2018 was yet another great year for indie PC games. Here are my personal favorites, from sci-fi adventures to turn-based strategies to turtles on stilts. I hope you find something new to enjoy.
10. The Mind’s Eclipse
I’m opening the countdown with The Mind’s Eclipse, an unsettling visual novel by Mind’s Eclipse Interactive. I played this one back in January, but oh man has it stuck with me. In the year 2352, a man awakens with no memory of who or where he is. Pieces come together slowly as the game plays with the idea of technology and how humans will use it to advance, for better or for worse. It’s wonderfully written and the most thought-provoking game I have ever played.
9. Lamplight City
I haven’t beaten Lamplight City yet, but I’m 12 hours in and still listing it as a favorite. Miles Fordham is a private investigator digging into cases that are a little too seedy or difficult for the local police. The opening case in this game absolutely stunned me and proved that this wasn’t going to be the average point-and-click adventure game. It’s got a dark sense of humor and isn’t afraid to use the game as a vehicle to discuss civil rights issues of our time.
8. Little Bug
Wow, wow, wow, Little Bug takes platforming to a new level. The player controls two characters: Nyah, a young girl trying to get home from school, and her spirit light, who helps swing her in the right direction. Nyah is a fascinating protagonist who collects creepy-crawlies struggles to communicate with her mom. Careful timing is utterly important and getting the game’s “Complete the game with one life” achievement has been acquired by only 0.5% of players.
7. Legendary Gary
Legendary Gary is unlike anything I’ve ever played in my life and I highly recommend you give it a try. Gary really isn’t that legendary. He lives in his mom’s basement and escapes life through video games. When the game he’s been playing starts to parallel his everyday life, things get interesting. Legendary Gary is an adventure game that features a unique combat system. Actions are chosen at the beginning of each round of combat and then all the characters move at once. It’s like an elaborate dance, complete with sweet synth-pop tunes and the occasional turtle on stilts. I’ve been using this image as a desktop background all year.
Moonlighter is the Zelda-like adventure game I’d been dreaming of since my GameBoy days. It perfectly combines the shopkeeper genre with dungeon-crawling adventuring. Our small-but-mighty protagonist dreams of becoming a hero. By day, he manages the town’s shop and by night he explores dungeons, defeats monsters, and collects rare items to sell. The boss fight animations are 100% worth the purchase price of this game. Moonlighter’s development team continues to pump out updates long after the release, including new mini-bosses and room patterns.
Wandersong proves that music can save the world. I played this whenever I got bummed out this year and it made me smile every time. Our little bard hero shows us that we can solve problems by talking or singing through them. He’s dorky. He struggles to connect with other people in the world. But he still shines with all of his being and I love this game so much for that.
I am terrified of underwater creatures. I jumped into Subnautica without knowing much about it, but I thought it would be entertaining to live-stream myself screaming at every sea creature encountered in this game. What I discovered was an incredible story combined with a huge open world to explore. Every new biome took my breath away. If you haven’t played this one yet, jump into it without watching or reading too much about it. It technically entered early access in 2016, but the official release date was 2018 so I’m including it here.
3. Broken Reality
I lost count of how many times I played the Broken Reality demo, desperately waiting for the full game to be released. It finally launched a month ago and lives up to my vaporwave aesthetic dreams. It makes my face hurt to play Broken Reality because I laugh so hard at the weird jokes and meme references. “Like” ads and buy dumb stuff on credit to level up in popularity. Solve clever puzzles and discover new areas. It’s fun. Real fun. And 100% worthy of your time.
2. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game
The Haunted Island feels like “Adventure Time” and Nathan Fielder got together to create a game about a frog detective. This small game contains less than an hour of content but it’s so wholesome and cozy and good. The (frog) Detective is assigned to a spooky case on a mysterious island, not because he’s the best, but because the best wasn’t available. He questions the suspects, makes some explosives, and does some pretty solid dancing. 10/10.
1. Into the Breach
My personal favorite game of 2018 is Into the Breach. I like this one so much that I bought it on PC and then again on Nintendo Switch. Now I can play in bed and at the coffee shop and in an airplane and anywhere else I can find time to play it. It’s a turn-based strategy/puzzle game by the team behind FTL. You play as a team of time-traveling, giant mechs who fight against an infestation of Vek creatures. I described it to my dad as “chess but with robots.” It’s endlessly-replayable with new maps, pilots, weapons, and enemy combinations each time. The soundtrack by Ben Prunty is immersive and dreamy. I may have played a lot of other games this year, but Into the Breach is the one I return to over-and-over again.