Best Indie Game is always one of the more unpredictable categories each year, with smaller studios exploring countless different genres in new and original ways. 2019 was another fantastic year in this regard, with games that are more akin to concept albums, fascinating time loop exploration games, conversation driven adventures, outstanding action titles, and yes, one very naughty goose.
By premise alone, Outer Wilds is one of the most fascinating games to release this year. Stuck in a 22 minute timeloop as a solar system goes supernova, you must use your time wisely to explore what remains of an ancient alien race. Using a ramshackle spaceship, players traverse the solar system to find other explorers and secrets that can alter the very fabric of space and time.
What makes Outer Wilds such a delight is the way in which its narrative unravels. You are free to use your 22 minutes however you want, so the narrative is driven by player agency and your exploration by your understanding of the lore. The more you find out, the better equipped you are to unlock the secrets lurking within the deepest and darkest crevices.
Outer Wilds is not just the best indie game of the year, it’s one of the best in this generation. The game blends stellar game design with a genuinely intriguing narrative to triumphant effect, creating what is one of my favourite experiences in gaming.
– Tom H
Disco Elysium – Runner Up
Waking up as a diabolically hungover detective isn’t how you’d expect to start an old-school roleplaying game. Inspired by genre stalwarts such as Baldur’s Gate and the original Fallout, Disco Elysium stands out as an oddball mutant amidst the swords and sorcery epics and tales from an apocalyptic future.
You won’t partake in turn based battles, scavenge for loot, or try to build an unstoppable party of adventurers. Those points you’d invest in strength or wisdom are instead spent on traits that define your character’s personality and how they might approach certain situations. It can be tempting to skip dialogue in CRPGs so you can get to the action, but the dialogue is the action in Disco Elysium. ZA/UM has made a mightily impressive debut here and one that has the writing chops to keep you both transfixed and chuckling along for many, many hours.
– Jim H
Untitled Goose Game – Runner Up
A game where you terrorise a small village by stealing some stuff, make people break other stuff and generally just bullying the local children may not sound like the best game of 2019 on paper, but the pure simplicity of the Untitled Goose Game is its genius.
Playing as the world’s naughtiest goose, your mission is to wreck havoc and let slip the honks of war. You can’t barter your way out of a pickle or fight off the locals. Instead, you must think like the goose. Become the goose and do what any self-respecting water fowl would do in this situation. Pop your head out of a bush, surveil the world with your beady little eyes, and start ticking off a to-do list of devilish pranks.
– Nic B
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Frog Detective 2
- Katana Zero
- Sayonara Wild Hearts
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list:
- Best Remaster/Remake
- Best Visual Design
- Best Soundtrack
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Gameplay
- Best Narrative
- Best Single Player Game
Which indie games have really stood out for you this past year? Let us know in the comments below.