How we see it, 2014 is going to be another fabulous year for indie games, and just to prove it, we have a huge list of games that should be coming out sometime this year, with any luck. Last year, we showed you 50 games to anticipate in 2013, but this year, we’ve gone overboard and decided to double that number for 2014.
We’ve also got close to 150 other indie games that we know about and should be arriving in 2014, but didn’t get into our list of 100. You can view all of the runners-up over on this page, so do check that list out before accusing us of missing out on those that you hoped to see here.
Without further ado, here are our top 100 most anticipated indie games of 2014!
Cuphead (Studio MDHR)
Not only does Cuphead have the good looks of a 1930s cartoon, it’s also a side-scrolling run-’n’-gunner that the developer hopes will break a Guinness World Record for the greatest number of boss fights in its genre. It’s a wacky, slapstick game that we reckon people will enjoy watching as much as they will playing it.
LISA (Austin Jorgensen)
In a world where there are no women, the men rule, but they’re also colossal, violent idiots. This post-apocalyptic RPG will have us living in a brutal society where you can gamble your life away with Russian Roulette, save your party members by giving up a limb or sell your hairy arse as a prostitute for a quick buck. If you want to survive in this place, you’re going to have to be assertive and dirty. Play it right.
Scale (Steve Swink)
Armed with a gun that can shrink and grow any objects at will, providing you have enough scale juice, Scale has already impressed us with its delightfully surprising puzzles. The world can be your oyster (or the size of one) in Scale as you alter the size of monsters so you can explore the world inside of them or grow doll houses so they’re huge houses to venture inside of, or enlargen a butterfly so you can ride it. There’s a lot to explore, but this is a puzzle game that will be a lot of fun to play around with.
Monument Valley (ustwo games)
Many spaces and paths are impossible in Monument Valley, yet it’s your job to navigate them. This iOS game makes great use of isometric graphics and Escher-like drawings to supply spatial puzzles with a twist (sometimes literally). On top of that, the art style is colorful and abstract, consisting of cute characters with beaks and pointy hats, as well as blue lakes, pink castles and elegant towers.
Paradise Lost: First Contact (Asthree Works)
With its astounding pixel art, Paradise Lost is impossible to ignore, but good looks aren’t enough alone to make it on to this list. Paradise Lost is a stealth-action game that follows a plant-like alien that ends up in science labs on Earth, from where it attempts to escape using its strange abilities. They’re are some nastier looking alien accomplices to find along the way, too, ones that will take on the human’s mechs a little more easily.
MoaCube are following up Cinders with this, Solstice. It’s an original fiction set inside an encased paradise amid a frozen tundra during winter. The people inside are trapped there while the storms rage outside, potentially causing a form of cabin fever, which is heightened when the local archaeologist goes missing. What unfurls is an eventful mystery, one that involves meddling in patriarchal systems, marriage and adultery, minority representation and colonization.
The Escapists (Mouldy Toof Studios)
Tunnel through the walls, cause a riot in the mess hall, craft a shiv, become part of a gang. All of these things are possibilities in The Escapists as you play an inmate in a seemingly secure prison, one that you must attempt to break out from. It’s all about learning schedules, making the right contacts and tools and ensuring you’re discrete in your risky actions.
You’re a chrome space beetle zooming down a psychedelic highway, sliding, grinding and pounding as it does so. It’s all a lot of fun until CRAKHED, the demonic brute, turns up with its tentacled servitors trying to make it a nightmarish road trip for the dear beetle. THUMPER is fast, rhythmic and unlike any other racing game out there.
Skateboard Monogatari (Regyptian, New Vaders, and BARON OF HECK)
A psyched, futuristic, fast-paced skateboarding game. Tear up your foes with a kickflip to the face, then smack them down with a baseball bat while wearing your new red-and-white cap. Perform tricks over tape decks to impress the locals in this retro-future dimension, who you can talk to for weird conversation and to receive small tasks to perform. Skateboard Monogatari seems to have style and substance. It’s also being published by Arcane Kids.
Sub Rosa (Cryptic Sea)
Set in an alternative “laissez-faire” 1980s, Sub Rosa is a multiplayer game concerning groups of mobsters, dodgy deals, intense shootouts and car chases. The blocky graphics add a lot of personality to the game, strangely enough, ensuring the game is fun and a little bit silly, despite all of the violent activities. A lot of car accidents involving acrobatics, amusing car rides and petty squabbling have already happened in the early versions of Sub Rosa, so its final version can only be better.
Similar in fantastical quirkiness and audiovisual delights to Keita Takahashi’s games, Hohokum is a non-linear experience all about the exuberant joy and beauty of exploration inside a colorful fantasy world. You play a flying serpent known simply as the “Long Mover,” and with it, you can weave through the sky, dreamy realms and relax in pools of exotic chirpiness.
Tower of Guns (Terrible Posture Games)
First-person shooters with roguelike elements started to emerge a couple of years ago, but now the combo is really finding its groove, and Tower of Guns might be on top of the pile. It’s packed with huge and daunting boss battles, adorable hugbots (that you should definitely shoot), loot and lots of it and randomly generated levels filled with aggressive robotic enemies. It’s a game about dodging, being fast and accurate and powering yourself with some high-charged, and sometimes silly, weaponry.
Asylum is a psychological horror game set in the decaying Hanwell Mental Institute. It’s played from first-person and lays the atmospheric story telling and scares on thick. The remarkable graphics and lighting ensure that just being inside this huge rotting building is creepy enough, but especially when having to explore it and the history it carries. Jump scares aren’t needed when a shuffle behind you is enough to clog your throat with dread. Asylum is being developed by Senscape, with Agustín Cordes of Scratches fame playing the lead.
