There are plenty of great games to look forward to in 2018, but with all the big-name titles to anticipate, it can be easy to let some of the smaller gems slip under your radar.
Here are 39 awesome looking indie games you shouldn't overlook in 2018.
An emergent soundtrack made of rhythmic drum beats and cymbal crashes accompanies every swift punch and throw in this hyper-violent top-down action game about an escaped gorilla. Learn more on its website.
Isometric tactics games have never looked this charming. Bad North is about defending tiny, procedurally generated island from Viking invaders, in what developer Plausible Concept calls both “charmingly brutal” and “deceptively simple.” Learn more on its website and Twitter.
Bernband is already a few years old at this point, but the first-person exploration game set in a whimsical alien city became is getting expanded into something even bigger. It’s been awesome watching it grow over time into something potentially even greater than the original. You can follow it on Twitter.
Like the games of Keita Takahashi, the upcoming Burrito Galaxy seems to have a deep and natural understanding of fun and play. Everything in it feels alive, from its characters to its worlds to its energetic soundtrack — even its dialogue boxes. It’s a weird and colorful playground that doesn’t hide its inspirations, but also isn’t content to merely copy them, creating something uniquely its own. It’s shaping up to be something truly special. Follow it on Twitter.
Children of Morta
Children of Morta’s strikingly detailed pixel art might be the first thing you notice about it, but one of its most charming elements is its focus on a strong family bond that spans generations. Procedurally generated dungeons and a cast of characters that are distinct in appearance and ability promise to keep the game fresh and unique every time you play.
Lilith is a master at constructing worlds you can spend the whole day getting lost in. Crypt Underworld is a sequel to her most iconic work, Crypt Worlds, and — if we’re lucky — will fulfill exactly that, but much, much bigger. A self-described “first-person hell labyrinth,” Crypt Underworlds promises to feature aggressive urinating, an upgradable apartment, and “more in-game strip malls than you can imagine.” According to its Kickstarter, “every alley, every door, will lead somewhere worse than before.”
Dead Static Drive
The Twitter for Dead Static Drive describes it as a “road trip in a world of cosmic horror,” which — alongside games like Overland — is looking more and more like its own subgenre. A dreamy, muted color palette and simple low poly art make this one especially GIFable. Learn more and follow its development on Twitter.
Death Trash is a vulgar cyberpunk RPG set in a grotesque post-apocalypse. It pitches itself as more Planescape: Torment and Ultima 7 than the action-heavy RPGs of today. While there’s certainly combat, there’s a much bigger emphasis on story, character, and world building — like Fallout, with a lot more body horror. Its pixel art is a messy, riotous reflection of its coarse attitude — everything in its world seems coated in miscellaneous bodily fluid, gore, graffiti, or some nasty combination.
Desert Child is a racing RPG that will tell a “rags-to-riches” tale of an aspiring hoverbike racer as he works his way up from working meager jobs and making some money on the underground circuit, to — hopefully — making it big at the Solar Championship Cup. Inspired by anime like Redline and Cowboy Bebop, it already boasts a sharp style and energy evident in each GIF and video. You can download its free demo on Game Jolt.
Donut County is a weird one to explain. It’s a toy-like, physics playground of a game about navigating a hole around cute landscapes and watching things disappear into it. The more objects that fill the hole, the bigger it gets. Its pastel color palette and cute low poly art feels at odds with the gaping opening in the ground, making Donut County feel at once playful and mysterious. That’s not out of line for its themes, either. Donut County is both a love letter to Los Angeles and an interactive treatise on the nature of gentrification.
A sleepwalking farmhand roams the desolate sepia-toned wasteland that was once America in Fallow, a Southern Gothic point-and-click adventure that looks as dreamy and dark as it does beautiful.
The Gardens Between
Remember the mountain in Mountain? The Gardens Between reminds me of that, but driven by a tale of two friends. It’s a game about childhood and friendship, set across a series of surreal islands sprouting with personal trinkets and other objects of sentimental value.
Harold Halibut is a stop motion-inspired claymated adventure game about a lone janitor stranded on a submerged spaceship deep below the surface of a mysterious water planet. The ship was originally meant as humanity’s last-ditch effort to continue life outside of Earth, but the crash-landed would-be utopia now serves as the bitter home of inhabitants born generations after the original launch. As part-time lab assistant to one of the lead scientists on board the ship, it’s up to you to explore the vessel, interact with its occupants, and try to make a second launch possible.
