20 most anticipated indie games of 2019

The Shack Staff highlights their 20 most anticipated indie games of 2019.

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We're heading into 2019 with our eyes on the prize, and there's a throng of indie gaming goodness staring back at us. From Super Meat Boy Forever to Psychonauts 2, there's a veritable cavalcade of exciting titles coming down the line, and we can't wait to give them a try. The Shack Staff put their heads together to bring you 20 of the coolest indie games we just can't wait to try out in 2019. This isn't a complete, exhaustive list of course, but it should get those thoughts a-jostlin' around in those heads of yours about what indie darlings you can't wait to play this year. 


ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove

When ToeJam & Earl first hit the scene back in the early 90s, it made a huge splash with its unique and contemporary art style and hip-hop sensibilities. The game followed the alien pair as they tried to hunt down the missing parts of their crashed spaceship while avoiding all sorts of weird, quirky humans. It would seem that as much as things change, they also stay the same as the funky alien crew once again find themselves on a very similar quest in the upcoming ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove.

Players will traverse through randomly generated levels collecting presents and looking for missing ship parts only now on top of 2 player couch co-op, up to four players will be able to jive together online. Visually Back in the Groove maintains the same hip, funky vibes of the original game and also has some features from the lesser known sequel. It’s been a long time since TJ & E have had a chance to shine in the spotlight and fans are definitely pumped to revisit their old friends.


Samurai Gunn 2

What happens when you take the retro visuals and arena combat of Towerfall and replace bows and arrows with swords? You get Samurai Gunn 2. Up to four players go head-to-head as they slice and dice through each other at a frantic pace. Underneath what seems like a very straightforward party brawler lies some very nuanced gameplay as well.

For instance, since the mangled bodies of you and your enemies don’t disappear, players can play dead and lie in wait for a chance to strike, and everyone gets three bullets per life to attempt a more long-range assault. Each arena presents it own set of hazards as well, like spike pits and moving walls that can crush you to add even more excitement. Samurai Gunn 2 is the kind of game that was made for social gatherings and will have players laughing at its chaotic action and pushing through rounds to get that first place win.  


My Friend Pedro

Friendship is a magical thing, especially when your friend is a talking banana that may or may not be a manifestation of your psychotic, violent delusions. My Friend Pedro is an action packed side-scrolling shooter that feels like a John Wick simulator. Players crank up their combos and pull off insane trick shots as they spin, flip, and leap their way through the various hit men and mobsters that are looking to end their life.

You can even do things like shoot a frying pan into the air and then using it to ricochet bullets into enemies or grab a knife and throw it into someone’s back while running down a hallway. And then, of course, there's the encrouagable talking banana My Friend Pedro had us hooked and wanting more when we first got hands-on time with it back at last year’s PAX West and we simply cannot wait to get our hands on the full version when it launches later this year.


Aftercharge

Try as developers might, they haven't had much success shaking the "meh" out of the first-person shooter genre. There are only so many different ways to shoot someone, after all, and given enough time, most FPS games tend to blur together into a sort of indistinguishable and regrettable casserole of flashy graphics and worn-out tropes. What the genre needs is a developer that thinks outside the box — a team that can create an FPS experience that isn't another mindless tromp through a bullet-ridden battlefield.

Enter Aftercharge, the 3 vs 3 asymmetrical shooter from the crew at Chainsawesome Games. Unlike drab historical set pieces or cut-and-dry military-themed shooters, Aftercharge drops players into a colorful world where three invisible players must take out extractors being guarded by three invincible players. Success for the invincible will rely on vigilance, while success for the invisible will rely on cunning. It's an unusual pitch, but if you ask us, that's exactly what the genre needs. The fact that it aims for high replay value and will retail for just $20 bucks certainly makes for a more attractive offer, as does the fact that it will also be landing on the Nintendo Switch.


Super Meat Boy Forever

Super Meat Boy is one of the finest platforming video games of all time, period. A case study in pixel-perfect controls, the game manages to walk the line between old-school charm and new-school replay value while providing just enough challenge to weed out the weak from the strong. It also happened to be a major success for the guys at Team Meat, and unsurprisingly spawned a sequel that has been in development for way, way longer than fans would like.

