2019 was a great year for indie video games, not only because there were, in fact, dozens of independent titles to chose from, but also because most of them are actually really good, even when compared to some of the biggest AAA of the year. With so many games deserving a place among the best, it’s incredibly hard to pick just 5 without some kind of remorse, but after a lot of deliberation, we finally feel ready to talk about our personal favorites. Without further ado, let’s dive into what we consider the best indie games of 2019!
5. Baba Is You
- System: Nintendo Switch, PC
- Publisher: Hempuli
- Developer: Hempuli
- Release Dates: Mar. 13, 2019
Let's open with Baba Is You, a puzzle game that forces you to think outside of the box, bending the rules of each maze-like puzzle. The premise of the game is that instead of defeating infinite waves of enemies, you have to push and pull blocks around to defeat your own logical thinking. In every stage, you'll find a set of blocks—some times with words, some times with objects—that you can push and pull to create different sentences that set the current rules for a puzzle; for example, moving a block may be the difference between 'water is defeat' and 'water is win'.
The uniqueness of Baba Is You is the perfect hook for an indie game, especially when the top-down perspective and 2D graphics are part of the gameplay mechanics. You definitely want to go further, but you're not doing it because of the story... you're just challenging yourself. All in all, Baba Is You demonstrates that you don't need gorgeous graphics when it comes to puzzle video games; you just need to be clever about the gameplay. Yeah, Portal taught us how to think with portals... but now we also know how to think with word-blocks!
4. Sayonara Wild Hearts
- System: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS
- Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
- Developer: Simogo
- Release Dates: Sep. 19, 2019 (Dec. 12, 2019 on PC)
If you fancy a more vibrant color palette and a catchy soundtrack full of electronic music, then let's move on to Sayonara Wild Hearts. After all, it is well known that a woman with a broken heart can lead to the most incredible pop songs, and that's exactly what happens in this surrealistic rhythm game full of polygons and flashy lights. Sayonara Wild Hearts is one of the most interesting experimental video games of 2019 and probably of the decade, innovating in a genre that was becoming too monotonous.
Heavily inspired by Tarot elements, this game is all about colors and music, with every stage having a different approach in terms of gameplay mechanics. Some people may view it as a collection of minigames, while others may think of it as a powerful story that relies on subtlety to fulfill its mission, but in the end, the best part of Sayonara Wild Hearts is that it can be whatever you want it to be! As long as you try this one out, we don't care if you're playing it aiming for a perfect run or just to experience the feelings of the protagonist.
3. Disco Elysium
- System: PC (PlayStation 4 TBD)
- Publisher: ZA/UM
- Developer: ZA/UM
- Release Dates: Oct. 15, 2019
Our next game is Disco Elysium, a role-playing experience that gives you not only the freedom to create the character you want to be but also has an incredible art-style to better illustrate its dystopian-yet-lively world around you. In this world, the line between good and evil is extremely blurred, and every character has a story to tell... something you have to pay attention to since you play as a detective on a murder case. However, this is a narrative-heavy gem and we don't want to spoil the details to you, so do yourself a favor and just play the hell out of this game!
We love Disco Elysium because it takes us back to the roots of RP games, even with some rng involved, just like when you roll the dices when playing a pen-and-paper RPG. Solving the murder case is just a tiny part of this game, and with all these customization elements and different dialogue outcomes, just walking the immersive streets of Revachol city is enough motivation for all of us who enjoy interactive stories and world-building. With so much replay value and a lot of peculiar characters waiting for you, Disco Elysium is a dream come true for every role-playing fan out there.
2. Outer Wilds
- System: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
- Developer: Mobius Digital
- Release Dates: May 29, 2019 (Oct. 15, 2019 on PC)
Do you have 22 free minutes? And what if those 22 minutes, are your last 22 minutes alive? In Outer Wilds, you only have 22 minutes to avoid being killed by the exploding sun... and if you die, you're forced to go back in time and try again and again until you finally find a solution to your inevitable death. On the other hand, 22 minutes are not enough for exploring the complex worlds around you in search of clues, reinforcing that feeling that every second counts.
While it definitely sounds like a horror story, Outer Wilds is more about exploring a solar system full of unique planets, each with their own story and mysteries. It has a little bit of No Man's Sky, it has a little bit of Subnautica, but it also feels like The Witness, with all these puzzles and the splendid environmental storytelling. This is definitely a challenging game since everything depends on you and your investigations, but once you get used to the inevitable time-loops, your unquenchable desire for answers becomes the perfect fuel to keep you going. This is not a game for everyone, but it's the perfect indie game for those who love exploration and adventure.
1. Telling Lies
- System: PC, iOS
- Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
- Developer: Sam Barlow, Furious Bee
- Release Dates: Aug. 23, 2019
Do you remember Her Story? It's one of the best games of 2015, a mix of live-action footage and some point-and-click mechanics that make you feel like you're the actual detective browsing the files of a police computer. Well, the person behind that game is none other than Sam Barlow, who's also responsible for Telling Lies a game that goes exactly the same way: you have to browse the different files on a desktop computer to solve a mystery, but this time everything is even better!
The interaction between these characters is awesome, and that's why Telling Lies just works. It's a video game, it's a masterpiece in storytelling... it's art, but it's also an experience that feels unbelievably real. In fact, watching all these videos and phone calls never feels boring, even when that's everything you do—other than putting the pieces together—in Telling Lies.
Can you really separate facts from fiction? That's for you to discover in one of the best indie games of 2019! We really hate being vague about the plot here, but trust us, this is the best we can do for you with regards to this game!
We can't finish this brief review for the best indie video games of 2019 without mentioning other jewels like Devotion, Untitled Goose Game, What The Golf?, Void Bastards or Katana Zero. Like we mentioned before, 2019 was indeed a great year for indie developers and more so for us the players!
With such a long list of indie video games this past year, have you played them all? We're already looking forward to the indie games of 2020!