Game of the Year 2023 – Best Independent Game

GOTY 2023 Best Indie header

What does it mean to be an indie developer? Well, the definition these days seems to about as broad the Action-Adventure genre. Games with all the hallmarks of an indie production can come from a small team within a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, from indie publishers that have brought developers in-house, and then we’ve seen independent developers build up and grow over the course of decades to the point that they can craft landmark, genre redefining RPGs.

Really it’s all about vibes and making a judgement call, but let’s just say that the games at the top of our list are absolutely indie games.

GOTY 2023 Best Indie award

Dredge is unique concept – a rare find these days – and plays like a dream. Somehow it managed to combine the peaceful tranquility of fishing with Eldritch horror, with giant monsters roaming the seas and ghostly eyes peering from beyond. It does sound like it could be a mess, the game changing within seconds from being quiet and relaxing to a panic-filled race to safety, but it’s never scary enough to disturb the chilled out mood you settle in when playing for a few hours.

The game mashes up mini games, tall stories, Tetris, and fishing in a delighful hodge-podge of weirdness that can be explored at your own leisure. There’s no time limits, no area is off limits right from the start and you can float around at your own pace. Despite the H.P. Lovecraft inspirations, it’s also family friendly and a great game to watch someone else to play.

Dredge feels like one of those games that gets some great reviews, but that few people talk about. Well, clearly there are some secret Dredgers on the TSA team!

– Tuffcub

Sea of Stars – Runner Up

Sea of Stars, a love letter to the halcyon days of the very first RPGs, is a very good game. The passion that the devs at Sabotage Studios poured into this is almost palpable, going to great lengths to take a tried and tested formula and modernise it. After all, as cool as the old RPGs were, games have come a long way since the early 90s.

The result is a heavily playable game with morish visuals, a cracking story and deeply considered level design. While there are some flaws with the combat system, the overall result is spectacular and a must-play for fans of the genre.

– Nic B

A Highland Song – Runner Up

In a year filled with more epic games and grand storylines, A Highland Song stands out as a more localised and intimate experience. While initially seeming like a departure from Inkle’s normal focus on games where narrative is at the forefront, it quickly becomes apparent that the entire mechanic of exploring the Scottish Highlands, scaling peaks, and identifying paths is an example of what is sometimes called psychogeography. The central character, Moira, is simultaneously running away from home and running towards a better sense of her own self. Along the way she discovers a myriad of Scottish folklore figures and folktales, all of which contribute to her individual and national identity.

This grand personal journey, albeit drawn on a relatively small scale, has far more power to compel and affect a player than the sprawling and messy narratives of more vaunted titles like Starfield, but this isn’t just an excuse to tell a story. The climbing and stamina mechanics feel like a purified distillation of the likes of modern day Zelda and the frequent euphoric chase sequences stand out as some of the most joyous moments in my gaming year.

– Steve C

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

What was your personal favourite of the year? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to stick with us through the rest of this month as we tick our categories off one by one.