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30 Indie Games To Keep An Eye On In 2021

Get these games indie ya

Like everyone else, we pencil in the AAA blockbusters into our calendars every year, ready to soak in the mega million-dollar productions in all their glory. But we also love our indies here at WellPlayed, with some of the most creative, beautiful and emotive experiences pieced together by those developers and publishers who work their magic on far fewer resources. Each year there are some truly remarkable indie games, and once again in 2021 there are tons of potential gems that may slip under your radar given the onslaught of game releases that happen every month, let alone every year. WellPlayed’s very own indie enthusiasts Zach Jackson and Kieron Verbrugge have cultivated the definitive list of indies you need to keep an eye on in 2021. If you’re wondering why there are no Australian-made games in this list, that’s because they have their own list, which you can view here. Furthermore, despite Zach’s big love for point-and-click games, you won’t find any here, that’s because they also have their own list, which you can read here.

12 Minutes

Release: 2021 | Platform: Xbox Series X&S/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Luis Antonio | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

You’re probably going to see publisher Annapurna crop up on this list a fair few times, and with good reason – they’re pushing out some steaming hot bangers. This first one in this list is a wild concept too, from the mind of former Rockstar and Ubisoft developer Luis Antonio. Set around a single apartment, 12 Minutes is just that – a 12 minute slice of time played in a loop that sees players try to solve a mystery and, more importantly, prevent an untimely death. Featuring voice talent from none other than James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe, this is already shaping up to be a game that’ll make waves in the medium.

Kieron Verbrugge

Asylum

Release: 2021 | Platform: PC | Wishlist
Developer: Senscape | Publisher: Senscape

Despite the plethora of horror games available and in development, I’m still a sucker for them. Asylum is a game that caught my eye a couple years ago with its 80s horror film aesthetic and point-and-click gameplay, and after playing the demo last year it is well and truly on my radar. Set in the dilapidated Hanwell Mental Institute, players are thrust into an adventure to uncover the truth of their past. Inspired by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft (be rude not to be at this point), it’s got a cracking atmosphere and sound design. Amazingly, this game was first announced back in 2010 and we’re still waiting for the release, but I’ve got a feeling this is the year.

Zach Jackson

Atomic Heart

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/Xbox Series X&S/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Mundfish | Publisher: Mundfish

Russian studio Mundfish has been quietly toiling away at Atomic Heart since at least 2016, and not without some drama behind the scenes, but it’s been showing more and more recently and I’m tentatively keen to see how it all pans out. If it works, we may have a solid first-person action RPG to look forward to with a unique, alternate-reality Soviet Union flavour. If it doesn’t work, well, at least the RTX-powered trailers looked cool. Also Mick Gordon is involved, so there’s that.

Kieron Verbrugge

AWAY: The Survival Series

Release: Q1 2021 | Platform: PS4/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Breaking Walls | Publisher: Breaking Walls/Game Seer Ventures

A game where you play as a super cute sugar glider (and a bunch of other animals and insects) in your very own nature documentary in a world where nature has reclaimed the Earth (and with gorgeous visuals to boot), what’s not to love? Both Kieron and I backed this game on Kickstarter back in July 2019, and although we’re still waiting for the release, we’re hopeful that the final release will be a nice relaxing change of pace.

Zach Jackson

The Big Con

Release: 2021 | Platform: Xbox One/PC | Wishlist

Developer: Mighty Yell | Publisher: Mighty Yell

Lie, cheat and steal your way across 90s America as Ali, a teen on a mission to save their family’s video store from loan sharks. The Big Con is a retro adventure, only in this instance retro doesn’t mean pixel art and chiptune bops – it’s pastel colours, backwards caps and patterns ripped straight from the seats of a Transperth train. It’s like an isometric take on Hitman except you’re sneaking around shopping malls pickpocketing passers-by and avoiding the overachieving mall cops. Only 90s kids will get it.

Kieron Verbrugge

Curse of the Sea Rats

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/Xbox Series X&S/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Petoons Studio | Publisher: PQube Limited

Ever since reading the Redwall books as a kid I’ve had a thing for weaponised rodents. So when Petoons Studio launched the Kickstarter for Curse of the Sea Rats – a platformer where an evil pirate witch has cursed four prisoners by turning them into (pi)rats featuring beautiful hand-drawn art that looks like a Saturday morning cartoon – I knew I had to throw money at it. Petoons are calling it a ratoidvania and are promising 12 hours of gameplay for the main story, with support for local co-op up to four players and optimisation for nu-gen. Cheese and whiskers it sounds and looks good!

