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The Indie Games You Should Be Looking Out For in 2018

We're only skimming the year's bountiful harvest for independently developed games, but these are some of the most exciting that we know of so far.

Feature by Caty McCarthy, .

Earlier this week, you saw our enormous team list of our 30 most anticipated widely known games that are supposed to release in 2018. (Of course, delays are inevitable.) Today, your friendly neighborhood indie game connoisseur Caty McCarthy (hey, that's me!) waded through her expansive list of games she tries to keep her millions of eyes on to select the most notable in the coming year.

You may notice that there are some omissions, like Spelunky 2, which probably won't be out in 2018. There are also a couple mysterious games that were left out, such as Capybara Games' long in-development Below, which at this point we're assuming may never come out, as well as the delightful stop motion adventure of Harold Halibut, which Caty was told by one of the developers at Day of the Devs last year was actually aiming for a 2019 release, suggesting it's still a ways off.

In the meantime though, the following are the ones Caty (with a little bit of help from news editor Matt Kim) is most excited for in the upcoming year. (Don't worry: I'll stop writing in third person from this point onward too.)

Celeste

Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC; Release Date: January 2018

There was a time where I was really, really good at the archery-laden Towerfall: Ascension, one of the most exhilarating games of the couch co-op indie revival of the past few years. Originally, the Towerfall name launched on the Ouya. (Bet it's been awhile since you heard that word.) The game's creator, Matt Thorson, has been hard at work in the many years since then on another game though; one that shares its beautifully pixelated details, but not much else. It's a platformer called Celeste, and with a stellar team also consisting of developer Noel Berry, composer Lena Raine, and more, it should not slip by unnoticed in these early weeks of 2018. And who knows; maybe I'm destined to become a pro at Celeste too, just without the satisfaction of beating my friends.

Crossing Souls

Platforms: PS4, PSVita, PC, Mac, Linux; Release Date: February 13, 2018

Netflix's Stranger Things proved there is an untapped love of all things 80s, and Crossing Souls is finally tapping into that well through video games. A throwback to 80s friendship adventure films like The Goonies, Crossing Souls stars five teens molded from various 80s archetypes. Each character, like the geek gadgeteer or tough girl, have their own unique powers that you mix-and-match to progress in the game. With gorgeous pixel graphics and amazing animated cutscenes that look identical to 80s Saturday Morning Cartoons, Crossing Souls is a must-watch for nostalgia junkies. —Matt Kim

Dead Static Drive

Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC, Mac, Linux

In the world of Dead Static Drive, there's nothing but chainsaws, gas stations, and the great open road. Pegged by its creators as an "existential cosmic horror," Dead Static Drive has been igniting the likes of Twitter and beyond aflame with the game's entrancing gifs. Trucks spitting out dirt beneath its wheels as it makes a quick escape. Wildflowers blowing pedals across an abandoned vehicle. Visually, Dead Static Drive looks striking. As for its release, it's just waiting for that green light to reflect from the pavement.

Desert Child

Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

There are a lot of anime-looking games, but oddly, so little that feel inspired by the field of Japanese animation in a purely spiritual sense. Desert Child is looking to change that. Sharing a sorta-likeness to Akira and Redline and an attitude in common with Cowboy Bebop, Desert Child is a "hoverbike racing RPG" from developer Oscar Brittain that had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year. It bears a lo-fi style that veers similar to classic adventure games like Another World, only Desert Child stretches the visual design with high speeds and chaotic hoverbike battles. Whether it's the clouds of dust you leave behind or the quiet of the town you visit to slurp some ramen, it's all marvelous looking.

Donut County

Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac, iOS

Coincidentally, Donut County originally felt like a game inspired by Katamari Damacy, with players controlling a hole that grows bigger as it swallows up more everyday objects. But Donut Country proves to be much more than its hole gameplay as developer Ben Esposito creates a compelling cast of characters who all live in a charming desert town. All of them are connected by the fact that all their hole-related problems have been caused by a single, donut loving racoon. —Matt Kim

Frostpunk

Platform: PC

11 Bit Studios' Frostpunk, at its core, imagines a steampunk society if it were covered in snow. In the new game from the creators of This War of Mine, the world is bitter and freezing. Steam is the only means of opposing the harshness of nature. In the city-building simulation, you build steam-powered machinery and buildings, hoping the society you help foster will survive. Frostpunk goes beyond just city-building though, it's also a survival and strategy game: the decisions you make can spell doom for your micro-frozen society.

The Gardens Between

Platforms: PS4, PC, Mac

The Gardens Between is one of those independently developed titles where the first time you see it, you remember it. Kinda like how Cuphead blew everyone's minds with just a short teaser all those years ago. The Voxel Agents' The Gardens Between is an adventure game about two best friends traveling across islands, rewinding time to solve puzzles and make their way across them. Over the years its demos and prototypes have won many awards along the indie circuit, which only spells good luck when the game releases sometime in 2018.

