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Top 10 Indie Games on Steam [Best Recommendations]

We PC gamers are blessed with Steam and its huge library of games, tempting deals every week, free weekend events, and yearly sales with ridiculously cheap prices on games. And unlike consoles, we play online for free. So that’s something we’re proud to brag about. And if you’re on a tight budget and the next big Steam Sale is far away, or if you’re just tired of seeing these Triple-A games trying to get to your wallet by locking half of the content behind loot boxes, intrusive microtransactions, pre-order-only content, and DLCs, you can try out Steam’s indie games catalogue.

Indie games are very different than Triple-A games. For one thing, indie games won’t cost you 60 bucks and they don’t look, play and feel like the millionth iteration of Call of Duty and Gears of War. Indie games offer a wide variety of genres to choose from like survival, RPG, FPS, RTS, sports, puzzles, there is always something for everybody. And to give you a head start, Honey’s Anime is gonna list the Top 10 popular indie games on Steam for you to play.

How do you define popularity? Is it the positive review scores? The number of players active at any given time, perhaps? Or popularity due to exposure to social media or a passionate fanbase and the memes they generated? We’re gonna cover all of the above, so if you’re set, strap yourself because this is going to be one hell of a ride!


10. Shovel Knight

  • System: PC, Mac, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, 3DS, PSVita, PS3, PS4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Yacht Club Games
  • Developer: Yacht Club Games
  • Release Dates: July 26, 2014

In Shovel Knight, you play as the eponymous Shovel Knight on a quest to search for his lost love and save the land from the evil Enchantress. Armed with his trusty and versatile Shovel Blade, the Shovel Knight embarks on a quest filled with monsters, ghastly dungeons, deadly traps and menacing bosses who will do whatever it takes to stop you.

Shovel Knight pays homage to classic 8-bit action platformers like the original DuckTales, Metroid, Castlevania, Ghost ‘N Goblins, Mega Man, etc. while adding its own new ideas. Shovel Knight not only plays like the aforementioned games with their level design and controls, it certainly looks and sounds like the part as well with retro pixel graphics and 8-bit audio music and SFX. The game does appeal to old gamers who want to relive their childhood and drown in nostalgia and this is one of the reasons why Shovel Knight is popular. But make no mistake, Shovel Knight is a well-made action platformer with very tight controls, worlds and memorable characters for everyone to play.

...and besides, pixel-art is so common in indie games, you could easily forgive this game.


9. Hollow Knight

  • System: PC, Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Wii U
  • Publisher: Team Cherry, IndieBox, Inc.
  • Developer: Team Cherry
  • Release Dates: February 25, 2017

Shovel Knight gave you the classic action platforming of the 8-bit era, Hollow Knight gives you a modern take on beautiful visuals, solid combat and the freedom to explore this dark, yet vast world of Hollowness. You start the game as the Knight, a cute little fella, who dropped into a world devoid of life. As you reached the town of Dartmouth, you descend down the old well to find an ancient ruined kingdom and unlocks its many buried secrets. Meet NPCs, discover many routes, stumble upon hidden secrets, fight the many monsters lurking in the chasms and slay giant bosses as the Hollow Knight!

There are a lot of side-scrolling action platformers out there like the aforementioned Shovel Knight and other Metroidvania-like games like Axiom Verge, but Hollow Knight stands out due to its non-retro and hand-drawn visuals along with responsive controls and ball-busting hard gameplay. At first the game starts off easy by teaching you how to control the Knight and as you progressed further into the game, you find charms that give you passive buffs and learn new abilities to traverse difficult areas and fend off more powerful enemies and bosses that are happy enough to eat away your HP if you slack off.

We know this phrase gets used a lot, but… Hollow Knight is very much Dark Souls and its cryptic nature. You start the game with a little backstory and no tutorials, quest markers, or a fairy partner telling you where to go. You start off with a linear path but once you’ve reached the game’s hub, the town of Dirtmouth, you are free to explore anywhere. Keep going left? Or keep going right? The choice is up to you and Hollow Knight does this perfectly because the paths you take doesn’t lead to a dead end and there’s always a pay off like a hidden treasure, a boss, an important NPC and so on. Though the game does funnel you to a specific part of the world once you’ve learned a new skill or ability.

Overall though, Hollow Knight is vast and beautiful that encourages multiple playthroughs due to its freedom to explore and a charming system that lets you try out different effects to change your experience. With such an impressive package at a reasonable price, a developer that takes community feedback seriously, and free updates, Hollow Knight received overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam.


