A Games List of Only Amazing Hidden Indie Gems and Snubs

Mike Powers


Over the past year we’ve been slammed with a barrage of superb games, from AAA blockbusters such as Baldur’s Gate 3, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Alan Wake II, to indie darlings such as Against the Storm, Pizza Tower, and Cocoon. However, hidden in the shadows of these outstanding video games that were played by millions were equally impressive titles that never got the chance to dance under the bright lights.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to another 20 hidden indie gems you likely haven’t heard of, but which fully deserve your attention. While the bulk of these titles have been released in recent times, we’ve also got a selection of games that came out in the last 3 to 4 years.

These are all indies, and while some managed to capture the attention of media or gamers, if only for a while, every game on the list below can be classified as a spotlight snub. We’ve listed them alphabetically since that seemed like the most fair way to showcase them, considering they’re all pretty darn good…

How many games do you know out of these 20?
> Don’t miss our reader poll at the end of the article… <

A Highland Song

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A Games List of Only Amazing Hidden Indie Gems and Snubs
  • 2D Platformer
  • Single-player

At 15 years of age, Moira McKinnon decided to run away and finally see the sea with her own eyes. But the road to the shore is long-winded, filled with environmental perils, paths that lead nowhere, and all kinds of bad weather that can creep upon you in a minute in the Scottish Highlands where A Highland Song takes place.

This 2D adventure / platformer manages to create an immensely rich and unique world of intertwined 2D planes with an impressive feeling of depth. A world where you can get lost in a jiffy after making just a handful of wrong turns. So you have to climb nearby peaks and map your route by solving map-based puzzles in order to find your way forward, move deeper into the 2D plane of the game to discover new routes, and hide in caves and ruins from times long gone to weather storms and continue your journey to the sea.

Buy it from: Steam

Bzzzt

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  • 2D Platformer
  • Single-player

A pixel art platformer featuring tight controls, challenging gameplay, outstanding level design, a normal mode where a single hit means death, and a time challenge in each level, Bzzzt is a speedrunners dream, but this doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy the game.

Lower the difficulty and Bzzzt transforms into a highly enjoyable precise platformer with a near-perfect flow, more than 50 levels, and collect-them-all challenges that are more suited to regular gamers who are fine with getting better at a game but don’t find the near-insurmountable challenge at higher difficulty levels all that attractive.

Add a number of exciting boss battles, the fact that you can finish most levels in a minute or less, superb optimization allowing the game to be played on a toaster or any handheld gaming PC, and you’ve got one of the slickest platformers of recent years that begs for your consideration. Bzzzt offers something for everyone, as long as they’re a fan of platformers.

Buy it from: Steam, GOG

Cobalt Core

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  • Roguelike Deckbuilder
  • Single-player

When you hear the words “roguelike deckbuilder,” some of the things that come to your mind probably include punishing difficulty, barebones story, and static battles where neither you nor your opponents move around the battlefield. Cobalt Core subverts these expectations, presenting a deckbuilder roguelike that features an engaging meta-story, multiple levels of difficulty, and dynamic battles where you have to care about your position as much as your card synergies.

This game appeals to those who typically don’t enjoy roguelikes by encouraging players to embark on another run not only with promises of cool new cards and playing characters to unlock, but also by unveiling a new character-specific story bit each time you finish a run. This is a great carrot-and-stick mechanic for gamers who lean more toward story-rich games than titles that put gameplay in front of everything else. That said, Cobalt Core is not a one-trick pony when it comes to unlocks. Aside from the slowly unraveling meta-story, you also unlock new crew members, cards, and ships.

And considering that each crew member only has three unlockable story bits – out of 18 bits in total – and that each ship has different unlock requirements, the game constantly pushes you to experiment with new crew members and crew combos, each character having their own unique deck of cards, and try playing at higher difficulties instead of settling into a feeling-good-but-not-trying-new-stuff rut once you find a crew and ship combo that suits your playstyle the best.

