Top indie games to look out for in 2017

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2016 was a truly exceptional year for indie games: Stardew Valley, Darkest Dungeon, Hyper Light Drifter, Gonner, Broforce, Firewatch, Abzu… we could go on, but that’s not what we’re here to do. 

First of all, you should go and buy all those games, and then secondly, you should put some money aside for the even more amazing haul of indie games that are coming in 2017. Here are some of our favorites of the year so far and a look at some of the many great titles still to come. 

What can I play it on? PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

When can I play it? Now!

If there’s any animal we didn’t think it would be enjoyable to play as in a game, it would be a snake, but that’s exactly what Snake Pass tasks you with doing. 

Playing as the titular creature, you roam around different environments searching for collectibles, but the game’s real genius is in the movement mechanics. As a snake you’re unable to jump, so you’re forced to wind and coil your way up various structures to reach higher points of interest. 

It takes a little time to get used to this unique movement method, which forces you to slither from side to side in order to build up speed, but once you do it’s immensely satisfying to navigate Snake Pass’ worlds. 

Now all the game needs is to allow us to for us to dub it the best snake-based game of all time. 

What can I play it on? PS4, Mac, Linux, PC

When can I play it? Now!

Think Life is Strange crossed with Oxenfree and Wind in the Willows and… well, no, that’s not really what Night in the Woods is, but it’ll give you a good idea of what it might be. 

Centered around a small town, to which college dropout (and anthropomorphized cat) Mae returns to rediscover old friends and settle back into her old life, Night in the Woods appears to capture a feeling of aimless drifting with a creepy, foreboding sense of something dark going on just behind the curtain.

What can I play it on? PS4, PS Vita and PC

When can I play it? Now!

Shu is a hand-drawn 2.5D side-scrolling platformer that tasks players with outrunning the end of the world and a relentless storm. There's all the familiar old-school platformer elements to enjoy here, but Shu tries to stand apart with a large and colorful cast of characters as well as time trials and online leader boards to keep things interesting.

What can I play it on? PC

When can I play it? Now!

“It's kind of like if Monkey Island had been made in 16th century Flanders, by a time-travelling Monty Python fanboy.”

That's a line that's going to draw you into any game, right? Four Last Things is a point-and-click adventure game that's been built from cuts of Renaissance paintings which have then been brought to life by cutout animation. 

It's an approach that's certainly made a game that refreshingly stands out in terms of art style, while retaining the spirit of old school point-and-click adventures. Though it's not always quite as funny as it wants to be, it definitely has a good sense of humor.

Like any Renaissance art worth its salt, Four Last Things is about sin. Players take the role of a fool on a pilgrimage who must repeat the sins he's committed on his journey to be absolved by the local church who can't forgive sins committed outside its parish. It's ridiculous, but it works. 

What can I play it on? PS4, Xbox One, PC

When can I play it? April 12 2017

Prepare to feel chilly. Impact Winter is a post-apocalyptic survival game that drops players onto a snow-covered Earth as lone survivor Jacob Solomon. 

Help is on the way, but it's not here yet and it's the player's job to help Jacob and his fellow survivors live for the thirty days it'll take their rescuers to reach them. It takes strategy and leadership skills and depending on your survival approach each play through can be different. 

What can I play it on? Xbox One, PS4, PC

When can I play it? April 11

Aaero is the unholy lovechild of Rez and Amplitude; a bright neon explosion of sound and color that almost requires you to enter a trance-like state to get through its more intense moments. 

At its core, Aaero is a rails-shooter crossed with a rhythm game. You start by using the left analogue stick to follow a ribbon around the sides of the screen which will ebb and flow with the rhythm of the music. 

Before long enemies will start to appear, and these are dispatched with the right analogue stick, and trigger presses that gain added damage bonuses if timed correctly with the beat of the level’s song. 

Built in Unity, it’s an impressive release from the two-man team at Mad Fellows Games, and well worth keeping an eye on for later in the year. 

What can I play it on? PS4 and PC

When can I play it? Estimated April 2017

Surfing on the wave of nostalgia that brought us shows like Stranger Things is Knights & Bikes, a game that perfectly captures that childhood feeling of exploration and wonder. 

When things go wrong in their little hometown, it’s up to best friends Nessa and Demelza to save the adults – and the world! – from mortal peril. 

There’s something incredibly special and heartwarming about everything in Knights & Bikes, from the hand-drawn art style to the amazing music and the fact that all of it, every part, seems like something you would have done as a kid: cycling around the woods, keeping mysterious detritus as “treasure” and making up fantastical adventures in your head.

What can I play it on? PS4, PC, Xbox One

When can I play it? April 18 2017

If you love your games fast-paced and tricky, you will get a kick out of Flinthook’s main mechanic, in which you grappling-hook your way through platforming rooms, grabbing coins and zapping enemies along the way. 

