Indie games usually show the most innovation out of the titles released each year. From the hidden genre mashup in Hades to the beautiful, unique art of Cuphead, the best indie games push game design, art, and mechanics forward in a way that many AAA releases can’t manage. And in 2021, there are a lot of great indie games to choose from.
There’s a great variety of games to choose from, too. From familiar to absurd, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for the indie games on a specific platform, we have you covered there:
- Best indie games on Nintendo Switch
- Best indie games on PC
- Best indie games on Xbox Series X
- Best indie games on PS4
If nothing else, Hades is a testament to how far good game design can go. Developed and released by Supergiant Games — the same studio behind Transistor and Bastion — it’s hardly a surprise that Hades is a good game. What is surprising is how Supergiant maintained and evolved the roguelike genre, cementing Hades as one of the best roguelikes of all time.
On the surface, Hades is an ultra-tight hack-and-slash. You move from chamber to chamber, defeating baddies while picking rewards. And for that, Hades is a good game.
The boon system makes it a great game. You can pick up boons from various gods and goddesses during your run. These boons, like the rooms themselves, are randomized each run, combining the excitement of drafting in a game like Magic: the Gathering with the combat of something like Diablo. Hades, like previous Supergiant titles, isn’t content with being another indie game. In fact, it’s Digital Trends’ pick for the best indie game from 2020.
You can pick up Hades on PC or Nintendo Switch.
Superliminal is a game about perspective. Although a short, two-hour puzzler, Sueprliminal packs enough of a punch to justify its price. Much like The Witness –which we’ll get to shortly — Superliminal is a puzzle game where figuring out the mechanics is as exciting as solving the puzzles themselves. What makes Superliminal stand out is how it manages to do so much with so little.
Unlike a lot of puzzle games, Superliminal‘s core design is so good that it doesn’t need red herrings or any other distractions to keep puzzle rooms interesting. Each puzzle room only has a few components, and all of them are essential to reaching a solution. And that makes a difference. Instead of being frustrated about what’s important and what isn’t, Superliminal lays bare the tools you need to solve the puzzle, forcing critical thinking in a way few puzzle games manage.
You can pick up Superliminal on PC.
Factorio is a game that sneaks up on you. It’s a factory management game all about automation, tasking you with building elaborate conveyer belt systems to move resources around your factory as fast as possible. Screenshots, including the one above, don’t do the game justice. It’s easy to see a mess of mining systems, belts, and smelters and assume that Factorio is only for a certain set of obsessively organized PC gamers.
It’s a game for everyone, though. Factorio starts with you mining resources by hand. From there, you build a miner, then a smelter, then a conveyer belt to connect the two. That core setup continues to expand as you build your factory, with Factorio slowly introducing new concepts. Within a couple of hours, you’ll have a factory that looks way more impressive than it felt to build. Indeed, Factorio sneaks up on you, providing a perfect balance of guidance and gameplay to make you a pro without you even realizing it.
You can pick up Factorio on PC.
StudioMDHR’s long-awaited debut, Cuphead, is one of the most visually enticing games we’ve ever played. It feels like you’re playing an old 1930s cartoon and an incredibly well-made one at that. It simply looks like a dream in motion. The story sees titular protagonist Cuphead and his brother Mugman enter into a dubious agreement with the Devil only to battle their way through Inkwell Isle for their souls. This game is not for the faint of heart, as each of the Cuphead bosses tests your platforming and shooting skills.
Not satisfied being just a boss rush gauntlet, Cuphead also has run and gun stages, each of which is harder than the last. Cuphead‘s challenging gameplay is rewarding, but its visual and audio design steals the show. All bosses, from Beppi the Clown to Wally Warbles to King Dice, are rendered in stunning detail.
Cuphead is available on Xbox One, Windows, MacOS, and Nintendo Switch.
Read our full Cuphead review
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Mental illness is a storytelling device frequently used to emphasize a larger-than-life villain, yet many creators fail to realize how psychological conditions also affect heroes. Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice tackles this issue head-on to deliver a deeply disturbing and emotionally affecting story supported by game developer Melina Juergens’ fantastic debut acting performance. The game also has some of the best animations we’ve ever seen, spitting at the “sub-par visuals” stereotype that currently plagues indie games.