Thankfully, the time leading up to the release of Super Meat Boy Forever is finally drawing to a close. If the sequel was just more of the same, there's little doubt that players would be thrilled. However, Team Meat is taking the game in sort of an auto-runner direction, a small departure that could mean big changes to the Super Meat Boy formula. We're staying cautiously optimistic for now, but that doesn't mean we're any less excited to clumsily pilot Meat Boy himself into swathes of dangerous blade-lined corridors.


Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts looks like the result of watching your favorite neon-soaked cyberpunk anime, listening to techno, and then following it up with reading some awesome shoujo manga. That's why we can't tear our eyes away from its promotional trailer.

The game finds players taking on the role of The Fool, the alternate identity of a young woman whose heart has just been broken. She decides to reinvent herself as a masked biker who sets off on a quest to find other bikers and break their hearts – through the power of dance battles and fighting enormous beasts, of course. It looks absolutely fantastic and we're ready to channel our inter fabulous young biker to see what it's all about.


Gato Roboto

Gato Roboto is an adorable little platformer that stars one of the cutest video game cats you've ever seen. This monochromatic cat-centric Metroidvania follows a little white cat when it steps on a few important keys, which causes a spaceship to crash. The ship's pilot becomes trapped, and so the cat has to step in and save the day by donning a special suit and heading out into the world.

Yes, you get to shoot things (like rockets) and jump through the air with the greatest of ease as one of the most adorable platforming game heroes this side of Mario's cat persona. It's a game heavily focused on keeping things light and fun, and you get to play as a little white cat in a powered suit. What more could you want? We can't wait to get our grubby little paws on Gato Roboto.


Psychonauts 2

It's been a long time coming, but Double Fine Productions is finally bringing Psychonauts 2 to the masses. The third-person platformer will follow protagonist Raz once more, as he tackles the world with a swath of powerful psychic abilities. He can delve deep into others' minds via "Psi-Powers," and can also wield telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and levitation.

The popular game is finally continuing its narrative after the brief pit stop that was Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin as Raz and his team return to Psychonaut Headquarters and learn a few shady things about the organization that he didn't quite expect. The long-awaited sequel will be hitting all platforms (not including Switch) and will offer another look into the weird and wacky world of one of Tim Schafer's most colorful bunch of characters ever.


The Outer Worlds

Obsidian Entertainment has an incredible history, part of which you can see play out in the Shacknews long read Beneath a Starless Sky: Pillars of Eternity and the Infinity Engine Era of RPGs. Obsidian lifted awareness of the studio with Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny, and Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, but some gamers were aware of the team before then.

One of their earlier creations was Fallout: New Vegas, the critically well received and fan-favorite spin-off of Fallout 3. New Vegas signaled the return of some elements from Fallout 2, and The Outer Worlds could further harness the roots of the Fallout franchise considering the creators of the series are developing this new first-person IP.

The Outer Worlds is a single-player first-person sci-fi RPG where players take control of a protagonist lost in transit while on a colonist ship headed to the edge of the galaxy. You awaken in the midst of a corporate struggle between various factions and you’re the key to how the story unfolds.

The days of being an independent studio are coming to a close for Obsidian, having been acquired by Microsoft in 2018. The Outer Worlds could be considered a last hurrah for the team, though I have hope that Microsoft will harness the capabilities of Obsidian and other formerly indie studios going forward.


Sea of Solitude

Indie development is a risky and uncertain endeavor that can leave entire games on the cutting room floor, but the last few years have seen some bigger gaming entities establish branches of their business to assist with a handful of indie titles that show promise. Sea of Solitude is one such title, having been snatched from the indie depths to become a part of the EA Originals lineup.

Sea of Solitude is a dark adventure game from Cornleia Geppert and the Jo-Mei Games team that Geppert has described as “the most artistic and personal project” she’s ever created. Seemingly reflecting that, Sea of Solitude features the deeply personal journey of protagonist Kay as she seeks out the reason for her transformation into a monster.

