Every year more and more games get released than the year before, and every year we get a little more worried that the true highlights of the year are going to be lost amid a tsunami of mediocre titles. Thankfully that hasn't happened this year with some incredibly strong indie titles outshining even a few of the year's biggest blockbusters. We've listed some of the best indie games of 2019 below, titles that have experimented with the mechanics, told amazing stories or just made us laugh a great deal.
Disco Elysium (9.5/10)
An RPG without combat might put a lot of people off, but the world of Disco Elysium is anything but boring. Competing to solve a mystery your character may have already solves, players will have to argue with themselves, labour unions and the history of the city they’re in. Disco Elysium has an incredible style both in terms of art and writing, and players will quickly fall in love with both. Everything about Disco Elysium is interesting in some ways, and even failure can be fascinating.
Heaven’s Vault (9/10)
We’ve had puzzle games focused on everything from simple mazes to space-time manipulation, but Heaven’s Vault might be the first puzzle game about language. Exploring the ancient Nebula, players have to uncover aspects of a long-forgotten language and use to understand the ruins and references they’re exploring. Its exciting, different and is the kind of brain teaser that has you grabbing a notebook to theorize grammatical rules as you plunge deeper into the history of the world. Not only that, but Heaven’s Vault comes with a great modern story as well, weaving an incredible tale between the new and the old.
From the makers of Oxenfree comes this delightfully dark story of two young adults trying to talk and drink their way out of hell. Building on from the incredible writing and conversational mechanics of their first game, Afterparty is a comedy of errors as the player gets drunk and chatty with the denizens of the underworld. But its as thoughtful as it is funny, and overall the story of growing up and taking responsibility is as relatable as the hangovers that are to follow.
A Plague Tale: Innocence (8.8/10)
A Plague Tale: Innocence is definitely among the gaming surprises of 2019, exceeding expectations in the best possible ways. With its gripping tale, charming characters and solid gameplay mechanics, the game is a must-have for those who like single-player games with a strong focus on story and character development. Even if the tale does not take in you, A Plague Tale: Innocence still offers a solid third-person stealth experience that fans of the genre will surely appreciate.
Outer Wilds (7/10)
The Sexy Brutale might have finally snatched timeloop mechanics from Majora’s Mask, but Outer Wilds mastered them. Exploring a tiny solar system in twenty-minute bursts, players are left to decide what they want to know about this world. If you want you can try and save the solar system from the constantly exploding sun, but there’s no rush. You can just explore the incredibly imaginative planets if you like, or search for the other astronauts all playing their songs. Outer Wilds is the game of that delivers surprises around every corner, and is almost heartbreaking at the end when you realise you’ve seen everything it has to offer, and can never get that wonder back.
Sunless Skies (9/10)
There is so much to like about Sunless Skies it's almost hard to remember all of it. The sound design, from the cities to the sound of your lonely engine chugging through the void is perfect, especially accompanied by the game's lovely, if slightly unnerving music. The only downside to this game is the occasional long stretches of empty space as you complete a trading opportunity and don’t encounter anything interesting. But even then there is that same constant dread tugging at the back of your mind, a little voice that doesn’t sound like your own telling you about the terror amongst the stars and the things that might be just about to come out and find you. If you like incredible writing, lovely art and impossibly creative and surreal stories, go get Sunless Skies.
With too many amazing indie games released this year, some just couldn't make the Best Indie Games of 2019 list, but at least we want to get their names shouted out.