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The 20 best indie games you might have missed in 2019

Outer Wilds

(Image credit: Mobius Digital)

Developer: Mobius Digital
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Mobius Digital's clockwork universe will blow you away like nothing else this year – partially because its sun explodes every 22 minutes, yes, but also because you'll have no idea why. Solving the mystery takes you to planets beset by raging tornadoes and crumbling away into black holes, with just a ramshackle spaceship and a few rudimentary devices to help you. Here, the progression system is knowledge; the more you learn about your celestial puzzle-box surroundings, the better equipped you are to explore them, and the closer you come to one of the most beautiful conclusions in all of video games. This is a singularly intimate portrayal of space, and our place in it.

Sayonara Wild Hearts

(Image credit: Annapurna)

Developer: Simogo
Format:
PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS (Apple Arcade)

Simogo doesn't put a foot wrong in this pop-powered motorcycle ballet spectacular. As the broken-hearted Fool, you battle super-stylish biker gangs in order to restore harmony to the universe. Everything – from interdimensional skateboarding to boss fights against mecha-wolves – plays out to the rhythm of a soundtrack that'll have you belting out choruses one moment and blinking away tears the next. And with its endless surprises, tests of skills, and cheeky nods to Mario, Rez, Out Run and Panzer Dragoon, Sayonara Wild Hearts is undoubtedly a love letter to video games, and the power that alternate worlds can lend us in our darkest moments.

Sky: Children Of The Light

(Image credit: Thatgamecompany)

Developer: Thatgamecompany
Format:
iOS, Android

Thatgamecompany's latest title is easily its most ambitious, taking the essential magic of Journey – that wordless connection with another stranger – and building an entire mobile multiplayer game around it. Set to a score that soars as high as the clouds, you work together with anonymous friends to solve environmental puzzles, finding stars to restore constellation spirits. And when the story's over, there's still so much to delight in: harmonious celestial jam sessions, random acts of generosity, and helping sherpa grateful newbies through rainstorms are small moments that remind us of the very best of human nature.

Slay the Spire

(Image credit: Mega Crit Games)

Developer: Mega Crit Games
Format: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One

Deck-building games aren't to everyone's taste – but we dare anyone to deny the wiles of even a mildly successful run in Slay The Spire, which melds card-based duelling with Roguelike adventure. Your deck is a living thing that must be pruned and perfected as you climb the dangerous tower, flinging attacks at acid slimes and shelled parasites. Defeating enemies has you accrue cards, not all of which are useful, and figuring out where to spend your money in order to hone your hand to its finest current point is a process of constant, thrilling reevaluations.

Tangle Tower

(Image credit: SFB Games)

Developer: SFB Games
Format:
Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS (Apple Arcade)

Brought to you by the team behind Snipperclips, it's perhaps not surprising that Tangle Tower is one of 2019's most charming and beautifully-presented games. It's a whodunnit that mixes the sleuthing of Ace Attorney with the puzzling of Professor Layton, challenging you to solve a gloriously far-fetched murder involving a suspicious knife-wielding painting. Every character is a delight to interact with (the voice of Psycho Mantis, Doug Stone, lends his talents to one memorable fellow), the puzzles are smart but fair, and a satisfying mechanic that has you snap together sentences challenges you to use deductive reasoning to solve the mystery.

Telling Lies

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

Developer: Furious Bee Limited
Format:
PC, iOS

Her Story creator Sam Barlow returned this year with a free-form narrative thriller in which you search a database of video clips to piece together the truth. A familiar gambit – but this tangled mystery is far more ambitious. With access to the private communications of four individuals (played by a standout cast), it's up to you to figure out what crime has been committed, and by whom, as you scribble notes and thread red strings across mental corkboards. Most striking of all is the way in which you construct your own version of events – by jumping between hunches and hyperlinks – perfectly mirrors how we now weave our narratives in a digital age.

Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game Crown

(Image credit: House House)

Developer: House House
Format: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One

House House's sandbox stealth game, in which you play as a goose out to mildly inconvenience the population of a sleepy English village, released to instant global adoration this year. It was perhaps always destined to be a meme – it is a truth universally acknowledged, after all, that geese are feathery little pricks for no good reason. But it is also an unexpected class act. The whimsical concept justifies a softer, slapstick approach to a genre that can sometimes be too punishing; open-ended level design minimises frustration with puzzles; a dynamic soundtrack and irresistible sound design rewards improvisational comedy. A perfectly-executed gag that – unlike some birds we could mention – doesn't outstay its welcome. 

Wattam

(Image credit: Funomena)

Developer: Funomena
Format:
PS4, PC

It's undeniably a Keita Takahashi joint – dizzyingly experimental, a little all over the place, and with a camera and control scheme that leaves much to be desired. And still, it is a thing of irrepressible joy. As the lonely Mayor, you tempt back the citizens of the world by using your hat-bomb to "kaboom", the noise, laughter and confetti drawing curious friends – bowling pins, toilets, bath toys, facial features and sushi among them – from the other side of the universe. With their company, you complete strange and frequently silly fetch quests by using their unique abilities, holding hands with them, and stacking everyone on top of each other. Underneath all the colourful chaos is an earnest message about reconnecting to the people we love and the world we live in through play; also, there are talking poos. Something for everyone, then.

Looking to read another list? We've got our countdown of the 25 best games of 2019 (opens in new tab), and we've even tracked the 100 best games of the decade (opens in new tab) as part of our best of the decade (opens in new tab) celebration.  

Jen Simpkins
Jen Simpkins

Jen Simpkins is the former Deputy Editor of Edge magazine, and has since moved into the games industry itself. You can now find Jen lending her immense talents to Media Molecule, where she now serves as editorial manager – helping to hype up all of the indie devs who are using Dreams as a platform to create magical new experiences.