Top 10 Indie Games of 2021
2021 like every year before it, continued to deliver amazing games, especially in the indie space. I have a huge passion for supporting indie games and indie developers, as it was one of the things that inspired Game Infinite in the first place. In 2021 we also started ramping up support for indie developers with bi-weekly twitter events where we curate and showcase in progress or upcoming indie game news. We also launched our new month series Indie Game Round Up which will showcase indie game news that you may not have heard about. Indie Games are often games you don't hear about until after release and after they have had success. We want to contribute to news of indie games before they release. We have big plans for even more indie game content and plans for Game Infinite in 2022 that I am excited to tell more about as I am ready to do so.
We do a main Top 10 List every year and in that list, I focus on the AAA space keeping it to a top 3 in indie games. I could just do Top 10 AAA games but I don't want to filter out indie games completely, and I do want a pure Top 10 list. That helps still showcase some amazing AAA games that released. However, I will say I take this hybrid approach because I feel like all the games that go on my annual top 10 indie list are typically great enough to be in the full list, which is why I have this separate list. I will say that outside the Top 3, that the order of this list is less important than other lists, as indie games tend to vary widely subjectively in style and uniqueness, making their ranking more apple's and oranges than other games that may be able to reviewed in a more objective way.
RULES for our annual Top 10 List:
- December 1st 2020 - December 1st 2021 eligible. (Halo Infinite and Solar Ash are examples as anticipated titles eligible for 2022 lists)
- The majority of our Indie Picks are going in this list. The Top 3 games are of special note and may appear in the main Top 10 List of 2021. This was done to limit the list to 10.
- Remakes are allowed but remasters, DLC, seasons, are not; they go on a different list.
- Both Early Access and current year 1.0 releases allowed.
- If a game released in a prior year, but made it's first "notable, arguable, cultural" impact in current year it may be allowed. If it can be argued this game was not "discoverd" by the masses until current year, it is allowed.
- Major console releases may be allowed if that game was only available on PC in prior years, HOWEVER, Next-Gen Ports such as PS5 and XSX versions of previous year PS4 and Xbox One games are ineligible for list, treated same as remasters.
10. Death's Door
Death's Door is a phenomal, and often challenging top town action game. You play as a Raven creature that collects souls as part of their job. The art style is beautiful, the combat is challenging, and over all it a phenomenal choice to play on the go on the Switch.
Recompile is a fascinating and beautiful concept of a game. You are playing in a virtual computer world, as a program invading a system. The bright and colorful art style of it's very visual looking "protagonist" is just a unique take. This is a game that is so visually fascinating it must be seen instead of described. Recompile is an example of the type of creativity and unique premise that can be typically only found in indie projects.
8. Exo One
Exo One is a simple game in terms of gameplay. The premise is simple. You are playing as this eerie space probe, and the flight mechanics are very simple between diving and gliding. The worlds are vast, and empty. Where the game excels at is the mood it sets. The worlds feel empty in a way that is just eerie. They provide a sense of existential dread, like a genuine feel of what it would feel like to be alone on an entire world. Looking in all directions and seeing endless, lifeless, distance. The game has beautiful weather effects, varied worlds that make you want to keep going. It also has a mystery at it's core that keeps you intrigued.
7. Everspace 2
I seriously don't know why Everpsace 2 is not talked about more on more lists. This game is fun, engaging, and downright gorgeous. Why this is strictly a space sim in that it really focuses on the space travel instead of planet surfaces, it really nails the visuals. Planets look gorgeous, and flying around space is just solid. I regret that I didn't pick this one up until later in the year, because I wish I had more of the year to have played it! In addition to beautiful space scapes, complete with a full photomode, it has fun combat that will scratch any dogfighter itch you may have.
6. Rain on your Parade
Rain on you parade is a game that may turn some away with it's childlike art style. This may be a goofy cardboard cartoon game. It may remind you of other child-like games. I get vibes like Little Big Planet. But it is just goofy harmless fun. You literally play as a cardboard cloud floating around raining on people. It's good goofy harmless fun that kept me engaged longer than I expected. It is games like these that kind of really fit a need to be a cleanse from overly dark, gruesome, or mature. Fall Guys was my break from Last of Us 2, and Rain on your Parade is perfect break from other darker, draining games. Sometimes you need some color and a smile in your games.
