18 indie games to look forward to in 2018

Seriously this time, they’re coming out in 2018

First of all, these are only games with an announced 2018 release date. None of this “when it’s ready” stuff (I’m looking at you, Into the Breach). In fact, if all of these games don’t release in 2018…I’ll play through Troll and I again. That’s how you know I mean business.

Oh please god let all of these games release this year…

I do this list each year, and I’m never sure how many games to include. This year, I figured 18 is a great number since, well, it’s 2018! Plus, due to the aforementioned “they better come out or so help me” rule, I figured the fewer the better. So here are the games to mark on your calendars this year.

If you are looking at this list and think “hey, where is [my favorite upcoming indie game]?” Just know that I have a rule: I can’t use any games that I used in past lists, even if they haven’t come out yet. This has burned me a whole lot already, but here’s the complete list of games I’ve already been looking forward to for a while now:

Astroneer, Below, Budget Cuts, Children of Morta, Beautiful Desolation, Door Kickers 2, Cogmind, Courier of the Crypts, Distance, Drifter, Due Process, Dying Ember, Eitr, Ernesto, Factorio, Frozen Synapse 2, Ghost of a Tale, Intruder, Jalopy, Knights and Bikes, Liege, Miegakure, Mineko’s Night Market, New Game+, Of Guards and Thieves, Ooblets, Overland, Parkitect, Pepper Grinder, Project Zomboid, Return of Obra Dinn, Rimworld,  Routine, Runner 3, Scale, Skytorn, Squad, Subnautica, Sub Rosa, Super Sportmatchen, The Iconoclasts, Barkley 2, Wandersong, and YIIK.

Can you see why I’m becoming more strict in the games I choose? There are a ton of great games in that list, yet some of them may never see the light of day, or are just taking way too long to release. Others, like Factorio and Rimworld are essentially fully playable games right now, but aren’t officially “released.” All that aside here’s what you should keep an eye out for:

Baba is You (PC)
Developer: Hempuli Oy
Follow it: Steam, Devlog, Twitter
Can I play it now? Sort of – original game jam game available on itch.io

This is a perfect example of what I like to see from the indie scene. A unique and fresh idea extrapolated upon in interesting ways. Baba is You focuses on shifting words and phrases around to make statements true. The video does a way better job of explaining how that works, so just go ahead and watch that. I can’t wait to see how difficult things get later on, but even if it’s a more casual puzzle-solving adventure, I know it’ll be unlike anything else I’ve played before.

Burden of Command (PC)
Developer: Green Tree Games LLC
Follow it: Official website, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

Okay, bear with me here. As a history teacher, I am incredibly excited for games like Burden of Command. It’s not the flashiest World War II game, but based on what I’ve seen, it will likely be one of the most impactful. When a game has recommendations from history professors, my attention is immediately grabbed. Described as a “leadership RPG,” Burden of Command puts players in command via a turn-based and decision-heavy psychological gameplay. This looks to be the type of game that focuses more on the feeling it leaves you with than anything else, and that has me excited.

Celeste (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One)
Developer: Matt Makes Games Inc.
Follow it: Steam
Can I play it now? Sort of — original game available on itch.io

Matt Thorson, creator of TowerFall Ascension, RunMan Race Around the World, Give Up Robot, and the Jumper games, is remaking Celeste to be bigger and better. If you’ve never played the original, please do via the link above. The very first room is, in my opinion, one of those masterpiece rooms that immediately teaches you everything you need to know about how Celeste controls. If you’re ready for some more top-tier platforming from one of the kings, you won’t have to wait long: Celeste releases on January 25!

Donut County (PC, iOS)
Developer: Ben Esposito
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

To me, Donut County looks like a new take on the Katamari games, except with a hole in the ground instead of a ball on the ground. There’s more to it than that, however, as you’ll also play as a racoon who ends up falling into one of the holes that his company controls. That sounds completely bonkers and I’m honestly not sure what to expect here, but considering that Ben Esposito is part of the Arcane Kids team, I know that Donut County will be an unforgettable experience.

