As 2023 is coming to a close, we thought it’d be a good idea to compile a list of the greatest indie games to release within the year. 2023 has been an incredible year for indie games, as not only have we received a metric ton of unique and undeniably passion-filled indie games, but many of them have managed to reach a much wider audience thanks to the help of services like Game Pass and PlayStation Plus.
For the purposes of this list, we’ve labeled “indie” as the games that are either truly developed and published by an independent studio, or the lower-budget, short, and sweet games that have that indistinguishable indie feel. Additionally, the games on this list are by no means the only great indie games to release this year, and I encourage everyone of you reading to continuously go out and search for more indies, as they can genuinely be some of the most interesting game experiences on the market. Alright, without further ado, let’s get into our favorite indie games of 2023.
This co-op horror extraction game took the world by storm just a month after its October 23 early access release on Steam. Lethal Company takes up to four players on missions to scavenge through various planets for scraps that you will then sell to the Company, who watches like a hawk to make sure you and your friends are meeting your profit quota. The catch? These planets are filled with a plethora of murderous insects, monsters, and other creatures that will torment and disrupt your otherwise simple mission.
Despite the game’s simple graphics and mechanics, Lethal Company is absolutely a front-runner for one of the scariest games to release this year, as things can take a turn for the worst in mere seconds at any moment.
Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars is described on its Steam store page as a “turn-based RPG inspired by the classics,” and you can feel that inspiration throughout every piece of the game’s world and systems. The vibrant pixel world and its sprites have an extreme resemblance to that of Square’s classic JRPG, Chrono Trigger. I didn’t even mention that the game is scored by none other than the composer for the Chrono series, Yatsunori Mitsuda.
Sea of Stars is more than just a retro Square-inspired RPG, though, as it takes a lot of the nostalgic elements of JRPGs from that era and modernizes them to make an unforgettable experience in 2023.
Dave the Diver
Dave the Diver’s beautiful 3D pixel graphics aren’t the only thing the game has going for it. The simplistic loop of diving for fish, exploring the depths of the Blue Hole, and managing a luxury sushi restaurant create an absolute joy of a game. Be prepared though, as fishing will include the potential to face off some of the dangerous creatures that reside in the deep ocean.
Dave the Diver also has a story to it that’s full of charm and comedy. You’ll meet several interesting characters that only heighten the experience.
Dredge is another game that takes place on the sea, only this time with a much darker spin. In Dredge, your task is to scour the sea and various isles for hidden treasures, valuable fish, and other discoveries, encountering new stories and characters along the way. Beware, though, as being out at night time is dangerous for a lone ship out at sea.
As you explore the world and discover valuables, you’ll be able to unlock new abilities to keep improving your ship’s efficiency and give you the edge you need to uncover the world’s mysteries and make it through the treacherous dark.
Made by the lead gameplay designer of LIMBO and INSIDE, Cocoon is an isometric puzzle game where you play as a world-jumping beetle uncovering the mysteries of the universe. Each world is contained within an orb that your beetle can carry with it in order to unlock abilities and travel between worlds.
Along with engaging puzzles, intense fights, and fresh and interesting new mechanics, Cocoon’s adventure is elevated by its artistic visuals and strong sense of direction.
Octopath Traveler 2
Coming off of the middling reviews of the first game in the series, Octopath Traveler 2 had a lot to prove, and boy did it do just that. Come for the absolutely beautiful HD-2D art style, stay for the compelling character stories. In Octopath Traveler 2, you have a cast of eight playable characters, each with their own unique stories, abilities, and paths for you to take throughout your playthrough.
The combination of pleasant visuals, an interesting party system, and an immersive world make Octopath Traveler 2 one of the best RPGs from 2023.
Hi-Fi Rush is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s a rhythm action game where the combat and surrounding world retroactively sync to the music. As any rhythm game should, Hi-Fi rush features an incredible soundtrack, with songs from several well-known bands, including Nine Inch Nails.
Hi-Fi Rush also has a uniquely cartoon-ish art style that serves the game’s style extremely well. If you’re looking for a fun, hack and slash adventure with banger tunes, Hi-Fi Rush is the game for you.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
Speaking of style, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk’s whole identity is style. Inspired by the classic Sega Dreamcast game, Jet Set Radio, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is the game that a lot of gamers have desperately wanted for over two decades.
You play as Red, a new member of the Bomb Rush Crew, with the goal of becoming the best graffiti crew in the city. In order to do this, you’ll go around vandalizing the city while performing cool skate and BMX tricks as you traverse. With rival crews to face off and new members to recruit, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is absolutely the most stylish and one of the most fun games to play from this year.
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is the first musical RPG where your choices affect the sound of the music in real time. With music by grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory, and voices from popular actors like Laura Bailey, Troy Baker, and Ashley Johnson, Stray Gods is a special experience with pretty much nothing like it. If you’re into theater, good music, or just a compelling story, look no further than Stray Gods.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Baldur’s Gate 3 (and even then, it’d be hard to not hear the screams about this game from above). Larian Studios released arguably one of the greatest games of all time with Baldur’s Gate 3 this year.
The D&D-based CRPG features an eclectic and lovable cast of characters, each with their own unique backstories, dialogue branches, combat specialties, and relationship dynamics. In Baldur’s Gate 3 you can choose to create your own character, choosing their race, class, and skills – or you can choose from one of the preexisting party members that you’ll meet along your journey. Each of these characters provide a fulfilling gameplay experience as you explore the world, interact with its various inhabitants, and face the many dangers awaiting at every nook and cranny.
Jusant is a game all about climbing. Your only objective is to climb atop this one enormous mountain, and although that premise sounds simple, it’s execution is sensational and engaging.
Climbing, a task that is otherwise very simple in most other games, requires much more input and critical thinking in Jusant. You individually move each arm in order to climb and get to where you want to go. You also have to manage your energy by stopping for a moment to recuperate and stop yourself from falling. It’s a mechanic that works and make climbing feel satisfying.
Additionally, the mountain is full of mysteries and stories to uncover about the people who lived there before. It’s a relaxing game that I recommend if you’re looking for something cozy to spend an evening with.