Best Indie Games of 2020 – Unbridled Creativity and Freedom
2020 has been a hell of a year for the real world as well as many virtual ones. We’ve seen delays, shoddy launches, and disappointing followthrough from both governments and studios alike. But we’ve also seen some moments of genius, found transcendent joy, and made lasting memories.
Indie studios have felt the dire effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’ve also managed to keep many heads above water, and this year especially they deserve a lot of praise for what they managed to achieve and bring to the players. Here is Wccftech's list of best indie games, in no particular order.
Making its way from the Tartarian depths of early access, Hades has become one of Supergiant’s most successful and beloved games in a catalogue of fantastic titles. This roguelike sees you play as Zagerus, son of Hades, attempting to escape his father's domain. You get to meet the Gods, battle the shades of death and interact with a few well know Greek heroes as well. While the trademarked style of Supergiant game makes Hades stand out almost immediately, the gameplay and dialogue can easily hold your attention for dozens of hours. And there's a huge attention to detail that makes Hades feel more evolving and alive than some live-service games.
There's something so quaint about Townscaper: there's no competition, no challenge, no stakes. All you do in this little indie game is build a quaint town. The grid bends and curves across the seafloor so there is no brutalist straight line structure you can follow. Instead, you build weaving alleys and little towers.
And maybe that in 2020 is exactly what we needed. Quiet streets that are a sign of a peaceful, friendly existence, not some looming pandemic. Townscaper is a game that might sound mundane, but is incredibly, quietly satisfying.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (8)
Fall Guys is the delightful gameshow to play after you’ve watched binged all of Beastmaster and The Titan Games on Netflix. In this delightful, colourful, and hysterically maddening title, you play as one bumbling bean amongst sixty others, attempting to clear ridiculous obstacle courses until only one remains.
Despite its competitive nature, Fall Guys is a game more about having fun than winning. With its semi-awkward controls and floaty movement, the playing level is completely level (or completely unlevel) so that hardcore players can never get too far ahead dominate the game. While Fall Guys had an issue with hackers just after launch it has implemented new defenses, new seasons of content, and adjustments to player feedback since launch that keep the bonkers fun feeling fresh and staying popular.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (8.7)
Indie games have a special attachment to the Metroidvania genre. Maybe because of the genre’s massive popularity in the earlier days of the industry helped inspire hundreds of future developers, or maybe because it makes smaller maps feel larger. But whatever the reason, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is head and shoulders above the others with tight, precision platforming, a truly jaw-dropping art and world design, and an emotive story as well. It might not technically count as an indie title because of Microsoft name, but it still feels like an indie title. It tries to make you cry and lets you explore a world so colourful and strange that no mainstream title would dare design.
But it is the gameplay that really elevates Ori and the Will of the Wisps to one of 2020’s best indie games. The platforming is perfect, and the trickle of new abilities are put to incredible use throughout the game, leading to intensely satisfying climaxes that see you using every ability gained in perfect synchronization to overcome incredible obstacles.
The Pathless (8)
Released towards the very end of 2020, The Pathless is a fresh look at the open world game in microcosm. Created by the developers of Abzu, this game keeps the serenity and otherworldly mythos, while introducing combat. As the Hunter, you must free a land from a curse with your bow and eagle companion.
Exploration is at the heart of the Pathless, somewhat unsurprisingly given the name, while the world as a whole feels familiar to fans of Shadow of the Colossus, if smaller in scale. Players look to overcome simple puzzles and towering bosses as they make their way through the world without the use of a mini-map or other conventional open world apparel.
In a year full of beautiful games, Spiritfarer is still a difficult one to beat. With its unforgettable soundtrack and hand-drawn style, the whole experience feels like magic. But if you’re not familiar with the game, but might be surprised to learn that in it, you play as a Grim Reaper of sorts, ferrying the dead to their final destination.
But that darker synopsis is not how the game presents itself. It is a game about grief and letting go. It is about enjoying what time you have left and listening to the stories of others. There are both exploration and management as well as you build a larger ferry and help the souls onboard come to terms with their passing, but Spiritfarer is very much about the relationships between you and those that board your ferry. As sad as it is heartwarming, Spiritfarer has captured the essence that so many indie games fail to achieve.
While the above mentioned were our picks for the very best indie games in 2020, there's a bunch more that are at least worth mentioning below.