8. Don’t Starve

  • System: PC, iOS, Linux, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Klei Entertainment
  • Developer: Klei Entertainment
  • Release Dates: April 23, 2013

We know, survival games are a dime a dozen in Steam, but sometimes there are a few gems hidden in the pile of crap. One of those gems is Don’t Starve, a game with uncompromising survival mechanics and world exploration. You play as Wilson, an intrepid Gentleman Scientist who has been trapped by a demon and transported to a mysterious wilderness world. Wilson must learn to exploit his environment and its inhabitants if he ever hopes to escape and find his way back home.

When you start the game, you are immediately tossed into the world with no real guides or even instructions. You pick up your tools and start gathering resources, weapons, fire, and food as soon as possible because everything around you is out to kill you with great abandon, especially during nighttime. You will die a lot, but each death gives you insights on what to do the next time you respawn. You need to monitor your character’s health, food reserves, fuel for your campfire, materials for tools and be mindful of your weapons’ durability for they break after a few things. Oh, and respawning means you start all over again in a new randomly-generated map.

Don’t Starve also has an emphasis on exploration. Once the local resources are not enough, you need to venture into uncharted territories for more wood, ores, or even find something strange. But be mindful though because the world is populated by creatures and elements that will kill you if you’re not careful. Each playthrough can last for many days because of the randomness of the game. You will encounter new things in your adventure, die, find a new thing, die, find another new thing and then die for the billionth time. Though the constant deaths and having to restart may be discouraging, if you have the resolve, conquering Don’t Starve is probably one of the greatest things you’ve done in your entire life.

One of the most popular games on Steam are usually games with unique mechanics and sometimes games with high difficulty. Don’t Starve sits as one of the most popular games on Steam not because it’s survival done right, it’s popular because it’s survival, priced reasonably and it has a unique charming art style that is more appealing than other survival games that look like buggy ARMA mods.


7. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

  • System: PC, Linux, Mac, PS4, PSVita, Xbox One, 3DS, iOS, WiiU
  • Publisher: Nicalis
  • Developer: Nicalis
  • Release Dates: November 4, 2014

When Isaac’s mother starts hearing the voice of God demanding a sacrifice be made to prove her faith, Isaac escapes into the basement facing droves of deranged enemies, lost brothers and sisters, his fears, and eventually his mother.

Rebirth is a remake of the original Binding of Isaac with improved performance and new art style. And like the original, Rebirth is a randomly generated action RPG shooter with heavy rogue-like elements. To put it simply, the game is much like a twin-stick shooter where you shoot, dodge enemy fire and use items and power-ups to your advantage in levels that are random with unpredictable enemy placement. The game is filled with tons of content, every session is different, you’ll encounter new power-ups and bosses even after hours of playing. And that’s the charm of the Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, its massive content, tough-as-nails, yet fun gameplay, and unpredictability will keep you coming back for years to come.


6. Terraria

  • System: PC, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, 3DS, Nintendo Switch, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PSVita
  • Publisher: Re-Logic, Merge Games
  • Developer: Re-Logic
  • Release Dates: May 16, 2011

Terraria is a 2D survival game where you harvest wood, gather materials to build a home, build weapons and explore the dangerous world by exploring the landscape or dig down to hell in search of treasure and rare minerals. Dig, fight, explore, build! Nothing is impossible in this action-packed adventure game. The world is your canvas and the ground itself is your paint.

There are a lot of games that you only play once or a few times until you forget about it because you’ve 100% it, and there are also games that are so huge, it will take multiple playthroughs to complete at 100%. Or never because the game keeps putting out content updates that change the game drastically. One of those games is Terraria.

Terraria is a game with an identity crisis initially because gamers mocked it for being a 2D Minecraft clone with stolen Final Fantasy assets. But developer Re-Logic set out to prove everyone wrong by putting out massive content updates free of charge. In the first iteration of the game, you start out by digging, gathering resources, build a fortress, forge weapons and armor and then fight giant flying eyeballs that are hellbent on killing you and everything you’ve loved. And on the next big updates, you end up building ice castles, add furniture, meet new NPCs, killer unicorns, the ability to fly using angelic wings, run at sonic speeds, and wield legendary weapons to fight against the giant killer plants, gigantic golems, pirate ships, and even flying saucers.

From a humble survival game to a crazy survival action side-scrolling RPG, Terraria, despite it coming out in 2011, is constantly on the top 100 most played games on Steam. There is always something new to do and find in Terraria and with another update coming, you have to a dedicated completionist to 100% Terraria. Seriously, good luck with that.