What will the internet look like in the future? With the FCC recently voting to repeal net neutrality protections, that's as heated and relevant a question as ever. Jay Tholen, the creator of Dropsy, explores it with trademark dark comedy in Hypnospace Outlaw, a wild web browser simulation. You are a Hypno Enforcer, a shady agent of the law whose job it is to track down internet outlaws and other cyber criminals by scouring the digital storefronts and chatrooms of the web. The webpages of Hypnospace’s future internet is technocolored and dystopian, like Geocities in a totalitarian state. It’s funny, hyper, weird, and almost frighteningly familiar.
Jenny LeClue is for everyone who grew up loving Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes, but craves a new detective adventure for the modern era. It promises rich characters, a clever metanarrative, and weighty choices in a classic mystery tale that will appeal to players of all ages.
The Joylancer: Legendary Motor Knight
The Joylancer is a technical action platformer in the style of old Game Boy games. You play Joy Lantz, a skilled motor knight out to save the world with the help of her massive motorized drill-lance. Its combat is fierce and explosive and its rendering of old-school games of its ilk is both faithful and fresh.
Long Gone Days
Long Gone Days combines visual novels, RPGs, and shooters to tell the story of Rourke, a soldier who has abandoned his post after learning the truth about a deadly covert op he was lead to take part in. Most immediately striking about Long Gone Days is its style — combining clean, but detailed pixel art with anime-inspired characters. You can download its demo on itch.io.
One of the most striking looking games in development right now, Manifold Garden is a mind-bending first-person puzzler set across a series of Escher-esque structures that are dizzying in both scale and architecture. Its physics-based puzzles bend the laws of gravity and question geometry at every turn, and the result is sure to be one of the trippiest games in a while.
Memory of a Broken Dimension
Memory of a Broken Dimension is set inside the glitchy, grayscale world of a corrupted virtual machine. Solving perspective-based puzzles to lock shattered objects back together is one part of what will likely be a much larger puzzle in its decaying digital landscape. Try the demo on itch.io.
Miegakure is yet another reality-bending puzzle game that explores form and perspective in new and increasingly surprising ways. Pitched as a 4D puzzle game, Miegakure’s levels and obstacles bend into each other in ways that span more spatial dimensions than we can fathom. Making sense of its warping world, partly inspired by the novella Flatland and Japanese gardening techniques, is actually surprisingly intuitive once it clicks.
Mineko's Night Market
Mineko’s Night Market is an adorable adventure game set on a Japanese-inspired island. By day, you’ll have exciting adventures around the village and on the outskirts. At night, you’ll get to sell your loot at the night market. It promises to be a celebration of friendship, Japanese culture, and (if you didn’t notice) cats.
(Note: Mineko's Night Market is published by Humble Bundle, which was acquired by IGN's parent company Ziff Davis this year. See the end of this article for a longer disclaimer.)
We don’t know a ton about Mosaic yet, but what little Krillbite Studio has shown us is captivating. In its teaser, we get a glimpse of a mysterious operating system booting up before seeing a peek of a businessman’s numbing daily routine. But things get weird very quickly. We’re not sure what’s in store for us with this one, but it’s certainly one to watch.
Nour is a celebration of the joy of food, a playful toy-like physics sim about making messes you don’t have to clean up and exploring the different colors and textures that make food fun. You can play it on a keyboard or almost any USB midi controller. The first time I played it was on a candy-colored Midi Fighter 3D, each button triggering some new event in its silly culinary playgrounds.
For those of you yearning for a new Animal Crossing, the farming/life sim monster collection mash-up Ooblets should definitely be on your watch list. It promises a customizable farm, turn-based RPG battles, an upgradable town, the chance to run your very own shop, and more.
Prey for the Gods
Prey for the Gods is a massive monster-slaying adventure set in an arctic wasteland. Its obvious influence is Shadow of the Colossus, a game so iconic it’s easy to wonder why so few games tried to copy it. Then you realize what the scope and scale of that would look like, and Prey for the Gods starts to look even more amazing for its attempt. It’s also beautiful.
Radio the Universe
Radio the Universe is one of the best looking games in development right now, which makes the fact that it’s been in development for so long hurt that much more. The only solace is getting to see how much better it looks with every new GIF and video and knowing that one day, we will finally get to play Radio the Universe. One day…
Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn is the upcoming game from Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope. It’s about exploring a merchant ship that disappeared and then mysteriously reappeared five years later with the entire crew seemingly gone.
