Indie games are a huge part of our love of gaming at Shacknews and, with Independence Day upon us, we wanted to celebrate by discussing the best indie games in our lives. Have a look at our favorites, then be sure to join the Chatty discussion by telling us about your favorite indie game and why it's important to you.
The best indie game in your life
Just Shapes and Beats - Asif Khan, Inventor of Shacknews E4
There are so many indie games that I love, but a game that needs more attention is Just Shapes and Beats. This delightfully minimal game nails me right in the feels every time I play it. I highly recommend it to players of all ages. It can be a little difficult at times, but the payoff is huge when you clear a level or area. And the beats are kicking, too!
Baba Is You - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor
This is one that I didn't discover until it came time for the Shacknews staff to meet up at Shacknews Intergalactic HQ for our Game of the Year deliberations back in December, but I've been hooked on this one ever since. The design is so clever, the puzzles are incredibly challenging, and the aesthetic is so charming. This starts off so much fun, but breaks your brain quickly as you scramble for a solution… which is funny, because there are often multiple solutions. This is one of many indie titles that everybody should own on their Nintendo Switch, just because of how much it works as a portable game.
Mercenary Kings - Blake Morse, Indie fan-boy
For the life of me, I just can’t quit this game. I love it so much! It’s like a Metal Slug RPG where you craft all sorts of awesome guns and then go on missions to blow stuff up with those awesome guns. I even went as far as to buy the fancy steel case edition from Limited Run games despite already owning it on several platforms. I can’t really tell you why this sticks out as one of my all-time favorites in my sea of passion for the indie genre, but it was the one game that came to mind immediately for me. I still get the hub world’s reggae grooves stuck in my head just thinking about the game. Maybe it’s the arcade-like action, maybe it’s the RPG elements, or maybe it’s those chillaxed island grooves that make Mercenary Kings stick out so much to me. It’s probably the excellent combination of all those things put together. But no matter what magic it is that makes me love it, I just can’t quit it.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch - Chris Jarrard, Nobody suspected a thing
If we travel all the way back to the original PS4 indie games presentation, it was clear at the time that Octodad was the most intriguing new game of the generation. It had everything: physics, a father’s love, hijinx, and heart. When it eventually released, it quickly captured my heart. Here was a mollusk that I could identify with. He just wanted to chill with the people he cared the most about, but also suffered from social anxiety and imposter syndrome.
The harder Octodad worked to convince everyone he was just a regular dad, the worse things got. Eventually, the power of the human mollusk spirit was able to triumph. Great stuff. I shouldn’t have been surprised when Octodad developer Young Horses made an appearance this month at the PS5 reveal event with Bugsnax, the overwhelming choice for best new game shown. I fully expect it to be the most impressive piece of software we get this generation (step aside Cyberpunk 2077).
Disco Elysium - Sam Chandler, Doesn't Hate Spiders
Disco Elysium has to be one of the most well-written games in a very long time. There’s not much more I can say about how utterly thrilling and engaging it is than what I already laid out in my Disco Elysium review. It continues to weigh on my mind. I still think about some of the characters I met. I can still hear the music of the streets in my head. There are only a few games that make me wish I could forget all about them, so I might play it again as if for the first time. I wish I could do that with Disco Elysium.
Stardew Valley - Donovan Erskine, Contributing Editor
Very few games have completely captured me like Stardew Valley did. Before I got my hands on ConcernedApe’s farming simulator, I rarely got into indie titles. Stardew Valley had me bookmarking wikis, looking at spreadsheets, and constantly using a calculator to work out my profits. It had my undivided attention, and I crossed the 100 hour mark in about a month’s time. Stardew Valley is the greatest indie game in my life.
Space Funeral - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor
Space Funeral is a favorite indie game that I come back to time and time again. It follows a young man named Phillip who is, for lack of a better word, sad. He's ugly crying almost every moment of his life. It will eventually become clear why he feels such intense sadness, but first you have to get through this MS Paint nightmare of a game. And I love it so very much. With its unsettling atmosphere, grotesque visuals, and acid color palette, it feels like what another reality must be like. You've never played anything like it. And you must experience it without any further explanation from me.
The Long Dark - Bill Lavoy, Loyal to Ada-1
Happy Independence Day, America, but I'll celebrate Canada Day (July 1) with a Canadian indie game I’ve talked about many times before; The Long Dark.
