If you have an interest in the video game industry, you know that the industry at large is kinda trash. There’s government legislation going on because the industry went too far with lootboxes; there’s this big push toward live services, and just a lot of nonsense going on that has really stagnated the gaming landscape. If we aren’t getting some big online-only live service, then we’re getting an open world collectathon that’s more size than substance. There are exceptions in that such as Sekiro or the Resident Evil 2 remake, but the majority of games today have leaned toward the live service model and that doesn’t seem as though it’s going to change. Companies have grown more comfortable with releasing games and fixing/supporting them for years instead of making new experiences. For some like myself, that can be disheartening.
I’ve tried the open worlds and live services…honestly? I’ll take a confined and complete package over those any day of the week. Not to say all open worlds are bad. Some are good. Great, even. But lately, I haven’t found an open world I want to pour myself into. Our time is finite, and I would much rather pour in 20, 40, or even 100 hours into something I know will end than into a game that’s just an ever shifting sandbox reliant on communities to keep alive. That may be for other gamers, but it isn’t for me and I know it isn’t for everyone. But not all hope is lost. As you all know by now, I’ve put more of my attention into the indie market and I’ve not been (too) disappointed about it. Every now and again, I’ll find a game that makes me sigh and feel disappointed, but more often than not I find more enjoyment from indie games than I have in many of the big budget titles.
So for those who are more like me and need something to play, I’m going to take this time to talk a bit about 5 games that I think are great for people to try out and give a chance while the big boys sort themselves out. Now, before I begin, I’m gonna set some ground rules. One, these are exclusively indie games. Two, they will be multiplatform. I don’t promise they’ll be on EVERY platform (finding good ones for the XB1 is pretty difficult…), but they won’t be exclusives. Three, they won’t be the titles that already have a lot of shine behind them like Hollow Knight or Celeste. With that all said and done, let’s get started.
Freedom Planet (Steam, PS4, Switch)
Do you like Sonic the Hedgehog and monster girls? Then boy do I have a game for you. Freedom Planet is a game I played on a whim that turned out really well. You have the option to play as 3 characters; Lilac the Dragon, Carol the Wildcat, or Millia the Basset Hound. The only thing they share is a melee attack, but after that they’re pretty unique. If you like just going fast, then Lilac will be your go-to as she’s the speedy one. Do you want to do more exploration and want a spin dash oh…and a MOTORCYCLE? Pick Carol. She’s not as fast on her feet, but I’d argue she’s more versatile. Millia…she’s a weird one. Millia is a very defense oriented character, capable of creating cubes and offensive shields to get around. She’s got a learning curve, but offers an interesting playstyle. The story is nothing to write home about, although the game really wants you to know it. It has fully voiced cutscenes…for better or for worse…and in game cutscenes. But you can ignore all that and just play one of the best Sonic clones out right now.
Cosmic Star Heroine (Steam, PS4, Vita, Switch)
Cosmic Star Heroine is a RPG styled after the old days of RPGs. It focuses a lot on exploration, story, base building, and team synergy. Instead of MP, the game has a bit of a charge system where attacks can only be used a set number of times before having to be reset. Some can be used infinitely, but the more powerful abilities have to be recharged. Sounds a little awkward, but I found that it adds some depth to each battle where you aren’t mashing a button in order to get through the battle. The story is well written, but nothing that’s going ot blow your mind. What carries it though is the dialogue and characters. This is a pretty Saturday morning cartoon plot but some of the interactions had between characters is pretty hilarious sometimes. As for the story, without giving too much away, it’s a sci-fi conspiracy story. You’re a spy and you don’t know who the good guy’s are so you being you, you have to figure it out. Oh, and it’s one of those RPGs where there are NO RANDOM ENCOUNTERS. I like those.
Crossing Souls (Steam, PS4, Switch)
How in the world did this come from Devolver Digital and not get any attention or acclaim? This game is awesome! I talked earlier about open worlds and how they’ve become kinda “meh” but if they were more like this, they’d be better for it. Crossing Souls is an open world beat ’em up that revolves around 5 kids finding an ancient Egyptian artifact called the Dual Stone that lets them cross over to the worlds of the living and the dead. Oh, and the game’s setting is the 80’s. So expect that nostalgic feel that reminds you of movies of that era. The gameplay itself is pretty good. Each of the kids have their own strenths and weaknesses, playing into the usual archetypes; the all rounder, the ranger, the heavy, etc. The artsyle looks great, the animated cutscenes are amazing, and the writing…well, it’s what you’d expect from Devolver Digital. It’s vulgar and hilarious with some references snuck in there for good measure. Perhaps it didn’t get a lot of attention for not being the usual Devolver games. Y’know…it may have the pixel art, but it doesn’t have nearly as much of the shock, the blood, the MACHISMO BADASSERY, or the drugs. Still, a very good game I suggest to anyone looking for a good beat ’em up.
Iconoclasts (Steam, PS4, Vita, Switch)
This list wasn’t going to be complete without a Metroidvania and I debated this or Axiom Verge, but that game is literally just Metroid in the 90’s. Which isn’t a bad thing. But Iconoclasts is a more unique experience so I want to highlight this one. The premise is what caught me; you’re what’s called a Mechanic, a person able to interact with the world to build and fix things. However, the lands are ruled over a religious authority called the One Concern. They have licensed Mechanics who’re powered by Ivory, a natural resourse of the planet that has been revered as “holy” and to only be used by them. And without giving away a lot, this game is basically about you trying to not be arrested for helping common people while also taking down a corrupt religion. If I spent a lot of time on the plot, it’s because it’s the second best aspect of the game next to the VISUALS. MY GOD, LOOK AT IT. Pause here, go look up a video of it, and just…look at it. That game is gorgeous. The game itself is a platform puzzling metroidvania that can get a pretty challenging with some of the best boss fights I’ve seen in a game. And the characters? They’re amazing. The ones you meet and the ones who oppose you are all just…oh, I could praise this game for days. To be honest, if Hollow Knight didn’t exist, I would say this is my favorite indie Metroidvania. Take that for what you will, but you should definitely play this game.
Astebreed (Steam, PS4, Windows, Switch)
So, this was going to be another game, but I was repeatedly reminded of this game because Michael loves this game. As I also love bullet hell games, I decided to give it a shot. As far as bullet hells go, this is still one of the longer ones. It tops off at about 5 hours (depending on your skill level) but then comes the hard mode. At the time of writing, I haven’t beaten it because it’s…well…hard. But what I will say is that it is an underated gem of a game. Story? it’s anime nonsense about fighting an alien force that just wants to kill the humans because humans suck. The gameplay though? It’s amazing what happens when you start adding swords to a bullet hell. I spent a great deal of the game just slashing through as much as I could. Yeah, I died a couple of times doing that but, It was fun! As far as the visuals? They’re pretty good! The art direction is as anime as a mech based bullet hell can be, but it definitely gets the job done. The market is full of all sorts of bullet hell-like games, but if you’re looking for a great one then try out Astebreed. It made me a believer in just a day.
There are tons more, and I mean TONS more, games out there for anyone looking for a good game to play. That’s the beauty of the indie market. It’s varied and cheap so taking chances on a game isn’t going to break your wallet. So if you have a few dollars to spend, know that you can get a good game for $5-$30 instead of $60 for…well, whatever the industry decides to dump out next. Do you guys have any indie favorites? Have you played anything on my mini list here? Let us know what you think.