Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Gibby's E3 post inspired me to also look to the future and pick the 15 most promising indie games that claim to be coming out this year. A game was eligible for this list if:
It says it's coming out in 2021 and I believe it. This is absolutely directed at Mineko's Night Market, which has claimed to be releasing in the current year for the last 5 years. I don't believe you, Mineko's Night Market.
It is an indie game. What's an indie game? A game that I think is indie. Is that meaningless and arbitrary? Yes. Mostly it means no big publishers.
It's coming to Steam. Not because I won't play other platforms, but almost all indie games do and I already have a long wishlist there, so it wasn't worth repeating the effort elsewhere for the off chance I'd find one or two more games.
That out of the way, let's see some games!
These games are in the order of the tabs I had open, which is a highly objective measure of quality.
#15. Fire Tonight (Reptoid Games, coming to PC/Mac/Switch)
A game in two parts about two people trying to find each other in the midst of a city-wide fire. Maya leaves her apartment just as the fire starts and has to play through Captain Toad-like sequences in order to reach Devin. Devin stays home and worries while playing more traditional adventure puzzles to break up Maya's parts. Strong writing and a great art style give the game another leg up.
#14. Coromon (TRAGsoft, coming to PC/Mac/mobile)
Yeah, it's yet another Pokemon clone. It gets a spot here over all the dozens of others because it actually has some great designs that aren't just stealing from GameFreak and it has a battle system with clear Gen II influences that still feels fresh to play. It's putting a big emphasis on story and side activities, so you'll have motivations to keep playing beyond catching all 120 mons, and it looks like there will even be dungeons.
#13. Anno: Mutationem (ThinkingStars, coming to Steam and PSN)
I don't know a ton about this game, but it looks to be a mix of cyperbunk, Vanillaware-esque 2D combat, and ARPG-style equipment and stat customization. But I'll be honest: the real reason it's here is the art style. It has 2D and 3D presentations, both of which are absolutely stunning to look at. It'll be a great game if it plays even half as good as it looks.
#12 Update: The Fermi Paradox isn't anywhere near as interesting as I thought it would be. I removed the entry for posterity.
#11. OXENFREE II: Lost Signals (Night School Studios, coming to PC and Switch)
One of two sequels on this list, OXENFREE II picks up five years after the original - which coincidentally released five years ago - and stars the same protagonist. You'll once again be investigating paranormal radio signals and shaping the story with Night School's highly innovative dialogue system that does an amazing job of making branching conversations feel natural. If you're not familiar with the series, Control is probably the best comparison for its style of supernatural weirdness.
#10. Ten Thousand Coins: The Golden Merchant (TL-Tonic, coming to PC)
I've been wishing for another good merchant game since Recettear came out 11 years ago, and this looks like the next best hope. It's an RPG that has you traveling across the world to pay off a debt and making choices that impact the world and your finances along the way. I don't know a lot else about it, but bartering games are an easy sell for me.
#9. The Big Con (Mighty Yell, coming to PC and Xbox)
Even though The Big Con has a great art style, the real reason it's on this list is that it's an adventure game about being a runaway teenage con artist in the 90s. There are so many games about journeying cross country to find yourself and do good - I think it's time we had one about good old-fashioned scamming. The fact you can wear ridiculous disguises while doing it is a nice bonus.
#8. Bear and Breakfast (Gummy Cat, coming to PC and Switch)
The concept of running a bed and breakfast as a bear is delightfully stupid. I think a management adventure about running a customizable hotel might've made this list even without such a charming theme, though. And then it has mysterious deep forest exploration on top? Sign me up.
#7. Jack Move (So Romantic, coming to PC and Switch)
A cyberpunk JRPG with a really unique-looking battle system and a "cyber deck" system that sounds like it offers loads of character ability customization. This is another one that's making the list on its art and the potential of its idea, because I still don't know much about it.
#6. Hisato no Saku (Elder Tree Games & BinarySolo, coming to PC)
You play Hisato, an old man who is the only one willing to stand guard at the gate in a village where all the young people have gone off to fight the war. Your choices about who to admit change the fate of the village, making it almost a sengoku-era Papers, Please. And that art style!
#5. NAIRI: Rising Ride (HomeBearStudio, coming to PC and Switch) NAIRI: Tower of Shirin was a super-cute 2018 adventure game that ended on a cliffhanger. Rising Tide continues the story and adds bigger puzzles, a built-in hints system, and a more detailed overworld. I don't even like point-and-clicks, but I can't resist NAIRI's charms.
#4. Imposter Factory (Freebird Games, coming to PC [and others eventually, probably])
I know nothing about this game other than that it's a sequel to To the Moon and Finding Paradise, which are both in my top 20 games ever. I expect a touching story about life and finding meaning with another amazing OST from Kan R Gao and Laura Shigihara. It has already been delayed out of the release window on the Steam page, but I'm choosing to believe it'll make the next six months.
#3. Chinatown Detective Agency (General Interactive Co., coming to PC/Mac/Switch)
A cyberpunk detective adventure game set primarily in Singapore and featuring some phenomenal writing and spritework if the demo can be trusted. Looks to have a wide variety of puzzles, some more action-y bits, and even an agency management layer. On top of all that, I always love a fresh setting. How many games have used Singapore at all?
#2. KeyWe (Stonewheat & Sons, coming to everything)
KeyWe is a collection of stupid minigames about two kiwis that have been left to run a New Zealand post office. You've got to coordinate jumping around on human-sized machinery to type messages and mail letters, all while dealing with ridiculous hazards and playing kiwi dress up. The demo gave me strong Overcooked vibes, which is very high praise. Can't wait.
#1. Floppy Knights (Rose City Games, coming to PC)
Floppy Knights combines deckbuilders and strategy RPGs, a mashup that I've previously loved in Duelyst. This is a single player game, though, so it'll play quite differently. Deckbuilder mechanics are a great way to resolve the staleness issues that tend to crop up in SRPGS, because you won't be able to rely on one strong unit or overwhelming strategy when you can't know what cards will come up when. And, like many of the games on this list, it has clever writing and a great art style to go with its mechanical potential. Floppy Knights might have still been in this #1 slot if this was an ordered list.
It isn't, though, so you can imagine whichever game you want is the real #1. Let me know about any egregious oversights in the comments or, even better, feel free to make your own list!