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Touchingly detailed animations make the game feel fluid and dynamic, thanks to talented designer and artist Dominique “Dom2D” Ferland. 

The grappling hook might be difficult to learn and to master, but, like Spider-Man, once you’ve grasped it, you feel like a superhero.

What can I play it on? PS4, Xbox One, PC

When can I play it? April 28 2017

With its art style and world design, Little Nightmares is a game that will make you feel your childhood fears all over again. It's slightly surreal, almost like a fairy tale in the Brother's Grimm spirit.

Players take up the role of a small girl called Six who must sneak and puzzle-solve her way through a large and frightening adult world populated by monstrous creatures who want to gobble her up. It's a game that will have you holding your breath as you play without even realizing it. 

What can I play it on? Xbox One, PS4, PC

When can I play it? April 4 on PS4 and April 5 on Xbox One and PC

Blackwood Crossing is a deeply emotional story-driven first-person adventure title that puts players in the role of teenager Scarlett who wakes up on a moving train alongside her younger brother Finn with no knowledge of how they've gotten there.

As you'd expect, the train holds many mysteries and in trying to solve them, players will also explore Scarlett's increasingly distant relationship with her brother and the consequences of that distance.

What can I play it on? Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch

When can I play it? May 26 2017

Rime hasn’t had the easiest time in the four years since we first saw it at Sony’s Gamescom 2013 press conference. It’s gone from being a Sony exclusive to a title that will be playable on , , PC, and even when it launches this coming May. 

There is, however, a lot to look forward to. When we got hands on with the game we were reminded of excellent titles such as The Legend of Zelda, Journey, Ico, and even the Studio Ghibli animated films through the game’s lovely aesthetics, gameplay, and its open world. 

Considering this is a title coming from Tequila Works, a relatively small independent development studio in Spain, these comparisons set up high expectations. 

The game has players take on the role of a small boy who wakes up on a mysterious island. The player must use light, sound, perspective and time to solve puzzles and uncover the location’s secrets.

Though we didn’t get to play as much of the game as we’d like, we greatly enjoyed the soothing low-pressure approach to solving puzzles as well as the beautiful music and atmospheric environmental sound effects. 

What can I play it on? PS4

When can I play it? May 2 2017

If you haven’t already heard of artist-run studio KO_OP, keep an eye out – they’re going to be huge. They’ve already worked on the new Lara Croft Go game, The Mirror of Spirits, which was revealed at the recent PlayStation Experience event, and they’ve also been hard at work on GNOG. 

GNOG is a puzzle game about exploring huge heads that are full of secrets to discover, like an interactive children's toy.

It’s beautiful, which is unsurprising for an art-focused team, and it tickles the same kind of pleasure glands as games like Hohokum and Monument Valley – simple, gorgeous games with color, vibrancy and intelligent design at their heart.

What can I play it on? Xbox One, PS4, PC

When can I play it? Summer 2017

Ruiner is not the kind of game you’d expect from a team of ex-Witcher developers, but the isometric brawler is a fine addition to this year’s crop of indie games. 

Set in a cyber-punk future, the anime-inspired game sees you punch, shoot, and generally fight your way through a series of cell-shaded urban levels. 

The whole game is fast and frantic, and like a good twin-stick shooter challenges you to take risks to keep yourself safe while taking down as many of your enemies as possible. 

We played the game on PC, but it will also see a release on Xbox One as part of the initiative. 

What can I play it on? Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac

When can I play it? Mid-2017

Tacoma is the newest game from Gone Home developer Fullbright. Like its predecessor, it’s a narrative-focused game in which you explore a derelict environment trying to piece together what happened. 

However, unlike Gone Home, which was set in a realistic portrayal of rural America, Tacoma is set in a space station of the same name, which gives it the feeling of a combat-free System Shock. 

It’s not just the setting that’s received a technological upgrade. While Gone Home relied on you piecing together its story through diary entries and recordings, Tacoma instead projects ghosts into its environment, which you can watch reenact past events. 

It might be a radical departure from the somber realism of Gone Home, but Fullbright’s ability to tell a good story makes this one to watch. 

What can I play it on? PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One

When can I play it? Summer 2017

First off, this game looks gorgeous and almost like it's come from the mind of Hieronymus Bosch.

It's an isometric adventure title where players take up the role of the sour-faced Dusty inside his subconscious mind. In this mind, the world has been overtaken by strange comical and singing creatures who spread fear and anxiety wherever they go. It's up to Dusty to solve puzzles that reset the balance of his subconscious mind, find courage, and overcome his fears.

It's a creative concept and one that might just inspire. 

What can I play it on? Xbox One and PC

When can I play it? Mid-2017

A combination of brilliant thoughts that no one else might have ever come up with, Cuphead is an action game that focuses on what might be called “boss battles”, but with everything done in a memorable art style that’s heavily inspired by 1930s animation. 