The abandoned, submerged city that serves as Sea of Solitude’s setting looks dangerous and dreary, yet beautiful at the same time. The journey to understanding for Kay looks like it’ll be beautiful as well and I can’t wait to unravel it all.


Indivisible

If you’ve kept your finger on the indie gaming pulse and/or attending the larger gaming conventions in the last few years, chances are you’ve come across Lab Zero Games’ title Indivisible. The 2D action-RPG/platformer was announced in 2015 and was crowdfunded on Indiegogo at the end of that year.

Four years of development may seem long for the game, but it is all being built on beautiful hand-drawn animation. The larger and more ambitious the game gets, the more assets it needs, and hand-drawn art and animation takes a bit longer. Nevertheless, what we’ve seen of the game thus far looks incredible.

There are various kingdoms that players will explore with side-scrolling platform and light combat, but there’s a more in-depth turn-based combat system as well. If you’ve played Valkyrie Profile, you’d got an idea of how Indivisible works. Sometime in 2019, we’ll get to step into the shoes of Ajna to embark on this very promising journey.


Spelunky 2

The original Spelunky was a big hit, mainly because of its retro aesthetic of roguelike platforming through 2D temples filled with death traps. But more than that, the joy came from the game's randomly generated stages that ensured a fresh experience every time out. With intuitive mechanics, many different temples to explore, and a high challenge level, it's hard to imagine improving on this formula. But developer Mossmouth will look to do so by adding online co-op into Spelunky 2, along with new traps that incorporate liquid physics. There should be a lot more to explore and it should be fun to explore a fresh round of random stages with all-new dangers.


What the Golf?

I got a big kick out of the premise of What The Golf? The idea that the developers started working on a golf game, got bored, and decided to go bonkers with the concept is hilarious. But what I've seen of What the Golf? so far has been wildly entertaining, inserting golf into a slew of scenarios where it doesn't normally belong. Developer Triband has had some creative settings for its golf game, bringing new meaning to "play the ball where it lies." It should be fun to see what the final product brings and where this anti-golf game ultimately winds up taking players.


Knights and Bikes

Imagination is a powerful thing and there's something especially charming about the way that Knights and Bikes pushes this idea forward. Developed by Foam Sword Games (comprised of developers who have worked on LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway, and Ratchet & Clank) and published by Double Fine, Knights and Bikes is a charming two-player game about two kids getting on their bikes and pedaling into adventure. Players will take on all varieties of dangerous creatures and massive behemoths, even if they're simply figments of the girls' imaginations. It looks to be a fun couples game, where two players can go from battling monsters to literally racing towards the next objective.


Supermarket Shriek

Supermarket Shriek is the touching tale of a man and his goat, who are stuck in a shopping cart and rolling around grocery stores, for some reason. It's hard to tell exactly how these two got in this position or why every supermarket they're wheeling through is filled with deadly traps, but Supermarket Shriek looks like loads of fun. And only operating on two buttons, whether in single-player or co-op, it should be easy to get right into the chaos. It's one of the more bizarre concepts that's popped up in a while and it should be a fun one to explore. How often does one come across medieval traps sitting at the end of the frozen foods aisle?


Killer Queen Black

Killer Queen has been a favorite of mine since I first tried it out at IndieCade several years ago. It's hard to find a truly great modern arcade game, but this is definitely one of those. So it's great to see that it's coming to consoles, albeit in a slightly different form. Things get intense when two teams try and claim victory either by taking out the other team's queen (Military), collecting fruits (Economic), or riding the snail to the goal (Snail). It's a wildly fun party game and one that will hopefully find a wide audience now that it's coming to Nintendo Switch.


Astrologaster

Astrologaster touches on a fascinating subject that isn't touched on often in games. It ventures into Shakesperean London and into the life of Simon Forman, an actual "Doctor" of Astrology during this period. With historical records of Forman's cases popping up over the past few years, developer Nyamyam has decided to make a dialogue-driven adventure about Forman and his patients. Players get to take on the role of this controversial figure, as he points to the stars and finds solutions for his patients' ailments. What makes Astrologaster fun is that the whole thing is played up entirely for laughs, as Forman's recommendations often lead to new problems or whacked-out resolutions. With a lot of source material to draw from, Astrologaster should be one of the funnier story-based games to come out this year.


