Best Indie Games of the Decade: Part 2 2015-2019

Welcome back! We’ve loaded back up our previous save and are ready to carry on our look at the best Indie games of the decade. Last time we covered 2010-2014 and now we’re moving onto the next level and see what 2015-2019 had to offer. If you haven’t read 2010 to 2014 do that here, otherwise we are just carrying on looking at the best indie game of each year; along with an honorable mention because we don’t like our number 1 picks feeling so lonely.

2015 saw an increase in Kickstarter funded games and with that new avenue of funding saw more and more ambitious games being created. Indie talent also drew the attention of big studios and publishers as well. It seemed everyone was eager to be a part of the next big thing.

Which is exactly what happened in 2015 when after two years in development following a successful Kickstarter a seemingly niche RPG exploded onto the scene and became perhaps the most well known Indie Game of the Decade.

2015: Undertale

The trick to battles is figuring out how best to talk to your foes. Or just murder them if you’re a monster.
Source: Undertale, Toby Fox

There have been few games this decade with the impact of Undertale. Created by Toby Fox it’s the RPG where no one has to die. Trapped in a subterranean world full of monsters, you are a nameless child trying to escape back to the human world, all whilst being hunted by those wishing to capture you so they can finally escape themselves. A pleasantly pacifict feature; Undertale is a game where you can easily forgive your attackers… Or just brutally cut them down.

Undertale features an outstanding original score including the massively popular tune Megalovania, guaranteed not to leave your head for a few days. On top of this, the hilarious writing as you come across wacky characters like the skeleton Sans and his brother Papyrus who is looking to capture you with junior word jumble puzzles and low dating standards makes for a genuinely engaging experience. Continuing the peaceful options, turn based combat involves you avoiding enemy attacks while also trying to figure out what you can do to find a peaceful solution to your current predicament; a somewhat unique experience.

Unless you decide to just kill your enemies. This is known as a “Genocide Run,” and in these playthroughs the world become terrified of you. Heroes attempt to defeat you, enemies beg for their lives as you show them no mercy and the game ends with a epic boss fight unlike any other. Undertale is also a game that doesn’t take these choices laying down. It remembers previous playthroughs knowing for example that if you did a genocide run first remarking how strange it is you’re only now trying to be peaceful. All of this combined makes Undertale a fantastic experience that while on the short side, it will stay with you long after you’re done.

Honourable Mention: Her Story

After finding a key word it’s time to search. Hopefully the next clip won’t be a dead end for you
Source: Sam Barlow

Her Story at first glance seems like a normal interactive movie game. Created by Sam Barlow you’re viewing clips of several police interviews with British woman Hannah Smith. Attempting to find out what exactly happened as you watch her answer a series of questions by an off screen detective. The problem is however you can’t watch the interview in its entirely. Viewing small clips you have to pick up keywords Hannah says entering them into a search engine to find even more clips until you can successful piece together the series of events. Her Story is a gripping investigative story where the truth unfolds along with you, creating a game that really is a triumph and really shows you how games can come in all shapes and sizes.

2016: Darkest Dungeon

An art style that is influenced by comics like Hellboy. Combat in Darkest Dungeon is swift, brutal and completely without mercy
Source: Red Hook Studios

Dungeoneering can be a dangerous career path. Full of unexpected challenges and deadly enemies to fight; the toll of which can be quite demanding. Red Hook Studios took this to its natural conclusion with Darkest Dungeon; a rogue-like roleplaying game where after inheriting an estate from a distant relative you discover he was digging into a series of Dungeons and catacombs deep underground unleashing untold cosmic horror. As you do.

Darkest Dungeon allows you to recruit a party of adventurers and send them into a variety of Dungeons. Seeking treasures, finding clues about your relative’s descent into madness and maybe even saving the world. Don’t get too attached to your group though. This game does not pull its punches as adventurers can be killed or worse, go mad from the stress of it all. It’s a game that forces you to treat these heroes as usable commodities as you make sure you get enough from each Dungeon run to better your estate so the next time you recruit a eager new recruit they start off just a little bit better than the last unfortunate soul.