5. Undertale

  • System: PC, Linux, Mac, PS4, PSVita
  • Publisher: tobyfox
  • Developer: tobyfox
  • Release Dates: September 15, 2015

You are a young human boy who falls underground and is trapped in the world of monsters. With every monster out to get you, you must find a way to survive and escape. Along the way, you meet a cast of characters who are full of personality, you can’t help but like them and be curious about what stories they’re going to share.

When a game offers a true pacifist run, memorable and funny characters, a unique take on the morality system, graphics that grab the nostalgia of loved games like Earthbound, catchy music (that sounded like music from those Touhou games) and fun gameplay, then you have the recipe for a game that will be loved by fans for many years to come. In Undertale, you have the option to not kill every enemy you encounter by talking your way out. A monster may be intimidating, but if you try to talk to them, you might learn something and you’ll decide to kill or spare them. The choices you make in Undertale do matter and has consequences to encourage multiple playthroughs. Undertale is a breath of fresh air and this stellar experience was made by one guy.

And for the love of everything that is good, do not take part in Undertale’s notorious community. Go ask them why Undertale is unique and they’ll give you an essay detailing the game’s morality system and gameplay. But… BUT…! Say one bad thing about Undertale and these fans swarm at you in a frenzy like a school of piranhas tasting blood in the water. If you think My Little Pony fans, Friday Night at Freddy’s fans, or even Rick and Morty fans are… “overzealous”... Oh boy… Be sure to wear a riot gear before entering Undertale’s community.


4. Stardew Valley

  • System: PC, Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Chucklefish
  • Developer: ConcernedApe
  • Release Dates: February 26, 2016

A part farming game, part the Sims, and part dungeon crawler RPG, Stardew Valley takes you on a role of a male or female character receiving a letter from your grandfather saying that you inherited a farm plot in Stardew Valley. With only a handful of farming tools and a few loose change, you begin your new life in the countryside. Stardew Valley is full of opportunities, and it’s up to you to take it!

Looking at Stardew Valley will immediately remind you of Nintendo’s beloved farming sim Harvest Moon. And while some may accuse Stardew Valley being a rip-off, the similarities are just skin deep and, well, there hasn’t been any good farming sim in decades. No, Farmville doesn’t count as a “good” farming game. That is not an opinion, it’s an undisputed fact! *ahem* Stardew Valley does focus a lot on the farming aspect, but there are additional elements like NPC interaction, some dungeon crawling for resources, and a romance system where you can marry an NPC and have kids. With the lack of any spiritual successor to Harvest Moon and the pleasing vibe make Stardew Valley very popular with gamers.

Now, Stardew Valley is a game that takes a lot of time to play and sometimes the list of things to do like maintaining your farm, harvesting, keeping in touch with your avatar’s love interest can be overwhelming, but once you get a flow down, Stardew Valley is very addicting and a comfortable game about farming and starting a family. And let’s not forget the game was developed by one person and that person poured his heart and soul into making Stardew Valley and it shows. Stardew Valley sits with "Overwhelmingly Positive" reviews on Steam and it will stay that way for a very long time.


3. Limbo 

  • System: PC, Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Publisher: PLAYDEAD
  • Developer: PLAYDEAD
  • Release Dates: August 2, 2011

Limbo got the attention of everyone when it first came out in Xbox’s Live Arcade with its dark atmosphere, cryptic story and gruesome death animations of an unnamed boy searching for his sister in a dark hostile world filled with traps, hazards, and giant spiders. Limbo is a physics-based puzzle platformer where you control a boy by moving boxes, pulling switches and pushing mine carts, all while avoiding getting killed by unknown horrors, hidden bear traps, and avoid getting crushed by the very crates you move around.

Arguably the game’s main highlight is seeing your avatar getting killed several times trying to solve a puzzle in a playstyle developer Playdead called “trial and death.” You know you got the puzzle wrong after seeing the boy’s head got sliced off by a bear trap or getting impaled by a giant monstrosity. Each death gets ingrained into your memory that it actually convinces you to be careful with your approach to solving puzzles. Lastly, the visuals in Limbo is very striking with its black and white film noir style that further enhances the world as dark and very dangerous filled with traps if you’re not careful with your steps.

While the game is very short and the replay value is low, Limbo gives you a memorable horror experience you won’t find anywhere else. But if you keep on playing, then maybe it’ll give you an idea of the game’s very cryptic ending?


2. Cuphead

  • System: PC, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Studio MDHR
  • Developer: Studio MDHR
  • Release Dates: September 29, 2017

Cuphead and Mugman had the mistake of losing in a casino owned by the Devil himself. The titular characters begged the Devil to not take their souls, so the two become contract collectors and must take the souls of debtors that is hiding in this strange and cartoon world.

