The Most Promising Indie Games to Watch in 2023
As we look back at the cavalcade of indies that punctuated 2022, it’s clearer than ever that the independent scene is in a fantastic place. Citizen Sleeper proved that masterful storytelling in gaming is alive and well, while the addicting gameplay loops of Neon White and Vampire Survivors took the industry by storm in their own ways. Be it one of the best skateboarding games in years or a deceivingly adorable Zelda-like starring a fox, 2022 delivered on a truly impressive scale.
All of that said, 2023 may just one-up it. A slew of delays across the industry isn’t just turning this into a blockbuster year for AAA releases, but it’s affected the indie industry as well. Several Kickstarter darlings are finally seeing the light of day, and a range of promising new devs like Rabbit & Bear Studios, All Possible Futures, and Meowza Games are coming up to bat for the first time with their debut projects. Organized in alphabetical order, here are our 15 most anticipated indie games of 2023.
Note: This list only features titles confirmed to be released in 2023.
Special Mention: Hades II
There’s no getting around it: following its announcement at The Game Awards last year, Hades II is easily one of the most anticipated games across the board. No one expected Supergiant’s critical and commercial darling to get a direct sequel, and now that it is, all eyes are on 2023 for info on its early access release. However, Supergiant hasn’t stated that Hades II will launch this year; they’ve just said to expect more information this year. As such, it can’t be formally included on our list, just like how Hollow Knight: Silksong and Witchbrook were ineligible last year. Regardless, here’s hoping we all get our hands on Hades II sooner than later.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
Though it’s been over a year since Team Reptile gave us an update on Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, our anticipation is still at an all-time high for this Jet Set Radio spiritual successor. All gameplay up to this point has perfectly nailed the funky, colorful, cel-shaded aesthetic that the original was known for, and skating across the city looks more fluid than ever before. Stacking up combos by pulling off grinds and aerial tricks fills up a boost meter that feeds directly into traversal. This simple yet intuitive loop should make getting to graffiti spots more fun than ever. Then there’s Bomb Rush Cyberfunk’s imaginative character design and already-stellar soundtrack helmed by industry legend Hideki Naganuma, both of which appear to be faithful to the source material. Look out for this one when it hits Switch and PC this summer and other consoles shortly after.
One of the most visually distinct titles coming in the first half of the year is Dordogne, a love letter to the beauty of the French countryside. The protagonist, Mimi, returns to her grandmother’s home after her passing and discovers a series of letters that sends her down memory lane, causing her to transition between the past and present as she reflects on her childhood summers visiting the area. The hand-painted aesthetic not only makes Dordogne stand out, but it also lends the entire game a feeling of nostalgia. Between revisiting latent memories and leveraging multiple senses to reestablish emotional connections to Mimi’s past, Dordogne should pull on some serious heartstrings when it releases on all platforms in the spring of this year.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes
Back in July 2020, Rabbit and Bear Studios shook the JRPG sphere by launching a Kickstarter for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, a Suikuden series spiritual successor helmed by a Justice League of Japanese gaming talent. Be it the character designer from Suikoden I and IV, the directors of Suikoden Tactics and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, or composers from the Tales of and Wild Arms series, the sheer stable of development experience instilled enough confidence in players to make the Kickstarter campaign one of the most successful of all time. Three years later, Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is faced with the awkward proposition of releasing in the same calendar year as the newly-announced Suikoden I & II remasters from Konami. With inevitable comparisons now looming overhead, Hundred Heroes needs to show and prove that there’s plenty of room for a new take on the Suikoden formula when it launches on all platforms and Game Pass in 2023.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
It’s hard to believe one of the most anticipated games of all time (indie or otherwise) is finally set to release in the next six months. After years of radio silence, Hollow Knight: Silksong popped up at the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2022 to the delight of millions of fans. What excited players even more than the new gameplay, though, was the insinuation that Silksong would follow the rule for everything else included in Xbox’s presentation and release in the first half of 2023. It’s been six years since the release of the original Hollow Knight, and Silksong looks set to satiate its now-rabid fanbase with an entirely new kingdom to explore, a new suite of acrobatic maneuvers to master, a staggering 150+ new enemies to defeat, and yet another stellar score from revered composer Christopher Larkin. The gaming world’s heart is sure to skip a beat when Hollow Knight: Silksong hits all platforms and Game Pass this spring.