Parties venturing into the Dungeon go up against all sorts of horrors in turn based random encounters that rely on strategy, party order and just a bit of luck. All accompanied by the harrowing tones of voice actor Wayne June, Darkest Dungeon goes all in on its premise providing a fantastic if sometimes all consuming atmosphere. Or as the game might say. “The abyss returns even the boldest gaze.

Honourable Mention: Firewatch

With it’s beautiful graphical style. Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re playing an actual game and just go off to explore.
Source: Campo Santo

Walking Simulators took off in a big way this decade. Games that offer a slightly more on rails story experience in exchange for a minimal gameplay, Firewatch is an adventure game developed by Campo Santo in which you play as Henry (Rich Sommer) a man wishing to get away from society. Taking a role as a Fire lookout at Yellowstone national park your main point of contact is your supervisor Delilah (Cissy Jones). What starts out as a routine job surveying the national park for potential forest-fires takes a turn for the weird when Henry discovers mysterious occurrences happening and the realisation that maybe he isn’t as alone as he thought.

Firewatch offers a fantastic story with a bold and vivid art style. The two main characters Henry & Delilah shine through and as the game unfolds your choices help to define their relationship. This coupled with both fantastic writing and performances creates a worthwhile narrative experience.

2017: Hollow Knight

You’ll never know where you’ll end up in Hollow Knight. Perhaps if you’re brave enough you’ll attempt to fight through enemy waves to conquer the Colosseum of Fools
Source: Team Cherry

The Metroidvania is a subgenre of action game where you’re usually tasked with exploring a large interconnected world, discovering secrets and uncovering new abilities which help you travel to previously blocked off areas. While having their origins in both the Metroid & Castlevania series of games they have recently become a staple of the Indie Game scene.

Hollow Knight is a 2D Metroidvania created by Team Cherry and is another Kickstarter success story. Playing as an adoreable bug known only as “The Knight” you arrive in a distant corner of the world to explore Hallownest; a subterranean insect kingdom which has long since fallen to ruin. Many come to Hallownest lured by rumours of treasure, though more sinister things lurk in its darkened corners.

In Hollow Knight you’ll explore different themed areas, fight a variety of bug like enemies, unlock amazing new upgrades and return to previous areas to find even more secrets than before. The game is beautiful both in it’s animated art style and riveting soundtrack, borrowing not just from other Metroidvanias but also from the Dark Souls series. This can be seen both in its storytelling style, where NPC characters will have story arcs that weave in and out of your journey and in its death mechanic where you’ll have to return to the point of your death to get back your loot.

Hollow Knight is a gameplay tour de force and with so much to do and see in Hollownest you’ll want to keep coming back time and time again to see The Knight’s quest through.

Honourable Mention: Cuphead

With just 3 HP can you best bosses such as Goopy le Grande
Source: Studio MDHR , Microsoft Game Studios,

It’s a Good day for a swell battle! Cuphead is run and gun action game from Studio MDHR with an art style heavily influenced by the animation of the 1930’s. Where you and your brother Mugman have to take on increasingly difficult boss fights to pay back your debt to the devil. Cuphead is just beautiful to look at with a gorgeous and vibrant art style but also has a fantastic jazz soundtrack that helps with it’s sometimes crushing difficulty. This a game where you only get one shot to defeat your enemy or it’s back to the start of the level. Be sure to grab a friend for co-op though and hope your skills are up to the test because you’ll need them to score that all too crucial Knockout!

2018: Celeste

Madeline can only jump once. Her blue hair indicates she can’t do it again. However if you can get that diamond you might just be able to get another jump out of her.
Source: Matt Makes Games

We all have our struggles, demons to conquer and mountains to climb; that last part is especially true for Celeste, a platformer by Matt Makes Games. Originally created during a game jam it would later be expanded upon as a full game to critical praise.

In Celeste you play as Madeline a young woman determined to climb the rather imposing Celeste Mountain (a fictitious version of a real mountain located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia). Along the way she’ll have to deal with a ghostly manifestation of her inner thoughts, her depression & anxiety threatening to derail the entire endeavor; but most the time you’ll just have to avoid falling to your death. Easy peasy.

