The 50 Most Iconic Indie Gaming Moments of All Time

Table of Contents

When we think of big gaming moments, we tend to think of the big hitters. Things like Bioshock’s Would You Kindly. Metal Gear Solid’s Psycho Mantis boss battle, or stepping out of Vault 101 for the first time in Fallout 3.

These are all seared into my brain, don’t get me wrong, but I often feel that the gaming moments that I have acquired over the years courtesy of indie gaming are the ones that I treasure the most.

AAA games have an extended history and catalog to pluck from, and endless funds to make it all happen. But pound for pound, indie games continually provide moments that stay with us long after the credits roll with astounding frequency, and yet, I don’t think these moments get as much coverage as, say, that moment with Sephiroth and Aeris. You know the one.

So, with that in mind, I want to catalog some of the best indie gaming moments I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand, and I hope that, in doing so, I unlock a core memory for you. So, without further delay, here is Indie Game Culture’s list of the best Indie Gaming Moments of All Time!

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Selection Criteria:

Just some housekeeping before we get started, as we need to know what constitutes an ‘iconic indie moment.’ So here are the criteria that we will be working off:

  • All games listed must be indie titles
  • Any game can feature here, good or bad, as long as the moment within is worth showcasing
  • Moments selected must be undoubtedly one of the first things you recall when the game is mentioned
  • We will only include one moment per game

Okay, it’s time to reminisce. Here are the best indie gaming moments of all time!

The Best Indie Gaming Moments of All Time

1. The Sand Slide – Journey

How Journey Made Me Feel Truly Lonely

It would only be fitting for me to begin proceedings with what I would consider to be my favorite indie gaming moment of all time, and it’s one I mention unashamedly and frequently.

Those who have played Journey will know that the entire 2-3 hour runtime has no dull moments, but the one I hold most dear is the section where the sun is beaming down upon you as you slide at speed down the sand, and in particular, the incredible swelling orchestrated score that accompanies this moment.

The visuals, even over a decade on, are as stunning as ever. It’s a moment that delivers feelings of excitement and elation in spades, and as you fall into the depths below at the end of the scene, this makes the feelings of unease and dread that come after all the more palpable. We have many more excellent moments to come, but this is my top pick.

2. Taking off – Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds

When you ask anyone in the Outer Wilds community what makes the game as brilliant as it is, most true fans won’t tell you and will simply say, ‘Play the Game.’ This is because there are so many moments of emergent bliss packed into Outer Wilds that it’s hard to pinpoint any one winner.

So, in the spirit of keeping this game an enigmatic mystery for all those who haven’t played yet. We chose the earliest moment possible. The moment the game lets you loose as you take off into space.

From this moment, you immediately witness the sheer scale of this game; you have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere, and the promise of a grand adventure unlike any other begins to take shape. All the other moments are yours to uncover, but this one is the domino that sets a chain of amazing events in motion.

3. Finding Nosk – Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight’s Hallownest is probably one of the most atmospheric Metroidvania worlds you will ever visit, and this is clear right from the moment you drop into the opening area, and within the first hour, you’ll already have witnessed amazing things like finding Dirtmouth, exploring the Forgotten Crossroads, and fighting the False Knight.

However, the best is yet to come, and for me, the standout moment of Hollow Knight by a long shot is meeting Nosk. When you first find them in Deepnest, they present themselves as a like-for-like clone of the player character, and until this moment, you will have been led to believe you are one of a kind.

An underestimated outcast in a world of dejected and downcast bugs. But finally, there is someone that understands, and maybe has some answers.

After following them, the game then flips the script, as this Little Knight turns out to be a deadly Spider Boss known as Nosk, and they will transform before your eyes before coming at you with all their might.

The fight is a bit of a letdown when you know how to cheese it, but for the spectacle alone, this is a moment that stays with you.

4. The Golden Pelican – Sea of Stars

Sea of Stars overview

I was someone who absolutely gushed over Sea of Stars in 2023, and the reasons read like a laundry list, but at the top of my list was simply the name Garl in block capitals. Garl is a delightful, impossibly jovial, and endlessly lovable character that you just wish you could befriend in real life. Honestly, he does a lot of the charismatic heavy lifting in the party because heaven knows Zale and Valare aren’t exactly social butterflies.

This is exactly why when he dies midway through the game, it hits the player like a tonne of bricks. But fear not, dear player, because if you’re willing to put in the work, he can be resurrected, fixing the mistakes of Final Fantasy VII. Sorry Aeris.

This leads to a wonderful scene where everyone who Garl has touched in some way attends a lavish dinner at the Golden Pelican, and without dissecting every little bit of the dialogue, it’s about as heartwarming as it gets. It showcases what a pure soul Garl is, and if you haven’t had the pleasure, I would urge you to join him for a sit-down meal!

5. Reaching Hawk Peak – A Short Hike

A Short Hike

A Short Hike is a rare example of a modern, cozy game that actually nails gameplay, aesthetics, and a cozy feel to provide an amazing game set in a micro-sized open world. There are a lot of moments that feel memorable in the same way that your first kiss at camp, or a funny moment in science class was memorable.

However, the one moment that really ties all these little occurrences together and feels like a real accomplishment is reaching the top of Hawk Peak.

There is a genuine feeling of pride as you collect enough feathers and help enough people to carve out a path to the top, and then comes the heartwarming discussion on the phone with Claire’s mother that made me feel like checking in on every member of my family immediately after.

