The term “indie” is a hard one to define these days.
It can mean a game that’s not AAA, but still something made by a fairly large team of people. It can also mean a videogame that’s been developed by one person in their spare time. As such, the range of games that fall under the umbrella of “indie” is massive, and to define a game simply as being “indie” doesn’t really tell you much about it.
But some of the best games of our generation have been made by indie teams, whether it’s made up of one person or a few dozen. Away from the strains and restrictions of major studios and publishers, indie developers are often the ones to create the most innovative, genre-pushing games. Simply put, some of our favourite games of all time fall under the banner of “indie”.
Without getting too bogged down into the exact definition of an independent studio, click on through to see some of the best indie games on PS4.
1Battle Chef Brigade
Stan said: “Cooking is the dish of the day in Battle Chef Brigade, and it’s delivered in a very engaging way. Hunting for the perfect creature and ingredients is addictive, and the judge’s verdict always fills me with nerves. While its story could have been better, and a bit more guidance in the early rounds would have been nice, Battle Chef Brigade Deluxe’s absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn style ultimately wins you over.”
Chris said: The clever thing is that lot of The Complex’s choices mount up. There are instant life-or-death decisions near the end, sure, but the real highlights are the gloriously chilling moments where you discover you’ve reaped exactly what you’ve sown; not through one single choice, but because of the way you’ve treated someone over time. The quandaries you face to are so morally murky, they’ll claw at your conscience till the credits roll.
A sharp, smartly written interactive thriller, with not a single one-dimensional character in sight, The Complex is (despite its theme) a joyous indie game to experience.”
Robert said: “Crossing Souls has everything you could possibly want from an indie adventure game. Well-polished controls, a stunning art style, fun and varied gameplay, and an emotional yet intriguing narrative all come together to make Crossing Souls one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a long while. It’s simply perfect.”
Richard said: “Being successful in Everspace requires you to seek out and manage all of these resources effectively just as much as it does shooting down enemy ships with ruthlessness and efficiency. But that’s no bad thing. It gives Everspace depth and flow, keeping you hooked as you move seamlessly from exploration to combat and then back again. There’s always a drive to get better at the game so you can see what new areas have in store for you. There’s even a story if you want to pay attention to it – I struggled to do so as I always just wanted to get right back into the action.
What I’m trying to say is that if you’re wanting to pick up an accessible space shooter that you can casually play but has a great deal of depth, Everspace comes more than highly recommended as one of the best indie games on PS4. It’s a game that will have you hooked no matter your skill level.”
5Hand of Fate 2
Matt said: “Hand of Fate 2 stands out as one of the best indie games on PS4 in all the right ways. Excellent writing, superb world building, and pools of creativity make this a game worth every second of playtime. Much like the original, it sharply connects genres that try to separate themselves and breeds a hybrid full of awe and wonder. If you’re on the fence about this one, rest assured it is worth diving into. Past fans and newcomers alike will have plenty to enjoy and stories to share. A truly immersive, inspired leap into a world full of life. Hand of Fate 2 is a defiantly different powerhouse fuelled by pure imagination. Speak to The Dealer, he has a story to tell, and he needs your help writing it.”
Tom said: “Double Fine and Adult Swim have produced an immensely assured game that is highly recommended to any gamer. It’s a simple game in its approach: its mechanics are not over-wrought or complicated, but it’s top quality fun. Headlander is of the few games in recent memories to garner a true belly laugh. Now where did I leave those flares and dancing shoes? I’ve got a space disco to attend.”
7Kerbal Space Program
Matt said: “Kerbal Space Program exceeds expectation in every possible way. It goes without saying that a disclaimer of “Not For Everyone” is slapped over this indie game, and you shouldn’t come into this game thinking it’ll suit you because you like space. But it is undeniably victorious in its effort to capture the essence and wonderment of space exploration. Surprisingly engaging to play alone, yet leads to some great moments with a group of friends building a spaceship together. I built a ship with a few buddies and we stood up and high-fived after it successfully reached orbit like we were in mission control. Kerbal Space Program is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that transcends multiple genres. Fun, challenging, creative, rewarding; bust out your old sketchbooks and build that dream machine from your childhood.”