But Ninja Theory didn’t forget what made its previous games so engaging: Vicious third-person combat. Though stripped down compared to DmC: Devil May Cry or Enslaved, the swordplay in Hellblade is still quite satisfying, and the threat of having to restart the entire game if you die too many times is enough to make you sweat.
Hellblade is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. A sequel is currently in development for Xbox Series X, now that Ninja Theory has gone from indie developer to Xbox first-party studio.
Read our full Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice review
In this award-winning game from Mobius Digital, players assume the role of an unnamed alien astronaut recruit. Their first mission into space is suddenly cut short after 22 minutes when the sun goes supernova. Bummer, right? This short adventure seems disappointing at first, but your trek doesn’t end there. The recruit discovers they’re trapped in a 22-minute time loop yet retains all knowledge each time they die. That means the recruit must explore and gather all the information they can before the sun incinerates all local life and the 22-minute cycle resets.
The premise of Outer Wilds is to uncover the secrets of an ancient race and understand why you’re in the time loop. Both are connected and you must hop from world to world to converse with other astronauts and explore ruins. The overall mystery doesn’t actually tell you where to go. Instead, the surprisingly progressive writing offers hints so you can unravel the plot on your own. Given Outer Wilds is mostly about exploration and discovery, you’ll find puzzles to solve and deadly environments to endure, like the giant tornadoes of Giant’s Deep.
Outer Wilds is one game you don’t want to fly by on the Xbox One, PS4, and Windows.
Night in the Woods
Returning to your hometown doesn’t always turn out how you expect. In Night in the Woods, anthropomorphic cat Mae drops out of college and heads back to Possum Springs. Mae gradually begins to see that the town and its people — a collection of eclectic, talking animals — have a dark past full of mysteries. The game plays as a sidescroller, but Night in the Woods can aptly be compared to visual novels and adventure games.
With an emphasis on the stories we tell, indie studio Finji’s first game ends up telling one of the most profound and relatable video game narratives we’ve played in years. Heavily indebted to dark humor, Night in the Woods asks players to make choices throughout the story that affect the way Mae views the happenings in Possum Springs. It even accomplishes the impressive task of making us sad and laugh all in the space of one scene.
Night in the Woods is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Telltale-esque, story-driven adventures aren’t nearly as common as they were prior to the Telltale Games closure. Nonetheless, Oxenfree may very well be the best entry in the popular genre to date. Set on an island, Alex and her friends begin experiencing events that can only be referred to as supernatural. Instead of fleeing, they remain to uncover the island’s secrets. A distinct, 2.5-D art style gives Oxenfree a look that separates it from others in the genre, and the twisting and turning story is undeniably spellbinding.
With wonderfully realized cutscenes, introspective dialogue, and a meaningful choice-based system, Oxenfree is a gripping story that will grip you until the credits roll. Then, if you’re anything like us, you’ll boot it up again to choose differently, and see how Alex’s relationships and the ending change based on your actions.
Oxenfree is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Dead Cells‘ melting pot of ideas makes it hard to pigeonhole into a single genre. On the one hand, it’s very much a Metroidvania game, but it’s also a rogue-lite in the tradition of Rogue Legacy. The randomization makes it exciting each time you enter its nostalgic spin on 16-bit visuals. And, yes, it’s challenging in a way that draws comparisons to Dark Souls (even its title harks back to the de facto “difficult” series).
Dead Cells breaks up its 2D levels into zones much like a Metroid or Castlevania game, though its combat requires precision and forces you to adapt, like the aforementioned Dark Souls. You collect enemy blueprints, upgrades, weapons, and items throughout the game, all of which can be given to the strange old “collector” for safekeeping.
The crux of Dead Cells‘ progression system sees you pushing through levels and delivering useful items to the collector before you die and start anew. Your upgrades and available items also make each run unique, given you’ll have more tools at your disposal. Satisfying combat and an addictive loot system make Dead Cells one of the best Metroidvania/rogue-lite games in years.
Dead Cells is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows.
Read our full review of Dead Cells
Spelunky remains one of the best indies of all time, but the new launch of Spelunky 2 took its randomized roguelike formula and perfected it. Like the original, you play as a treasure hunter diving into procedurally generated levels that change every time you die — and you’re going to die a lot. Yet after each death, you’ll improve your skills and learn more about how to spot deadly traps and deal with the deadly monsters you encounter.
