Shacknews Top 23 Indie Games of the Year 2023

Much like the mainline Games of the Year, 2023's indie games couldn't be confined to a simple Top 10. So here are the best 23 Indies of 2023.


What a fabulous year it was for games. And not just mainline video games, but indies as well. This year was bonkers insane, bursting at the seams with delightful games from indie studios throughout the world. This is normally the time when we’d list our top 10 indies, and we do just that below. However, we also don’t believe this year could be confined to a measly 10 games, even in indies. That’s why we included 13 more.

Shacknews Top 23 Indies, 23 - 11

The back 11 to 23 games were pretty much just as good as anything on the Top 10. It was just a packed year. Despite that, we felt they couldn’t be left out of the picture, so even if they didn’t make the Top 10 list, we’d like to give credit where credit is due. These are the games that just barely missed the Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of 2023, as voted on by the Shacknews Staff and community. Games with the same numbers beside them ended up in a tie that couldn’t be reconciled. Check it out below:

23. 9 Years of Shadows

21. The Pale Beyond

21. Jusant

20. Venba

19. Yohane The Parhelion: Blaze in the Deep Blue

17. Gal Guardians: Demon Purge

17. Slay the Princess

16. Blasphemous 2

13. My Little Universe

13. The Talos Pinciple 2

13. Gravity Circuit

12. Deceive Inc.

11. Viewfinder

Congrats to those that made our list, even if they couldn’t be in the Top 10. Voting was tight this year and many of these games are that splendid and were hotly contested! Each of them is well worth a check if you’ve haven’t played them yet, so we wish them all congrats for launching this year. Without further ado. It’s time to move on to Shacknews Top 10 Indie Games of 2023. Here they are:

10. Tchia

The titular Tchia using a sailcloth to float over a tropical island in Tchia.
Source: Kepler Interactive

Tchia is a fun sandbox that features an island of weird creatures and interesting characters. The game's possession mechanic allows you to inhabit the form of just about every inanimate object and creature, creating some hilariously fun physics experiments and challenging puzzles. On top of all of it, the game's fictional location is a loving tribute to the real-life islands of New Caledonia and its people.

Tchia is playable now on PlayStation consoles via the PlayStation Store and on PC via the Epic Games Store.

9. Meg’s Monster

Meg, Roy, and Golan hanging out by a fire in Meg's Monster
Source: Odencat

Meg's Monster is a humble little RPG from Odencat. Taking place in a land of monsters underneath the human world, a young girl by the name of Meg falls down and is discovered by the most powerful monster down there, Roy. What follows is a wholesome journey as Roy works to get her back to her mom and the humans. Meg's Monster is a fun narrative-heavy romp with a twist. Roy is a hearty and almost unbeatable fellow, but Meg is a little out of the ordinary herself. If she cries, it will cause a cataclysmic event. And so you have to keep her courage up while Roy fights. It's a fun subversion of the usual idea of growing a character's strength and fighting normally when looking after Meg is what matters most. Add this interesting twist to a charming story full of good music and Meg's Monster is a short, but sweet romp that might just pull at your heartstrings.

Meg's Monster is playable on Xbox consoles via the Xbox Store, Nintendo Switch via the eShop, and PC via Steam.

8. Cocoon

The traveler approaching a green orb in Cocoon
Source: Annapurna Interactive

Games where players are thrown into the fray with no instruction or guidance can be an acquired taste. Geometric Interactive's Cocoon captivates from the get-go by presenting players with a strange-looking winged figure and a vast world ahead of them.

Even without button prompts or tutorials of any kind, the world is an intuitive one. Sheer curiosity drives players to interact with whatever is laying around them, inevitably leading to the world opening up and new puzzles presenting themselves. By the time a player gets the idea of what they're in for, they're picking up orbs that contain entirely different pocket worlds inside of them. That's when the joy of jumping in and out of pocket worlds at a whim starts to kick in.

Geometric Interactive is comprised of former Playdead developers, so there's a lot of Limbo and Inside DNA within Cocoon. There's a lot of that heart in this story that players piece together through the power of their own imagination. These are some beautiful and colorful worlds that are just waiting to be experienced and the payoff at the end is one worth sticking around to witness.

Cocoon is playable now on PlayStation consoles via the PlayStation Store, Xbox consoles via the Xbox Store, Nintendo Switch via the eShop, and PC via Steam.

