Amidst the polish and polygons of triple-A titles that come out every year, we are finding ourselves as gamers increasingly leaning into and accepting indie developed games for their charm, unique storytelling, emotional beats, and innovative mechanics. It’s difficult to say who amongst us at Level Down Games likes indies the most – each of us dives into a healthy portion of them throughout the year – but I can say that I usually end up liking indie games more than their high-budget counterparts. My personal Game of the Year for both 2018 and 2019 were indie titles (Celeste and Katana ZERO, respectively), and despite the titles from big money devs I’m anticipating in 2020, I wouldn’t be shocked if a sleeper indie hit stole the award again. With that being said, here is my personal list of the top ten indie game I’m looking forward to in 2020.
10. Super Meat Boy Forever
Even though this game was announced nearly six years ago, and has been pushed back multiple times, we’re hopeful that 2020 is the year we finally get to dive back into the varied quickly-ended lives of the eponymous hero. Super Meat Boy Forever is the sequel to 2010’s smash hit Super Meat Boy and initially began as a mobile port, but has since changed development hands and scope to become a brand new production. I’m not convinced we won’t see a delayed release date (again), but Team Meat doesn’t disappoint with addictive, fast-action gameplay, so we’ll cross our fingers to see this sooner rather than later.
9. Moving Out
From SMG Studio, the team behind 2017’s underappreciated Death Squared, comes a video game that actually makes something I hate doing – namely moving furniture – into an aggravating but hilarious party game. The manual labor version of Overcooked looks to be difficult, frustrating, and fun in all the ways that will make me yell at my friends until we laugh. Scheduled for an ambiguous 2020 release, my family can’t wait to get our hands on the game said to put “the couch in couch co-op”.
It will be very difficult to choose the most graphically beautiful game in 2020 with the wide array we’re sure to experience, but I have no doubt Sable will remain at the top of that list. New developer Shedworks has created an amazingly intriguing world to explore that looks like a cel-shaded cartoon but plays like an open-world exploration game as you cross vast dunes and dive into ancient ruins. A lot of mystery still surrounds Sable, so hopefully 2020 remains its release year and those mysteries will soon be solved.
7. 12 Minutes
What do you get when you cross Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day with a classic Agatha Christie whodunit? You get 12 Minutes, an upcoming game from sole developer Luis Antonio. Premiered all the way back at PAX East 2015, 12 Minutes follows a man who finds himself in a (not surprisingly) twelve-minute time loop after the murder of his pregnant wife. He has to use the twelve minutes given to him wisely to explore their apartment and neighborhood and collect clues as to who would kill his beloved – and why. Done right, this game has the potential to captivate my mind from start to finish. Who doesn’t love a good mystery!?
6. Sports Story
In 2017, Australian developer delivered a charming, surprise sleeper indie hit in Golf Story, combining fun characters, witty dialogue, and interesting locations with basic RPG mechanics and promising golf gameplay. Since then, following the game’s semi-teaser ending for a sequel, we’ve wondered what will come next. Volleyball? Tennis? Baseball? How about: All of the above. Variety is the spice of life, and I’m eagerly anticipating becoming talented at the sports in this game – something I woefully was never able to accomplish in real life.
So there’s some birds, and they’re on skateboards. What else needs to be said? I grew up in an era where nearly every gamer was playing a very famous bird (a hawk named Tony) as he skated impossibly around various environments, collecting videotapes and letters, jamming to one of the best licensed video game soundtracks of all time. SkateBIRD, initially kickstarted by developer Glass Bottom Games, adds in the cuteness of tiny ACTUAL birds, kickflipping and grinding over common small household items. Given it has the right soundtrack, this is an early prediction for my “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” nomination at the LDG Awards of 2020.
4. The Red Lantern
A lot of mystery still surrounds The Red Lantern, freshman outing by game developers Timberline Studio, but what they’ve shown us so far has been just enough to whet my appetite – namely beautiful natural environments, a strong voice-acted narrative, and a whole bunch of good pups. The game is allegedly a rogue-lite where the protagonist, who is on a journey of self-reflection, has to navigate the Alaskan wilderness led by a team of sled dogs. It looks to combine aspects of games that have always impressed me, like Life is Strange’s voice-acted narrative and Firewatch’s beautifully rendered woods. The only thing that keeps this game from being number one is they LITERALLY killed a dog in the trailer and that’s not okay.
3. Hollow Knight: Silksong
I’ve recently been enjoying myself watching fellow LDG staffer (and my sworn enemy) Dan lose his sanity slowly as he plays through Hollow Knight on his Twitch stream (which can be found at twitch.tv/kraizd11). His plight, though it brings me great joy, is nothing compared to the experience of playing through that gorgeously crafted masterpiece myself. Hollow Knight is one of the biggest Kickstarter successes I can think of and will go down as one of the best Metroidvanias of all time, which is why everyone is hotly anticipating its successor, Hollow Knight: Silksong. Playing as Hornet rather than The Knight, we will return to the bug-infested underground hives of the original for a brand new adventure, difficult boss encounters, and, no doubt, a broken controller or two.
I’ve thought a lot about what I would do to make my perfect game – charming graphics, sidescrolling camera, likable characters, and an emotionally vulnerable story all top the list. Spiritfarer, an upcoming game by Thunder Lotus Games, appears to check all of those boxes and more, as you play Stella, the ferry master who guides recently passed souls to their afterlife. Spiritfarer is also described as a management sim, which will provide a calming routine to your stressful job – and also looks like the only game (so far) that may just draw a tear from my eye. I hope it does.
1. Axiom Verge 2
Amidst the heavy field of contenders vying for my coveted indie game attention in 2020, there stands amongst them a single game whose reveal has made me audibly cheer- Axiom Verge 2. Sequel to 2015’s smash hit, and possibly best Metroid clone of all time (better than even some actual Metroid games), AV2 appears to be a time-hopping adventure that both expands and explains the crazy sci-fi tunnels of Axiom Verge while delivering more spelunking and shooting that fans of the first (myself included) loved so much. And to top it all off, Axiom Verge 2 is being developed by a single man – Tom Happ. Unfamiliar with the first? Now’s the time to play, because fans of Metroidvanias worldwide can hardly wait.
Which indie titles are on your radar for 2020? Let us know in the comments!