[Top 15] Best Indie Games of All Time

Best Indie Games of All Time
The Cream of the Crop

Over the past 15 years or so, Indie Games have really been taken seriously in both the gaming world and the art world. Not deterred by the budget restrictions, indie games are known for their addictive gameplay, and more and more their compelling stories. 


Whittling my favourite indie games down to a mere 15 was no easy feat, but I believe that the 15 games listed below are the best games available from small teams.


Think I’ve missed any out? Let me know down in the comments.


15) Trials HD (Xbox 360)

Kicking off this list is a game that owners of Xbox 360s in the late 00’s will be familiar with.

Trials HD is a 2.5D racing game that focuses on precision landings. The exaggerated physics engine and obstacles inject the game with a sense of humour. 

Across the games 35 courses, the player will play through increasingly difficult courses, some towards the end being agonising. 

However, as is the case with a few games on this list, the difficulty never feels unfair, but rather a reminder that you haven’t yet mastered the mechanics yet.

Outside of the courses, there are 12 skill games - like riding on top of a cage - to help you better challenge the courses.

Time trials keep the game competitive and definitely kept me coming back to see if any of my friends had beaten my time.

Last but not least, Trials HD had an incredibly deep creation tool, the same method used for creating the in game courses. This is a feature rarely found in games, let alone indie games!


14) Hotline Miami (Microsoft Windows, Android, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch) 

Hotline Miami has at its core an extremely addictive and fun gameplay style, but what really puts the icing on this one is the style.

This is a top down shooter that lets you shoot as many Russian Mafia members as your heart desires. There is a great surreal story going on here too, but let’s focus on the gameplay. 

Every level sees you run through a building - top down style - and take out all the enemies. You start each level unarmed, and have to rely on your wits to take out the Mafia, who massively outnumber you. 

You have the benefit of the top-down view, being able to see in all the rooms, but the enemies win the numbers game, It’s an impressive balancing act that makes this game so intriguing.

As I said earlier, this  game oozes style. Taking its neon-noir style from the likes of Drive, Hotline Miami is an extremely colourful, and at times overwhelming game. Sometimes it feels like there’s so much happening on the screen, which really adds to the intensity the game seeks to channel.

This one is a lot of fun. You can pick up the collection now on nearly all major consoles. My preference is playing it on the go with my Switch.


13) Overcooked (Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S)

Oh, Overcooked. 

I could spend hours on end on this one.

Overcooked is an extremely fun couch co-op cooking game. You (and your friends if you can find some to join in) prepare, cook, and serve food in a variety of locations. The quicker you get the food out, the more satisfied the customers.

Sounds like a simple premise, but anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen will know this is not the case. Overcooked is such an intense game that you might find yourself swearing at your friends like Gorodn Ramsey.

My favourite thing about Overcooked is the emphasis on cooperation. Players set their station and work together to get the best results. Although the game is fun in single player mode, it really shines as a reflection of teamwork. 

The world of Overcooked is extremely cute, and considering how cheap it is, cannot be passed up on. This is an elite-level party game.


12) Stardew Valley (Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Android)

Like Animal Crossing but don’t have £60 to fork out on New Horizons? Stardew Valley is the way to go.

A simulation role playing game, Harvest Moon sees you take over your grandfather’s old farm. Like the aforementioned Animal Crossing and Viva Pinata, Stardew Valley is a much deeper game than it initially seems to be. Although it is a garden simulator, the characters and story of the game are surprisingly deep and compelling.

This is a dangerous game. Once you get into it, you won't want to put it down. Fishing, cooking, chatting and crafting are oddly addictive here. The game certainly rewards players for their efforts too.

The game is obviously crafted with a great deal of love, and is a great way to wind down after a busy day.

I seriously recommend this as an alternative to Animal Crossing. In fact, many say they actually prefer this game. 


11) Ori and the Blind Forest (Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows)

Just missing out on the top 10, Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D platform adventure game, originally released for Xbox One back in 2015. 

You play as Ori, a spirit who sets out to restore a withering forest. The game captures a deep, Zen-like atmosphere in it’s story, visuals and gameplay. 

You will find yourself back tracking a lot, but this brings a sense of achievement rather than frustration. There is an interesting manual saving method in the game - which I won’t spoil. This really makes you think about where to save and adopt a tactical approach to this game. 

The cosy, warm atmosphere of the Blind Forest will keep you hooked for ages. Once Ori is sufficiently upgraded, the feeling of power over the initially overwhelming environments is palpable.


10) Super Meat Boy (Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo Switch)

Super Meat Boy and indie gaming are almost synonymous. When you think of indie games, you think Super Meat Boy.

Coming from an Adobe Flash Game known simply as Meat Boy, Super Meat Boy is a 2D platformer that is most known for its insane difficulty and addictive gameplay.

You play as Meat Boy (duh) as you jump through level after level in an attempt to save your girlfriend from the evil Dr Fetus. The game requires split-second platforming and is full of hazards and traps that make you breathe a great sigh of relief when you pass a stage.

