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Top 25 Best Indie Games of All Time, Ranked From Great to Ground Breaking

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Top 25 Best Indie Games of All Time, Ranked From Great to Ground Breaking

25. Overcooked

Overcooked is quite simply one of the best indie games we’ve ever played. This whimsical puzzle game tests your abilities to multi-task, coordinate as a team, and keep a cool head as you attempt to cook up various dishes in some of the most inconvenient and downright dangerous kitchens ever imagined.

Beyond being noodles of fun (sorry) and endlessly replayable, Overcooked is just a very clever design premise that’s executed near perfectly. Even for the sheer amount of giggles it provides with friends we couldn’t leave it off the list.

24. Rocket League

Who would have thought soccer played with rocket-powered cars would be this popular? Rocket League is the little indie that has taken the multiplayer scene by storm, establishing itself equally as both a casual party game and a very serious esport.

And if you’ve played even five minutes it’s easy to see why; Rocket League just plays superbly well, striking that desirable balance of being easy to play but difficult to master. Four years after its success as a PS Plus freebie took it mainstream, we’re certain the game has plenty more years left at the top.

23. A Night in the Woods

A Night in the Woods is a special sort of side-scrolling experience. A charming art style and clever writing are just the beginning, as a number of clever gameplay mechanics that give it huge depth beyond the basic adventure platformer it appears as at a glance.

Plenty of dialog options, and the ability to flesh out main protagonist May’s backstory gives players a say in the tone and overall direction of the narrative. This helps to draw players into an experience that is often very relatable despite the strange fantasy setting of Possum Springs.

We couldn’t get enough of exploring its eerie side streets and discovering more about its history and its memorable inhabitants to the point that finishing the game was like waving goodbye to an old friend. A must play.

22. The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac is one of the best indie games that’s impossible to play in short play sessions. Even when its punishing difficulty keeps breaking you down, you’re tempted for that “one more” try, which inevitably ends up being six or seven or eight more. That’s a testament to just how fun this little indie is, and what a brilliant feat of design developer Edmund McMillan and Florian Himsl pulled off.

You’ll find probably find other lists of best indie games that rank The Binding of Isaac higher than this one, but we challenge you to find a single one that it doesn’t feature in at all.

21. Gone Home

Gone Home is a game with something to say, but you won’t necessarily know what that is until the very final moments of its gripping narrative. It’s a story told mostly in retrospect, as players explore an empty house full of notes, trinkets, and family memories that edge them closer to piecing together the mystery of its confines.

Of any game on this list, it’s one that you really need to avoid any sort of spoilers or clues as to what sort of an experience it really is. The magic is in the discovery of the progressive and forward-thinking message it’s attempting to deliver, which it ends up conveying with deft finesse.

Gone Home is absolutely required reading for any video game fan regardless of whether they consider themselves typically a fan of the genre. A walking simulator to crown them all, we think.

20. Fez

The same satisfying platforming gameplay that defined the best 8-bit games of the past is similarly at the heart of what makes Fez great, but it’s the way in which it breaks new ground by introducing the ability to rotate the game world as a means of traversal that makes it truly special.

It’s this small but brilliant tweak to an age-old blueprint that essentially reinvents a gaming genre as old as the hills, and in doing so puts it a cut above other modern retro-inspired games that look and play superbly well.

Fez isn’t just a one-trick pony, either. It’s the total package, delighting with catchy tunes that complement its often humorous dialog and the chipper tone of its vibrant world.

19. Papers, Please

We love indie games because they push the boundaries of creativity in a way that the AAA industry doesn’t, and Papers, Please is a perfect example of just that. Satirical, and politically illuminating, it turns the job of being an immigration inspector in an oppressive socialist state into a gaming experience with a moving story.

Especially with its rough-around-the-edges pixel art, you wouldn’t have thought the mundane process of accepting or denying travel passes would be compelling, but trust us when we say that it absolutely is. Papers, Please is stimulating in a different sort of way to other games on this list, delivering a politically charged narrative that you’ll ponder long after the credits roll.

18. Ori and the Blind Forest

The way Microsoft is pushing its upcoming sequel, you would be forgiven for thinking Ori is one of publishers’ big AAA franchises. But all the buzz and commotion really is over a little indie that just made a very big splash when it released back in 2015.