Celeste’s chapters involve you navigating a variety of locations from an abandoned fort, a haunted hotel to a hidden temple. Madeline herself jumps in all eight directions, and boost just once to read ledges which resets her boost. She can also scale up and down walls but only for a certain amount of time or else you’ll fall. Entering from room to room you’ll have to quickly work out through trial and error the right way to navigate one side of the screen to the other without falling to your doom. Though if you’re only there for the story Celeste features a fantastic set of tools to help modulate the difficulty to your choosing so no one gets to miss out on this trek up the mountain.

Honourable Mention: Iconoclasts

The bosses of Iconoclasts are definitely a highlight. The beautiful sprite work and music also help!
Source: Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg

Iconoclasts, from Swedish developer Joakim Sandberg, at first glance starts off as a traditional 2D platformer with some slight Metroidvania elements. However as the game expands and you see the scope of the world you’re sucked into something deeper. Playing as Robin, a rogue mechanic on a world where the dogmatic “One Concern” rule with an iron fist, you are drawn into discovering the mysteries of a dying planet. Iconoclasts features beautiful pixel artwork, fantastic level design and some truly awesome boss fights. The story it tells is rather adult in nature. Characters struggle with the concept of faith, lose loved ones and even more as the end of the world looms. If you’re after a somewhat different type of story but still want to play an old school style platformer then Iconoclasts might just be the ticket.

2019: Disco Elysium

While your partner might be more straight laced. Never stop that from using your skills to force people to give you their Sandwiches.
Source: ZA/UM & Robert Kurvitz

The joy of Tabletop Role playing games is the feeling that you as a player can do just about anything; whilst Video Games usually offer a more limited version of that. Sometimes however, a game will push that illusion as close as it can get. The detective RPG Disco Elysium created by Estonian studio, ZA/UM & written by Robert Kurvitz, uses the tabletop RPG as a blueprint as you play an amnesiac detective attempting to solve a murder in the fictional city of Revachol in the winter.

The joy of Disco Elysium is you get to really define your character. Are they smart, emotional, strong or agile? Though all things come at a cost. Smart characters might be terrible at social interaction or physically intimidating detectives might struggle with manual tasks. As the game unfolds you engage in dialogue trees that depending on your stats can be simple yes or no questions or deviate into something weirder.

What makes this game so engaging is it rewards you for leaning into that weirdness. Those trying to abuse the stat system to “Win the game” will find their time in Revachol quite mundane but those willing to go a bit out there will find the experience more rewarding. With its Thought Cabinet system certain ideas get you better rewards. Being a full blown Communist or a Fascist might alienate some witnesses but it will gain the trust of others. Or just drive your partner Kim Kitsuragi further away from you. Disco Elysium is a story full of engaging characters, a mystery you’ll want to solve and writing so sharp you’ll be hooked from the get go. Though if that doesn’t sell you The tagline for the game is “Become a hero or an absolute disaster of a human being.”

Honourable Mention: Untitled Goose Game

“Honk!”
Source: House House Games

It’s a lovely day in the village, and you are a horrible goose; this is the entire plot of Untitled Goose Game. Made by Australian developer House House it’s a puzzle–stealth game which tells a simple story of a small English village being terrorised by a Goose. What do they want? That isn’t really the point. The point is to cause as much chaos as possible. The Goose is given a set list of tasks to accomplish before more of the village is unlocked however for the most part it’s just a joy to sneak around. Avoiding people and then stealing their stuff. With a charming dynamic soundtrack that changes pace and tempo depending on how much of a horrible goose you’re being. It’s a lovely experience and while not the longest of games, you’ll enjoy your time in this small village being just the worst.

So that is it, an entire decade’s worth of Indie Game condensed into 20 games. This list could have easily been more though. Indie Games were definitely the big winner of the decade and we can’t wait to see what Indie Developers have in store for us in 2020.

Do you agree with our list? Or just want to tell us how much you loved Hollow Knight? Either way, why don’t you leave a comment or tweet us here – and see you in the year 2020 for more great gaming!

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