Yes, we’ve played our Elden Rings, Plague Tales and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Sagas. In fact, we’ve recently awarded the coveted TheXboxHub Games of the Year 2022 award. But we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t give some special love to the indies!
For those perseverant small, independent studios, or even solo creators, we commend you – some of our best gaming experiences this past year have been whilst sat down with an indie game, offering up some of the most unique systems and mechanics on Xbox.
Of the hundreds of indie titles that the team at TheXboxHub has had the pleasure of reviewing (or sometimes the displeasure as our worst games of 2022 list reveals), the following five titles have been deserving of special mention.
Only one can be crowned TheXboxHub Indie Game of the Year 2022: who will that be – read on to find out!
5) Let’s Build a Zoo
While not completely bereft of criticism, it’s hard to deny Let’s Build a Zoo is a zoo managing masterclass.
Ever since man could walk, it’s been obsessed with building whatever the mind’s eye imagines. In 2022, with experience of theme park construction, hospital building, and even the opportunity to create your own university campus, it comes as no surprise that Let’s Build a Zoo – a Zoo Tycoon-esque title – has hit the ground running. We are convinced that no zoo on the planet is better than our incredible feat of management and construction: our customers love it, and our employees can’t wait to come into work.
All playing out in the most colourful of pixel art, Let’s Build a Zoo from No More Robots and Springloaded tasks you with… building a zoo. With over 500 types of animals to recruit to your cause, housing up in enclosures, with enough animals at the zoo, you generate enough income, which can then be reinvested back into your research ventures.
What had us coming back for more, in particular, was the introduction of the CRISPR Splicer gene editing tool, allowing you to breed unique hybrid species of animals that will have your audiences captivated. We first opted for a goose crossed with a rabbit, of course, and thus the goobit was unveiled to the world, with glowing commendation!
Let’s Build a Zoo is clever and creative – any budding zoologist should give this one a whirl.
4) As Dusk Falls
It’s rare to find a debut game as confident as As Dusk Falls. It’s rarer still to find one that unerringly finds your belly for an emotional gut punch like this one does.
‘Debut game of the year’ we bravely said back in the summer. Was it heat stroke? No! It was a stroke of genius, as now in December our love for As Dusk Falls is as strong as it was all those months ago.
With a distinct art style, combining live-action stills with a cartoon-esque sheen on top, this narrative experience will have you shocked, surprised and sobbing all in the space of ten minutes of each other. For those of you looking to fill a Telltale-shaped hole in your chest, then INTERIOR/NIGHT‘s As Dusk Falls certainly impresses.
Following a skew-whiff attempt at the robbery of a sheriff’s office, we follow the tale of said robbers, as well as family man Vince, and how he gets wrapped up in these shenanigans is a question we’ll leave unanswered. The narrative branches out according to your own decisions, as with many a narrative adventure, but what we particularly enjoyed is that every choice you make seems sensible – there’s certainly no clear indication that that was the ‘wrong’ decision.
With a world incredibly responsive to your decisions, As Dusk Falls pulls out some of the best immersion we’ve experienced in 2022, and truly deserves its place on this list.
3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
The team over at Tribute Games have created an absolute masterpiece of an arcade title in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge; one that floats somewhere between tribute (pun intended) and modern sequel to the classic TMNT arcade titles.
As a gamer who first fell in love with Xbox back in the days of XBLA, TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled was an arcade beat ‘em up that seemed to be the peak of the arcade branch of those half-shelled heroes. Enter TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, which has taken all the best bits of its booth-based predecessors from the late 1980s, blending in some welcome modern additions.
The most intriguing of the latter – the minor RPG elements that creep in as you progress through the game, taking down as many enemies as you can – certainly had us coming back for more. Whether you are taking to the field as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael or (a personal favourite) Donatello, each turtle can be levelled up and upgraded, a much-needed mechanic as the diversity of enemies takes a level-up of its own.
Throw in up to six-player cooperative play (with Splinter and April coming along for the ride), and soon you’ll be strategising the best team compositions to finally overcome the most challenging of levels. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge has certainly given the likes of 2020’s Streets of Rage 4 a run for its money, and should most definitely be booted up at winter gatherings.
2) Vampire Survivors
Hold on tight, because what the developers at Poncle have created is something of utter simplicity but something that is hugely addictive. Vampire Survivors is basic but gripping, straightforward but amazingly complex at the same time.
It’s safe to say that Vampire Survivors doesn’t come with the most glowing of self-endorsements, courtesy of the Xbox Store. ‘Minimal gameplay’, a low, low price, and old-school pixelated graphics. None of these are a bad thing, but fast-forward a few months and Vampire Survivors is our second favourite indie game of the year? What happened?!
Addiction happened, and a whole lot of it. A simple auto-shooter, where all you need to do is move in the right direction (preferably away from the waves of hundreds of pixel-y monsters), from the very first wave we were enamoured with the simple to pick up, but hard to master nature of this humble game.
After slaying your first few dozen monsters, you’ll soon be picking up a wealth of new weapons and abilities, tailoring your build to be one of monster-bashing might. Play well enough, and the game might respond to this, throwing a dastardly boss into your way to even the odds.
It was truly the pull of unlocking more unique characters that had us blasting through Vampire Survivors into the wee hours of the night. Our advice – play Vampire Survivors right now as it’s on Game Pass, and then come back to see our number one pick for Indie GOTY 2022!
TUNIC is absolutely worthy of your time. Its presence on Game Pass means that many Xbox owners will have no excuse for avoiding it, and the cutesy presentation should be in no-way offputting: this is a devious, cantankerous little game that will delight in challenging you, tucking some fantastic rewards around the corner as compensation.
TUNIC is not only our Indie GOTY for 2022, but is in fact up there as one of the best titles we’ve had the pleasure to review in 2022, out of more than 900!
Immediately bringing to mind stellar titles of the past such as Link’s Awakening, the sheer wealth of weapons, abilities and collectibles in this cutesy isometric action-adventure makes this one more akin in scale to Breath of the Wild!
Set in a colourful world that may seem charming at first, but soon turns to chaos and fiendish difficulty, TUNIC puts you in the adorable shoes of a fox hero, tasked with, well, we don’t really know. TUNIC deliberately has little story or narrative, and instead has you uncover the mystery of this world as you progress through the numerous dungeons and overworld biomes present.
In fact, everything you read, and all the language you hear from NPCs, is in literal gibberish – only through carefully reading your own instruction manual, dishing out hints as to combat and navigation, will you start to understand your place in this big, bad world. It can be lonely at times, you know?
And a lot of the time, the only company you have will be with huge beasts intent on having fried fox for dinner. The combat, whilst simple, can be brutal, requiring a fine understanding of your moveset, and an accumulation of an array of abilities, to dish out against your foes with.
It’s certainly not as family-friendly as things may seem, but TUNIC is a true must-play, especially with its presence on Game Pass. Congratulations, TUNIC – a worthy TheXboxHub Indie Game of the Year 2022! Go and pick it up from the Xbox Store right now.
There we have it, all hail TUNIC, as TheXboxHub’s Indie Game of the Year 2022. Do you agree with our top five, or should one of your favourites have an argument for making its way into this list? Let us know down in the comments and on all good social media channels.