best indie game developers

The Best Indie Game Developers Of All Time

Indie games, in my opinion, are the true heart of gaming. For every triple-A title that gets released, there’ll be hundreds of indie games released by talented game developers from all over the world. Working with small teams and tight budgets, so much heart and soul goes into making these titles so great. 90% of the games I play are from indie studios, and they’ve brought me so much joy over the years.

But whilst there are tens of thousands of incredible individuals in the indie world, there are some developers that deserve the extra recognition. These are the developers behind titles that have truly shaped the indie gaming sector. There’s a mix of new and old, some teams behind just one incredibly successful game, and some that have made lots of pretty decent titles over the years. You’ll probably recognize a lot of these, but if you don’t, then I highly suggest checking them out!

Team 17

team 17

  • Founded: 1990
  • First Game Released: Miami Chase
  • Key Developers: Debbie Bestwick, Andreas Tadic, David Smethurst
  • Top Games Produced: The EscapistsWormsOvercooked

Throughout my life, various Team 17 titles have been at the forefront of my gaming experiences, and so it was the first studio that I thought of when considering the best indie game developers of all time. Founded in 1990, they have an eclectic style which means they’re not limited to constraints of the genres, and as such, their games truly stand out.

Their focus is on compelling graphics and fun gameplay, and each of their games is genuinely unique. In 2020 they had a net worth of nearly 62 million pounds, so they’re certainly a huge deal in the indie sector.

One of the very first games I ever played was Worms World Party, all the way back in 2001, during the PS1 days (well, the PS2 had technically been released, but it would be years before my parents eventually agreed to an upgrade!), and it was the first time I’d been introduced to the concept of multiplayer.

Even though we didn’t fully understand the controls, my brother and I would spend hours battling each other. Two decades later I’m still enjoying Team 17 games, most recently with the strategy game Before We Leave which they published.

They’ve developed and published so many titles throughout their career that if you’re an avid gamer then you undoubtedly will have happened upon at least one. And if you haven’t played these already, I would heartily recommend all titles in the The Escapists series, Yooka-Laylee, and My Time at Portia. Their most successful game in terms of sales was The Escapists, which sold over one million copies within its first year of release.

Team Cherry

team cherry

  • Founded: 2014
  • First Game Released: Hollow Knight
  • Key Developers: Ari Gibson, William Pellen, Jack Vine
  • Top Games Produced: Hollow Knight

Believe it or not, the hugely successful Metroidvania Hollow Knight was actually Team Cherry’s debut title. Released in 2017, it captivated the hearts of gamers worldwide. With a fascinating story and gorgeous artwork, I think it was the depths of the gameplay that truly impressed the fans.

This game really makes you work for it. It’s challenging, and frustrating, and oh-so-fun. Since then, pretty much every new Metroidvania that comes out will be compared to Hollow Knight, and it’s certainly made a name for itself in the gaming sphere. I think what’s so special about Team Cherry’s success is that they managed to do it all with a core team of just three people (Ari Gibson, William Pellen, and Jack Vine), with an extra person to work on audio.

The rich worlds, the insanely complex mechanics, the stunning music… All of it with only four people. It was a phenomenal achievement. They were also only founded in 2014, meaning they developed and published Hollow Knight in just three years.

Hollow Knight has gone on to sell over 3 million copies, and that number was taken in 2020, so it’s probably even higher now. It’s the kind of accomplishment that most other indie developers can only dream of, and well-deserved in my opinion. They made a flawless game that was popular with critics and gamers alike, and they reaped the rewards. Hollow Knight definitely left its mark on the annals of gaming history, and that’s why I felt Team Cherry needed to be included on this list.

It’s good news for fans of the game, too, as the developer is soon releasing the much-anticipated sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong. This title will be played from the perspective of Hornet, a main character in the first game. The release date is set for February 2022, and fans can’t wait, with one fan on Reddit sharing a themed drawing for almost every day since the sequel was announced. The fact that players are so invested and dedicated shows you what an excellent community Team Cherry has built.

Related: Best Hollow Knight Mods.