Zach Jackson

Dustborn

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/Xbox Series X&S/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Red Thread Games | Publisher: Quantic Dream

The latest game from the talented team at Red Thread Games (Draugen and Dreamfall Chapters). Set in what the studio is calling a near-future post-infodemic America, Dustborn sees the player take control of Pax, a four-month pregnant con artist with superhuman powers who is part of a group of misfits disguised as a travelling band who must transport a package across the Divided States of America. Featuring a crazy good-looking visual novel art style, a branching dialogue system that will shape your relationships, and a unique combat system where you use words as your weapon, Dustborn has tons of potential.

Zach Jackson

Everspace 2

Release: 2021 (Out now in Early Access) | Platform: PS4/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: ROCKFISH Games | Publisher: ROCKFISH Games

The original Everspace was a very neat roguelike space shooter that impressed back in 2017, but rather than continue to do more of the same, developer ROCKFISH Games is switching things up with a sequel that plays more like an open-world looter shooter. Promising a better narrative, a vivid world to explore and plenty of shooting, looting, mining and crafting there’s a lot for sci-fi fans to get excited about. It’s already available in Early Access on PC as well, so if this all sounds enticing you can get in on the ground floor right now!

Kieron Verbrugge

The Good Life

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS4/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: White Owls | Publisher: White Owls

Nobody but SWERY, the mastermind behind Deadly Premonition and The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, could pitch a journalistic photography game set in a town where the citizens turn into cats and dogs at night and spin it into a cool $1mil on Kickstarter. I personally backed this game for a lot more than I could’ve even afforded at the time and I have no regrets – watching it grow through regular updates and seeing how it’s shaping up has me very excited for the final product. Cheers to the drinKING!

Kieron Verbrugge

Goodbye Volcano High

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC | Wishlist

Developer: KO_OP | Publisher: KO_OP

Pitch me a cinematic narrative game any day of the week and I’m in. Doubly so if it’s steeped in teenage angst and queer themes. But add freakin’ dinosaurs and you may just have me for life. Developer KO_OP made itself known to me with the excellent VR puzzler, GNOG, but this looks like something else entirely. I’m totally hooked on its premise, the art looks fantastic and it’s sure to sound a treat with the musical talent it has on board, so this one shoots right to the upper ranks of my mustn’t-miss list for this year.

Kieron Verbrugge

It Takes Two

Release: March 26, 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/Xbox One/Xbox Series X&S/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Hazelight Studios | Publisher: EA Originals

EA Originals is feeding us good in 2021, bringing back two superb Originals studios with Zoink’s Lost in Random and Hazelight’s It Takes Two. Building once again on the boundary-pushing twin protagonist ideas that began with Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out, it’s another co-op only adventure that looks to deftly hop genres as its two protagonists work to free themselves from a magical curse. The whole thing looks charming, funny and packed with gameplay variety and will no doubt be a great game to play with a good friend or significant other.

Kieron Verbrugge

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC
Developer: Ember Lab | Publisher: Ember Lab

Yeah, this wouldn’t be a list of incredible-looking indies for the year without talking about Kena: Bridge of Spirits. You’d be forgiven for forgetting this is even an independent release, but this is the first ever video game from Ember Lab – an animation and multimedia studio whose previous work includes commercials for Coca-Cola and Hisense. This digital craftsmanship certainly shows in early glimpses at Kena, which looks positively gorgeous. This one’s a PlayStation exclusive for console, but I can’t think of a better place to play such a rich and beautiful-looking action-adventure.

Kieron Verbrugge

Last Stop

Release: 2021 | Platform: Xbox Series X&S/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Variable State | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

When developer Variable State’s Virginia dropped in 2016 it managed to set a new bar for blending an interactive medium like video games with cinematic editing and storytelling. Last Stop looks to continue that trend while upping the ante with a fully-voiced, multi-layered anthology drama with sci-fi elements and plenty of player choice. It’s also got BAFTA-winning composer Lyndon Holland back on soundtrack duty so it’s all shaping up quite nicely.

Kieron Verbrugge

Little Devil Inside

Release: July 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC (PlayStation timed console exclusive)
Developer: Neostream Interactive | Publisher: Neostream Interactive

As someone who’s constantly intrigued by the worlds that exist in so many indie survival games, but who is terrible at the vast majority of them, Little Devil Inside is looking very enticing. It looks to take some of the core themes of survival-esque games and work them into a more manageable action-RPG format with a strong sense of narrative. It also looks visually striking with a strong, bold art style and plenty of character. This one is shaping up to be something special.

