For the past five years, Double Fine Productions and iam8bit have hosted a public indie festival called Day of the Devs in San Francisco. It's a public, free event where fans are encouraged to meet up with indie devs and try out a host of in-development projects.
This year, there were over 60 games at the show, and they ran the gamut from console titles, to VR experiences, to mobile games. We tried out as many as we could, and while there were a lot of wonderful games, we chose to highlight ten that particularly stood out and that otherwise might not be on your radar. Even though our list is small, the main takeaway is that it looks like 2018 is going to have a ridiculous number of amazing indie games.
Side note: Gang Beasts isn't part of this list because, while it's really fun you've probably already both heard of it and played it yourself. After all, we play it on our charity livestream almost every year, and we'll probably play it again during our upcoming 2017 charity event.
Untitled Goose Game
Geese are jerks. And in the aptly titled Untitled Goose Game, you get to live out your fantasy of being the jerkiest goose.
That might only be a fantasy for me.
In addition to goose role-playing, the game also involves solving puzzles--I spent my time getting a farmer soaking wet and then stealing his keys. The farmer is probably, unlike the goose, a nice guy.
But when you're a goose, you don't have to care. -- Justin Haywald
Chuchel is the latest project by Amanita, a developer best known for its work on adventure games Machinarium and Botanicula. You play as the game's titular hero, a ball of fur desperately trying get his hands on a cherry. Chuchel's vibrant characters amid a blank white background looks simplistic, especially compared to its developer’s previous work, which often put a lot of focus on dense visuals and complex puzzle solving. However, Chuchel takes a rudimentary approach in its design to better focus on situational humor.
In your journey to reclaim Chuchel's cherry, you move from one scenario to the next interacting with simple objects in the environment to trigger a host of whimsical situations. Across its multiple scenarios, Chuchel feels like a collection of animated shorts. Each carries a charming sense of wit and humor that I'm eager to see more of once it launches sometime next year. After all, I need to know: is that furball ever going to get its cherry back? -- Matt Espineli
While surreal is a word that gets used a lot in gaming, Anamorphine embodies this sentiment. It takes the "walking simulator" concept and turns it into a dream-like journey through a person's hazy psyche. Rooms and characters morph in ways that elicit surprise, and even though you're limited in interactions to just walking up to objects, the game makes it feel like you're a part of the world.
The game's tagline is "explore the past as you resolve the present," and the story revolves around a character dealing with the mental and physical fallout of an accident involving his wife. I'm not typically excited about games that involve so little actual gameplay, but I'm looking forward to--and slightly dreading--seeing more of Anamorphine's journey. -- Justin Haywald
Way of the Passive Fist
Way of the Passive Fist offers a unique twist to the side-scrolling beat 'em up genre. Instead of relying on standard button mashing to beat up pixelated goons, the game focuses on timing-based mechanics where you parry and dodge enemy attacks to defeat them. The result plays like a bizarre lovechild between Streets of Rage and Street Fighter III. It's awesome.
The action is fairly straightforward: foes take turns trying to fight you, gradually teaching you the varying pace of their attacks before eventually tiring out. Then you simply push them over. While this fighting style sounds counterintuitive for a beat ‘em up, it works surprisingly well. The act of parrying and evading is easy to execute, yet it offers a steady degree of challenge, especially against multiple enemies with different attack patterns. Add that on top of a Fist of the North Star-like narrative, and you have an action game that's as charming as it is mechanically distinct. -- Matt Espineli
Dead Static Drive
I have no idea what's going on in Dead Static Drive, but the game is stylistically rendered in a stunning way. DSD feels like a cel-shaded version of Grand Theft Auto mixed with aspects of Tremors (yes, the '90s science-fiction film).
In my first attempt with the game I drank some coffee, peed in a urinal, found a bunch of weapons, then walked outside and got destroyed by some massive sand worm creature. In my second attempt, I hopped in a car and started driving around the desert. Then I got out of the car and got destroyed by a massive sand worm creature.
Would play again. -- Justin Haywald
As a loving tribute to the classic 1980s films and tv shows of young explorers in the pre-internet era being swept up in a sprawling story--Devolver Digital's next action-adventure game is a throwback in more ways than one. Exploring a small town full of odd characters and some supernatural events with a twinge of government conspiracy--you and your friends will have to work together and use your particular set of skills to track down those who have gone missing.
As you explore your town--meeting its many inhabitants and getting into a few scrapes along the way--you'll learn more of the setting's strange history. After coming in contact with a strange artifact, you'll be able to cross over into a parallel world where the lines between the living and the dead are blurred. Your town was weird enough before, but this new world adds a whole different layer to the strangeness--even explaining some of the behavior of the odder citizens.
Crossing Souls evokes that sense of nostalgia for a seemingly carefree time where kids could tune out playing their NES and watching Saturday morning cartoons in the comfort of their rooms. But this throwback adventure may have more to say about its era than you would think. -- Alessandro Fillari
While this isn't the first time I've seen Ooblets, the game continues to win me over anew each time with its quirky charm. It's equal parts Pokemon monster collecting, Animal Crossing house decorating, and Havest Moon farming and management, but it all comes together in a game that feels unique and exciting rather than just derivative. I want to know how it's story will play out and how much that will pull me along, but the mechanics of the world already draw me in. -- Justin Haywald
Curse of the Obra Dinn
Curse of the Obra Dinn was one of the most visually striking games at Day of the Devs. Taking inspiration from classic text adventures on PC, it sports a two-tone color palette that at times is a bit tough on the eyes, but hidden behind the retro aesthetic is an intriguing detective game.
Before arriving on board a ship called the Obra Dinn, you're given a book and a mysterious pocket watch. When you find a person's dead body, your watch allows you flash to the moment of their death, while revealing other details, such as who was in the vicinity. With this knowledge, you fill out the details of the crew in your book, flipping through the ship's manifest to intuit who died and who was killed by whom. As you steadily make more discoveries, more mysteries are revealed.
The sense of intrigue that pervades the experience sets up a narrative that’s not only fascinating but gratifying. In the two chapters I played, it actually felt like I was sleuthing. It's rare you get a detective-centric game that allows you to flex your deduction skills; Curse of the Obra Dinn challenges you to make sense of the events unfolding and the freedom to infer. With only three names filled out of the seven pages worth you find in the manifest, I can't wait to step aboard the Obra Dinn again to uncover more. -- Matt Espineli
Knights and Bikes
Knights and Bikes has an impressive pedigree with the creative director behind Tearaway and a gameplay programmer from LIttleBigPlanet and Ratchet & Clank. But the developer, Foam Sword, is a new venture that's going the indie route, and so far, their game captures the innocence (and abject terror) of childhood in an effusively charming way. The art style is a paper cutout wonder, and the gameplay is reminiscent of some of the best SNES-era action-RPGs. Think Secret of Mana meets the Goonies, but with a rowdy cast of adventurous girls. The only thing I'm left wondering every time I finish playing is when I'll get to try some more. -- Justin Haywald
More than likely, you have actually heard of Below. However, although it was announced back at E3 2013, the game was indefinitely delayed in 2016. But it's still in active development, and the playable version at Day of the Devs is probably the most refined build of the game yet.
The rougelike dungeon crawler is light on explicit story and explanation. You wash ashore on a mysterious island, and the only place to go is into a cave. Then you delve deeper and deeper in the mysterious "below."
I'm not very good at Below, at least I tend to die really quickly. And I'm curious how the roguelike aspect will play out over longer and longer sessions. But in short bursts at least, the mysterious exploration aspects combined with its intense combat make it feel like an epic journey. -- Justin Haywald