What You May Have Missed 2023: Indie Video Games

I wanted to start this opening paragraph on a positive note, but I’m going to be honest: 2023 was an extremely awful year for video game developers.  For all of the wonderful and innovative games that were released last year, there always seemed to be news of the people making those games facing extreme hardship.  Between mass layoffs and the encroaching presence of generative AI set to displace human skills, it has been very disheartening to see so many talented and passionate people being tossed aside so executives and shareholders can hold onto the imaginary belief of infinite growth.  To praise the video games I loved, without acknowledging the ongoing hardships the people who actually make games are currently facing, would not sit right with me.  I implore those who are just as passionate about this art form as I am to stay informed and to always try to remember and respect those who made your favourite video games a reality.

With this in mind, I have focused my 2023 “What You May Have Missed” list on a myriad of indie video games whose development teams typically range from the single to the single digits.  Each game here is clearly a creation made from a place of love and passion for the medium, inviting players to take a step into the vibrant worlds they have created and shared.  As with last year’s gaming list, I have decided to organize the game based on age ratings, with games intended for all ages, and containing next to no triggering content on the top.  Meanwhile, games that are only intended for mature and adult audiences, with trigger warnings being an essential thing to read when available, are at the very bottom of the list.  I sincerely hope this list can help you find at least one new video game that intrigues and delights you.

All-Ages (Little to no triggering content, appropriate for any age)

A screenshot of the video game "Feed All Monsters" by DU&I. The screenshot is on Level 121 of the game, as indicated by the centred text on the top of the screenshot. The player has placed the three food delivery worker characters on the three stone starting pads, planned a route for one character, and is still planning the movements of the other two characters, to ensure the five monsters in the level are fed. The game has a cute, cartoon-y art style, which resembles modern animation programs for children. The level is set in a tropical jungle, with a 7 x 7 grid that the player interacts with using the characters. The grid is filled with various terrain types (grass, water, plants, and boulders) that help or hinder character movement to reach the five monsters. The unique stats of each character are on the left side of the screen, while the amount of food needed to feed each monster is represented by a number above the creature.

A screenshot of the video game “Feed All Monsters” by DU&I. The screenshot is on Level 121 of the game, as indicated by the centred text on the top of the screenshot. The player has placed the three food delivery worker characters on the three stone starting pads, planned a route for one character, and is still planning the movements of the other two characters, to ensure the five monsters in the level are fed. The game has a cute, cartoon-y art style, which resembles modern animation programs for children. The level is set in a tropical jungle, with a 7 x 7 grid that the player interacts with using the characters. The grid is filled with various terrain types (grass, water, plants, and boulders) that help or hinder character movement to reach the five monsters. The unique stats of each character are on the left side of the screen, while the amount of food needed to feed each monster is represented by a number above the creature.

Feed All Monsters 

Developer & Publisher: DU&I

Feel All Monsters is a cute, cozy puzzle game where you have to determine the most effective routes to deliver food to all the monsters on a level.  With charming visuals and soothing music, Feed All Monsters was one of the most relaxing games I played this year.  That being said, the puzzles in the game are no slouch and make you consider your character placements, environmental hazards, and power-ups, as the puzzles gradually increase in difficulty.  Recommended for those looking for a creative, low-stress puzzle game.  Available on Steam for Windows.


An image of the video game "i miss when the internet was chronological" by capnka. A black text box is in the center of the image, with the game's title written on it in white pixelated text and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. Behind the text box is a stylized interpretation of a web browser and webpage using pixel art, and is coloured in indigo and white. A light-blue, pixelated computer cursor is present near the bottom left of the webpage. The indigo colour and general appearance of the webpage are meant to resemble the micoblogging website "Tumblr", specifically the "dashboard" that people see and use when interacting with the site and other users’ content through their personal account.