Mina the Hollower
When the developers of Shovel Knight pitch a new game, the gaming community listens. So it went for Mina the Hollower, a new title from Yacht Club Games that quadrupled its Kickstarter goal at the start of 2022. Starring a whip-wielding, gadget-inventing mouse named Mina, Yacht Club’s new project is yet another modernized 8-bit adventure featuring platforming, action, and (apparently) horror elements. If Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment and the Kickstarter media is anything to go by, Mina the Hollower’s Gothic horror-inspired world should be quite well-realized without being downright scary. Add in a burrowing mechanic for traversal and combat and Yacht Club’s first-ever leveling system, and the team may just have another indie darling on its hands when Mina the Hollower releases on PC and consoles (unspecified at the time of writing) in December.
Mineko’s Night Market
Much like Sable, Mineko’s Night Market was a “Twitter game” for years, existing only through gifs and the occasional screenshot on social media since its original announcement back in 2015. All of that changed recently, however, with a brand-new trailer at Gamescom 2022 and a surprise demo over the weekend following The Game Awards. Thankfully, the demo confirmed that Mineko’s Night Market isn’t just cute and cozy; it’s also well-written and fun to play. Talking to townsfolk is entertaining, and though they basically all require fetch quests to fill their friendship meters, they’re interesting enough to make the effort worth it. Sneaking around and freeing cats from the traps of mysterious government agents is similarly engaging thanks to some clever puzzle design and a good sense of humor. We can’t wait to experience the titular market itself and all of its minigames and quirks when Mineko’s Night Market hits Switch and PC sometime this year.
From the moment it debuted during Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase in November, Pepper Grinder stole the show. Its visceral, gameplay-first design ethos immediately set it apart and lined up perfectly with what we’ve come to expect from Devolver Digital-published indies over the years. While Pepper Grinder’s drill-based platforming is reminiscent of the burrowing ability in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, designing an entire game world around the concept has endless possibilities. The variety offered by being able to pilot giant mechs and wield machine guns is icing on the cake, and completionists should have a field day with the myriad of collectibles littering each level. Keep an eye out for this one on Switch and PC sometime this year.
It’s not every day that real-world conflicts impact video game development, but that’s exactly what happened with Replaced in 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine put an abrupt halt to developer Sad Cat Studios’ plans as the team was forced to prioritize the safety of themselves and their families. During The Game Awards 2022, however, publisher Coatsink premiered a stunning new trailer with fresh looks at Replaced’s visceral combat and ruined cyberpunk world. What Sad Cat Studios has managed to pull off with pixel art is nothing short of extraordinary, and if the story lives up to the aesthetics, Replaced may be one of the most memorable indies of the year when it launches on Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Game Pass.
Sea of Stars
Another white whale of our list over the years, the gorgeous turn-based RPG Sea of Stars seems like it’s finally on the horizon. The delay announcement around E3 2022 stung, but Sabotage’s continued sharing of details throughout the year helped ease the pain. We now know that the party can cook and store meals for health recovery, players can actively block attacks to lessen incoming damage, and there’s an in-game academy we’ll play through as children. Of course, this is in addition to Sabotage Studio’s jaw-dropping pixel art and soundtrack contributions by legendary Chrono and Xeno series composer Yasunori Mitsuda. The team has reconfirmed that 2023 is the year of Sea of Stars, so be sure to look out for it when it hits Switch, PC, and PS4/5.
she dreams elsewhere
Seeing as we’re gluttons for punishment at Goomba Stomp, we couldn’t help but put she dreams elsewhere on this list, given its new “2023” window. A surreal adventure RPG with combat reminiscent of the Mother series, she dreams elsewhere has made waves for years thanks to its striking art direction and unique hip-hop-infused soundtrack. The Steam demo that released back in 2020 painted a realistic picture of a young 20-something battling with anxiety and struggling to fit into her social circles. The demo also had one of the most faithful portrayals of Black characters I’ve seen in a game to date, a testament to solo dev Davionne Gooden’s attention to detail. It remains to be seen if it’ll actually hit Xbox, Switch, PC, and Game Pass this year after numerous delays, but we’ll take Davionne’s word for it.