From its uniquely adorable premise to the excellent level design and gameplay, Ori and the Blind Forest is a magical sort of gaming experience that stands apart from the rest of the Xbox One’s library of games.

A foundation of so many excellent qualities earns it a spot here, but if we had to choose one aspect that well earns its place among the best indie games of all time, it’s the genius of the way Ori balances the challenges of Metroidvania design with accessible gameplay. The frustrations that spoil so many games in the genre are a non-issue here thanks to the quality of its design and the care and attention that’s gone into building it.

17. Super Meat Boy

Like several other games on this list, Super Meat Boy is a retro-inspired 2D side-scroller. But where others impress by seeking to reinvent age-old design or fuse different genres together to create something new, Super Meat Boy is simply just a damn good platformer. Brilliant gameplay, tough but fair difficulty, and superb level design mean that judged against any rival across any period of gaming history, Super Meat Boy stands shoulder to shoulder.

Designed in flash in just three weeks, the game quickly made a name for itself, scooping up various design awards before recording impressive sales figures. Super Meat Boy has since gone on to release on virtually every gaming platform under the sun, and its legacy lives on today as one of the most successful indie games of all time.

16. Spelunky

Spelunky is a platforming roguelike that’s so replayable and addictive that you could easily clock up hundreds of hours before getting even slightly bored. Procedurally generated levels always change up the action, but it’s the allure of discovering new secrets and scoring more loot that keeps you driving forward.

The genius of one of the best indie games is that it gives so many options to players, inviting experimentation and outside the box thinking to survive its hostile environment. And it is hostile; Spelunky is one tough as nails platformer that’ll bite those who get too overconfident or impatient. But it’s rarely cheap or unfair, which encourages you to keep challenging yourself to make progress.

This is one of those games that’s so good it’s an ever-present on the HDD and a must-have across all your gaming platforms.

15. Dead Cells

One of 2018’s hottest games, Dead Cells was like a breath of fresh air for the roguelike genre. With tight controls, excellent role-playing systems, and a compelling aesthetic, it gets the fundamentals spot on and feels a cut above rival indies in the space as result.

In fact, it’s a gaming experience to rival even the most iconic roguelikes ever made, and that’s quite an achievement for a developer of less than a dozen people. A year after its release, we still can’t get enough of experimenting with different builds and running Dead Cells’ constantly changing myriad of different levels.

14. Darkest Dungeon

Turn-based RPGs have been around since the earliest days of the modern console era, but Darkest Dungeon finds a way to inject new life into this age-old genre. Mercilessly difficult, a combination of its spooky setting, the looming threat of perma-death, and gameplay mechanics that revolve around each of your characters losing their minds, life always feels as though it’s hanging by a thread when playing a game of Darkest Dungeon.

But boy is it an addictive gameplay loop, beckoning you to charge further into its terrifying depths to experiment with new strategies and builds time and time again, buoyed by the awesome baritone of perhaps the coolest video game narrator of all time. Every session is an assault on the senses and the mind equally, making it a game that everyone should experience.

13. Hotline Miami

Heart-pumping, pulsating, and action-packed are cliche superlatives you’ll hear critics throw at plenty of different games, but in the case of Hotline Miami those are absolutely bang-on. This addictive top-down shooter sucks you into its wacky premise and addictive gameplay loop, and you’ll find yourself surging through its levels intoxicated by it satisfying gunplay and pounding soundtrack.<br><br> Hotline Miami is truly a weird and wonderful gaming experience we’ll never forget, and well earns its place in the upper echelon of this list.

12. Hollow Knight

Another of the best indie games, this Metroidvania makes our list, quality across several different areas of its design elevate Hollow Knight to the pantheon of instant classics. In terms of gameplay, it’s an experience that really demands a high skill level even despite its overall simplicity, which works because Hollow Knight just feels so damn good to play.

Never cheap or frustrating for the wrong reasons, it’s a game that instantly feels comfortable but always challenging, and it’s for that reason you’ll keep pushing deeper into the eerie depths of the Hallownest. And how beautiful it all looks and sounds, too, with an aesthetic that’s just so exciting.

11. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is one of the few games we can think of that didn’t just take inspiration from an iconic series, it actually bested it in almost every way. Developer Eric Barone made no secret of the fact that he loved the Harvest Moon franchise and used it as a template to create his own spin on the formula, and there’s few who would argue he completely nailed it.

