We have arrived at the end of 2022. It was an incredible year full of incredible games, and especially good indies. We played countless indie games throughout the year and when it came down to the end, whittling it down to just 10 games was quite the gargantuan task. That said, the votes have been tallied, the lists have been formed, and we have our top 10. Check out which indie games made our shortlist to be immortalized in the Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of 2022.
10. Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb brought us a hilariously evil experience that marries the roguelike and community building genres. Combat is tight and challenging, with a plethora of unique enemies to defeat, and rare loot to acquire. The various weapons and items found throughout allow for additional approaches to combat. Back at your home base, you can manage a growing group of cultists that craft structures and other useful resources to aid you in battle. It's a satisfying game loop that kept us coming back time and time again.
Berzerk Studio pursued a very unique and interesting effort with Infernax: What if Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest was coherent and good? Also, what if it was far more ridiculously violent and its monsters much more grotesque? The answer is Infernax. This game takes all of the metroidvania action-RPG mechanics of Castlevania 2 and transports them to a world cursed by demons and evil. Players take on the role of a crusader set on delivering justice to demons one face-smashing flail swing at a time. Infernax is a difficult, but fair game that challenges the player to overcome its oppressive world little by little with gear and spells that allow you to better traverse it. It's also full of interesting and somewhat upsetting enemies ready to slay you in all sorts of horrible manners. You will die on your way to victory, but Infernax's fun and challenge makes it worth it every step of the way.
Most indie studios would release something like OlliOlli World and call it a year. That was a fun game, one that just missed making this list. However, Roll7 had something else that it was putting together on the side. This side project was Rollerdrome, which asked the question, "What if we blend Tony Hawk's Pro Skater with a third-person shooter?" The result is this intense, mile-a-minute action fest. Rollerdrome can get intimidating, especially towards the end, but it's also a game that has players chasing for high scores as they frantically try and stay alive. Putting together a perfect run has never been more challenging, but it's a fun kind of challenge.
7. Beacon Pines
There's something magical about a good story. Beacon Pines is more than a good story, though. It's a multitude of branching stories in which the player decides what happens next by way of collecting key words that act as Mad Libs-like keys to the branching paths. It's quite an interesting narrative at that. Playing as a deer boy named Luka whose parents disappeared, Players guide Luka and his friends around the troubled town of Beacon Pines unraveling mysteries and striking up adventure. In a talel that goes to dark and unsettling places, charming places, funny places, and emotionally intense places, Beacon Pines covers a gamut as a coming-of-age story of friends, family, and legacy. Discovering the true path is just the beginning. It's the stops along the way that make Beacon Pines all the more impactful.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge was not only a nostalgic throwback to the TMNT games of old, but a darn goon co-op adventure that's able to stand on its own two feet. It was a shot of life to the beat 'em up genre, as DotEmu delivers one of the best we've played in years. Each character has a unique feel to them, offering something new every time players hit the streets.
5. Vampire Survivors
Vampire Survivors is one of those games that take you by surprise. It looks simple, with its pixelized art style, and it only requires the player move, and yet it might just be one of the most addictive indie games released in a long time. I liken it to the days of playing Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on the Xbox 360. You’re chasing a high score, blasting through foes that pack every inch of your screen, all while doing your best not to die. But Vampire Survivors throws in more, giving players a rich upgrade system and numerous unlocks (including characters and permanent upgrades). Add to all of this the fact it’s now on mobile and you’ve got yourself a stellar experience.
Do you like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Fear Effect? Then you need to stop what you’re doing and immediately download Signalis. The game takes you on a survival horror journey through a science fiction world where something has gone terribly wrong. Expect to spend time scavenging for supplies, solving head-scratching puzzles, and trying to take care of the horrific, shambling foes that never seem to stay dead. All of this is packaged up in PS1-era visuals and audio design that will send shivers down your spine – even something as simple as saving at a computer will set your nerves on edge. Few games manage to capture that nostalgic feel of ‘90s and 2000s gaming like Signalis.
3. Nobody Saves the World
After charming the indie gaming space with the Guacamelee series, Drinkbox Studios ventured into a top-down action RPG. Nobody Saves the World is the charming story of an almost-formless blank slate with no memory of their past, but one who stumbles onto heroism. It's a tale that's filled with Drinkbox's signature humor and wacky characters. However, that's just one part of the formula.
Nobody Saves the World's main draw is in how the main character can transform into different things, whether they be animal, vegetable, mineral, or anything in-between. Progressing in this game means mastering the main character's many forms, while also mixing and matching their abilities in order to complete achievements and earn XP towards unlocking even more forms. Add to that a deep, procedurally-generated dungeon system that demands players analyze their available builds and pick the best one. Nobody Saves the World is every bit as challenging as it is pleasing to the eye and one of Drinkbox Studios' most engaging efforts to date.
You’d be hard pressed to have a conversation about the best video games in 2022 and not talk about Stray. It would be nearly impossible to talk about the best indie games of 2022 and not mention Stray. This adorable adventure game where players control a cat is every bit as cute as you assume it would be but offers a surprising amount of quality and depth beyond “Look at the cute kitty.” Controlling the cat in Stray is fluid, the world feels hand-crafted and is full of environmental storytelling, and the narrative pulls at your heart strings. Put this together and you have the second best indie game of the year at the 2022 Shacknews Awards.
It was a tough year to whittle down our favorite indies. There were so many, and the votes were expressive of that. Here are the indie games that got votes, but just barely missed out on our Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of 2022 (in no particular order):
- Cities VR
- Rogue Legacy 2
- Asterigos: Curse of the Stars
- Sword of the Vagrant
- Neon White
- Escape Academy
- Windjammers 2
- ANNO: Mutationem
- Terror of Hemasaurus
- No Place for Bravery
- Dune: Spice Wars
- Iron Lung
- Cursed to Golf
- Trek to Yomi
- Two Point Campus
- Card Shark
- Weird West
- Sea of Stars
- OlliOlli World
- Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising
- Lost In Play
Tunic was a long time coming and paid off so wonderfully once it finally arrived. Few games have ever captured both a sense of wonder and exploration, as well as a level of difficulty and challenge like this. It's the best parts of games like Zelda and Dark Souls combined into one interesting adventure. Tunic is also gorgeous to look at, providing you with a water color world of enemies and friends as you guide the cute little fox adventurer through this difficult land. As you collect your sword, find a shield, and grab further tools, Tunic opens up to you little by little and invites you to explore more of its mysteries, including its curious, yet coherent runic language. There's even an easy No-Fail Mode in which you don't have to try so hard to progress through the game.
Check out our extensive article going into even more detail about why Tunic was our #1 Shacknews Indie Game of the Year 2022. You can also find the game on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
Turns out 2022 was a pretty amazing year for indie games. We had a lot of fun with everything on this list, including the Honorable Mentions. To all of the indie developers out there, whether you made our list or not, congrats on shipping a game in another packed year. We salute you and wish you the best in your next creative endeavors. You make the indie game scene vibrant and fun.
Check out our Year of the Games: 2022 article to see all of the other Shacknews Awards that have been announced so far.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of the Year 2022
I love this article.
Dome Keeper should have been in this list
I have to check out Nobody Saves the World, loved the guacamelee games.
I picked up Rollerdrome to support the devs and played for a few hours. It has a nice look and feels pretty fun.
Super surprised not to see Chained Echoes in this list.