We gamers have been blessed with top-tier AAA video games this year. From Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to Hogwarts Legacy, multiple highly-anticipated entries lived up to the hype. That said, several indie titles also managed to climb up the game charts alongside their buzzing triple-A counterparts. Other hidden gems flew under the radar despite their sheer quality. But eight months into 2023, I can reasonably say this year has brought many indie titles worth checking out if you haven’t already.
Dredge may seem like a nice and casual game at first glance. Captaining a fishing trawler, you explore a series of remote isles and scour the depths to find peculiar collectibles and long-buried relics. Upgrading your boat with better equipment helps you reach distant seas at a faster speed to diversify your catch. But you quickly realise something is not quite right when strangely mutated fish bite your hook.
And in this Lovecraftian tale, what finds you in the dark foggy night is yet more ominous than meets the eye. Developed by Black Salt Games, Dredge is a clever – and unnerving – subversion of the cosy gaming tropes. As we said on Gfinity Esports, this survival fishing adventure with a twisted undercurrent feels both calming and terrifying. Danger is everywhere as you sail the ocean all alone on your puny vessel. Still, digging up the area’s sinister past is a blast through and through.
The Banished Vault
Outer space adventures are in no short supply in the gaming sphere this year, especially so with the impending release of Starfield. Obviously, The Banished Vault doesn’t span 1,000 planets to discover. Instead, this turn-based strategy game explores the cruelty of space survival in gruelling fashion. You command the Auriga Vault, an interstellar monastery navigating from system to system.
As these exiled monks travel across space in search of viable planets to construct outposts, you must tend to your crew’s needs, but also maintain their faith. Besides, crafting precious resources and artifacts is key to keeping the exiles alive while expanding their knowledge, allowing them to survive long enough to pen a Vault story worth transmitting back home. Full of logistical challenges and mathematical equations, this spacefaring management sim puts a brain-scratching spin on the sci-fi genre.
Many base building games like Anno 1800 and Satisfactory centre around industrialising the environment to run intricate – and overtly polluting – production chains. Developed by the South African studio Free Lives, Terra Nil turns this less-than-eco-friendly city-building formula on its head by sending you to a barren wasteland that only advanced technology can transform into a thriving ecosystem. Instead of exploiting resources, you’re tasked with creating new biomes that wild animals can call home.
Before you get to terraforming, you must first purify the soil and rivers using wind turbines and water pumps. Each reclaimed tile is converted into points that unlock new buildings and upgrades. In the game’s final stage, all buildings shall be recycled to leave the environment to its natural inhabitants. As The Guardian put it, this puzzler is satisfyingly simple in the gameplay department, making it a relaxing gem with a unique ecological hook.
Sunshine Shuffle is a story-driven card game developed by the award-winning studio Strange Scaffold. This visual novel takes you on a boat trip with a group of adorable animals that might not be as innocent as they look, as these secretive characters are the very wannabe Robin Hoods that robbed the biggest bank on the Eastern Seaboard. The only way to lift the veil on their criminal past is to confront this heist crew at Texas Hold ‘Em. Playing tournaments unlocks conversations that progress the plot.
As engaging as this narrative adventure can be, however, the poker gameplay struck me as a bit slow. Incidentally, seasoned poker players might want to switch to online platforms to spice things ups. Specialised websites like CasinoBonusCA even post hundreds of up-to-date casino promotions up for grabs. Advanced filters help users sort through various bonus types, such as no-deposit offers or cashback deals. Welcome packages also reward newcomers upon signup. Plus, new casinos are constantly added for regular players looking to shake up their habits.
2023 has delivered a great batch of indie games, including some honourable mentions, such as the quirky platformer Pizza Tower or the soothing narrative experience of Dordogne. And many more promising indie titles like Lies of P and The Last Faith are just around the corner.