2018 has been an absolutely stellar year for the indie scene, and as we’ll be starting our look back on the year this lunchtime, I can tell you that the indie award was stuffed to the gills with contenders. There’s never been a better time to access some incredibly creative, exciting and progressive video games. Indeed, if you’re after challenging titles that manage to be both daring and push boundaries then forget AAA gaming, the indie scene is where it’s at.
But while we can be retrospective about 2018, there’s plenty of exciting gaming to look forward to in 2019 too. From hardcore platformers, to story-driven experiences and sci-fi shooters, there’s something for everyone. To kick off Ones To Watch, we’re digging into this treasure trove, pulling out highly anticipated sequels, curious looking newcomers, games from large independent studios, and the smaller teams.
Without much further ado, let’s begin.
Platforms: PS4, PC – Release date: 2019
The original Spelunky was a critical hit as it spread across Xbox, PlayStation and PC over half a decade ago, where it helped popularise the current indie dev roguelite craze. Its sequel, the obviously named Spelunky 2, looks to be every bit as addictive as its predecessor, but it also seeks to add many refinements and additions to the dungeon crawl roguelite formula. The most exciting change is the inclusion of full online co-op, with four different playable characters all of whom seem to have specific abilities to traverse the treacherous tunnels until they are temporarily terminated by a variety of traps.
There’s also the addition of dynamic liquids, meaning that lava will spill free of its container and pour around your poor protagonist, potentially sealing their fate. You can also ride a host of mounts, including a dinosaur and what I think is a chicken, all of which can then be sacrificed to help you get just that little bit further through the level. It also still looks like a modern version of Rick Dangerous; what’s not to love?
Super Meat Boy Forever
Platforms: PS4, XBO, Switch, PC – Release date: April 2019
Oh, Meat Boy, you are quite possibly responsible for more broken controllers and keyboards than any other video game character in existence. I hate you, and yet, somehow, I love you as well. Super Meat Boy Forever is essentially Super Meat Boy 2 but, as the developers state, ”this is Super Meat Boy 2, but with a less boring name than Super Meat Boy 2”.
Levels are dynamically constructed by difficulty, so the better you are, the harder they get. Which, as any player of Super Meat Boy knows, means that its probably going to get harder than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s glutes. Don’t worry though, as you’ll now only have two buttons to press, providing the player with a jump, jump attack, a dive and slide.
That’s right, there’s an attack button. Meat Boy and Bandage Girl can now punch and kick their enemies. At last, some revenge for all those buzz saw related deaths. Super Meat Boy Forever looks brilliant and I can’t wait to die thousands of times once it’s released in April.
Platforms: XBO, PC – Release date: 2019
When a new game is announced from one of the co-founders of Irrational games, it’s big news. Void Bastards – aside from being the game with the best title on this entire list – is also a sci-fi strategy shooter. The player is tasked with leading a misfit bunch of prisoners in a survival mission as they attempt to traverse the Sargasso Nebula.
Interestingly, Void Bastards will blend traditional straight-up shooter gameplay with Roguelite mechanics. Roguelite is a device that can cause division amongst the video game community but it’s use here is intriguing. When a character is killed, rather than it prompting a re-start, it will instead begin the journey of a new character.
There will also be plenty of player choice, as you’ll need to decide when to run from a fight and when to ”be a bastard”. With the opportunity to chart a course in your vessel, investigate abandoned space stations and explore labyrinthine alien worlds, Void Bastards looks like a vastly tempting prospect.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: Q1 2019
Lost Words has won a ton of awards during its development, with an innovative approach to storytelling that takes place within a young girl’s journal, and a tale that has been penned by Rhianna Pratchett.
Using her writing as a means to escape the traumas in her real life, Izzy is conjuring up the fantasy world of Estoria in her writing. The words she writes have real power, letting you take a word like ‘burn’ from the written page and into the gorgeous 2D platforming to set fire to obstacles in your path.
It’s a fascinating idea and one of the more experimental games on this list. If that’s tickled your interest, be sure to check out my interview with Sketchbook Games’ Mark Backler as well.
Platforms: PS4, PC – Release date: Spring 2019
“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The immortal and chilling words of an AI gone off the rails. Humans and sentient AI trapped out in space is generally a recipe for disaster in science fiction, but Observations, coming from Stories Untold developer No Code, seems to flip the scenario on its head. Instead of being a human trying to survive, you’re an AI trying to help. Probably.
When some mysterious danger affects the space station Observation, with all of the crew except for astronaut Dr. Emma Fisher disappearing, she has to try and figure out what’s going on. To do so, she has to rely on you, SAM, to operate the station’s controls, cameras and tools to assist her. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if you get to be a naughty AI as well…
Platforms: PS4, XBO, Switch, PC – Release date: Q1 2019
War. Huh. Yeah. What is it good for? Turn based strategy obviously. Wargroove is my personal pick for ‘indie game I’m most excited about in 2019’. This is because it reminds of Fire Emblem, and I love Intelligent Systems finest ever game that isn’t Advance Wars. In fact, Wargroove looks like a fusion of both these classic franchises, with Chucklefish seeking to take the charm and accessibility of these titles whilst applying modern technology to the formula. This means there’s higher resolution pixel art, robust online play and deep modding capability, so all four players competing for victory are sure to have a lot of fun.
With a medieval fantasy setting, the four different armies will consist of the usual assortment of Knights, Rangers and Heroes as well as the slightly more eccentric combatants, such as Mages, Witches, Vampires and Warrior Dogs. With a wealth of game modes being announced, as well as a detailed campaign and map editor, this is definitely one to watch.
Six games down, plenty more to go. Join us tomorrow for the next batch of games due out next year that we think you ought to keep an eye on.