2020 has been a strange year for all of us but despite the chaos, we’ve still gotten to experience a bunch of great games releases. Indie games in particular have had a great start to the year, with several memorable titles finding their way to PC and consoles this year. From games about listening to gorgeous forest puzzlers, these are just a few of our favourite indie games from 2020 so far.
This post has been updated with more indies.
A quintessentially Australian game, Necrobarista is a cinematic visual novel set in a cafe. The cafe is a bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead, and the world asks a simple question of you and everyone in it — if you had one last day, what would you do with it?
A two-person game from Maori designer Naphtali Faulkner (who currently lives in Australia) and the Netherlands-based composer ThorHighHeels, Umurangi Generation is a first-person photography game about capturing the moment in a shitty, dystopian sci-fi world.
The game is heavily inspired by recent Australian events — Faulkner’s house was burned down in the 2019-2020 bushfires. The city of Tauranga is heavily beset with conflict and its own societal conflicts, much of which is expressed in-game through art and graffiti that you’ll naturally capture with your in-game camera.
I could talk further about the game, but I won’t because it really deserves its own piece. Umurangi Generation isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely one of the more unique titles this year.
How well does Risk of Rain‘s roguelike action stylings convert to the 3D space? Supremely well, as it turns out. If you’re after a new looter shooter, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better this year.
Imagine Battlefield 1942‘s settings and maps — Carentan, Omaha and so on — but with 100 players and more hardcore. Hell Let Loose, a production headed up by an Australian, is a WW2-style shooter where two teams of 50 battle on a map for individual sectors. As each sector is captured, that sector generates resources that influences a wider meta-game.
With 14 different roles, 9 maps, a range of WW2 tanks, the ability to build battlefield defences, a tactical map and a Commander role, Hell Let Loose is a supremely impressive production for any shooter, let alone an indie game.
The creation of Hong Kong-based studio Duoyi, Gunfire Reborn is a lo-fi cross between FPS, roguelike and RPG that can be played in solo or co-op. Players level up with throughout their runs and with each death, unlocking different classes and playstyles along the way. Supremely good value for $16.95.
An excellent adaptation of one of the most iconic board games of the last few years. Root is an asymmetrical game about warring woodland tribes trying to seize control of the forest back from the Marquise de Cat.
Root‘s an excellent tabletop game, but it can also be quite intricate given the very different nature of each of the factions. The digital version is much cheaper and has crossplay with the mobile version, which is due out very soon.
The very good Rogue Legacy is back. As your character dies, they are replaced by your offspring, each of whom have completely unique traits and abilities of their own. The full release isn’t due out until next year, but there’s plenty of content already in the Early Access version to have plenty of fun.
Outrun meets synthwave. Need I say more?
Slay the Spire (iOS)
Slay the Spire launched on iOS this year, bringing one of the most addictive and genre-defining deckbuilders to an even more portable format. If you haven’t played Slay the Spire yet, you’re missing out.
Imagine if Pokemon was on PC, but more hardcore and designed as a proper MMO. Crema’s take on a monster battler was a massive success when it launched in January, and the studio has continued to add new islands, endgame content and tidbits to make Pokemon, but for adults.
Drunken dwarven co-op exploring. That’s Deep Rock Galactic at its heart: a four-player co-op FPS where players pick different classes and scour an enormous, procedurally generated cave system while they search for loot. Surprisingly funny and incredibly well built. Well worth the money.
Imagine Left 4 Dead, but leaning much more heavily into the horror element and with more serious gunplay and tactical fighting. That’s basically GTFO in a nutshell. It’s best seen in motion, so check out my playthrough with the developers below.
An open-world game about building your own factory. Definitely one for fans of games like Factorio or Rimworld, especially if you enjoy dominating a world with conveyor belts.
A game about managing loss. Spiritfarer puts you in the position of Stella, building a boat to explore and ferry the dead to the afterlife. It’s also a co-op game, with the second player playing as Daffodil the cat, which is probably the cutest name for a cat I’ve heard all year. The game’s around 30 to 40 hours long, which is handy.
Coffee Talk is all about listening. It’s a zen puzzler that focuses on narrative over gameplay as it introduces you to the stories of orcs, mermaids, elves and other creatures that visit your local cafe. A range of dialogue choices open up these unique stories as you delve further into a delightful fantasy world.
It features a gorgeous pixel aesthetic inspired by 90s anime and instills such a sense of calm you’ll want to return to this game world over and over.