Giant Sparrow

giant sparrow

  • Founded: 2009
  • First Game Released: The Unfinished Swan
  • Key Developers: Ian Dallas, Dan Hollingsworth
  • Top Games Produced: What Remains of Edith Finch, The Unfinished Swan

Founded in 2009, this American company stays true to the heart of indie games. They don’t try to compete with the Triple A titles, instead they carved out their own niche and firmly committed to it. Giant Sparrow are probably best known for the cult hit What Remains of Edith Finch, but they’re also responsible for the surreal title The Unfinished Swan.

This beautiful and exciting debut title allowed players to explore a stunning mostly-monochromatic world where anything was possible. The game was released to critical acclaim, and well-respected publications such as IGN and The Escapist gave it stellar reviews. Development began on The Unfinished Swan in 2008, and it took four years of hard work before it was released in 2012. Giant Sparrow demonstrate dedication to their craft, and their efforts clearly paid off as gamers loved it.

What Remains of Edith Finch was a game in a similar vein, in that it had a mysterious air to it, and challenged players’ perspectives. Despite being a short game of roughly two and a half hours, it had a much more long-lasting impact on those who played it, and earned reverence within the indie community.

Released in 2017 for PC and consoles, it gained an even greater following by being made available on Xbox’s digital streaming service Game Pass. Critics praised it for its ingenuity in terms of story and unique gameplay, and it remains (pun intended) one of the most popular recommendations for indie games. Giant Sparrow have a healthy revenue of 6 million dollars.

Related Read: Best Indie Games on Xbox 360.

Supergiant Games

supergiant games

  • Founded: 2009
  • First Game Released: Bastion
  • Key Developers: Greg Kasavin, Amir Rao, Gavin Simon
  • Top Games Produced: HadesBastionPyre

Chances are you’ve heard of their game Hades, as it got a whole lot of notice at the 2020 Game Awards. Not only was it nominated in nine separate categories, including the prestigious Game of the Year, but it actually won two of them (Best Indie and Best Action). The fact that it managed to shine in amongst so much competition from Triple A studios shows what a determined indie team can accomplish. Hades is notable for a lot of reasons.

Firstly, the gameplay mechanics are stunning, and feel so smooth and responsive. This roguelike action dungeon crawler wonderfully combines the best elements of its genre to crate a game with endless replayability. The graphics are beautiful to look at, and the audio is captivating. However, the most impressive part in my opinion is the dialogue.

Supergiant Games put over 300,000 words of unique dialogue into the game, with an insanely complex algorithm to make sure that dialogue not only wasn’t repeated, but that it would be relevant to your exact position in the game. It’s a truly incredible feat of coding.

Hades isn’t their only game, either. Although their previous titles didn’t enjoy quite as much commercial success, they still shone in terms of quality. Their debut game, Bastion, also implemented rich narrative techniques and engaging gameplay. They continued to improve on their formula, creating Transistor and then Pyre.

Although we don’t have any details of their next project yet, it’s bound to be something extraordinary. Supergiant Games pride themselves on drawing inspiration from their past experiences, and anything that follows Hades will certainly be spectacular. The founders Amir Rao and Gavin Simon certainly created something special when they started the company in 2009.

Young Horses

young horses

  • Founded: 2011
  • First Game Released: Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Key Developers: Philip Tibitoski
  • Top Games Produced: Bugsnax, Octodad: Dadliest Catch

I love this studio. Founded in 2011, Young Horses embrace the ridiculous and create games that don’t take themselves too seriously, and allow the players to have unbridled fun. I don’t know how they come up with their ideas, but they do it in a great way, and the results are superb.

Their debut game, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, is about a loving father who also happens to be an octopus. You know, pretty standard stuff. It’s your job to just go about your daily life pretending to be a regular human man and to avoid suspicion from those around you, particularly your increasingly concerned wife. The gameplay is challenging with a nonsensical edge to it, and both players and critics really enjoyed the craziness. The CEO Philip Tibitoski may revel in the craziness when it comes to game design, but when it comes to smart business decisions, he clearly knows what he’s doing.

However, the standout game for Young Horses has to be their 2020 release Bugsnax. It was a day one release for the PS5, and had been shown during the Playstation reveal event for the console. It had a fantastic trailer song that was catchy and fun, and the song has just under 2 million views on Youtube, which hilariously is even more than the trailer has.

