Beginner’s guide to indie (2020): part one

Over the past few years I’ve found myself moving away from triple-A releases and becoming a bigger fan of indie video games. Independent developers aren’t afraid to take risks and they tend to provide more of the kind of experiences I love.

Dan from asked for indie game suggestions back in 2017 and his request turned into an annual series. In drafting 2020’s edition, I noticed that many of the titles I’ve played recently were actually released this year so it’s those I’m focusing on this time around. I tend to favour adventures and this will be obvious from the following list, but hopefully you’ll find something that catches your eye and persuades you to give it a try regardless of your gaming preferences.

20 January 2020: The Supper

It may be very short and over in less than 30 minutes, but The Supper by Octavi Navarro is one of the best free releases I’ve ever picked up on Steam thanks to its story and artwork. It’s a weird yet wonderful mix of creepy and emotional. You’ll start the game thinking it’s a dark plot about serving some pretty disgusting meals to your customers, and then come out of it feeling a sort of bittersweet compassion for the protagonist. It’s very well done indeed – I’d highly recommend giving this one a try. Just maybe not during your lunch-break.

05 February 2020: The Blind Prophet

The Blind Prophet appeared in my Steam recommendations a while back and I’d ignored it because it seemed too comic-book-like for me. But after completing the demo during the Digital Dragons Indie Celebration in May, I was sold on ARS GOETIA’s project: I purchased the full game and started it immediately. You play as apostle Bartholomeus in this point-and-click and are sent to liberate the corrupted city of Robork, where things have taken an incredibly dark turn.

05 March 2020: The Longing

Studio Seufz’s release definitely won’t be to everybody’s taste, but it’s such a poignant game with an important message that I had to put it on today’s list. Players take on the role of the last servant of a king who once ruled an underground empire and now needs to sleep for 400 days in real-time to regain his faded powers. It’s your duty as the Shade to stay in this earthen palace ready to awaken your ruler at the end of that period; so what are you going to do with so much time on your hands?

09 March 2020: The Escaper

COVID-19 might have stopped us from going to any real-life escape rooms this year but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been able to get our fix in a digital way. The Escaper by Nocturnal Works was a fun experience that was made even better by streaming it on Twitch and involving our friends in chat in solving the puzzles. There are four themed rooms to figure your way out of with a nice level of challenge, and you can either attempt each of them in an hour to add to the pressure or go at your own pace.

19 March 2020: Interrogation Files: Port Landsend

My love for both detective and full-motion video (FMV) games has grown during 2020 and here’s a great title which combines both. Visual Interactive’s Interrogation Files is similar to Her Story in terms of gameplay but there’s more to it than simply entering search terms into a database to discover videos: it’s up to you to put the story together and figure out who the killer is so you’re ready to arrest the right person when you’re given the choice. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the developer comes up with next.

23 March 2020: General Horse and the Package of Doom

When Pete suggested playing General Horse and the Package of Doom, I told him he was an idiot because it looked terrible. But by the time the end-credits rolled, I’d completely changed my mind; I’d had a lot of fun in three hours and was a little bit in love with the protagonist. Sometimes you need something that’s going to sweep you along in its crazy story and cause you to forget about the real world for a few hours, and that’s exactly what Studio Spektar and Porcupine Parkour have given us here.

26 March 2020: The Room VR: A Dark Matter

If you know a non-gamer who loves escape rooms, introduce them to The Room series by Fireproof Games. The thing I love most about it is the feeling of achievement once you’ve figured out the solution to a puzzle. It’s as if you’re the first person to discover what’s in the box and behind the next door – and ultimately, escape from this world and the grip of the Null element. We played the latest release, The Room VR: A Dark Matter, this year and hope the developer treats us to another instalment very soon.

03 April 2020: In Other Waters

Jump Over the Ages’ release is another game which won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I’d highly recommend giving it a go if you’re looking for something atmospheric with a strong narrative focus. When a routine exoplanet study goes wrong and her partner Minae Nomura disappears into an ocean on an alien planet, you must work with Xenobiologist Ellery Vas to dredge up secrets that were meant to be lost forever. Your bond will be tested by what you discover and the choices you make will change the course of the expedition.

09 April 2020: The Procession to Calvary

One of my favourite titles at EGX Rezzed in 2017 was Four Last Things, a quirky little point-and-click adventure created by Joe Richardson. I went on to play it during our GameBlast17 marathon stream that year and then back the Kickstarter campaign for the sequel. If you’re a fan of Monty Python and unique art-styles then The Procession to Calvary is likely to be one for you: players follow the same protagonist after he returns from his brief sojourn in hell and continues his quest for absolution.

30 April 2020: Deathtrap Dungeon

If you like choose-your-own-adventures, give Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure by Branching Narrative Ltd a try. A tabletop-RPG-inspired title like this which relies heavily on imagination because it doesn’t show the action shouldn’t work on Twitch but involving everybody in chat in the decision-making turned it into a great evening. The fact this got our character killed several times during the session made it more hilarious and it was a fun, shared experience with friends.

That’s it for now, but the beginner’s guide will be back again tomorrow – with part two focusing on indie games that are due to be released in 2021. If you have any recommendations of titles to look out for, please join in and leave them in the comments below!

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6 thoughts on “Beginner’s guide to indie (2020): part one

  1. We need more The Room! Especially in the style of the first one. I loved the Rube-Goldberg-like design, with a touch of the arcane sprinkled in that subtly grew stronger and stronger until you just went into another dimension at the end. I’m a bit sad that the second game dropped the ball a bit in that regard, but I’m excited to see what the other instalments have to offer!


    • The third game is very good – it’s more fleshed-out in terms of story and, not that I want to say too much and spoil it, it’s like a puzzle within a puzzle. The VR release was good for the experience but it was a lot easier than the other instalments. I’m hoping the developer brings the fourth game to PC very soon!


  2. Pingback: Listening/reading log #15 (December 2020) | Everything is bad for you

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