While the original had four worlds with four levels each, Spelunky 2 adds branching paths so you can choose different worlds to explore, with seven areas in a single playthrough and up to 16 different areas you can end up in based on your choices. It also includes new doorways — letting you go into caves behind each level that bypass the main area and add new treasure and traps — as well as new weapons, allies, and mounts to ride.
You can now explore Spelunky 2‘s caves in an online co-op with a friend, or compete for the high score in the Daily Challenge mode, which gives everyone the exact same cave configuration. It’s a bizarre game with weird but deadly enemies and comically exasperating deaths. Yet when you reach a new level or discover a new secret, it feels that much more rewarding.
Spelunky 2 is available on PS4 and PC.
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire combines two trendy genres — roguelikes and trading card games — to create one of the coolest and replayable indies around. Taking place throughout three acts, you battle both small and large baddies using turn-based combat. Your weapons are your cards, organized in a deck that gradually builds over time. When you fail a run, you start back at the beginning. Critically, you will have new knowledge to put into play during your next run and more possibilities in terms of cards and abilities at your disposal.
Slay the Spire has three different heroes with unique decks and play styles. The balance of combat is what makes Slay the Spire so good. You’re constantly weighing whether to defend or attack (or do both) during your turn. Slay the Spire has many layers of strategy, but it never becomes cumbersome. In fact, the experience only gets better the more you play.
Easy to pick up and play for short spurts and long gaming sessions alike, Slay the Spire is a sterling RPG for the Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon is a top-down rogue-like similar to The Binding of Isaac, only at a much faster pace. The loot-driven loop tasks you with picking between one of four characters to send through a dizzying number of dungeon rooms. You must contend with both shooting quickly and dodging, as the dodge roll mechanic is an integral part of the gameplay. When you die, you go back to the beginning, but this rogue-like surprisingly retains its rooms through each run.
The challenge comes from the fact that the actual room locations, treasure, and enemies change each time you start over. With more than 300 unique weapons and items to uncover and four different adventurers to play, Enter the Gungeon is a game you’ll want to keep playing even after the credits roll. You can also play co-op with a friend, which doesn’t necessarily make the game easier, but it does up the wonderful chaos.
Enter the Gungeon is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Windows.
Made by just three developers at InnerSloth, Among Us took the world by storm as a way to remotely connect with (and murder) your friends while stuck indoors. The gameplay is simple but endlessly repeatable: Each game, crewmates complete mini-games to fix malfunctioning ship or base parts, while randomly chosen imposters disguised as crewmates pick off the good guys one by one. If a body is found, people accuse one another and supposed imposters are booted out of the airlock.
You can play with strangers or in a party of friends, but it’s especially fun to interrogate your friends over voice chat or study their faces on video calls, trying to guess who is lying about their alibis. Or, as the imposter, you’ll have to improvise on the fly to come up with excuses and fake tasks that hide your true murderous actions.
Among Us is only available on PC, but we wrote up a workaround for Mac users.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Mediatonic’s Fall Guys has proven to be an utter success among indie game fans. While most battle royale titles tend to stick thoroughly to the “battle” part of it, Fall Guys approaches it from a different angle involving whimsical platforming gameplay.
Using adorable avatars, players can partake in multiple events, including soccer, foot racing, “Grab the Tail,” and more silly games, with each taking place in vibrant and colorful locales. The game is most reminiscent of game shows like Wipeout, as players are consistently bombarded with daunting obstacles. All of this is done as players try to avoid falling off suspended platforms into water, lava, or a vast pit of pink goop.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is one of the most creative platformers in years, redefining the battle royale genre as more diverse than simply hero shooters or survival games. Fall Guys is ultimately a highlight for both 2020 and battle royales altogether.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is available on PS4 and PC.
Read our full Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout review
Overcooked: All You Can Eat
The Overcooked franchise has tested your relationships and communication skills with friends and loved ones for years. You must cook recipes as quickly as possible in zany kitchens that move ingredients around or block you off from burning skillets. The only way to get a good score is to split up tasks effectively, but under pressure, you’ll often just end up shouting “Where are the chopped tomatoes!” while the kitchen burns and your cookmates fall off cliffs holding the ingredients you need.