The game has a great range of quests to complete and Bugsnax to collect, with plenty of delightful NPCs that your character gets to know. The story is clever and well-developed, with a brilliant ending that nobody saw coming. It’s probably one of the most high profile indie releases of the current generation due to its strong association with the PS5. It also scored pretty highly on the reviews, with critics praising its unique mechanics.

Thunder Lotus Games

sundered

  • Founded: 2014
  • First Game Released: Jotun
  • Key Developers: Will Dubé, Nicolas Guérin
  • Top Games Produced: SpiritfarerSundered

I’ll be honest, I’m including this company not because they’ve had huge commercial success, but because I genuinely feel that they deserve to be here. Coming from a personal position, Spiritfarer is one of my all-time favourite indie games, so I think it’s only right that Thunder Lotus Games should be on a list of the best indie developers of all time.

It’s not just me, either. Spiritfarer is critically acclaimed, with high reviews across the board from a number of sources. In December 2021, they surpassed one million copies sold, and I think that’s rather impressive.

The main reason I’m including them, though, is that I think they really push the boundaries when it comes to representation. It’s a well-known fact that the video game industry has a huge problem with diversity. Thunder Lotus Games are very conscious of including diversity, and Spiritfarer contains LGBTQ+ characters, POC characters, positive representations of women, and locations based on various world cultures. There’s also a huge focus on mental health, and the game is bound to be cathartic for anyone who experienced a loss. There are so many poignant scenes that stay with you long after you finish playing.

As well as Spiritfarer, they also released the title Jotun back in 2015 (only a year after they founded in 2014), and Sundered in 2017. All their titles are oozing charm, and the hand-drawn art style is a testament to how much love and care this developer puts into their games. It’s very rare to find game developers as passionate as this, and they don’t believe in the toxic crunch culture that plagues the industry.

Thunder Lotus Games are a wholesome team that’s dedicated to the fans, and treats their employees right, and I believe that should be celebrated. The Creative Director Will Dubé is genuinely passionate about the studio, and keeps striving for greatness. They also make incredible games, so if you haven’t played Spiritfarer, go check it out!

InnerSloth

innersloth's among us

  • Founded: 2015
  • First Game Released: Among Us
  • Key Developers: Marcus Bromander, Forest Willard
  • Top Games Produced: Among Us, The Henry Stickmin Collection

The ultimate rags to riches story, InnerSloth are the perfect example of why you shouldn’t discount mobile games when it comes to the video game industry. Founded in 2015 and with an entire team of only eight people, they’re a particularly small studio, which makes their unexpected success all the more impressive.

They were founded in 2015, but their founder Marcus Bromander had previously released games under the moniker PuffballsUnited, notably several Henry Stickmin titles. However, none had grown particularly big, and when Innersloth released Among Us in June 2018, it fell flat.

However, that wasn’t the end of the story. As we all know, Among Us gained insane popularity in 2020, after a number of Twitch streamers started playing it with their fans. It became a symbiotic relationship, with the game growing large off of Twitch streamers and Twitch streamers gaining notice by playing Among Us.

It snowballed, and in September 2020, it hit an incredible peak of 438,524 people playing the game all at the same time on Steam alone. By November 2020, it had over 300 million monthly players across all its platforms, and had made a whopping 50 million dollars in total revenue.

As of June 2021 they were up to over 86 million dollars. Not bad for a small team of 8! The game has revolutionised the way we think of social gaming, and has certainly demonstrated the power of mobile games, as well as the influence of Twitch streamers upon the industry.

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Nicalis

nicalis' cave story

  • Founded: 2007
  • First Game Released: Cave Story
  • Key Developers: Edmund McMillen, Tyrone Rodriguez
  • Top Games Produced: The Binding of IsaacIkarugaCave Story+

Most known for the minimalist roguelike The Binding of Isaac and its sequels, Nicalis has contributed many different titles into the gaming universe. One such title is the Metroidvania shoot-em-up Cave Story, renowned for being one of the first indie games to really make it big. Originally designed by Japanese developer ‘Pixel’, Nicalis worked with him to create ports and follow-up games such as Cave Story 3D and Cavestory+.

