15 Best Indie Games Of 2023

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With the absolute runaway year it’s been for blockbuster games, will someone please think of the indies? Because while Baldur’s Gate 3 has been stealing the spotlight with its steamy fireside antics, and Alan Wake 2 has been kneading our brains like bread dough, an impressive lineup of indies has quietly rounded 2023 up to being one of the best years in gaming.



The beautiful thing about our Top 15 indie games of 2023 is that there is no unifying or ‘trending’ genre here. It’s a really eclectic mix, from survival games, to fishing horror, to detective sims, speaking to the ongoing creativity of indie devs and their ability to surprise us.

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15 Sons of the Forest

Living (And Trying Not To Die) Off The Land

Matthew S: There are plenty of survival horror titles on the indie game market, but those games have a tendency to lean harder on the horror than survival. Not so with Sons of the Forest. Are there creepy cannibal forest people milling about the trees, ready to harvest your meat and bones? Sure there are! But that’s not all you need to do to survive.

The best times I had playing around in the forest were centered around living off the land, be it hunting for food, gathering materials, or building shelters and makeshift weapons and tools, which are essential skills you’ll need if you don’t want to turn into human chow. The crafting mechanics have a bit of a learning curve (and I’m still not great at them), but you can actually watch yourself making everything, which was great for the immersive aspect. The monsters are just the icing on the cake.

14 Blasphemous 2

Once More, Penitent One

Jeff: Blasphemous 2 is a damn tough game, and one of the best in the metroidvania genre, but it’s also a game dripping in warped Catholic iconography and twisted religious themes. You play as the Penitent One, the last survivor of a religious sect that swore a vow of silence. Tonally, the game feels influenced heavily by Dark Souls and that kind of melancholic journey through a cryptic world.

Seen by many as an improvement over the original game, (though our Rob Zak thought it could’ve tried to be a bit more of an improvement) Blasphemous 2 provides a more balanced experience across its story, art direction, encounter design, and boss fights, though the atmosphere from the first game is far superior.

Blasphemous 2 provides a more balanced experience across its story, art direction, encounter design, and boss fights.

Throughout the game, you’ll delve deep within the earth, across crumbling ruins, and high into a massive temple in the sky. As you unlock shortcuts and circle back through familiar areas, you will commune with supernatural and divine figures, defeat a slew of difficult bosses, and you will likely die. A lot. Don’t let that deter you, though — every boss provides great challenge, but they can all be overcome through study, practice, and sheer determination.

Even if it means staying up way later than you intended to just because you came so close to beating a particular boss the last time, and it’ll just take one good run to achieve victory.

13 Shadows of Doubt

The Truest Of Detectives

Rob: This game was incredible when it first came out in April, and eight months into its Early Access journey it’s only gotten better. Shadows of Doubt is a detective sandbox where you’re thrown into procedurally generated city blocks where just about every building, apartment, shop, and ventilation shaft is accessible, as you go about your PI work to solve various cases.

It’s an immersive sim in its mostly non-combat approach to gathering evidence, and lets you really think outside the box, such as by breaking into peoples’ apartments while they sleep to fingerprint them. But it also has a combat system, a super-detailed toolset for collecting clues, and a survival element as you need to earn money to buy food, better equipment, and an apartment to survive and thrive in these sad neon-soaked cities.

Shadows of Doubt is already singular and special, and I suspect is on course for critical acclaim when it finally hits full release.

12 Wartales

Medieval Mercenary Simulation

Rob: In a year of powerful and intense story-driven games, it’s actually quite refreshing to play a game where you basically carve your own story through the play experience. In this medieval mercenary simulator, you recruit and lead a band of hardy troops – each with unique battle skills and personality traits – in a tough world where you’re ultimately out for your own survival.

Satisfying overworld exploration and deceptively deep turn-based combat maketh a compelling package.

There are wider conflicts in the world where you can play both sides, you can agree to help someone, only to turn on them as their target offers you more coin, among other ruthless decisions. Satisfying overworld exploration and deceptively deep turn-based combat maketh a compelling package, and the recent pirate-themed DLC makes for a cool change of setting for the theme.

Wartales

Released
April 12, 2023

Developer(s)
Shiro Games

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11 Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

A Musical Of Godlike Proportions

Matthew S: No story in gaming this year grabbed my attention quite like Stray Gods, the first game from David Gaider’s Summerfall Studios. A lyrical, musical adventure where your choices change the flow of the songs on a dime, the amount of work that went into putting it all together was massive. Don’t believe me? Cue up one of the two-hour-long YouTube videos that play out the possibilities in just one song.