Buy it from: Steam

Dodgeball Academia

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  • Split Screen PvP
  • Single-player
  • Sports RPG

Dodgeball Academia is a sports RPG reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon, with gameplay akin to a 90s console RPG, filled with humorous and wholesome moments, with a cast of quirky but lovable characters and a ton of engaging dodgeball battles. The game offers a charming story and a compact game world filled with content that still manages to keep the spirit of exploration alive since each part of the map has its fair share of hidden collectibles.

The story unfolds over the course of about a dozen hours, with the game constantly feeding players with new areas to explore and new opponents that will test your dodgeball and roster-building abilities. Dodgeball battles are easy at first, but later on in the game, you will have to sweat in order to be the last man standing. Do not dodge this game!

Buy it from: Steam, GOG

El Paso, Elsewhere

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  • Third-person Shooter
  • Single-player

What would you get if you’d mix elements of Max Payne and Control and then glaze the resulting potpourri with retro visuals? Probably something very similar to El Paso, Elsewhere.

This is a style-and-substance neo-noir third-person shooter that looks and feels great. Battle tons of bizarrely-looking enemies, use bullet time like there’s no tomorrow, and unveil the story of love gone foul.

The game features lovely retro visuals alongside non-stop explosive action where using bullet time is as natural and frequent as breathing. Levels are designed in a way to promote Max Payne-like type of set pieces where style is as important as getting things done, where the experience of shooting baddies is the best part of the whole game. Check this one out, you won’t regret it.

Buy it from: Steam, GOG, Itch

Empty Shell

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  • Roguelike Shooter
  • Single-player

If one expression could describe Empty Shell, it would be “an exercise in futility.” Empty Shell is an unrelenting, dissonant barrage of punishing encounters that often lead to a quick game over.

The game’s overly dark, twisted, ill-defined visuals that frequently force you to squint in order to see the enemies marching towards you adds a second layer of unapproachability that punishes its players both in terms of gameplay and visual presentation.

But if you persevere and give Empty Shell a chance, you’re in for a treat. At least if you like gruelingly difficult survival horror games with an obtuse, twisted story, oppressive atmosphere, and roguelike gameplay loop. The game’s tactical gameplay that doesn’t forgive mistakes can become super addicting. If you like this kind of games, you might find yourself awake at 3am after yet another defeat, urging your body to find enough energy to embark on just another run.

Buy it from: Steam

Islets

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  • Metroidvania
  • Single-player

Islets is a one-man project that oozes crafty design and love for the Metroidvania genre. Instead of going down the route of blocky pixel art, Islets uses hand-drawn artwork to give life to the tiny yet brave mouse you play as, and its playground made of various islands floating among the clouds.

The game looks great but also features a well-designed gameplay loop where you explore fairly large standalone maps filled with upgrades, bosses, and beautiful scenery. The catch here is that your goal is to reunite the fragmented islands, which in turn mends the maps and drops new areas to explore and upgrades to collect, making the process of backtracking the genre is known for much less tedious than in most other metroidvanias.

Aside from the beautiful hand-painted visuals, music in Islets is also worthy of praise. Lush visuals combined with sprightly melodies give Islets a vivacious and sumptuous atmosphere, the complete opposite of the somber tones of Hollow Knight. Locking it in is relatively simple combat that’s not too hard, allowing players to focus on exploration and contentment of the game’s astonishing levels instead of trying to git gud in order to beat the boss they’ve been stuck on the last three hours.

Buy it from: Steam, GOG, Epic Games Store

Loddlenaut

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  • Cozy Survival-lite
  • Online Co-op

Pick up trash, recycle materials, clean the ocean, and revive the planet. The premise of Loddlenaut is simple, and this cozy game in the vein of “A Short Hike” doesn’t try to oversell itself, unlike many other such titles that market themselves like they’re the second coming of A Short Hike.