It’s bloody difficult, too, with the developers focusing on a Dark Souls-aping combat approach where the player can fully engage with frame-perfect attacks and hitbox exploits, if they want to. But even if they don’t, it’s hard not to fall in love with something when it’s as stylish and unique as Cuphead.

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What can I play it on? PS4 and more unannounced

When can I play it? Late 2017

The new game from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi and Journey producer Robin Hunicke has the potential to be something truly special. 

It’s a sweet toybox of a game where everything is a new friend, where the button prompts are strange and unexpected verbs from “bomb” to “poop”, and where the bright, colorful world takes you by surprise every few seconds. 

It’s more of a playroom, a space to be silly in and to experiment with, than a typical game – but we get the feeling that it's exactly what we might need in 2017.

What can I play it on? PC

When can I play it? TBA

The pitch here – and what you’ll be hearing from people talking excitedly about it – might be little more than “Zelda, but with a fox”, but Secret Legend is more than that. 

Combining the intricate combat of Dark Souls with the mystery-filled intrigue of early Legend of Zelda games, Secret Legend aims to straddle the fence between the nostalgia of your early childhood and the excitement and innovation of modern games.

What can I play it on? Unannounced

When can I play it? 2017

2017 might be the year of the quieter, more introspective indie game, and Old Man’s Journey fits the bill perfectly. 

Bright, pastel colors evoke a Mediterranean seaside feeling in a world that you gently, slowly explore as a sweet old man who just wants to sit down for a while. Each stop you take along the way unravels more of his sad, sad story, told entirely through beautiful, heartbreaking art. 

Playing Old Man’s Journey feels like a soothing, soft balm that undoes all of the world’s hardness; you can feel your muscles relaxing and your mind unwinding as you’re coaxed into the gentle world on the screen.

What can I play it on? PC

When can I play it? Summer 2017

To The Moon, a touching and excellent game that told a story of yearning, love and loss, is a game that will leave even the most heartless players sobbing by its end. 

Style-wise, Finding Paradise – the sequel – is very stylistically similar to To The Moon, with the same kind of detailed pixel-art and melancholy music that made it so memorable. 

What can I play it on? Xbox One and PC

When can I play it? TBA

Capybara Games – the studio behind Sword & Sworcery – will be releasing Below probably, hopefully some time in 2017. 

It’s already looks amazing – it’s a top-down action-adventure roguelike with a teeny tiny protagonist – but there’s a lot of mystery around it still, because mystery is cool, and the developers haven’t revealed much about the game yet. 

We do know it’s going to be super difficult, and include permadeath, and probably a billion reasons to swear and throw your controller.

What can I play it on? PC, Mac, Linux

When can I play it? 2017

Overland looks lovely. It’s all sharp, angular, low-poly art, muted autumn colours and a surprisingly effective triangular flame effect that you’ll be seeing a lot of as you struggle to survive and not set fire to things in the turn-based survival game.

Just as the best survival games do, it constantly makes you feel like you’re two moves away from death, micro-managing supplies and health and happiness as your priorities change over time. Also, it has dogs!

What can I play it on? iOS and Android

When can I play it? Late 2017

Fireproof Games have had great success in creating 3D puzzle adventures on mobile across its titles The Room, The Room Two and The Room Three. We really don't expect the latest installment in the series The Room: Old Sins to be any less enjoyable.

We don't know much but Fireproof has said that the story takes players into the attic of an ambitious engineer and his high-society wife after they go missing. In the attic of their home there's an old, strange dollhouse to find and no doubt many intricate and challenging puzzles to solve.

What can I play it on? PC

When can I play it? TBA

If you like narrative games with a sense of atmosphere, you'll like A Place for the Unwilling. The sketchy illustrated and darkly Victorian game world brings to mind the stories of H.P Lovecraft and games such as Sunless Sea. 

Set in a city that's slowly dying, the game takes place over a period of 3 weeks (or around 6 real world hours) with a non-linear narrative that can be different every time you play depending on which threads you'd like to pull. 

You play a stranger to the city who has come there as a result of the death of his friend. Throughout the game you can meet a cast of 15 characters, though you're not guaranteed to meet all of them in the same play through, and it's up to you which kind of game you play and which kind of ending you see. If you see an ending in the traditional sense at all… 

What can I play it on? Xbox One and PC

When can I play it? TBA

This game looks adorable, plain and simple. Being hailed as a cross between Pokemon, Animal Crossing, and Harvest Moon this is a title that will appeal to those who like freedom and a slower pace in their games. 

Players will be able to take care of and expand their farm by planting, watering and harvesting crops, decorate their own home, and make friends with the locals and little creatures that populate the world called Ooblets. You'll also be able to explore the game's open and diverse world world, battling your Ooblet creatures as you go. 

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