Xbox Game Pass is great value – on there you can find Microsoft classics like Halo and Gears of War as well as Bethesda games like Doom, Fallout, and Dishonoured. Hidden amongst the big hitters are some great indie games and today I wanted to round up ten of my favorite indie games and share them with you.
Let’s dive right into the list.
Cybershadow is a new action platformer which harks back to the days of 8-bit games both in graphical style but also in its difficulty too. It takes inspiration from the classic 2D sidescrolling action, tricky platforming and precise action.
The gameplay in Cybershadow is inspired by Ninja Gaiden. It’s your job to navigate the world, armed with only a sword, to begin with, a use jumps, dodges, and attacks to remove the enemies from your path. The controls are pretty simple – you can attack and jump and that’s pretty much it until you open up a series of power-ups later on in the game. Cybershadow eases you in nice and gentle on the first level, but then the difficulty really ramps up as you get past the first stage. Enemies will attack from the air, ground, and throw projectiles so you’re going to have to have your wits about you at all times.
Undertale is a game about the aftermath of a war between humans and monsters. You are a small human, dropped into the monster world at the start of the game where you wake up and meet a kindly flower, who wants to teach you the ways of the world. You quickly learn that everything is as you expect down here in the monster world and you’re saved by a kindly monster, who has your best interests at heart.
The battle system, much like many other aspects of the game, is different from what you might expect in other RPGs. It changes when you play as different styles, but when you play as a pacifist and try to talk your way out of situations then your opponents attack you with white pellets aiming for your heart and it’s your job to move it out of the way in a bullet-hell dodging manner. Attack enemies and you’ll have to stop a line on a grid to attack at the right time. It mixes things up in the game and offers little surprises like this all the way through.
The writing in Undertale is the real star with the depth and warmth of characters shining through in spades. There’s sharp humour, great character building and story beats along the way that will initially get you hooked and then will warm and break your heart by the end. The writers really convey a sense of knowing its audience and demonstrating the ability to get inside our heads. The passionate fanbase of the game online is a testament to the skill of the writing in Undertale.
CrossCode is an action role-playing game developed by Radical Fish Games and published by Deck13. The game’s development began in 2012 and was later introduced as a crowdfunded project on Indiegogo in early 2015. CrossCode is a retro-inspired 2D action role-playing video game set in the distant future, combining 16-bit Super NES-style graphics with a fast-paced combat system and puzzle mechanics. Players control a mute character named Lea as she plays a fictional MMORPG known as CrossWorlds.
Following a three-year-long early access beta phase, CrossCode was released for Linux, macOS, and Windows in September 2018, and will be released for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One in 2020.
A Plague Tale Innocence
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a great story of brother and sister trying to survive in a harsh world. The game looks fantastic, however, the game is fairly straight forward. It feels like an old school game brought into 2019 with modern technology. The narrative is engaging with some heartfelt moment. I would recommend playing this game if you like single-player narrative-driven stories.
This could be one of the most stylish games you’ll play with hits of Jazz and colour to the extent you’ve never seen before. The concept is simple, just get the Ape Out – and smash everything that gets in your way.
Ape Out is a game about searching for freedom. You play as an Ape in a top-down world and you have to escape a series of levels including a research lab, military bases and ships. The game itself is short, sharp and snappy and feels direct with its intent.
The objective of the game is to get out. You’ll navigate your Ape through corridors, trying to stop the guards from shooting you. There are windows to smash through, doors to rip open and enemies to stop – or smash, whatever stops them from shooting you.
Ape out is procedurally generated so every time you go back the levels will be a little different. The goals remain the same but your path to get there maybe a little different. This kind of game is therefore perfect for a commute, or if you’ve had a bit of a stressful day and just want to smash something.
Enjoyable, funny, great music and graphics. I had fun from the moment I picked it up. This is one of 2019’s indie gems and you should check it out today. I played it on Nintendo Switch but it’s also available on PC and Xbox Game Pass.
In Katana Zero you take on the role of a Ninja working for a mysterious boss who’s sending you out on contracts to take out enemies. It’s one hit kill and you have to plan your attacks carefully as one mistake means instant death. You wield a katana and take on rooms full of enemies by running, jumping, creeping through the shadows (and sometimes dancing) and taking them out one by one.
There’s a couple of core gameplay mechanics. If you die you go back in time to the start of the level (and you’re going to die a lot). Once you’ve planned out your attack and learn the mechanics of the room you take out all the bad guys. There’s also the time-mechanic that allows you to slow down time to deflect bullets or react faster than opponents.
