Venba is one of several cool looking indie games coming in 2023.
It’s the end of the first week of 2023, and while there are plenty of big blockbusters to look out for this year, there’s also a ton of smaller projects in development that will grace your personal computer and consoles in the next 12 months. So we gathered up a handful of games that stick out to us as we head into the next year of video games. Are you a sicko for retro-style action games with visual flair? Do you like to get introspective with narrative adventure games that ask you big, life-changing questions at the end? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a small selection of indie games across different genres, so hopefully there’s something here for everyone.
A Highland Song
Coming off its 2021 hit Overboard!, Inkle Ltd. is shifting from murder crime simulator to a musical narrative adventure with A Highland Song. As the title suggests, the game features rhythmic elements as teenage Moira McKinnon attempts to traverse the highlands to reach the sea, which she only knows of through stories. On top of exploration and rhythm, A Highland Song also includes survival elements as Moira attempts to stay alive in the wilderness throughout her journey. A Highland Song is coming to Switch and PC.
A Long Journey to an Uncertain End
Crispy Creative’s A Long Journey to an Uncertain End is like making a game out of wrangling your chaotic, queer friend group at a party but with a survival, science fiction twist. As the leader of a merry band of misfits, it’s your job to gather your crew, assign them to tasks to keep your spaceship up and running, and reach the titular uncertain end as you run away from an abusive ex. It has social elements that help you get to know your teammates as more than just stats and perks, and some wit and drama to help sell the found family dynamic. A Journey to an Uncertain End is coming to PC.
Who amongst us hasn’t wanted to kick a door down in a frenzied rage? Well, that’s half the premise of Free Lives’ Anger Foot. Are you tired of every shooter melee attack being a swift jab in the gut with the butt of your gun? Do you want to give your enemies a taste of what Gerard Butler was talking about when he said “This is Sparta” in the 2006 film 300? Have you ever seen an enemy in a chaotic, fast-paced shooter and thought “they should taste the bottom of my shoe? That’s Anger Foot, baby, and it’s coming to PC.
Speaking of chaos and destruction, Summitsphere’s AntonBlast is an action platformer that beckons back to and is inspired by the Game Boy Advance era of side scrolling action games. Its pixel art is gorgeous, its action looks explosive, and its premise (a destruction worker on a revenge tour to fight Satan himself) sounds bonkers. If any of the above seems appealing to you, Antonblast is coming to PC and Switch.
If AntonBlast is the blunt hammer of action platformers on this list, Berserk Boy is the precise scalpel with a science fiction spin. Set in a wartorn future, Berserk Boy places you in the transforming shoes of Kei, who has the power to change his form and elemental affinity to take on enemy forces. It’s evocative of Mega Man with some fast-paced traversal that looks modern and a ton of fun. Berserk Boy is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
Humanity deserves a new Jet Set Radio, but the one Sega is reportedly making right now sounds like a nightmare, so Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is the spiritual successor the world needs. Team Reptile’s attempt to replicate the long lost visual, audio, and frenetic skating stylings of Jet Set Radio is a joy to see in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk’s trailers, and feels like a gutting reminder of how long it’s been since we had a game like this. The game will launch on PC and Switch this summer.
If you liked Limbo and Inside but want something with decidedly less rancid vibes, take Cocoon, a puzzle game from Geometric Interactive, led by Jeppe Carlsen, who was the lead gameplay designer of those aforementioned games. While it’s not a side scroller like those, it does have similar puzzle-centric design, set within a 3D space and in a sci-fi framework. All of this leads to an overarching cosmic mystery, which hopefully won’t end with finding a giant mass of interconnected bodies. (Sorry for spoiling a seven-year-old game). Cocoon is coming to PC, Xbox, and Switch.
El Paso, Elsewhere
El Paso, Elsewhere is monster hunting meets Max Payne shooter stylings with a tragic, romantic twist. The game sets you in the bloodstained boots of a monster slayer equipped with a small arsenal, who must shoot his way through the infested floors of an El Paso, Texas hotel. Waiting for him at the end is Dracluae, the lord of the vampires and an ex-lover. So while fighting through werewolves, vampires, and other monsters may sound like a difficult time for our hero, nothing compares to dealing with the unresolved issues of a messy breakup. El Paso, Elsewhere will launch on Steam.