Wings of Saint Nazaire (Howard Day, Jan Simon and Daniel Hoffman)
For those who remember titles like Wing Commander and the X-Wing series, Wings of Saint Nazaire is a nostalgic triumph, combining pixel spaceships, brightly colored laser beams and the glory of flying through space using an afterburner. It’s supposedly going to be quite a tough space sim shooter, too, but the alpha demo that you can already play is purely fun, with the main challenge being getting to grips with the first-person interface with all the flashing lights and alert monitors you should need.
Dropsy (Jay Tholen)
Dropsy should be a sad point-and-click adventure, but instead, it’s undeniably hopeful and happy. It’s apparently also surreal, grotesque and mostly text-free, all important things for those in need of the weird. Dropsy is a circus clown who recently lost everything in a fire except his father and his dog, Eughh. He has the amazing ability to talk to animals, but struggles to communicate with humans. It’s a game about not belonging. It should be amusing and exploration-based and will come with an emergent narrative.
Escape Goat 2 (MagicalTimeBean)
It should have came out last year, but it didn’t, so now Escape Goat 2 should be headbutting its way onto our screens this year. It’s a puzzle-platformer following the titular goat as it works its way through single-screen gauntlets with the help of a mouse with a magic hat. Pleasantly quirky, then. Indeed, and the puzzles of the first challenged your analysis skills and logic, as well as your platforming finesse as you tried to rescue the flock of imprisoned sheep. We’re expecting the same and more from this sequel.
A Hat In Time (Gears For Breakfast)
Recently, gaming nostalgia moved on from just being pixel art and engulfed early, yet characterful 3D graphics and the games of the N64. A Hat In Time fits nicely into this sudden string of player interest. You play Hat Kid and attempt to keep the precious balance of time by collecting time pieces across the galaxy before the evil Mustache Girl can get to them. Collection of these time pieces involves flinging, jumping, gliding and other means of fruitful platform-based exploration of typically cute and enticingly exotic locales. Different hats grant Hat Kid new abilities, giving the game an almost Inspector Gadget-like sense of progression.
The Stomping Land (SuperCrit)
Dinosaurs. It’s been twenty years since Jurassic Park, and there still hasn’t really been a game that is capable of giving us the potential marvel of standing among the giant lizards of old. The Stomping Land may rectify that, we hope. You play as part of a tribe in an online multiplayer dinosaur-laden sandbox, hunting dinos big and small for meat. Survival is all about the meat, hence why neighboring tribes will stalk you and steal your heaps of dinosaur cutlets when you’re not looking. Those bastards.
Soundself (Robin Arnott)
Warbling, screaming and singing into a microphone to achieve a sense of inner zen. That is what Soundself is all about. The game rewards you with psychedelic and highly abstract visuals to match the rhythms, tones and frequencies of your voice, and you stare and stare like a recently enlightened holy person. Soundself will let you meet your maker, or at least yourself.
Banished (Shining Rock Software)
Your greatest enemy in city-building strategy game Banished is not a demonic lord, an alien invasion or a murderous evildoer. It’s winter. Oh, and probably disease, too. The village, town and eventually city that you construct in Banished doesn’t so much represent power or industrial progression, but survival. You take on a lost people, outcasts, who are forced to find their own way, starting with just a forest and some rocks to make shelter and find food. It’s a race against time as others find your settlement and offer help, but may hide new illnesses under their skin. And if your folk aren’t wrapped in warmth, resources plentiful and the buildings without sturdy foundations, the winter will take its toll.
A.N.N.E excites by doing a couple of distinct gameplay types very well. It’s both a side-scrolling action-platformer and a spaceship-based shmup, with both components containing some puzzle elements. You take on the role of a robot trying to find his girlfriend, A.N.N.E. The planet Gomi, upon which the game takes place, is opened up to you for explorative purposes, and each area you can land upon should have entertaining level design to blast your way around.
Storyteller (Daniel Benmergui)
Human relationships and interaction are very strange. There’s little logic in how it all works, though we try to make guesses all the time. Storyteller has this at its core. By dragging around props and characters into panels, you’re able to cause events to happen between these elements. Death, marriage, love, arguments – all the ups and downs. Your task, however, is to create a certain sequence of events that result in the conclusion that level has challenged you to reach. Should be a very interesting challenge.
Rain World (JLJac)
The animation and AI in Rain World seems phenomenal. It’s hard to describe it without visual aid, but let’s just say that the hostile (and sometimes friendly) snakey-weasel creatures in the game’s habitats seem to be intelligent in a way not seen before in a game. They react and move with aggression and curiosity to your attempts to keep them back and avoid them. There are emergent reactions to objects, your stance and your actions, all of it completely fluid. We’re excited to see what kind of scenarios can be created with a system that seems to have an infinite amount of realistic behaviors to explore.
UnderTale (Toby Fox)
If you haven’t already played the demo of Undertale, then you’re already missing out big time. This peculiar yet oddly familiar RPG is set in an underground world inhabited by monsters. These monsters come in various shapes, sizes and hostility levels. That is to say that some are friendly, such as Toriel, the motherly, almost creepy, caretaker of the ruins. Not only are the characters and enemies questionable in Undertale, making it feel unique, but there’s also a bullet-hell combat system, possibly pacifist playthroughs and strange conversations to be had.
Jazzpunk (Necrophone Games)
Doing comedy in games right like nothing before it is Jazzpunk. This first-person slapstick and silly adventure game is sure to change how many designers and players perceive the potential of comedy in games. You’ll be playing a spy for a ridiculous agency, heading off into exuberant scenarios drenched in cartoon-like gags and amusing challenges that mainly serve to make you laugh. Having tried an early build already and giggled into the night, it’s easy to put Jazzpunk on this list.