The game’s chill gameplay and the fact that you can befriend cute axolotl-like loddles will win you over the moment you put on your diving helmet and dive into the polluted ocean of the planet GUP-14, which will soon be cleaned by none other than yourself. Loddlenaut is a wickedly cozy game with slews of charm.

Buy it from: Steam

OlliOlli World

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  • Arcade Skater/Platformer
  • Single-player

The first two OlliOlli games were tons of fun, and the latest entry maintains the unbeatable quality of the OlliOlli flow experience while also taking the franchise into 3D realms. Lauded by critics but failing to become a smash indie hit reviews were hinting at, OlliOlli World deserves your attention if you’re into the fast-paced combo-hoarding style of games that pack tons of style and substance.

The feeling of landing one combo after another while riding through deftly designed levels and while the rush of excitement in your brain is growing with each second until you cross the finish line and discover that you’ve managed to accrue enough points to advance to the next level is one of the best examples of a quality tension-and-release design in a modern game. And if you’re into conquering each level, the game offers a number of extra achievements that usually require full dedication to be obtained.

Buy it from: Steam

Patch Quest

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  • Roguelike Shoot-’em-up
  • Single-player

Patch Quest is a peculiar indie game that combines some of the best elements of roguelites, metroidvanias, and shmups, infuses them with Pokemon-like creature collecting, and serves the final course with an extra dose of challenge. The game world is humongous and rife for exploration, but you’ll have to wait a bit and die a few times before you obtain enough upgrades to survive in the world of Patch Quest for long enough to embark on lengthy runs and actually manage to score some cool loot and unlock more permanent upgrades.

Once you get the ball rolling the game opens up, and you’re greeted with a ton of content that includes numerous items to obtain, permanent upgrades to unlock, dungeons to explore, and bosses to beat. Another good news is that shooting here’s phenomenal, with the game packing a wide enough selection of weapons and abilities not to turn stale once you become powerful enough to present a real danger to the denizens of Patchlantis. Last but not least, the game supports split-screen co-op for up to 2 players, meaning you can shuffle things up with a friend once solo exploration starts to become dull.

Buy it from: Steam

Pseudoregalia

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  • Metroidvania
  • Single-player

Pseudoregalia is a 3D metroidvania that puts the joy of motion in front of everything else. Its N64-like visuals may be off-putting to some, but once you enter the castle, unlock a few abilities that make traversing the levels a breeze, and embark on the quest to find all keys needed to face the final challenge, Pseudoregalia turns into one of the most addictive metroidvanias out there.

Each level in the game includes a few areas you can reach by pulling off creative, sequence breaking move combos and using the level design to your advantage. This design decision always keeps you guessing whether you can advance with your current set of moves or have to unlock more abilities, eliciting a captivating gameplay loop filled with rewarding discoveries.

The only thing we advise all prospective players is to use the game map available in this Steam guide, unless you enjoy free-form exploration and occasionally getting lost in game worlds for hours on end.

Buy it from: Steam, Itch

Roadwarden

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  • Text-based RPG
  • Single-player

If you fancy playing a text-based RPG with troves of choices to make and beautiful isometric pixel art embellishing almost every dialog window, look no further than Roadwarden. This is an expertly crafted RPG where many side quests include a number of impactful choices to make and where fighting mobs includes lots of reading, typing, and clicking on multiple-choice answers.

This choose-your-adventure game doesn’t try to escape its text-heavy roots, but it also manages to create a gameplay loop where you stop caring about not being able to swing your ax at bad guys and instead embrace the game’s dialog windows filled with text and cute pixel art illustrations.

The game includes three classes to choose from, each unique enough to offer a completely different experience than the other two; a great incentive to beat the game multiple times. Pro tip: if you want the maximum level of immersion, turn the time limit off and take your time soaking up the masterfully written fantasy world of Roadwarden.

