While you can find the best indie games on almost every platform these days, most of them started on the PC. With platforms like the itch.io allowing anyone to send their magnum opus – or tech demo – to the masses, PC gaming is still the starting point for creative and innovative indies. Here are our best indie PC games, from famous fan favorites like Cuphead to the lesser known That Dragon Cancer.
- Return of the Obra Dinn
- Into the Breach
- That Dragon, Cancer
- Quadrilateral Cowboy
- Her story
- Papers, Please
- Hollow Knight
- Dead Cells
- Stardew Valley
- Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
- FTL: Faster Than Light
- Frost Punk
- The Stanley parable
- The Beginner's Guide
Return of the Obra Dinn
Lucas Pope's sequel to the magnificent Papers, Please! (hint for later) is one of the best puzzle games we've ever played. Return of the Obra Dinn puts you in the shoes of an insurance adjuster circa 1807. Your task is to board the mysterious Obra Dinn, a merchant ship that was previously declared lost at sea, and identify the bodies of the 60 crew members.
All you have at your disposal is a notebook with the ship's manifest, some supporting documents, and a magical pocket watch that transports you to the moments before the unfortunate death of a crew member. Return of the Work Dinn forces you to play a long game, as identifying even a single person requires careful observation.
It's basically an elaborate logical puzzle and ridiculously brilliant, being one of the best indie games. Rendered in classic Macintosh 1-bit graphics, Return of the Work Dinn has a unique aesthetic that will stay with you long after you put 60 names on 60 corpses.
Into the Breach
Developed by Subset Games, the studio behind FTL: Faster Than Light, Into the Breach is a tactical game with deceptive depth. Each level in Into the Breach takes place on a small grid-based map. Unlike other turn-based strategy games, you only control a few units and face several others.
Your main objective, however, is to protect the buildings from nefarious alien insects called Vek. The game's grip is to stall Vek for a small number of turns in order to move on to the next mission. If all your units are eliminated, however, you'll have to start the game all over again, rogue-like style. With a brilliant design, an invigorating challenge and a relentless charm, Into the Breach is a masterpiece of tactics and one of the best indie games.
That Dragon, Cancer
A beautiful, moving and ultimately inspiring game from Numinous Games, That Dragon, Cancer takes players through the Green family's experience with childhood cancer. Ryan and Amy Green's 1-year-old son Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer but far outlived his prognosis by surviving another four years.
That Dragon, Cancer lets you see snippets of what the Green family went through during Joel's battle with cancer through a point-and-click adventure game that ranks among the best indie games. While the subject involves some serious themes, Numinous Games created That Dragon, Cancer as an ode to Joel's courageous and inspiring battle. It will make you cry, but it will also inspire hope.
Quadrilateral Cowboy puts you in the role of a hacker in the 1980s. You work alongside several other agents to gain access to buildings to steal important documents and other items. However, as a hacker, you don't log in to finish the job. Instead, you help through a computer terminal, typing commands to help open doors, turn off cameras, and manipulate other objects.
Because robbery jobs depend on time, you need to be sharp to succeed. The commands (hacking entries) are not always clear. Before each mission, you have the chance to make a simulated version of subsequent events in “virtual reality”, which allows you to plan strategies and find out what each agent will do and how. Quadrilateral Cowboy is an impressive feat and a truly new experience, deserving to be on this list of the best indie games.
Her Story's Steam page calls it: "A video game about a woman talking to the police." And that's technically true, but you have to play it to really understand its greatness. A full motion video (FMV) game, Her Story contains video clips of police interviews with Viva Seifert, an actress and musician whose husband has disappeared.
You sit at a table and type sentences to see the footage of Viva discussing this information with the police. Why are you watching these clips? What happened to her husband? Her story tells a tempting story in an unconventional way. If you are interested in storytelling in games, you should take a look at Her Story and understand why it is better indie games.
Much like Return of the Obra Dinn, another renowned Lucas Pope game allows players to assume the role of a relatively ordinary person. Situated on a border crossing inspired by East and West Berlin, you check passersby papers to make sure everything is in order and that they pose no threat during this tumultuous period in history.
Playing as an immigration officer might seem boring, but you'd be surprised at the depth Pope was able to put into this weird “puzzle” game. There is a much deeper meaning to be found in Papers, Please than just its peculiar premise. It's a wonderful experience that makes you think about the people and the world around you differently, making it one of the best indie games.
