15 Upcoming Indie Games to Put On Your Radar in 2020
2020 looks to be another great year for indie games. Here are 15 of them to keep an eye on as the year rolls on.
Last week, we gave you 10 2020 releases that you absolutely shouldn’t miss. However, that list mostly dealt with the biggest games of 2020. What about all the awesome games being made by smaller studios? Well, here’s the list for them. Below are 15 incredible-looking games coming from the indie scene in 2020.
Before we start, it’s important to note that with the continually growing indie space in games, there are hundreds of games that could easily make this list. I’ve capped the list at 15 mostly for my sanity, but the initial shortlist for this article was a mile long. Here are a few extra honorable mentions you should give a look: TemTem, Boyfriend Dungeon, Griftlands, Minute of Islands, Sable, Roki, Baldo, Garden Story, Ikenfell, Knuckle Sandwich, and She Dreams Elsewhere. I also chose to not include Axiom Verge 2, as that was already covered in last week’s article. Anyways, on to the list.
This Legend of Zelda-like from Bytten Studio is actually out this week. You play as an unlikely hero in a procedurally generated world that flips from 8- to 32-bit pixel art. It looks to turn the typical conventions of the genre on its head with a wild storyline that features multiple endings. You can also play the game with a friend in local co-op. A Link to the Past is my all-time favorite game, so any game that looks to iterate on that excellent formula is automatically something I’ll be paying attention to.
Time loops are all the rage these days after the excellent Outer Wilds took the world by storm last year. Interestingly, 12 Minutes is another Annapurna-published game that explores the mind-bending concept. While Outer Wilds had you exploring an entire galaxy, 12 Minutes’ experience is a bit more intimate. As a husband trying to share a romantic evening with his wife, you’ll discover the many secrets taking place inside your apartment. On the surface, it might not sound like the most thrilling concept on this list, but everything I’ve seen has been very impressive.
Cook, Serve, Delicious 3
Before seeing this in action, I wasn’t really sure if the world needed another Cook, Serve, Delicious game. After all, how much more cooking, serving, and delciousing can a person reasonably expect to do? And then I saw that the game takes place in the post-apocalyptic US and you play as the owner of a food truck. As you travel across America, you must both cook food and fight off roving bands of evil cooks. It’s hard to imagine a cooking game with a better elevator pitch than this one.
Earthbound-like games are a dime a dozen these days. The SNES classic made a major impact on the developers of today, and we’re seeing that love play out in games like LISA, Citizens of Earth, and, of course, Undertale. However, there’s something about Eastward’s style that really sticks out to me. While other games have done a great job of capturing Earthbound’s charm and gameplay, Eastward also nails the look. If I close my eyes and imagine what Earthbound would look like in 2020, Eastward isn’t far off. Hopefully, the team at Pixpil can nail everything else it’s going for just as well.
Golf Story is my favorite game for Nintendo Switch. Full stop. And now Sidebar Games is adding tennis and dungeons and espionage and buried treasure and a meeting with a queen? I need this game yesterday. If Golf Story wasn’t up your alley, this probably won’t be either, but for us beings of superior intellect, Sports Story is set to be one of the most exciting releases of 2020. I cannot wait.
The Red Lantern
The Red Lantern basically looks like FTL except instead of crossing the galaxy, you’re racing the Iditarod with a team of the best boys. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the book Stone Fox. So, a game that lets me play out the fantasy of racing Searchlight through the Alaskan wilderness is very much right up my alley. My only worry is how brutal the game looks. The trailer has a scene where a bear attacks one of your dogs and I really hated watching it. Hopefully, that’s a rarity or else this might just become an idea I love and not a game I play.
Spelunky remains one of the best rogue-likes on the market. The platforming is tight and the game has so many awesome secrets for you to discover. The sequel looks to be more of the same and I can’t wait to join the community in uncovering all the weirdness that lies within. This spot could also easily go to UFO 50, which is another Derek Yu project I’ve been waiting for with bated breath. Crazy to think both games are likely for 2020.
This is a resource management sim that is all about dying. You play as a ferrymaster to the deceased. As you craft your way across the world, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve your custom death ferry. Spiritfarer has a unique setting that is well worth a look. However, the thing that really made me pay attention is the game’s visuals. The hand-drawn art quickly catches the eye and seeing it in motion is even better. I’m intrigued to see if the game’s look and premise are matched by its quality.
Spoiler alert for 2016’s Inside. Carrion is like that ending sequence where you play as the gigantic amorphous blob except that’s the entire game. Oh, and this blob is straight out of a horror movie and is very interested in eating everything. Publisher Devolver Digital describes it as “a reverse horror game” and I have to agree. The way the blob moves through the levels is both deeply unsettling and incredibly cool.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
Y’all remember how Hollow Knight is one of the best Metroidvania games of the last decade or so? Or how it was a perfect match for Nintendo Switch? Well, how would you feel if I told you Team Cherry was going to do more of that except even more polished? Great news! That’s what happening and it’s going to be great.
Ori and the Will of Wisps
If you are a fan of sequels to tough-as-nails platformers with Metroidvania elements, 2020 is going to be a great year. Getting both Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Hollow Knight: Silksong in the same year seems like an embarrassment of riches. Plus, Axiom Verge 2 is coming, which is a bit different, but still sits in that same realm. Personally, Ori is the one I’m least excited about; however, I can’t deny that this will probably be great.
Mineko’s Night Market
Mineko’s Night Market is maybe the cutest game on this list. The “adventure/merchant simulator” wears its Animal Crossing inspiration on its sleeve. However, developer Meowza Games aims to put a much bigger emphasis on narrative and crafting. You play as a young girl named Mineko who has arrived on an island filled with cats. Your options for what to do are varied, but discovering the game’s secrets and preparing for the weekly Night Market is paramount. Mineko’s Night Market looks like it could fill a similar space to games like Stardew Valley. Great experiences to sit back, relax, and let wash over you.
Cris Tales is billed as “a love letter to classic JRPGs”, but with a big twist. The game lets you simultaneously see the past, present, and future of your actions, which results in some fascinating situations. Maybe you warp your enemy into the future to make them older and weaker. Or you warp yourself to the past to make you shorter and are able to more easily dodge an attack. It’s an innovative idea that has major gameplay and narrative implications. The best part about Cris Tales is that there is a demo out on Steam right now. So, if you’re interested, you can go check it out and see if this game is up your alley.
Murder by Numbers
Picross is one of the best types of puzzle games in video games. However, outside of Picross 3D, there haven’t been that many innovations in the genre. Murder by Numbers looks to change that by adding a murder mystery narrative to the game. What a perfect marriage! And the whole thing is set to a score from Masakazu Sugimori who counts Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Viewtiful Joe among their credits. I need this game now.
Emily is Away <3
Both games in the Emily is Away series are incredibly moving experiences, especially for those of us who grew up in the time of MSN Messenger and AIM. The third game takes the series forward to a Facebook analogue. It’s tough to say if this release will hit as hard as the first two, but given the pedigree, I’m pretty confident in saying that Emily is Away <3 will be worth your time.
Obviously, the number of video games releasing in 2020 is vast. It would be a herculean task to try and cover everything. However, this list should be a great reference point for games to put on your radar. Of course, the best indie game of 2020 might not even be announced yet, but you can rest assured that when it is, DualShockers will be there to cover it.