The interesting thing about this game is the scenes in between the action sequences where character development takes centre stage. You hang out at your apartment, often annoyed by your partying neighbours. You speak to your boss who acts like your therapist whilst feeding you drugs you’re clearly dependent on. The character development is unique.
The graphics are 2D pixel art and look great. The music is awesome with atmospheric music for each level. From the thumping beats in a club to the classical music in the bosses office, each set piece offers up great music that compliments the game settings.
Dead Cells is a roguelike Metroidvania game developed by Motion Twin. Levels are procedurally generated keeping the game feel fresh each time with random platforms, obstacles, enemies and items. Combat in the game feels so good too with a fluid and fast feel to the action. A key part of the game is how good the game feels.
The pixel art is beautiful and fluid. Since it’s initial release it’s won many awards including “Best Indie Game” at 2018 Golden Joystick Awards, “Best Action Game” at The Game Awards 2018 and was nominated for “Best Independent Game”.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is an exploration survival game developed and published by Hello Games. The game is built around four pillars: exploration, survival, combat, and trading. Players are free to perform within the entirety of a procedurally generated deterministic open world universe, which includes over 18 quintillion planets. Through the game’s procedural generation system, planets have their own ecosystems with unique forms of flora and fauna, and various sentient alien species may engage the player in combat or trade within planetary systems. Players advance in the game by mining for resources to power and improve their equipment, buying and selling resources using credits earned by documenting flora and fauna, or otherwise seeking out the mystery around the Atlas, an entity at the center of the galaxy which serves the game’s overarching plot.
Sean Murray, the founder of Hello Games, had wanted to create a game that captured the sense of exploration and optimism of science fiction writings and art of the 1970s and 1980s with No Man’s Sky. The game was developed over three years by a small team at Hello Games with promotional and publishing help from Sony Interactive Entertainment. The game was seen as an ambitious project for a small team by the gaming media, and Murray and Hello Games drew significant attention leading to its release.
Hollow Knight is a challenging, beautiful action-adventure game set in the vast, inter-connected underground kingdom of Hallownest. A 2D action game with an emphasis on skill and exploration, Hollow Knight has you fighting a fearsome host of deadly creatures, avoiding intricate traps and solving ancient mysteries as you make your own way through fungal wastes, forests of bone, and ruined underground cities.
The atmosphere is eerie and sometimes unnerving, but there is a good-hearted core of humour and levity in there too, especially when conversing with all of the weird and wonderful NPCs you’ll find along the way. Hollow Knight has beautiful traditional art, fluid and responsive action, challenging but fair gameplay and a bizarre insect world begging to be explored and conquered.
Celeste is a skilful platformer that combines a retro art style, great music and a hard-hitting story in a winning combination. Celeste was a surprise to me but should take pride of place in any gamer’s collection.
The story of Celeste is one of many assets this game has to offer. It’s the story of a girl who wants to climb Celeste Mountain. The main protagonist Madeline clearly has a lot going on and confides in Theo, a fellow traveller she meets early in her journey. Madeline’s going through some tough times with her mental health and reveals in a phone call with her Mum she suffers panic attacks. However, she’s determined to prove to herself she can conquer her demons and overcome this huge obstacle that’s in front of her. At the base of the mountain, Madelin meets an old woman who warns her that along the way she’ll see things that may confuse her as Celeste Mountain has strange effects on those who try to scale the highest peaks. Early on in the game, as Madeline passes a mirror, she sees a reflection of herself in the mirror who breaks free and chases her. Her evil reflection is always putting her down, saying she’s not good enough and is the physical manifestation of “that little voice” in Madeline’s head.
Celeste is a great game and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys video games. The game feels great, rewards players and combines great story beats with gorgeous art and excellent music. I look forward to the upcoming DLC for Celeste and am looking forward to spending more time in this world with Madeline and the crew. If you haven’t played this game, stop what you are doing right now and go and buy it. I played the game on Nintendo Switch and it offers up a perfect companion experience on a plane, train or bus as well as a fine experience sitting in front of a TV with a controller.
That’s not to mention other great games like Streets of Rage 4, Enter The Gungeon, Subnautica, Downwell and Hotline Miami – plus many more too. It’s tough to pick a top ten, but hopefully there are some ideas for you in here if you need a change from the big AAA releases.
Let me know down in the comments your top indie games from Xbox Game Pass.