Don’t Kill Her (Wutherer)
Don’t Kill Her is a surreal platformer boasting an astoundingly beautiful, moody, hand-drawn art style. It begins as a simple game with familiar mechanics, but as you progress, you realize it’s all about HER. Who is she? What does she want? A demo of Don’t Kill Her won a national Swiss competition, and we expect the finished game to blow our minds.
Ghost Song (Matt White)
Successfully funded on Kickstarter (by several orders of magnitude), Ghost Song: A Journey of Hope is a side-scrolling science-fiction adventure that draws as much inspiration from Dark Souls as from Super Metroid. Its large character sprites and huge boss monsters look mighty impressive, even in the pre-alpha footage. Aside from the ton of weapons and abilities to unlock and the huge open world, there are some cool gameplay embellishments like a pet system and a super-powerful enemy that stalks you through the whole game. This Metroidvania really looks like something special.
Heart Forth, Alicia (Alonso Martin)
Little known or long forgotten? Heart Forth, Alicia is one of those indie games. In development since 2007 (at least), vastly promising fantasy world, pixel art flair and enough magic battles to make the Harry Potter series look like a mere fart of fairydust. The developer of the game has recently hopped back on board after what you could call a hiatus, so 2014 is looking somewhat promising for the game’s arrival.
You’ll be playing Alicia as she travels the Void after being knocked into this under realm by her friend who became possessed by the evil Spirit that was tearing their upper-land home world apart. Expect a grand adventure with stunning scenery, some RPG elements mixed in with the platforming and whole villages of curious and prophesizing villagers.
Before (Bill Lowe)
Frankly, not much information has been revealed about the nuts and bolts of Before’s game mechanics, but the beautiful low-polygon models and dynamic lighting effects have turned plenty of heads, and the prospect of managing cavepeople as they hunt, worship, build and discover things makes this game exceedingly tantalizing. Also: woolly mammoths.
The Floor Is Jelly (Ian Snyder)
While the floor may be wobbly, the promising statement of The Floor Is Jelly’s title is certainly solid. Everything is bouncy, fluid and wobbly in this platformer, and you’ll be hopping around between all of the island clumps, no doubt amusing yourself with the visual delights of such a silly idea come to life. It’s like a child’s alternative view of the world realized at last.
Inspired by Thief, Shadow of the Colossus, and David Lynch, Tangiers plunges you into a dark, surreal sandbox of a world. Your ultimate goal is identify and dispose of five beings, but first, you have to learn to navigate the weird landscape and communicate with its inhabitants. Language is both a resource and a tool; words literally materialize above the speaker and can be collected and reused.
Ghost of a Tale (Lionel Gallat)
This plucky mouse came out of nowhere last year as it emerged on Indiegogo and was successfully funded for its treacherous trip around the island Periclave. Lionel Gallat decided to take his animation skills put to good use at Dreamworks and Universal and turn them towards his own immersive Medieval adventure in which a mouse ventures for great treasures. The trip consists of travelling to the Tower of Periclave, which is where the treasure is said to be kept, but there are undead rats and other creatures that will stop the mouse. Combat is inspired by Dark Souls, and there will be plenty of secrets to find, journals to read that flesh out the game’s anthropomorphic fantasy world and clues to find to aid you in puzzle solving and general exploration.
Icarus Proudbottom: Starship Captain (Holy Wow Studios)
Although many games have and will have us exploring many a developer’s dream of space, Holy Wow’s attempt has us strung up with interest, especially after Icarus Proudbottom’s typing game was so adorable, surprising and memorable last year. Starship Captain sees Proudbottom joined by his friends in the IBS Pickle as they explore space to find “neat new stuff.” Apparently, these discoveries will involve weird people and places and probing just about everything. We believe it.
Raucous graphics and digital mud characterizes Deios at first, but if you can refrain from being sucked in by the unique visuals for long enough, then you’ll peel back layers of philosophical questioning and a ridiculous deity-killing action game. You mock up weapons from parts that don’t usually go together to create new, impossible weapons, like rapid-fire shotguns or hyper-accurate rocket launchers with a sniper scope. Then you take on the guardians of this glitch world, which are more like high-brow concepts wearing a shell and an attitude. We should be going on this glitchventure soon.
Oblitus (Connor Ullman)
Connor Ullmann’s Oblitus is a beautifully illustrated fantasy adventure set in a dark and unfamiliar world. Combat is swift and tactical, in an attempt to translate Dark Souls-style fighting into a 2-D experience. Development has had some hiccups as collaborators moved on to other projects, but Ullmann is refocusing his energies and continuing the game on his own as the ferociously creative vision of a single artist (he does have help with the amazing music, however).
Witchmarsh (Lou Sgarbi & Joe Conway)
Set in 1920s Massachussets, Witchmarsh is a party-based investigative action-RPG. You’ll pick four of the different classes with their unique abilities (co-op play may be a feature), and then head off into the post-depression swamplands to discover a mix of platformer, real-time melee and ballistics battles, and questioning the eccentric locals to obtain leads regarding the mass murders you’re trying to solve. Expecting Witchmarsh in 2014 might be a bit hopeful, especially when it’s hitting Kickstarter in January, but we’re suckers for a game exploring an interesting historical era.
Blood of the Ortolan (Richard Hofmeier)
Blood of the Ortolan takes place on a boat and involves “getting to know strangers over exotic foods.” That, and the fact that it’s a “food-themed murder mystery,” is just about all we know about Richard Hofmeier’s follow-up to his multiple IGF award-winning Cart Life. We’re pretty sure it’s going to be something both provocative and profound, and we can’t wait.