Then, just when you think the game will fade to black, the game urges you to leap from the top and fly around the island at breakneck speeds, showcasing how far you’ve come and just how small this little world is, even though it seemed huge and overwhelming, to begin with.

6. Saying Goodbye to Alice – Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer

When it comes to emotional gut punches that stay with you forever, Spiritfarer leaves you spoiled for choice, as practically every major character is immensely lovable, and has a tragic story to tell. Stanley was right up there, as was the reveal behind what made Stella a qualified Spiritfarer. However, for me, Alice is the one that floored me.

Alice is a little Hedgehog that has good days and bad days. On her good days, she is the sweetest old soul you’ll ever meet, and you’ll wish she could be your grandma. But at her worst, she suffers from debilitating Dementia, and as her story progresses, she’ll have fewer and fewer lucid moments.

You’ll need to remember to bring her inside, or she’ll sit outside all night, and watching this gradual decline is heartbreaking.

This would be enough to draw tears from a stone, but then comes the goodbye at the everdoor, where she becomes lucid one more time and delivers a short monologue that will leave you an emotional wreck as you return to your ship again.

Alice is a character I think about often, and if you’re emotionally prepared for Spiritfarer, I would love you to meet her, too.

7. The Karaoke Scene – Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium overview

Now for something a little more lighthearted. Disco Elysium is a game that does lighthearted moments very well despite being a very dense, lore-intensive, and politically charged video game at its core, and one such silly moment is the Karaoke Scene within the Whirling-In-Rags.

Players at the beginning of the game will probably clock a stage, and naturally, you’ll make it your primary goal to perform, because the world deserves to hear your pipes a’pipin.

It’ll take a while to make this dream of performing a reality, but after finding the tape and tape player needed and convincing Garte to let you get up there, you’ll then have a Drama Check standing in your way, and whether you pass or fail will determine whether it’s a bone-chilling performance or a comically bad and embarrassing one. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

8. Picture Within a Picture – Viewfinder

Viewfinder overview

I said in my review upon release that Viewfinder felt like a really good concept that just didn’t have the legs to be a ground-breaking puzzle game, and I stand by that. However, the slice of the game that was shown in the game’s demo, which I believe had a hand in making the game an unwarranted viral success, is a very strong showcase of what could have been.

The moment within this demo that stood out to me and set the internet ablaze was the section that allowed you to jump through a series of pictures and paintings one after the other, allowing you to jump from a child’s drawing in crayon to a medieval castle, to a cartoon desert. As much as the game as a whole didn’t blow me away, this section absolutely did.

It shows just how cool fractal design can be within gaming, and it’s something I would love to see more of. But until then, I guess we will just have to be content with this little showcase of inception-adjacent brilliance.

9. Becoming the Shade – Sable

Sable overview

As far as Indie Open World Games go, I think that Sable is easily the most ambitious in terms of size, mechanics, art style, and lore. And while it does stumble at times, it’s a game that is full of special moments, like getting your first Glider, exploring the Wyrm, or playing detective in the Heartbreak in the City quest.

However, for me, the best moment this game had to offer was in the Shade of Eccria quest, where I was given the opportunity to adorn the mask of the Vigilante hero of Eccria and free the wronged prisoner from their cell.

It’s a moment that offers a humorous cut-scene, and a quest that provides excellent world-building and lore around the City of Eccria. So, if you’re someone who can get behind a little vigilante justice, then this is a moment you’ll want to enjoy in your own time.

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10. The Fish Factory – What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch

Despite the fact that every single member of the Finch Family in What Remains of Edith Finch has a compelling story to tell, when it comes down to it, there’s one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that is the story of Lewis Finch.

Lewis is a bit of a stoner kid who got a job at the Fish Cannery, and this bid to give him purpose seemed to work well. He was one of the most productive and valued members of the workforce, but little did they know that Lewis’ productivity was due to him disassociating on the job.

In his head, he began creating a fictitious world, getting more and more detailed in scale, and as you play through his story, your job of chopping fish heads becomes a dual task with living as king of this fantasy realm.

From a gameplay perspective, it’s pure genius as you watch the worlds bleed into one another, but the narrative result of all this is tragic, as Lewis can no longer cope with the burden of the real world, and in the end, he feeds himself to the machine before him and meets the same end as the fish he was processing in the plant.

It’s a powerful gaming moment, and well worth playing through firsthand to get the full feel for its impact.

11. Our Date With Papyrus – Undertale

Undertale

Undertale is a game that takes endless satirical jabs at the video game industry by offering an RPG that reinvents and pokes fun at practically every gaming trope out there.

For that reason, it’s hard to pick just one humorous moment for our pick of the bunch, but, for me, I think that the date with Papyrus is the one I remember most fondly.

The game throws you into the combat sequence as usual, but this time, it’s not about gaining XP, or pacifying your opponent. It’s about finding a love connection. From the dating HUD, to Papyrus’ dorky approach to dating, it’s a little moment of genius. In the end, we don’t get a second date, but it’s certainly one you’ll never forget.

12. The Diarrhea Story – Norco

Norco

I was torn between adding in the encounter with Santa in Norco, or the Diarrhea story, but due to the sheer absurdity of it, I had to go with the latter. This story comes after you find the man you sold a dodgy Hot Dog to in an earlier chapter, and he regales you with the harrowing tale of what it did to his insides.

