Your Next Favorite Indie Games: 2013 Edition

We have reached a certain point of saturation when it comes to independent games. Every year, the tools that independent developers have at their disposal to create their masterpieces become more robust and easier to use, but that also means that more people are using these tools, and as such, there are more games being made (duh).

Listing the games to look forward to just turns into a pissing contest for many outlets, and the rule of the day is usually quantity over quality.

I wanted to take the time to separate the what from the chaff, so I’ve carefully assessed a myriad upcoming independent titles, and can now confidently present to you a batch of games you can hopefully look forward to in 2013.

Firstly, I need to make sure you’ve already bought Kentucky Route Zero. The game’s had an interesting story, and even the look has changed drastically since its Kickstarter campaign in 2011. So buy it (Chapter 1 is out now, with the rest to follow), play it, and then Greenlight it. Ok, ready to move on?!

Next, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention a few games on the horizon that have already had some serious press, but will be guaranteed heavy-hitters nonetheless.

Pocketwatch Games’ Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine just became available for pre-order, which means it’s probably the first game from this lot that we’ll see released. With both single-player and co-op modes, the conceit is simple: assemble a team, pull off a heist. It’s worth noting that the pre-order includes the 2010 IGF-winning version of the game, and this newest  playthrough video (of the version currently in beta) shows just how far the game has come since then.

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Sir, You Are Being Hunted was looking fantastic before Big Robot’s Kickstarter campaign, but as funding for that gained momentum we were treated to several new videos of the game. It looks amazing, and its ambitious use of procedural generation will help guarantee a look and feel unlike many other games.

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to highlight a few lesser-known titles that show promise, as well. Again, it’s great to see developers unafraid to challenge themselves to make games that represent leaps in style and substance for the genre.

Developer Winged Doom is working on a title called Journey to Hammerdale, which is looking great itself, but I’m more intrigued by another title he’s working on: Stealer. The game’s website says that it’s a platformer that will focus on atmosphere and exploration, adding: “We want to make something cinematic and very detailed to describe world of robots completely.” Other than that, not much is known about Stealer other than what’s shown in the trailer. But my, what a trailer it is.

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I’ve already profiled The Swapper, but as it has yet to see the light of day, I am compelled to sing its praises again. If you picture Shadow Complex made entirely of clay, you’re getting close. The Swapper takes place on an abandoned space station, and the player sets forth to uncover the secrets of a machine that can transfer consciousness between bodies. It also features lighting effects that are simply jaw-dropping, and that’s based on this trailer from over a year and a half ago.

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Lunar Software is finishing a game called Routine that finds the player exploring an abandoned moon base to discover what caused the strange disappearance of everyone there. Described as a first-person horror game with an emphasis on exploration, the game features a HUD-less interface with no health bar or points to speak of, and looks to provide tension through atmosphere. Providing they can achieve that, Routine looks to differentiate itself from the myriad space games available this generation (and to move the opposite direction, check out Depth from Depth Team).

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I’ll tell you what I know about The Way of Yiji: it looks beautiful. Fine, I know a little more than that. Developer Andre Teruya Eichemberg is creating a world that marries the aesthetic of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP with the “broken universe” conceits of Fez, and the player (as Yiji) must save his love and defeat the dark matter the world is succumbing to. The Way of Yiji’s Japanese-style pixelation is slated to be released for iOS, PC, and Mac sometime in 2013. Also (and I can’t believe I am about to say this), be sure to check out the game’s Facebook page – it’s getting updated frequently with lots of concept art and pixel images from the game.

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If something slightly more off-kilter is your speed, check out Among The Sleep. It’s a horror story, but you play as a toddler, crawling around and stumbling through a house to investigate mysterious happenings. To any other parents, the premise sounds like it could be a three-hour crying simulator, but developer Krillbite Studio (also working on an experimental title called The Plan) promises the first-person exploration will challenge your creativity and puzzle-solving abilities. It looks great, and it will be exciting to see if they can deliver on this unique premise.

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One game with a more interesting development story is Heart Forth, Alicia. Developer Alonso Martin is also a flimmaker – his YouTube page is filled with many short films, and blog entries about Heart Forth, Alicia even mention similarities to narrative composition in movies. First gameplay videos surfaced for Heart Forth, Alicia in mid-to-late 2007, and then again in 2010 – though with a drastically different look.

Work continues on Heart Forth, Alicia, as evidenced by the new updates to Martin’s blog for the game, and given the visual changes and obvious attention to story, it will be extraordinarily interesting to see how the final release looks.

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Then there’s Secret of Grindea, Low, Cradle, and Starbound. Or what about Luftrausers from Vlambeer? Maybe the fourth chapter of The Dream Machine will be released in 2013, and there’s always hope that Minitroid will come out… what an embarassment of riches!

It’s fascinating to watch games as they are early in development, especially in the cases of games like Heart Forth, Alicia and Kentucky Route Zero. Those titles in particular have undergone some dramatic changes over the last two or three years, and my anticipation for the final product is at fever pitch over here.

As always, it’s nigh impossible to tell when these games will finally be released – but it’s always fun to have something to look forward to, right!?

  • InvaderRJ

    Great read, though your Luftrausers link at the end links to the Starbound video. Oops!

    • Joshua Dennison

      Eek! Good eye – corrected! And thanks!

  • Chris Benninger

    Great review. I didn’t know about any of these!