Tri (Rat King)
This first-person platformer makes exploring enclosed spaces exciting and fresh, yet with some familiarity if you played similar titles from the ’90s. You can create triangles up walls and across ceilings that can then be walked over, defying the rules of gravity. Secrets are stowed away in small alcoves and are a challenge to reach. Each tomb-like, trap-filled area you enter feels like it has architectural purpose and mystery to it, hinged upon the culture that the statues and markings in the environments suggest.
Chasm (Discord Games)
While Chasm may initially send you into an overwhelming state of NEStalgia, you should know that it’s very modern in design, despite the robust pixel art and animations casting your mind back to the early ’90s. You can probably tell, but it’s a 2D hack-’n’-slasher about travelling as deep down into a series of trap-filled, goblin-oozing dungeons as possible. We’ve had a little go at it already and found the swordplay swift and satisfying and the platforming a little annoying if you fall into a spike pit too often, but being able to wander the creepy depths of Chasm’s, er, chasm, proved to be thrilling and hard to put down.
White Night (OSome Studio)
Unheard of, but soon to explode on to people’s radars if we have anything to do with it, White Night is a narrative-driven third-person horror game. It combines the drastic thrillers of Hitchcock with German expressionsm’s stark lighting and wraps it all up in the survival-horror and puzzle design of Alone In The Dark. Don’t forget about this one in a hurry for it has enough style to tie you up with and never let you go.
The Forest (Endnight Games)
Now that Slenderman and meme-based horror has had its peak in horror games, we’re starting to see some fresh ideas emerge in the genre once again. The Forest really hankers down on the “survival” part of survival-horror. You have an open world in which you find resources, scavenge for food, craft materials and construct traps. The forest that you’re lost in is filled with predators, some that are much more terrifying than others, and you’ll have to decide to evade them with stealth or use sticks and stones to take them head-on, at the risk of your own death.
The Witness (Jonathan Blow)
It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of Jonathan Blow as a personality; the man has made a great game (Braid) and raised the profile of indie gaming in the public consciousness. His second game, The Witness, aims to rejuvenate–or perhaps reinvent–the Myst-like puzzle-exploration genre. A Cyan vet is even on Blow’s development team. The Witness has been in development since at least 2010, and the team has used that time to polish and perfect every inch of the puzzle-filled island upon which the game is set. The island’s scenery is breathtaking and the mazelike nature of the puzzles themselves is intriguing. We fully expect to have our minds blown when The Witness arrives in 2014.
That Dragon, Cancer (Ryan Green & Josh Larson)
It seems a little strange to say that we’re looking forward to a game that has already made us cry, but That Dragon, Cancer is special. Based on real events, you follow developer and father Ryan Green and his family as they come to terms with baby son Joel’s terminal cancer. Moving through distressing various memorable scenes that are both real and symbolic, such as hospitals and the family home, you discover a poetic and emotional journey with its ups and downs.
Gorogoa (Jason Roberts & Eduardo Ortiz Frau)
A unique puzzler, Gorogoa lets you move through a hand-illustrated world by arranging tiles that are actually windows into different scenes. Each window could potentially hold a small world inside of it that needs to have you picket through, and then zoom back out to return to where you once were before diving into another window. That principal alone is fantastic, but you have to also give credit to the imagination used to create the contents of each window, and then the skill to draw it all up with distinct style. Play Gorogoa’s demo if you need convincing of its greatness.
Pavilion (Visiontrick Media)
Pavilion is a bit of a mystery. It’s supposedly a fourth-person exploratory experience, by which Visiontrick mean you’ll be able to manipulate the detailed isometric environments, as well as the main character, who is seemingly stuck upon these surreal moonlit islands. The combination of an eerie soundscape and hand-painted drawings make it distinct on a surface level, but it’s hard to tell whether or not the puzzles and gameplay will resonate on the same level. We’re hoping so.
RIOT (RIOT Team)
RIOT is, quite simply, a riot simulator. You’ll witness the event from both sides of the fence. That is rioters and the riot police. The idea is obtain a feel for the political circumstance that ignites a riot, to live the moment-to-moment intensity and witness the aftermath. There’s no such thing as victory or defeat. It’s a battle for control or just a desperate attempt to be heard. The game’s lead claims to have been in riots himself, and so having this first-hand experience provides the game with an insight with the kind of stories that emerge from riots.
Mirage (Mario von Rickenbach)
The mind of Mario von Rickenbach is fascinating. Mirage is not the only one of his creations that acts as testament to that statement, but it’s the most notable. You play a top hat that is attached to a foot, swimming through a dream-like reality. You grab eyes, mouths and other body parts in order to perceive the world differently, and to also consume popcorn. Isn’t that just wonderful?
Owlboy (D-Pad Studio)
Oh, not you again! Owlboy appearing on anticipated indie games lists is a joke told a thousand times. We’ve been waiting for it for quite a while, and we’d love for 2014 to be the year of its arrival. It’s a 2D action-platform-adventure about the last of the Owls, Otus, who has to save the sky islands from invading pirates. As usual, this gets him swept up in a much deeper plot that will have him investigating his heritage and dodging many bigger and nastier dangers.
Expect a lonely, beautiful and haunting trip through NaissanceE. It might be one of our highlights of the coming year; we have a strong feeling. It’s a first-person wander, treacherous descent and dangerous puzzler. Dark, full of machinery, pipes and rhythmically alive constructs that breathe at your command. If you’re a fan of epic architecture, mysterious histories and exploring the unknown, NaissanceE is to be yearned for.
