Indie games are where niche ideas are born and sometimes they end up being almost as successful as titles in the triple-A scene.
Deciding how to define an indie game is debatable, but whether it was created by a small team of people, on a tight budget, or whether it’s simple stories and ideas apart from the norm, the best Indie games of 2021 have all brought something to the table not found anywhere else. Here are the best of the year, in no particular order.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
Although Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights fully launched in June, it was first released via Steam Early Access in January with positive reception and comparisons to Hollow knight, Dark souls, and the Vanillaware titles. This Metroidvania platformer follows Lily, the last surviving heiress of the White Priestesses, who has a knight’s soul bound to her for her protection.
While trying to find the source of the “Rain of Death”, Lily uses the powers of the souls she cleanses to fight alongside the faithful knight as her sword. After successfully reproducing beloved elements from other games, Lily of the ender has been acclaimed for its puzzle platform gameplay, artistry, setting, combat, and orchestral soundtrack, called “independent darling” by critics.
The artisanal multiplayer Valheim was also released in Early Access, but unlike Lily of the ender, it has not yet been fully launched. Despite this, the game developed by a team of five would become widely recognized by critics for its elements of survival and PvE story. Immersed in a procedurally generated world, players must build shelters, craft tools, and battle enemies to survive in their biomes. It’s easy to get lost in ValheimThe craft and combat gameplay loop of, but the atmosphere provided by every swamp, mountain, and ocean is ambient, both infested with monsters and filled with beautiful textures.
The object of the game is to kill bosses from each different biome, where players can use boats or on foot, but the gameplay is much bigger than that, especially with Iron Gate Studio continuing to build on unfinished areas and add more. craft options for the foreseeable future.
Both roguelikes and roguelites flourished throughout 2021, and Loop hero was one of the first to come out this year. Like many genre titles, Loop hero features procedurally generated maps, however, rather than just building a powerful fighter, players build the terrain using landscape maps, each offering unique abilities and effects like restoring health or buffs of speed.
The main antagonist of the game is known as Lich and has trapped the hero in a time loop after the end of the world. The goal is to defeat the Lich by rebuilding the world using landscape maps, building the terrain, and defeating enemies until the end of the path is reached. Loop hero was praised for its’ 80s nostalgia and surprisingly addictive gameplay loop where players can spend time experimenting with different terrains and constructions. He was nominated for Best Independent at the Game Awards.
Under your eyes
Indie games can also be a great source of emotional travel, and Under your eyes is the most touching headline this list has to offer. A play on the expression in the name of the game, Under your eyes follows the player’s eye movements and blinks to advance the story of Benjamin “Benny” Brynn, recently deceased and in transition to the afterlife.
Watching his memories unfold before him, Benny is about to be judged at the gates of the afterlife, either admitted to Eternal Heaven or transformed into a seagull. The simplistic yet sophisticated nature of the flashing mechanics coupled with its hard-hitting and heartbreaking history made Under your eyes one of the most cathartic stories of 2021 and a must see for gamers who love powerfully dark stories.
Chicory: a colorful tale
Chicory: a colorful tale may seem modest and maybe even a little childish, but that’s part of its charm. Another game without a fight, players rather brandish a brush in this Zelda-adventure inspired after Chicory, the hero who fills the world with color, disappears and takes everything with her. Now it’s up to the protagonist, who is named after the player’s favorite food, to fill in the color and figure out why the hero has disappeared. Along the way, players can develop their simple painting skills with patterns, tools, and brush styles to bring the world to life. Additionally, the puzzles add a low but significant level of difficulty to Chicory, as well as the increasing skill level of the player who can unlock new areas and progress.
Don’t worry about the world of Chicory: a colorful tale being overwhelming. It’s meant to be experienced at the pace the player wants with bite-sized side quests and manageable exploration. With every piece of gameplay and story expertly and consistently working together, nearly every reviewer and player who has played Chicory continued to recommend it.
The door of death
Another nominee for Best Independent Film at the Game Awards, players take on the role of a crow who collects the souls of the dead in The door of death. After harvesting the soul of a monster that does not want to leave the Mortal Realm, the Raven is informed of a plot involving the disappearance of other Ravens, and they must now embark on a journey to unlock the Death Gate. through a series of dungeons. In addition to his Dark souls and Zelda his inspirations, his simple but satisfying fights and his puzzles earned him the Best Game Feel at the INDIE Live Expo Winter 2021 Awards.
The forgotten city
Back in 2015, The forgotten city started as a Skyrim mod that turned Providence into an ancient Roman Empire, although its plot changed significantly when it was released as a full standalone game this year. The critically acclaimed mod was created by Nick Pearce, who then quit his day job to hire several developers, forming the studio known as Modern Storyteller.
Throughout those four and a half years, instead of putting in place a squeeze on his employees, Pearce instead overworked himself about 80 hours a week to the point of hallucinating, but the end result would win an award of excellence. in storytelling just as the mod had won it. Feature of the month and Best interactive media. In addition, The forgotten city would include professional voice acting, original orchestral score, new game mechanics and a script more than double the size of the mod.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Ember Lab started out as an animation studio, having released several animation commercials as well as a short film based on The Legend of Zelda: The Mask of Majora before migrating to the gaming industry. His first game, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, would win Best Independent at the Game Awards earlier this month. It follows young protagonist Kena, a spirit guide helping souls through the land of the living, but some troubled souls find it particularly difficult to come to terms with their death.
To aid her in her quest to face off against a Corrupted Spirit, Kena collects small Pikmin-type creatures called The Rot, who can aid her in tasks such as solving puzzles and moving objects. Additionally, Kena’s staff acts as her weapon and can morph into weapons like bows and tools like grappling hooks. KenaThe artistic conception of received the highest praise among critics, but its tale was yet another thrilling and moving adventure encompassing death and transmission.
Encryption follows YouTuber Luke Carder, who finds a floppy disk branding a title of the same name, a computer version of the collectible card game Encryption. He interacts with a shady dealer and roguelike history sprinkles between rounds against the NPCs and bosses Carder meets virtually. Eventually, Carder will face off against the dealer, but defeating him and trapping him in his own card is just the beginning of this twisted story.
Fortunately, this is something that many reviewers have pointed out about Encryption, that its gameplay loop drastically changes and deviates for the story before it gets too monotonous. Critics were enthused by the haunting mystery and he would be nominated for Best Independent and Best Sim / Strategy at the Game Awards.
At first glance, most gamers probably wouldn’t be drawn to something that requires them to perform mundane or even arguably tedious tasks like unpacking boxes. Corn Unpacking transformed this chore into something special, related to the story of a person going through the different stages of life, which the audience watches as they unpack their boxes and organize them in each room, observing the objects they have chosen to keep through each chapter.
There are a few simple puzzle mechanics involved as the items have certain places they can or cannot be placed, which also relates to the character’s journey. While Unpacking Perhaps it seemed a bit too short for some, many were absorbed in its meditative gameplay, arguing that it was the ultimate title to chill out in an industry saturated with action-adventure games.
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