Goodbye Volcano High
2022 had a great musical narrative game in We Are OFK, but Goodbye Volcano High is looking to fill that slot in 2023. As the title suggests, Goodbye Volcano High is about a group of anthropomorphic dinosaur high schoolers sorting through the wistlessness of leaving grade school just as the world is about to end. The game sets the player in the laced boots of Fang, an aspiring musician still figuring themselves and their relationships out, but quickly running out of time to do all of the above. It looks like an introspective story about what you do when your time is running out, and it’s coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.
Knuckle Sandwich has a lot going on. While watching trailers for it, I was caught between comparing the turn-based RPG to Undertale then seeing something that made my mind go to WarioWare. The game follows a guy living his first day in fictional island town Bright City before he is confronted with threats ranging from reanimated skeletons, weird little monsters, a cult, and a gang. All of this is navigated through a top-down world with mini-game-centric turn-based battles. There’s a lot happening in this game, and to quote one Benoit Blanc, “it makes no damn sense! It compels me, though.” Knuckle Sandwich will launch on PC and Mac.
If a management sim that lets you play matchmaker for a bunch of villagers in a period setting sounds appealing to you, Lakeburg Legacies is all about creating a community and thriving in the drama it creates. Do you want to pair characters together for a long and prosperous life in the settlement, or fall victim to randomized drama for your own amusement? Lakeburg Legacies introduces procedural conflict to the love lives of your villagers, so it’s all about navigating both the management sim elements for the village while dealing with the human element that can throw a wrench into your plans. You know, like real life? Lakeburg Legacies is coming to PC.
Mina the Hollower
Yacht Club Games
Yacht Club Games has been making Shovel Knight projects through almost the entirety of its 12 years, and that’s finally changing when Mina the Hollower comes to PC, Mac, and Linux this year. The game is keeping with the studio’s signature pixel art style, but is a top-down action adventure game rather than continuing the original Shovel Knight’s side scrolling structure. It definitely looks like something to be on the lookout for if you’re jonesing for the classic Legend of Zelda experience.
Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island
In video games, we do a lot of fighting with the Greek gods, but what if, instead, you got to vibe with them all on an island while they were on vacation? Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island stars Alex, a shipwrecked human who finds herself on an island inhabited by the Greek gods, who have simply been vibing here on vacation. Each god has a modernized look, and Alex will spend her time on this island getting to know them and cleaning up the place, all while searching for a way home. I’m sure these historically chill characters will not stir up any drama in the meantime, right? Mythwrecked is coming to PC.
The first thing that stuck out to me about Pizza Tower was its art style, which is evocative of hand drawn ‘90s cartoons. The second thing that stuck out to me is that it is willing to ask the hard questions about how far a man will go to save his restaurant from its imminent demise. Is he willing to fight his way through a tower of food-themed enemies and other, more general baddies who aim to stop him? Are you willing to help him climb up through an assortment of obstacle courses with the unhinged fury of a man willing to tear a sentient tomato in half to get what he wants? Can a game full of plays on the Italian pie we all like sustain an entire action platformer? It sure looks like it. Pizza Tower is coming to PC on January 26.
Planet of Lana
I already feel like I could look at Planet of Lana’s trailer all day, as the platformer’s hand-painted art is lovely to look at. The debut game from Wishfully Studios, Planet of Lana focuses on a young girl and her animal companion as their gorgeous green home is invaded by mechanical beasts. Navigating this once peaceful world is full of puzzles, stealth segments where you hide from these invasive machines, and doing all of the above with the help of your...what is this companion? It’s got the demeanor of a dog, the tail of a chameleon, the body of Lechonk. Ultimately, it’s shaped like a friend. Planet of Lana is coming to PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Rune Fencer Illyia
Rune Fencer Illyia is the kind of game that just pops when you watch it in motion. The Metroidvania has a pixel art style with enough flair and depth in its animation and ambiance that it stands out in a sea of pixel art sidescrollers. Nootbox Games puts a lovely backdrop behind its action, but the color and texture of every bit of movement in its tight combat and traversal segments really makes it sing. It’s coming to PC and Switch.