Shape of the World
Shape of the World is an exploration-driven game about journeying through magical biomes that spring to life around you the deeper you roam. Part Proteus, part Journey, it’s an audio-visual celebration of the wonders of nature.
Somewhere is a surreal first-person adventure game about a group of explorers searching for a lost city of storytellers. It’s inspired by magical realist texts and the history of Colonial India. As you jump from the perspectives of different characters, you realize that each new person is a figment of another’s imagination, in an ever-branching myth of your own creation. In a way, it’s a story about stories and the act of storytelling.
Tangiers, the dark stealth adventure inspired by 20th century avant-garde, is back on track after a bit of a hiatus. We’re not sure when we’ll get to play it, but we’re content just knowing it exists — a haunting industrial dreamscape where words can literally be plucked from the air and reused for your own advantage.
Tender Caves of Death
Tender Caves of Death is a story-driven RPG about humans living in the wake of a terrible cataclysmic event that has wiped out all animal life. After a huge earthquake tears a hole in the earth, which a group of survivors feel mysteriously drawn to, strange never-before-seen creatures begin to emerge from the depths of the planet. It sounds creepy, but Tender Caves actually looks quite charming in its own way. It has a lovely color palette, a sense of humor, and an imaginative cast of characters I can’t wait to meet. For a look at the kind of vision and personality at play in Tender Caves of Death, check out Apple Quest Monsters, an unrelated collection of 50 hand-crafted creature sprites for an RPG that doesn’t exist, made by the same developer.
Totem Teller is one of those games that can sell itself in a single GIF. Its style is messy, expressive, and abstract, and in motion its blend of painted landscapes and glitches is captivating.
Treachery in Beatdown City
Turn-based RPGs and side-scrolling beat ‘em ups merge in Treachery in Beatdown City, a 2D brawler that turns the old-school conventions of the genre on its head in more ways than one. With the help of its menu-based combo system, Beatdown City adds a layer of tactical depth on top of its action-packed inspirations. It also elevates its setting into something more than “urban” flavoring for a gritty adventure — in Beatdown City, the streets are alive, and as much a part of the story as its cast of skilled fighters. Beatdown City aims to tackle themes of gentrification and racism as much as it lets you take down waves of punks, ninjas, and cyborgs in your quest to save the president.
Tunic is an action-adventure game about a tiny fox. Originally called Secret Legend, the Zelda-like 3D adventure boasts some dreamy lighting and adorable low poly art, but don’t let its cuteness fool you. It looks like it’ll have its share of fierce battles.
Untitled Goose Game
Is Untitled Goose Game going to be the best game ever made? It’s a very big possibility. Geese are total jerks, and any game that lets you loose as a rogue goose on a mission to completely wreak havoc on some poor town seems like a comedic masterpiece in the making. This one’s from the creators of Push Me Pull You, which mastered the art of the emergent physical comedy game with its weird and gross take on the local co-op sports genre.
Visage looks more stunning with each new screenshot. A near-photorealistic horror game in the vein of PT, Visage will have you exploring a large and mysterious house, slowly uncovering its darkest secrets.
Wattam is a game purely about the joy of play. From the mind of Katamari Damacy’s Keita Takahashi and other talented folks at Funomena, it lets players loose in a world defined by its whimsical characters and gives you the freedom to explore the new and silly ways each one interacts with the other.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is shaping up to be a gorgeous meditation on the nature of storytelling. It unravels as a series of anecdotes and folk tales from all sorts of characters, each traveling their own path and surviving manifest destiny in their own way across a magical realist take on 19th and 20th century America.
Wytchwood is pitched as a Gothic crafting adventure inspired by fables and fairytales. Rendered in a gorgeous storybook-style, you’ll be solving puzzles, brewing potions, and meeting plenty of colorful characters along the way.
Disclosure:Humble Bundle (which is owned by Ziff Davis, the parent company of IGN) is either the publisher or financier of Mineko's Night Market and may receive a commission or fee in connection with sales. Humble Bundle and IGN operate completely independently, and no special consideration is given to Humble Bundle-published or financed games for coverage or scoring.Chloi Rad is an Associate Editor for IGN. Follow her on Twitter at @_chloi.