There comes the time, every January, for us to think back to the past year and the games we enjoyed most. However, the internet is already full of GOTYs posts, all mentioning the same games.
What we want to do instead, is to give a more personal insight through the opinions of our writers; cast a light on how diverse and mostly unknown is the world of indie games, where popularity is – but in our opinion shouldn’t be – one of the main meters to write a list of best indies.
This is, in fact, a full list of games that may not be as popular but stuck with us and had us enjoy our time, bringing something new and original to the world of game development.
Without further ado, let’s start with our list of Favorite Indie Games of 2018!
Legendary Gary – Bring on the awkward fun! – Elisa Napolitano
I’ve got to admit: 2018 has been hectic and did not leave much time for me to enjoy a good indie game. Among the ones I tried, however, one stuck with me and had me come back from time to time.
Legendary Gary is a game I’ve only written about in March’s Lightly Toasted, but deserved a mention in our list of best indie of 2018. If you enjoy, like I do, quirky games full of awkwardness, this might be for you.
Gary is a nobody who lives with his mother and spends his days playing computer games. His life is a mess but is made better by video games, even if just for a while. More impressively, Legendary Gary is a solo project, created by Evan Rogers, formerly programmer of What Remains Of Edith Finch.
I loved everything about it, from its humor to the beautiful hand-drawn graphics, not to mention its amazing grungy soundtrack.
If you missed out on Legendary Gary, you may need to pick up one of the most interesting RPGs of the year!
Catch and Release – A relaxing afternoon – Ben Charlesworth
I have never understood the draw of fishing. Why would people sit outside in the cold and the rain in hopes of catching a fish? To then go and release it back into the wild.
This brings me to my indie game of the year: Catch and Release. From the moment I put on my VR headset and was transported to a quiet lake, I was sold. I like games that focus on doing one thing amazingly. And Catch and Release gets it, I feel like I’m sitting on my little rowboat. The way it rocks gently in the water is subtle but enjoyable, and the whole activity of casting your line, and then catching the fish feels fun.
When there is a fish on the line, it’s a tactile experience; the developers nailed the haptics to bring more immersion into the game.
I haven’t even mentioned all the little extras; if you want to float around skipping stones across the lake, you can do that. There’s an in-game camera with a list of things to capture. Earn money by selling the fish or releasing them back into the wild. I honestly think Catch and Release is a game anyone with a VR headset should own, regardless if you have enjoyed fishing before. It is the most relaxing game I have played this year, and I often find myself just floating along in my own little world.
Kingdom Two Crowns – Maggie Wall
I loved both Kingdom and Kingdom New Lands and was super excited to hear that Kingdom Two Crowns had a co-operative option. Shared joy is double joy, right? Like its predecessors, Kingdom Two Crowns features gorgeous pixel art and charming tunes, as well as numerous monsters (known as the Greed) who want to steal your gold and, more importantly, your crown.
Where the earlier games were a roguelike and losing your crown meant instant defeat, you now have the option to yell frantically to your partner to quickly craft a new crown for your royal head if you lose it to a crown-stealer. The game starts off gently; collect coins, hire archers and builders, build your defenses and defeat the Greed once and for all.
There is no map and you explore each of the five lands by traveling to the right or to the left and discovering magic portals. And this is where it gets interesting – if you don’t develop a strategy to manage your different units and control expansion of your base, you might just find yourself out of luck, broke and crownless.
Kingdom Two Crowns also has a Shogun “biome”, and its Steam page provides a tantalizing promise of more lands/themed biomes to be explored in post-release updates. For now, your new mounts include a griffin and a flame-breathing lizard and your new units include shuriken-wielding ninjas and pikemen.
We were particularly fond of the latter as they could also catch fish thereby earning gold coins and were not afraid to wander up to magic portals and commence an attack on the dark side – get ‘em, pokey boy, GET ‘EM.
Lost in Harmony – Music For The Soul – Peter Moreman
I played many games this year and none of them has stuck with me quite like Lost in Harmony. A game with two well-written stories that have their own unique soundtrack to compliment.
Lost in Harmony is a self-described musical runner that played with my emotions and left me feeling satisfied and sad upon completing it, especially Kaito’s Journey. As you played, the music and environment would change, intensifying the story and dragging you in more and more.
The soundtrack they created is phenomenal and is timed perfectly with the game’s progression. If you missed a key, it resulted in the music staggering but when you get on a roll and start getting combinations, the music sounds beautiful and honestly made me feel like a bit of a maestro. The storytelling, be it simple, was very good.
