As the gaming industry gets bigger, the money that moves along with it increases too. And as the money gets larger the budgets get more extravagant – but unfortunately as shown by a number of AAA titles in 2018, that doesn’t necessarily mean the quality does. Thank god for the other end of the spectrum then; those games being created by the independent developers out there. Love, dedication and a willingness to create the best damn product possible are all standout features of this set of creators, and so it only makes sense to deliver an Indie GOTY award alongside the lists dominated by the blockbusters.
But which are on TheXboxHub’s Xbox One Indie Game of the Year 2018 list? And which title comes out as the overall champ? Kick back and enjoy…
5) Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition
Look up ‘under the radar’ in any dictionary and you may just find ‘Hollow Knight’ written beneath.
An old school side-scroller with a brand new modern flavour, Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition gave you the chance to step into the shoes of a magical being, to explore a wide and expansive world while taking down a plethora of enemies and bosses.
The way you go about progressing through Hollow Knight is entirely up to you, from the paths you take, to which Charms and spells you decide to equip, shaping your character into one that is unique and operates in your preferred gameplay style. Think of your favourite Metroidvania game, and then expect more, as that is where Hollow Knight delivers.
The visuals and soundtrack are particularly memorable too, with cutesy 2D sprites being painted on screen, and the dark dungeons, caverns and all the creatures who live within, similarly striking in a cartoony style. Woodwind instruments may not be the go-to choice for all games’ soundtrack, but Hollow Knight’s music uses such sounds to create an atmosphere which dynamically changes in response to the action, creating a good sense of immersion.
Hollow Knight should be at the top of any platformer fan’s ‘must-play’ list – just beware, it can get pretty difficult and pretty addictive pretty quickly!
4) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
I’ll give it to Ninja Theory – developing a game which tackles the real-world issue of mental health while still being a riveting and exciting experience is no mean feat, especially when trying to avoid being patronizing or insensitive in any way.
But Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is such a game that did this perfectly, telling the meaningful story of a young woman in the 8th Century, both simultaneously attempting to rescue the soul of her deceased lover and also battling psychosis along the way. A product of such a disease are the voices in Senua’s head, audible to the player, that either attempt to motivate Senua in the toughest of times, such as in a hard piece of combat or tricky puzzle, or are more likely found to demotivate. To the player these voices have a similar effect: the latter, more evil, voices will critique your every move, such as trying to trick you into thinking you have gone the wrong way. It all culminates in a very well done way of integrating the issue of mental illness in an interactive way, while also building a game with fluid combat, satisfying puzzles and a beautiful world inspired by Norse mythology.
The representation of mental illness, and how well it has been delivered in Hellblade, is really quite central to why the game is as successful as it is – and it really should be. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one of those games you can proudly show to any non-gamer to show the true potential of this form of media. And on top of that, it is plain and simply a well put together and addictive adventure puzzler, that everyone should play through at least once to experience something new.
3) Overcooked 2
A few years back when the original Overcooked released to the masses, giving gamers the opportunity to engage in some frenzied local coop multiplayer on their Xbox One, nobody knew quite how much the series would shoot to fame. Overcooked became arguably the go to title if you were looking for a hit of cartoonish fun with friends – albeit friends who may not still be that after a few levels in! Quickly we were left wanting more from Team17 and their new indie darling.
Cue the much-awaited entry of Overcooked 2, which ramped up the mayhem ten-fold with brand new cooking recipes, a number of dynamically changing ‘kitchens’ to get your head around and the promise of online multiplayer, should you find yourself friendless at home. New mechanics such as the ability to throw raw ingredients around, while being extremely unhygienic, saw players manage to get more orders through the door and from there those scores went up and up.
However, the real fun of Overcooked 2 came in the form of the pure mania of the kitchen – in order to complete a level well, assigning roles and sticking to them was very much needed, or soon enough the screen and living room descended into chaos. Mastering Overcooked 2 is a very fine art, one which we have mostly enjoyed – however sometimes light-heartedly resented.
It’s no surprise that the cooking phenomenon makes it onto this list – Overcooked 2 is simply the head chef of party titles.
2) Strange Brigade
For a while now Rebellion have been releasing such quality with their games, particularly in the Sniper Elite franchise, that it seems pretty unbelievable that they are still considered an indie studio. But they are, and one of the most in-depth, addictive and wacky indies this year is that of Strange Brigade.
The clue is in the name, this early 20th Century Brigade of adventurers are nothing but Strange, spending their time exploring for ancient treasures, and fighting against hordes of supernatural ghoulies!
In a similar style to that of Call of Duty Zombies, Strange Brigade pits you and up to three other online buddies against waves upon waves of differing enemies, each with their unique attacks to worry about. Likewise, each playable character also has their own abilities, so choosing the correct team of explorers is integral to survival, especially in the later waves where enemies get more numerous, stronger, and tougher to put down. Aside from the killing, your team will also have to solve tricky puzzles to gather loot, restock on guns and set up traps to maximise survival and end up with the greatest score when you finally do succumb to the endless enemy onslaught.
With a number of distinct modes to tackle, ranging from those catering to players wanting a more story-driven experience to groups looking to get the highest of high scores, it’s possible to be playing Strange Brigade until the cows come home, and you still won’t be done perfecting your killing. And thus, for its addictive nature and sheer fun to be had, especially with friends, Strange Brigade is a deserving runner up to the best indie game of 2018.
1) PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)
The battle royale genre has been quite clearly the go-to trend for many companies looking to see their newest title skyrocket to fame (and usually profit heaven). But there aren’t many better than the one that kicked it all off – PUBG!
It is sometimes the simplest of premises that make the biggest waves in the gaming scene, and they don’t get much simpler than ‘last man standing’. Yes, all you have to do is parachute in, grab guns and armour, and be the last player, or group of players, alive by the time the game ends. Simple enough? Think again! The sheer quality of some of the players combined with the multiple weapons and maps available today makes PUBG – or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to give its full title – extremely addictive, and with the ever-inclosing safe-zone centering in a different place each match, no game of PUBG will ever be the same.
In recent times, as PUBG has started to make its way onto mobile devices and the PS4, developers PUBG Corporation have started to add a variety of game modes, unlockable cosmetics and Xbox Achievements into precedings to keep gamers coming back for more. In other words, yes, it’s finally out of Game Preview and available as a proper fully released product.
It’s simple, it’s addictive and it’s not only one of the best battle royale titles available, but one of the best indie games on the market, and that sees the brilliant PUBG understandably take pride of place as TheXboxHub’s Indie Game of the Year 2018!
So, there you have it – our picks of the best indie games released in 2018. Do you have any favourites that should have made the cut, and if so which games should make way? As always if you have an opinion we would love to hear it, so make sure it is voiced in the comments below or via the usual social channels.
From all of us at TheXboxHub, have a Happy New Year! We can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store.