It’s one of those stories where things go from bad to worse, and suddenly, needing to rush home to use the bathroom turns into a frantic effort to avoid being arrested. And what makes this even funnier is that, at regular breaks in this long story, he gives you every opportunity to stop him and end his misery, and when you don’t, because obviously you don’t. He calls you disgusting.

It’s one of the many reasons why Norco is one of the best modern text-based games ever, and to witness this man’s pain alone, you should play it when you can!

13. Amateur Dentistry – Inscryption

Inscryption

This one may seem like a footnote in what is the confusing yet engrossing story of Inscryption, but when I talk about this game, people are in the same camp as me, and this tends to be the moment that everyone brings up.

During the first half of the game in Leshy’s Cabin, Inscryption is pretty unsettling and dark. You need only stare at Leshy’s eyes in the darkness gazing back at you to confirm that, but one of these moments caught me off guard.

Within the card-based game, the player will be given some items that can be used to aid them in each encounter, and one item is a yet of pliers. There’s no mention of how they help the player, and only through using them will you learn their purpose.

To their credit, they are helpful as they add some weight to your side of the scales, but the way it’s done is super graphic. As the player will take the Pliers and rip out a tooth from their mouth to fashion a counterweight.

It’s a little moment in a great game full of memorable events, but that’s the one that stays with me.

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14. The Swamp Witch – Bramble The Mountain King

Bramble The Mountain King

We now move onto Bramble: The Mountian King, a game from 2023 that I feel really didn’t get the acclaim it deserved, as this platformer inspired by the likes of Little Nightmares is every bit as good if not better than those who inspired it.

The title uses Grimm’s Fairytales to put together its world and narrative, and this slow descent from sunshine and rainbows, to complete depravity is incredible.

This duality is probably at its best during the Kärrhäxan the Swamp Witch encounter. One moment, you’ll be walking through a field of Daisys, with Wild Deer grazing nearby, and the next, you’ll be waist-deep in mud as you frantically flee from the Swamp Witch that calls this pond home.

It’s perhaps not the most chilling moment in Bramble, as the game only gets darker from here, but the shock value of going from euphoria to impending doom in seconds makes this an iconic indie moment in my eyes.

15. Using Your Foghorn – Dredge

Dredge

We now move on to Dredge, a nautical horror game that sees you fish across this game’s archipelago, uncover Eldritch Nightmares, and try to avoid becoming Kraken chow. It’s a wonderful blend of open-world exploration, resource management, and horror game mechanics, but I want to focus on the latter here, and in particular, using your Foghorn.

It seems like such a throwaway mechanic, like using a horn in a racing game. But, when you use your horn to call out to other ships in the dead of night, you’ll get a reply, and upon following this sound, you’ll then find that this was a bad idea, as a ghost ship will appear and chase you down, hellbent on damaging your hull and sending you to a watery grave.

It’s just one of the dirty tricks that this game plays on you to make you question your sanity, and honestly, I hope that it inspires more surreal horror moments like this in the future.

16. Soul Jumping – Tchia

Tchia overview

From one indie open-world to another. We head to New Caledonia to talk about Tchia, a game I was super excited for, but overall, a little underwhelmed by when the credits rolled.

It was a little bit ‘budget Disney’ for me, and the combat was pretty awful. But, one thing that kept me invested in this game until the end was the Soul Jumping mechanic, and the first time I used this still lives in my head rent free.

This mechanic allows you to take control of anything in the world, from birds soaring through the sky, to fish swimming through the colorful coral reefs.

It’s something I wanted to see realized in gaming ever since I saw the E3 trailer for the ill-fated project ‘Wild,’ and being able to Soul Jump into anything within this environment was a joy to behold. So much so that I don’t think I used Fast Travelling once.

The rest of the game is hit-and-miss, but this aspect of the game is a home run, no question.

17. The Downhill Bike Ride – Season: A Letter to the Future

Season: A Letter to the Future overview

Season: A Letter to the Future is a game that features a poignant story, an interesting world, and some of the finest audio design I’ve heard in years. However, if you ask someone about this game, I can guarantee you that they mention the bike before anything else.

To get around in Season, you need to get around on a bike, which will carry you from your hometown to the beautiful Tieng Valley and beyond, and while using the bike is cathartic throughout, this is never better than in the segment of the game when you leave your Village and proceed through a long downhill section where you can practically feel the wind in your hair as you go.

Despite being glued to a couch while playing, this moment made me feel like I was speeding downhill with my feet off the pedals, letting gravity do the work, and the beautiful view to drink in as I went was a welcome bonus.

18. Displaying Major Lewis Shorts – SDV

Stardew Valley

Ah, Major Lewis. How unfortunate that you are a character I loathe in a game filled with otherwise lovely individuals. Except for Demetrius, he sucks too.

As many will know, If you help Major Lewis out with a certain quest, you’ll be able to acquire his Lucky Purple Shorts from Marnie’s room. I wonder how they got there. Well, the quest suggests you hand them back to him for a petty reward, but if you’re shrewd, you can be mischievous and benefit from it.

Some the time of the Stardew Valley Fair, and you are asked to make a display of your produce. If you place Major Lewis’ Shorts front and center, you’ll not only literally air out his dirty laundry to the town, but you’ll also get 750 Tokens as hush money to keep his relationship with Marnie a secret.

Honestly, Marnie, what do you see in that dweeb? You could do so much better.

19. Simon Says – Inside

Inside

Inside is a powerful story, and one that is told without so much as a single word. The way that this game creates a dystopian setting, and a bleak, hopeless atmosphere is incredible, and the set pieces within the game help with this. However, of all these, I think that the Simon Says section is the most unique.