Kieron Verbrugge

Little Nightmares II

Release: February 11, 2021 | Platform: PS4/Xbox One/Switch/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Tarsier Studios | Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment

The original Little Nightmares was a delightfully creepy puzzle platformer/hide-and-seek horror that managed to stand out in 2017 despite being developer Tarsier Studios’ first original creation. The upcoming sequel looks to take everything that made it resonate with (and utterly disturb) fans, and after playing the brief demo on PS4/5 I’m keener than ever to see what it has to hold. New characters, a new setting and the same unsettling atmosphere should make for a more-than-worthy follow up.

Kieron Verbrugge

Lost In Random

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS4/Xbox One/Switch/PC
Developer: Zoink Games | Publisher: EA Originals

Zoink has been one of my absolute favourite indie developers over the last generation and I’m excited to see them working under the EA Originals banner once again after the exemplary Fe. Lost in Random once again sees the studio tackle a 3D adventure, this time about a world under the influence of a fate-determining dice and a girl on a journey to understand fate. The game looks positively gorgeous in trailers, with Zoink’s creative flair on full display. This is one of my most anticipated indie titles for the year by a stretch.

Kieron Verbrugge

Maquette

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Graceful Decay | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

Another publishing effort from Annapurna, Maquette developer Graceful Decay describes the game as a ‘recursive first-person puzzle game’, and it’s certainly a concept that’s hard to wrap your head around at first. Think Russian nesting dolls, only the dolls are the world around you, and every object you manipulate inside the smallest doll is repeated and reflected all the way up to the biggest one and vice versa. It’s not all mind-bending though, it’s also a love story set in a beautiful world inspired by scale models. But also the mind-bending bit.

Kieron Verbrugge

Martha Is Dead

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/Xbox Series X&S/PC | Wishlist
Developer: LKA | Publisher: Wired Productions

Set in the Italian countryside of Tuscany during World War II, Martha is Dead is a first-person psychological thriller that sees a woman find her twin sister Martha dead by the side of a lake. Martha’s death is shrouded in mysterious folklore, and Martha’s sister must process the trauma while dealing with the horrors of war as it unfolds around her. The trailers we’ve seen so far have portrayed a creepy yet compelling narrative. Here’s hoping it lives up to the potential. 

Zach Jackson

Oddworld: Soulstorm

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC | Pre-Order
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants | Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants

After multiple delays, the long-awaited return of the Oddworld series and everyone’s favourite farting Mudokon Abe should finally happen in 2021 after being in development for what feels like forever. While Oddworld: Soulstorm isn’t technically a new game – it’s a remake of Abe’s Exoddus with added features and mechanics – it does have the potential to generate a new entry in the series, says creator Lorne Lanning. Remake or not, I’m hella keen to once again save my Mudokon brethren before Molluck and his Glukkon cronies turn Abe into dog food.

Zach Jackson

Once Upon A Time In Roswell

Release: 2021 | Platform: PC | Wishlist
Developer: Quarter Circle Games | Publisher: tinyBuild

Another first-person horror game that looks totally wild. Set in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, you just know this game is going to be about aliens in some way. Once Upon A Time In Roswell follows the investigation of the disappearance of the Peterson family, who have been missing for over a week. Your investigation will see you relive horrific memories and encounter beings not of this world as you uncover the truth. Parts of the trailer give off P.T. vibes, which will please a lot of people. I just hope it can make good on the premise. 

Zach Jackson

Open Roads

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/Xbox One/Xbox Series X&S/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Fullbright | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

I still barely know what Open Roads is, but I know for sure that I want to check it out. Fulbright made a name for themselves with Gone Home and continued that momentum with the excellent Tacoma. By the little we can gather from the game’s teaser trailer it’s another narrative experience, this time based on a road trip and starring voice talent from Keri Russell and Kaitlyn Dever. It also looks to feature 2D animation for its characters, begging the question of how it’s going to play, but I’m very excited to see more.

Kieron Verbrugge

Paradise Lost

Release: 2021 | Platform: PC | Wishlist
Developer: PolyAmorous | Publisher: All in! Games

If you know me, then you know I am a sucker for anything with an alternate reality, especially when it’s got historical foundations. Paradise Lost is set in post-apocalyptic Poland, which has become a wasteland after the Nazis launched a nuclear attack on Europe, cutting it off from the rest of the world. You play as a young boy named Szymon who has stumbled upon an abandoned Nazi bunker while searching for a man from a photograph his mother gave him before his death. It’s a narrative-driven adventure in a world infused with Slavic mythology. I played the demo last year and I am hungry for more.