Buy it from: Steam

Rush Rally 3

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  • Online PvP
  • LAN PvP
  • Single-player
  • Racer

One man’s journey of creating an ultimate indie rally simulation had started years ago on smartphones, with the third iteration of the Rush Rally series being the first one to launch on PC. And, oh boy, this one’s a keeper.

If you like Colin McRae games, including the newer Dirt titles such as Dirt 2 and Dirt 3, you’ll love Rush Rally 3. The game is a simcade rally racer with a meaty campaign and more than 20 rally cars from all eras you can unlock, customize, tune, and upgrade. The stages are a joy to drive and can get more than a bit tricky as you progress through the campaign mode.

As for the driving model, it leans more towards the arcade but includes realistic physics of driving over different surfaces, as well as quite detailed deformation and damage models. Lastly, while the visuals won’t blow your mind, they fit nicely with the overall retro feel of the game, taking you back to the 2000s and early 2010s, the golden age of Colin McRae and Dirt games. If you prefer isometric racers, check out Rush Rally Origins from the same developer.

Buy it from: Steam

South Scrimshaw, Part One

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  • Visual Novel
  • Single-player

A free visual novel featuring an original story about a whale growing up in an ocean that’s uncannily similar yet utterly alien to ours as well as some of the best illustrations you’ll ever see in a game is a deal you shouldn’t miss, even if visual novels aren’t your cup of tea.

Instead of playing out a branching story filled with choices, consequences, multiple endings, and all that jazz, South Scrimshaw offers a unique way of telling a story in a video game. This visual novel uses a pseudo-documentary style of narration with fully voiced lines and exhaustively detailed worldbuilding that includes details not only about lifeforms occupying the said ocean but also about the human-led expedition that discovered the planet on which the story takes place.

If there’s a major flaw with the game, it’s the fact that it ends kind of in the middle of the story and that we have to wait for part two to see how the story ends.

Download it from: Steam, GOG, Itch

Stasis: Bone Totem

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  • Point-and-click Adventure
  • Single-player

The Brotherhood is a studio with a knack for isometric adventure games boasting a track record that includes admirable achievements such as Beautiful Desolation and Cayne. Their latest game, Stasis: Bone Totem, is arguably The Brotherhood’s best game to date.

While past games from The Brotherhood lacked in one way or another, Stasis: Bone Totem is where everything clicks into place. You’ve got impressive visuals, clever puzzles that are fun to solve, an engaging story, phenomenal worldbuilding and art direction, a brilliant soundtrack, and a gameplay loop that tries to innovate on the tried-and-true point-and-click adventure hallmarks.

And while adventure aficionados will most likely adore this one, Stasis: Bone Totem should be played by everyone who likes dark, bleak sci-fi games with a quality story. Best of all, despite the game being a sequel to 2015’s Stasis, the two games only share the universe they took place in.

Buy it from: Steam, GOG, Epic Games Store

Super Woden GP 2

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  • Shared/Split Screen PvP
  • Single-player
  • Isometric Racer

If you’ve ever wished for a retro-styled isometric take on the legendary Gran Turismo 4, Super Woden GP 2 is that game. The meat and potatoes of the game includes the hefty campaign that will see you drive cars in a dozen different classes, each class with unique handling and ways to go fast around the tracks. The game offers a ton of different cars to obtain, either by unlocking them by winning championships or buying them at car lots.

Despite the game’s arcadey handling, each championship in Super Woden GP 2 feels different. Rally cars can drive across grass and dirt almost as fast as on asphalt, compact hatchbacks accelerate like lighting and are super easy to control, but their max speed leaves something to be desired, while the powerful GT cars have both the acceleration and max speed, but require a gold certificate at the braking academy.

The diverse offering of championships, the ability to upgrade each and every car you own, as well as a slew of content including four-way split-screen local multiplayer for when your friends come out, weekly online events with leaderboards, more than 180 cars to unlock, and a good number of particularly tricky time trial races that put your mettle to the test make Super Woden GP 2 one of the best indie races out there, period.