You’ll come to a section within the game where the only way to progress is through a checkpoint, and that means you’ll need to hide in plain sight. So you line up with the captives who are under mind control, and at regular intervals, you will need to mirror their movements to fool the guards and get through.

The tension in the air as you slowly shuffle past is practically unbearable, and just when you think you are in the clear, you’ll be on the run from the Canine Unit. Never a dull moment in this dystopian nightmare.

20. A Bowl of Poop? – Cult of the Lamb

Cult of the Lamb

Cult of the Lamb is a pretty good blend of hack-and-slash roguelike dungeon crawling and resource management gameplay. Not to mention, it offers a strangely cute take on satanic cults, which is no easy task. However, the strength of Cult of the Lamb’s gameplay lies in the unique emergent moments, and one that filled me with joy was making my least favorite follower eat a bowl of Poop.

Is it high-brow humor? No, absolutely not, but just as Frank Reynolds said in the Always Sunny episode where he did the same thing, ‘I got him to eat a Poopie.’ And when push comes to shove, poop is just funny.

Having this ability to test your follower’s loyalty in weird and wacky ways is a rich vein of entertainment within Cult of the Lamb, and this moment is probably the one that really cemented my role as a tyrannical leader of my flock.

21. The Controller Purrs! – Stray

Stray

We move on to Stray. You know, the cat game that took over the internet for months on end. Yeah, that one.

While Stray is a game that is way better than it has any right to be, and actually has an interesting world and touching story, I found that the gameplay was a little bit of a letdown at times. Especially with the platforming being set positions, you could hop to rather than being free to hop around with careless abandon.

However, there were so many little cat-themed details that made up for these shortcomings, and my moment tied to this game is exclusive to PS5 players, so sorry about that.

You see, if you took a nap in the many different cozy spots dotted around the game’s world in Stray, the Dualsense controller would purr in your hand as your little kitty curled up and dozed on screen, and this moment made my little heart melt.

I’m sorry for triggering any FOMO for any non-PlayStation Stray players, but I felt you had a right to know, because it was so damn cute.

22. Everything Fits – Unpacking

Unpacking

For those unaware, Unpacking is a game where the name says it all. In this game, you’ll be unpacking a series of objects in a number of different homes as you navigate this thing we call life, and with each move, you’ll witness your player character’s growth and development through the stuff they keep and the stuff they throw in the trash.

There are so many moments where you can read into the life of your character, like her early days in university, where she brings along childhood trinkets to feel more at home. Or the tough period with an oppressive boyfriend who made no room for her stuff.

However, the most touching moment in this game is when you unpack in your final home, and there is a clear synergy between you and your new partner. Everything fits, your stuff blends nicely, you make room for each other, and you have areas dedicated to spending time together.

Honestly, I think it’s one of the most cleverly told love stories in the history of gaming, and while the gameplay may be a little too mundane for some, I think this payoff makes it worthwhile.

23. A Pop of Color – Toem

Toem

While they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I have a lot of time for monochromatic games, and I also have a lot of time for games where photography is a core mechanic. I guess I have Pokemon Snap to blame for that one.

Well, Toem is a game that marries these two traits together and offers a level-based puzzle-adventure game where, through the power of photography, you’ll be able to help people, explore the world, and save up enough to earn a bus ticket to the perfect place to see the natural phenomenon known as TOEM.

For the entire game, you don’t know what this phenomenon is, and when the game reaches its climax, you are rewarded with a pop of color, not unlike the Northern Lights, that feels like a fitting end to this fun little adventure.

Not to mention when you return home your mum will have the picture proudly displayed on the wall, how cute is that?

24. The Final Ascent – Celeste

Celeste

We now move on to what is undoubtedly the best 2D platformer ever made, and if you disagree, come after me in the comments.

Celeste is a masterful pixel platformer that not only offers refined and challenging platforming, but also offers a profound story that tackles mental health in a grounded and realistic manner. It isn’t a story of beating depression and living happily ever after, but instead learning to accept this darker side of yourself, and managing it in a healthy way.

This is a narrative thread that runs throughout the entire game, as you spend huge portions battling against your demons. But when you fall to the bottom of the mountain, effectively reaching your own personal rock bottom, there is a moment where Madeline and Badeline come together, and this begins the rapid ascent to the top of Celeste Mountain.

This final test of skill is brilliant and illustrates a burden being lifted effectively with new mechanics offering more fluid, free, and fast movement, and the view from atop Celeste Mountain, well, that makes it all the sweeter.

25. Becoming The Nightmare – Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares Ending

Little Nightmares is a game full of terrifying and unsettling moments, and they are pretty much all tied to the monsters that punctuate the short adventure. I considered adding the Twin Chefs, and the long-armed librarian, but in the end, the one I thought deserved the spot on this list is the final section of the first game, where you defeat the final boss, and become an equally terrifying monster in your own right.

It’s a feeling similar to becoming the Blob in INSIDE, as the player devours the end-game boss, absorbing their dark powers, and then walks through the dining hall filled with The Gluttons that once served as a threat before, snapping their necks with telekinesis as you go.

It gives the player an unmistakable feeling of absolute power, but this comes with the caveat of becoming the very thing you have tried to run from all game, and as you ascend to the light, you can’t help but worry about what you have allowed to escape to the surface.

