As the summer winds down, our wishlist just gets longer
While it sometimes seems every triple-A game has been delayed into next year, indie games are still delivering big in 2021. Sure, we still have the likes of New World and Halo Infinite to look forward to, but some of the most exciting upcoming PC games we’ve seen are coming from smaller developers this year.
Our pick of games once again runs the gamut this month. We’ve got city-building games starring beavers, epic RPGs starring rats, and skateboard games starring birds. There are ninja stealth games and photography puzzle games. There are story games about making it in a harsh cyberpunk world, coming of age in an apocalyptic desert, and delivering mail in a small American town.
So no matter your tastes, there’s a lot to be excited about as we trade the sweltering heat of summer for the cooler (though still a bit unseasonably warm) autumn months. Read on for a look at some of the raddest indies you can look forward to in the month ahead.
We’ve aimed to sum up what makes each of these games ones to be on your radar, but do be sure to click through to their respective Steam pages and wishlist them if they look like your cup of the proverbial.
Games have been helping us get back to the quiet life for years, but somehow a narrative-driven mail delivery sim set in 1980s small-town America still manages to stand out. Lake puts you in the shoes of Meredith Weiss, a big city career woman brought back to her tiny hometown to spend a couple of weeks delivering mail. Never mind whether the Postal Service accepts substitute delivery people – Lake is all about making connections with the town’s cast of eccentrics, engaging in delightfully awkward small talk as you get to know the neighbours and decide how to spend your time in town. You can check out Lake here, and there’s a robust demo available to give you a taste of the game.
It’s exciting to see the new directions in which indie devs are pushing the city-builder genre right now. Timberborn is based on a lot of the same ideas that feature in colony management games like Rimworld and Going Medieval, but – get this – this time it’s all about beavers. You’ll manage your little family of beavers as they construct a mechanically advanced settlement years after the fall of humanity, always mindful of your relationship with the nearby river. As seasons change, the river will dry up or flood, and you’ll have to be prepared for both phases of its life cycle in their turns. You can find Timberborn when it hits Steam Early Access here.
Skatebird has been a long time coming, but it’s finally time to play Tony Hawk as a tiny hawk. You take control of an itty-bitty bird on an itty-bitty skateboard, kick-flipping your way through an ever-expanding array of skate parks. You’ll be able to grab new cosmetics as you go and skate to an original low-fi soundtrack – or take advantage of the custom soundtrack feature to drop in some ska and get that proper turn-of-the-century flavour. You can check out Skatebird here.
Eastward is a colourful take on a futuristic collapse of society. It’s a little bit Zelda and a little bit Last of Us as you take the duo of old man John and young woman Sam on a cross-country journey filled with puzzles, dungeons, and monsters to fight. You’ll swap between the two characters to solve the game’s challenges, meet an array of quirky characters in its story-driven adventure, and take the occasional break to do a little cooking with all your scavenged ingredients. You can check out Eastward here.
In the cyberpunk future of Gamedec, you’re a detective whose beat is virtual worlds. It’s an isometric RPG in which you’ll have to use your wits rather than your fighting skills to get to the bottom of all manner of schemes and intrigues. Gamedec is a non-combat role-player, focusing instead on your interactions with other characters in the highly digitized world of Warsaw in the 22nd century. Gamedec is coming to Steam.
Ninja stealth games haven’t been in vogue since the heyday of Tenchu, but luckily the devs at Lince Works are here to correct that. Aragami 2 expands on the original with a larger co-op option for three players. You’ll still take on open-ended levels how you want, making use of your ninja powers to take down enemies – with or without bloodshed. You can get into a fight if you want, but it’s risky, and you’ll need to make the most of weapon and armour upgrades for success. You can check out Aragami 2 here.
Severed Steel is an FPS game that’s dripping with style and blistering speed. Set in a neon voxel cyberpunk world, it skips over all the hand-wringing about tech-driven dystopia and goes straight to the part where you’re sliding along the floor taking down bad guys by the barrelful. There’s a Max Payne-style bullet time gauge you can use for particularly tricky encounters, and the key here is to be fast and cool – you’ll want to keep increasing the score multiplier, since this isn’t just about surviving, it’s about taking the top spot on the leaderboard. You can find Severed Steel here.
Clearly angling for a spot on our best rat games list, Tails of Iron is all about the eternal war between rats and toads. As Redgi, you’re the son of the rats’ king, and your job is to help repel the monstrous army of green, warty invaders from your home. In addition to the adorably drawn rats, Tails of Iron also features the vocal stylings of Doug Cockle, who you may know better as the voice of Geralt of Rivia in the Witcher series. Jordan has taken Tails of Iron for a spin and reports that it’s a pleasant – if occasionally gruelling – combination of Hollow Knight and Dark Souls apparently made specifically to appeal to rat lovers such as himself. You can find Tails of Iron here.
Quirky characters, chill puzzles, and hand-drawn art – what more could you ask for? TOEM is an adventure game in the traditional sense, as you’ll spend your time mostly talking to people and solving puzzles. But instead of a rubber chicken-filled inventory, you solve the game’s challenges by taking creative photos. Couple all that with a striking black-and-white art style, and you’ve got the makings of something special. You can check out TOEM here.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits defies every expectation of what an indie game can look like. This is a 3D action-adventure game with all the joyful spirit of a Pixar film. You’ll take control of Kena and a team of adorable spirit critters called the Rot, exploring a beautiful natural environment and making use of your companions’ abilities to solve puzzles. You’ll see a fair amount of Zelda inspiration here, but with more emphasis on fast-paced combat. You can check out Kena: Bridge of Spirits here.
Explore a vast desert scattered with the rhymes of a lost civilisation as you undergo a rite of passage in Sable. This game’s gorgeous, minimalist art style has been turning heads in trailers for a long while, and with a soundtrack by Japanese Breakfast, it sounds great too. The exploration mechanics look to be inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, allowing you to glide across the landscape and climb pretty much anything. You can check out Sable here, and there’s a free demo to let you get an early taste of the game.
Just in time for the spooky season, In Sound Mind is a survival horror game set in a malevolent building where the walls themselves have a life of their own. Created by the team behind the Nightmare House mod for Half-Life 2, In Sound Mind will test your grip on reality in a series of memory sequences, with each featuring its own set of rules – as well as a unique boss fight. Fortunately, you won’t be alone in facing the horrors that have devoured countless victims who have come before you – you’ll be accompanied, for better or for worse, by a cat named Tonia. So that’s comforting. Or is it? You can try out the demo for In Sound Mind over on Steam.
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Updated: Sep 7, 2021
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