Sea of Stars
Sea of Stars is for every classic JRPG sicko in the room, as Sabotage Studio is clearly developing something meant to speak to those who loved the adventures they went on during the SNES era like Chrono Trigger. This is fitting, because Chrono Trigger Composer Yasunori Mitsuda is providing the score. Sea of Stars is launching on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Switch.
Scavengers Studio has been teasing Season for awhile now, and it’s gained a lot of recognition for its vibe, gorgeous visual style, and its featuring of a Black protagonist The game follows Estelle as she seeks to document information about her village before a cataclysmic event destroys it and every memory its people have of it. Much of Season is spent just existing in its world, meeting its people, and taking various notes about what you see. This means taking photographs, drawing, and taking videos of the people you meet and the things you see. From the sound of it, Scavengers Studio went through a lot of internal strife to get here, but Season is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on January 31.
She Dreams Elsewhere
She Dreams Elsewhere uses a JRPG-inspired framework to explore the cerebral space of the dreams we experience when we sleep. The game stars Thalia, who is experiencing vivid dreams while she is in a comatose state. As these dreams reveal themselves to be nightmares, she must fight her way through them with turn-based combat and deal with her reality along the way. She Dreams Elsewhere is coming to PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch.
Solace State, a cyberpunk visual novel from Vivid Foundry, is all about navigating relationships on the personal, romantic, and political spectrum. As Chloe, a hacker in a militarized city, players will build standing within the community in order to nudge the local human rights movements in one direction or the other. While the scale of Solace State’s relationships can have city-wide influence, they also play into interpersonal relationships, platonic and romantic, as Chloe can form these connections in the midst of making political moves. Depending on player choice, Solace State can diverge into a hopeful story of a community coming together, or things may take a violent turn. We’ll see how those paths play out when the game launches on PC and Xbox.
Sons of the Forest
Sons of the Forest traps you on an island with one of the ugliest motherfuckers I’ve ever seen. In Endnight Games’ imminent open-world horror game, there’s a seriously nasty beast trying to eat you or otherwise just make you have a bad time. I’m talking about the missing billionaire your character was sent to this mysterious island to find, though, not the various monsters you’ll face after crash landing on it. Sons of the Forest is the sequel to 2018’s The Forest, and it builds upon the original’s open-world survival elements, all while keeping the scary monsters and mystery intact. It’s set to launch on PC on February 23.
The Big Catch
The Big Catch combines a PlayStation 1/Nintendo 64 era visual style with slick, modern animation and platforming. It feels like it marries nostalgic visual design with modern game design. The art style is evocative of old platformers, but the premise is also just kinda delightful in the same way we remember platforms of that era. As Caster, you’re sent off by your restaurant’s boss to find new ingredients to give the establishment a bit of a refresh. That means going out and catching fish while using your exceptional acrobatic skill to navigate the world. You like fishing mini-games? How about a game all about zipping around catching fish? The Big Catch is coming to PC, Mac, Linux, and Switch.
The Gecko Gods
Super Rare Games
The basic premise of The Gecko Gods, in which you crawl around a world as a gecko, is enticing enough on its own, but my favorite thing about watching it in motion is that it’s clear the game is making strides to implement what it means to be a gecko in the world by making every walkable surface your sticky hands can touch a part of its level design. Puzzle solving in The Gecko Gods often means climbing on the walls, the ceiling, and any other surface you can reach. It adds a new, interesting dimension to every space you occupy, and just watching this little guy scurry about opens my mind to the possibilities of how this could be implemented in puzzle solving. The Gecko Gods is coming to PC and Switch.