There are a lot of amazing indie games out there. We could make a list numbering in the thousands and not cover them all. For me, though, it always comes back to The Long Dark. With a lack of objectives and hand holding in its survival mode, players are forced to think for themselves. You are faced with punishing survival mechanics and, even if you get yourself situatied nicely, permanent death is only one wrong step away. As intense as it can get, it’s generally a quiet existence and I always find myself immersed in the world and character. It is the video game version of home for me.
Cave Story - Josh Hawkins, Guides Guy
There are a lot of great indie games out there and narrowing down my favorite was a bit of a chore. After debating with myself for the majority of the week, I think I have to settle on Cave Story. Originally released in 2004, I didn’t actually play Cave Story until it’s re-release as Cave Story+. As such a touching game filled with wonderful platforming, I instantly fell in love with the story, the mechanics, and the entire world.
Cave Story is everything you could want in a metroidvania game, and I honestly wish I had found it and played it sooner. Despite its tight knit controls and simple gameplay, a much larger narrative about [find out yourself] plays out over the course of the game as Quote, a robot with no memories of who he is, struggles to escape a labyrinth of puzzles and dangerous areas in a bid to destroy a powerful Demon Crown. It’s a fantastic tale, that plays out well over the various backdrops of the island, including some twists and turns you might not see coming.
Owlboy - TJ Denzer, Newsboy
There have been an absolute wealth of amazing indie games throughout the years and many of them hold a special place in my heart, but none quite so special as Owlboy. At its core, it’s a twin-stick shooter/metroidvania, but throughout every fiber of its being it’s so much more. It’s joyous. It’s colorful. It’s whimsical. It’s sad. It’s beautiful. It’s packed to the brim with likeable and compelling characters playing both big and small parts. It made me laugh. It made me cry. And it made me play it from top to bottom three times in a row when I first got it, just for fun. I still go back to it at least once every year.
I can’t say enough about how much I love the music, art, mechanics, and story (oh my goodness the story) of Owlboy. It is my golden standard of how good an indie game can be by which I measure the quality of everything else. Not to mention, the Boguins are just the silliest little freakish pals in any game ever in my opinion.
Darkest Dungeon - Greg Burke, Head of Video
Indie games are great. They tell personal stories and are a divine force of passion in the games industry. That’s not to say AAA games don’t have the same amount of passion in them, it’s just...different. Darkest Dungeon was something I checked out purely due to its art style, and once I found out it was a dungeon crawler, I was fully invested. I’ve spent over 100 hours on it on PC, even more on Nintendo Switch. Everything about the game is unique and interesting, it does new and unique things and stands out in it’s genre. It recently added PvP which is insane to think that a single player dungeon crawler could work in a multiplier aspect. The team over at Red Hook Studios are some talented folks.
Shovel Knight- David L. Craddock, long reads editor
I’ve played indie games before and after Shovel Knight, but none typify “indie” to me like Yacht Club’s 2014 masterpiece. A small but passionate team. A perfect fusion of classic and contemporary gameplay. A retro aesthetic evocative of the past but sneakily incorporating modern trimmings. And steadfast support and communication from one of the friendliest development crews in the industry. I love Shovel Knight so much I wrote a book about it!
Shovel Knight - Steve Tyminski, Contributing Editor
What is the best Indie-developed game in my life? I think I would have to give that nod to Yacht Club Games and their retro-styled platformer Shovel Knight. It will always hold a special place for me, as Yacht Club was one of my first interviews I conducted when I was just starting out in games media. Yacht Club was also one of the first developers to send me review material so, again, sentimental! I also discovered a glitch during the Tinker Knight battle while reviewing and notified Yacht Club, which is the only time I’ve had that happen so bonus points to Shovel Knight.
The music is spot on as it really sounds like you’re playing an NES game and the same could be said for the platforming. I love video game music and Shovel Knight has some of the best. The game is tough but not so challenging that you’re going to stop playing. It was a time when Indie developers were just getting their foot in the door and consumers weren’t really expecting too much from them. However, Shovel Knight dug a nice hole in the industry for itself and as one of my favorite games.
There you have it, your Shack Chat for this week. Be sure to have a fun and safe Independence Day, and take a few minutes to tell us about the best indie game in your life using the Chatty thread below.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: Celebrate independence with the best indie game in your life
More people should play Just Shapes and Beats.