An image of the video game “i miss when the internet was chronological” by capnka. A black text box is in the center of the image, with the game’s title written on it in white pixelated text and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. Behind the text box is a stylized interpretation of a web browser and webpage using pixel art, and is coloured in indigo and white. A light-blue, pixelated computer cursor is present near the bottom left of the webpage. The indigo colour and general appearance of the webpage are meant to resemble the micoblogging website “Tumblr”, specifically the “dashboard” that people see and use when interacting with the site and other users’ content through their personal account.

i miss when the internet was chronological 

Developer & Publisher: capnka

capnka’s debut game, i miss when the internet was chronological, is a title you can complete in about five minutes or less, but the feelings that this game left me stuck with me throughout the year.  A lovely, if melancholic, examination into the Internet of the not-too-distant past.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) via itch.io.


Early Adolescents (Games begin to tackle heavier themes but are still typically light on any content warnings, recommended for players aged ten and up)

A screenshot from the video game "Aelfric the Wondrous" by LadyMeowsith. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the center of the screen in the foreground, a detailed piece of scenery in the background, a rectangular textbox on the bottom of the screen to place character dialogue and narration, and to the left of the textbox a square character portrait that is meant to show the playable character's facial expressions to the player. The textbox reads "Aelfric: I-it was a beginner's mistake." with pixelated font, red text for Aelfric's name and white text for the dialogue. Aelfric, the speaker and playable character, is the character in the portrait on the left, his face flushed and mouth downturned with embarrassment. The character in the center of the screen, Conrad, is smiling with his eyes closed, wearing a straw hat, and sturdy brown work clothes associated with farming in historical European settings. The background is of a farming plot covered in growing plants with a small barn is present.

A screenshot from the video game “Aelfric the Wondrous” by LadyMeowsith. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the center of the screen in the foreground, a detailed piece of scenery in the background, a rectangular textbox on the bottom of the screen to place character dialogue and narration, and to the left of the textbox a square character portrait that is meant to show the playable character’s facial expressions to the player. The textbox reads “Aelfric: I-it was a beginner’s mistake.” with pixelated font, red text for Aelfric’s name and white text for the dialogue. Aelfric, the speaker and playable character, is the character in the portrait on the left, his face flushed and mouth downturned with embarrassment. The character in the center of the screen, Conrad, is smiling with his eyes closed, wearing a straw hat, and sturdy brown work clothes associated with farming in historical European settings. The background is of a farming plot covered in growing plants with a small barn present.

Aelfric the Wondrous

Developer & Publisher: LadyMeowsith

Parodies of the storylines and tropes of Japanese RPGs are not a new phenomenon, but what makes Aelfric the Wonderous special is that it has a great deal of love for the genre alongside an incredibly endearing love story.  From the user interface to the sound design, LadyMeowsith knows and loves her role-playing games.  Combine that with an endearing cast of characters, who undergo realistic character arcs despite their fantastical circumstances, and you have an extremely endearing BL visual novel.  Available on itch.io for the three major PC operating systems.


An image of the video game "hlina" by sukinapan. The majority of the image is a scene of a low-poly landscape, with a two story white house with a red roof on the left side of the image. There are several pink and purple clouds on the horizon. There is a blue-ish purple box on the right side with the portrait of a person whose features are almost entirely obscured aside from their red-ish purple eyes and the subtle light highlighting their hair and hat. Their left eye appears to be crying. Three brown question marks are in the top right corner of the blue-ish purple box, indicating that the figure is confused.

An image of the video game “hlina” by sukinapan. The majority of the image is a scene of a low-poly landscape, with a two-story white house with a red roof on the left side of the image. There are several pink and purple clouds on the horizon. There is a blue-ish purple box on the right side with the portrait of a person whose features are almost entirely obscured aside from their red-ish purple eyes and the subtle light highlighting their hair and hat. Their left eye appears to be crying. Three brown question marks are in the top right corner of the blue-ish purple box, indicating that the figure is confused.

hlina

Developer & Publisher: sukinapan

hlina is another example of a short game that left a long-lasting impression on me.  With a visual style evoking nostalgia for the Internet of the 90s and early 00s, charming pastels, and a delightfully strange sense of humour, this is a point-and-click adventure game that I highly recommend.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) via the developer’s itch.io account, or to digitally or physically purchase as part of Indiepocalypse zine issue #39.