Gero Blaster (Studio Pixel)
The next game from “Pixel,” better known as the creator of Cave Story, Gero Blaster is a retro side-scrolling action game just like you’d hope for from Pixel. You play a cute frog who sets out to rescue those who have been kidnapped by the gleeful evil aliens. Armed with guns that shoot bubbles, lasers and rockets, your main task is to shoot your way through the enemy-filled levels and come out alive on the other side. It’s like Frogger, but with guns, and the cars have been swapped for cute-looking, but aggressive animals and aliens.
Drifter (Celsius Games)
Explore space. That’s what Drifter is all about. Inside, procedural generation offers a galaxy 100,000 light years across made up of tens of thousands of star systems, and you have the ability to discover all of them, if only you had the time. Obviously, there are things to do as well, such as trading goods, being a bounty hunter, mining asteroids or going the criminal route and becoming a space pirate. Lots to do, lots to see, lots of promise.
Distance (Refract Studios)
We’d been hoping to see this one released in 2013, but we also know game development isn’t a race, in the same way Distance is not just a racing game. After having the chance to play it at GDC 2013, that much is for sure; elements of exploration and parkour turn the speedway on its head, veering away from linear tracks in favor of branching, neon-lined obstacle courses that require some intricate maneuvering to get around.
Octopus City Blues (Ghost In A Bottle)
Octopus City Blues is another game that blew way past its Kickstarter goal. It’s set in a surreal, steampunkish metropolis built on top of a gigantic octopus. You play the part of a guy who cuts tentacles for a living, is addicted to octopus blood, and is about to become reluctantly embroiled in events that will change the city forever. The world is persistent, the adventure is nonlinear, and the dialogue system gives you different options based on your Stress and Guilt stats. The game is ostensibly a simulation of life in Octopus City, but it also bears the influence of 16-bit RPGs, and we expect the final product to be quite unlike anything else out there.
Beeswing (Jack King-Spooner)
After delivering a bunch of amazing freeware games (like Blues for Mittavinda), Jack King-Spooner returned to an early idea, a game set in and around a magical realist version of the idyllic Scottish town where he grew up: Beeswing. It will be his first commercial release, as well as his most personal game. Influenced by early console RPGs, but composed entirely of handmade art and music, Beeswing has some puzzles and nods to traditional gameplay, but mainly consists of exploring a beautiful, idiosyncratic world and listening to the stories of the people you meet, many of whom are based on actual Beeswing residents, past and present.
Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)
In your very own pink deathstar flying through space, you and one other will control one of the frantic characters inside, jumping between the ship’s consoles to battle the bright, neon aliens attacking you. Inside your spherical ship is a “micro-platformer” as you’ll need to hop up and down platforms and ladders to reach the consoles. Failure could arrive in a heartbeat, should you miss your jumps. That’s how vital it is that you attend to these consoles, some of which control the gargantuan lasers and rockets you’ve attached to the ship, while others allow you to evade incoming enemies and fire. Crazy, cheerful and a lot of co-op madness.
LIONESS (Zak Ayles)
LIONESS, formerly called Lionheart Drive, is an ambitious and mysterious project from Zak Ayles, who’s known for creating short bursts of brilliance like PUNKSNOTDEAD, with music by Phil Lanzbom (AKA PostPre). It’s an experiment in narrative with gameplay that focuses on social interactions. If it all comes together, it will play unlike anything we’ve seen before. LIONESS will be released over the course of seven installments, each of which aims to be a different experience for every player. The plot, which involves mysterious disappearances, time travel, the Yakuza and an intelligent cat, evolves organically based on your exploration and interactions. And the whole thing is presented in lovely rotoscoped visuals.
Interstellaria (Master Cold Rice Games)
With a list of influences including FTL, Mega Man, Starflight and Metroid, you know that Interstellaria is going to take a lot of engineering for all the gameplay components to come together effectively. Early signs are promising. You’ll have your own ship to manage, with a full crew onboard that await your instructions, and all of them needing some degree of The Sims-like management, too. With them, you’ll explore space and the planets within it, being attacked by hostile forces, trading with friendlies, making ship repairs, recruiting new members and even dropping down to a planet’s surface to solve puzzles, run-’n’-gun and jump across chasms.
Fran Bow (Kill Monday)
Killmonday’s Fran Bow, funded on Indiegogo and Greenlit on Steam, will charm and spook us all in 2014. It’s a point-and-click adventure with a distinctive, cute-and-creepy atmosphere and beautiful visuals that look like paper cut-outs. The story treads some very dark themes, but the game’s wit and style, and the loveable, damaged Fran, keep it grounded.
Gods Will Be Watching (Deconstructeam)
Originally conceived as a mini-game for Ludum Dare, Gods Will Be Watching is being developed into a much larger point-and-click game about despair, commitment and self-justified sacrifices. The basic goal of the game is to help a mixed group survive upon a hostile planet by making decisions to decide the outcome of “dramatic puzzles/” Torture, cannibalism and suicide will be encountered. Sometimes, it will be unavoidable. With no sense of good or bad, other than what your perception brings to the game, Gods Will Be Watching is one of the darkest, and yet somewhat amusing games we’ve ever encountered.
Neverending Nightmares (Infinitap Games)
An unsettling psychological horror game that embraces the realities of mental illness straight on, Neverending Nightmares comes from a personal place, rather than a purely aesthetic one. It aims to explore mental illness, rather than exploit it for cheap scares, making some of its more traditional horror elements feel dreadful in their realness.
Axiom Verge (Tom Happ)
Axiom Verge is designed on the principal that games are as fun to break as they are to play. Therefore, this side-scrolling, action-heavy Metroidlike gives the player a glitch ray early on so that they may corrupt blocks, slow down events, alter weapon effects and essentially break the entire world and how the game works. There are also huge and disgusting bosses to fight, which always grabs our attention as aficionados of body horror and gruesomeness.
