Game Awards 2023 Reveals Five Fascinating New Indie Games
These world premieres deserve a spot on your wishlist.
Day of the Devs is now in its 11th year as the premier indie game showcase, organized by developer Double Fine Productions and the iam8bit production team. Its shows differ from most trailer extravaganzas in that they actually give the games room to breathe with long-format looks at gameplay and interviews with developers. For the first time this year, Day of the Devs partnered with The Game Awards to present heaps of indie games, including five world premieres.
Here’s a look at all the brand-new indie games announced at Day of the Devs: The Game Awards Edition.
Genesis Noir was one of the best, and certainly the most stylish, indie games in 2021. Its unique premise — playing as a detective investigating the birth of the universe — seemed impossible to replicate. But the developers at Feral Cat Den now return for Nirvana Noir, a similar but oh-so-different take on that original detective story.
Genesis Noir was defined by its gorgeous black-and-white art style and jazz soundtrack. Nirvana Noir brings both of those elements back but doesn’t stop at just replicating the original. This time, the hero exists across two different versions of the city — one monochromatic and one full of bursts of color. To match that new tone, Nirvana Noir also adds some psychedelic rock influences to its music with wailing guitars.
Nirvana Noir looks like a surprising continuation of one of 2021’s most original games, following a mystery that unfolds around the hero’s double life. Its pops of trippy color mesh well with the black and white of the trailer, bringing its cosmic city to life in a new way.
There’s no release date yet for Nirvana Noir, but it’s available to wishlist on Steam, and Feral Cat Den is currently crowdfunding for the title.
Kind Words 2
Maybe the most surprising announcement from Day of the Devs was Kind Words 2. The original Kind Words is a game about sitting in a room with chill music playing and writing nice letters to people, which are delivered to other players. That’s all there is to it, and it rules.
It also felt like the kind of idea that would be hard to build on, but developer Popcannibal stepped up to the challenge. Kind Words 2 keeps the spirit of the original — letting people connect with strangers to share a little kindness and listening to great lofi music while they do it, of course.
“We really wanted to take what was wonderful about the original Kind Words and expand on every piece,” Popcannibal’s Luigi Guatieri said.
Kind Words 2 takes players out of their rooms to an entire cozy-looking city. The core of the game is still sharing with strangers, but now it’s done with more than just letters. Some sections of the city are for talking, some are for sharing dreams, and others are for writing poetry. Each of these different desires is represented by a physical space this time around.
Popcannibal promises that while Kind Words 2 is about sharing with strangers, it will avoid the pitfalls of social media. Without the ability to like and subscribe, you put your messages out there for their own sake, not to be popular.
Kind Words 2 doesn’t have a release date yet, but its Steam page is live now.
Kitfox Games’ follow-up to Boyfriend Dungeon is a very different kind of game, moving from fighting enemies with swords to what might be the exact opposite activity — brewing tea. Kitfox co-founder Tanya X. Short says Loose Leaf has “the most in-depth tea-brewing simulation ever,” and I believe it. This isn’t like a typical bar or coffee shop sim where making drinks just takes the push of a button.
Instead, you’ll need to physically manipulate your tea leaves, cups, kettles, and timers for every step of the process. You also need to balance temperature and steep time to make each individual cup of tea perfect — and be careful not to spill it as you pour. The simulation is so deep, Loose Leaf even accounts for bumping all those bits of porcelain together, making them collide with a satisfying crash.
Experimentation and patience are key to filling out your tea master’s journal as you manage the tea room. Playing as a witch, you use Tarot cards to read patrons’ fortunes and use that knowledge to develop the ideal cup for each of them.
I’m more of a coffee person myself, but I can’t wait to dive into Loose Leaf. Its detailed simulation and social aspects make it look like the most intriguing cozy game in years. Loose Leaf’s release date is still unannounced.
Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story
One of the show’s most exciting announcements was a follow-up to what’s probably the most underrated game this year. Digital Eclipse’s The Making of Karateka is something like a museum exhibit, history lesson, and design documentary all rolled up into a playable game.
Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story continues that pattern but on a much larger scale. Where The Making of Karateka focuses on the development of one game, Llamasoft tells the story of a developer’s entire career.
Llamasoft founder Jeff Minter is a pioneering figure in game design, developing games from 1981 up to Akka Arrh, which released just this year. Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story tells the entire 40-year story through original interviews, archival footage, newspaper clippings, and more. It will also include 42 playable games, including a never-before-seen demo called Attack of the Mutant Camels, originally developed for the unreleased Konix Multisystem console.
Digital Eclipse hasn’t announced the release date for Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story.
The Mermaid’s Tongue
The final world premiere at Day of the Devs: The Game Awards Edition was The Mermaid’s Tongue, a sequel to Tangle Tower and the fourth game in SFB Games’ Detective Grimoire series.
Much like the rest of the series, The Mermaid’s Tongue follows a detective team through an intriguing point-and-click adventure. This time around, the series’ painted environments see new life as every interactive clue has a full 3D model that players can pick up and observe from every angle — three guesses whether that will play into solving the mystery.
Along with that new addition, The Mermaid’s Tongue will continue the series tradition of clever writing, excellent voice acting, and fantastically expressive character animations tying its puzzles together.
The Mermaid’s Tongue is set for a 2024 release, and a limited-time demo is available on Steam now.