26. My Sister’s in Love – Gone Home

Gone Home

When I think of the earliest examples of games within what we now call the Indie Gaming scene, I think of Gone Home, the game that took Dear Esther’s Walking Sim blueprint, and made it into an engaging narrative experience told almost purely through the environment you roam around.

There are so many little details that can be garnered through thoroughly exploring the Greenbriar estate, but the core thread tying the narrative together is, where the hell did everyone go?

It’s something that looms large as you open up new areas of the home, and as you uncover events that have seen the family dynamic crumble in your absence, you can’t help but think the worst. But surprisingly, the end to this title is a sweet one, and a very progressive one for a game released in 2009.

In the end, you come to realize that your sister has run away from home to be with the one she loves against her family’s wishes, and considering the rather bleak lead-up, this was such a heartwarming moment, and a relief.

I always say that this walking simulator is the blueprint for all other successful ones that came thereafter, and this moment played a huge role in that success.

27. The Final Fight With Mother – The Binding Of Issac

The Binding Of Issac

If you’re looking for a game with endless replay value, then The Binding of Issac is right up there. It’s a game along the same lines as FTL: Faster than Light and Slay the Spire, where no matter how many times you play, there is always something new about each run, but one thing that remains a constant, yet never gets old, is the boss fight with Mother.

For those unaware, your mother is the antagonist of this game, as she wants to prove her devotion to god by sacrificing her only son to please her lord, and you, being that son, naturally don’t want that to happen.

This leads to a final boss battle where you’ll put your build to the test as you fight against her in all her grotesque glory. She’ll stomp around the arena in her two-inch heels, and stuff her excess fat rolls into the doorways to block the exits. In short, it’s like fighting against the mother from Tom and Jerry, but infinitely more gross.

It’s a tough battle that puts your build to the test, but the feeling when you finally beat her is incredible.

28. That Poor Kid – Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game

I’ve always been a fan of silly, irreverent games that spawn from office jokes. That’s how Goat Simulator came to be, and that’s also how the wildly successful Untitled Goose Game came to be.

This game is stuffed full of funny and stupid moments, as your ultimate goal from start to finish is to cause mischief in this quaint little Shropshire village. However, when I cast my mind back, the thing I remember most was how I tortured the little kid in the second area of the map.

This little kid is just minding his own business, and by the time you have checked off your to-do list in that area and moved to the next, you’ll have trapped him in a Phone Booth, stolen his favorite toy, broken his glasses and untied his shoes making him faceplant on the concrete.

I don’t think it’s technically bullying if you’re a goose; you don’t know any better, right? Yeah, we are in the clear on this one.

29. When Two Become One – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

When it comes to game mechanics that have a dual purpose tied to a narrative, I don’t think you can name a single one more well-implemented than in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

This is a game where you control two brothers as they go on a journey to get much-needed medicine for their ill father, and through the use of two independent thumbsticks, you control each brother.

Along the way, you complete a series of puzzles and overcome adversity as you come closer to getting the medicine you need, and while in the end you do, the journey proves too perilous, and one brother, unfortunately, dies on the journey home.

This then leads to a harrowing journey back as you feel the full weight of their absence as you reverse engineer the puzzles from before with only one Brother to call upon.

It’s such a powerful narrative adventure and one that just got a remake, so there’s no time like the present to discover or rediscover this one.

30. Siffrin’s Breaking Point – In Stars and Time

In Stars and Time

We now move on to a new favorite indie of mine, In Stars and Time. If you want a full deep dive on what makes this game amazing, check out our video essay on this one, but to boil it down. It’s an incredible, very meta time loop game, and a brilliant JRPG adventure with lovable characters to boot.

There are so many great moments in the game, and innumerable stupid ways to die. However, the moment that is the standout for me is the final loop when Siffrin, having been through hundreds of loops, finally snaps and decides to go it alone, face the king on his own and be the one to land the final blow.

In this loop, the mania that Siffrin is experiencing is clear to see, as he is ostracised from the group, becomes cold and devoid of emotion, allows feelings of depression and self-doubt to creep in, and even in terms of the gameplay, the map you know like the back of your hand becomes jumbled and glitchy to showcase the nightmare that is his mind.

As I mentioned in my full length video, this is the best time loop I’ve ever witnessed, and this is the grand finale that acts as the cherry atop the cake.

31. The Golden Rule – The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City

Here’s a little fact about me. I was fired from a lot of jobs back in the day. I wasn’t a big fan of authority and liked to question and bend the rules. Which is perhaps why I work for myself now. I fight with my boss much less often now; in fact, I think he’s great and strikingly handsome.

Tangent aside, this attitude often leaks into my gaming habits. I tend to skip tutorials because I’m stubborn, I tend to take unintended shortcuts akin to a speedrunner, and when a game says I can’t do something, you can bet your ass I’m gonna do it.

So when I played The Forgotten City for the first time and was informed I was in a city where any sin was banned, I immediately needed to test that rule. So I promptly stole an item in plain sight, and calling my bluff, the golden statues within the city sprung to life and killed all that stood before them because of my wrongdoing.

This put things in perspective for me, and from then on, I was a little more careful. The Golden Rule was a pretty special thing to witness, and it’s the glue that binds the amazing narrative adventure The Forgotten City has to offer.

32. The 5th Stage – Gris

Gris

I’ll be the first to admit that it look me quite a while to catch on to what was going on within GRIS. It’s a very heavily artistic game with an abstract and silent narrative, but when I realized that each section of the game represented the five stages of grief, suddenly everything clicked into place, and I saw GRIS for what it was, not just a strikingly beautiful platformer, but a masterpiece in silent storytelling.

