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Bomb Rush Cyberfunk – one of many promising looking indie games this year (pic: Team Reptile)
GameCentral looks ahead towards some of the potential indie highlights of the new year, including Gunbrella and Moving Out 2.
If you’ve not been paying attention to the indie scene lately, then you’ve been missing out on some of the best video games around. Elden Ring vs. God Of War Ragnarök may have been 2022’s defining clash, for the average supermarket shopper, but the conversation should always be broader than that – especially with Immortality, Citizen Sleeper, Rogue Legacy 2 and others offering equally memorable experiences.
Some of the most anticipated games of 2023 are indie games and the likes of Hades 2 and Hollow Knight: Silksong have already broken through to the mainstream, and so are covered in our existing preview of 2023 feature.
There’re also countless other, slightly lower profile, games we’re also anticipating and even the list below doesn’t include the likes of Goodbye Volcano High, Skate Story, and Anger Foot. But for brevity’s sake we’ve condensed our enthusiasm into 15 titles which look destined to make a significant splash in the new year.
Sea Of Stars
From the creators of The Messenger, Sea Of Stars is a turn-based role-playing game inspired by genre classic Chrono Trigger. It was originally scheduled to come out in 2022 (and made it onto last year’s list) but it’s since been delayed to sometime in 2023.
Every new trailer has only looked more impressive, from the vivid art design to the titan-like bosses and the soundtrack by Chrono Trigger/Xenoblade Chronicle’s Yasunori Mitsuda.
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals
Another leftover from last year’s round-up is the sequel to Oxenfree – a supernatural narrative-driven adventure that has one of the best dialogue systems in all gaming.
Night School Studios delayed the sequel into 2023 to make it ‘truly special’ and add more localisation options. It will pick up five years after events in the original, as Riley returns to her hometown of Camena.
Announced at The Game Awards, this first person puzzle adventure is about taking pictures and observing the environment at specific angles to create a path forward. It’s half optical illusion and half the Riddler puzzles from the Batman: Arkham games, with some very clever effects demonstrated in just the trailer alone.
Along with the kaleidoscopic mechanics, Viewfinder is striking because of its clash of visual styles – from black and white sketches to watercolour style dreamscapes.
From the creators of Gato Roboto, this side-scroller is described as a ‘noir punk action adventure’ and combines swift umbrella platforming with intense gunfights. Think Parasol Stars crossed with Contra and a Metroidvania.
Or at least that’s the hope; the trailer is a bit too heavy on the brown end of the colour spectrum (Gato Roboto was purely black and white, so maybe weird colour schemes are just developer Doinksoft’s thing) but it’s looking good otherwise.
The Plucky Squire
In one of the most visually impressive games of recent months, The Plucky Squire sees you play storybook characters who jump outside the pages, between 2D and 3D realms. Based on the trailer, it’s like if Zelda: A Link Between Worlds collided with It Takes Two.
A huge range of gameplay styles have already been shown off, from side-scrolling shooters and boxing fights to puzzle platforming in both 3D and 2D. As the first title from developer All Possible Futures, it looks impressively ambitious.
What if SteamWorld Dig had a few shots of espresso in the morning? You’d probably have something close to Pepper Grinder, an action platformer where you steer a drilling device to burrow and bounce through terrain to progress through levels.
The concept is reminiscent of the digging mechanic in Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, only expanded upon with additional weapons and a more pixelated aesthetic.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
Pitched as a spiritual successor to Jet Set Radio, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk boasts the same cel-shaded visuals, eclectic soundtrack, and smooth skating gameplay, but with modern flourishes.
The title is from developer Team Reptile who created the acclaimed multiplayer offering Lethal League Blaze. It’s been delayed a number of times already, but hopefully that’s just proof that the developer won’t release it until it’s just right.
Another Crab’s Treasure
The Soulslike might seem like an exhausted genre within the indie space, but we’ll make an exception for this new crustacean obsessed one. Another Crab’s Treasure, a highlight from a previous Nintendo Indie World showcase, pinched attention with its underwater exploration and cuddly protagonist.
Judging by the trailer, there’s enough self-aware silliness, including crabs armed with umbrellas and lances, to lift this above the average self-serious imitator. Could it do for crabs what Stray did for cats?
Moving Out 2
Alongside Overcooked, Moving Out is one of the best party experiences of recent years. The sequel throws in the online functionality that was sorely absent from the original, allowing players to coordinate their furniture removal from across the globe.
With the promise of more inventive levels in various dimensions, Moving Out 2 looks to be a prime example of the bigger, better, more approach to sequels.
RedCandleGames, the Taiwanese developer behind psychological horror titles Detention and Devotion, have made a bold departure with this 2D action platformer inspired by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Like From’s game, there’s an emphasis on deflection-based combat against highly-kinetic enemies. If you want to try the self-described Taopunk aesthetic, with its pounding electronic soundtrack, a demo is available now on Steam and the full game is due out in the second quarter of this year.
Hyper Light Breaker
Following Solar Ash, developer Heart Machine returns to the universe of its debut title Hyper Light Drifter, with Hyper Light Breaker. It might sound like a sequel but the bold changes hint at an ambitious evolution; switching from 2D to 3D and placing a stronger emphasis on co-op collaboration to take down monsters.
It might not satisfy those looking for a direct sequel, but this is an exciting risk from a studio that hasn’t missed yet. Although it’s not clear when it’ll actually be released, as it’s only entering early access in the spring.
If you’re chasing innovation, this has the potential to be one of 2023’s big early hits, not least because it’s the only game in our list with an actual release date, of March 23. It’s a puzzle game where you stitch together stories of love, madness, and lies using a library of characters.
Argentinian developer Daniel Benmergui has been working on the project since 2009, with an early prototype winning the Nuovo award at the Independent Games Festival in 2012. With the esteemed Annapurna Interactive label behind it, it couldn’t be more promising.
Jump between shadows and around objects and people in this stylised cityscape platformer, from two-man team Edwoud van der Werf and Nils Slijkerman.
The soothing atmosphere and striking visuals make SCHiM stand out, even if it’s not quite clear how much challenge and variety the game is likely to offer. It certainly seems interesting though and even appears to be challenging elements of old 8-bit isometric games such as Knight Lore.
From Jeppe Carlsen, the lead gameplay designer on Limbo and Inside, this new puzzle adventure looks almost too abstract to fully understand from early trailers. You play as a character who ventures across worlds within worlds, carrying them in orbs on your back, so as to access special abilities needed to solve puzzles.
At least, that’s what appears to be going on. Considering the developer’s previous work, it’s no wonder this is hard to parse at first glance, but the promise of ‘cosmic mystery’ is clearly one that will be kept.
After a spell of controversy with the departure of creative director Steve Gaynor, the next game from Gone Home and Tacoma developer Fullbright is on the home straight. Open Roads, first unveiled back in 2020, is a narrative adventure in the vein of their past works, albeit centred on a mother and daughter road trip.
A big pull is the actors involved, with Keri Russell (The Americans) and Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) playing the lead roles.
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