Indie games are definitely one of the most massive treasure troves in gaming, as there are just so many talented independent developers out creating superb content. I can’t include them all, but I can give you my 10 best indie games of 2023, with some honorable mentions.
Top 10 Indie Games of 2023
10. Beneath Oresa
Let’s kick things off with a roguelite deckbuilder inspired by Slay the Spire. However, prepare yourself for fully 3D animated card moves and an in-depth fighting game-like combo system set in a post-apocalyptic, dungeon-crawling world. Beneath Oresa elevates all deckbuilders into the realm of animation, where you can clearly see what those card abilities look like.
Furthermore, chaining cards together in combat and, therefore, their animations allow you to perform fighting game combos. Unlike Slay the Spire and many of its clones, positioning matters as you’ll move around the battlefield zones with your cards.
Lastly, each playthrough is modified by both your hero’s playstyle and your choice of companion as you mix and match the abilities of both. When you finish exploring, return to the Hades-like hub world, talk to NPCs, and upgrade yourself for the next run.
9. Chants of Sennaar
Exciting violence aside, we have the entrancing and deeply meditative title by Rundisc called Chants of Sennaar. If you’ve played Journey, you’ll know what I’m talking about. That said, Chants of Sennaar focuses much more on the puzzle element of gameplay as you decipher ancient languages to interact with the local populace.
If you’re a language nerd like me or love puzzles in a mystical setting full of world-building goodness, then this is for you. You’ll uncover deep-rooted meanings behind various glyphs, warning signs, and phrases.
The moment you start to understand the first words of locals is incredibly satisfying. CoS switches out the mechanical gain of power in action games with the slow acquisition of knowledge and learning about the world. You’ll feel incredibly capable as you begin to uncover the secrets of an ancient world and slowly unravel the mystery of the Tower and its various levels and cultures. And that story is simply enthralling.
8. Warhammer 40k Boltgun
You may see a trend here as we alternate between cozy and carnage, for lack of a better word. Let’s dive into the heavy-metal, grim, and dark world of the 41st millennium with Warhammer 40K Boltgun. Have you ever wanted a Doom-inspired pixel-art shooter where you play as a Space Marine? Well, Auroch Digital has you covered, and Boltgun is all I ever wanted from a Warhammer FPS. Yes, Space Hulk and Darktide are awesome, but I was itching for a custom-tailored single-player FPS experience.
Using the standard issue Space Marine Boltgun feels amazing. From the sound effects to recoil and the beautiful symphony of destruction it can sow with a few upgrades, I’d be happy to use this weapon for the entire game. But there’s more: your arsenal grows as you progress and find new weapons, from shotguns to plasma and melta armaments. And don’t forget about that Chainsword that feels so satisfying as it rends down demonic hordes and bosses. Essentially, this is an indie love letter to the WH40K world, and the price range is incredibly worth it for the 10 to 14 hours of gameplay you’ll get.
Let’s put down that Boltgun for a second and jump into a sphere. Cocoon is one of the more impressive indie games of this year in terms of visuals and atmosphere, which makes sense considering one of its designers is Jepee Carlsen, responsible for Limbo and Inside.
It’s essentially a puzzle adventure game where you’ll explore multiple biome-like levels through mysterious orbs that contain worlds. Yep, that’s right, when you jump into these arcane orbs, you’ll enter a micro cosmos world within them where you can solve various puzzles and progress. Did I mention you can be Atlas and carry these worlds on your back?
Furthermore, each orb has a unique ability like unraveling invisible platforms or firing projectiles to trigger interactables. Additionally, boss fights don’t necessarily mean traditional combat. Instead, each one has a unique gameplay mechanic, turning a boss into a dynamic puzzle to be solved.
6. Dave the Diver
You may have seen this one coming at some point, as Dave the Diver has won the hearts of both gamers and non-gamers around the world. For good reason, too. This game mixes and matches numerous genres and mini-games for an exciting experience that keeps you coming for more. By day, dive into the haunting oceans, catch fish, fight off creates of the depths, farm, and uncover secret civilizations. By night, head into your co-managed sushi bar, cook delicious meals, serve customers, and pour drinks.
This blend of action-adventure and casual restaurant management makes Dave the Diver accessible to newcomers to the gaming world. I found my sister, who hadn’t touched a controller in her life, sinking hours into this game. It’s a charming experience with plenty to offer as you discover new mechanics, mini-games, and systems that make you hungry for more adventure as you play to see what’s behind the next few hours of gameplay. It’s a cliché saying, but there’s something here for everyone.
