We can’t underestimate the effort that goes into selecting our list of Top 10 Indie Games each year (not to mention our lists for Best Indie Mobile Games and Best Indie Game Music)…yet, as soon as we’re done with that, we’re already thinking about the year to come.
And with all the innovative projects in the pipeline, there’s a lot to be excited about. Thus, we present:
Most Anticipated Indie Games of 2018
The Last Night
by Odd Tales
A cyberpunk platform adventure, The Last Night looks a bit like the Trine series if it were set in the world of The Fifth Element, right down to the flying cars zipping between neon-lit skyscrapers. We can’t wait to give this a whirl.
They Are Billions
by Numantian Games
Combining two recent trends – zombies and steampunk – They Are Billions will give players the opportunity to use brass-plated, gear-driven mechs to fend off massive ravening hordes of the walking dead. The appeal of that should be self-explanatory, but it’s in Early Access now if you need further convincing. As of mid January 2018 the game has already sold well over 400,000 copies on Steam.
by William Chyr Studio
Inspired by theoretical physics and the mathematical art of M.C. Escher, this game’s art and architecture would be dizzying enough without adding the ability to alter gravity in order to better explore its intersecting staircases. We’re not sure we have the brainpower to properly wrap around the puzzles, but we’re excited to explore the dizzying heights and unexpected angles of Manifold Garden nonetheless.
Return of the Obra Dinn
by Lucas Pope
Best known for Papers, Please, Lucas Pope follows up that politically-themed bureaucracy simulator with a mystery set aboard a ghost ship. A radical change in direction, maybe, but equally reliant on a sense of place and Pope’s talent in conjuring it with sparse but evocative graphics.
by Grid Sage Games
In this science fiction Roguelike, you’ll play a robot building and augmenting itself from the pieces of other robots it destroys. Between the ASCII art and the way it uses its science fiction setting to push the genre’s fondness for procedurally generated loot in a new direction, Cogmind is geared toward old school Roguelike obsessives, not casual players, but we’re good with that.
Deep Sky Derelicts
by Snowhound Games
Garnering comparisons to Darkest Dungeon in a gritty science fiction setting, Deep Sky Derelicts adds cards and equipment management to the turn-based combat, but what really has our attention is the comic book-inspired approach to the art, which brings to mind 2000AD and even a hint of Jodorowsky.
A follow-up to Cryptark, this takes that game’s exploration of derelict – but dangerous – spaceships and transposes its twin-stick action into 3D. A possible successor to Descent but with the visual prowess we’ve come to expect from Alientrap? Too soon to say just yet, but we’re looking at getting a new flight stick just to be prepared.
Empires of the Undergrowth
by Slug Disco Studios
Remember SimAnt? Slug Disco Studios sure does, but their new ant colony sim takes things to new depths of complexity and fascination by adding a DNA component that lets your ants absorb desirable traits from their enemies. Recently released in Early Access, the current version of Empires of the Undergrowth allows players to manager their own colony – think of it as the world’s greatest digital ant farm – but future expansions promise additional story-driven missions.
by Playwood Project
If you’ve always wanted to get into tabletop miniatures games like Warhammer but never had the funds, the time or the ability to paint really tiny figures, Wartile has you covered. Currently in Early Access, this digital miniatures game set in a land of Norse myths and standard RPG mobs like undead skeletons and sundry dungeon mozzies, Wartile already boasts a well thought-out approach to turn-based strategy as well as detailed rotatable hex-based landscape dioramas that look like the real thing – only better.
A grim journey into post-apocalyptic Americana, Overland combines procedurally generated events, turn-based combat, and the morbid calculus of food and fuel conservation as players travel through a heartland-gone-wasteland depicted through geometric, papercraft-inspired art.
Mineko’s Night Market
by Meowza Games
This cute crafting and business-building sim might be this year’s answer to the “pastoral premise with surprisingly deep gameplay” niche occupied by the likes of Stardew Valley and Slime Rancher in previous years. Plus, it has art inspired by Studio Ghibli and a setting based on Japan’s “cat island,” Tashirojima.
