The Best Indie Games Of E3 2018

E3 2018 is finally here and developers from all around the globe have converged on Los Angeles to show off what they’ve been working on. From massive triple-A publishers to the smallest of development teams, games of all shapes and sizes are at the show. While those big-name games may garner the most excitement on press conference stages and the showfloor, it’s unwise to overlook the perpetually strong stable of independent games on show at E3.

Here are the best and most promising independent games the Game Informer staff saw at E3 2018.

Platform: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Aurora44
Release: 2018

Ashen is a stamina-driven action-RPG that borrows liberally from Dark Souls but does so with flourish. The unique, painted aesthetic also makes this game, where you must build relationships with other players or NPCs to survive as you navigate a mysterious world, stand apart. Though the combat didn’t set our hearts on fire, the idea of forging relationships with other individuals stranded in this desolate (but beautiful) setting is intriguing enough to  make Ashen one to watch in the months to come. – Javy Gwaltney

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, PC
Developer: ArtPlay Inc., DICO
Release: 2018

Former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi’s team has been plugging away at this Symphony of the Night-style action game for years, and playing it at E3 showed that it may be worth the wait. A curse may be turning protagonist Miriam’s body into a stained-glass-like crystal, but her movement remains fluid and responsive. During the demo, I was able to meet several residents from the hub town of Arvantville and get a quick look at the game’s alchemy-based crafting system. The base combat and exploration feels familiar, right down to being able to destroy light sources for coins and items, and there were plenty of weapons and pieces of armor to track down and equip. It may not completely reimagine the genre, but players who want to experience Metroidvania-style gameplay from one of its originators should keep an eye out for it. – Jeff Cork 

Children of Morta
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Dead Mage Inc
Release: 2018

Children of Morta takes a solid roguelite foundation and layers on just enough cool features to separate it from the increasingly crowded pack. As you traverse one of three procedurally generated dungeons (or one of a handful of “mini-dungeons”), you receive souls you can use to open chests, which drop healing items, gold you can spend on upgrades, and more. Combat relies on deftly managing a stamina gauge, and each character class has a number of abilities and permanent upgrade trees at their disposal to make combat more interesting. Between runs, you manage of your family’s side hustles, granting you access to better potions, permanently strengthening each class, and more. Add co-op on top and you have the makings of a great dungeon-crawling time. – Suriel Vazquez

Platform: Switch, iOS, Android
Developer: Muse Games
Release: Q4 2018

Hamsterdam is a rhythmic tap beat-em-up because sure, why not. The interface on this touchscreen game couldn’t be simpler: Tap to hit enemies, and swipe to counter their attacks. Even though it’s simple, Muse Game wrings a surprising amount from the inputs, as the young hamster Pimm beats up a variety of rats, weasels, and other vermin. Players can mindlessly attack, but the game rewards observant players with opportunities to deal additional damage by waiting until Pimm glows. After beatup up a few random pests, I took on a boss, who attacked by throwing bombs and punches. Once I learned his tells, I was able to return the favor, launching my friends onto his back to help out along the way. Hamsterdam is a charming game that feels like a perfect option for pass-the-screen sessions between parents and kids. Well, that’s assuming that the kids are pretty good at games. – Jeff Cork

The King’s Bird
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Serenity Forge
Release: Summer (PC), Q1 2019 (Consoles)

Platforming and speedrunning have gone hand-in-hand for decades, and The King’s Bird looks to take advantage of that long-standing relationship. A speed-focused platformer, The King’s Bird relies heavily on momentum as you race through the stages. You have a sprint button, but it’s only effective when you first hit the surface, making timing crucial. You can also glide after a jump, but your power gives out after a couple of short seconds without touching a surface. Sliding down a hill, off a ramp, and into a perfectly executed glide is satisfying, and with the developer promising boss battles within this structure, I’m intrigued to see how the formula expands. – Brian Shea

My Memory Of Us

My Memory of Us
Platform: PC
Developer: Juggler Games
Release: Q3 2018

My Memory of Us is a story about two young children caught in a war, struggling to maintain their friendship amidst the circumstances. The strikingly beautiful art style and sweet story of the two children almost makes you forget about you’re playing an interpretation of the occupation of Poland in the second World War. As you play as the two children, you swap back and forth to use their different abilities; the boy can sneak while the girl can sprint. Using them in tandem, I stealthily infiltrated a soldiers’ camp to steal a cake and solved puzzles to retrieve items within the environments. Despite the tragic setting, My Memory of Us promises a beautiful tale of friendship and a positive affirmation about its power. – Brian Shea

Outer Wilds
Platform: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Mobius Digital
Release: 2018