As well as developing their own games, they also work with other indie developers to improve and publish other titles in collaborative efforts. They were founded in 2007, and since then have been responsible for many awesome games. Their founder Tyrone Rodriguez isn’t particularly liked by the press, but it’s undeniable that he started something great.

But let’s circle back to The Binding of Isaac. First released in 2011, this PC game gained massive popularity, and is widely regarded to be one of the best roguelikes of all time. Players control Isaac, a young boy desperately trying to fight for his life as he evades his deranged mother. He encounters various enemies as he moves through a randomly generated dungeon, collecting weapons and items that can help him on his journey.

The sequel, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth released in November 2014 and proved just as popular as its predecessor. By July 2015, they’d sold over 5 million copies between them, a huge feat, especially for that time. Nicalis continues to make updates for the games in the series, and have confirmed that they will be making The Binding of Isaac 2 at some point, although no set date has been given.

ConcernedApe

stardew valley

  • Founded: 2012
  • First Game Released: Stardew Valley
  • Key Developers: Eric Barone
  • Top Games Produced: Stardew Valley

One man. That’s how many people created the hugely popular Stardew Valley, just one single man. Eric Barone, or ConcernedApe as he goes by when developing, had a dream, and he more than achieved it. As of September 2021, Stardew Valley had sold over 15 million copies, with no signs of slowing. It’s garnered a cult following, and is one of the top life-sim games on the market.

Eric was inspired by games like Harvest Moon, and didn’t involve anyone else in the development process as he was determined to realise his own vision. He started development in 2012 and it took him over four years to create the game, but the hard work certainly paid off. He’s estimated to have a net worth of around 34 million dollars.

One of the things that players love most about Stardew Valley is the depth of content within what’s seemingly quite a small game. There are so many possibilities in the game, and even after pumping hundreds of hours into it, there will still be new things for you to explore and discover.

The characters have rich and varied personalities, and the game included same-sex marriage, which wasn’t always the case in games back in 2016. The charming pixel art style is iconic, and the fact that the graphics change by season is another factor that makes this game feel so special. ConcernedApe is very keen to take on board feedback from fans, and produced regular updates for the game to add features and fix any issues that fans had discovered. In September 2021, the game even had its first ever tournament, where competitors had to complete challenges that were set to them.

He’s now working on a new project, Haunted Chocolatier, which doesn’t yet have a release date. ConcernedApe stated that he doesn’t want to put a date on it as he doesn’t want to rush. He did release a trailer, however, and the initial scenes look very promising. It seems to have the same cosy art style as Stardew Valley, and the premise is intriguing. Given the huge fanbase he’s amassed, sales will undoubtedly be through the roof once it does launch.

Playdead

playdead's limbo

  • Founded: 2006
  • First Game Released: Limbo
  • Key Developers: Arnt Jensen, Dino Patti
  • Top Games Produced: Limbo, INSIDE

Founded in 2006 by Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti, when it comes to indie puzzle-platformers, Danish studio Playdead set the bar in terms of quality. Released in 2010, Limbo is considered a must-play indie game for many gamers, with its striking visual art style, entrancing storyline, and challenging gameplay mechanics.

Although it’s a relatively short game, clocking in at around three and a half hours, it’ll take players considerably longer if they want to earn all the trophies/ achievements. The 2D side-scroller takes gamers on a journey through a deadly world as they play as a young boy searching for his sister. Beautiful monochromatic graphics complemented a hauntingly captivating story. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive from critics and players alike, and people seemed to enjoy the level of challenge presented in the game.

Following on from their success, Playdead released INSIDE in 2016, which, if anything, garnered even more praise than Limbo did. A spiritual successor to their debut game, INSIDE also stuck to a mostly monochromatic colour palette, and placed similar priority on the overall narrative of the game. It was of a similar length to Limbo, although again, players would need to spend longer if they wanted to collect all of the achievements. It used intriguing mechanics to traverse the obstacles, and there were several ways for the character to die.

