Indie games are a symbol, a symbol of what makes video games and gaming special; it is the fact that they are surreal experiences that can be enjoyed from the comfort of our confined enclosures.
They represent the best parts of our childhood and try to bring them to the forefront again, for whatever fleeting moments that they stay with us.
Keeping that in mind, let us take a look at 24 of the best indie games that were released in the past 10 years.
Gear up and strap on, this is going to be a nostalgic ride.
Best Indie Games
1. The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth
The cartoonishly gory visuals and the surprisingly somber music depict a tale of an extremely traumatized child making their way through dungeons with unimaginable amounts of monsters, and a new challenge every step of the way.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth deals with the unconventional in a variety of ways, such as the only weapon you have is the tears you produce yourself, and that contributes heavily to the charm of this oddly fascinating game.
Even if you don’t enjoy difficult games, we have a feeling you will like this one.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
The story of Braid isn’t clear anywhere during its runtime, and that is purposefully made so. You don’t play this to be wowed by the nuanced story or all the different elements that developers could have packed into it; the gameplay is enough to achieve that purpose.
What is so awe-inspiring about Braid is obviously the time manipulation, but also the freedom that you get from this mechanic.
Braid is one of those groundbreaking puzzle platformers that laid the foundation for future games and is always a treat to behold, even after a decade of its release.
Each level of Celeste is a sight to behold, and no matter what your runtime is, or what number playthrough you are on, the game finds numerous ways to keep you absolutely hooked.
Not only that, but Celeste has a groundbreaking story hiding behind the fascinating art, and the dialogue is as nuanced as the movement system in the game.
Often, video games ask you to be perfect with your input to beat the challenges that they present, but Celeste is also unique in that department; it invites you to stop and look at the progress you have made, failing the numerous times that you eventually will have.
A journey of a video game, and one of the best steam indie games.
Developer/Publisher: Extremely OK Games/Matt Makes Games
Release Date: 25 January 2018
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Decidedly fooling you with the Disney art style, you’ll be far into the game when you realize what Cuphead is all about.
This is another Souls-like that transcends barriers and forces you to not judge it by its jazzy, cartoonish exterior.
Cuphead is a creepy, eerily jovial ride through the Devil’s town as you find a way to save your soul from his cavalcade of cutthroat companions, figuratively and quite literally.
The fantastic original soundtrack lends itself to the minimalist story in the most amazing way possible, and the difficulty keeps ramping up to the point where you see yourself battling just to stay alive. Keep your wits about you.
Platforms: PC, Android, iOS, PS4, Nintendo Switch, MacOS, Xbox One
6. Dead Cells
Starting off with a banger, we have Dead Cells. The rise of Souls-like games is something that we have documented for a long, and fans of that genre will surely notice the striking similarities head-on.
Your character starts out as a corpse lying in a dungeon somewhere until a greenish goo plops to the floor and gives you life. Your motivation is simple, you are required to find a way out of the dungeon by any means necessary.
This kind of unfatigued simplification is what gives Dead Cells its charm. Death is only the beginning, and inconsequential too. So go on.
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
Fez is a reminder of simpler times, of simpler motivations to play video games, and simply fun, and that’s what makes it one of the best indie games on Steam.
The 2d platformer that exists in a 3d space is chock full of content and knows not to take itself too seriously.
Perhaps what drew me in further when I started with this simple masterpiece was that there was no mad design and extravagant budget, but just a simple white cloudy blob of a character, interactive puzzles, a straightforward way to fix whatever’s wrong with the world, and an invitation to explore the vast world at my own pace and liking.
Released in 2012, this game is still a peach to look at and play and is one of the classics of our time.
Platforms: PC, Linux, MacOS, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
12. Hotline Miami
Now, whenever we talk about the top indie games, Hotline Miami is sure to make it to that list.
This colorful, bloody, top-down 80s action romp takes you through a surreal world wherein you must answer a malevolent caller whose specific instructions take you through various locations to murder the inhabitants of said location.
The visuals are astonishing, the soundtrack is glorious, and you are going to have a hell of a time butchering people, all the while wondering what the point of the game really is.
Platforms: PC, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Outlast is terrifying. It looks to explore the depths of the human mind, and what it can truly conjure once put under enough duress.
This smash-hit title takes you through the dimly lit, bloody corridors of Mount Massive, an asylum where the doors are only closed and the only way to get out is to internalize what’s happening in there.
But much like any other sane human being, your character is a cynic, and a journalist too so that’s the perfect combination.
Survival is the name of the game here, but while you can keep your body intact, who’s to say your mind will stay the same?
This best-selling indie game is a must-play.
Find Outlast and the Whistleblower DLC on Steam right now!
Developer/Publisher: Red Barrels Entertainment
Release Date: 4 September 2013
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
15. Papers, Please
Ever thought you would have fun deciding the fate of hundreds of potential immigrants? Well now you can, being a border checkpoint employee.