Through the scenery and gameplay, the game represents what it feels like to lose a loved one, whether it be through the heavy ability allowing you to smash things in the Anger Section, or swimming in the depths to avoid a monster in the Depression stage.

However, the most touching moment is when the character finds her voice again, allows herself to remember her mother, and accepts the loss so she can become her full self again.

From start to finish, this is a masterful portrayal of grief that is left open to interpretation and leaves room for the player to feel their own feelings around loss, and this ending is the closure we all need in this process.

33. A Change of Perspective – Fez

Fez

I’ve always been a big fan of 2D/3D hybrids. I loved them in their primitive form when platformers were pushing the futuristic idea of 2.5D games, and I love them now in the form of games like Super Mario Oddessy, or Toodee and Topdee. However, I think the first game that ever blew me away with its ability to flip perspectives was Fez.

Phil Fish may have lost his mind making it, but you could argue it was worth it, as it’s probably one of the best 2D platformers in existence, and that fact was all but cemented for me from the moment I was let loose in the first village, and I was able to turn the world on its axis to forge new paths, reveal new secrets and bend the world to my will.

It’s not so much a moment in the game as it was a moment witnessing a truly unique gameplay mechanic in its purest form, but nonetheless, it was special to me and deserves a spot on this list.

34. Are We The Bad Guys? – Braid

Braid

Braid is a pretty special game, both in terms of its time manipulation mechanics and in terms of its narrative twists and turns. From the offset, it all seems pretty straightforward, offering a Mario-adjacent save the princess narrative. However, through the different excerpts you uncover as you collect stars and get closer to your goal, you begin to realize things aren’t as clear-cut as that.

This all leads to a finale where, when you reach the Princess, there isn’t a heartwarming embrace or fireworks in the sky. Instead, she takes off running to try and evade her captor, and you suddenly realize that you are the villain in this story and that you have been stalking this woman the entire time.

Now, I feel it’s important to at least mention that, you can read even further into this, as this story is actually an allegory for the creation of the Atomic Bomb, and the Manhattan Project, which I know sounds like a mad conspiracy theory, but I assure you, it’s the truth.

Whether you assign it to that or not, though, Braid is a timeless time-based video game, and the twist at the end is still one of the most memorable gaming plot twists ever.

35. Breaking Outta Hell – Hades

Hades

Hades is a tough game, and unless the RNG gods are in your corner, you’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to take down the gods of the realm and break out of the Underworld.

This inevitably leads to death after death, but the good news is that with every failure, you become stronger and more knowledgeable, and before long, you’ll stand on the threshold between Greece and the Underworld with just your father, the titular hades in your way.

This leads to a battle for the ages, where you will need to take down his endless stream of minions, navigate a battle where your opponent hits hard, has staggering range and a variety of attacks, and when you deplete that HP bar down to nothing, you’ll see Hades true strength in a second phase where his attacks get ridiculously hard to dodge.

This leads to a remarkable ending where everyone, against the odds, begins playing happy families in the Underworld, and you continue to break free time and time again to test security and keep up appearances. The ending was a little naff for me, but the final battle definitely lived up to the billing of a grand finale.

36. Game Dev Improvisation – The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable

Game development is a struggle at the best of times, and that goes double for indie developers with small teams and budget restrictions. So, it begs the question. What if a gamer tested the tensile strength of a game’s code to see what exists beyond what the game wants you to see?

Well, this is a fun notion that The Stanley Parable plays around with, offering a meta and silly imagination of a developer being put in this position in real-time.

If the player takes a certain path by entering a series of Blue Doors three times, this puts the Narrator in an awkward position, as this portion of the game is supposedly unfinished. Which then means they need to improvise.

This leads to the Narrator phoning it in, and borrowing from a series of notable games like Minecraft and Portal before leaving Stanley to rot in the Alpha Test of his own game. It’s about as Meta as it gets, and just one of the wonderful gaming moments The Stanley parable has to offer.

37. What A Save – Rocket League

Rocket League

Okay, so this one might not be as wholesome or well thought out as the rest of them, and may also be borderline toxic behavior in an online gaming setting, but hey, we all have our vices, and at the end of the day, it is still pretty funny.

If you’ve played Rocket League, you’ll know that it’s one of the unique online team-based games around, with accessible, easy-to-pick-up gameplay that’s hard to master.

This usually leads to a few games online where you’ll play against someone way above your skill level, and then comes the moment in question, and I guarantee we have all been on both sides of this exchange.

The chat function in Rocket League is made up of several quick prompts, but the one you’ll use more than most is ‘What A Save’ and with each goal against an opponent that is giving you a hard time, spamming this has become customary in this vehicular multiplayer title.

So whether it was the last straw that led to you rage quitting, or the needle you twisted to get your own back. One thing is for sure, the phrase ‘What A Save’ is burned into your memory forever.

38. The Worm – The Forest

The Forest

When I thought back on my time playing The Forest, I knew that there would be a moment worthy of inclusion on this list, but I was juggling a few ideas.

I thought about the ending where you witness the child morph into the final boss, and I considered being captured and strung up in Hanging Cave for the first time. But in the end, my choice was the one that caught me off guard the most.

You see, after deciding that I would rather be king of my little island and leave Timmy to die, I was just doing my usual thing. Building my base, gathering resources, you know, the usual. Then, all of a sudden, backed up by a team of mutants, came a new monster that threw me through a loop.