Griftlands

Platforms: PC

Klei Entertainment are the sort of developers that can't be nailed down. They've created simulations, survival games, and now with Griftlands, they can check off sci-fi RPGs too. Griftlands retains Klei's signature illustrated style, bringing it into a new genre for the team. And in Griftlands, negotiation is its middle name—everything is negotiable, from money earned to morality to creating your personal character.

Iconoclasts

Platforms: PS4, PSVita, PC; Release Date: January 23, 2018

I can already sense your eyeroll at another Metroidvania game doubling back across storefronts. Yet Iconoclasts spells the recipe for potential success with its endearing art style that sometimes turns away from its pixelated landscapes, and bears a strong premise of a young mechanic who wants to help the world with her handy-dandy wrench. It's also been in development for seven long years by developer Joakim Sandberg, previously known for his work on some games of the Shantae series.

Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition

Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC, Mac, Linux

I slept on the episodic adventure game Kentucky Route Zero from Cardboard Computer for a long time. "I'll wait until all the episodes are out," I told myself. Then years passed. Nearly five years later and still one episode left, I decided last year to play through them all. In 2018, Kentucky Route Zero will finally have its conclusion, and it'll make its way to other platforms besides PC too. It'll be worth it too, to see how its magical realist world in the guise of the point-and-click adventure pans out.

Knuckle Sandwich

Platforms: PC, Mac

Before I was officially writing about games, back when I was still just a lowly intern, one of the first news stories I remember writing was about a new teaser trailer for Knuckle Sandwich, the fanciful RPG from game developer Andrew Brophy. While some may compare it fondly to the likes of Earthbound, Knuckle Sandwich takes the cutesy pixelated RPG formula to, uh, low-poly Pokemon battles against Garfield-type critters, exploring the woes of living in a new city, and it's somehow laced with even more eccentricities. With a guaranteed release window of this year, I suspect Knuckle Sandwich will be the game to take players by surprise.

Manifold Garden

Platforms: PS4, PC

One of the reasons why I love the genre of science fiction is its realizations of impossible architecture. Buildings, structures, things that feel like they're impossible to realize; yet there they are erected in all their glory. Manifold Garden feels like that concept again: impossible architecture made real and interactive. It's the first game from William Chyr, a Chicago-based artist known for his installation art. In Manifold Garden, the player navigates M.C. Escher-inspired cityscapes, which fold onto itself. Navigation itself is a puzzle in this physics-defying game.

Mineko's Night Market

Platforms: PC, Mac

If you were a Neko Atsume fan, Mineko's Night Market might by the cat-related game you were fiending for next. Meowza Games' Mineko's Night Market is a game about crafting, eating, and well, "catting" (should that be allowed as a word for this lone description). You're tasked as a shopkeeper in a cat-overrun town. In the day, you craft things and collect trinkets and essentially get all set up to run your shop for the weekly market. Or, you can just befriend all the townspeople and felines that join you. Just as with real life, in Mineko's Night Market, you live life as you see fit. Crazy cat lady, here I come.

Nour

Platforms: PC, Mac

We all wish we could play with our food. It's why food fights were such a staple in cartoons and kids shows growing up. As adults, playing with our food is unacceptable. Luckily, developer Tj Hughes has just the fix. Nour had a successful Kickstarter last year, and it's planned for release this spring. The game has you hitting keys on your keyboard or random buttons across a Midi Fighter 3D (a sampler tool used often for electronic music, the Midi sampler itself was built with former arcade buttons for game fans) to make food fly through the air. Hughes wants to bring the Midi Fighter 3D back to its sorta-roots by amplifying it back as a controller in his experimental food game.

Ooblets

Platforms: XBO, PC

Ooblets has been described as a lot of things, probably the most common though is that it's an Animal Crossing-Pokemon-Harvest Moon hybrid, but somehow even cuter. That's how Ooblets has set social media on fire with its screencaps and gifs: it's too saccharine in its art direction to ignore. Even with so many concepts at play—gardening, monster battling, town life, dress-up, and so on—early impressions of the game have been strong almost across all media. We're just as enamored craving its eventual release as we were the first time we laid eyes on its gifs.

Phoenix Point

Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

X-COM is a force to be reckoned with in the land of turn-based strategy games. Perhaps the only thing that can overcome it is something else entirely from the same brain behind the series. Phoenix Point is designer and original creator of X-COM Julian Gollop's upcoming turn-based tactical combat game, which happens to be a spiritual successor to X-COM. One big difference between the two series is that Phoenix Point looks a bit darker in its art direction, with the upcoming game taking notes from H.P. Lovecraft.