The Plucky Squire
Nintendo of America
If you really liked The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds’ mechanic where Link could turn himself into a painting that walked on walls, The Plucky Squire is bound to draw (sorry) your attention. The game is framed as a storybook character traveling between the pages of his home and the desk space the book is placed on, and his ability to freely move between different dimensions takes him to different locations with levels designed to reflect the new spaces. One example shown in the trailer includes the squire jumping from the classic Zelda stylings of the original book to a shmup-style sequence on a piece of sci-fi art he jumped into as he was wandering around the real world. The squire’s journey from one surface to another will take him and the player on a variety of adventures when The Plucky Squire comes to PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch.
Thirsty Suitors is a cross between Scott Pilgrim’s battles with evil exes, stylish arcade skateboarding, and cooking segments all portrayed through a South Asian cultural lens. Outerloop Games’ RPG stars Jala as she returns to an old town with old flames, and frames their reconciliation through turn-based battles where the simple act of talking to each other is pumped up to ridiculous levels. There’s even a stage in which Jala enters a dream world where her exes appear as powerful, distorted versions of their own self-concept. Think Persona 5 but with fewer criminals. Jala explores her old town on a skateboard (more Jet Set Radio than Tony Hawk), and when she’s home with her family, she cooks with her mother in over-the-top, campy fashion. Thirsty Suitors portrays all of its storylines in this way, but there’s a grounded humanity at its core that will be exciting to see when the game launches on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch.
This Bed We Made
Taking inspiration from the Life is Strange series, This Bed We Made is a mystery game about a 1950s hotel maid named Sophie, who, in the midst of her maid duties, finds herself curious and snooping through the belongings of the guests at the hotel. In doing so, she begins to uncover a mystery that she has to unravel, and which will require the help of her coworkers, who can become more than coworkers, depending on player choice. This Bed We Made is coming to PC.
Two Falls (Nishu Takuatshina)
Two Falls (Nishu Takuatshina) is a game about how perspective can shape the way we view a situation and our surroundings. The ways it portrays that idea is really fascinating. Unreliable Narrators’ narrative game stars two characters: Jeanne, a French woman who has become shipwrecked in 17th Century Canada, and Maikan, a native Innu who is looking to save his people from an unknown sickness. Playing as both characters, the same environment can be perceived very differently, where Maikan greets the wilderness with warmth and familiarity, Jeanne sees the same woods as something frightening and unknown. Two Falls takes this idea a step further, and integrates it into the art direction depending on which character you’re playing, such as a beachside appearing sunny and warm to Maikan and rainy and miserable to Jeanne. The game has also been validated by a Council of Elders in Canada for its portrayal of indigenous culture. Two Falls (NIshu Takuatshina) will launch on PC.
Nintendo of America
For the foodies in the room, Venba is an upcoming cooking game from Canadian developer Visai Studios. The game focuses on an Indian immigrant family who relocates to Canada in the 1980s. In between cooking delicious dishes, Venba focuses on the family’s relationship from the perspective of the mother with branching conversations and stories. The food looks great, but the game does, too. Venba is coming to PC and Switch this spring.
Worlds of Aria
Worlds of Aria emulates the likes of a tabletop RPG you’d play with your friends, letting each of you pick between multiple characters to handle situations in its fantasy world in a collaborative fashion. Ludogram’s cooperative (well, it could also be competitive, if you wanted it to be) RPG adds visual flash and flare to the typical board game setup, and gives you and up to three friends the tools to inhabit characters, work together to accomplish your goals, or you can scheme and plot for your own gains and betray the group. Worlds of Aria supports multiple outcomes and choices, and creates a story to accommodate whatever drama your group feels like weaving into its fantastical story. It’s set to launch on PC.
Your Only Move is Hustle
Have you ever watched pro fighting game players duke it out and wish that you had the skills, combo memorization, and reaction time to play on that level? Well, Your Only Move is Hustle is all about capturing the flashy action of a fighting game, but in a strategic, turn-based format that lets you and your opponent meticulously plan your moves before watching the fight play out. It essentially lets you choreograph action sequences without having to jump into a training mode and practice for hours. So it’s both an entertaining tool to watch cool fights unfold, and acts as a more approachable alternative for those who get intimidated by other fighting games. Your Only Move is Hustle launches on PC on February 2.
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