There’s just something so special about the role-playing mechanics of Stardew Valley, from the intricacies of optimizing your own farming operation to getting caught up in the day-to-day lives of the local townsfolk. It’s among the most immersive 8-bit games you’ll ever play, swallowing up great swathes of your free time as you sow, water, chat, mine, and just embrace life working the land. Pure magic.

10. Shovel Knight

There aren’t many of the best indie games that become such a household name that even Nintendo considers it as a mascot worthy of Smash Bros. fame. Shovel Knight is just that popular, and for damn good reason, too. Presentation, style, gameplay, and a quirky mascot that’s instantly recognizable; developer Yacht Club Games’ awesome pixelated side-scroller has it all.

Despite the fact the franchise is just a single game (plus DLC) strong, it’s one we’re certain will be remembered decades from now and discussed in the same conversation as the iconic 8-bit platformers it’s inspired by.<br><br> Of all the retro games on this list, Shovel Knight’s popularity basically took the entire scene mainstream when it launched back in 2014, and it may very well still be the best.

9. What Remains of Edith Finch

When we reviewed What Remains of Edith Finch, we noted that the game “tells a beautiful anthology of stories above love, death, and family in a way only video games can.” It was an eloquent summary (if we do say so ourselves) because it hits on exactly why Edith Finch is so brilliant — it’s a narrative-driven game that tells its story in a way other mediums simply can’t.<br><br>

Brilliant voice acting and stellar writing is only half the victory, as the game leads players on a breadcrumb trail of discovery around the eerie Finch house. The tragic tale of Edith’s family is told through flashback memories that never lean on exposition or attempt to categorically explain. Rather, they creatively illuminate different themes and ideas, allowing players to piece together the story for themselves. It’s groundbreaking stuff, and we’re confident the game deserves a spot among the top 10 best indie games of all time as a result.

8. Celeste

Some indies have superb gameplay, some have inventive ideas and/or mechanics, while others tell a fantastic, progressive sort of story. Celeste does all of the above and more, and as a result, it’s among the most complete video game experiences you could possibly play.

Developed by a tiny team of two, Matt Makes Games’ tough as nails platformer will have you curse the screen for its difficulty. But you keep driving on, climbing ever further up the mountain as you steer Celeste desperately through physical and mental hardship explained throughout the game’s narrative.

The brilliance is that both she and you are enduring the same hardships. For very different reasons, granted, but the game’s narrative themes tie directly into your own sensations, and that really draws you close to Celeste as a character and the overall immersion of the experience.

It’s all rather hard to put into words really, and that’s exactly why we’ll end it here and just recommend you go play it yourself if you haven’t already.

7. The Witness

Developer Jonathan Blow’s mind-bending puzzle game The Witness is a showing of technical brilliance, but there’s more to the experience than clever design. There’s also a mystique to its composition that impresses equally, as players traverse the barren expanse of its vibrant sandbox attempting to piece together an underlying narrative.<br><br>

That being said, The Witness’ best quality is certainly in the mechanism of its gameplay; the way it slowly teaches players how to solve the intricacies of its puzzles so that even newcomers to the genre will be experiencing those satisfying lightbulb moments before long. And there’s no shortage of those simply because The Witness is among the best puzzle games ever made. More than just a super follow-up to Blow’s Braid, The Witness stands atop its genre as a masterpiece.

6. Braid

And yet, for however good The Witness is, we’re still picking Braid as the better of Jonathan Blow’s games and one of the best indie games of all time. Creative gameplay, a compelling aesthetic, and a narrative that will have players thinking about their actions long after the credits role make Braid a truly special puzzle-platformer is an indie that everyone should experience.

5. Minecraft

In a way, Minecraft is a game that’s almost transcended video gaming and become something so much bigger. At its core, it’s a massively popular game first and foremost, of course, but Minecraft feels like more of a platform than a conventional gaming experience. There are its standard modes, the evolution of its standard modes, modded iterations of those modes, and then there’s this completely different sect of Minecraft builders that just create incredible things. It’s popular with children and adults alike; playing Minecraft can be easy or it can be incredibly challenging; the entire experience could be leisure or even educational. It’s just this all-encompassing phenomenon that’s found its way into so many corners of society in a way that perhaps only the most popular franchises ever –Mario, Pokemon, etc– have ever done before it.<br><br>

We’ll have comments correcting our definition of what is and isn’t indie with Minecraft’s inclusion, of course. And, look, we get it: Minecraft certainly isn’t “indie” anymore. Its popularity has turned into a lucrative beast whose funding and spending rival AAA productions. But this hugely successful game definitely started life as a tiny indie, and we’re here to celebrate that with a spot in our top five.