Playdead have an annual revenue of nearly 8 million dollars. They are currently working on a 3rd person sci-fi adventure game with no scheduled release date as yet, but they assure fans that it will be their most impressive game yet. If Limbo and INSIDE are anything to go by, this new project is bound to be utterly spectacular!

The Chinese Room

the chinese room's dear esther

  • Founded: 2007
  • First Game Released: Korsakovia (although prior to this they did work on mods for Half-Life 2)
  • Key Developers: Dan Pinchbeck, Ed Daly
  • Top Games Produced: Dear EstherAmnesiaLittle Orpheus

I got quite excited whilst researching the history of The Chinese Room, because I found out that the team originated in 2007 at the University of Portsmouth, where I study, so I feel connected to them in a way. Named after a philosophical thought experiment, they started out working as a mod team for Half-Life 2, and have created several popular titles, including Dear Esther and the Amnesia series.

Now based in Brighton, their specialities are primarily survival horror games and adventure games, and they like to give players the chance to explore the world of a game. Amnesia: The Dark Descent in particular was incredibly popular among fans, and at the time of publishing has a 94% approval rating from Google users. Since its release in 2010, The Chinese Room have published two sequels: A Machine for Pigs and Rebirth. For players looking for an indie horror game, Amnesia is often their go-to.

In terms of adventure games, the vibe is very different to the psychological tension of their horror games. Little Orpheus is their colourful side-scrolling platformer where players take control of a Soviet Cosmonaut who’s undertaken an adventure to save the world.

It was released in 2020, and although not yet available for many platforms, it’s scheduled for wider release in 2022. Those who have played it seem to love it, and it has a 98% rating from Google users. Critic reviews are mixed, but the overall reception does seem to be positive. The Chinese Room became a subsidiary of Sumo Digital in 2018, but they remain an indie team at their core, and still run as a separate studio.

Team Meat

team meat

  • Founded: 2008
  • First Game Released: Super Meat Boy
  • Key Developers: Tommy Refenes, Edmund McMillen, Jonathan Blow
  • Top Games Produced: Super Meat Boy, Super Meat Boy Forever

If you played PC games back in 2010, you’ve almost certainly heard of Super Meat Boy. It was a super popular (and super difficult) 2D platformer that swept schools and colleges across the world. Founded in 2008, Team Meat were the indie developers behind it, and it’s probably one of the best known arcade-style 2D platformers out there.

Although it can’t really be compared to the quality of games being produced today, it certainly served its purpose. Team Meat knew what people wanted, and they provided it. Super Meat Boy was a fun way to kill time at work or school, or to just face up to the challenge of a difficult game. It was frustrating, grindy, and absolutely designed to mess with a player’s head. But gamers love that. They love to be pushed to their limits, and that’s what it did.

Team Meat haven’t just faded into obscurity either. In 2020 they launched Super Meat Boy Forever, a spiritual successor to their original game. It was originally planned to be a mobile-only title, but they ended up releasing it for PC and consoles as well. However, Super Meat Boy‘s original creator wasn’t involved in the process, as Edmund McMillen was no longer part of Team Meat.

He’d gone on to develop The Binding of Isaac and its sequel Rebirth with Nicalis in 2011 and 2014 respectively. Edmund is now estimated to have a net worth of over 15 million dollars. Although Super Meat Boy Forever received mixed reviews from critics, the original title still holds an important part in gaming history, and shows that indie developers can be just as important in the industry as larger studios.

Companies That Used to be Indie

The fact of the matter is that not all indies can stay that way. Sometimes they have success so massive that they catch the eye of one of the bigger players in the gaming industry. In those situations, you can’t blame them for following the money. These companies still remain a pinnacle of what indie development can achieve, and I believe their stories are still noteworthy when looking at the best indie developers of all time.

In fact, they’re not only noteworthy, but some of the finest examples of what a small team can achieve when they put their mind to it. A small idea can snowball into something great, and captivate players worldwide. Here are just a few of the studios that were able to accomplish just that.

Double Fine

psychonauts 2

  • Founded: 2000
  • First Game Released: Psychonauts
  • Key Developers: Tim Schafer, Lee Petty
  • Top Games Produced: Psychonauts 2, Grim Fandango Remastered, Brutal Legend

The masterminds behind many incredible games, Double Fine started out in July 2000 as an independent studio, although admittedly they had an advantage in that they were founded by Tim Schafer who had plenty of experience in the industry, and had left LucasArts after over a decade of working there.