Tunic

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Tunic's resemblance to the Legend of Zelda franchise is quite noticeable. But if you're going to go the imitation route, you'd better do it right and Tunic looks to be hitting all the right notes so far. It's a heroic fox with a stick and shield, exploring a vast world and taking down all sorts of monsters. Certain areas are gated off until players discover the right tools or the right weaponry, solving thoughtful puzzles along the way. But while the Legend of Zelda's narrative is straightforward, Tunic's is shrouded in mystery, with no dialogue or text to shed any light on what it entails. There's a lot to unpack here and it should be fun to see this fox grow from traveler to hero.


Wasteland 3

Wastleland reestablished dominance within the turn-based post-apocalyptic RPG genre as Fallout shifted to a first-person format. That was back in 2013, but the game continues to thrive with a Director’s Cut edition and a recent release on Nintendo Switch. Wasteland 3, the long-awaited sequel, was crowdfunded with over $3 million on a $2.5 million goal and is due for a 2019 release.

Wasteland 2 is recognized for an extremely flexible collection of game mechanics, from conversations to combat. Players can approach the post-apocalyptic conflicts a multitude of ways and inXile Entertainment is taking things to the next level with the addition of environmental dangers, vehicles, synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer, a player-base to manage, and a revamped dialogue tree system.

On top of all these things, Wasteland 3 looks to be visually striking. If the team can come even remotely close to the concept art, which an early look at gameplay doesn’t look far off, this long-awaited return to Wasteland could meet and exceed the expectations of rabid fans and newcomers to this hardcore turn-based experience.

The team’s last major update stated that things were well on their way to reaching a Q4 2019 release date for Wasteland 3. If it hits before the year closes, don’t be surprised if its a dark horse candidate on many end-of-the-year lists.


Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game lets you live out the fantasy of being an asshole goose. Not much else is known about the game at this time, but if being a jerkface to people in the video game world is as much fun as it is in real life, this could be the best game of all time. Coming to PCs and the Nintendo Switch this year, Untitled Goose Game could be the killer app that finally lets me be me.


What indie games are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section. Then, be sure to check out our 2019 release date guide to see a more complete picture of what's coming later on as the months fly by. 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 9, 2019 11:00 AM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, 20 most anticipated indie games of 2019

    • reply
      January 9, 2019 11:32 AM

      No Shakedown: Hawaii

    • reply
      January 9, 2019 11:36 AM

      Anyone know if Untitled Goose Game will have a Canada Goose skin DLC?

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      January 9, 2019 11:44 AM

      No "In The Valley Of Gods" (from the makers of Firewatch and some fine ex(?)-Shackers)?

      Also, I am playing through Super Meat Boy for the first time (EPIC store freebie) and the thought of free-running never-ending Super Meat Boy gives me the willies.

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        January 9, 2019 2:25 PM

        Hot damn. That one is on my list for sure. Had no clue there were some Shackers with Campo Santo.

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      January 9, 2019 12:05 PM

      No Manifold Garden, which is on target for ‘19, although no official release date announcement yet?
      https://store.steampowered.com/app/473950/Manifold_Garden/
      https://youtu.be/hrK2U07kfV0 - latest developer update from yesterday, going over the broad development iterations of the game and the plan for shipping it this year.

      I’ve been following this one for years. It’s going to be one of the most beautiful and mind bending puzzle exploration games ever made, and a huge feat from a single person.

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      January 9, 2019 12:06 PM

      Also no Layers of Fear 2? Forsooth!

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        January 9, 2019 2:25 PM

        I'm way too chicken for this. I definitely watched someone play through the first, though.

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      January 9, 2019 1:59 PM

      typo in the Gato Roboto text: "Yes, you get to shoot thing" (thing should be things)

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      January 9, 2019 2:17 PM

      No Demons with Shotguns console releases?

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