My Time at Portia
by Pathia Games
Another pastoral game – this one about rebuilding a farm – looks like it could almost be a sequel to Fantasy Life for the Nintendo 3DS. Especially interesting is that its crafting and farming takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting that’s rural and whimsical as opposed to the predictable depressing wasteland.
King of the World
by Contec Games
Combining the large-scale, turn-based strategy of Risk with RTS elements, King of the World is multi-player warfare on a grand scale, incorporating everything from land and sea conflict to diplomacy and back-stabbing. We’re especially impressed by how much customization is available, even in Early Access.
by Ben Esposito
We first came across Donut County in 2015, when its hole-in-the-ground physics puzzle mechanic won it the Story/World Design Award at IndieCade. Since then, Ben Esposito has continued improve upon the game’s puzzles and also its charming world, which seems to share a Richard Scarry-inspired approach to town-dwelling animal characters with Night in the Woods.
Untitled Goose Game
by House House
This as-yet untitled game from the developers behind Push Me Pull You puts players in the role of trouble-making waterfowl. Based on the humor promised by its unofficial title, “Asshole Goose,” the smooth low poly animation style and hilarious misbehaved antics of the fowl you inhabit have us itching to cause mayhem in the garden.
Knights and Bikes
by Foam Sword
Developed by some of the people who worked on LittleBigPlanet, this game about two childhood friends getting into adventures on their island is inspired by the The Goonies and features art that reminds us a bit of a softer, moodier version of Costume Quest (not altogether surprising, given that it’s to be published by Double Fine).
Bonus: Knights and Bikes is the second game on our list to feature a goose – but this time he’s a friendly pet named Captain Honkers.
Directed by the legendary Keita Takahashi (of Katamari Damacy fame) and released by Journey developer Robin Hunicke’s studio, Funomena, it would be hard to find a game with a bigger pedigree than Wattam. Musical and wacky, we’re expecting this one to have lots of character – as well as lots of characters.
Slay the Spire
by Mega Crit Games
Combining Roguelike and deck-building in a way that makes them more accessible to newcomers to either genre, Slay the Spire is already receiving “Overwhelmingly Positive” ratings in Early Access.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
by Dim Bulb Games, Serenity Forge
Journey through a mythical America in this game inspired by folk tales and hobo mythology. With influences ranging from Steinbeck to Kerouac, this could be 2018’s most literary offering. (Additional evidence toward that end: it tied with the Thoreau-inspired Walden, a Game for the IndieCade 2017 Developers Choice Award.) In late-breaking news: Sting has been confirmed as one of the voice actors.
All Walls Must Fall
From isometric tactical combat, a time travel (or time reset) mechanic that reminds us of The Sexy Brutale, and a setting incorporating both an alternate future Cold War and the Berlin gay nightclub scene, there’s no shortage of reasons we’re excited about All Walls Must Fall.
by Motion Twin
Currently available in Early Access, this “Roguelike Metroidvania with Souls-lite combat” is heavy on the comparisons and references, but it’s even heavier on positive press. Its mixture of procedurally generated exploration, perma-death and loads of weapons – including an iconic Castlevania bullwhip – can only get better as it nears its official release date.
Oxygen Not Included
by Klei Entertainment
IGR writer Amanda Bower loved the Early Access version of this comedic space colony sim that she played earlier this year. With loads of improvements coming out regularly (most recently, last month’s “Tubular Upgrade”), Klei Entertainment continue to add to the fun factor of managing a space station’s various gaseous and fluid wastes.
Into the Breach
by Subset Games
For their follow-up to acclaimed space Roguelike FTL, the Subset Games crew takes on the venerable “mechs against kaiju” genre. Shrinking down the action to a small chess-like grid, Into the Breach looks to be a game that, like its predecessor, imbues every turn and choice with potentially serious consequences – be careful where you shoot or throw punches, because you could accidentally knock an attacking monster into one of the very buildings you were trying to defend.
Did we miss any indie games that you’re looking forward to this year? Be sure to let us know in the comments.