8Kingdom: New Lands
Joseph said: “The original PC version of Kingdom was unique, and gave us the core game which is, on its own, a work of genius, but New Lands takes it to the next level by adding in this sense of progression and challenge. This way, Kingdom gets to keep all the brilliant, addictive aspects of a roguelike (perma-death, randomisation, ephemerality) whilst still giving the player a sense of wider goals and objectives.”
9Knights and Bikes
Becca said: “Knights and Bikes excels in its uniqueness. The hand-drawn characters are adorable and detailed. Demelza and Nessa’s dialogue is sweet and funny. The world and story that the folks over at Foam Swords have created is equal parts exciting and inherently sad. The narrative covers difficult topics in a whimsical way that will have players at times on the verge of tears and laughing out loud only moments later. Whether you play alone or with a friend, Knights and Bikes is a sensational adventure; one of the best indie adventure games out there. Everything from its characters and its narrative to its art style and sound design is an absolute delight. It was a pleasure to play, and an experience I won’t soon forget.”
Richard said: “The demanding controls of Manual Samuel may get the better of less dexterous players, but for those that can remain calm under pressure and don’t like to be beaten it’s an absolute blast. A mesmerising mixture of dark humour, beautifully drawn graphics and over-the-top characters, Manual Samuel is the most unique and refreshing game I’ve had the pleasure of playing in years. It’s a rare occurrence for a game so original and inventive like this to come along, so unless, like Death, you have no soul, I urge you to give it a try.”
Kim said:”As far as party games go, Moving Out is one of the best of recent years. And like any good co-op game, it’s not the winning that counts; it’s the weird and hilarious situations that you and your fellow players will find yourself in. Playing alone is a bit dull, but it’s nice the option has been included. If you happen to have some willing friends or family around and want something to brighten up an evening, you really can’t go far wrong with Moving Out.”
Kim said: “Mutazione only took four or five hours to complete, but every moment spent with it was magical. From its extraordinary and beautiful landscape to its ordinary tales of life, love and loss, I was enraptured with this indie game from start to finish. Every character you meet has a story to tell, and they’re stories you’ll want to hear. From its wonderful art style to its expertly-mixed audio design, it’s clear to see so much love has gone into this game. Mutazione may only be a short experience, but it’s one that feels very special.”
Richard said: “If you’re after an experience like no other, that will challenge your problem-solving skills in logical and believable ways, you absolutely need to play Observation. It’s one of the most compelling and surprising indie games on PS4 I’ve played in recent years. Its biggest achievement, though, is that it didn’t make me feel like I was playing a game; it made me feel like I was genuinely assisting a crew member in distress.”
Jamie said: “Pinstripe is constantly telling its story. At times, it’s almost hard to bear the weight of it but if you can progress through the realms of Hell and discover the truth that wily old Mr. Pinstripe hides behind, you may just find yourself moved, as I did.”
Brandon said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we never see another indie game quite like Pyre, and that’s perfectly okay. Simply describing its spectacularly outlandish battle system doesn’t do it justice; upon playing it, it doesn’t take long to realise that it works – and that it works incredibly well. Pair that with a wonderful cast of characters, a riveting story, and enthralling music and visuals, and you have nothing short of a compelling game that demands your time and attention. If you are at all curious about Pyre – and you should be – then you owe it to yourself to check this one out.”
Kyle said: “Not since Mark of the Ninja have I played a stealth game that felt so impactful, lingering in my thoughts long after I put the controller down. It doesn’t wait up for you or make sure you’re comfortable. It forces you into a corner, snarls its teeth and dares you to try again. It can be frustrating, God knows I cursed plenty of times while playing it. Yet at the end of the day, Rain World does what it seeks out to do with such finesse and vision that it feels like a game that was meant to be made.”
Kim said: “Shu is the ultimate benchmark in what an indie game can be. Games made in a small studio with a small budget are often tainted with a stigma of being sub-par just because they weren’t made under AAA conditions. Let Shu be an example to contest that. With perfect controls, a unique and totally enthralling gameplay system and a gorgeous visual style absolutely dripping with charm, Shu is undoubtedly one of the best platform indie games on PS4 we’ve ever seen.”
18The Solus Project
Wesley said: “The Solus Project is deserving of much more praise and explanation than I’ve given it here, but to comment on anything other than the setup without damaging your experience would be nearly impossible. The Solus Project is a game about the mystery and wonder of exploration and it deserves to be experienced tabula rasa. If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring a new world on your own and experiencing all of the mystery and terror that experience implies, The Solus Project is pure wish fulfilment of the highest quality.”