5. Severed Steel
Severed Steel has stumbled upon a formula for shooters that honestly needs to be absorbed into a AAA studio. We need a full length, AAA Severed Steel 2. This is some next-level creative approach when it comes to FPS. It offers a revolutionary approach to shooters in a similar way that Super Hot changed how the "gun-fu" matrix shooter can be. Severed Steal evolves the Super Hot formula again and gives the player the control over the flow of time allowing seamless switching between slow-mo and real time. This is a game that makes you feel super powerful as you slide around, slowing down time at your whim, and it is hard to describe how fun of a shooter this game is. It is visually beautiful; reminisces the "Escape From Lab" premise of great games like Portal, and does it all with revolutionary gun-play.
Haven is a game I loved from the moment I first played it way back in 2020's Xbox's Summer Demo events. At the time, I awarded it the most anticipated game of the event out of dozens of games I tried. The game's art style and general feel reminds me of Gravity Rush 2 and Flower. The two main characters fly / float across this massive open alien world. It has beautiful pastures and vistas. The voice acting is fun, and the games
3. Bright Memory Infinite
Bright Memory Infinite is the full 1.0 version of the previously released Bright Memory, with various technical and narrative upgrades. Bright Memory Infinite is a very interesting and unique game. You might be surprised to learn that this is in fact an indie game, originally created by one man in it's early days with only minimal team and help later. Bright Memory Infinite questions what Indie Games are capable of. It asks the question that if an Indie Dev focuses on quality or quantity, can they pull off a game that looks and feels every bit AAA without the team and budget. Bright Memory Infinite is only about 2 hours long. It feels like a lengthy singular mission in a AAA game, and honestly I am ok with the brief length. This game is an experience. Could they have sacrificed the AAA visuals, next-gen weather effects, and polished gameplay for a longer experience? Surely, but this is a game that tries to max everything to 11, perhaps at the expense of game length. It's just a different type of game than the 20, 40, 100 hour games you may prefer. This game is just a wild ride, with insanely fun combat, and weather effects that just immerse you into this world. In Bright Memory Infinite you play as Shelia, a special ops super woman with swords, guns, weapons; a near unstoppable force in combat. You are investigating a strange weather phenomena being created by a Black Hole in the sky that the games antagonist faction is trying to destroy the world. It's a goofy somewhat over the top story at times, but it fits with the mood of the game. This movie is a two hour action movie flick with fun combat. This is a must play for anyone who wants to just enjoy some really pretty graphics and gunslinging blade swinging action for a evening.
2. Kena Bridge of Spirits
Kena had been on my anticipated list for a while, as the game just looks so intriguing. I was weary as a few early reviews I read painted the game in a disappointing light. However, I didn't see their disappointment when I finally got around to it myself. Kena is not only a fantastic new character (See: Top 10 new video game characters of 2021) welding one of the most interesting new weapons we've seen recently, (See: Top 10 new video game weapons of 2021), she takes us on one of the most beautiful journeys of the year. Kena is also one of the most difficult games I've played with challenging puzzles and solid combat.
1. Splitgate INDIE GOTY 2021
I truly struggled to find fault with Splitgate when giving it a final score. My most nitpick issue was perhaps a lack of cosmetics and customization options. It felt weird giving a 10/10 to a game that was still in early access, so the "unfinished nature" of the game, and little cosmetics to customize, landed it at a 9/10, but this game sat at the top of my list for months. It is just insanely fun. It is easy to pick up, but incredibly fun to master. This game is tactical gunplay at a level that I really enjoy. It rewards those who want to be strategic, find corners, and use portals in clever ways.
SplitGate is Portal meets Halo, and that formula just WORKS. It is such a perfectly blended formula that I can't believe it hasn't been done before. I hope that Splitgate grows and gets huge and stays as big as it is. I want a Splitgate 2. I want Splitgate lore. I want Splitgate characters and crossovers. I want more Splitgate.
This game "technically" released way back in 2019, however, I made it eligible of this list as in 2021 it released a big "Season 0" update, launched on consoles, AND made a huge cultural impact where 2021 is the year it was truly discovered by the masses. Like "Among Us" before it, the actual day it was available for download, and the year it "really" released to the public just isn't the same. This is the year it was discovered, and became so popular the console versions had to be pushed back to accommodate more servers. This is a 2021 game.
If you haven't played Splitgate yet, your have missed out on one of the most fun games of the year, and the best shooter we got this year. In a year where AAA absolutely dropped the ball on shooters with mega flops such as Vanguard and Battlefield 2042, Splitgate is here to deliver S tier multiplayer combat.