Cuphead is a retro game in a sense that the art and animation style are inspired by the Depression Era animation shorts in the 1930s. Think of the early days of Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, and Betty Boop. And to make the visuals as authentic as possible, Studio MDHR used hand-drawn techniques, old animation processes, and equipment that were used in the 1930s. And added with jazz music that was common in the era, you got yourself a game that looks truly retro and pays homage to classic American cartoons. Thankfully, Cuphead has both style and substance with its run-and-gun boss-rush, side-scrolling gameplay that is akin to classic games like Contra, Mega Man, and countless bullet hell games.

The gameplay mechanic is simple enough: You move Cuphead in a 2D space shooting and dodging enemies using a wide array of abilities, but the game demands you to pay attention to enemy movement patterns boss attack patterns, and figuring out where to jump, duck and stand. Cuphead is very unforgiving that you will constantly die a lot. You may end up throwing your controller in frustration or uninstall the game because it doesn’t hold your hand. But once you’ve got the patterns down, beating a level and boss is greatly satisfying. Who wouldn’t scream HELL YEAH! After beating the toughest boss while dodging millions of projectiles like crazy. And the boss designs are just beautiful to look at. and fight against.

Cuphead is a game that was made with time, love, and no corporate backing. Was the game came out good without compromises? Looking at the sales, Cuphead reached 1 million downloads within 2 weeks. We’d say it did great.


1. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

  • System: PC
  • Publisher: Bluehole, Inc.
  • Developer: Bluehole, Inc.
  • Release Dates: March 23, 2017 (Early Access)

Yes, PUBG is technically an indie game, but with a publisher backing them up. No Man’s Sky is an indie game and it got support and backing from Sony, so PUBG having a publisher of MMORPGs like Tera is basically the same thing. Plus, defining what an indie game is really vague. It’s like defining what the meaning of life is. But anyway, at first glance PUBG looks like any other open-world multiplayer shooter like DayZ, ARK: Survival Evolved, or even one of those ARMA mods. But unlike these games mentioned, PUBG has actual active players. How many active players, you ask?

According to Steam’s stats page, PUBG has 2+ million players playing the game at any given time. PUBG is so popular (mainly in part of YouTubers and Twitch), it surpassed Valve’s multiplayer juggernaut games Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 in terms of player population.

PUBG is a last man standing deathmatch battle royale game where players are dropped off in one huge island, and they have to find weapons and gear to hunt down other players, pillage their corpse for weapons and equipment, kill everything that moves and be the last one or team remaining. How you approach the game is entirely up to you. Snipe people from afar, setting up traps by baiting people with health packs, or just hide in the vegetation, waiting to ambush unsuspecting players. Over time, the playable area shrinks and this funnels the players to any random point on the map. As the area shrinks, the encounter rate increases and the surviving players will duke it all out in one final area. The one who survives wins.

The game is currently on Steam’s Early Access, meaning the game is still in development and is riddled with bugs and broken mechanics. But this didn’t stop 2 million players from playing the game to no end. And thanks, YouTubers and Twitch streamers broadcasting the game, one couldn’t ignore the allure of a game filled with popular people playing. Be it stream sniping to annoy streamers by watching their streams and harass them in-game, or just regular people wanting to defeat their favorite online celebrities, PUBG is a game that brings people together… and then kill each other for their weapons and loot.


Final Thoughts

There are a TON of great indie games to be found on Steam, but we think these are one of the most popular ones. Not only these games are fun to play, visually stunning or tell a good story, these games are thriving because of passionate developers, clever exposure to social media, and games sold very cheap in comparison to big-name games with $60 price tags.

Being independent and free from influences from publishers who only care about profit, developers can make unique experiences for everyone to enjoy and present stories that may not appeal to a wider audience. This freedom got us Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a well-polished game that focuses on the main character’s mental condition topped off with great visuals and gameplay. This freedom got us Terraria and its huge free updates with endless playtime instead of paid DLC. This freedom got us Cuphead, a game whose developer took their time polishing their creation instead of rushing it to meet deadlines and appease the corporate suits.

And that’s our list. What do you think of the indie games we picked? Do you have an indie game you think is worth to be on the list? Let us know by sharing your thoughts below!

Shovel-Knight-Specter-of-Torment-game-700x394 Top 10 Indie Games on Steam [Best Recommendations]

Writer

Author: Antoine Rizal

I've been an anime fan for as long as I can remember. Actually, anime is very much a part of me now for I have extended my reach beyond just watching them. I am a fansubber for more than 8 years now and contributed a lot to the anime community. Me and my group has translated shows, manga, drama CDs and doujinshi. Right now I'm learning Japanese so I can better serve the community and read interesting stuff about the Japanese culture as well.

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