If you ever tire of the glitz and glamor of the mainstream, indie games can provide some of the most unique experiences in the industry. The gap in quality between indie and AAA has shrunken to the point of near-imperceivable in 2023, with creative visions that far exceed their smaller budgets.
Trying to narrow down the field to three entries is no simple feat, but the team at Twinfinite has at long last anointed our trinity of indie greatness and the best indie game of 2023. If you’ve already given these games a go, you’ll know what we mean — and if not, what are you waiting for? You’re missing out on some absolute gems.
3rd Place: Sea of Stars
Freelance Writer Grace Black: When the question of standout Indie titles of 2023 is brought up, Sea of Stars is my immediate first thought. This game takes the classic nostalgic pixel RPG formula and enhances things with gorgeous graphics, fun gameplay, and a simple story that revolves around the tightly-knit friendship held between the three lovable main characters; Zale, Valere, and Garl. These characters are heartwarming, and make the title an absolute joy to experience with their tender, heartfelt speeches and hilarious sarcastic quips towards each other and the world they live in.
Speaking of the world, the pixel art style in Sea of Stars is nothing less than stunning, with every area holding high-quality aesthetics that are brought to life by beautiful dynamic lighting, creating a real sense of magic. Every single location that you can explore is bright, vibrant, eye-catching, and unique, which makes exploration feel so much fun.
Within these various areas are a series of unique monsters to fight against, with battles that utilize timing-based rhythm input for dealing extra damage or blocking incoming hits, which makes combat feel that much more interactive in the old-school turn-based setup. Sea of Stars truly is a heartwarming tale that proves every character (even those without magical abilities) has their strengths, each of which is embraced with nothing but love and appreciation, and a brilliant gameplay experience for any indie fan to enjoy.
2nd Place: Coffee Talk Episode II: Hibiscus & Butterfly
Associate Editor Tony Cocking: I’ve never really been one for telenovelas in the traditional sense, and yet, after my time with Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly, I can affirm that I totally get the appeal now.
Technically, Coffee Talk is a visual novel, though I don’t think that accurately describes how vibrant and alive the world feels. Fleshed out characters new and old wander into your twilight cafe, seeking a warm brew and a sympathetic ear. The gameplay aspect of correctly serving their desired order may seem secondary to the appeal of watching the drama unfold, and yet your barista skills can very well sway the influence of your customers’ lives.
It’s the kind of game you want to play again and again to see where your botched brews sent a particular narrative awry. Perhaps you didn’t listen to the specifics of their order, or you neglected to deliver a requested item. Even the most studious players will slip up here and there, and it’s this organic system of trial-and-error that creates a dynamic, fascinating atmosphere you won’t want to leave.
Also, I’m calling it now: this is one of the the definitive soundtracks of the year. Andrew Jeremy’s lo-fi tunes are your ticket to the finest chill vibes.
Winner: Dave the Diver
Staff Writer Kristina Ebanez: If I had to choose one of the most unexpected games of the year, Dave the Diver would be at the top of the list. It’s a concept I never knew I needed, and now I can’t seem to get enough of it. What initially caught my eye was its incredibly unique gameplay style of running a sushi restaurant while exploring the vast sea. The duality of it all makes Dave the Diver feel like multiple entries packed into one, especially with its updated content that furthers its longevity.
One of the many elements I admire about this game is how significant each session can be. Any creatures you catch, no matter how big or small, can be used for the menu of the day, ultimately shaping the way your business runs. Even though these sea quests can seem minor, it’s much more meaningful when you see your hard work being utilized to benefit your experience. The restaurant will only run if you obtain the product, and vice-versa when you’re strapped for cash with diving. The two blend superbly together, and it’s exceptionally satisfying when you’ve mastered both of them.
But just when you think it can’t get any better, the storyline and cast are the real MVPs of Dave the Diver. I constantly found myself smiling and giggling at all of the adorable and chaotic moments that Dave often gets himself into. Now, I hope to discover another gem like this in 2024 while patiently waiting for a DTD sequel.
We hope you enjoyed this list of the best indie games of 2023 nearly as much as we enjoyed playing them. It’s awards season here at Twinfinite, so make sure to check out our other prizewinners, including our anime of the year or the top underrated anime you need to watch.
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