The 10 best indie games from E3
We checked them out so you don’t have to
By now, you will likely have watched all the AAA reveals from E3. You’ve analysed all three seconds of gameplay footage, taken into account how much Keanu is in them, and ultimately decided whether or not they’re for you. But what about all those other games? The smaller ones on the show floor or shown for a few fleeting seconds in a montage. How are you supposed to know if they’re good or not? That’s where we step in.
Just as a disclaimer: some of these games were first shown at E3, some debuted new content, and others were just there. Also, we haven’t played all of them because most aren’t finished and what freelancer can afford to go to E3. Anyway, in no particular order, here’s our pick of the best looking indie games at E3.
12 Minutes – We only got 12 minutes to save the wife
‘An interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop,’ is how publishers Annapurnia Interactive described 12 Minutes. That’s a pretty state-the-obvious and uninspiring tagline for what looks like a pretty incredible game.
You’ve probably guessed by now, but one man keeps reliving the same 12 minutes in his flat, during which (depending on your choices) secrets are revealed, a man breaks in, and it’s likely that someone dies. It’s your job to get him out of the loop in the time it takes to play 4 Minutes by Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake to play just under three times.
Anyway, Justin Timberlake’s pop banger does not feature in the trailer, nor fit the tone of the dark and creepy game. Despite the cramped and claustrophobic conditions of the two bedroom flat where all of the gameplay takes place, the dialogue trees sprawl far further and offer twists at every corner.
Until the last minute of Nintendo’s press conference, this was my ‘most exciting game’ of E3. Get it on Xbox and PC next year.
Sea of Solitude – Self-doubt and scaries in a watercolour world
Sea of Solitude is a game about loneliness. That doesn’t really sell it, but remember Celeste was a game about self-doubt and that was bloody brilliant.
Cheery vibes aside, Sea of Solitude is a story-driven platformer that sees protagonist Kay come face to face with the monsters that are her inner demons. With designs straight out of a Gorillaz nightmare, the monsters are truly terrifying, and form the perfect foil to the watercolour beauty of their surroundings.
I would like to place an order for more beautifully designed self-care games in the future please.
Sea of Solitude comes to PC, PS4 and Xbox One on July 5, 2019. That’s about three weeks.
Creature in the Well - What if pinball was a hack n’ slash?
You, a robot, are trying to save a village from a despotic creature (that’s in the well). How you intend to do this is not entirely clear, but for now it seems that smashing balls of electricity with your sword, much like pinball, will at least get you to the monster.
Announced back in March, E3 provided us with more gameplay footage, as well as interviews with the creators. According to Adam Volker, creative director of Flight School Studio, the game started off as a multiplayer air hockey-style game, but slowly became the exact opposite. The single-player rhythmic combat looks exciting and the Hellboy-inspired art style really catches the eye. The combination of the two makes it mesmerising to watch, and hopefully also to play.
Creature in the Well is due out in summer 2019 for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Afterparty – One Hell of a party
Lola and Milo are college grads who met an untimely demise. Now they’re in Hell. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Why they’re in Hell and not Heaven hasn’t been explained (at least not in the previews), but they want out. And the only way to do that is to outdrink the Prince of Parties himself, Satan.
Afterparty has been shown at major and minor games conventions and is already developing a cult fanbase ahead of its release. And you can see why. Much like Leeds on a Friday night, the world is filled with demons who hate their jobs and just want to get rat-arsed. Its design is nothing short of beautiful, even if it is depicting dive bars in Hell, and the unique drinking mechanic that underpins everything you do is brilliant.
Afterparty will release on Xbox in 2019, and will be part of the Xbox Game Pass library from day one.
Carrion – Turning the tables on the horror genre
Carrion is a horror game turned on its head. You play the monster, the evil, the Big Bad. And I never realised before now that this is what I’ve wanted to do my entire life.
