Indie studios don’t play in the same league as their triple-A counterparts. Yet, their creativity and dedication to their craft often succeed in eclipsing blockbusters with ten times more budget and marketing to their names.
From spiritual successors to Zelda like Tunic to roguelite masterpieces like Hades, not to mention idiosyncratic experiments like Cult of the Lamb, indie games have consistently made headlines recently. Published by a rookie Kiwi studio, the Lovecraftian tale of Dredge even made it to this year’s shortlist for best debut venture at https://thegameawards.com/.
As unexpected a success as these entries may be, they gradually grew on influencers and critics to the point of earning widespread publicity. Just as many hidden gems flow past the radar of the mainstream media and gamers alike, though. So, let’s give four indie gems some love, all of which are accessible on Steam.
Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars is a whimsical turn-based RPG that follows two Children of the Solstice channeling the powers of the moon and sun to repel the monstrous forces created by an evil alchemist. When they’re not saving the world from the wicked Fleshmancer, players can explore a gorgeous fantasy world, stopping by a tavern and sailing between islands – if not unearthing well-hidden easter eggs. Fans of The Messenger, the studio’s previous title still available on https://store.steampowered.com/, might even find this universe eerily familiar.
If nothing new in the narrative department, Sea of Stars plays its retro card beautifully. While it draws obvious inspiration from classics such as Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger, this love letter to the Super Nintendo era is no dull copycat of its glorious predecessors. This clever throwback to the JRPG golden days strikes a delicate balance between nostalgia and innovation, delivering on its promise to modernize the genre without betraying its core appeal.
We Need to Go Deeper
We Need to Go Deeper came out in 2019, but this creative submarine roguelike never quite received the attention it deserved. Its evocative universe alone, inspired by the works of the French visionary author Jules Verne, sets it apart from similar underwater adventures. The influence of the 19th-century sci-fi classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas is palpable as players explore an ever-changing undersea trench, whose randomized biomes and reactive difficulty system keep players guessing constantly.
One brave diver cannot survive this voyage into the deep on their own, however. Human interaction is key to facing the perils that await during the expedition, leaving gamers to cooperate with up to three friends or complete strangers – unless they’d rather join forces with bots to uncover treasures buried deep within shipwrecks or come upon ancient underwater civilizations.
Card Shark kicks off as the life of a mute tavern boy takes a decisive turn when he meets a mysterious nobleman. The secretive Comte de Saint-Germain rounds him up to swindle the elite circles of pre-revolutionary French society. Funnily enough, this shadowy figure mirrors an even more eccentric real-life character. Along their unscrupulous ascent to the top, con artists in the making embezzle other historical figures like the philosophers D’Alembert and Diderot, rising as far up as the King’s table. Yet, the game’s historical edge takes a backseat to intense card minigames where players use any underhanded tactic to win.
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Yoku’s Island Express
Yoku’s Island Express is a fun take on pinball, only with more exploration involved. In this side-scrolling platformer, players control a dung beetle, who becomes a postman upon arriving on the sun-soaked island of Mokumana. Soon enough, his initial plans of living a laid-back tropical life are thwarted by impending calamity. As the island’s deity gets trapped in a restless slumber, it is up to Yoku to save the day.
Mixing several genres effortlessly, Yoku’s Island Express is a hybrid entry whose non-linear gameplay calls for a wild-spirited adventure. If a bit chaotic, flipping around a hand-painted, Metroidvania-style open world is a joy through and through. There is no wonder why this inventive gem snatched multiple accolades, including a “Best Debut” award.