Fe (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One)
Developer: Zoink

Follow it: Twitter
Can I play it now? No

Fe is one of those titles I’m purposefully in the dark about. After seeing the premiere of the game, I wanted to preserve the mystery that the game is going for. The world of Fe is very bleak and yet still wondrous to behold. I hope it’s as exciting to explore as it looks to be because I could easily see myself getting caught up in trying to figure out the game world’s secrets. 

Fossil Hunters (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One)
Developer: Reptoid Games
Follow it: Steam, Mailing list, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

This is perhaps the most wholesome game on this list. I didn’t expect it to land on here, but the more I saw of it, the more I knew I had to have it. I think most people are a big fan of dinosaurs (they’re so cool!), and Fossil Hunters allows players to unleash their inner paleontologist. You’ll be digging around to uncover fossils and reconstruct the dinosaur bones, either alone or with up to three players in multiplayer. I don’t know that there will be any crazy difficulty level or brain-busting puzzles, but it does look to provide some exciting dino-discovery with your buds.

Griftlands (PC, probably others?)
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

Klei Entertainment is making a new game. Do you need more than that to be excited? Probably not, but I’ll continue anyway. It’s a turn-based RPG that totes “everything is negotiable.” As someone who plays all his RPGs as a high-charisma smooth talker, I’m hoping that there are plenty of persuasion-check-esque conversations that can change literally everything. I have complete faith in Klei to deliver an RPG unlike any other — their game design is always stellar, so I’m pumped to see what they do with one of my favorite genres. 

Hypnospace Outlaw (PC)
Developer: Jay Tholen and Mike Lasch
Follow it: Devlog, Twitter
Can I play it now? 

I have no idea what to say about this other than WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!

Kentucky Route Zero (PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One)
Developer: Cardboard Computer
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? Yes, Acts I – IV are available on PC.

I think I’ve probably gushed about the Kentucky Route Zero episodes enough. It is legitimately one of the most thought-provoking and surreal experiences I have ever had in video games. I included it in this list because I’ll take any excuse I can to talk about it, plus this year it’s coming to consoles as a complete package. Yes, the game that has built a reputation for having years between episodes is finally being completed. I don’t blame you if you waited for everything to be released before buying/playing it, but I will blame you if you renege once the game is actually out this year. 

Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Developer: Warhorse Studios
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

Oh boy, I’m not sure what to expect with this game. It makes some lofty promises that I’m just not confident it can deliver (heh) on. Playing as the “son of a blacksmith” who then embarks to “avenge the death of [your] parents” has me very intrigued; I would love to play a medieval RPG from the perspective as some little dork, as long as it is done right. I am excited to see some of the decisions that the player is forced to make and how they influence the world at large. If Kingdom Come can deliver (double heh) on its promises, I am all in.

Mothergunship (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Developer: Grip Digital, Terrible Posture Games
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

If you’ve never played Tower of Guns, you missed out on one of the most satisfying FPS games in recent memory. I loved the blending of roguelike elements and absolute insanity that it brought with every run. Mothergunship looks to take everything to 11 and add in some create-your-own gun mechanics to the mix. With a slick visual style and hectic gameplay, Mothergunship is sure to scratch the same itch that Tower of Guns did so well.

Railway Empire (PC)
Developer: Gaming Minds Studios
Follow it: Steam
Can I play it now? No

I think that both this and Mashinky are worth following if you’re into empire-building games. The reason Mashinky isn’t on the list is because it is set to release in 2019, AND THAT’S NOT WHAT THIS LIST IS! Railway Empire releases very soon, and I’m always drawn towards games like this. I would never in a million years think that I would be excited to create an empire of….trains. I have no interest in trains, I did not build model ones when I was young, and I don’t love visiting old train stations. I just love really solid strategy games that allow me to become interested in topics like this one, and Railway Empires seems to be just that. 