You are an amorphous creature of unknown origin, set on destruction and death to those who have kept you captive. Reminiscent of a pixel art The Thing (John Carpenter not Fantastic Four), your goal is to break out of the science facility by any means necessary.
Roles will be reversed and (lab) tables turned on PC and consoles in 2020.
RustHeart – IRON GIANT: THE GAME
Have you seen the Iron Giant? Did you love the Iron Giant? If you answered no to either of those questions, go and watch the Iron Giant. Then come back and read this. Wait, have you already gone?
We don’t know much about RustHeart, but its Iron Giant aesthetic is all we need. Other than that, it is a tactical action-RPG with customisation elements. It already sounds more cyberpunk than Cyberpunk.
‘We went to the pub and started talking about the things we love - like Iron Giant, 80s movies, Rick and Morty,’ Glowmade's Johnny Hopper told Eurogamer. ‘We brought these influences together and slowly pieced the blocks together.’
RustHeart is technically a pseudo-indie title, as it will be one of the games released in partnership with EA as they push for an indie game catalogue to match their AAA releases.
RustHeart will be released for some consoles and/or PC at some point in the future.
Sayonara Wild Hearts – An interactive pop album
Think of Sayonara Wild Hearts as a karaoke machine where you play games instead of singing the lyrics to the songs. But you don’t know the songs. And you can’t choose them. And you can’t choose what kind of game you’ll play either. I can’t believe I used up all my Justin Timberlake content so early…
The gameplay shifts from infinite runner to shooter to beat-em-up to romance and then back to an infinite runner again. This may seem a little disparate, but the pop soundtrack blends it all together beautifully until it… Kinda works. Whether the individual elements will hold up to scrutiny remains to be seen, but as a whole it looks exciting, entertaining, and brilliantly neon.
If you are at all inspired by 80s fashion and music, it will be right up your street. If not, then I can only suggest you give it a go and find out for yourself.
Sayonara Wild Hearts comes to Nintendo Switch in 2019 and other consoles ‘after’.
Felix the Reaper – A dance with death
Felix the Reaper is a dance puzzle game about death. You are Death, or Felix as he like to be known. And you have to guide humans to their ends via the medium of… dance?
Sticking to the shadows and making no noise at all, you must manipulate the puzzles to reach your end. Or should that be their end? Whatever. Felix has his headphones on and is determined to dance his way through the puzzles, adding his own extra flare whenever possible. But, he must never get involved. That’s one of the three rules. Somehow I doubt he’ll be able to help himself.
Felix the Reaper comes to all consoles (no, of course not the Dreamcast) and PC this year.
Genesis Noir – I honestly have no idea what tagline could even begin to describe this
‘Genesis Noir is set before, during, and after The Big Bang. To save your love, you must stop the expansion of the universe.’ Sounds easy enough, right?
Tagged as ‘a cosmic adventure’, Genesis Noir presents a 2D adventure and exploration game that emphasises simple interactions. Shown at E3, the latest trailer revealed some things. The game is nearly impossible to get your head round at this stage, but that’s what makes it so intriguing. The abstract blends with the very real universe like William Blake and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s videogame lovechild.
The game is still a way off, but I could watch the trailer on loop for hours trying to understand it. So maybe you should do that too until it releases on PC. Which will likely be ‘at some point after The Big Bang’.
Spiritfarer – Death, but with feelings
A management game where you play as the ferrymaster to the afterlife, Spiritfarer is surprisingly uplifting. In an Animal Crossing-esque manner, you make connections with the people you are ferrying towards the afterlife. And yes, they are people. They’ve just taken animal forms after death based on their personalities.
Fulfilling the last wishes of your friends eases their passing, and the game ends up being less about the tasks, and more about creating meaningful relationships. What makes this game even more beautiful is the fact that the developers designed many of the characters based on their loved ones who had passed. That makes it clear why accepting death is so cathartic and ever-present.
Even after a brief showing at Xbox’s E3 conference, it is clear that this is a game about love, not death.
Spiritfarer will be available on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC in 2020.