Would you be surprised if I told you that, between the ascension of Fortnite and Red Dead Redemption 2, a collection of excellent indie games managed to slip through the cracks in 2018? If you are gaming on a budget, looking for something that can be completed in a few hours (rather than 40 or, like, 100), or are simply eager to try something a little bit different, we here at GamesRadar have gone ahead and found 15 of the very best indie games that released this year. If any of these slipped under your radar you really should do yourself a favour and give them a play!
15. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
Developer: Dim Bulb Games
What is it? A surrealist adventure game that sees you travelling across Depression-era USA to meet people and share tall tales.
Why should you play it? What are we, but storytellers? It’s a question that Where The Water Tastes Like Wine takes great pleasure in exploring. This is a narrative-adventure game about travelling, listening and sharing stories, giving you ample opportunity to spin a few tall tales of your own along the way. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine can feel a little aimless at times, your destination often unknown, although that only serves as a reminder that it is the people that you meet along the way in life that truly matter.
Developer: Digital Sun
Format: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
What is it? Moonlighter is a super fun Action-RPG with rogue-lite elements, striking a wonderful balance between shopkeeping and dungeon crawling.
Why should you play it? Have you ever wondered how the shops in traditional RPGs are always stocked with excellent items? If you have, you’re going to love Moonlighter. Part management sim and part dungeon crawler, Moonlighter wants you to experience the lengths these shopkeepers must go to in an effort to keep their businesses stocked for adventuring heroes. You are tasked with managing a storefront by day and heading off on perilous missions to procure treasures by night. Moonlighter is one of the most unique experiences of the year.
13. Donut County
Developer: Ben Esposito
Format: iOS, PC, Xbox One, PS4
What is it? A physics puzzle game where you attempt to pull this trash world into an ever-expanding hole in the ground.
Why should you play it? I say this with the utmost love and respect, but Donut County is absolutely absurd. This is a game about a racoon with a God complex and a phone application that can summon giant holes in the ground. The concept is simple enough – sink everything on the screen into the holes as quickly as you can – but the execution is masterful. Donut County is an absurdist comedy that never fails to slap a smile across the face, and that is all thanks to its fun mechanics, sharp writing and clever satirisation of video game tropes.
Developer: JW, Kitty, Jukio and Dom
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One
What is it? Minit is a relatively simple-looking adventure game with more to it than meets the eye.
Why should you play it? How much can you really accomplish in 60 seconds? That depends on how determined you are to succeed. Minit will change the way that you think about death and progression in video games; it pushes you to make incremental progress through an experience that gleefully resets itself every 60 seconds, sending you hurtling back to the beginning of the adventure with little more than the items you have procured in that snapshot in time. It’s as exhilarating as it is unique, a game heavily rooted in trial and error without ever frustrating. Minit is something truly special.
Developer: 11 bit studios
Genre: City-building sim
What is it? A brutal society survival game from the team that brought you the equally distressing This War of Mine.
Why should you play it? Frostpunk is a miserable exercise in crisis control. With temperatures plummeting the world over, it’s your responsibility to work tirelessly to ensure that a populous doesn’t die out in the icy wasteland. It’s a game of damage mitigation and resource management, one that will have you constantly weighing up an array of difficult decisions, all in an effort to keep the embers flickering in the furnace that your community coils around. Frostpunk is certainly a struggle, but it’s one you won’t regret enduring.
Developer: Nomada Studio
Format: PC, Switch
What is it? An adventure game with light platforming and heavy emphasis on visual storytelling, an experience that won’t be forgotten.
Why should you play it? Gris is without question the most beautiful games of 2018. It finds true harmony between its audio, visuals and mechanics, the resulting experience something that is as abstract and as it is haunting. This is a journey through grief and depression, told without a single word spoken. Gris will leave a scar that won’t soon be forgotten and that’s because every part of it works in tandem to further connect you to the experience. It’s a truly impressive work that you should all play.
9. Reigns: Game of Thrones
Format: iOS, PC, Switch
Genre: Card game
What is it? The third entry into the Reigns series, a spin-off that (loosely) ties in with the Game of Thrones HBO show.
Why should you play it? So, this is what happens when you combine a dating app with Game of Thrones fan fiction? Reigns: Game of Thrones is without question the best Game of Thrones game ever made. It has you navigating the complex relationships of the Seven Kingdoms with little more than the underlying systems of Tinder at your fingertips. The concept might be ridiculous at heart, but it sure is entertaining. The writing is tight and humorous, working in tandem with the basics of the card game formula to create an excellent spin on the expected Game of Thrones experience.
8. Dead Cells
Developer: Motion Twin
Format: PC, PS4, Switch Xbox One
What is it? A challenging roguelike that will have you screaming in frustration, even if you never are quite able to put it down.
Why should you play it? It feels as if there has been no shortage of solid roguelikes this year, so what is it that sets Dead Cells apart from the rest? Perhaps it’s because Dead Cells never loses its ability to surprise. It’s a game of forward momentum and shifting variables, constantly altering the weapons, enemies and environments that you encounter between sessions to great effect. Dead Cells delights in keeping you on your toes, pushing you to adapt and evolve your play style in the face of ever-surmounting danger.
7. Far: Lone Sails
What is it? A quiet and contemplative 2D adventure game that propels you through a sunken and sullen world.
Why should you play it? Far: Lone Sails has an almost meditative quality to it. Tasked with captaining a small vessel across a barren land, Far: Lone Sails is this beautiful little side-scroller that will leave a large impression. It’s a quiet game, but it is also surprisingly enthralling. As you split your time between maintaining your land-cruiser, ducking below deck to vent steam and tinker with an array of pipes and dials, and generally becoming lost in the atmosphere of it all. Far: Lone Sails is the sort of game that you can lose hours to in the blink of an eye.
Format: PS4, PC
Genre: Adventure game
What is it? A third-person adventure game purpose-built for virtual reality and one of the finest game available for PSVR to date.
Why should you play it? In many ways, 2018 has been a rough year for virtual reality. It was beginning to feel as if the fire was burning out, that, after just two years on the shelves, PSVR was already starting to fade from view. Polyarc came along and changed all of that; Moss represents the future of gaming in VR. It is deliberate in everything that it does, setting a new benchmark for storytelling and immersion in virtual spaces. Moss will make you feel as if you are lost in a storybook, a world you’ll wish you never have to leave behind.
Turn to page two to find our what our top five best indie games of 2018 are...