The Worm is a creature made up of Mutant deformed babies interconnected like Sausage Links, and it’s powerful as all hell. I had been through some terrifying experiences within the game to that point, but this one had me reeling the most, and that’s why it earns its spot on this list.

39. Brothers Reunited – Sifu

Sifu

I can’t begin to try and convince you that I’m good at fighting games, because I’m a terrible liar, but much to my surprise, I took to Sifu like a duck to water, and became a master of multiple martial arts as I sought vengeance for my father’s death.

However, all of this training could not have prepared me for the pulsating battle in the game’s closing minutes as you come face-to-face with your brother, your father’s assailant.

This battle is a real test of mastery, where your parrying, blocking, movement, combos, timing, and grasp of the unique mechanics need to be as sharp as ever, and even then, you might just get bested by a worthy adversary.

But in the end, even if you win, it’s a hollow victory as you will have struck down your own flesh and blood, blinded by rage. But hey, it’s a good excuse to do another lap and get the alternative ending, right?

40. The Platypus – To The Moon

To the Moon Artwork

There are some games that just set out with the intention of making you cry, and one of those is To The Moon.

To The Moon is a story that sees you play inside the memory of Johnny Wiles, who has agreed to a Wish fulfillment service that replaces real memories with fabricated ones, and inexplicably to himself and others, he wants to create a memory where he went to the moon.

Over the course of this story, it’s slowly revealed why Johnny wishes to go there, and it all relates back to a repressed memory where he met his would-be wife as a child, and they agreed if they ever got lost or separated, ‘They would regroup on the Moon’.

There are innumerable sad and touching moments to choose from, but when the game reveals that the Platypus toy that Johnny has treasured his entire life without any tangible reason to do so was a toy that his wife River gifted him that day, that broke me.

It’s just one of the nails through the heart his game hammers in deep, but it’s the one that stuck with me the most. This is a PSA play To The Moon; it’s amazing.

41. The Snatcher Boss – A Hat In Time

A Hat in Time

A Hat In Time is a pretty unique 3D Platformer that doesn’t take itself too seriously in the best way possible, and as a result, this leads to quite a few unique and memorable gaming moments, such as a funny re-imagining of The Murder on the Orient Express, or saving a fictitious dog called Pants from a Bond-villain killing machine.

However, in terms of gameplay, humor, and overall spectacle, the standout moment has to be the Snatcher fight.

A Hat in Time players will know that each new world comes with a dramatic change of pace, and the themes of this game vary wildly. In The Snatcher’s Forest, things take a bit of a dark and sinister turn. Not that it ever bothers Hat Kid.

This leads to you losing your Soul, working under contract for a demon, and then eventually fighting that demon, and the battle is nothing short of amazing. The music is pumping, the battle is challenging and fast-paced, and the ending that riffs on the mute nature of Hat Kid is also wonderful.

So if you too want to regain your soul and just feel ‘the regular amount of empty,’ then this is something you’ll want to play through yourself.

42. The Clover – OneShot

OneShot

Oneshot is known for its use of clever puzzles, not to mention a very gripping story, but if I were to choose one standout moment, it would be in The Tower section when the game tries to cut the story short and pulls a meta Psycho-Mantis type move on you, and kicks you out of the game.

Many may think this is the end, but if you dig into the game’s files, you’ll be able to use a Clover to uncover all the tools you need to proceed up The Tower and get the ending you feel you deserve. But you’ll need to solve a series of very clever puzzles to make that a reality.

Then comes the moral dilemma of saving Niko, or saving the world, where you come to question whether replacing the sun really is the right thing to do.

All in all, it’s a fitting ending to an outstanding RPG Maker title, and one you should enjoy yourself.

43. Hangman – Oxenfree

Oxenfree

Oxenfree is a game that really caught me off guard with just how effective its ARG-based horror could be, and there were a number of times when this text-based exploration title had me scared stiff. However, the moment I want to bring to the table to represent this game, is one that is less scary and more unsettling and spooky.

When you enter a room in Fort Milner, you’ll find yourself contacted by a presence from another reality, which you later find out to be those who died aboard the USS Kanaloa.

They’ll use radio snippets and educational tapes to piece together a game of hangman for you, and your goal is to answer correctly or else. This essentially puts you in a situation not too unlike the Saw Movies, where you must pass a test or die a gruesome death.

It’s a chilling exchange that reveals the true intentions of The Sunken, and adds a little bit of jeopardy to the proceedings, just don’t get too many wrong for Jonas’ sake.

44. Bloodstained Sanctuary – Cave Story

Cave Story

It would be cruel in this list of the ultimate Indie Game Moments to not include the first real indie game ever made, Cave Story. And if we are including Cave Story, then the moment in question needs to be the Bloodstained Sanctuary, and the fight with Ballos at the end.

In terms of 2D platforming design masterclasses, Cave Story showed how it was done all the way back in 2004, as Bloodstained Sanctuary is a tough challenge where the screen is busy as all hell, and you’ll need complete mechanical mastery to get through.

This is tough enough to overcome, but then, after all this, you’ll need to kill the game’s main Antagonist, Ballos, and free the world from his reign of Tyranny.

It’s a boss battle that grows in complexity with each phase, beginning as a doddle, but by the end, you’ll be sweating buckets. All in all, a portion of Cave Story that only highlights how much of a marvel this game truly is ahead of its time would be putting it lightly.

