Game of the Year 2022 – Best Independent Game

GOTY 2022 Best Indie Header

If there’s one Game of the Year category that is always packed to the gills with quality candidates, it’s Best Independent Game. For one thing, we’ve reached a point where it’s difficult to really distinguish between little indie, medium indie and the blurred lines that specialist indie game publishers leave behind. Then there’s just the sheer amount of creativity that bursts from the seams of this side of the games industry. It’s for this reason why we’ve a bumper crop runners up.

Our winner? Well, it’s a new twist on an old favourite. It might look like a twin-stick shooter, it might work a bit like a roguelike, but it’s blended with the kind of automatic play of an idle game. It’s something a little bit new,

GOTY 2022 Best Indie Banner

Much like Among Us or Fall Guys, it’s hard to ignore the meteoric success of a title as small as Vampire Survivors. What was initially released in Early Access as a side-gig project by a solo developer, it defied its total lack of marketing to turn into one of the top-played games on Steam and turn into a full-time career for its creator.

Vampire Survivors was built on scraps, but used its licensed not-quite-Castlevania pixel art assets as the vessel for a groundbreaking action-roguelike vision. Once you play a single round of Vampire Survivors, you’re desperate to play more. It’s a perfectly crafted, perfectly repeatable gameplay experience that feels like such a breath of fresh air after stepping away from the blockbuster, triple-A 100-hour adventure RPG epics of 2022.

Games can be simple, and simple can be fun, and fun is what we come to video games for. Vampire Survivors is pure, unfiltered fun. Every time you think it might get old, you’re a step away from unlocking a new stage, character, weapon or secret that instantly adds hours of new fun to the package. Before you know it, you’ve spent dozens of hours on the game, and just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see, a new update drops and adds even more content to explore and uncover. Vampire Survivors is constant dopamine developed on a dollar store budget, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need right now.

– Miguel M

Cult of the Lamb – Runner Up

Anyone who grew up playing The Sims secretly wants to be a cult leader. You lead your little flock around, you control what they eat, where they work and when they sleep. It’s damn creepy when you think about it. But what happens when you mix creepy with cute, and chuck in a roguelike element for the fun of it? Well, you get a game like Cult of the Lamb.

Your protagonist, a little cutie who is baaaaad to the bone, is sacrificed by the Bishops of the Old Faith, in the hopes of preventing a terrible prophesy of you releasing The One Who Waits. Obviously, he is waiting for you; he promptly sends you back to the land of the living to wreak havoc.

And said havoc is great fun. You romp about the local woods, killing enemy cultists and recruiting other cultists to your way of thinking. You build a little enclave in the woods and raise your flock into a self-sufficient township. It’s The Binding of Isaac meets Cult Simulator meets something cute and fluffy, and I’m totally into it.This is a truly unique take on a genre fusion that will stick in your brain for months to come. The visuals, sound and writing are all exquisite, and leave you wanting more.

Take one look at the aesthetic; if it appeals, there’s a very high chance that you’ll love Cult of the Lamb.

– Nic B

Neon White – Runner Up

Neon White is a passion-filled showcase of the loud, hyper, underground aesthetic that has existed on the fringe of pop-culture until quite recently – and it’s never been expressed in the medium of gaming so vividly. The soundtrack sets the stage for the entire game’s vibe, composed by electronic breakcore group Machine Girl. Taking their heavy, grungy style and adapting it into the soundscape of a frenzied first-person speedrunning shooter like Neon White works so well, and it creates the perfect contrast to the vivid, anime-style character illustrations and lo-fi 3D visuals of the game.

For a game so clearly inspired by anime and early 2000s American anime culture, it’s apt to compare it to something like the series Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt – both are frenetic, jaw-dropping combinations of bright visuals, grisly subject matter, and head-thrashing electronic music that come together in an overwhelmingly stylish package. Neon White is cool as hell, and wears both it’s cringy Toonami-fueled aspirations and it’s modern underground fascinations equally on it’s sleeves. The result is a fast and fun indie game that you’ll have no problem falling in love with.

– Miguel M

Arcade Paradise – Runner Up

The opening to Arcade Paradise is fairly mundane. You’ve been left in charge of a rundown laundromat, and your days are initially spent emptying the trash, cleaning gum off the seats and trying to maximise your pay packet by laundering people’s clothes as fast as possible. To be honest, this is compelling in its own way, but when you realise that you can turn the back room into an arcade, and that the machines will make more money than the washers, you’re suddenly onto a new business model.

Up to this point, this could be any number of other tycoon sims, but in Arcade Paradise every single one of the machines you add to your burgeoning business is an actual functioning coin-op, and you have to play them in order to unlock additional benefits for the arcade. Amazingly, each of these arcade jaunts is actually fun to play, and you can get lost for hours in the glowing screens of the arcade before you realise you’re supposed to be doing something more boring. As such, Arcade Paradise is a perfect portrayal of the human condition, and a bloody good indie game too.

– Dom L

Citizen Sleeper – Runner Up

Citizen Sleeper stands out as a game that delivers stories that people can relate to. Even though it is set in a far flung future on a space station. The gameplay is so simple with some resource management and choices to make. The majority of choices are not world changing, but they have impacts on small groups of people be it a bar owner or a guardian and the child he looks after. The music is really well composed and draws you into the situations, reacting to the decisions you make. Citizen Sleeper is a must play.

– Aran S

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

What indie games have stood out for you in 2022? Let us know in the comments below.

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