Papers Please is a fantastic game about socio-political tension, peoples’ lives being bogged down under documents, and the struggle of the average man to feed and look out for his family.
Be careful though, overlook a tiny detail while visitors are pouring in, and you might lose the only job that you can get. Papers, please.
Pyre is gripping, and not in the sense that you might think. No, it is anything but conventional. Let me explain. You are a Reader in Pyre, an omniscient creature that is in the midst of all the events that unfold in the game.
It is your job to manage a band of misfits, prisoners that are to be set upon a gladiatorial stage and make sure that they win the Trials.
Pyre is an RTS chock full of story, and a jaw-dropping music arrangement to go with shiny, Lovecraftian visuals, and it must be played to be believed.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, MacOS, PSVita, Nintendo Switch
18. Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight reminds me of the NES era in all the good ways. The 8-bit soundtrack, amazing side-scrolling action, and minimal story are all elements I miss from my Megaman playing days, and the urge to dust off my old set was somewhat sated by this indie classic.
Along with that, the colorful visual layout and the simple but challenging boss battles are great round-off points for a brilliantly presented game.
Shovel Knight is truly a shining gem in an otherwise overcrowded indie market, making sure that it does not forget the roots that it borrows from, one of the top indie games around if you ask me.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Linux
19. Slay the Spire
Combining turn-based deck building and roguelikes into one game?
Why did nobody else ever think of that? Slay the Spire is a game like no other.
This genre-bender combines the aforementioned elements seamlessly, and while the visuals are nothing to write home about, StS makes up for it and then some with the combat, general cartoony aesthetic, and an overarching sense of achievement whenever the cards are stacked in your favor.
What’s more interesting is the innumerable combinations that give you more synergy unexpectedly.
Out of nowhere, you might find yourself slaying the biggest bosses because of two cards working together, and that is where you will find the charm of this game.
Platforms: PC, MacOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Spelunky is yet another indie classic that harkens back to the golden age of NES simplicity.
The challenge of Spelunky does not lie in the difficulty that it offers, but the sheer number of times that it can catch you off guard.
An exhausting number of traps, pitfalls, creatures, and even allies that can turn on you and kill you, and the various ways they can do so provides the majority of the challenge in this game, which makes it one of the best dungeon crawlers of all time.
With a sequel already released, you can see why people love this game.
Platforms: PC, ChromeOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
22. Stardew Valley
There is a sense of returning to your roots in Stardew valley that will have you coming back to it after a busy day at work or school every time.
The calm and charm of the countryside is something that can never be replaced by the hustle and bustle of city life, and Stardew Valley is an excellent example of the ethics behind video game design as well.
The mellow, almost lazy farming simulator reminds you of the simpler things in life and why it is important to sometimes sit back, relax, and watch things grow around you.
Platforms: PC, Linux, MacOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Adding to the other truly horrifying game on this list, Subnautica aims to fill you with wonder and the fear of the unknown at the same time.
As the sole survivor of an ill-fated journey through space, landing in an alien sea on an alien planet, it is your job to venture into the deep below and piece together what happened to the rest of the cast and crew.
With predatory creatures lurking everywhere, Subnautica manages to keep you alarmingly alert for the entirety of the time that you will spend on it, and encourages you to carefully pick apart the secrets of the waters that you are now in.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
While they might not offer photorealism or big-budget cinematics, indie games always capture the heart and soul of why we play video games; at the end of the day, the purpose is to have a little bit of fun, a little bit of respite from our busy daily lives.
Video games are an escape, and the indie genre continues to provide the same with a variable library of games that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What is an indie game?
Indie games can have many definitions. But commonly, an indie game is a game made by a group or a small team of individuals and not necessarily a big-budget studio, without the financial backing or technical support of a big publisher or meant to exhilarate with hefty graphics and fps action. Indie games are small in scale but are now pushing boundaries almost as much as their AAA counterparts.
What indie game should I play?
Well, we just made a list of the best ones of the last two decades, so go ahead and pick one. Aside from that, indie games are covered across a myriad of genres, so if you like shooters, survival games, or platformers, you can find a game for you all the same.
Is Minecraft still an indie game?
Technically, yes. Minecraft was made by a small group of people. But as the popularity of the game has risen, it will be difficult to place it as still being an indie game due to the sheer amount of attention that it has received since release.
What is the biggest indie game of all time?
Since they come in all kinds of variable sizes and forms, it is hard to answer that question. Some of the games on our list would be strong contenders for that answer.
Are indie games better than AAA?
Quality is often subjective, and the way you describe your experience of playing games may be different from that of others. Some indie games generally have been better received critically and commercially by the public, and hence can go head-to-head with your favorite AAA titles. It is all a question of personal preference at the end of the day.
Do indie games make money?
Yes, they do. Indie games have a huge market and some of them are amongst the all-time bestsellers lists. Indies have come a long way since their inception, and with the advances in technology, simplification as a route is often very profitable. So yes, indie games make money, a ton of it once they start selling.