As the gaming world waits on pins and needles for ConcernedApe’s The Haunted Chocolatier, indies inspired by his first mega-successful release continue to pop up year after year. The most promising of these in recent memory is Spirittea, something of a cross between Stardew Valley and Spirited Away. Spirits have been causing mayhem around town, and as the new owner of a bath house for said spirits, it’s up to you to solve their problems and turn them into paying customers. Playtime will be split between managing the bathhouse itself (customizing it, chopping wood for the heated water, cleaning towels, etc.), mingling with the townsfolk, and doing favors for spirits to keep them coming back. While Spirittea isn’t much of a looker, many may overlook that if its systems truly deliver the Spirited Away-esque experience fans know and love. This one hits Switch, PC, and Game Pass later this year, and you can try out a demo right now.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox
For as solid as the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2022 was, few titles had a better showing than The Last Case of Benedict Fox. Though the “murder mystery taking place in an old mansion” premise is as tried and true as they come, it was the deeply atmospheric voice acting and visual direction that had viewers buzzing. The sheer variety of environments that’s been shown within the depths of the mansion is staggering, as is the surprising fluidity of the platforming. The Last Case of Benedict Fox will likely live and die by how well Benedict’s demon companion is integrated, and everything we’ve seen so far—be it helping with traversal or flinging enemies around during combat—is extremely promising. Keep an eye out for this one on Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Game Pass this spring.
The Plucky Squire
If this list was ranked, The Plucky Squire just might find itself near the top. When Pokémon art director James Turner left Game Freak to found his own studio in June 2022, no one expected his first game to release so soon—or to be picked up by Devolver Digital. And yet, it is, it has been, and it looks absolutely magical. The Plucky Squire follows the exploits of storybook characters who discover the three-dimensional world outside of their book. To overcome a classic villain and save his friends, Jot and co. will have to jump between 2D and 3D in one of the most fully-realized versions of the concept yet. The gameplay trailer shows a wide range of influences, from Zelda-esque top-down swordplay to fist fights in the style of Punch-Out!!, all taking place on the surfaces of books, mugs, jars, or desks. This may just be the next indie sensation when it hits all platforms later this year.
Way To The Woods
Originally planned to release in early 2019, the simple concept of Way To The Woods captured the hearts of many. Framed as the journey of a deer and fawn through an abandoned world to get back home, developer ant tan’s delicate use of color and soft lighting effects makes Way To The Woods feel ethereal and dreamlike. Amazingly, ant tan managed to recruit the perfect composers to get those feelings across: aivi and surasshu of Steven Universe fame. This short and sweet experience should pull at the heartstrings just right when it drops on Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Game Pass in March.
The deckbuilding genre has been on fire lately, with recent high-profile releases like Marvel’s Midnight Suns and Marvel Snap bringing card-battling goodness to new audiences. Whereas those titles are great entry points into the genre, however, Wildfrost is specifically for the hardcore crowd. Despite its cartoony art direction and adorable card designs, Wildfrost pulls no punches in terms of difficulty and the need for careful deck planning. Roguelike progression akin to Slay the Spire’s layout is present, but Wildfrost shakes things up with charms that grant individual cards extra effects and a persistent health system that encourages players to keep their cards from serious harm. After going hands-on with a demo build multiple times, there’s no doubt that Chucklefish has another winner on its roster here; it just remains to be seen how long they support it. Wildfrost launches on Switch and PC in Q1 2023.