5. Talos Principle 2
Talos Principle 2, the sequel to the original indie puzzle game by Croteam, continues its story-rich ways of allowing you to unravel the enigmas of the game world. Throughout, you’ll solve various color-coded laser puzzles, platforming and gravity-based ones, and more, with new mechanics around every turn.
The story is highly interactive, placing you in the hot seat when it comes to complex decisions that affect the game’s endings. You can take a break from puzzle-solving at any time to explore and discover the interworkings of the local android populace. Furthermore, the visuals and music are incredibly immersive, featuring composers such as Chris Christodoulou who was responsible for some amazing tracks in Risk of Rain 1, 2, and Returns.
I like that element of the game where the more you discover, the more complicated things get. It’s the classic question of the Matrix where you’re choosing to live in peace in ignorance or learn terrible secrets that guide you to the truth of how Talos Principle 2’s game world works.
4. En Garde!
En Garde! is a spectacle fighting masterpiece where Fireplace Games sat down and brainstormed how to make musketeer dueling the most entertaining experience ever. The result is an incredibly interactive environment where each seemingly harmless object is a weapon. Sure, you can hack, slash, and pierce enemies in classic DMC fashion as you dodge and parry.
But the point of En Garde! is to explore the various improvised weapons you can use, like flinging that bucket onto an enemy’s head. Moreover, you can knock enemies into fiery braziers, kick boxes to stun them, set off explosives, and much more.
When it comes to story and dialogue, it’s a comical cheesy mess in the best way possible. This is Princess Bride the game, and if you like spectacle fighters, you need to try it, trust me.
Dredge is a hauntingly beautiful seafaring and fishing experience set in a world inspired by Lovecraft’s eldritch horror novels. At first, things are simple; you’re a new fisherman for a small coastal village happily relaxing on your boat as you catch delicious species of marine life, sell them off, and upgrade your ship.
But then those first few nights hit, and the shadowy sea starts speaking to you. You keep discovering strange new phenomena and catching specimens that can’t be from this world.
This is one of those games where you can play it casually in a cozy setting and experience a slow-burn horror story that you’ll remember. Explore the various islands of the game world, meet strange new characters from each hub area, and uncover just who you are and what the heck is going on in this stretch of ocean.
2. Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars is a nostalgic callback to the golden era of JRPGs through the perspective of two Solstice Warriors. The game’s unique magic system lets you mix and match solar and lunar magic in turn-based combat. Every martial and magical ability can be empowered by following the battle animations and hitting specific prompts at the right time. No longer are you just idly standing and admiring attack animations but actively participating in making those attacks more effective.
Additionally, there’s also the vast game world to explore that looks absolutely gorgeous. As you adventure through it, you’ll encounter new companions, outfit yourself with magical gear, and face countless minions of the Fleshmancer, the game’s big bad. This is a passion project geared toward lovers of JRPGs, and it executes its story, combat mechanics, visuals, and music remarkably well.
1. Blasphemous 2
Metroidvanias need games like Blasphemous 2 to spice up the art-style market. This Spanish Catholicism-inspired world of Blasphemous features grotesquely marvelous visuals full of macabre horror themes crafted with pixel art perfection.
Just simply exploring the world and marveling at the character and level design is enough. I’d pay to play a Blasphemous 3 artbook walking-sim. However, the combat system cements this as one of the best souls-like Metroidvanias out there.
You’ll progressively gain access to three unique weapons offering a low-damage, balanced, and heavy-damage playstyle. However, you can switch weapons and mix and match their abilities in a second, reminding me of DMC and God of War combat. Furthermore, each weapon can be upgraded with new abilities and modified by Altarpieces for new effects. And that’s not to mention the various spells and movement abilities.
As with any top 10 list and especially with indie games, there’ll be a ton of games I don’t include, miss, or just didn’t have the chance to play this year. Apologies if I left out your favorite game. While the entries above are those that I have the most hours in, there are some others that I also enjoyed, albeit with not as much playtime.
Lethal Company is the most hilarious yet horrifying online co-op experience with your friends via proximity chat. Astral Ascent is a mechanically satisfying spell-flinging 2D roguelite with tons of variety in combat abilities and bosses. Slay the Princess is a superb visual novel narrative experience where your choices guide you to psychologically horrifying endings of the game, of which there are multiple. Lastly, The Last Faith does many of the same things right, like Blasphemous but in a more Bloodborne-inspired setting with trick weapons and firearms.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this top 10 best indie games of 2023 list. These entries are definitely worthwhile to pick up during the upcoming holiday sales. If you’re interested in more lists, check out our best RPGs, soulslikes, and roguelites of 2023 right here at GameSkinny.