They gained popularity with titles such as Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and Broken Age, among many others. Fans were clamouring for more content, and in 2012 they eagerly crowdfunded over three million dollars for Double Fine Adventure to be created. Double Fine were bought out by Microsoft in June 2019.

The much anticipated Psychonauts 2 was released in August 2021, and sold just under 2 million copies. Given the fact that it was also on Game Pass, there were probably millions more players via that service, too. It was very well received, and scored an average of 89% on Metacritic, and a 96% approval rating from Google users.

Another lesser-known Double Fine title that I’ve personally really enjoyed is Costume Quest 2, which was released in October 2014. It’s fantastic to play around Halloween if horror games scare you (guilty as charged), and the cute aesthetic and fun gameplay are indicative of what a fantastic studio Double Fine is.

Telltale Games

the wolf among us

  • Founded: 2004
  • First Game Released: Telltale Texas Hold’em
  • Key Developers: Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors, Sean Vanaman, Jake Rodkin
  • Top Games Produced: Tales From the Borderlands, The Walking Dead

I expect many of you may be broken-hearted at the mere mention of Telltale Games, as they sadly became defunct in October 2018. Before that, however, they were a hugely well-liked studio making unique storytelling games in a number of popular franchises. They were founded in 2004, so you can at least say that they had a good run. Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors, and Troy Molander were the masterminds behind this epic studio.

Telltale Games worked with trademarks such as The Walking DeadBatman, and Game of Thrones to create beautiful episodic games with their distinct line art style. The games were huge hits, particularly Tales From the Borderlands. The games were not action-heavy, and instead revolved around the players’ choices through a point-and-click mechanic, and responses to dialogue and story options which appeared on the screen.

As there was no skill barrier, the game had a wide reach, and appealed to casual gamers as well as hardcore veterans of the gaming industry.

Aside from their episodic story-based games around franchises, they had other fun titles such as Sam and Max and Puzzle Agent, which allowed players to test their thinking skills. Telltale Games were very much about telling a story and making their players think, rather than relying on gamers having quick reaction times.

If you prefer to take gaming at your own pace, then it would be well worth having a look through Telltale’s impressive catalogue of titles. Sadly, the studio made a series of bad financial decisions, and filed for bankruptcy in 2018, ending their impressive run. Several of their most popular assets were bought out by other companies, but the studio as a whole is gone for good. Their legacy lives on, however, and I’m sure they’ll always be known as one of the foremost names in the indie gaming industry.

Psyonix

rocket league

  • Founded: 2000
  • First Game Released: Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars
  • Key Developers: Dave Hagewood, Corey Davis
  • Top Games Produced: Rocket League

Now owned by Epic Games, Psyonix started out in 2000 as an indie studio founded by their CEO Dave Hagewood, but grew quickly after their game Rocket League achieved unprecedented success. Released in July 2015, the game allowed players to play soccer (as a Brit, it pains me not to call it football) with cars instead of people.

Players could steer, boost, and jump their way into the ball to try and score in their opponent’s goal. With a wide range of customisation options, fans were rewarded for playing regular games, and progression meant unlocking even more customisation options. In April 2016 they added a Hoops mode so that the game could simulate basketball as well as just soccer.

The online aspect of the game almost certainly contributed to its success, as players could connect with others all over the world, as well as play with their friends. By January 2017, the game had over 25 million registered players, which is incredible given that it was made by an indie developer.

As the game continued to gain popularity, it piqued the attention of gaming industry giant Epic Games, who acquired the studio for an unspecified amount of money that’s rumoured to be upwards of 200 million dollars.

Even in 2021, 6 years after its initial release, Rocket League still has tens of thousands of concurrent users, and continues to be one of the most popular streaming categories on Twitch. Psyonix are pretty much the blueprint for uncontrollable growth within the indie sphere, and even though they’ve gone mainstream, their indie roots remain a big part of who they are.