Any of the Overcooked games could be included on this list, but if you were lucky enough to get your hands on an Xbox Series X or PS5, you should definitely get Overcooked: All You Can Eat. This deluxe version comes with all the levels of Overcooked, Overcooked 2, and all the DLC for both, with the older levels remastered to have Overcooked 2‘s gameplay improvements. Levels run at 60 fps in 4K for the first time on consoles, plus this new version comes with new accessibility features and faster loading times.
Overcooked: All You Can Eat is available on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PS5, while Overcooked and Overcooked 2 are available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Linux.
D-Pad Studio’s vibrant platformer may have taken almost a decade to arrive, but the end product was well worth the wait. In Owlboy, human-owl hybrid Otus sets off on an adventure after pirates attack his town. The first thing that stands out about Owlboy is its brilliantly realized, colorful world. This Metroidvania-style platformer features a sprawling, branching world that forces players to use every trick offered with Otus and his companions, whom he carries through various portions of the game.
Owlboy is much more than beautiful scenery, though. Devilishly smart puzzles fill the gaps between interesting boss fights. It captures nostalgia via 16-bit graphics, but all of its mechanisms at work — smart gameplay, engaging dialogue, varied environments — make it feel decidedly modern.
Owlboy is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Playdead’s follow-up to the acclaimed Limbo doesn’t deviate much from the studio’s well-known aesthetic. The game drops a young boy into a dark setting washed in a dreary, monochrome palette. Most of the sounds you hear stem from his feet pattering across environments ranging from the woods to a bizarre factory. This puzzle-platformer doesn’t waste a single moment of your time, as every puzzle has a purpose, both narratively and in teaching you mechanics you’ll need later.
Like Limbo, Inside creates a mood that is both chilling and hypnotic. Play it once to marvel at the ingenious puzzles, but play it again to notice all of the story details you likely missed during the first playthrough. Inside and Limbo both have a distinct atmosphere, but Inside makes better use of it while telling its unique and unsettling tale.
Inside is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, and iOS.
Read our full Inside review
Celeste, the newest game from Towerfall developer Matt Makes Games, is a deceptively simple puzzle-platformer. Ostensibly a game about protagonist Madeline’s journey to the top of the titular Celeste mountain, we gradually learn about her emotional troubles, as well as the colorful cast of characters she meets along the way.
But this isn’t actually an adventure game at all. Madeline climbs the mountain with simple-yet-deep jumping mechanics that make for some tremendously creative levels. The hazards thrown in your way later in the game are always just challenging enough to slow you down. With tons of collectibles to find and special “B-Side” levels to unlock, Celeste keeps you climbing the mountain for hours.
Celeste is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Read our full Celeste review
Jonathan Blow’s long-awaited follow-up to Braid — the massive hit that was one of several to initiate the indie resurgence — couldn’t be a more different game. The Witness features puzzles, and puzzles alone. At first glance, the colorful island littered with random statues and weird oddities seems like a very bizarre environment for a game that consists entirely of line puzzles. But when you start moving from puzzle to puzzle, you’ll begin to appreciate and dissect your surroundings. Simply put, the line puzzles are brilliant.
Each puzzle teaches you a valuable lesson, and when they involve the environment as part of the solution, the grandiose experience only heightens. The game tests your mental stamina and often persuades you to take out a pen and paper as you search for the correct solution. It’s rare for a game to inspire that kind of dedication, but The Witness does, and it will compel you to keep going, and learning, every step of the way.
The Witness is available on PS4, Xbox One, Nvidia Shield, Windows, MacOS, and iOS.
Read our full The Witness review
Papers, Please shouldn’t be captivating, but it’s easily one of the most enthralling indie games around. You play as an immigration officer at a border crossing that’s based on East and West Berlin. Your job is to check papers amidst political and cultural turmoil and use a set of rules to decide if you should let the person in or turn them away.
The act of checking papers is the main gameplay component, but it’s not what Papers, Please is even about. As an exercise in empathy, Papers, Please slowly creeps up on you, making you feel for the people around you and question the job that you hold. It’s an astoundingly moving experience and, yes, somehow it’s also very fun to play. Don’t read too much about it before you dive in, though, please.
Papers, Please is available on Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation Vita, and iOS.
Untitled Goose Game
Developed by House House and published by Panic, Untitled Goose Game presents a simple, semi-isometric view of a mischievous goose waddling about in an English village carrying a to-do list. The game’s flat colors only complement the feathery animation and allows players to focus on the puzzles at hand, not the overall environment. Like Angry Birds, this family-friendly game packs character just in design alone. The goose waddle is simply adorable.