7. Goodbye Volcano High

Fang and Trish hanging out happily in Goodbye Volcano High
Source: KO_OP

If you knew life was about to change, or possibly even end, what would you do about it? Would you tell the person you loved about your feelings? Would you try something you were too afraid to do? Would you make the most of those final days? Goodbye Volcano High is the story of dinosaurs in high school, in their senior year, as the end of the dinosaurs is about arrive. It’s the end of life as they know it, not just in school, but possibly as a whole. And what unfolds from that premise is an emotional charged and well-voiced narrative game about love, life, friendship, and music. Goodbye Volcano High is beautiful in its art and in its narrative. And it even has some good tracks to vibe to as you go. There were a few lovely narrative games that made our list, but Goodbye Volcano High and the stories we got out of it as we followed Fang’s journey in music and friendship is one that will stay with us for a long time.

Goodbye Volcano High is playable on PlayStation via the PlayStation Store and on PC via Steam.

6. Sea of Stars

The Sea of Stars party carefully walking on a wooden beam over ghouls in a mineshaft
Source: Sabotage Studio

The initial pitch for Sea of Stars was a fascinating one. "What if there was a turn-based RPG set years before The Messenger?" Remember The Messenger, Sabotage Studio's previous effort? That was the Ninja Gaiden-like Metroidvania platformer. Well, Sea of Stars is a turn-based RPG, so it's completely different.

In this case, the drastic shift in genre worked out for Sabotage. Sea of Stars is a turn-based RPG inspired by classics in the genre like Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Chrono Trigger. Players travel across a breathtaking island as the two Children of the Solstice, learning to balance the power of the sun and the moon. Beyond its simple-to-understand play style, there's room for players to improve on their execution and ultimately take it to bigger and badder enemies. While improvement is necessary, Sea of Stars manages to incorporate that idea without the need for incessant level grinding.

More interesting than the battle system is the exploration, where Sea of Stars opens up its full world for exploration. Players can interact with nearly anything on the island, forgoing many of the usual boundaries in a game such as this one.

Sea of Stars is a capable throwback to a past era of turn-based RPGs, but throws in enough contemporary ideas to make it a terrific game in its own right. Even those who skipped The Messenger (a game we'd also recommend for several reasons) can jump into Sea of Stars and experience a modern classic.

Sea of Stars is playable on PlayStation consoles via PlayStation Store, Xbox consoles via the Xbox Store, Nintendo Switch via the eShop, and PC via Steam.

5. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

If you learned about the concept of love back with Jet Set Radio Future, there’s a good chance you just can’t get enough of a video game that fuses together graffiti, skating, and a gnarly soundtrack. There’s good news, though, as Bomb Rush Cyberfunk scratches that itch we’ve all had since Jet Set Radio launched over 20 years ago. The talented developers at Team Reptile have delivered a spiritual successor to Sega’s much loved and desperately missed series, and have somehow elevated the experience.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk manages to nail the groovy nature of Jet Set Radio in all aspects and then ups the ante. Users can choose in-line skates, a skateboard, or a BMX as their mode of transport for grinding up telephone poles and wallriding to a new graffiti tag point. Instead of holding a button to spray your tag, you’ll input a directional-based combo to add your flair to the world.

Meanwhile, the thumping soundtrack (featuring OG JSR composer Hideki Naganuma) is a delightful earworm that will have you bopping along as you string together a million point combo. It’s a truly fantastic game that fans of its inspiration should pick up and play as soon as possible.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is playable on PlayStation consoles via PlayStation Store, Xbox consoles via the Xbox Store, Nintendo Switch via the eShop, and PC via Steam.

4. Dredge

Dredge is a fascinating game that's more than what it looks like on the surface. At first glance, it's a fishing adventure. It's a game where players can upgrade their fishing boat as they go along, catch fish along the waters, and sell them back at a nearby fish market for a tidy profit. That's only part of the Dredge experience, though it's a really good one.

The fascinating aspect of Dredge is its story that hints at something more sinister at work. Over the course of the game, players will sometimes pull up fish that are horribly mutated, looking like something straight out of Lovecraft. Then night falls and if anybody is still out in the seas, things take a scary turn. Players will gradually lose their sanity the longer they're at sea when the sun goes down. They're forced to grasp with their growing psychosis while also being careful not to crash into rocks and damage their vessel. If that's not enough, a hidden sea creature will then attack and that's when panic sets in as the race to escape safely is on.