At first glance, you're captivated by its visuals, which are inspired by 1940s cartoons. When you start playing, however, you realize that it's much more than just a great looking game. Designed primarily as a boss rush, Cuphead features a wide variety of interesting and rather tough bosses leading to an eventual fight with the Devil himself, being a standout among the best indie games.
Each of the three worlds contains five well-designed boss fights with multiple stages. But wait, there's more. Cuphead also has two side-scrolling levels per world, each of which requires great platforming skills and a keen awareness of your surroundings. Cuphead is not an easy game, but it is worth playing.
One of the best games of 2018, Celeste is a precision platformer with surprising emotional depth. You play as Madeline, a young girl determined to climb the Celestial Mountain to overcome her own demons. Over a handful of chapters, you have to jump, climb, and think your way around each screen.
With expert platform design, a heartwarming story about mental illness, a brilliant soundtrack and charming retro visuals, Celeste doesn't have a low point. We awarded a rare 10/10 in our review. It's one of the best platform games we've played in a long, long time, deserving to be on any list of the best indie games.
Spelunky had humble beginnings as an open source game creator that Derek Yu shared on forums. The original version was officially released in 2008, but it only gained popularity with the enhanced version in 2012. In our estimation, Spelunky is not only one of the best indie games of all time, but one of the best games ever made.
A rogue-like sidecroller, you play as an adventurer who makes his way through procedurally generated rooms, avoiding villains and acquiring gold and useful items along the way. After you die, and death often comes, you must start at the beginning.
Spelunky has only four worlds with four levels each, but it's full of secret areas. Add to the fact that every play is different and Spelunky will make you spend hours playing it. It is a truly remarkable game that should be played by anyone with an interest in 2D platforms.
Before becoming a Nintendo Switch game, Hollow Knight started its life on the PC. Starring an insect knight holding a needle sword, this 2D Metroidvania game is one of the best indie games out there. With an absolutely huge map and a progression system that forces you to explore, Hollow Knight has a sense of wonder that few games of the genre have been able to replicate.
Dodge-centric combat is reminiscent of Dark Souls – tough but fair. Over the course of the 30-hour adventure, Hollow Knight delivers some of the most rewarding combat sequences and platforming seen in Metroidvania.
Like Hollow Knight, Dead Cells started out on PC before moving to consoles much later. Also like Hollow Knight, it's not comfortable being cast as a single genre, but it sure is one of the best indie games. At face value, it's a Metroidvania with a spacious map that opens up the more you play.
But it's also a rogue-lite, as you lose your progress – except for upgrades, weapons and stored projects – with every kill. Dead Cells is all about chipping away at a challenging task over time. The deaths are teaching lessons about what to do differently. Combat is comparable to Dark Souls, but in 2D; although the real reason to stick around is the attractive art style, the captivating world and the rewarding loot system.
Owlboy is now available on all major consoles, but it's vibrant, bright life began on PC. D-Pad Studio worked on Owlboy for nearly a decade before its release, and that dedication shows. You play as Otus, a young owl whose hometown has been invaded by sky pirates. Now it's with Otus and friends he meets along the way to save the day.
Owlboy has a beautiful 16-bit art style that harks back to platformers on the SNES. The world slowly opens up as Otus and his companions solve clever puzzles and fight villains. The puzzles are as good as those seen in The Legend of Zelda series, and the exploration is on par with the best Metroidvania titles. Infinitely charming and joyfully moving, Owlboy will keep you smiling until the end, being one of the best indie games.
Undertale captures a rare type of magic not seen since Earthbound, present on every list of the best indie games. Starring an unnamed child thrust into a world full of monsters, this JRPG is all about subverting their expectations. Undertale shines in its writing and characterization.
It's extremely funny, moving and wonderfully written. Without spoiling anything, Undertale has one of the most poignant messages we've seen in a game. And if you like Toby Fox's exquisite creation, you can play his successor, Deltarune, completely free of charge. It's also, unsurprisingly, amazing.
Eric Barone designed Stardew Valley as a sort of ode to Harvest Moon, but for PC. The influence is clear, with many Minecraft-like mechanics appearing. In Stardew Valley, you leave town to start a quiet life on the land owned by your grandfather. From there, you harvest crops, fish, explore less palatable places at night, and develop AI relationships in town.