The Maker’s Eden (Screwy Lightbulb)
Bringing in the engaging presentation of motion comics to enhance a noir point-and-click “slideshow-style” adventure has proven to be a smart move by Screwy Lightbulb. Just interacting with each screen of The Maker’s Eden is a satisfying action, moving the mouse around with noticeable screen wobble, clicking to zoom and other subtle verbal gizmos. It isn’t all good looks that makes the game appealing as its retro-futuristic, drizzly city and its bums, slums and robot chums grant a socio-political thread to run through the game’s narrative, which otherwise seems to consist of waking up in a time and place you’re not familiar with and being hunted down for reasons that you’re not aware.
Always Sometimes Monsters (Vagabond Dog)
You’ve been broken down to the point where you have nothing left. No place to live, no possessions, a lost lover, but you do still have some fight left in you, at least. Always Sometimes Monsters starts you in the shoes of a character who sets out on a journey through the modern human experience to find redemption. You’ll search for hope, a reason to carry on, through the sticky mud of greed and corruption, people ruining other people. It’s a journey you’re in control of, in which you have to choose from dire and sometimes depressing choices. It may sound like a game that’s not too much fun to play, but increasingly, these are the types that are becoming the most real and and thought-provoking, and we love that.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (Dennaton)
Does this one even need an explanation? Hotline Miami stole us away into a feverish, neon nightmare of trash, crime and violence, the bassline of some dirty electro-house track replacing the beating of our hearts and becoming the rhythm for our killing sprees. When Hotline Miami 2 asks us to do it all over again, our only questions are who, when and where.
Below (Capybara Games)
Capy’s beautiful top-down roguelike adventure, Below, is a little scarce on details, but the trailers released thus far are enough to impress. You play a small character travelling through the huge underground depths of a lonely island. We’re led to believe that the enormous tombs and caves will be randomly generated, along with the items and enemies, and permadeath will make every trip nerve-wracking. Co-op play seems likely, though we’re not sure in what capacity yet. Either way, Below is undeniably striking with its soft-focused vistas and starkly lit underground tombs.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch (Young Horses)
Notoriously silly, Octodad: Dadliest Catch has you playing an octopus in a suit, trying to convince society and his family that he’s human. You’ll be wrestling with the slippery tentacles and lack of bones as you get ready for the day, attempt to get married and play with your children in the back garden. Try not to raise suspicions as you knock the entire contents of rooms across the floor while performing mundane chores.
Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios)
Ever wonder what dungeon crawling might do to your psyche? Darkest Dungeon explores that idea in a Lovecraftian, “hardcore” RPG wherein you guide a party of four flawed heroes on an expedition into the bowels of the earth and the depths of their own souls. You have to manage their emotional needs and fight off encroaching madness, while also fighting turn-based battles and dealing with the other, more typical aspects of dungeon-delving. Sounds good to me!
An adventure set within a pop-up book, Tengami has proven to us that it’s more than just visual flair. The puzzles in the game are designed to fit around the relationship between the paper structures, the adventurer and the interest in Japanese traditions and craft. You’ll interact with animals, instruments and fire signals by pulling, memorizing and seeking out hidden secrets in the paper folds.
Cloudbuilt (Coilworks AB)
Hopping, sliding and rocket-boosting through sky structures is often such a dreamy and challenging experience for your fingers and mind. Cloudbuilt appears to elevate this dexterousm half-art, half-sport exclusive to gaming with its almost irresistible sketch-shaded dreamscape. There are hostile robots in the way, and insane verticalities that require sharp reflexes to overcome, too. It’s a marvel to look at and watch for multiple reasons. We can’t wait.
Spire (Hitbox Team)
Creators of Dustforce, Hitbox want to test our platformer skills once again, but Spire is quite the different beast from Dustforce’s repeat and learn 2D designs. Spire is a first-person, procedurally generated adventure as much as it is a twitch platformer. It should be full of intrigue and mystery as you battle fantastical creatures not fathomed before and discover the game’s strange artifacts as you climb up a huge tower, showing finesse in your precise and quick maneuvers.
Apotheon (Alientrap Games)
Like ALIENTRAP’s prior game, Capsized, Apotheon is a 2D action-adventure with gorgeous art and a fantastically realized setting. Apotheon takes place on the Mount Olympus of myth, and the game is entirely presented in the style of ancient Greek pottery illustration. With an open world to explore, fluid combat and spectacular visuals, this one is sure to please.
Ether One (White Paper Games)
As a Restorer, it’s your job to go inside the memories of Jean, who’s having issues, and try to patch them up to bring back her mental health. Of course, events don’t go quite as smoothly as hoped, and your gift ends up ensnaring you inside the various locations of Jean’s past, while being hunted by something vicious. What we’ve played of Ether One already surpassed our expectations, with all the rummaging around in the sci-fi environments and British coastlines occupying us for plenty of time before even getting hooked into the narrative delivery.
The Iconoclasts (Joakim Sandberg)
Here’s another game that’s been on these kinds of lists for a few years now. The Iconoclasts is full of detail throughout its exciting adventure, with the luscious pixel art illustrating a world in which the main character, Robin the mechanic, conducts illegal practices. Yes, it’s a strange world unto its own, where mechanical interference is punished, but Robin’s wrench is good for both altering the environment and whacking foes across the face with. We may get to see a final version of The Iconoclasts this year; you never know.
