These Are the Best Indie Games from E3 2019 That DualShockers Doesn't Want You To Miss
At E3 2019, DualShockers checked out some great indie games like NeoCab, Carrion, CastleStorm II, Boyfriend Dungeon, and more.
Each year E3 is home to many of the video game industry’s biggest titles, but that’s not all that is on display. Some of the most interesting games and concepts are tucked away on the show floor at booths like Indiecade or showcases like The MIX. DualShockers saw many commendable indie games over the course of E3 2019, and have complied a list of some of our favorites so they don’t go under your radar.
NeoCab – PC/Nintendo Switch (2019)
As a cyberpunk game where you play one of the last remaining rideshare drivers, I was fairly sure going in that NeoCab would be fairly existential and philosophical when dealing with topics like surveillance and technological determinism,. I definitely ended up being right about that, but I was surprised at how believable and well written all the dialogue was. Story based games live or die based on the quality of their writing, and the opening rides of NeoCab didn’t disappoint. If the initial pitch of being a cyberpunk rideshare piques your interest, I would definitely check out NeoCab when it release for PC and Nintendo Switch later this year.
Lemnis Gate – PC/PS4/Xbox One (Coming Soon)
I am not the best at first person shooters but I love strategy games, which is why Lemnis Gate piqued my interest. This shooter plays on a time loop of 25 seconds, and in that time players have to do their best to complete an objective like claiming a capture point. Of course, this is a competitive game so whomever you are playing against can counter your actions; that being said, you can also counter theirs. While the turn-based shooter concept may be a bit hard to grasp without playing, Lemnis Gate is poised to be a refreshing take on a genre that often lacks originality and will be one of the few competitive shooters on my radar going forward.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill – PC/Mac/Linux/PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch (2019)
Lonely Mountains: Downhill from Thunderful features a simple but addicting gameplay loop I can see myself spending hours with. Simply put, players have to make it to the bottom various mountain courses on a bike; that being said, the various level layouts, simple controls, and well-hidden shortcuts ensure that things aren’t as simple as they look in Lonely Mountains: Downhill. With the final game even featuring character and bike customization as well as hidden collectibles and leaderboards for levels, I could see Lonely Mountains: Downhill become the next addicting game to fill short five minute bursts of gaming freedom later this year.
Decay of Logos – PC/PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch (2019)
Call me a bad writer for this comparison, but Decay of Logos really is the indie love child of Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game obviously takes cues from Dark Souls in its bonfire and flask varients as well as its combat. What helps the game stand out from other Soulslikes is its striking art style. It exudes the same cel shaded charm as something like Breath of the Wild, which is really impressive for an indie game from a smaller team. As the game even managed to look great in Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode, I could see myself getting lost in the beautiful world whenever Rising Star Games releases Decay of Logos releases for Nintendo Switch.
Embr – PC (Early Access – Q4 2019, Full Release – Q3 2020)
While Embr tackles futurism like NeoCab, it does so in a much more satirical way. Players control a volunteer firefighter who was commandeered via a rideshare like app also titled Embr. As this less-than-qualified individual, players must attempt to save everyone in a burning house with the limited tools provided like a ladder, trampoline, and water hose. Even though I’m not always a fan of these low poly physics-based satirical games, something about Embr’s setting and core gameplay loop clicked with me so I will likely be checking the game out once it hits Early Access.
Eldest Souls – (2019)
Eldest Souls is a small indie development studio’s take on well, Dark Souls. While yes, I am sure you have heard that before, don’t look at this game as just another take on From Software’s popular game formula. From my 15 minute play session, I can tell that Eldest Souls is going to keep that brutal difficultly level of the Souls games while also innovating the gameplay and artstyle into a top down pixel art adventure. While I am ashamed to admit it that I wasn’t able to get passed the first boss, (they told me most other demo sessions didn’t either) I know that I did not want to put down the controller so that I could try again. Be on the lookout for this game if you want to get your Soulslike fix in.
