Indie games are a labor of love, literally. Without the same resources as bigger companies, indie studios have to work twice as hard to get their games finished, much less marketed, played, and updated. I wanted to put a spotlight on some of my personal favorites, and invited fellow Punished Backlog writers to contribute.
When your summer gets too toasty and you want to sit inside with a new game, I invite you to check out our Punished Favorites Indie Showcase, a three volume series in June, July, and August. Volume 1: five great indie games that went overlooked.
Genesis Noir (2021)
Nominated by Sam Martinelli
“Genesis Noir presents an idea for a game that is so wild I’m impressed it happened at all, but so well executed I can’t believe it hasn’t already been done. The game, a brief point-and-click adventure story set in a comic-style neo-noir universe, explores the meaning of existence and the inevitability of life and death through the lens of a mysterious man attempting to prevent the death of his lover.
The precipitating event, however, isn’t merely a woman being shot by her cuckolded boyfriend, but a dramatic depiction of the big bang, the history of galactic existence, and the inevitability that all life will end at some point or another. Genesis Noir features great detective-style gameplay, a strikingly emotive visual presentation, a jazzy soundtrack, and some of the most mind-blowing, galaxy-brain level storytelling of any game in recent memory. More than worth a try.”
Genesis Noir MSRP and platforms:
- $14.99 on PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
- Also available on Xbox Game Pass for PC and XB1
Battle Chef Brigade (2017)
Nominated by Amanda Tien
“I remember reading about Battle Chef Brigade four years ago when it launched and thinking, Damn, I guess I’ll have to get a Switch someday. Cut to the pandemic, and I got both.
If you’ve ever watched and enjoyed a cooking show, this is the game for you. As an avid fan of shows like Chopped and Iron Chef America, Battle Chef Brigade brought me closer to that world than I’ll probably ever get. Battle Chef Brigade works with a conceit of, “We have to save the universe by defeating strange demons and making them into delicious meals.” (I know that sounds absurd, but they make it work in the game.)
Beyond thematic delight, the game is lovingly made. It has a sweet, classic good-versus-evil meta story, variable levels that don’t overstay their welcome, fast-paced and satisfying gameplay, and a daily challenge mode with players from around the world that makes it highly replayable. Aside from one questionable line pressuring the protagonist’s older sister to get married, I found this game to be pretty flawless. Enjoy, my friends.”
Battle Chef Brigade MSRP and platforms:
- $19.99 on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Switch
Nominated by David Silbert
“Ikenfell fell almost immediately under the radar when it came out in October 2020. Part of that was the launch of current-gen systems. Another part was lackluster marketing—an odd trend I’m discovering for Humble Games titles (see: One Step From Eden, Carto, The Wild at Heart). And let’s not forget, of course, we were in the darkest hours of a deadly pandemic.
Whatever the reasons, it’s a shame Ikenfell didn’t get the coverage or praise it deserved. It’s a charming JRPG-inspired indie, set in a Hogwarts-esque wizarding school. It has sharp writing, quirky characters, and a unique combat system that mixes turn-based strategy with Paper Mario-esque button taps.
It may not have set the world on fire (2020 had that covered), but Ikenfell remains a fun little indie romp. Enjoy it on a breezy summer day with a cup of tea in hand and some cookies off to the side.”
Ikenfell MSRP and platforms:
- $19.99 on PC, Mac, XB1, PS4, and Switch
- Also available on Xbox Game Pass for PC and XB1
Solasta: Crown of the Magister (2021)
Nominated by Kei Isobe
“Solasta: Crown of the Magister is the closest a video game has felt to capturing a current edition of Dungeons & Dragons (or similar d20-based games) that I can remember. Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Pillars of Eternity, and Divinity: Original Sin all felt like DnD-analogues that had their own metagame, as opposed to faithful recreations. (While Kingmaker came closest to capturing that tabletop Pathfinder feel, it had a host of other issues that plagued it when I played it.)
I fear Solasta will suffer in the eyes of critics from a weak story and fairly amateurish story presentation. For, despite the limited class and feature selection of its Early Access state, Solasta is close to a dead ringer for its spiritual inspiration. If you’re hankering for a core DnD 5E combat experience, you owe it to yourself to check it out. (Just skip every cutscene. Trust me.)”
Solasta: Crown of the Magister MSRP and platforms:
- $39.99 on PC
- Also available on Xbox Game Pass for PC
Titan Souls (2015)
Nominated by Eric Tate
“Titan Souls is a 2D action-adventure game developed by Acid Nerve. The game was inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, and the similarities are apparent. Both have you traverse a serene, mysterious, and beautiful world looking for the hulking monstrosities lurking within. There are more than a dozen bosses, called “titans,” to challenge, and each one is a blast to battle.
What I love most about Titan Souls is the fact that you and the titans die in one hit. It makes the playing field feel even. The player has a bow with one shot, and all you have to do is hit the titan’s weak spot to win. Finding and figuring out how to hit the weak spot is the challenge.
Although you’ll die to the titans many times, knowing you need just one well-timed shot to be victorious makes it easy to rush back and try again, as opposed to other boss rush games where you have to slog through an enormous health bar. It’s extremely satisfying to defeat a titan, especially one that has killed you dozens of times, in a matter of seconds because you know exactly when and where to place that arrow.
Another thing I appreciate about Titan Souls is its mechanical simplicity. It’s very easy to pick up and learn to play as you only have a few inputs: move, roll, and shoot. There are no resources to manage, and it feels nice to be able to fully focus on the boss and not worry about how much health or ammo you have left. Despite Titan Souls’ simplicity, it remains an effective experience, and is a blast to play.
If you’re a fan of Dark Souls or Zelda, you’ll like Titan Souls. The titans are as difficult as Souls bosses, and the puzzle of figuring out how to hit the weak spot reminds me of the bosses you’d find in Hyrule. While it’s a relatively short game that can be beaten in 4 to 6 hours, those hours are definitely worth your time.”
Titan Souls MSRP and platforms:
- $14.99 on PC, Mac, Android, PS4, and PlayStation Vita
More Indie Games We Loved:
- Spiritfarer (2020), nominated by Amanda Tien — Read our review
- Shantae and the Seven Sirens (2019), nominated by David Silbert — Read our review
- Celeste (2018), nominated by Sam Martinelli — Read our review
- What Remains of Edith Finch (2017), nominated by David Silbert — Read our review
- Cat Quest (2017), nominated by Geron Graham — Read our review
Want More Fun Indie Game Recs?
Check out our Volume 2 in July, featuring, among others, the Banner Saga trilogy and Return of the Obra Dinn…