Your so-called “to-do list” is nothing short of evil. You won’t find any blood or violence. Instead, players rely on puzzle skills and a little stealth to get tasks completed. For instance, your first task is to have a picnic, but that means breaking into the garden, getting the groundskeeper wet, stealing his keys, throwing his rake into the lake, and so on. Later you’re tasked to steal a boy’s glasses. Because he can’t see, your goose steals the boy’s toy plane and gives it to a local shopkeeper. With that done, the boy must now purchase the plane.
Untitled Goose Game is a devilishly good time for everyone on the Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, and MacOS.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
One of the great things about indie development is that, without pressure from traditional publishers, creators have a lot of room to experiment. This results in oddities like Crypt of the NecroDancer, which combines the essential traits of rhythm games and roguelikes for a truly unique experience. Players descend the floors of a randomly-generated dungeon, collecting treasure, evading traps, and fighting enemies. The twist comes in the controls. Each floor has its unique soundtrack, and players must move and attack on the beat that, thankfully, has a visual cue for those who need help.
Floors are further divided into grids, and players move using the four cardinal directions. Each enemy has a unique movement pattern while some have special abilities, like walking onto squares and turning them into slick ice patches. That means players must learn and react to each distinct pattern and ability. The game becomes hectic early on, but players can find and equip various items and spells to make things easier.
Crypt of the NecroDancer is available on PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, MacOS, and iOS.
At first glance, Undertale seems like some bizarre student project, a homage to old-school JRPGs. The game does borrow many of the trappings of those old games (particularly the graphical style of Earthbound), but beneath that cheap retro exterior beats a transcendent heart.
Undertale casts players as a nameless child who falls into an underground world populated by monsters. Rescued by a kindly creature, the player journeys to the barrier separating humans from monsters while meeting and battling a cast of outlandish characters along the way. Undertale’s writing is where the game really shines, as its cast of monsters come across as beautifully human.
Undertale is available on PS4, Vita, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
Developed by ZA/UM, Disco Elysium is a stylish-yet-gritty isometric open-world RPG. Players assume the role of a detective who initially wakes up mostly naked on a dirty hotel room floor. Problem is, this guy has an alcohol problem. It escalates to a three-day drinking binge that ultimately leaves him with amnesia. Thanks to his inner demons, you’re not only tasked with solving the murder case he originally worked on before his breakdown, but you must discover the character’s hazy identity.
Players roam the streets of Revachol, a ’70s-esque city infested with crime and poverty. Overall, Disco Elysium is dialogue-heavy, even during violent encounters. There’s no real combat system, but rather branching trees based on your actions. It’s an interesting twist to your typical isometric RPG and gives Disco Elysium more of a storybook feel versus an interactive game. Over time you’ll focus on four major abilities — intellect, motorics, physique, and psyche — as the murder-mystery unfolds and you level up the detective.
Disco Elysium is available on Windows, with PS4, Xbox One, and even Nintendo Switch ports in the works.
Stardew Valley could perhaps be described best as a small-town life simulator game. The game opens with the player inheriting a farm in a run-down village, and from there it’s all about everyday living.
The game divides into days, months, and years. Players can only accomplish so many activities in a given day, forcing them to choose their priorities wisely. Whether they’re growing crops, helping townsfolk with problems, or exploring caves to find resources, players must decide what they value and pursue it.
You’ll easily get dozens of hours of enjoyment from this game, and then can start adding Stardew Valley mods to switch things up once your simple farming life has lost its luster.
Stardew Valley is available on PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Kerbal Space Program
Want to run a spaceport? Kerbal Space Program is the simulator for you. It centers around an alien species known as Kerbals located on the planet Kerbin. The little green creatures built a spaceport just for you; a platform for designing, building, and launching spaceships. It’s not just a design studio, however, as the sim relies on orbital and aerodynamics to provide an “authentic” feel. The object: conquer space by building space stations and habitations on neighboring planets.
You start Kerbal Space Program by selecting one of three gameplay modes. In Science Mode, players advance Kerbal knowledge by conducting space experiments to unlock parts. Of the three, this mode is your safest starting point. On the other hand, Career Mode stacks on contracts and funding as you manage the entire space program and build a reputation. Lastly, Sandbox Mode simply unlocks everything the sim provides right from the start, so you can create anything you want without any worries over finances and contracts.