Super Meat Boy has some of the most ingenious and addictive platforming in video game history, and rightfully earned comparison to the likes of Super Mario Bros. and Ghosts ‘n Goblins.

Now available on Switch, Super Meat Boy is a timeless classic and evidence of how good indie games can be.


9) Shovel Knight (Amazon Fire TV, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One)

Oh man, it hurts only putting Shovel Knight at number 9.

For many, Shovel Knight would top this list, and although I absolutely love it, I just prefer 8 other indie games. There, disclaimer over.

In Shovel Knight, you fight to stop the evil Enchantress from spreading evil across the land. From the Super Mario Bros 3-esque HUB world, to the beautiful retro, medieval style, Shovel Knight is a love letter to games of the past. 

It is, in my opinion, one of the best retro games out there. The gameplay of Shovel Knight is tough, although initially seemingly basic. It requires the most accurate platforming you can muster, as well as tactical approaches to each stage. The boss battles are immense fun, as are the inventive platforming sections and puzzles.

As the game developed, more and more campaigns were introduced. In its current state of play, Shovel Knight offers a staggering 5 campaigns, each with different play styles. Shovel Knight certainly nails the variety factor, and since each play style is fantastic, I couldn’t recommend this one more.


8) Undertale (Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)

How this is a one-man project I do not know. 

In Undertale, you play as a young girl who has fallen into an underworld full of monsters banished from the surface. As you make your way back to the surface, you encounter a cast of some of the most memorable characters in the history of gaming. 

Most notable are the skeleton brothers Sans and Papyrus. The former is full of great one liners, while the latter is more neurotic than a Woody Allen protagonist.

The gameplay is very simple: beyond searching through the top-down world, the player engages in enemy battles. You control a small heart that has to avoid enemy attacks. When it is your turn, you can choose to attack the enemy. 

However, the real challenge of the game comes in doing a pacifist run. You can pass enemies without attacking by either fleeing, or sparing them. Enemies can be spared after they are sufficiently placated. This is where the fun comes in: placating enemies can be done by flirting with them, ignoring them, gossiping to one enemy about the other. The list is endless.

The soundtrack is wonderful too. The graphics are 8 bit but capture the tone very well.

Undertale is such a blast to play. It is, in my opinion, the best story you can find in an indie game/


7) Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

When Playtonic Games set out to make a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie in 2012, the signs were good. With some ex Rare members on board, fans thought they were going to a more deserving followup to Banjo-Tooie than 2008’s divisive Nuts & Bolts. 

Although the game was fairly received, it didn’t receive the glowing reviews the Playtonic team were probably expecting.

They certainly redeemed themselves 2 years following its release with the spin-off Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair. A spiritual successor to the Donkey Kong Country series, the Impossible Lair is a 2D side scroller.

You play as Yooka, a chameleon, and his bat, Laylee. The game sees you free bees at the end of levels, in order to improve your chances in the final level: The Impossible Lair.

The game is full of other goodies to collect, massively increasing your playtime. One notable feature is the ability to change the levels from the interactive hub world. For example, you can drop a block of ice onto an open book - which functions as doors to levels - and the next time you enter, the level will be an ice world. This is a truly innovative mechanic that really draws the gamer in.

Alongside this, the game is so well written and constructed that you will forget you are playing an indie game. 

Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a dream for Donkey Kong fans, as well as fans of 2D side scrollers. It’s one of the best games out there.


6) The Witness (PlayStation 4, Android, Xbox One, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS)

The Witness might seem like a slightly odd inclusion on this list. Indie games are usually praised for high octane, simple and addictive gameplay. Most of that cannot be said about The Witness, which broadly speaking is a first person puzzle game, devoid of enemies and action sequences.

So why do I feel the need to include Jonathan Blow’s second game on this list? Well, the reason I think The Witness deserves to be here is because it demands a whole new approach to gaming. Games generally like to hold our hands, to avoid frustration. 

I understand this, but it certainly limits the way we play games, and further, the way we look at the world. In The Witness, players are dropped on an abandoned island, with a set of puzzles to solve. There is no order to solve them in, and the closest we get to pointers as to where to go are certain sharp colours. 

Because you can complete the game in any order, it encourages your creativity, as well as demanding you think. Games are often criticised for being mind numbing, but this cannot be said about The Witness. 

Certain environmental puzzles, when solved, constitute the most satisfaction a video game has ever given me.

Although it is not high action, The Witness is beautiful and redefines what it means to play a game.


5) Hollow Knight (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems)

Just when the market seemed like it was flooded by Metroid Vanias, Hollow Knight came along and blew everyone away.

You play as a nameless knight, arriving at the derelict town of Hallownest. This place was once a magnificent kingdom, but an “infection” spread and ruined everything. Throughout the lengthy campaign, you set out to stop the spread of the infection and restore order and prosperity to Hallownest.

Hollow Knight is an absolute treat to the eyes. It’s hand drawn art style is so atmospheric and does a great job at establishing the game’s tone.

