It’s never been a better time to be part of the indie game scene. The sheer breadth of games and genres has exploded thanks to the accessibility of development tools. It’s a rough path to walk, as indiedev is oftentimes heavily dependent on luck and a fickle market.
However, the freedom it offers is undeniable and invaluable. Indie development has given artists, designers, and programmers the opportunity to put forth their vision.
Indies came out in full force this E3. While we can’t possibly name all of them, these are five indie games that we’re absolutely excited for.
Links to each game’s website can be found in their respective headlines.
1 – Sable
If it wasn’t clear from my PC Gaming Show wrap up, I absolutely adored Sable. The striking visual style and free-form exploration inside a vast alien world were more than enough to make this game stand out.
At first glance, Sable looks shockingly close to the beloved adventure game Journey. A lone wanderer traverses windswept dunes in a dreamy landscape, piecing together the world around them. However, Shedworks, the developers behind Sable, bring more of a pop-culture tinged approach to their game.
Inspired by the works of Moebius and Studio Ghibli, Sable revels in a canvas of muted colors and strange shapes. The appropriately stilted animations and blending of colors give the impression of a comic in motion. Accompanying the otherworldly visuals is music by Japanese Breakfast, whose dreamy, dulcet tones further reinforce a sense of ethereal wonder.
As you travel the world on your hoverbike, you learn about the people, their culture, and their history. Featured locations included expansive dunes, grim dungeons, and striking architecture. How the game controls and plays exactly is unclear, but I’ve got strong hopes that this book will be just as good as its cover.
2 – The Sinking City
Lovecraft’s influence on popular media is undeniable. His work has manifested in countless forms, ranging from movies like Pan’s Labyrinth to games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. As vast and far-reaching as his eldritch horrors have been, we haven’t seen much in the way of “proper” Lovecraft stories. Thankfully, The Sinking City by Frogwares is bringing them back to their roots.
The quintessential Lovecraft story is undoubtedly “Shadow Over Innsmouth”. It continues to be one of his seminal works, as it established the mood and tone of urban eldritch horror. One crucial element missing from these narratives, however, has been the setting. Aside from 2005’s Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, nobody’s attempted a proper Lovecraftian period game. Until now.
The Sinking City puts you in the role of a private investigator looking into the curious case of Oakmont, Massachusetts, “a city suffering from unprecedented floods of supernatural origins. You must uncover the source of whatever has taken possession of the city – and the minds of its inhabitants.”
The unassuming New England town rife with sinister intrigue is so classically Lovecraft it’s refreshing. Eldritch themes have permeated so many different games that it’s a delight to see a return to the source material. The Sinking City brings to life a twisted take on the hard-boiled grit of the 1920s.
Load your pistol and ready your sanity: this game will plunge you in deep.
3 – Ooblets
The stereotypical image of the indie game is the quirky, artsy little title developed with love, passion, and wholesomeness. Ooblets fits all of those boxes but dammit it all if it doesn’t do it well.
Following on the heels of games like Slime Rancher and Stardew Valley, Ooblets is a self-proclaimed game about “farming, creatures, and adventure”. Based on all the gameplay seen so far, you farm these creatures (Ooblets) and take them on adventures. Simple enough!
As I’ve talked about before, art is derivative and video games are no exception. Somewhere at the crossroads between Animal Crossing, Pokemon, and Harvest Moon lies Ooblets. Developer “Glumberland” is throwing together a mishmash of mechanics and tying it all neatly together in a pretty little bow. Featuring charming animations, a vibrant color palette, and a bouncy, flouncy, fluffy-fun soundtrack, Ooblets is a pure audio and visual delight.
Their Twitter is bustling with activity and devlogs, so if you’re curious what the game has to offer, check out their posts!
4 – Sea of Solitude
If there’s one thing I’ll never get tired of its narrative games. While I enjoy visual novels and point-and-clicks, sometimes you don’t need words to tell a good story. Sea of Solitude, one of the first games to open up this year’s E3, captures its audience on visuals alone.
Striking colors, moody visuals, and buttery-smooth animations perfectly capture the game’s world. Like Sable, Sea of Solitude‘s hook is simple, yet effective. “When humans get too lonely,” says the game’s website, “they turn into monsters. That’s what happened to Kay. Now only monsters can change her back.”
Cryptic and enticing. Just the way I like it.
Open-word SharkPG. If that premise doesn’t immediately have you interested you need to ask yourself one question: “Why do I hate fun”?
Wanton violence and popcorn-horror camp run rampant in Maneater, where the setup is Jaws and you are the shark. The game’s cheeky trailer presents the setting has a lush tourist getaway with a sinister tone.
Developed by Blindside Studios, Alex Quick helms the team behind Maneater. Quick has an impressive pedigree for capturing over-the-top violence in fun-to-play mechanics. Coming off the heels of Depth, a competitive game between divers and sharks, it’s no surprise that he’s the mind behind Maneater.
Set in the sunny waters of the southern US Gulf Coast, Maneater promises bloody mayhem in a variety of interesting locales. Whether it’s sandy beaches, misty rivers, or verdant swamps, you are the terror that lurks beneath the surface. There’s going to be blood in the water and it certainly won’t be yours.
With every passing year, the barrier to game development gets lower and lower. Sure, this may allow for the loads of shovelware and garbage that gets pumped out on a regular basis. But the best will always rise to the top.
E3 has handily proven that indies cover a wide range of content, visions, and talent. Whether you’re in the mood for a lighthearted romp, action-filled chaos, or somber storytelling, indie games have got you covered.