A pleasing cross between intricate space exploration simulator and sci-fi fantasy, Outer Wilds impressed us with its beautiful visuals, acoustic soundtrack, and as well as the sheer joy of bouncing across the surface of moons. As a recruit of the Outer Wilds initiative, your job is to explore space and see what mysteries await in the solar systems. During our time with the demo, we flew into the heart of the sun, sent a satellite scuttling across space to take pictures of asteroids, and hung out with some rad looking aliens. We can’t wait to see what other adventures await us out there in the unknown. – Javy Gwaltney

Platform: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Blazing Orb 
Release: Early Access

Spaera is a solid take on a classic puzzle game, featuring elements of match-three and Tetris. After selecting your character from a pool of attractive choices, the head-to-head action begins. The falling blocks are take a variety of unusual shapes, which made me rethink how I was going to drop them. Both players share the same pool of upcoming tiles, too, so it’s possible to keep track of your opponent’s board and grab pieces that might be particularly advantageous to them. Characters have their own special abilities, which can be saved until they’re maxed out or used in more frequent but less powerful bursts. I opted for the hoarding route, which allowed me to use a particularly rough power, coating my rival’s blocks with a color-masking concrete. He returned the favor by making my playfield pitch black, save for a small illuminated area around my block. Spaera is in Steam Early Access, so if you’re looking for a well-designed puzzle game, give it a shot. – Jeff Cork

Super Meat Boy Forever
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch PC, Linux, iOS, Android
Developer: Team Meat
Release: 2018

Team Meat have done an admirable job of translating the fast-paced, trial-and-error gameplay of Super Meat Boy into an auto-runner. While the levels we played don’t require the deft maneuvering airtime finagling of the original game (not yet, anyway), you have most of Meat Boy’s classic tools at your disposal, and then some. Along with the standard wall jumping (and sliding), you can now duck or dive downward, sliding under low-hanging saws or altering your jumping arc on the fly. You can also punch while airborne, knocking enemies (which now block your path) out of the way. The levels we played were short and likely not the meanest the final game will offer, but the new options should be able to offer the controller-throwing challenge we’ve come to expect from the masters of masocore. – Suriel Vazquez

Treachery in Beatdown City
Platform: Switch, Steam
Developer: Nuchallenger
Release: Fall 2018

At first glance, Treachery in Beatdown City looks like any number of other 8-bit-inspired beat-em-ups we’ve all seen over the years. Once players start to tussle with the nasty residents of this pixelated urban wasteland, things start to get a little more interesting. When an attack connects, the game freezes, and players choose their next moves via an RPG-like menu – whether it’s lining up a devastating combo on an unsuspecting goon or doing your best to mitigate the damage after you’ve been attacked. Positioning matters, too, which adds a surprisingly deep strategic layer to the proceedings. Once I figured out where I needed to be and when before initiating combat, I was able to string together chains of grabs, throws, and strikes that damaged multiple enemies at once. Designer, artist, and writer Shawn Alexander Allen says he based many of the characters from a lifetime of living in New York City. Perhaps if you’re a local (and a memorable weirdo), you might find yourself among the game’s roster of 60 enemies. – Jeff Cork 

Platform: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Andrew Shouldice
Release: 2018A cute Zelda-like with a fox as protagonist, Tunic is a fun time for anyone who likes slashing ghosts, breaking pots, and exploring cute environments. We enjoyed our brief stint with this colorful adventure and hope to play more soon. – Javy Gwaltney

Vroom Kaboom
Platform: PlayStation 4, PSVR, Oculus, Vive, PC
Developer: Ratloop Games Canada 
Release: July 2018

Vroom Kaboom gets points for the name alone. Fortunately, there’s more to it than a clever title. In this free-to-play game, players collect decks of cards and play them in what Ratloop Games Canada calls a tower rush with vehicles. In the demo, I started out by sending a weaponized bus toward my enemy base. I picked up boosts and powerups as I hurtled toward my opponent’s base, finally blasting up a ramp and smashing into my target. Subsequent runs weren’t quite as successful, as my opponent destroyed my planes, bikes, and other post-apocalyptic-themed vehicles before they got nearly as close. Advanced players can send out multiple vehicles simultaneously, risking more resources but potentially reaping the reward that comes with completely overwhelming the other player. You’ll be able to see how well everything blows up next month. – Jeff Cork

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Chucklefish
Release: 2018

A tactical strategy game reminiscent of both Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, Wargroove is both fun as a 15 minute battle session and as a slow burn of a chess match, with you moving across lovely pixelated maps to battle opposing armies. Cute and challenging in equal measure, Wargroove is one to look out for if strategy games are your jam.  – Javy Gwaltney

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