Although I want to avoid spoilers, I will just say that despite the seeming emphasis on gameplay, Hollow Knight has a rich story with bags of interesting lore to discover.

Throughout, you will fight a range of enemies that cannot just be beaten on the first playthrough. This game requires effort and determination. Instead of an autosave system, the player returns to the last bench they sat on once they inevitably die. This is a great gameplay device as it encourages active participation in the game.

As you fight creatures, you get progressively stronger and are capable of unlocking a range of spells and weaponry which make you feel much more powerful as things progress.

Hollow Knight is on practically every platform for around £15, which is an absolute steal in my opinion.


4) Fez (PlayStation 4, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Classic Mac OS, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3)

Recently ported to Nintendo Switch, Fez is arguably the most ambitious game on this list, at least in terms of gameplay.

You play as Gomez, who receives a Fez which reveals extra dimensions to his initial 2D world. What this amounts to is, with the bumpers, Gomez can flip between 4 sides of a three dimensional world in order to solve platforming puzzles.

This reminds me of Edwin A Abbott’s masterpiece Flatland, wherein a 2D character enters 1D and 3D realities. Like in the book, it is initially hard to understand what Fez is actually doing, but when you do, it’s beyond satisfying.

For example, by shifting from one 2D side to another, Gomez can scale a ladder that is from one perspective two different ladders on the opposite sides of the screen. This is only scratching the surface though; Fez rewards thinking outside of the box.

Alongside this incomparably novel gimmick, Fez also has a fantastic minimalist soundtrack and an extremely cute art style.

Just this month Fez found its way to Nintendo Switch, nearly 10 years after its initial release. It still goes down a treat today.


3) Castle Crashers (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4)

There is a reason Castle Crashers is still being talked about, played, and ported to new consoles over 13 years after its initial release on Xbox Live Arcade. 

This 2D hack and slash game also boasts RPG elements: you choose between a number of knights, each with USPs, and fight your way through the campaign. 

One of my fondest memories of Castle Crashers was the wide array of weaponry available to you. Not only that, but the enemies were plentiful also. This constant changing of weapons, enemies and environments meant every new level unlocked felt fresh.

Although a playthrough is a joy in single mode, co-op is where things really shine. If you can get 4 players together, then I guarantee you’ll be hooked to your screens all knight.

The game boasts a distinctive cartoony art style, and although it is plot light, the dialogue and visuals are laugh out loud hilarious. 

As you level up, a variety of new moves are unlocked, meaning this one will keep you occupied for a long time.


2) Cuphead (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Macintosh operating systems)

Cuphead is a 2D run and gun video game. You play as either Cuphead or Mugman, on a mission to recapture souls for the devil. The story is on the thin side here, but my oh my do they make up for it with the gameplay.

Cuphead is split up into run and gun missions, as well as boss fights. Although the former are great fun, the latter is where the game really comes alive.

The boss battles are difficult. Cuphead is a hard game. But it never feels unfair. The game encourages you to go in with a plan, rather than just all guns blazing, which adds a nice level of depth. 

Along with the near endless list of upgrades available, I also love CUpheads art style. In the years prior to its release, people were mainly interested in Cuphead because of the rubber hose animation style. If you like classic disney films, then you’ll like Cuphead.

The bosses come in different stages and are just a joy to look at. Most are inspired by rubber hose cartoons, from Mickey Mouse to Betty Boop, Cuphead wears its influences on its sleeve.

Playing Cuphead with a friend is one of the best multiplayer gaming experiences I’ve ever had.


1) Celeste (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia, Classic Mac OS)

Celeste is my game of the decade. 

At surface level, Celeste might seem like a fairly basic 2D platformer; you can run, jump, dash and hold onto things. However, the level of care and attention Maddy Thornson put into both the gameplay and the story make this one a joy to play.

You play as Madeleine, an amateur mountain climber who is trying to suppress her own demons in climbing Celeste mountain. ALong the way, you encounter a small cast of memorable characters, like mountain climber Theo and derelict hotel owner Mr Oshiro.

The story won plaudits for being both emotionally intelligent and pertinent to our modern world. So often video games come across as tone deaf or unemotional, but Celeste bucks this trend.

Along with the already insanely addictive platforming gameplay, each level comes with a B-side, with harder obstacles and new music (on top of an already wonderful 8 bit soundtrack). Collectible strawberries give the game massive replayability.

There are environmental challenges which make the game progressively harder, but these never feel forced or too difficult. Celeste is not a walk in the park, but the sense of satisfaction when you pull off a certain jump is insurmountable.

You need to play this one now if you somehow haven’t yet. It is available virtually everywhere, a sign of its success.

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As a Philosophy graduate and published creative writer, I write about gaming from a fresh and original perspective. I like browsing bookstores and reading when I can get away from Hyrule.
Gamer Since: 2002
Favorite Genre: Sports
Currently Playing: Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Top 3 Favorite Games:Bioshock Infinite, Crysis 2-Maximum Edition, Grand Theft Auto V