Buy it from: Steam

The Multi-Medium

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  • 2D Platformer
  • Single-player

A straightforward yet engaging puzzle platformer gameplay where every level follows a different art style with the only constant being the ragdoll-like playing character, and the fact that every asset found in The Multi-Medium is hand drawn or hand painted make this one a doozie.

Mechanically, The Multi-Medium plays like your usual puzzle platformer. You spend your time running, jumping, avoiding obstacles, solving puzzles, and fighting various bosses and regular enemies while trying to stay alive and visit just another world. But as the game progresses, you discover that most worlds feature a unique gameplay mechanic that keeps stuff fresh and prevents the game from turning into a chore after the initial amazement with the fantastic art design fades.

The platforming sections are intermittently dotted with various puzzles that are, in most cases, relatively simple yet fun to solve, supplying the game with a good amount of engaging content but preventing players from getting stuck on that one super-hard puzzle found in many other similar titles. At the end of the day, The Multi-Medium is a cute little hidden gem that revels in the atmosphere and is one of the best ways to spend a couple hours of your free time.

Buy it from: Steam

Tunguska: The Visitation

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  • Isometric Shooter
  • Single-player

While you’re waiting for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl, you could try Tunguska: The Visitation. This game takes the S.T.A.L.K.E.R formula and places it in an isometric perspective, all while keeping even closer to the main inspiration for both games, Roadside Picnic. Instead of the zone being around the Chernobyl nuclear part, the Soviet Exclusion Zone in Tunguska: The Visitation is located around the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, near which the mysterious Tunguska explosion occurred in 1908.

The Soviet Exclusion Zone is filled with perils but also treasures, untold stories, and tons of enemies ranging from fellow human stalkers to otherworldly mutants that can turn the atmosphere towards survival horror the moment you encounter one.

The game’s designed as a light-survival shooter with RPG elements, allowing players to design unique builds revolving around shooting everything that moves, sticking to the shadows, or everything in between. You’ve got tons of content, a chunky story with a number of cool discoveries and twists, and an exploration-heavy, zero-quest marker gameplay loop that constantly drives you forward into the unknown.

Buy it from: Steam, GOG, Itch

Under A Star Long Cold

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  • Stealth Roguelite
  • Single-player

Under A Star Long Cold is yet another stealth-focused micro game from Antonio Freyre that features retro visuals and brilliant stealth action gameplay. But unlike most of his other works that follow a linear story, Under A Star Long Cold is an open-world game that tasks you with looting enough resources to pay your debts before the planet you’re on gets destroyed. You have 30 minutes, and the way you tackle this time-based challenge is completely up to you.

This time trial twist keeps the game fresh and gives it a ton of replay value. You can try different approaches and tactics and test whether you can finish a run successfully faster by taking it slow and quiet, or employing a guns-blazing approach.

Once you amass enough cash to pay off your debts, you can just stick to your favorite schtick and try beating your high score, or try mixing things up. The well-designed stealth gameplay will probably become the go-to approach for most players, but the considerable challenge of your debt-repaying quest will most likely be a motivation to experiment while trying to get off the planet alive.

Buy it from: Steam, Itch

Zortch

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Zortch Maxinum wanted to save some cash, so she booked a cheaper holiday package. The alien ruse has succeeded, and Zortch is now stuck in an alien world trying to get back home while killing hordes of quite unfriendly aliens that come in more than 30 flavors. Zortch is a love letter to FPS games released during the early 2000s; the sunset of the N64 and the dawn of the PS2 era.

The visuals follow the standards set by the PC and console shooters of that time, but the level design leapfrogs most of the said games, offering an explosive action game filled with early aughts humor and uniquely designed weapons. Zortch is a proper banger that should be played by everyone who grew up during the golden age of N64 and PS2. After all, a game endorsed by David Szymanski of the Dusk and Gloamwood fame can’t be bad.

Buy it from: Steam, Itch

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