Mojang

minecraft

  • Founded: 2009
  • First Game Released: Minecraft
  • Key Developers: Markus Persson, Jens Bergensten
  • Top Games Produced: Minecraft

It’s the big one. With over 200 million copies sold, Minecraft is not only the best selling indie, but the best selling game ever, at least at the time of publishing. As of the end of 2021 they had a mind-blowing net worth of 1.7 billion dollars. That’s right, billion. Although Mojang have long since outgrown the title of indie, their story started with just one small team making something they could never have imagined would have grown as large as it did.

Created by Markus Persson, and primarily designed by Jens Bergensten, Minecraft‘s Beta was released in 2009 (the same year Mojang was founded), with the full release following in 2011. The concept was a simple one. Players would explore a world created entirely of blocks, collecting resources, building structures, and defeating enemies.

But this simple concept contained endless creative possibilities, and players could spend hours upon hours building their fantasy houses within this world. Some players co-operate together to create vast swathes of impressive architecture, such as this mod which allows players to explore a blocky version of Hogwarts.

Larger studios took notice, and Mojang received offers from companies such as EA and Activision Blizzard, before ultimately joining Microsoft in 2014. This acquisition didn’t come cheap, and Microsoft bought them for a whopping 2.5 billion dollars. Minecraft has fans of all ages, and is popular with adults and children alike.

It’s also launched careers for many content creators, particularly on Youtube, with players such as Dream making a name for themselves through the game. Mojang regularly release updates for it, so the game is constantly evolving. They also released Minecraft Dungeons in May 2020, which allowed players to experience the game they’d come to love in a brand new format.

A dungeon crawler in a similar vein to games like Diablo, it definitely had some indie charm despite the studio now belonging to Microsoft. Regardless of what happens in the future, Minecraft is the foremost example of what indie development can achieve.

FAQs

 

Question: What’s the difference between an indie game and a Triple A game?

Answer: Essentially there are two things to account for – team size and budget. It’s a bit of a blurry area in that there’s no strict definition of exactly when the line is crossed, but indie developers will usually have smaller teams of 30 or less.

They also typically have less of a budget to work with, whereas Triple A developers can spend millions on a single title. As I said, there’s some leeway in the boundary, but indie usually means developers have had to work with a small team and limited money.

Question: What makes a good indie developer?

Answer: I’m sure you could ask a hundred different gamers this question and get a hundred different answers back. Ultimately, everyone will have their own opinion on what makes a developer great, but I think there are some main points that most people would agree on.

Firstly, and most importantly, being able to create a fun gaming experience despite the limited budget/ team size. If a title isn’t enjoyable, then what’s the point in playing it? They also need to create a game that sticks in people’s minds and resonates with them. They don’t have the same budget allocation as large developers when it comes to promotion, so they need gamers to want to tell others about the game.

Finally, an indie developer needs to be able to work with the money that they have to create something truly great, not create something mediocre because they aspired too high and didn’t account for their budget. Knowing their limits is a vital part of making a great game.

Question: Why didn’t you include my favourite developer on this list?

Answer: I’m sorry! There are hundreds of incredibly talented indie developers out there, and I’d never be able to account for all of them. The sad fact is that most of us won’t play most of the indie games that exist as there are simply too many. With this list, I tried to include some of the most popular indie developers both in terms of copies sold, and the strength of the fanbase.

I also tried to account for developers from across a range of genres. If it’s any consolation, I had to miss out on a lot of my own favourite developers as well. But that’s not to say that the ones I didn’t include are any less deserving of reverence.

Conclusion

There are so many wonderful indie developers that I’ve included in this list, but so many more that I simply didn’t have the space to. Indie gaming is one of the best parts of the gaming industry in my opinion, and there continue to be shining examples of why they’re so special. Unbound by pressure from rich executives, indies allow the developers to explore between genres, creating new and unique games that leave an impact on those who play them.

This list showcases not only some great developers and games, but also the cultural relevance they can have on society. Indie development affects players, streamers, content creators, and the gaming industry as a whole. It gives hope to every developer sitting behind their PC or laptop, wondering whether their vision will ever be realised. Because dreams can come true, and these incredibly talented developers are the proof of it.

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