4. INSIDE

Developer Playdead’s anticipated follow-up to the critically acclaimed Limbo certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, Inside improved on it in every way, delivering even more accomplished puzzle-platforming gameplay, and an even more thought-provoking narrative to tie it all together.

The harrowing tale of a boy escaping the clutches of some sort of dystopian society is so captivating it’s almost impossible not to play Inside in a single sitting. You’re compelled to keep pushing on, digging deeper to uncover the mystery of its story and understand its alien setting. Surprises lay around every corner, and there’s this wonderful pace to its composition that has players gazing in amazement one moment and frantically on the edge of their seat the next.

The combination of its brilliant gameplay and a powerful narrative (explained entirely without dialog) makes Inside one of those intense video game experiences that will probably stay with you forever.

3. Undertale

The effort and ingenuity that went into Toby Fox’s now-classic RPG Undertale is truly remarkable. Outside of some of the art, every other aspect of the critically acclaimed game was developed by Toby Fox himself. The game’s unique brand of combat which combines bullet-hell and RPG mechanics, the unique kill/spare mechanic that allows you to drive the story in totally different directions, and the incredible soundtrack which combines funky modern sounds with simple retro melodies, that’s all him.

While there’s so much to direct praise at, it’s the writing of the characters and the game’s overall narrative –the crux of any great RPG– that ultimately rises to the top as the biggest standout. Each of the colorful characters that the player meets along the way, from the main characters and bosses down to just a simple Froggit, are oozing with charm.

In order for the kill/spare mechanic in-game to really mesh well with Undertale’s story of a human exploring a fantastical underground world of monsters and discovering that everyone here deserves to be killed/saved, the writing of every single monster you meet in the game needed to stand out to the player and Toby Fox nailed it. Whether you choose to spare everyone to carve a brighter future or murder everything in sight, your rewarded with a memorable tale and ending fitting for your choices.

2. Journey

Rather like Inside, Journey is a game that delivers a powerful message without ever saying anything at all. It’s an adventure that begins by taking your breath away thanks to its dazzling locations, each brought to life by a vibrant, warm, colorful aesthetic. Simple gameplay delights thanks to slick and satisfying traversal mechanics, and its clever multiplayer system makes every chance encounter feel so special. <br><br>As you push on and uncover more about the nature of your quest, though, Journey shifts tonally. It becomes darker, forcing you and your avatar to endure hardships and suffering as you drive toward your ultimate quest. And by Journey’s end, you’re left an emotional wreck, exhausted from a plight that feels as though you’ve earned every mile. It’s profound, moving stuff, and one of the few games that might bring a tear to your eye.

1. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the best indie game of all time. It stands atop one of the oldest and most established genres in gaming; an isometric RPG experience that bests iconic names like Baldur’s Gate, Pillars of Eternity, and Icewind Dale. That’s a statement that’ll mean more than any superlatives to veterans of those classics, but for everyone else, we’ll wrap the game up as eloquently as possible:<br><br>

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is simply the most complete RPG experience you’ll ever play. Across every facet of its design, the game exceeds expectation. Stellar writing is at the heart of its excellent story, with main and side quests tied together with convincing dialog. In combination with meaningful dialog choices that have real consequences to the overarching story, the depth of character development throughout its 100 or so hours is a standout feature.<br><br> And then there’s the battle system itself, perfectly balanced and flush with deep role-playing mechanics that provide players with almost infinite build options to approach each satisfying combat scenario in so many different ways. We could go on and on about its other qualities, too, from stunning music and visuals to its breathtaking attention to detail in world-building and lore. It’s heaven in video game form for D&D fans, but this hardcore RPG is equally accessible to newcomers. You owe it to yourself to play this wonderful video game and see what all the fuss is about. We promise you won’t regret it.

If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our other similar posts: 10 Best Video Game Quotes That We Will Never EVER Forget, and 12 Great Games With Ugly as Hell Box Art

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