The popularity of the Nintendo Switch was a major boost for independent developers, and with more and more of the best indie games appearing on-stage at major events like E3, we're seeing increasingly impressive games come out of small teams and weird ideas. To make it easier to find the perfect game for you, we've rounded the best indie games of 2019 and the platforms where you can play them.
Best indie games to play right now
Platforms: PC (Epic Games Store Early Access)
The latest game from Klei Entertainment is a roguelite deck-builder where you make one deck of cards for negotiating with tough characters in a hostile sci-fi world and another deck for killin' em. It's up to you how much you favor negotiation or assassination. Your choices there, as well as which jobs you accept and who you recruit to your squad, will influence your entire run. Aside from the "greedy, gritty future" aesthetic, it's an entirely different game from the systems-driven RPG version of Griftlands that Klei announced a few years ago, but it looks no less appealing.
Platforms: PC (GOG, Steam, Humble)
Amid Evil is an unabashed love letter to old-school shooters like Doom and Hexen, but it's much more than a nostalgia trip. It's a brilliant and brutal FPS in its own right, and its love of the classics doesn't stop it from innovating on everything from weapon variety to enemy AI to level design. Amid Evil as cruel as it is clever, and even held to today's graphical standards, its retro visuals are a feast for the eyes. You can't hate a game that lets you shoot planets at dead dudes, especially when it's this freakin' metal.
Risk of Rain 2
Platforms: PC (Steam Early Access)
Risk of Rain 2 is a roguelike third-person shooter, and it's less of a sequel to the original and more of a 3D adaptation of it. Many items, enemies, and characters from the 2D original have been totally rebuilt for 3D shooting, and considering the dimensional gap, they look and feel incredible. Risk of Rain 2 also greatly improves on the clunky multiplayer of the original game, adds new and inventive items and baddies, and introduces several playable characters. It's a great game as-is in Steam Early Access, and it gets better with every free update.
Cadence of Hyrule - Crypt of the Necrodancer Feat. The Legend of Zelda
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
The phrase "a match made in heaven" was invented for games like Cadence of Hyrule. This musical action game combines the timeless soundtrack of The Legend of Zelda with the irresistibly rhythmic combat of Crypt of the Necrodancer. Explore dungeons and fight bosses while attacking and moving to the beat of your favorite Zelda tracks (and reworked chiptune variants). You can play as Cadence, the protagonist in the original Crypt of the Necrodancer, or as adorable renditions of Link and Zelda. Pure video game bliss.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)
TimeSpinner is an achingly beautiful 2D Metroidvania game styled after classics like Symphony of the Night, and as you may have guessed from its name, it's all about manipulating time. TimeSpinner does much more than imitate; its bosses are unique and memorable, and together with its magic system, its headlining time mechanic makes for some clever puzzles and environments. Did we mention the gorgeous pixel art? We'd like to go back in time and discover it again.
Platforms: PC (Steam, Humble), Xbox One
Void Bastards developer Blue Manchu was founded by Irrational Games co-founder Jonathan Chey, so it's no surprise that there's a bit of BioShock in this roguelike FPS. There's a bit of FTL: Faster Than Light to it too, but Void Bastards is something special in its own right. It's a compelling mix of first-person exploration and careful strategy, and its graphic novel-esque art makes for some eye-popping environments. Void Bastards is challenging, highly replayable, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Platforms: PC (Epic Games Store, Steam coming soon), Xbox One
Where Void Bastards takes you on an explosive romp through space, Outer Wilds delivers a clever and contemplative interstellar journey within a relatively small space. It's a game about testing your curiosity and inevitably screwing up, and slowly building on your mistakes so you can see a little more of the cosmos each time. It's equal parts captivating and terrifying, and without wishing to spoil, it's secretly one of the best mystery games ever made. Outer Wilds is more Return of the Obra Dinn than No Man's Sky, and it's utterly unmissable.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Platforms: PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch
Like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the SteamWorld series can do no wrong. SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech is the fifth (ish) SteamWorld game, and like all the others, it somehow tackles a totally new genre with flying colors. SteamWorld Quest is a card game RPG similar to Slay the Spire, but its clever rules and lovely art set it apart from rival deck-builders. It also incorporates fantasy RPG conventions and systems, but at the same time it often it feels like a party-based JRPG. It's a whole bunch of card gaming goodness done up in developer Image & Form's signature style.
Platforms: PC (Steam), PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Blazing Chrome is to Contra what TimeSpinner is to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It's that rare retro love letter that both captures and improves on what made the classics great. Blazing Chrome is an impeccable 2D run-n-gun shooter with stunning pixel art ripped straight from the '90s, and it's dripping with '80s metal funk. It's got great bosses, fun weapons, and it's one of the best co-op games around, especially on Switch. If it had come out 30 years ago, it would've dominated every arcade under the sun.