urge you to take a partner and play this co-op title, because it hasn’t earned the label of ‘Open-World Dark Souls for Couples’ for no reason.

#5 – Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight' Is One of the Best Games You'll Play This Year | GQ

Okay, so this entry doesn’t actually represent my personal opinion, but I feel I have to represent the overall consensus of the Hollow Knight community here. You see, I recently made a post on the Hollow Knight subreddit praising how the game hooks the player immediately, and some people agreed with this opinion, but a lot of people felt differently.

Many people see the opening of Hollow Knight as the weakest part of the whole game, and this is probably due to the lack of player guidance, the minimal tutorials and HUD, the lack of conventional quests, and the fact that The Forgotten Crossroads is easily the least interesting area in the game, at least until it becomes infected.

But, if you stick with this game until you reach Greenpath, I assure you that by that point, you’ll be hooked, as this is easily one of, if not the best, Metroidvania titles ever made.

#6 – Kingdom Come: Deliverance

At long last, the cult classic action-RPG Kingdom Come Deliverance is  releasing on Switch next month | GamesRadar+

Next up we have the Slavic open-world RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a game that through it’s unrelenting desire to remain historically accurate and realistic, has managed to lose more than a few of its new players within the opening hours of the game.

It’s easy to see why this is, and it can be explained by comparing to a traditional RPG. You see, in most games of this nature, right from the off you are a skilled fighter, have lots of skills and abilities, and can perform superhuman tasks that no normal person could dream of.

Well, in KCD, you will need to work for every little win. You’ll play as a peasant with no standout skills, no fame or riches, and no skills in combat.

This means that every encounter is a risk, and all little wins are earned. It’s basically a more true-to-life RPG trajectory, and it means that your ascension from zero to hero means more and feels much more rewarding. It can be a drag in the beginning, but that makes the end game all the more special.

#7 – Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds Review - Spoiler Media, outer wilds how long to beat -

I’m always wary when including Outer Wilds in lists of this nature, as I never want to give anything away, as every moment of this game is a moment to savor, but equally, it’s a game that you have to completely submit to, and immerse yourself fully in if you want the best experience possible.

Within Outer Wilds, you won’t have any quests beyond your main goal of breaking the time loop you are trapped in, and you’ll have a gameplay loop that isn’t governed by stats, rewards, or traditional progression. Your reward for each loop is knowledge and understanding of the world around you, and if you can’t get a kick out of that early on, you might not immediately click with this game.

However, with each new planet, you explore, with each new crumb of lore you absorb, and with every new and profound discovery, you’ll slowly fall in love with the pocket solar system around you, become obsessed with solving the puzzle it represents, and when it’s all over, you’ll wish you could wipe your memory and do it all again.

It’s a slow burn, and it demands you to play in a way that most modern games are too scared to ask players to do, but I promise, giving yourself to this experience is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

#8 – Don’t Starve

Don't Starve | Klei Entertainment

Then, lastly, we have a game that I have personally tried to love many times, and I still find myself in the camp of ‘I just can’t get into this game’.

Don’t Starve, despite my hangups, is clearly a very competent and well-made survival game with a stunning art style and a dedicated fanbase. However, the hangup that most players will have is that the game is so damn obtuse. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone could play this game and succeed without a guide open at all times.

It’s a punishing game that does nothing to help the player succeed, and only those who are willing to learn the ins and outs of this game will thrive.

But, as I said, millions of Don’t Starve fans can’t all be wrong. This game is a standout survival game for a reason. So, even if I can’t find a way to get into this one, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a chance.

Tough Nuts to Crack

So there you have it, folks, eight indie games that may not seem like they are all that fun when you hop in, but if you give them a fair shake, we promise that you will come out the other end with a new favorite indie game.

Let us know if we missed any other slow-burn indies, and as always, thanks for reading Indie Game Culture.

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