Digixart, by only giving you snippets of information at a time, gave the impact of the ending that I can still remember vividly to this day. Lost in Harmony is an emotional roller-coaster that I encourage anyone to play, and definitely one of the best games of 2018 for me!
Read our official review here.
Black Paradox – A Surprisingly Polished Sci-fi Shmup! Alessandro Cossidente
Among the indie games that landed on my desk in 2018, Black Paradox definitely deserves an honorable mention. The team at Fantastico Studio devised the perfect recipe for a tasty project. The dish? A colorful sci-fi shoot ‘em up for PCs and consoles!
At the wheel of our flying Delorian DMC-12, we’ll dash through space and fight an array of bad guys. Although Black Paradox lacks a complex storyline and doesn’t try to convey a deeper meaning – two things I’m always on the lookout for as I play indie games – this Italian title immediately struck a chord with me.
Almost immediately, I noticed just how much care was put into the development of this game. The weapons at our disposal feel powerful, the enemies we’ll encounter all feature unique AIs and attacks, and the environments through which we’ll travel are outright beautiful.
In other words, Black Paradox succeeds where other shmups fail: it turns trial and error into a viable approach, turning the frustrating grinding typical of this genre into a fun and rewarding experience.
Since I played this title for the Toaster, a full review of it is available here. I would, however, suggest that you go into Black Paradox blind; so that you can fully appreciate every aspect of the game!
Streets of Rogue – Shape-shifting fun – Keiran McEwen
Possibly my most played indie game of this year has been, Streets of Rogue, and I don’t know why. It is a simple roguelike game where you can choose from a host of funny characters. Turn into a gorilla, for example, and you’ll do some of the silliest things imaginable.
Developed by Matt Dabrowski and published by tinyBuild, this indie game relies heavily on freedom of choice. Its levels are set into a fully functioning city, rather than a dungeon, and you’ll be free to do as you please. There are missions you’ll need to complete, but the rest is entirely up to you.
Several months into early access, Streets of Rogue has become an anomaly of the genre’s trope as it inches closer to full release. Through the many hours I played, I’ve found myself laughing at the ridiculous moments when I’ve had a plan that had gone awry. If you want to try it, you can find the game here.
Neverliria – Merida vs. The Neverliria Forest -Sarah Johnson
This year has definitely been a ‘game’ changer for me in terms of embracing indie games. Through it, I found a whole new world of indie gaming from an array of talented developers. Out of the ones I’ve played, I find myself returning to Neverliria over and over again.
By SmartHart Games, Neverliria is a survival sandbox game in which you play a young girl who has lived in the woods all her life. Deciding to go on an adventure into the dark forest of Neverliria, she finds herself facing numerous threats and challenges in the night. The only way to survive is through the power of light, in order to battle the darkness.
With Neverliria, they avoided over-complicating the mechanics and the tasks in the game, and trust the player in getting stuck in with the surviving and learning from each attempt.
There are settlements you come across, different types of buildings to build that creates different resources, and different leveled enemies you have to fight against. Each time I play this game and fail, I feel like I learn something new from each experience that makes the next attempt better and better.
Before going into Neverliria, I recommend that you take a quick look at Indie Toaster’s review, where there are hints and suggestions that you need to take on board to save you a couple of hours.
FAR: Lone Sails – Where your vehicle is your stoic companion – Shaun Wall
Nothing has quite matched my 2018 gaming experience than the three hours I spent throwing myself against big red buttons in FAR: Lone Sails. The air around me was thick with the screeching and groaning of tormented metal as a jet of steam violently erupted from the over-pressurized glowing blue heart of my ship.
Clawing its way over the endless sands, the iconic landship of FAR: Lone Sails hits a perfect sweet spot I never knew I wanted; the vehicle is as much your sanctuary and mode of transport as it is your companion, boasting more personality and emotional connectivity than any supporting character ever could.
It was much like the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, where frustrated button-mashing, punching and shouting created a sense of empathy with the quirky and intermittent ship, which made it feel an equal part of the crew.
The game is both visually and audibly stunning; every button yields a satisfying click whenever you activate the ship’s system. Every metallic groan and reverberation sounds just right as the landship crawls forward. The marriage of environmental ambiance and the musical score is perfect.
FAR: Lone Sails is one of the prime examples of how video games could – and should – be considered as a form of art. Every detail is satisfying and wonderfully delivered, merging together into an absolutely beautiful sensory experience.