Game Recs

The Best Indie Games of 2023: 17 Gems You Shouldn't Miss

Small but mighty.

Originally Published: 
A Space for the Unbound bridge overlook
Toge Productions

2023 is shaping up to be one of the best years for video games in recent memory. The trend of horror remakes like Dead Space and Resident Evil 4 have solidified these games as masterpieces, while new titles both expected (Tears of the Kingdom) and surprising (Hi-Fi Rush) have managed to give gamers no shortage of great titles to sink their teeth into. But like every year some of the most unique and rewarding gaming experiences are in the indie scene.

Ten months into the year, 2023 has delivered a plethora of hidden gems. Here’s our pick of the indie crop.

17. Pizza Tower

Listen, some of the best Mario spinoffs are about Wario. He’s just a weird little guy who gets up to a lot of mischief. Pizza Tower takes inspiration from Wario Land for a chaotic 2D platformer with striking visuals — and hilarious mechanics like Pizza Time.

16. Goodbye Volcano High

Part-visual novel, part-rhythm game, Goodbye Volcano High follows a group of anthropomorphic dinosaurs whose high school graduation is about to coincide with the end of the world. Playing as the pterodactyl Fang, you’ll face the inevitable extinction of your species, endure your mother’s refusal to accept your nonbinary identity, and get your band ready for the biggest show of your life. Goodbye Volcano High’s best moments come when it blends its narrative with a tricky rhythm minigame, all of which is backed by an excellent original soundtrack.

15. Terra Nil

Terra Nil is a smart twist on the city-building sim.

Devolver Digital

While city-building simulators are a very prevalent genre there is an overlooked dark aspect to them in how they inherently center around ideas like industrialization, anti-environmentalism, and modern imperialism. Terra Nil sees another option, by using the mechanics of a city builder to imagine a world where technology can be used to help nature thrive and return to areas ravaged by the ever-forward march of society.

14. Dordogne

Dordogne’s brisk three to four-hour story feels like a much-needed summer vacation from the longer more grimdark games of the year. Taking place in the French countryside and rendered with a jaw-dropping watercolor art style, Dordogne is a feast for the eyes.

13. Pseudoregalia

Navigating Pseudoregalia’s Castle Sansa is one of the biggest thrills of 2023.


There’s simply no denying that Pseudoregalia is one of the best platformers in years. With PS1-style graphics and a soundtrack to match, Pseudoregalia feels like a throwback to an earlier era, but with some cutting-edge movement. Traversing its labyrinthine setting takes a lot of skill, but spectacularly fun abilities like a wall jump and air dash make every second of it a blast.

12. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood casts you as Fortuna, a witch exiled from her coven for 200 years. To escape, she has to form a pact with a demon and craft her own unique Tarot deck. As you design art for your cards and read visitors’ fates, you’ll come to terms with Fortuna’s past and forge a new future.

11. Tron: Identity

The cult sci-fi series from Disney was always the perfect property to make into a video game. What is shocking about Tron: Identity is that it isn’t the middling AAA cash crab that you might expect out of a major company like Disney. Instead, Tron: Identity is a masterful distillation of the more philosophical themes of the Tron universe in the form of a short neon noir.

10. Venba

There is little that a good meal can’t solve. That is the idea at the heart of cooking game, Venba. The short narrative investigates how food can be linked to identity and memory while being so delicious and comforting at the same time. The game’s delightful food puzzles are satisfying — though they will likely leave you salivating so have some snacks nearby.

9. Chants of Sennaar

Learning and understanding are at the heart of Chants of Sennaar.


There’s a good reason Inverse’s Willa Rowe calls Chants of Sennaar “the best puzzle game since Return of the Obra Dinn.” Like that 2018 cult hit, Chants of Sennaar is a test of logic few games can compare to. It revolves around translating a series of languages using context clues, expertly building your understanding, and then forcing you to use what you’ve learned to solve the next riddle.

8. The Banished Vault

2023 will have no shortage of expansive space games by year's end thanks to Dead Space and Starfield just to name the biggest, but the indie scene has its own unique takes on the genre. The Banished Vault is a masterfully designed space-exploration sim that puts you in control of a large colony ship desperately trying to survive the harsh expanse of space from system to system.

7. Life After Magic

Life After Magic is perfect for Sailor Moon fans who have grown up.

Chirashi Games

Sailor Moon and the other scouts have to grow up sometime. Visual novel Life After Magic imagines that world and comes to the hypothesis that mostly they would all get gifted kid burnout. In a story that oftentimes hits too close to home with its themes, Life After Magic uses elements of the dating sim to focus on how relationships are built, broken, and mended again.

6. A Space for the Unbound

Taking place in 1990s Indonesia, A Space for the Unbound is a deeply emotional adventure game about high school kids with supernatural abilities. Inspired by the works of Your Name director Makoto Shinkai, this short but sweet indie game will likely leave you in tears.

5. Dredge

Lovecraftian nightmares lurk under the inviting waters of Dredge.


What if cozy games were also terrifying? That is the question behind Dredge, a fishing simulator with a cosmic horror twist. Balancing mechanics like upgrading your fishing vessel and getting the best catch without suffering from insanity makes Dredge a delightfully twisted subversion of the cozy game formula.

4. El Paso, Elsewhere

Imagine if Max Payne were even more in need of therapy. El Paso, Elsewhere takes Rockstar’s bullet-time shooter as inspiration but uses it as a venue to tackle trauma, toxic relationships, and substance abuse. Challenging mechanically and emotionally, El Paso, Elsewhere shows that even fast-paced shooters have the potential to make you cry.

3. Mediterranea Inferno

No game has tackled post-lockdown anxiety like Mediterranea Inferno.

Lorenzo Redaelli

A summer vacation becomes a surreal exploration of trauma in Mediterranea Inferno. Set in 2022, this gorgeous visual novel follows three friends reuniting for the first time since the start of lockdown. Channeling the break from reality so many of us have felt the past few years, Mediterranea Inferno is packed with exquisitely stylish, hallucinatory visions that are equal parts terrifying, funny, and horny.

2. He Fucked the Girl Out of Me

He Fucked the Girl Out of Me is an unabashedly queer story that functions as a visual novel but in actuality feels more like a semi-autobiographical memoir. It’s a short experience that only runs roughly 40 minutes, but packed into that time is a deeply personal story that isn’t afraid to talk about physical intimacy, loneliness, and the process of healing.

1. Misericorde: Volume One

This murder mystery shines thanks to the amazing writing of its ensemble cast.


So many elements of Misericorde make it one of this year’s standout indie games. The isolated but mysterious world, the loveable (and detestable) characters, the striking black and white art, the eerie music. It is all amazing. But what makes Misericorde shine is the writing. It takes advantage of the visual novel format and tells an enthralling story about a nun thrust into the role of detective in a 15th-century abbey.

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