This whacky physics puzzler from Aussie studio SMG was a near-instant hit when it released in early 2020. There’s a reason for that — it’s so much fun. You can play Moving Out in single or multiplayer, but no matter which way you choose it’s still an excellent time.
As you attempt to manoeuvre lounges, chairs, desks and other unwieldy items through and around obstacles, all you’ll have to guide you is your nervous companions and a timer ticking down until the end. Win or lose, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a great time with this ridiculous game.
Golf With Your Friends does what it says on the tin — it lets you golf… with your friends. This game from Aussie studio Blacklight Interactive is a multiplayer sim that’s so much fun to play with mates. It takes the classic ‘golf game’ formula and turns it on its head with a bunch of fun multiplayer courses that can be played with up to twelve people.
Importantly, Golf With Your Friends isn’t just about the golf. There’s a heap of whacky and explosive misadventures you can spice up your golf life with. This is a golf game, but not like one you’ve ever played before.
Before We Leave is a chilled city builder where players create their own, peaceful part of the universe. There’s no major combat outside of a few roaming space whales, so it’s a mostly stress-free adventure. Players will need to stay vigilant and monitor their resources to build out their perfect civilisation.
For those who’ve never gotten into more complex city builders, Before We Leave is the perfect, calming entry. The intricate design is very cute, too.
Murder By Numbers is a great indie murder mystery where players must solve pixel puzzles (as above) to gain clues and solve murders. It sits somewhere between the visual novel and puzzler genres, taking the best of each to form a game that feels wholly original.
It’s got a great narrative, excellent puzzle-themed gameplay and cute anime-style art that’ll make you fall in love with the characters. If you’re into Sudoku, Picross or other classic puzzles, you’ll love Murder By Numbers.
This cyberpunk adventure is absolutely gorgeous. With exploration a focus of gameplay, you’ll be able to travel every nook and cranny of Cloudpunk‘s dystopian cybercity as you deliver mail to its secretive residents. The world can be explored via hover car or on foot, but no matter where you look, the game is simply fascinating.
Cloudpunk features a robust narrative adventure that’ll take you through every laneway in the city and every mystery it has to offer. Corporate conspiracy is just the tip of the iceberg in this game’s deep story.
The frantic Cook, Serve, Delicious! franchise continued this year with the latest wild entry. This go around, players are travelling across a dystopian, war-torn future delivering excellent home-cooked food to the demanding hoards. If you’ve never played a CSD! game prepare for high stress, high mess and crowds of demanding customers.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is a hectic fun time, but make sure you keep those orders up! The last thing you want is to disappoint your patrons.
After seven long years, 2020 saw the final end for the crew of Kentucky Route Zero. Act V finally brought the story of Conway and his package to a definitive end after a long journey between acts. The final chapter is cathartic for those who’ve watched this story unfold over the years and the perfect end for a weird and wonderful tale.
Thankfully, the ending does the story a great justice with its final notes bringing the Kentucky Route Zero story to a satisfying close. It’s short and very weird, but that’s Kentucky Route Zero in a nutshell. The years-long wait was worth it.
A better than expected love-letter to one of the best side-scrolling beat-em-ups that ever existed.
A story driven light simulation about deciding whether to help or ignore your peasants. Not everyone wants the best for the kingdom of Davern, so it’s up to you to protect your family, your villagers — the honest ones — and the competing interests of the lords whose support you need to win the upcoming war.
A twist on deckbuilding roguelikes with real-time action. Playable in solo or co-op mode, One Step From Eden is a fast-paced action game where your deck of cards controls the various spells you have available. Enemies will attack various points of the board — or fire projectiles — and you’ll have to dodge and weave around, targeting them with your own suite of spells.
An Aussie-made deckbuilder that blends dice, tabletop tactics and the Warhammer universe into one game. Games are quick, the deckbuilding adds plenty of variety and the game perfectly captures the spirit and feel of the original Warhammer Underworlds board game. Players start with a deck of 20 cards, as well as an objective deck that guides how players gather Glory points throughout the game.
Imagine a co-op tower defence game … but you’re the size of a toy army soldier. This is basically Toy Story built around a wave shooter, where players work together to defend the core with turrets, defences, and various weapons. Great game for kids, and great for nostalgia as well.
What are your best indies from 2020? Did we miss any of your favourites? Tell us about it in the comments below!