Roki – (2019)
If you are a fan of thoughtful adventure games, Roki looks like it will be right up your alley. I was a big fan of the artstyle, animations, and overall theme I felt during my quick demo of the game. It felt lonesome while also keeping that sense of adventure we want in adventure games. It also featured your typical gameplay mechanics you would find in the genre like scavenging for clues or tools and using those items to solve puzzles that you might come across. If you are a big adventure game fan and a love hand drawn artstyles, keep your eye on Roki.
Carrion – PC (2020)
When I first saw Carrion in Devolver Digital’s wacky 2019 E3 press conference, it caught my eye because of their slogan of “reverse horror.” After my demo with the game, I totally get it. You play as a a creepy tentacle monster running through a Metroidvania style laboratory grabbing and devouring scientists and other soldiers or robots along the way. On top of that, you move just like you would imagine a giant monster like that would, very quickly and fluidly, using your tentacles to grab onto every wall or surface. It was definitely unlike any game I had played before. If you are looking for a game to take you on a power trip, Carrion will be right up your alley.
Star Wars Pinball – Nintendo Switch (September 13, 2019)
While Zen Studios develops a lot of games, one thing its more famous for is its pinball games. This year, the developer is gearing up for a full-fledged retail release of Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch and it’s a ton of fun if you’re a fan of the series. You’re not getting anything too crazy different here and that’s a good thing. The game seems like it is filled with content that’ll keep you occupied for hours, so if you like the pinball games of the past, this should be your jam.
CastleStorm II – PC/PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch (2019)
While CastleStorm II is from Zen Studios as well, this title is a completely different ball game compared to Star Wars Pinball as it is a turn-based strategy/tower destruction game. During each turn, players will have to face different enemies and complete separate challenges. Strategy games historically aren’t exactly my cup of tea; however, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart about the genre recently, and CastleStorm II might be a good jumping off point for me as it looked like a ton of fun.
Sayonara Wild Hearts – Nintendo Switch (2019)
Where do I even begin with this game? Between it’s vibrant art-style and fast-paced soundtrack, Sayonara Wild Hearts felt like a breath of fresh air for me. As a music-focused game where the player is riding a motorcycle, controls felt a little simplistic, but everything else about the game was very pleasing. If you’re in the mood for a relaxing but fun time, keep an eye on Sayonara Wild Hearts.
No Straight Roads – PC/PS4 (Early 2020)
I’m not going to lie, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this music-fueled action adventure game at E3, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. I’m a big fan of both EDM and rock, so a game that combines both in a musical journey is bound to get my attention. The game’s controls feel nice and the art-style feels perfect for what the developers are going for. No Straight Roads is another game I’ll be keeping my eye on.
Manifold Garden – PC/Mac/Linux/PS4 (2019)
There’s a reason this game won DualShockers’ Best Puzzle Game Award at E3. Its art style is unlike anything I’ve seen in a video game and its gameplay is uniquely challenging. While I can’t really comment on the story it’s going to tell, Manifold Garden was a ton of fun and definitely felt like the right game to give the award to.
Infinite Children – PC/Mac (Available Now)
From Peter Brinson, an artist and programmer who graduated from UNC, came Infinite Children, perhaps the most bizarre and possibly most compelling experience I had at E3 2019’s IndieCade booth. The pitch alone was intriguing — it is a narrative game, already released, that expands permanently for every player when Steam achievements are earned. If that wasn’t confusing enough already, the experience itself felt like a crossover between film directors Terrence Malick and David Lynch. The player is somewhat omniscient, observing the stories of a number of generations in a family, played through vignettes and bizarre story interruptions. As the story adds on the more people play it, the game itself is a metaphor for how art and media change the more people experience it—think of how Game of Thrones evolved due to its popularity, and how it is basically impossible to rewatch earlier episodes with the same eyes and opinions you had then.
Keen – PC/PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/iOS/Android (Q3 2019)
No, this isn’t that weird reboot thing that Bethesda announced, but rather something entirely new and original. Keen comes from studio Cat Nigri, and one could describe it as a tactical puzzle-combat game. Players take the role of Kim, a girl with attitude fighting an evil corporation from destroying her village. Gameplay consists of moving Kim in a single direction, sliding her around the screen with only obstructions stopping her movement. As such, getting around each screen is a puzzle all onto itself, even without enemies that move the same way. Think of Hitman Go or Tomb Raider Go, or even the sliding arrow panels from the Team Rocket hideout in the original Pokemon. Movement is simple and attacking is basically automatic, but it’s a challenge to master the strategy in navigating the field. You’ll move from screen to screen in each level, eventually having to solve puzzles involving hitting buttons precisely to move on. Keen also boasts a cartoony art style with bold colors, with large character models having distinctive features.