Whether it was sailing the River Styx to challenge Orpheus (played by Broadway legend Anthony Rapp) for the throne of the underworld or helping the bumbling minotaur Astarion (not that one) to woo his lady Katie, the little slice-of-life moments were even better than the murder mystery itself, adding a heartfelt touch to the often unrelatable stories of the Pantheon.

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

Released
August 10, 2023

Developer
Summerfall Studios

10 El Paso Elsewhere

That 2001 Feel

Rob: Stylish neo-noir mixes with demonic infestations as you bullet-time and blast your way through dark dimensions in El Paso, Elsewhere. Its low-poly graphics and gunplay are designed to evoke the original Max Payne, though polish-wise it feels every bit the modern shooter.

Even though it looks basic, it feels incredibly stylish and cinematic once you’re in there, with an original hip-hop soundtrack, a surprisingly well-written and gravelly-voiced story, and a degree of environmental destructibility that ol’ Max could only dream of.

El Paso, Elsewhere

Released
September 26, 2023

Developer
Strange Scaffold

9 Cocoon

Puzzles Within Puzzles, Worlds Within Worlds

Jeff: As much as I love the creativity that goes into puzzle games, I can’t say I’m particularly good at them. In most ‘great’ puzzle games I’ve played, I’ll inevitably hit some kind of wall about 70% through the game where I need to look up nearly every solution to continue progressing, which really kills any momentum and grinds my enjoyment to a halt. I was wary of this going into Cocoon, but the game really surprised me. It’s simultaneously very accessible and also excellent at forcing you to think within its bizarre confines.

The main conceit of the puzzles in Cocoon is the juggling of several ‘world’ orbs. These orbs you can carry provide a specific ability within the worlds — like creating light bridges or shifting the terrain — but they are also portals into different worlds themselves, resulting in many puzzles requiring you to juggle these world orbs, bringing one or several orbs inside another orb in order to make it through a complicated sequence, all while leaping through the layers of the worlds to reach the ending.

It’s simultaneously accessible and also excellent at forcing you to think within its bizarre confines.

It sounds weird, and it’s honestly difficult to describe, but it’s incredibly satisfying. And sure, by the end of the game, when I was fully juggling four different worlds to solve some puzzles, they really pushed me to my problem-solving limits, but it’s easy to see why this game is easily one of the best puzzle games of the year.

Cocoon

Released
September 29, 2023

Developer(s)
Geometric Interactive

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8 Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader

Our Emperor, Deliver Us

Jack: The latest offering from Owlcat Games is (thankfully) more of the same from the CRPG specialists. Owlcat’s offerings have become more and more refined as they’ve produced game after game and Rogue Trader is the studio’s new peak. As many will know, the lore is never-ending in 40k meaning there are a lot of interesting characters and locations to interact with. Sometimes all you need is a game from X studio set in Y universe, and Rogue Trader is a shining example of this.

Like my good friend Matthew O’Dwyer (who’s currently reviewing it) I haven’t finished Rogue Trader just yet, but I’ve played enough of it to confidently say it’s both engaging and engrossing. After all, who doesn’t want to live out a power fantasy in the grim darkness of the future?

7 Humanity

Playing God In A Puzzle-Solving Sandbox

Emma: If you are looking for a constantly evolving puzzle game that continues to challenge you in new and interesting ways, then you are in luck. Humanity is exactly that; a puzzle platforming sandbox-style game where you play as a tiny ghost dog whose aim is to solve a variety of puzzles by controlling mindless hordes of humans in order to complete each stage.

Even when you inevitably mess up, you can’t help but enjoy the whimsical nature of it all.

There is something so satisfying about seeing hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of humans running around the stage, performing the various tasks you’ve assigned them to reach the end goal. And even when you inevitably mess up and send some of them running off the edge to their inevitable doom, you can’t help but enjoy the whimsical nature of it all.

Humanity is a fantastic game that is both relaxing and modestly challenging, packed with a ton of replayability. You can complete each stage in a variety of ways, making each playthrough of the campaign unique, and there is even a creator mode where you can build your own stages to share with the online community.

Humanity

Released
February 23, 2023

Developer
Enhance, THA Limited

6 Jusant

Steady Ascent

Rob: Climbing doesn’t seem like a particularly relaxing hobby, especially if like me you obsessively watch those YouTube shorts of free-solo climbers scaling rock faces like Spider-Man minus the invincibility, but Jusant successfully taps into the meditative side of the climbing experience.

Set in a drought-ridden world where you must climb a tower at the world’s centre, you ascend through rain, storms, and stunning sunsets while picking your path upwards. Jusant doesn’t punish you, so you don’t need to fear the dreaded falls, while the cute creature Ballast has got your back (while being on your back) all the way to the top. With an absorbing, relaxing soundtrack and a unique, vibrant graphics style, Jusant very much feels the ‘Journey’ of 2023, though for me personally its less drifty, more focused gameplay loop actually puts it ahead of Thatgamecompany’s classic.