Stardew Valley can easily consume hundreds of hours of your life. The 16-bit visuals, great dialogue and immersive progression system make Pelican Town a tempting place to spend your time every day, being one of the best indie games. If you want a relaxing and rewarding simulation game experience, look no further than Stardew Valley is the right choice.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine was unfortunately a commercial failure, according to the developers. That doesn't mean you shouldn't play, though. In fact, if you want a bold adventure with a narrative focus, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is one of the best in recent history, ranking among the best indie games.
Set during the Great Depression, you just walk around and listen to people tell their life stories. Though it may sound boring, it turns out to be a fascinating snapshot in the minds of people across America during this tumultuous period in history.
Some gameplay elements exist beyond talking, though. You can earn money to buy food and travel. It's an experimental game, as there isn't much gameplay here. If you want something a little different with words that will stick with you after the credits, you should give it a try.
FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL: Faster Than Light by Subset Games is one of the best real-time strategy games of all time. Seriously, this is good, deserving to be among the best indie games. In this rudimentary but beautiful graphics top-down experience, you control a spaceship that needs to carry information through space to its allies. The problem is, enemies are chasing you.
When in combat, it plays like a standard RTS, but you can pause combat to think about your next moves. Meanwhile, you also need to worry about updates and bringing new crew members on board. FTL, like Subset's Into the Breach, has a rogue-like element. If your ship is destroyed or everyone is killed, the game starts again. Fortunately, each area in FTL is randomly generated, so each trip feels like a new game.
Frostpunk, a hybrid survival/simulation management game, is extremely dark, deserving to be among the best indie games. But that's not too surprising considering the studio behind him was responsible for This War of Mine. Set in an alternate 1886, a volcanic winter killed millions and decimated food sources.
You play as the leader of a city with the task of keeping people alive. Frostpunk has four different scenarios, each of which presents new challenges. What's interesting about Frostpunk is that it goes beyond standard “management simulation” territory. The AI over which you reign supreme may be disappointed if you make the wrong decisions. Every time you play in a scenario, you will face new challenges such as extremely variable weather and political conflicts that make your task an uphill battle all the time.
The Stanley parable
The Stanley Parable is a clever and bizarre game. A walking simulator, you play as Stanley, who works in an office building basically like a cog in a machine. He looks at a computer screen and presses buttons when prompted. That's it. What life. But when the screen goes dark, Stanley realizes that his building is empty.
Throughout The Stanley Parable, the narrator breaks the fourth wall and talks to you, the player. Where Stanley's story ends is largely up to you, with six different endings depending on your choices. By the time you finish The Stanley Parable, however, you'll begin to question how much choice you really had.
The Stanley Parable does a wonderful job of commenting on free will, but it's also a unique and wonderful experience that we highly recommend, living up to being one of the best indie games.
The Beginner's Guide
Developed by Davey Wreden, the developer behind The Stanley Parable, The Beginner's Guide is even more peculiar, deserving to be among the best indie games. In The Beginner's Guide, Wreden wants to show fragments of games created by someone he calls Coda. We recommend playing The Stanley Parable first, but The Beginner's Guide is arguably even more worthy of discussion.
Admittedly, it's a short experience. But Wreden takes you on an exciting journey through a friendship that has fallen apart. But nothing is as it seems: there are several theories about what The Beginner's Guide is trying to say. And it has the same sinister aura as the Parable Stanely. But we'll let you interpret for yourself, no spoilers.
An old school point-and-click adventure, Unavowed takes place in a fictional New York City. The crazy backstory is an innovative concept, however. It starts with your character, who was possessed by a demon the year before. The game starts when this demon leaves your character. After the demon is gone, you join the group of the same name. Your goal: Find explanations for paranormal activities.
When you choose your character, you choose between a man or a woman before deciding on one of three careers: Bartender, Cop or Actor. Each career option has its unique backstory and leads to different choices throughout the game.
The graphics created for Unavowed are reminiscent of classic adventure games, but the game also contains little touches that make it look new at the same time. A choice-based system kicks in throughout each investigation, allowing you to control the storyline.
Unavowed's clever writing and complete character alignment prove that point-and-click adventure games can still provide fascinating experiences, deserving to be among the best indie games.
It's worth taking a look at any of the best indie games on our list, especially for those who prefer something fresh and fresh to try out on PCs. Each of these games has unique and creative stories that will keep you in awe of gaming possibilities .
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