Jack said: “I have been seriously charmed by Stardew Valley; there certainly isn’t much about it that I dislike. I like its subtle tactical elements and time management that thread through all of the activities you can do. It’s without a doubt one of the best indie games on PS4, and I feel it might take something pretty incredible to knock it off.”
Richard said: “With its homogenous red polygonal villains and pale angular environments, SUPERHOT is a mesmerising combination of basic but highly stylised graphics and deep strategical gameplay that is easy to pick up but very hard to put back down. Sure, if you’re the type of person that just plays through a game’s story and doesn’t bother with any of the extras, then you might be a little disappointed with the game’s short running time, but while it lasts the experience is one of the best there is. Those who view the story as a prelude to the many hours that can be spent in the game’s Endless and Challenge modes however, completing speed runs, seeing how long they can last against a constant stream of enemies and beating levels only using swords for example, will find an indie game with as much longevity as it has originality.”
Jamie said: “Thimbleweed Park’s problems all stem from the fact that it’s a Kickstarter game that is not afraid to please its fans. If it’s anything at all, Thimbleweed Park is a brave game. It’s a standalone adventure with no sequel tie-ins. It’s a self-contained story with interesting characters and an intriguing mystery to solve. It’s unafraid to embrace its heritage and it’s not afraid of modernising to improve on the old formula. Possibly bravest of all, though, it’s an old-school point and click graphical adventure game. As a fan, it’s everything you could want it to be; *BLEEP* everybody else.”
Becca said: “What Tumblestone set out to do, it did flawlessly. It really surprised me, seeming like a typical casual matching game you might find on the app store, but instead impressing with all of its fantastic puzzle elements and creativity making it the best puzzle/matching game that I’ve played in a long time. There’s even the bonus of a hilarious storyline and fun characters to go along with it. With 40+ hours of story mode and a ton of multiplayer content, I’m sure I won’t be done with Tumblestone any time soon. I’m not one to hand out perfect scores often, but when a game has earned it, it’s earned it. Pick up Tumblestone if you love matching puzzles games but are bored of the same old thing. And don’t forget, you get to play as a sausage so it automatically gets extra points.”
Richard said: “Whatever your view on interactive movies as games, I urge you to give Virginia a try. Its developer has been brave in creating such a thought-provoking piece of entertainment that goes against the grain in many ways, and now it’s your turn to be brave and embrace it. You may not quite understand it – chances are you’ll be slack jawed for some time after the credits have rolled – but I’m pretty sure it’ll leave you with a lasting impression. In the current age where the majority of films and games are happy to ask you to think and feel nothing, I think that speaks volumes.”
24What Remains of Edith Finch
Kim said: “What Remains of Edith Finch is, quite simply, a stunning experience. It takes Gone Home and turns it up to eleven. While it’ll undoubtedly end up being labelled as a ‘walking simulator’, it takes that genre and throws it on its head, giving us an experience so rich, so deep with emotion and meaning, that you’ll probably not quite know what to do with yourself when the credits roll. It’s a story like no other; both very grounded in reality, yet at times other-worldly beyond imagination. It’s touching and thought-provoking; daring to explore dark subject matters rarely delved into by video games. It may only take a few short hours to complete, but every moment is so packed with significance that it hardly matters. It’s rare such a game makes me want to play again, but the moment I put down What Remains of Edith Finch, I wanted to start it back up again, just in case there was any part of the narrative I’d overlooked; any remaining mystery I’d somehow missed along the way. Do yourself a favour and add this excellent indie game to your PS4 collection. You won’t regret it.”
25Yoku’s Island Express
Kim said: “It’s rare a game is as endlessly joyous as Yoku’s Island Express. It’s a game without stressors; without any grinding annoyances that get in the way of your enjoyment. Devoid of any real combat, it’s a laid-back experience that lets you approach it at your own pace. Once I picked it up I found it very hard to put down, and for good reason. Yoku’s Island Express oozes charm and love from every pixel; it’s plain to see how much care Villa Gorilla, the game’s developer, has put into this. It’s a very simple idea, yet a very clever one. Two very distinct gameplay styles have come together perfectly to create something that anyone can enjoy. I challenge you to play Yoku’s Island Express without a smile on your face. Go on. I bet you can’t.”