Routine (Lunar Software)
Routine was one of the very first batch of ten titles to be Greenlit on Steam, and we’ll finally get to play it in 2014. It’s a first-person survival-horror game set on a moonbase in a 1980s-style vision of the future. The focus is on total immersion, so there are no artificial elements, like power-ups or an HUD. Though it features sci-fi and possibly supernatural elements, everything feels remarkably realistic. The game’s non-linear, and there are multiple endings if you survive – and permadeath if you don’t.
Stasis (Christopher Bischoff)
Successfully Kickstarted last year, Stasis could arrive late 2014, or it could not. It’s already had a lot of work put into it, and what we’ve seen of it had us marking this isometric point-and-click horror adventure as fantastic. Based in a huge, dark and derelict spacecraft, you guide John Marachek around the lab-horrors that his family have been snatched away to, causing him to bring the machines onboard spluttering back to life so he can delve deeper into the gory depths of the haunting spaceship, the Groomlake.
Super Time Force (Capybara Games)
2014 is going to be a big year for Capy, and Super Time Force is a huge reason as to why that’s the case. You’ll have to manipulate time over and over as you command the many human, robot and dinosaur characters of the titular squad as they battle through hostile forces across history and the future. It’s all action, all the time. Shoot and jump across the levels, and when you meet death, rewind to play through again as a new character alongside your previous self. This time, however, you may be able to save them dying, and through relentlessness, you’ll use the entire team to stop your enemy’s efforts.
FRACT OSC (Phosfiend Systems)
We remember playing the student prototype of FRACT a few years ago, and it’s wonderful to see how far it’s come since then. FRACT OSC is many things. Firstly, it’s first-person exploration of an abstract and broken world created by sounds. You’ll then start to solve environmental puzzles to repair this world and get it back in tune with itself. There’s also a complete synth system supplied in the game that you can use to create your own music. If you have the time, just stare at the screenshots of FRACT OSC, and you’ll likely find wonder and beauty in its geometry.
Quadrilateral Cowboy (Blendo Games)
A super-stylish hacking simulator and puzzle game from Blendo Games, Quadrilateral Cowboy is looking like a low-tech, cyberpunk goldmine. I first saw the game in person, set up on a little CRT monitor at IndieCade 2013, to give you a better idea of what this game is going for.
Moments Of Silence (Myformerselves)
Moments of Silence is like a painting come to life, described by developer John Clowder as “a satire for futurists interested in string theory.” It’s an adventure-RPG about consciousness and the self’s relationship to its environment, taking place on a towering city strapped to the back of a dying turtle. Further details are unknown, but based on what we’ve seen and heard, Moments of Silence will be a fantastical and gorgeous game from an imaginative and renowned developer.
Barkley 2 (Tales of Games)
Barkley 2 (full name: The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa) is the much-anticipated sequel to one of the greatest parodical RPGs of all time: 2008′s Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. Developer Tales of Games is taking an action-RPG approach this time, and gameplay involves plenty of realtime gunfighting reminiscent of a 2-D Borderlands (there’s a randomized gun system, too). In addition to shooting things, you’ll be exploring an open world, going on quests, and developing your character–as well as laughing your ass off. Every experience will be different, as things in the game change over time and player choices affect the intricate, unfolding narrative.
Catequesis (Baroque Decay & Curved Cat Games)
Based on ’90s RPG gameplay, Catequesis is a mysterious, retro-looking survival-horror. Daniel winds up visiting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time as her disease-suffering father takes a turn for the worse. Seemingly as a result of this, demonic creatures start to appear around the house while everyone disappears. Daniel then has to creep around the old home, facing new bloody and terrifying horrors at each turn.
Galactic Princess (Mickaël Mancini & co)
A space exploration game of operatic proportions, Galactic Princess could surprise us all this year. All of the crew management and ship construction that’s starting to become standard for space exploration is packed in, but Galactic Princess tells a much darker tale as you make your money from smuggling, and you don’t care about the contents. Drugs, slaves or pizzas – it doesn’t matter. The results differ, however, as you’ll be chased by alien forces, get betrayed by comrades and will constantly have to be on the lookout as you deal with the nastiest criminals in the galaxy.
The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter (The Astronauts)
A horror game inspired by the likes of Poe and Lovecraft, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter takes all the mystery of detective stories and macabre of early-20th century “weird fiction” and blends it together to create something truly enigmatic. Serious details have yet to be spilled, but we did get some gorgeous gifs showing off the game’s photogrammetric environments and technology.
A Bird Story (Freebird Games)
Kan Gao will give us A Bird Story to act as a small, touching thought between To The Moon and its upcoming sequel. That’s enough of a reason for us to be clawing at our desks in anticipation. Also, we’re kind of bundling up A Bird Story in with To The Moon 2 here, honestly. That aside, A Bird Story is supposed to be a short, surreal story with no dialogue about a boy and his bird with a broken wing. It’s already very sweet.
Aztez (Team Colorblind)
Set in 1428 during the formation of the Aztec empire, Aztez involves invading neighboring countries to take them over, waging wars and generally being quite nasty about it. Pushing out your borders is managed from a global map view, but the more exciting part of the game is the side-scrolling fighting sections during which you take on the body of an Aztez warrior and bash around multiple opponents with brutal sword and shield combat.
Among The Sleep (Krillbite)
Horror games are scariest when you’re very vulnerable. So how about being a tiny toddler, who is better at crawling than walking? Among The Sleep is a first-person horror game at first, with the first part of the game’s set-up being shown to us last year. It’s not all about night terrors and creeping shadows spotted around your house, however, as there’s a much broader adventure to go on that offers mystery and intriguing constructs more than horror.
