14.06.2024

Top Indie Games Highlighted at the 2024 Summer Games Showcases

This year's series of showcases has often been referred to as 'The Year of the Indie,' and rightly so.

Showcases like Guerrilla Collective, Wholesome Direct, and Day of the Devs highlighted exceptional indie games. These unique titles even made their way into prominent events such as Summer Game Fest and the Xbox Games Showcase. Throughout the week, numerous games from small or solo developers showcased innovative ideas, novel storytelling from diverse cultures, and a fun and imaginative spirit often missing in big-budget games focused on realism or high-intensity action.

Much like last year, the team at GamesIndustry.biz wanted to shine a light on some standout titles that may have been overshadowed by the bigger, more established franchises. Here are our top picks from the 2024 summer games showcases.

Fear the Spotlight gameplay screenshot

Christopher Dring, Head of GamesIndustry.biz

During my time in LA for the summer games showcases, I couldn't watch all the countless announcement videos. In total, over 700 games were displayed, with more than 70 announcements from some events alone—highlighting the industry's discoverability issue.

While it was impossible to view every video, I managed to play a few games, and two stood out to me.

First, Fear the Spotlight by Cozy Game Pals, under the new Blumhouse Games label, caught my attention. This game, with its late 1990s aesthetic, features two friends, Vivian and Amy, who sneak into a school to retrieve a Ouija board. When things go wrong, Amy vanishes, leading to a Silent Hill-like experience. The demo included evading security cameras, unlocking doors, and escaping a fire, with sound design heightening the suspense.

Another standout was Harmonium: The Musical, showcased in Netflix's space at Play Days. This mobile puzzle game, crafted by The Odd Gentlemen and written by Matt Daigle, challenges players to communicate using sign language. Inspired by real communication hurdles faced by Daigle and other deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, this accessible, educational, and engaging game will be available to Netflix and Game Pass users.

Wanderstop screenshot

Marie Dealessandri, Deputy Editor

Despite new releases, my favorite title from last year, Neoludic Games' Tiny Bookshop, remains high on my wish list. Seeing it again at Wholesome Direct 2024 was a delight. The demo, with its beautiful artwork, charming writing, and more complex management elements than expected, was a pleasure. I eagerly anticipate its release in 2025.

Among the new games that resonated with me this year were While Waiting, Winter Burrow, and Wanderstop—all coincidentally starting with 'W'.

Developed by Davey Wreden's new studio Ivy Road, Wanderstop initially appears as a cozy sim, but reveals deeper layers as protagonist Alta transitions from adventurer to tea shop worker. The game explores themes of longing for a past life while adapting to new realities. Its trailer was a highlight for me, and I'm excited to dive into this narrative.

On the other hand, Winter Burrow, Pine Creek Games' debut title, presents a "cozy take on the survival crafting genre." Its art style evoked memories of childhood books, drawing me in with its warmth. The game is scheduled for release early next year.

Finally, from Optillusion, While Waiting offers a quirky concept: a game where patience is key to victory. As someone both impatient and a completionist, the idea of conflicting personalities within a game fascinates me. I'm eagerly awaiting its release.

Mixtape game screen

Sophie McEvoy, Staff Writer

Surprisingly, there are games on my radar this year outside of Remedy's offerings, even though I'm about to dive into my eighth playthrough of Alan Wake 2. During Summer Game Fest, numerous indie games caught my attention, with about a dozen making it to my wishlist. However, there are three in particular that I am especially eager to experience.

The one that stood out the most is Beethoven and Dinosaur's Mixtape. This game promises nostalgia, blending beloved music with skateboarding and a unique two-step animation. While it's said to draw inspiration from '80s and '90s coming-of-age films, its trailer presents a refreshing vibe all its own.

Another game tugging at my heartstrings is Nomada Studio's side-scroller Neva. Its stunning visuals and the concept of nurturing a wolf pup into a forest deity are reminiscent of Princess Mononoke, especially with its rich environmental storytelling. I'm certain this adventure will captivate me and leave me emotionally stirred.

Similarly moving is Lifeline Games' Deer & Boy. In this game, you play as a young runaway who bonds with a fawn, transforming it into a loyal companion. I anticipate an emotional journey with this one as well.

Beyondthosehill's Albert Wilde: Quantum PI, however, caught me off guard. This film noir-inspired game features an anthropomorphic cat detective. Its unique and quirky approach to the noir genre, combined with intriguing first-person gameplay, makes it an exciting prospect.

James Batchelor, Editor-in–Chief

This year's indie titles selection was particularly difficult, but two entries from Day of the Devs managed to stand out prominently.

The first is Crescent Moon Games' Screenbound, a first-person puzzle platformer that transcends its genre label. In this game, players navigate a 3D environment while simultaneously managing a 2D version of the same space on a device akin to a Game Boy. Elements on this device may be absent in the 3D world, requiring players to effectively juggle two games.

To fully appreciate its innovative concept, one needs to see it in action, or better yet, play it. The inventive mechanic evokes comparisons to seminal games like Portal and Viewfinder, which redefined how players think about navigating their environments. It is absolutely on my day-one purchase list.

As an enthusiast of time travel narratives, Soup Island's Hello Again immediately intrigued me. This top-down adventure, crafted by solo developer Dwight Davis, centers on a postal worker raccoon delivering a package to an island trapped in a 12-hour time loop. The island's environmental changes influence the gameplay, involving players in an exploration to solve puzzles and understand the local inhabitants to break free from the loop. Its stunning hand-drawn art and open-ended gameplay, reminiscent of Majora's Mask and Link's Awakening, make it highly anticipated for me.

Magic Rain Studios' Ila: A Frosty Glide, showcased during Wholesome Direct, also deserves mention. With charming vibes similar to A Short Hike, this game follows a young girl aspiring to be a witch, who roams her island on a skate broom. Simply put, it's enchanting.

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