Return of Obra Dinn

Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux

Papers, Please is an unsettling game about working as a border control official who approves those trying to enter a fictional country. You're tasked with going over all their documents, making sure they're all accurate and correct, and either approving or rejecting them. Sometimes it ends monotonously. Sometimes it ends tragically. Most of the time though, it feels uncomfortable, judging whether people were fit to enter the country or not from a slip of paper. Return of Obra Dinn, the next game from Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope, has a much wider scope. The game follows a mysterious ship that washes up to port five years after it went missing in 1802. You're tasked with discovering what happened to its 60 crew members. If Papers, Please was grim, Return of Obra Dinn will surely also be.

Super Meat Boy Forever

Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC, Linux, iOS, Android

I'm actually shocked that a randomly generated Super Meat Boy sequel didn't exist before. Team Meat's Super Meat Boy is the fast-paced side-scrolling platformer that made a huge splash in 2010, beyond its flash game origins. Since its Xbox 360 once-exclusivity, Super Meat Boy is available on nearly every platform you can imagine. Its sequel was originally concepted as a mobile-only game, before it ballooned into a Super Meat Boy game that only gets harder as you get better at the game: levels are generated by random chunks designed by its creators according to your skill level. The sequel also has a new control scheme, and is missing half of the original crew (Kyle Pulver replaces the original's Edmund McMillen).

Totem Teller

Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, unconfirmed consoles

Sometimes I peruse the #screenshotsaturday hashtag on Twitter to find out about in-development gems. Long ago, I happened across Totem Teller, a glitchy chaotic adventure game from studio Grinning Pickle, who are based in Shanghai, China. The developers call the game itself as a form of "story archaeology," as you travel across its corrupted world to uncover the tales it has buried.

Tunic

Platforms: PC, Mac, unconfirmed consoles

If Link were a fox, he might look like the cute fella at the center of Tunic, formerly known as Secret Legend. Tunic is an upcoming action-adventure game from developer Andrew Shouldice. It's a Zelda-like, but not akin to the 3D games. If anything, it has the most in common with the early days of Zelda, like A Link to the Past. Tunic upgrades the visuals though, with its lush low-poly world to explore.

UFO 50

Platforms: PC, other unconfirmed platforms

Before Spelunky 2 was announced, UFO 50 was unveiled. It's not solely a Derek Yu effort; it's a collaboration featuring some of the most exciting independent developers in the industry today. UFO 50 is a collection of 50 games made by five developers, and they're not just minigames. When I spoke to Yu at Day of the Devs in 2017, he noted that the team was inspired by growing up with shareware and pirated games collections. UFO 50 is a team's earnest attempt at capturing the spirit of the long lost way of sharing games with friends.

Untitled Goose Game

Platforms: Unconfirmed platforms

I kinda hope that Untitled Goose Game never gets a real name. Untitled Goose Game says all that I need to know. But for the sake of this description, I'll let you in on the secret of the game. Untitled Goose Game is a new title from the creators of the also-hilarious Push Me Pull You. Leaning once again on physical humor, Untitled Goose Game pins the player as a mischievous goose, who wreaks havoc on a quaint little town. Havoc comes in the form of stealing things, like a radio, or just orchestrating ludicrous situations for your victim, like getting them in the prime position to get soaked by a sprinkler.

#WarGames

Platforms: Unconfirmed platforms

Her Story signaled a change in the genre of FMV games. On the surface, it was a game about watching video interrogations with a suspect, but beneath that, it was a game about finding your own path to the truth through simple functionality: using a search bar. The game's designer, Sam Barlow, hasn't given up on the FMV genre yet. Barlow's next game #WarGames is an upcoming series loosely based on the 1983 thriller WarGames. #WarGames bills itself as an "interactive film" rather than a game, but hell, we're excited nonetheless.

Wargroove

Platforms: XBO, NS, PC

If you listen closely, you can hear me and dozens of others quietly wishing for an Advance Wars revival. Wargroove is probably the closest we'll get to that. Developed by Chucklefish (the publishers of Stardew Valley), Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that definitely leans more on Advance Wars in inspiration than Fire Emblem. It's also playable with other people, hosting up to four players at a time.

Wattam

Platforms: PS4

At last year's IndieCade awards I saw Wattam and Katamari Damacy designer Keita Takahashi offer an impassioned speech about loving each other in these charged times. His latest game feels like that speech made digital. Wattam is a game about a lonely cube as it makes more and more friends. Some new friends can be gained by solving a cute puzzle, while others are merely content with being blown up (it's fun, I swear). Either way, Wattam is another madcap game about feeling good from the Japanese auteur. —Matt Kim

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Platforms: PC, Mac

When I first heard about Where the Water Tastes Like Wine years ago, I was engrossed in its art style. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before in video games. Years later, the folktale-inspired Where the Water Tastes like Wine from Dim Bulb Games is finally planning a release in 2018. The game's helmed by Johnnemann Nordhagen, one of the co-founders of Fullbright Company (of Gone Home fame). Like Gone Home, Nordhagen has said in the past that he wants to talk about real world issues that games wouldn't normally tackle in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, just as Gone Home once did.