Jusant

Released
October 30, 2023

Developer
Don’t Nod

5 Season: A Letter To The Future

Honor The World Around You

Jeff: This game released fairly early in the year, but despite that, it’s managed to endure in the hearts and minds of many here at DualShockers. This contemplative journey isn’t terribly long, taking anywhere from 6-12 hours to complete, but I felt completely absorbed during the entirety of my time playing Season: A Letter to the Future. Set in the ambiguous time between the end of one age of the world and the mysterious start of the next, you play Estelle, who sets out into the world to record the lives of those in it and to catalog the sights and the sounds of the world around her before the next age begins and brings with it a sea of change.

Laced with supernatural touches and shrines to old, powerful gods, Season encourages quiet observation above all else.

Laced with supernatural touches and shrines to old, powerful gods, Season encourages quiet observation above all else. Armed with a journal, camera, and a tape recorder, you jot down your thoughts, take pictures, record sounds, and scrapbook your observations along the way. Season isn’t a bombastic game full of action or drama; instead, it offers a meditative experience, rewarding a quiet and patient mind.

I’ll never forget my time with Season: A Letter to the Future, and I’m happy to champion it at every opportunity.

Season: A Letter to the Future

Developer(s)
Scavengers Studio

4 Tchia

A Beautiful World To Get Lost In

Emma: From the not so well known developer, Awaceb, comes Tchia. This heartfelt indie game enchants with its art style, beautiful soundtrack, and unique storytelling and characters. You play as Tchia, a young girl who sets out on a mission to save her father, discovering her innate soul-jumping abilities along the way.

As you set out to explore the vast archipelago in search of clues, you’ll solve various puzzles by using your soul jump power to possess living creatures and small inanimate objects alike. Doing so completely changes how you move through the world, providing you with endless choices to explore and complete any challenges you find.

Tchia is a great indie game to really take your time with, as there are tons of little puzzles to solve, abilities to unlock, and cosmetic rewards to earn and equip. Not to mention that it is just a joy to experience the world itself, beckoning you to soak up every moment as you chip away at the main storyline.

Tchia

Released
March 21, 2023

Developer(s)
Awaceb

3 Venba

A Story Of Love & Heritage

Matthew O.:While Venba may only be a couple of hours long, it manages to be an immeasurably impactful game about immigrant parents raising their son in Canada. Despite hardships, like never being able to find stable work, Venba and her husband stay in Canada so their son, Kavin, can have a better life. As Kavin grows up, Venba is faced with both the challenges of her son growing up and the struggle of watching Kavin shed his own heritage to fit in with the world around him.

The story is often centered on traditional family dishes and meals around the dinner table. Venba cooks from her mother’s cookbook, which is sometimes missing pieces of the recipes inside. Turning these recipes into meals through small puzzles moves the story through time. While brief, the story told is one I won’t forget any time soon, and it’s one of the best games of 2023.

Venba

Released
July 31, 2023

Developer
Visai Games

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2 Sea of Stars

The Bygone Charm Of Retro Gaming

Rachael: For me, Sea of Stars was the perfect little game to snuggle into as the days became darker, allowing it to warm my cold, old heart. This pixelated, colorful delight takes all the little things I love about classic JRPGs and wraps them brilliantly into a nostalgic modern tale with stunning visuals and a banging soundtrack.

The world is a joy to explore; it’s rich and alive, full of areas to climb, dungeons to investigate, and bridges to cross to the next just-as-engaging level. Although the story did take some time to develop, it was unique enough to flourish on its own and drew me in for hours on end. I sincerely hope that this is the standard of classic RPGs to come.

1 Dredge

Beware The Deep

Jack: I am beyond pleased that Dredge is our consensus indie game of the year. This eldritch fishing experience is a shining example of what a debut studio can accomplish when every aspect is united under the same vision. Everything in Dredge, from the haunting soundtrack to the angular art style to the uncanny, not-quite-right interactions with NPCs creates an aura of eeriness that’s both inviting and unsettling.

Everything in Dredge creates an aura of eeriness that’s both inviting and unsettling.

Dredge embodies the motif of beauty in simplicity, iterating on its formula throughout the game. You travel from one eerie area to the next, catching fish, helping each area’s respective strange NPC, and gathering magical artifacts from the void that power up your ship. It’s a brief and devilishly entertaining tale, executed to perfection and one I won’t soon forget.

Dredge

Released
March 31, 2023

Developer(s)
Black Salt Games

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