The Gardens Between (PC, PlayStation 4)
Developer: The Voxel Agents
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

Similar to Fe, this is game I simply can’t wait to get lost in. Described as a “surreal puzzle adventure,” I simply adore looking at the screenshots from this game. The unique hook here, other than the level design, is that players don’t control the characters in the stage, they control time. Think of Braid, except you have no influence over Mr. Braid, just the time mechanic. I can’t wait to see what is in store here, since I’m still not quite sure what goes on in the first place!

The Last Night (PC, Xbox One)
Developer: Odd Tales
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? Original Prototype/Game Jam

God damn, does this game have style. I’m not always sold on a game just with its visuals, but I think The Last Night could play super poorly and I’d still give it a go just to see it in motion. I think the team behind it is well aware of this, considering they describe the game as a “cinematic platformer.” AHHH, this game is just so gorgeous, I need to witness the whole thing in motion immediately. Ideally, it plays as well as it looks, but only time will tell.

They Are Billions (PC)
Developer: Numanation Games
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? Yes – Steam Early Access

I do worry about this game coming out this year, but believe it will feel “complete” in 2018 in the same way that RimWorld and Factorio already feel complete without actually leaving Early Access. That aside, I have very much enjoyed my time with They Are Billions in Early Access. I’ve always loved turtling in RTS games like StarCraft. Photon Cannons, Lurkers, and Bunkers were my jam as I teched up to the highest units and tried to steamroll my opponent. Granted, this only worked in bot battles, but it was always my go-to strategy.

Billions allows for that kind of gameplay and, in fact, encourages it. Waves of zombies, special infected included, are headed your way and you need to build a solid base to prevent them from ever getting in. A single zombie can mess up your entire base, and I guarantee that will happen. It’s taken Steam by storm and rightfully so — I haven’t been this excited to play an RTS in quite some time.

Vampyr (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Follow it: Twitter, Newsletter
Can I play it now? No

He’s a doctor and a “vampyr?” What a conundrum! Normally I wouldn’t be too invested in something like this, but considering that Dontnod is behind it, and I love the Life is Strange games, I am completely on board. It will be a huge departure going from “hella lame” to literally eating people, but I’m excited to be along for the ride. They’ve proven that they can tell some great stories, and I expect Vampyre to continue with that trend.

Wattam (PC, PlayStation 4)
Developer: Funomena
Follow it: Steam, Twitter
Can I play it now? No

Whereas Donut County looks like a Katamari-esque game, Wattam is created by the Katamari creator! The game looks to be all about meeting colorful characters and creating colorful explosions. The line “Discover what’s possible when you abandon all preconceived notions about what it means to play in games” has me very intrigued. Normally, I’d push it aside as some PR bullshit, but considering the minds behind Wattam, I think they might be serious? What does it mean to play in games? Can I abandon those preconceived notions? I JUST DON’T KNOW! 

Where the Water Tastes like Wine (PC)
Developer: Dim Bulb Games, Serenity Forge

Follow it: Steam
Can I play it now? No

This looks to be an eclectic collection of short stories from different writers, all compiled into a stylized adventure game. And when I say stylized, I mean stylized. The art style of Where the Water Tastes like Wine is brilliant — 3D in the overworld and 2D otherwise. I love the “surviving manifest destiny” line (again, history teacher here) and the general vibe that I get from exploring the game’s media. It’s hard to say anything of what to expect here, but it’s bound to be memorable.

In addition to all of these amazing looking games, there are always those that take us by surprise and come out of nowhere. That is worth looking forward to in and of itself. As for you, what’s on your indie radar this year?

[Disclosure: Raw Fury’s Hamza Aziz previously wrote for Destructoid.]

About The Author
Patrick Hancock
During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've personally backed Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Dead State, SPORTSFRIENDS, Torment: Tides of Numera, STRAFE, and The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls. I have previously written for AbleGamers.com and continue to support them whenever possible (like HumbleBundle).
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