Killer Queen Black – PC/Nintendo Switch (Q3 2019), Xbox One (Q4 2019)
If you, like myself, haven’t played Killer Queen on arcade yet, Killer Queen Black might be a competitive couch multiplayer game to look out for. Two teams of four each compete in a hive of some sort, one player on each team being the Queen and the rest being Drones. A team can reach victory through three different means: Military, which involves killing the opponent Queen three times, their lives represented by eggs; Economic, where the Drones collect enough berries around the map for their team; or Snail, where Drones can ride a slow-moving Snail across the stage. The Queens have attack capabilities, and in my quick play sessions as the Queen, I took responsibility for attacking both the enemy Queen and preventing the opponent Drones from completing their tasks. It was a lot to keep track of, and the gears in my head began to turn thinking about the many strategies that coordinated teams (read: not my team of random E3 convention goers) could enact.
Knife Sisters – PC/Mac (Available Now), Android (Soon)
Probably the most progressive and personally relatable I found on the E3 2019 show floor was Knife Sisters, a visual novel that focuses on queerness and BDSM. The protagonist is Leo, a 19-year old non-binary person, who is trying to pick up the pieces from a night they had forgotten. Through flashbacks, you meet a number of diverse characters, one being a new roommate named Dagger who appears to be into some strange cultish-type shenanigans. Playing as Leo, the player balances time between three different partners, navigating through dates and encounters. The dialogue system has a feature I thought was unique—as time passes, some options go away and are replaced with more passive dialogue choices, which I felt emulated the real-life and real-time anxiety of conversations and missing opportunities.
Decisions will get you either “essence” or “anxiety,” with the former making the latter go away. Crafted through Unity Ink, the black-and-white art style has a lovingly and purposeful “rough” look to it. To me, it was exhilarating, authentic, and most importantly, hot, which video games generally have a hard time doing. I saw myself and other people I know through the characters, making it an easy recommendation for queer folks who play games. Knife Sisters is already available on Steam and itch.io, on Mac, PC, and hopefully soon, Android—the content proved to be too much for iOS standards, unfortunately.
Boyfriend Dungeon – PC/Mac (Coming Soon)
Having demoed and covered Boyfriend Dungeon from Kitfox Games already, the new E3 2019 demo at the IndieCade booth had a sense of familiarity for myself. To get the unfamiliar up to speed, this game is a combination dungeon crawler and dating simulator, with the weapons you use in dungeon levels being personified as, well, very attractive people. The new one I encountered was Isaac, a financier and fencing instructor who quite literally was an épée. The usual flirtatious banter was unexpectedly interrupted by his father, a rather tepid and strict individual. I got some gameplay time with Isaac when going down to the “dunj,” a shopping mall invaded by monsters, where I tried out Isaac’s moveset, distinct from the characters I tried out back at PAX East 2019.
I pressed Victoria Tran, the community manager at Kitfox, for some lore-related and mechanics questions I couldn’t get out of my head. For one, I found out that monsters were quite normal, and your character is basically part of a force that clears out these infestations. The story moment in Isaac’s scene made me curious—could dates go awry? Is it possible for toxicity to come about in these relationships? The short answer was no—Boyfriend Dungeon is a game focused on positivity and healthy relationships, which should hopefully make for a wholesome experience. Other questions like what are the other weapons doing while not being used in battle didn’t have clear answers yet, but I did get some more mechanical details—I noticed how your character’s room has space for “zines,” a mirror, and trophies, with zines being used for special moves, and shops on the map allowing players to purchase new pieces of clothing to customize their character with. I can’t wait for that soundtrack too, because that song that played during the demo was a real banger.
What are your thoughts on the indie games DualShockers saw at E3 2019? Are there any other indie games from E3 that we didn’t mention but you want to point out? Please comment down below and let us know about your favorite indie games from E3 2019!