Zach Jackson

Psychonauts 2

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS4/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Double Fine | Publisher: Xbox Game Studios 

Psychonauts 2 isn’t just one of my most anticipated indie games for the year, it’s my most anticipated game for 2021– hands down! I actually played the original Psychonauts a couple of years late, after reading about it in an issue of Hyper Magazine and thinking it was right up my alley. Turns out I was right and it’s gone down as one of my favourite games of all time. I don’t have a ‘life savings’ but if I did it’d be because I didn’t blow all my money backing the sequel all those years ago. I can-naut wait for this one.

Kieron Verbrugge

Scorn

Release: 2021 | Platform: Xbox Series X&S/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Ebb Software | Publisher: Ebb Software

I backed Scorn on Kickstarter back in 2017, which feels like a lifetime ago. Since then the project has undergone a few changes, mainly in scope, with none more prominent than being unveiled as an Xbox Series X exclusive. Scorn is a first-person horror game with puzzles, alien guns, and a creepy as fuck atmosphere inspired by the likes of H.R. Giger. Seriously, this atmosphere looks incredible, and if they can pull it off, then Scorn could be one of the best horror games of the year.

Zach Jackson

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/Xbox Series X&S/Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Frogwares | Publisher: Frogwares

While including a Frogwares title may be a bit of a stretch, technically Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is their first fully self-published title after going independent in 2020, so it scrapes in by semantics. The Ukrainian studio is returning to its beloved Sherlock Holmes series after dabbling in Lovecraftian adventures with The Sinking City. However this time players will be playing as a young (and sexy) Sherlock Holmes, with the studio swapping the cobbled streets of London for the idyllic Mediterranean island hometown of Holmes, who has come to the island to investigate the death of his mother. It’s an interesting premise and one that will show Holmes in a new perspective, I just hope they can pull it off.

Zach Jackson

SkateBIRD

Release: 2021 | Platform: Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/PC/Mac/Linux
Developer: Glass Bottom Games | Publisher: Glass Bottom Games

It’s birds. On skateboards.

Kieron Verbrugge

Solar Ash

Release: 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC
Developer: Heart Machine | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

Not too much is known about Solar Ash, aside from the fact that it’s a third-person adventure set in the same universe as 2016’s phenomenal Hyper Light Drifter and features the same distinct artistic flair in a new, fully 3D setting. Designer Alx Preston is returning as lead designer with Disasterpeace back on musical duties and Zoë Quinn on narrative duties, which makes for a very compelling mix. I’m super keen to see more of this one outside of the brief teaser trailer shown off at last June’s PS5 digital showcase, which you can check out below:

Kieron Verbrugge

Stray

Release: October 2021 | Platform: PS5/PS4/PC | Wishlist
Developer: BlueTwelve Studio | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

Cyberpunk-future setting with a playable cat protagonist who has a droid best friend. If that’s not the elevator pitch of a lifetime I don’t know what is. Stray is another June 2020 PS5 Digital Showcase darling, and another game with the backing of Annapurna, and damn if it doesn’t tick every box for me. There’s not a lot to go off of gameplay-wise, but the short trailer certainly paints an exciting picture. It’s part grim, part adorable, part is that robot getting a haircut, and all hype. Sign me the hell up.

Kieron Verbrugge

Tails of Iron

Release: 2021 | Platform: PC
Developer: Odd Bug Studio | Publisher: United Label Gaming

I told you I had a thing for rodents with weapons. Tails of Iron is a 2D cinematic adventure with RPG-lite elements that promises to boast challenging tactical combat encounters. You’ll play as Redgi the Rat, a king-in-waiting who will need to prove his worth after his kingdom is raided by the Iron Frog. It’s backed by an amazing art style and a soundtrack that reminds me of Redwall. If you’ve ever wanted a Dark Souls-esque game with rats, this could be for you. 

Zach Jackson

Tunic

Release: 2021 | Platform: Xbox One/PC | Wishlist
Developer: Andrew Shouldice | Publisher: Finji

Tunic’s creator, Andrew Shouldice, is aware of (and proud of) the comparisons between his game and The Legend of Zelda, but it’s his own list of inspirations that has me champing at the bit to get my hands on it. FEZ, Monument Valley and even Dark Souls, as well as films like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind have supposedly helped to fill the well that Tunic draws from, which sounds bloody good to me. At the end of the day though, one look at the game’s adorable little fox hero should be more than enough to sell anyone.

Kieron Verbrugge

Glad to see you made it to the end. Let us know what indie games you’re keen for in 2021, especially if you think we had any glaring omissions.

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