Kerbal Space Program is available on Xbox One, PS4, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Into the Breach
Subset Games’ FTL: Faster Than Light delivered a brutally difficult strategy with a classic retro-inspired aesthetic. However, the developer outdid itself with its next game, Into the Breach. It’s a time-traveling turn-based role-playing game that tasks you with saving humanity from destruction at the hands — or antennae — of the insect-like Vek creatures. Each level takes place on a small grid map and requires you to do damage and position yourself in areas where you can knock Vek into the ocean.
Survive for the allotted number of turns, and you complete the stage, but focus on damage output alone, and you will quickly find yourself overrun. Though the game can be completed in a few hours, you’re all but guaranteed to start up a second run as soon as you finish your first.
Into the Breach is available on the Nintendo Switch, Windows, and MacOS.
Read our full Into the Breach review
Like Advance Wars of GBA fame, Wargroove is a tactical, turn-based strategy game that gives you different types of war units with different strengths and weaknesses against one another. You must defeat enemy troops using unit advantages and your commander’s unique “groove” ability. Each map has varied terrain that helps or harms your troops in skirmishes against foes, and war fog can make enemies pop out of nowhere and take out your troops if you over-extend. There’s an excellent challenge to these maps, but you can also scale the difficulty back if a particular level proves too difficult.
You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck with this indie title. Along with a 50+ hour single-player campaign, Wargroove also features co-op and PvP modes for up to four friends to play together. There’s even a level editor mode where you create your own maps and battles and upload them for other players to enjoy. You can take on other players’ campaigns once you’ve completed the main one and want more tactical challenges to overcome.
Wargroove is available for PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
Read our Wargroove gameplay impressions
Hollow Knight has become the bar by which other Metroidvanias are judged. It’s a tough-as-nails platformer that keeps on giving, filled with excellent level design, boss encounters, and exploration. If you’re reading this guide, you’ve likely already heard of Hollow Knight. If you haven’t played it despite that, let this entry serve as yet another reminder: Hollow Knight is a great video game.
It’s also an increasingly rare video game, one that clearly shows its influences without becoming chained to them. Hollow Knight is confident, and that translates into how the game plays.
It’s a great value, too. Developer Team Cherry has released four free DLCs for Hollow Knight since launch, and they haven’t raised the base price of the game. For $15 — and even less on sale — you’re getting a 25- to 30-hour game with another 5 to 6 hours of DLC content (even more if you fancy the boss rushes of Godmaster). Team Cherry planned a fifth DLC, too, which has since been turned into Hollow Knight: Silksong.
Originally released as a free mod for Half-Life in 2012, Black Mesa shows what a talented team of fans can do when given free rein over a franchise. With Valve’s commercial blessing, Black Mesa released on Steam as one of the first 10 games available through Steam Greenlight. Since then — nearly a decade ago — developer Crowbar Collective has continued to build and refine Black Mesa, and now it’s the definitive way to play through Half-Life.
The visuals are significantly better, yes, but Black Mesa is more than that. Certain sections have been expanded or totally redesigned. Crowbar Collective took very little creative license, but it did poke and prod Valve’s original design to shape the game into something commercially viable in 2021.
Black Mesa isn’t an “HD remaster,” but it’s also not a remake, sitting somewhere between the two. Crowbar Collective went out of its way to respect and retain the feeling and design of Half-Life while still adding modern conveniences and visuals.
Gris feels like playing a watercolor painting. There isn’t a single frame that feels like an accident, and although that may seem like an exaggeration, it really isn’t. Gris is a truly beautiful game.
You play as the titular Gris, traveling through a strange, wonderous world as she deals with a tragic experience. The entirety of the game plays out without text, instead using symbols and visual design to drive the narrative forward. It’s not just a “walking simulator,” either. Gris is a puzzle platformer through and through, just one dressed up really nicely.
The evocative visual design is enough for Gris to earn a spot on this list, but it goes further with an excellent story. It’s a simple tale that really doesn’t reveal itself until the final moments of the game. Those final moments reframe everything leading up to them and make Gris feel as narratively satisfying as it is visually appealing.
- The best indie games for the PS4
- The best indie games on Nintendo Switch
- The best cheap Nintendo Switch games
- The best Nintendo Switch games for 2021
- The best PC games for 2021