Dredge is a game that starts off cozy and becomes more and more intense. Like a trout, players can become enraptured by the sights and the unsuspecting calm around them, but then Dredge gets its hook into them. It's a unique adventure and a creative backdrop for a fishing adventure.

Dredge is playable on PlayStation consoles via PlayStation Store, Xbox consoles via the Xbox Store, Nintendo Switch via the eShop, and PC via Steam.

3. Pizza Tower

Pizza Tower might be the most deliciously unhinged 2D platformer we’ve played since the days of Earthworm Jim, Boogerman, and Battletoads. It also wears love of the Wario Land series on its sleeve, but the best parts of Pizza Tower are uniquely its own. This game is silly as all get-out, with players playing the down-on-his-luck Peppino. A pizza restaurant owner, Peppino has bills to pay and the much popular Pizza Tower down the street isn’t helping, especially when its mysterious owner, Pizza Face, threatens to blow up Peppino’s restaurant with a laser. That sets Peppino on a run to the top of Pizza Tower to confront Pizza Face himself.

Speed is the name of the game in Pizza Tower. Well… Speed and ridiculous animation. You’ll defeat weird cheesy enemies, beat a bulging-eyed red pepper, and collect power-ups like knight armor that makes you slide with any form of momentum and break otherwise unbreakable walls. It gets even more frantic when you get to the end of levels, get rid of the pillar, and have to race against the clock back to the start through various alternative routes before Pizza Face shows up and kills you. This game is funny as all get-out and has an extraordinarily good soundtrack to go with it, but even at its core, it’s just a phenomenally speedy and proficient platformer.

Pizza Tower is playable on PC via Steam.

2. Thirsty Suitors

As a story-based RPG, Thirsty Suitors has a little bit of everything. It has turn-based battles with quirky enemies, fun character interactions, and even a dose of skateboarding and cooking. It also features one of the most memorable stories of the year, one that has the power to affect those who experience it for years to come.

To call the story a Scott Pilgrim-like wouldn't do it justice. While there's an aspect of the story that sees main character Jala confront her exes after returning home from an extended absence, that's just a small part of it. The characters all manage to feel three-dimensional while also offering light-hearted moments of comic relief and some wacky visuals. Character banter and characters like the cult leader in a bear suit lead to some of the funniest moments in gaming this year.

The narrative gradually shifts from what it means to be a second-generation child of an immigrant family and presents the pressures of what it means to be an immigrant, period. Even if you're not of South Asian descent, Jala's story starts to feel like a more universal experience as it goes on.

Thirsty Suitor has some of the most unforgettable characters one will meet in a game this year. It's a story that's worth experiencing and even through all of its heavier moments, it still knows how to make its audience laugh. It's everything one can ask for from a game like this from a perspective that's rarely seen in video games.

Thirsty Suitors is playable on PlayStation consoles via PlayStation Store, Xbox consoles via the Xbox Store, Nintendo Switch via the eShop, and PC via Steam.

1. Humanity

Humanity not only nails puzzle gameplay, but offers an incredibly wacky yet profound concept. In our refer, we described it as the kind of game that "doesn't come around too often." As a dog guiding crowds of people towards the light, you're tasked with some of the year's toughest puzzles (and some equally tough themes). The feature that allows users to create their own levels gives Humanity endless replayability, and we'll be coming back to it for years to come.

Humanity is playable on PlayStation consoles and PSVR via the PlayStation Store and on PC via Steam.

You can also read more about Humanity in our Shacknews Indie Game of the Year 2023 Feature

It surely was a wonderful year for gaming. It always feels like for every good mainline game, there are five indie gems out there waiting to be found. 2023 was no exception, resulting in an absolutely ridiculous buffet of good gaming. Even beyond our list, we salute those who put out a game this year and made their creative voices heard among the creative masses. We couldn’t do this without those amazing creators. Thank you for another year of amazing indie games.

Be sure to read over the rest of the Shacknews Awards in our Year of the Games: 2023 feature.

Shack Staff stories are a collective effort with multiple staff members contributing. Many of our lists often involve entires from several editors, and our weekly Shack Chat is something we all contribute to as a group. 

From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola