A new year dawns, a new slate of fantastic independent games are about to be right at your fingertips. In today’s list we’re collating the most interesting indies releasing in the next couple of months that you should definitely have on your radar. We’ll be focusing on maybe a few you may not currently have your eyes on, and the cutoff point for these is the end of May, perfect for those of us who are just plain impatient!
1. Windjammers 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5)
‘The best flying disc game of all time is back! With amazing hand-drawn graphics, crazy new moves, gameplay mechanics and awesome new characters and stages, Windjammers 2 is the sequel you’ve been dreaming of.’
A sequel 25 years in the making. 25 years after the release of the original Windjammers on the NEOGEO, Windjammers 2 promises to be ‘the perfect mix between what you loved about the classic title and brand-new mechanics.’ Coming at us from Dotemu, the team responsible for the awesome Streets of Rage 4 and the upcoming Shredder’s Revenge remake, they’ve proved themselves capable of creating some really outstanding titles. Featuring new challengers, new stages and all-new mechanics, as well as some pretty crazy power moves, this looks to be a total upgrade from the experience of the original game. ‘Master the slapshot, dropshot, the jump, the smash and the powerful EX MOVE, and enjoy the kickass soundtrack coming straight out of the ’90s.’ Dotemu’s proficiency in 2D artwork shows here with brilliantly realised characters that still retain the feel of the original, this looks to be a great time to play by yourself or with friends. Enjoying the great music and dipping into the arcade mode. Windjammers 2 might already be out by the time you’re reading this, and starts off our list with a bang!
2. Paradise Marsh (Microsoft Windows, macOS)
‘Every single star fell down from the sky into Paradise Marsh, a perfect endless wetland crawling with wildlife. Wander around equipped with your trusty bug net and find a way to replenish the empty night sky. Along the way, pick wildflowers, discover lost poems and meet intriguing and colourful characters who need your help…’
Paradise marsh is a cute and wholesome little exploration game about restoring the stars in the night sky. In it, players traverse diverse biomes in an endless wetland, witnessing unique procedurally generated landscapes. The trailers for this game have been on the minds of fans of indie games for a while now, the cast of colourful characters and story being only part of the appeal. At its core, it looks to be a game about collecting. You can catch small creatures with your net, collect lost poems floating in the water, and eat berries or skip stones, keeping track of everything in your journal. There are no time limits, and you can take your time just living in this world. All this and sound design from Disasterpeace look to be a wonderful experience coming very soon.
Paradise Marsh will be available here on Feb 3rd, but you can check out the trailer first right here.
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3. The Heilwald Loophole (Microsoft Windows)
‘You awaken in a dingy storage room in a pile of rubble and dust. Observing your surroundings you notice a massive hole in the ceiling. How curious. Dazed from the fall and mildly confused you venture into the twisted depths of the Heilwald Klinikum… How far does it go? And what is that god damn loophole about?’
Where are you going? The first of a few Horror titles on this list, The Heilwald Loophole has been one to watch since it’s demo first debuted in the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc. What feels, on the surface, like a standard stealth-horror affair, quickly reveals itself as an almost roguelike experience that equates more to a chase scene than the fare of an Outlast game. This is definitely a game that’s doing more than it lets on at first glance, as the developers describe; ‘The Heilwald Loophole takes the classic survival horror trope of being stuck in a run down hospital/asylum and being chased by crazed nurses and doctors but adds an important twist: It is impossible to die. Every action, every decision merely opens up a new pathway to venture down leading you deeper into the Heilwald Klinikum.’
Rendered in the Haunted PS1 style harkening back to titles like Resident Evil and, mostly, Silent Hill, The Heilwald Loophole is a game of hidden depths, both in it’s gameplay and story, and it’s definitely one to keep in mind as we move into February.
The Heilwald Loophole will be available here on Feb 4th.
4. Olliolli World (Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5)
‘OlliOlli World is a bold new skateboarding action-platformer that’s bursting with personality. Flip and flow through the vivid and vibrant world of Radlandia, meeting colourful characters as you grind, trick, and air your way to discover the mystical skate gods on your quest for Gnarvana. Challenge the world in Leagues or dare a friend to beat your best tricks on one of millions of sharable levels. Experience the accessibility, depth, and player freedom as you dive into the signature flow state gameplay of OlliOlli World.’
The latest entry in the OlliOlli franchise looks to be the biggest one ever, this game looks to have players ‘Traverse a delightful and weird world as you take on missions, challenges, and make new friends along the way. Customise your character’s looks, tricks, and style while you experience explorable levels with multiple paths that provide an array of opportunities for player expression.’ The eccentric characters and vibrant locales of OlliOlli world are begging to be explored, and with a huge variety of locations; from ‘inflatable alley’ to ‘los vulgas’, it seems like it’ll never be a full moment. Backed by a selection of the finest electronica tracks, this game boasts super tight controls that ‘combine with highly refined gameplay to ensure a silky smooth ride. Not a Pro? Don’t worry – OlliOlli World welcomes you with open arms, allowing new players to tear down streets and pull off sick method grabs without fear of face planting the curb. Think you’ve got what it takes? Achieve mastery through millions of unique levels in sandbox mode or compete against rivals around the globe in Leagues with a hugely deep combo system with over 100 moves to master and combine in your battle for the highest score.’ And for players who like to show off their own style, as you progress through the game you unlock plenty of items and rewards that let you customise your own look, tricks and style.
5. Who’s Lila? (Linux, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems)
‘Who’s Lila? is a reverse-detective point-and-click adventure. It is an AI-powered choice-driven game, where instead of choosing dialogue options, you have full control over the character’s face. Will you solve the enigmatic mystery? Will you be able to tackle your own emotions in pursuit of your mysterious goals? And finally, will you find the answer to the ultimate question – Who is Lila?’
Who’s lila is… strange. Having played the demo, I thought the strange-mechanics would feel less strange, but they still feel so strange, and so good. In this game, you have to communicate to the world using only your facial expressions, but you have to move each individual muscle in your face one-by-one. Rendered in a great ditherpunk black-and-white style, Who’s Lila uses a complex neural network to generate the faces you make and their effect on the story, leading to many different endings. The central mystery of tracking down a mysterious person sure would be a lot simpler if you could just… emote, but where’s the fun in that? Who’s Lila is smirking and gaping it’s way onto our screens some time this February.
6. Ikai (PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5)
‘Ikai embodies the spirit of the classical psychological horror genre with a defenceless main character incapable of attacking the evil creatures. However, it explores a new sense of horror by making the player face the threats directly neither fleeing nor attacking. Every mechanic of the game is meant to raise this relatable feeling of helplessness and create a tense atmosphere. The slow, precise and natural movements as a way of interaction resemble real life’s to foster immersion in the uncanny world of Ikai.’
Ikai is a game that’s already winning awards before it’s even fully released, including best narrative, best audio, and ‘I need to get myself away from this’. Ikai is a first-person psychological horror game that draws its major inspiration from Japanese folklore. The game involves hiding and running from terrifying yokais, immersing you in the superstitions of the area’s past, with a focus on story and exploration. Ikai also features some interesting gameplay mechanics that create head-scratching puzzles that will try and block your path, the primary of which being the ability to draw protective seals around the strange events happening around you. Whether or not this is just a puzzle mechanic or a mechanic that will help in fending off the Yokai is yet to be seen, but we’re very interested to find out. The storyline of this game centres around you attempting to stop a demon from making its way out of the underworld, time is of the essence and the people of the village are becoming wary. You must cleanse a desecrated shrine to stop the demon reaching full power and seal it back into the underworld. Ikai releases at the end of March and is definitely one horror fans should have on their wishlist.
7. Weird West (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows)
‘Discover a dark fantasy reimagining of the Wild West where lawmen and gunslingers share the frontier with fantastical creatures. Journey through the origin stories of a group of atypical heroes, written into legend by the decisions you make in an unforgiving land. Each journey is unique and tailored to the actions taken – a series of high stakes stories where everything counts and the world reacts to the choices you make. Form a posse or venture forth alone into the otherworldly confines of the Weird West and make each legend your own.’
Weird West is a game that pulls together the stories of several different and unique heroes that comes to us from a studio set up by the co-creators of Dishonored and Prey.
Weird West is a dark fantasy reimagining of the wild west ‘where lawmen and gunslingers share the frontier with fantastical creatures, each playing with their own rules and their own peculiar motives.’ Weird West has a big focus on its story, with an almost anthological approach to it’s story. The game allows you to discover the world through the origin stories of several different characters; ‘moving from one character’s journey to the next until all converge in a final chapter.’ The choices you make as each of these characters will also affect the outcome of the overall game, with ‘Each playthrough is unique as the game tailors the story to the player’s actions and past choices for an ideal dramatic arc.’ and all of this in an immersive fantasy western simulator, Weird West supports many different play styles in its sandbox world ‘where characters, factions, and even places react to a player’s decisions.’
It looks to be a great game with a unique world that I can’t wait to explore.
8. Loveland (Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS)
‘Detective, we have received reports of kidnapping and cult activity centred around a small trailer park on the outskirts of Loveland, Ohio. The members of this cult are led by Pastor Abram, a recently denounced minister for the Heartland Church of Christ. Pastor Abram has experienced a sudden change in his demeanour, exhibited by his increasingly radical sermons in which he proclaims that frogs will save God’s children from extinction. We believe that this may be the actions of an anomalous creature.’
In this retro-style horror title you take on the role of an Agency Detective, as you explore a rural trailer park in Loveland, Ohio, and uncover the secrets of a frog-worshipping cult. The game’s demo (now available) shows off an interesting and silly world that still packs the scares. In Loveland, every decision has a consequence, the exploration will occasionally involve making choices that affect the outcome of the game, it’s up to you how the story is going to end. According to the devs, Loveland is inspired by cult classic games, films and TV such as Deus Ex and the X-Files. ‘By blending immersive simulations with the psychological thrills of beings beyond our understanding, Loveland delivers an engrossing experience that will have you playing through the story multiple times.’
The game has a focus on psychological horror, claiming to be a ‘Dive deep into the depravity of a religious mind’ as you uncover the horrific fate of the many members of the Loveland Cove Cult. Interestingly, the game will also feature a non-linear story, where you’re open to explore Loveland Cove whichever way and in whatever order, and however much you want. As the devs describe; ‘Whether you do the bare minimum, or leave no stone unturned, the choice is up to you.’ and this plays back into the decision making, leading up to the game’s multiple endings. Finally, the game’s visuals are dripping with the PS1 horror aesthetic, a repeated theme in this list. ‘Engulf yourself in the sights and sounds of a warm summer night in rural Ohio as you traverse through the eerily quiet trailer park known as Loveland Cove.’
9. Sons of the Forest (Microsoft Windows)
You may notice, all of the games on this list start with an official description, but this one doesn’t, why is that? It’s simple, we simply don’t have that much information about the game yet, not one official description. We do, however, have a couple of short trailers, and it’s already looking extremely exciting. The only solid piece of info we do have is that the game is set to only release on PC, we don’t know if a console release is in the cards further down the line, so for now we can assume that it’s PC for the foreseeable future. The first trailer for the game, which premiered at The Game Awards, gives very little information. All we see are some great visuals, multiple people (implying a return of the multiplayer features of The Forest), and an extremely unsettling tone, as well as a good look at some of the creatures we may be faced with when the game releases.
The second trailer gives us a much greater detail into the gameplay, and it is ripe with intrigue. As well as yet more unnerving enemy designs, we see multiple of the environments in the game, including a snowy one, a tropical one and the titular forest. As well as this we see some material collection and a hint at crafting, and as the trailer goes on we see moments of the combat and even some of the interior sections in modern buildings, reminiscent of [spoiler] the final sections of the original game [spoiler over]. We can assume, from this, that these sections will relate to the game’s story, but sadly, assumptions are all we have. The third trailer gives us even more gameplay footage, including a closer look at crafting and combat, and an even more unsettling look at the enemies; Including a shark! Most importantly, though, it has a closer look at the story and a release date! The trailer shows us a pamphlet for something called the ‘holosprings’, and then immediately after, we cut to what is presumably the location of those mysterious ‘holosprings’, and we see some of the game’s characters and a colossal creature that they’re fighting against.
And then it ends, but the important part is that we now have a release date! And it only just edges into the ‘early’ section of this year, on the 20th of May.
You can find Sons of The Forest… nowhere actually, at least not yet, but you can watch the most recent trailer in time for when it releases on May 20th.
10. SENSEs: Midnight (Microsoft Windows, macOS)
‘Uesugi Kaho is an outgoing and adventurous college student and member of her school’s occult research club. When Returning to Japan for a family visit, the other club members dare Kaho to investigate an infamous urban legend; The Midnight Door of Ikebukuro Walking Park. Of course Kaho jumps at the opportunity to prove the legend true and capture positive proof of the paranormal. However, entering the long abandoned park just before 12:00 a.m. and opening the Midnight Door may be the worst mistake she will ever make…’
A sequel to the 2020 point-and-click horror title Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story, a game inspired by Clock Tower and Fatal Frame, and including many elements from traditional Cantonese folklore. The first game had a great sense of pacing, atmosphere and story. This new title seems like it’s closer to that game’s original vision, moving the game from a 2d plane to a fixed-camera 3D game styled like it’s inspiration, PS1 and PS2 era horror games. SENSE/s: Midnight also claims to take additional inspiration from the likes of Resident Evil; ‘featuring TANK CONTROLS and FIXED CAMERA ANGLES in order to capture the truest essence of classic survival horror titles. Discover the secrets of the park via environmental storytelling and lore.’ This gives us a pretty clear idea of what to expect from the gameplay, but nevertheless the trailers and images of this game released so far show off a limited inventory system that will likely be important to keep well-managed as the game progresses. Descriptions of the game also describe a risk-and-reward system on the game’s puzzles that may alert the vengeful spirits of the park.’ But not to worry, the game doesn’t appear to have a combat system, but instead it takes the route of stealth to avoid enemies, as described here; ‘use hiding spots to temporarily elude your pursuer, and remember, there is only one place you can safely save your game… Expect the Ikebukuro walking park to ooze a dreadful atmosphere while the ever-present threat of a relentless Onryo stalks and chases you wherever you go!’ This final allusion to a potential stalking enemy, perhaps like Resident Evil 2 Remake’s Mr. X, sounds positively frightening, especially without any way to fight back. It’s really exciting to see a unique game get an interesting sequel, and as a big fan of classic survival horror, I couldn’t be more ready for this game.
SENSEs: Midnight will be releasing within the next few months right here.
11. Bear and Breakfast (Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch)
‘Bear and Breakfast is a laid-back management adventure game where you play as a well-meaning bear trying to run a B+B in the woods. Hank and his friends find an abandoned shack and, equipped with their teenage ingenuity, turn it into a money-making bed and breakfast scheme for unsuspecting tourists. As your business expands so do the mysteries of the forest, and Hank soon finds himself uncovering a plot deeper than the wilderness itself.’
Bear and Breakfast allows you to build and personalise your very own inn with dozens of guest rooms, parlours and entertainment! The only thing is that you play, as you may have been able to guess, as a bear. And you’re not the only crazy creature in this game, seemingly most of the characters and guests at your inn are from the forest, and it’s up to you to keep them happy and maintain your reputation as the best place around, and in doing so you’ll earn more money and the ability to attract even more customers. The game looks to also feature an interesting world with plenty of interesting lore, side quests, characters and maybe some wacky secrets to find. As the developers describe; ‘Moving through the story-rich world of Bear and Breakfast will have you stumbling on dozens of interesting folks and weirdos, much like yourself. Most of them have something to say about your endeavours and if you take some time out of your day to listen, they might help you build your shack to new heights!’ But not everyone is a guest at your inn, the game looks to feature many mysterious creatures that you can find deep in the forest.
Bear and Breakfast is presented in an adorable art style that is sure to bring it’s world and story to life in a great way.
12. Voidspeed Outlaw (Microsoft Windows)
‘A fast-paced retro-futuristic racer set on Mars 21XX. Ever since you were a toddler you’ve always dreamt of being a racer in the system-wide Voidspeed Racing League. You saved your money, pieced together a junk ship, and raced in wasteland all-or-nothing outlaw leagues. You’ve been noticed by the street scene and have built a pretty competent racer, but the races are incredibly illegal and run by the Martian underground. You can take favours to climb the ranks, but all debts must be paid. The path to the VRL is steep, full of corruption and death, but it’s all you’ve ever dreamt of. And you don’t accept defeat.’
Like many of the games on this list, this one goes for a modernised-retro art style, described as being ‘Rendered in low def pseudo 3D’, Voidspeed Outlaw promises the chance to ‘relive classic racing game style, with modern twists and effects.’ and will supposedly feature a wide variety of race tracks across the solar system, including Mars, Titan, Europa and more! It’s also set to feature full pixel-art cutscenes to bring its story to life. For a bit of added personal flare, there are several fully customisable speeder models available to pilot in one of the arcade modes that you can play if you’re not in the mood for the story mode. This game looks to be a great-looking racing game with a lot going for it, and if you crave the adrenaline rush of the race track of the future, then this is one for you.
13. Silt (Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5)
‘Silt is a surreal underwater puzzle-adventure game. Alone in an underwater abyss, you are a diver searching the deep to uncover long-forgotten mysteries. Possess the creatures around you to solve puzzles and travel further into the darkness… Nature has evolved into bizarre forms. Discover strange organisms, unexplored ruins and ancient machinery hidden beneath the water’s surface.’
Inspired by the games of Playdead (Limbo, Inside) and titles like Little Nightmares, as well as the work of Beatrix Potter, this is a game of Thalassophobia; a fear of the deep ocean. Starring bizarre creatures and surreal surroundings, this harrowing 2D adventure puts you in the boots of a diver in the depths of the sea, where you will solve puzzles in search of long forgotten mysteries by possessing the fauna of the deepin order to navigate a strange and unexplored world full of ancient machinery hidden far below the water’s surface. This seems like a game not for the faint of heart, looking to feature grand boss fights, as described by the developers; ‘Survive encounters with giant deep-sea goliaths. Harness their power to awaken a long-dormant force at the centre of the abyss.’ and all of it done in a stark black and white world based on the artwork of Tom Mead. ‘Experience art brought to life. Silt’s unsettling, monochrome world is constructed from the sketches and dark imagination of artist Mr Mead. A harrowing journey awaits you…’
14. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe (macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux)
‘When a simple-minded individual named Stanley discovers that the co-workers in his office have mysteriously vanished, he sets off to find answers. You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will make a choice, and you will have your choices taken from you. The game will end, the game will never end. Contradiction follows contradiction, the rules of how games should work are broken, then broken again. You are not here to win. The Stanley Parable is a game that plays you.’
In The Stanley Parable, you play as Stanley, and you have a very simple task, just follow the story as the narrator tells it… or don’t, and see what happens.
The Stanley Parable is a veritable staple of first-person exploration games, especially within the Indie sphere; it’s gone on to inspire so many to create similar experiences with their own flare and intrigue. There is, however, nothing quite like the original; well, not the original Half-Life 2 mod, that’s too far back, but the original 2013 game was really something special and now we can all experience it again, or for the first time, as I’m sure it will be for some, with the all-new Ultra Deluxe version of the game.
Developer Crows Crows Crows (Accounting, Dr Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald) have stated that the ultra-deluxe has not just been ‘visually upgraded to reflect modern technology while faithfully preserving the tone of the original game.’ It’s also meant to ‘dramatically expand the world of the original game with new content, new choices, and new secrets to uncover.’ It’s supposedly less of a remaster and more of a full ‘expanded re-imagining of the critically acclaimed, award winning indie game The Stanley Parable from 2013.’ Needless to say, the game looks like it’s going to be well worth getting and choc-full of secrets. And there’s no better way to get you on board with that than just showing you this short statement from CCC:
‘In The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, everything you remember has been recreated, yet it’s different somehow. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Is Stanley still the same as he was back then? Or is it you who has changed?’
What a satisfying slate of games, it’s not everything making its way to us in the next four months or so, but it’s an interesting cross-section of what to expect from the start of this year in indies. Be sure to try as many of these games as seem interesting to you, and be sure to stay here at Indie Game Fans, where we’ll keep you up to date with more interesting indies throughout the year.