Eidolon (Ice Water Games)
Through exploring the misty natural scenes of Eidolon, we’re told to expect to find remnants of our dead culture as this is what’s left of our great cities far into the future. Eidolon isn’t a pure first-person exploration game, though, as you need to hunt and scavenge for food, as well as find shelter. Expect mysterious phenomena, beauteous landscapes and for touching stories to emerge through the journals you find and read.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture)
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a spiritual successor to Dear Esther, and a larger scale project than any of The Chinese Room’s previous games. It’s about six different people living out the final hour of the world leading up to the apocalypse, played over and over and over again. With each playthrough, you’re given the chance to explore new places and see new things before it is all inevitably over.
Revenge of the Sunfish 2 (Bizarre Wound Productions)
I have fond memories of Revenge of the Sunfish: scouring the internet for a sketchy .exe, dropping it onto a friend’s desktop, insisting they play it and watching the look of repulsion spread across their face as they ask me what they hell I just installed on their computer. The sequel to Jacob Buczynski’s weird, gross and frightening classic can’t come soon enough.
Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
Kickstarted to a ridiculous proportion, Hyper Light Drifter caught the imagination of a lot of people last year. We’re all expecting it to bring fluid and flashy sword-swishing combat, a journey into the unknown and to happen across strange technologies that strike us with fear and admiration. It’s a 2D action-RPG ripped from the retro years at heart and takes place through forests, floating structures and crumbling ruins. Intelligent enemies, lighting-fast combat, tactical considerations and a dense culture each grab us by the cheeks and give us a sloppy, promising kiss.
Miegakure (Marc Ten Bosch)
Ah, Miegakure, of course you’re still here. Marc Ten Bosch has been toying with Miegakure for some years now, and each time he presents the latest iteration, it seems to have greatly advanced in look and concept. In short, it’s a 4D puzzle game. That should be confusing and intriguing. It needs to be seen in motion to be understood, but imagine Fez’s interplay between 2D and 3D, and then add another dimension on top of that.
Mushroom 11 (Itaykeren)
The concept of Mushroom 11 feels so simple, intuitive and familiar, it’s hard to believe it hadn’t been thought of before, but even with this in mind, it still manages to be a highly original and challenging puzzle game. You control an amorphic organism by mouse or touchscreen, splitting and erasing its cells and watching them sprout anew on the other side, using this mechanic to move across dangerous landscapes and navigate strange obstacles. Its trailers and demos have blown us away. Now we await the final game.
RIME (Tequila Works)
Looking a little like a combo of Ico, Windwaker and Journey, RIME is a third-person, open-world adventure set around coastal ruins with puzzles to discover and solve within. The cel-shaded look and bright cheeriness of the game’s visuals compel you instantly. You’re tasked with helping a boy solve his way around RIME’s island as he tries to escape a curse lingering over him. The visuals and gameplay do all the talking here.
Catacomb Kids (Four Bit Friday)
Take a bunch of kids through the dark Catacombs as they attempt to prove their worthiness of adulthood, as well as take on the demon sorceress, Abys. This apparently brutal roguelike platformer gives you a range of candidates to head deep down into the procedurally generated dungeons with, each of which are armed with magic and blades to take on the foul creatures lurking below with. Environmental hazards can be a hindrance or used to your advantage. Freeze, burn and poison, as well as dodge, evade and hack your way to an almost inevitable death.
Nidhogg has been long awaited by many, because it’s only been available at certain conventions and played by few. Yet it’s been championed as one of the greats of the local multiplayer indies several times. It’s a sword-fighting duel that has each player trying to run to the opposite side of the horizontal and hazardous arenas. It’s supposedly coming soon, with single-player and online multiplayer modes.
The Long Dark (Hinterland Games)
The Pacific Northwest in the cold and quiet post-digital apocalypse is your survival grounds in The Long Dark. Will Mackenzie is your vessel as you simulate the need to search for water and food, to sleep and to maintain heat. Hunt and become hunted by the weather, as well as beasts. Decide whether to show good will to other survivors or put your own life and safety into priority. This isn’t just a survival sandbox, mind, as The Long Dark also has an episodic narrative to pull you through.
Saturated Dreamers – The Lake Rises (Studio Eres)
Competing for the game longest in development on this list, Saturated Dreamers has to arrive in 2014, surely. It’s a non-violent adventure across an alien lake planet. You play Mercedes in her ship equipped with lots of gadgets as she searches for the previous expedition team. There will be creatures, but you can’t hurt them, even if they become aggressive. Gloriously colorful environments and strange waters have us desperate for Saturated Dreamers.
Radio The Universe (6e6e6e)
Another game that was on our previous anticipated games list, Radio the Universe’s updates have been mostly quiet, except for its Kickstarter backers, but still manages to keep us captivated with its initial pitch and beautiful trailer. It looks like Zelda meets dark, grungy cyber punk, with elements of Yume Nikki and Dark Souls in the mix.
Maze (Winged Doom)
Winged Doom, AKA “08–n7.r6-79.84″ or “Rt8vr8tt,” is the artist behind those jaw-dropping 5734L3R mock-ups that teased and amazed us all. I can pretty much guarantee that we haven’t heard the last of 5734L3R yet, but I’ll be quite happy to play MAZE (formerly Journey to Hammerdale) in the meantime. It’s a Zelda-influenced action-adventure with a focus on puzzles. The gameplay looks top-notch, and the pixel art does not fail to astonish with its flawless composition and colors.
Stranded Deep (Beam Team Games)
You live through a plane crash, only to be stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Now survive. Stranded Deep is an immersive first-person adventure that pits you against nature. There are realistic weather and water effects, distinct biomes of different wildlife and an infinite world of ocean and islands that’s procedurally generated to give you a new challenge every time you play.