It looks like 2021 is shaping up to be another fantastic year for indie gaming – and may well hit the same high marks as 2020’s incredible crop of small studio wonders.
However, you would be forgiven for not having realized it; while games like Model and The rain on your parade naturally grabbed the headlines due to their inclusion on PS Plus and Game Pass respectively, a quick and swift release schedule for Q1 has meant countless wonderful experiences have been overlooked. With that in mind, here are five 2021 indies you probably missed, but definitely shouldn’t forget.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC; soon available on Switch
Price: $ 19.99
First person horror adventure Mundaun is cut from the same fabric as Amnesia and Layers of fear, and explores the mysterious death of your grandfather, whose grave you visit in the titular Swiss village – only to find it empty. Of course, you decide to figure it out. During the day, your environment is safe, if not bizarre; at night, the monsters come out to play.
Mundaun has a charm of its own thanks to its lovingly hand-drawn alpine decor, courtesy of talented lead programmer and Hidden Fields artist Michael Zeigler. It is both beautiful and terribly ugly; its weird and empty characters, alongside its downright bonkers symbolism and wicked sense of humor, only add to those feelings of suspense and unease.
He has some problems, that’s for sure. It’s a really hard game to understand at first; the clues are often devious, while the fight feels a bit forced, especially since it is combined with a Amnesia-Mental health / mechanical fear style. MundaunThe visual calibration of is also frustrating – the game is way too dark, forcing you to close the curtains and maximize your brightness settings to distinguish anything in its darkest scenes.
Since it’s a horror game, maybe that’s the point. Mundaun May not really be good at one specific area, but the sum of its parts creates an intriguing and utterly funnier eight to ten hour tale that’s well worth its asking price of $ 20.
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, Switch
Price: $ 14.99 / Included with Game Pass
As one of the latest coups for Game Pass subscribers, added from day one Genesis Black is a real contender for GOTY’s independent shortlists. This point-and-click adventure from developer Feral Cat Den – who successfully funded the project through Kickstarter in 2018 – channels the style and creativity of classic ’90s LucasArts games, but combines the age-old formula with an incredibly unique art direction.
Matching its unique visuals is a remarkable story focused on the very existence of the universe itself, where you play as a detective in a classic American film noir, as a high-end alternative to the surprise hit of 2020. Chicken Police: Paint it RED!. While its puzzles often trade clarity for style, the payoff is always wonderful, and it just might be one of the most original games of the year. At around five o’clock, it’s short but incredibly sweet.
El Hijo – A Tale of the Wild West
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Stadia
Price: $ 19.99
Landing on consoles in March after a late 2020 release on PC and Google Stadia, El Hijo – A Tale of the Wild West is one of those mind-blowing games that is just as satisfying to watch someone else have fun as it is to play it yourself – which is great because it’s the perfect title for families.
This beautiful isometric, non-violent stealth game follows El Hijo, a six-year-old boy, who searches for his mother after their farm burns down, and he is sent to a monastery for his own safety. The game world inspired by Sergio Leone and laden with red ocher is filled with bandits and other villains, who are beaten by timing, puzzle solving and deviousness.
Few games offer the effortless pace and careful development of skills that El Hijo makes and presents challenges regardless of your age and knowledge. The tone is quite different from anything that came before: feelings of fear and worry surge beneath the surface, but it really encourages you to think and act like a young child; you are a brave adventurer who feels invincible, even when your surroundings imply the exact opposite.
Buy by car
Platforms: PC, switch
Price: $ 24.99
Considering the world’s dependence on delivery drivers – even without a global pandemic that has resulted in higher demand than ever before – it’s surprising that it has taken so long to pit competing couriers against each other. other Mario kart Battle Mode style combat for cold hard money.
Buy by car, from BAFTA-nominated British studio Glitchers, may not offer the same value for money as the other games on this list – and it may not be perfect in terms of execution – but it is quirky and full of heart, building hard on the tested ties of vehicular combat tropes while offering something new and fresh, with intuitive controls and frantic gameplay.
Over the course of five-minute games, its various play modes – including the stunning tag-shaped piggy bank, as well as Gold Rush Day – are reminiscent of Fall out and Twisted metal. Whether or not its online community stays strong is up for debate, but there’s a lot to like here.
Lost words: beyond the page
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Stadia
Price: $ 14.99
Last but not least is Lost words: beyond the page, a tale written by superstar video game author Rhianna Pratchett – the driving force behind the first two tomb Raider restart. After more than a year of being a Stadia exclusive, this surprisingly moving story has finally landed on consoles and PCs, and it’s worth the wait.
This story-driven platformer offers a visual style reminiscent of Trip, Trine 4 and Max: the curse of brotherhood, with storybook sections reminiscent of the superb If found …; while you may feel like it is a melancholy and joyous tale, you will soon have the carpet torn under your feet.
At around five hours the game can be short, but those who expect a quick and challenging experience may be disappointed. However, everyone should really devote a night to this tale: it all works out perfectly, underlined by clever art direction and beautiful sound from its narration and score – and much like a freelance colleague. El Hijo, it is a beautiful reminder of the innocence and creativity of youth.