45. Admiring Your Own Work – Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Chicory: A Colorful Tale

There have been a few games in recent memory that have tried to allow players to have the agency to create a world in their own image, where their imagination is the only limitation to what they can create. Concrete Genie springs to mind when I think of this concept, but this game, like many others, was unable to offer more than fleeting moments for potential creativity.

Well, enter Chicory: A Colorful Tale, a game where you take over for the absent artist of the world and need to restore color in a fully exportable coloring book world. It’s an incredibly cute and clever game with fun puzzles to solve, but the best moment is actually when everything wraps up.

You see, just like when you finish a project, and you can lean back in your chair and marvel at your creation, Chicory allows you to explore the world you have carved out in your own image, and you get to reminisce about each creation and design choice along the way.

This is one where mileage may vary, but if you really leaned in and tried to have fun with the artsy mechanics of this one, the time spent reveling in your own brilliance will be a gaming moment you’ll treasure forever.

46. Russian Roulette – LISA The Painful

LISA The Painful

Losing party members in an RPG is never easy, and sometimes, we have to make hard decisions to let companions go. Or, in some cases, the game rips them away without warning. However, the sweet mercy in that event is that you have no control over proceedings. They usually die in a cutscene or a scripted battle.

Well, what if you were asked to play four games of Russian Roulette with your party members, and if luck doesn’t go your way, you could lose members of your party that you love and adore?

That’s exactly what happens in LISA The Painful, and if you’re someone who grows attached to party members in games like this, then this scene will sneak up on you and hit you like a tonne of bricks.

It’s such a cruel sucker punch and one that will leave you speechless if it doesn’t go your way. So good luck, I guess.

47. The Truman Show, but Better – American Arcadia

American Arcadia

As someone who rather liked the dual nature of the gameplay within American Arcadia, as well as the writing that is basically The Truman Show, but just a smidge different, I can say that there are a few standout moments one could highlight here. But let’s face it, the ending is the real showpiece here.

After we go through the rather predictable re-imagining of The Truman Show and the um-ing and ah-ing over whether you should take the blue pill and be happy or lean into anarchy. The game finally settles on a bittersweet ending.

In the end, Trevor escapes the ever-watchful eye of the evil corporation that has been casting him in their nefarious TV show, yet the corporation still lives on. Because here’s the thing, Trevor realizes that there is no way to win this fight.

There is no head to sever to kill this company. It’s like a Hydra; the head always grows back, and in the end, the new head will bite you twice as hard.

So, instead of trying to win, he simply accepts the fate of not losing. To have his own life away from the cameras, and that, at least I think, is a pretty brilliant ending.

48. I Will Never Get Over This – Getting Over It

Getting Over It

This one isn’t strictly tied to Getting Over It, as there have been lots of games that have borrowed its needlessly punishing platforming model, like Only Up or Bread and Fred. But this is the place where this all started, so best to give it credit where it’s due.

If you’ve played Getting Over It, you’ll know just how hard it is to make even the tiniest amount of progress. You need to fight tooth and nail just to swing your hammer accurately enough to clamber up a small ledge, and chances are you’ll just fall down again in a minute anyway.

Well, I can guarantee that everyone remembers their personal moment of dismay as they watched as all their progress was undone as one wrong move let to you careening down the course you had spent hours navigating to this point, which undoubtedly led to a swift uninstall of the game.

I never said these would all be good moments, did I?

49. The Undying Love Of A Mother – Venba

Venba

Our penultimate entry comes courtesy of the short but sweet story of an Indian family’s story of strife as they navigate embracing a new culture, while trying to keep some semblance of their own. Venba is a very emotional game that is told through traditional Indian Food.

But in between the Cooking Mama adjacent mini-games, you’ll witness a very grounded and touching story as a mother watches as her son grows distant, denounces his family’s culture for his adopted American way of living, and this leads up to a very memorable scene.

Your player character Venba gets a call from her son, and he says he will be coming to visit. A rarity these days, after the death of his father. So his mother, with your help, of course, cooks a series of Indian meals, a proper banquet. Then awaits his arrival.

Which, as you might have guessed, never happens. It’s a moment that will make even the most stoic individual want to hug their mother, and one of many reasons to try Venba.

50. The Truth – Bugsnax

Bugsnax overview and review

Then, lastly, we finish with Bugsnax, a jovial little game not too far removed from Pokemon Snap, where you need to explore an island, catalog the various tasty critters around the place, and try to locate the explorer that invited you to the island to interview her on her scientific findings.

The entire way through the game you are taught to love the Bugsnax, to see them as a resource, a species to be protected, and a gang of cute critters to cuddle. But there is a nasty truth lurking literally under the surface, and when you finally find Lisbert, this is revealed.

You find her in a grotesque half-Lisbert, half-Bugsnax form, and she informs you that the Bugsnax isn’t anything but a parasite that exploits your weaknesses and takes over the host until you are nothing more than a walking, talking Bugsnax.

A dark and twisted scene like this was the last thing I was expecting, and it certainly makes you think about not ordering a Mcdonalds for dinner. I mean, you still will, but you considered not doing it, so it’s a pretty powerful scene.

Continue reading:

The Cream of the Crop

So there you have it, guys, the fifty most iconic Indie Gaming Moments of All Time at the time of writing. I hope that this was a fun trip down memory lane, and maybe it inspired you to add a few of these to your gaming library.

Either way, I hope you had as much fun reading as I did making this one, and as always, thanks for reading Indie Game Culture.

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