Now that you've seen both of our most anticipated games of 2018 lists, which games are you most excited for in the coming year?

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Comments 17

  • Avatar for NateDizzy #1 NateDizzy 3 months ago
    It's nice to see the indie side isn't letting up either. So much cool stuff on the horizon. Seriously, what AAA would let me craft cats or allow me to be an asshole goose?Edited January 2018 by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #2 WiIIyTheAntelope 3 months ago
    Wattam certainly looks interesting. I hope the gameplay stands up to the look. At the very least it certainly looks wacky enough to scratch that Katamari itch. Though somebody should get to producing an actual Katamari game..that mobile spinoff "game" whatever it was travesty doesn't count.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #3 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    You know Caty, I also put off KRZ waiting for all of the episodes. But I'm probably going to play it sooner rather than later in anticipation of the final episode. I only hear good things about it.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #4 MetManMas 3 months ago
    I am really looking forward to Asshole Goose Game, and I seriously hope Mineko's Night Market will get a console port announcement.

    Definitely interested in what 2018 brings to the indie market.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #5 SatelliteOfLove 3 months ago
    La Mulana 2

    Spelunky 2

    Indivisible

    No Truce with the Furies

    Copper Dreams

    Sunless Skies


    For meEdited January 2018 by SatelliteOfLove
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  • Avatar for catymcc #6 catymcc 3 months ago
    @SatelliteOfLove I forgot about Indivisible, ahhhhhhhh
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #7 donkeyintheforest 3 months ago
    Man there are some pretty looking games. Hopefully the gameplay holds up. I remember hearing an interview with the guy making donut county (i think e3 giant bomb) and he was reading books on the philosophy of holes and whether they were things or the absence of things and it was so fun to listen to.

    Also, I was also blown away by the trailer of The Last Night at e3 but it's the most milkshake duck game there is...
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #8 chaoticBeat 3 months ago
    I love love love TowerFall, so Celeste on Switch this month is a given. Dead Static Drive sounds immediately intriguing.
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  • Avatar for Hoolo #9 Hoolo 3 months ago
    Yay, a The Iconoclasts inclusion! That's good.

    Another game that completely slipped my mind, but should release in 2018 is Robit Games' Treasure Adventure World. A full-on remake of Treasure Adventure Game, first released around 2011, this (also) Metroidvania is shaping up to be bigger, more beautiful, and in all ways better than the original game. According to the developer's roadmap, all that's left to do is some testing and tweaking, and then it can be released into the wild (courtesy of Chucklefish).
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #10 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 months ago
    Aw, no Freedom Planet 2? =(
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #11 hiptanaka 3 months ago
    Iconoclasts <3

    From the top of my head, I would add Dandara to this list.
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  • Avatar for One_Vurfed_Gwrx #12 One_Vurfed_Gwrx 3 months ago
    Phoenix Point is my most anticipated of these as a longterm Julian Gollop fan (I started with the original Chaos game). Mixing X-Com style with Lovecraft makes for a potebtially intriguing setting to play in too. I did back it though (at a lowish tier) so don't need to preorder, just hope it all turnsout well.
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  • Avatar for nimzy #13 nimzy 3 months ago
    I'm just waiting for the Stardew Valley multiplayer patch. That'll be the push that gets me to buy.
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  • Avatar for themblan #14 themblan 3 months ago
    I am waiting for the NS-version of Hollow Knight.
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #15 Tetragrammaton 3 months ago
    Kentucky Route Zero. Man, I read about the game, loved it, tried to play it and bounced off SO hard. It's not that it's hard--it isn't. In fact, it's basically linear, all you have to do is follow the path (and sometimes remember directions).

    But I was playing it late at night, halfway between sleep and insomnia, and yes with a glass of wine on hand, which did not at ALL help me follow the dialogue, allusions, suggestions of horror, intimations of Meaning, or the weirdness of the environments.

    A strange game. One that I wish to better understand.

    Also isn't Breach due out this year? That's on my list.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #16 donkeyintheforest 3 months ago
    @Tetragrammaton I bounced off it hard too. I love the visual style but it's just so slow. Like walking from one place to another was very frustrating fore me.

    And Into the Breach still doesn't have a firm date, but I am really looking forward to it too.
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  • Avatar for clockworkerr0r #17 clockworkerr0r 3 months ago
    Where the Water Tastes Like Wine looks pretty interesting.. I haven't seen a good game that covers serious issues in a while, so I'm definitely going to look into it. Another game I'm really looking forward to is Nova Nukers. I'm bummed to see it's not on the list. It's supposed to be a really fun competitive multiplayer. It's got a really interesting concept behind it too.
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