Indie games come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and formats. They can be anything from a leisurely adventure through a desert to a scary card game with a stranger. You could fight for Aseir, or death itself, or just get to know someone. Or move.
This year some of the most diverse indie games of all time have been released, where experimental ambitions have been met with surprisingly fun and successful games. We’re just listing a handful of the best indie games that came out this year so you might find something you don’t have. Of course, feel free to argue for missing titles in the comments. Also, vote in the community poll below to let us know your favorites among this list of the best indie games of 2021.
Although the Valheim’s drums are not nearly as loud like at the beginning of the year, this survival game of building a Viking base is still well worth the cheers. Valheim has a distinctive style that makes for beautiful views and so many details to discover. There was something for everyone with loads of biomes to explore, beasts to kill, and structures to build. And even with its sprawling multiplayer and huge worlds, there was still too much to do.
The boss fights alone were a highlight, with huge monsters that were a real challenge and a lot of preparation had to be mastered. It may not exactly stand out from the titans of the genre, but something about Valheim made it incredibly popular and difficult to put down.
The door of death
A lot of indie games try to have that melancholy feeling when you play them: desolate, remote worlds and quiet, deserted places to wander through. Most can’t keep this feeling up because of enemies, storylines, or excitement getting in the way. Death’s Door manages to effortlessly combine this feeling of loneliness with an astonishingly profound combat system.
The almost black and white art style makes everything in the game seem more cinematic as you play as a reaper who comes for souls who refuse to pass on, but it’s the nerve-wracking, super-fast paced fight that manages to keep you tied to death’s door to hold undeniably strong aesthetics.
Sable has been on the road for years. Check out our most anticipated indie game for literally years and you’ll see it there, mockingly out of reach. But now it’s out and it was worth the wait. First of all, it’s worth noting how undeniably beautiful Sable is. Hand-drawn graphics, inspired by science fiction landscapes from texts like Dune and Star Wars, with colors evolving throughout the day and night, mean you can stand completely still and have a lovely experience in Sable. You don’t save the world in Sable; you explore it. Your goal is not to overcome adversity, but to discover yourself.
As a child, you play in a coming-of-age ritual where you have to leave and find a mask to represent you. The world and cultures you encounter are all alien and so alluring. Like Breath of the Wild, this is a game that invites you with its horizon. Every landmark is explorable and everything can be approached in any order.
Sometimes you just want to get to know someone. And sometimes you just want a cool gun. In Boyfriend Dungeon, you can do both at the same time. Boyfriend Dungeon is a surprisingly moving dating sim where the potential suitors are also weapons used to explore deadly dungeons. If that’s not enough, then maybe you should reconsider your interests.
Like every game on this list, it looks awesome, with great art and use of color. The story is interesting, sometimes controversial, but always interesting. And the fight is really fun.
The forgotten city (8.5)
The Forgotten City is one of the best games of the year regardless of the genre. What started out as a big, big Skyrim mod became a game of its own with an even more layered story in the game. The forgotten city is made up of dozen of stories, civilizations, and ideals that build on one another. Each half ruined, half mysterious.
As the newest citizen of the Forgotten City, your goal is to understand and anchor the Golden Rule that governs the lives of city dwellers.
Chicory is a game for children. It’s inspired by coloring books and has that cute vibe that will keep your heart warm for long after it ends. And that is what makes it extraordinary. No matter what year you’ve been through, you probably haven’t written enough coloring books or almost enough adventures with talking dogs with magic brushes. Chicory is the best way to hit your recommended dose of lovely food.
You play as a dog with a paintbrush and search for color in the world. Puzzles are solved by painting the correct colors. Chicory is simple and beautiful through and through. It’s one of those indie games that don’t tire of being warm and fuzzy, like Wanderersong.
Moving can be one of the most stressful things a person can do in Western society. From the initial cleaning up of unwanted belongings, to carefully packing everything you need, and silent prayer that everything will survive the journey and be found on the other side. Then you have to unpack, take everything you have with you and try to find a home for everything in another room. It’s mentally and physically demanding.
On the flip side, Unpacking, a game where you lovingly choose a home for every object your fictional self possesses, is one of the most beautiful indie games to come out this year. There is a story told by the places you move and the things you take between them, starting with your child’s room. But there’s something nice about taking the pressure of moving and letting you patiently pick a place for each object, all with relaxed lo-fi hip-hop in the background and beautifully colorful pixel art.
There is something disturbing about inscryption. There is actually a lot in the game that makes you nervous, but there is something else, something that is not immediately obvious that gives you goose bumps. But don’t ask me what it is. It’s different for everyone.
Inscryption is a deck building game where you play against a stranger you can barely see. The maps feel alive and the room is full of worryingly animated occult artifacts. The graphics almost feel choppy, like the core game is broken or has a bug, which makes it even stranger.
On the surface, it feels a bit like some other scary occult games like Cultist Simulator (without the luggage), but Inscryption has so much more to offer, and even the game itself has many nuances, oddities, and surprises to overcome .