A screenshot of the video game "Lexicon Vitae" by StoneSable. The art style is 8-bit pixels, with the only colours being used are white and two shades of blue, one light and one dark. The screenshot is set in a room resembling Ancient Greek architecture, with various stone columns. A black text box is on the top of the image with white pixelated text and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. The text box reads "Words are over. I'm going to go live in a cave and holler at small animals." Two pixelated humans are on the right side of the image, the one on the left standing, and the one on the right sitting at a desk with a piece of paper in front of them. A pixelated cat is on the left side of the image, and a sparkling object floats to the right of the cat.

A screenshot of the video game “Lexicon Vitae” by StoneSable. The art style is 8-bit pixels, with the only colours being used are white and two shades of blue, one light and one dark. The screenshot is set in a room resembling Ancient Greek architecture, with various stone columns. A black text box is on the top of the image with white pixelated text and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. The text box reads “Words are over. I’m going to go live in a cave and holler at small animals.” Two pixelated humans are on the right side of the image, the one on the left standing, and the one on the right sitting at a desk with a piece of paper in front of them. A pixelated cat is on the left side of the image, and a sparkling object floats to the right of the cat.

Lexicon Vitae

Developer & Publisher: StoneSable

2023 was an amazing year for games made in Bitsy, with several projects being among my favourite games of the year.  Lexicon Vitae stands out for being one of the largest games made in the engine as well as one of the most in-depth in terms of its puzzles.  A unique examination into the history, and meaning, of words in different times and places, this is a game that makes you consider how we all shape history in small but meaningful ways.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) via itch.io.


Teenagers (Games have more notable and intense content warnings which are unavoidable to the gameplay experience, reading up on content warnings is advised before playing, recommended for teenagers and older)

A screenshot of the video game "com__et" by SuperBiasedGary. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the left-center of the screen in the foreground, a photograph scenery in the background, and four semi-transparent grey boxes indicating dialogue options for the player to choose from. The two options on the top are legible and written in white text, while the two options on the bottom are near-illegible and written in grey text. The first text box reads "(sweating profusely) "There's no deal, no deal at all!! He and I are just friends!"" The second text box reads "(bashful) "I don't know what that's supposed to mean, there's nothing special between Him and Me."" The character, known as Her, has short red-violet hair and is wearing a lavender-coloured vest with three buttons over her left breast pocket, over a white and pink long-sleeved crop top. Her facial expression is pensive and frustrated. Her right hand is curled into a fist sitting on her hip, while her left arm hangs casually to her side. In the background is a photograph of a park, with metal railings and various trees and other foliage visible.

A screenshot of the video game “com__et” by SuperBiasedGary. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the left-center of the screen in the foreground, a photograph scenery in the background, and four semi-transparent grey boxes indicating dialogue options for the player to choose from. The two options on the top are legible and written in white text, while the two options on the bottom are near-illegible and written in grey text. The first text box reads “(sweating profusely) “There’s no deal, no deal at all!! He and I are just friends!”” The second text box reads “(bashful) “I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, there’s nothing special between Him and Me.”” The character, known as Her, has short red-violet hair and is wearing a lavender-coloured vest with three buttons over her left breast pocket, over a white and pink long-sleeved crop top. Her facial expression is pensive and frustrated. Her right hand is curled into a fist sitting on her hip, while her left arm hangs casually to her side. In the background is a photograph of a park, with metal railings and various trees and other foliage visible.

com__et 

Developer & Publisher: SuperBiasedGary 

Illustrations: esshemasha

com__et is one of the most difficult video games on this list to talk about, considering that it is a game that must be played to be fully experienced and appreciated.  A creative showcase of the unique type of storytelling only visual novels can achieve, this title is a delight to discover and experience, especially for those looking for a compelling queer narrative.  Available on Steam & itch.io for the three major PC operating systems and Android via itch.io.


A screenshot of the video game "Grow Light" by Danielle Taphanel. The art style is 8-bit pixels, with the only colours being used are three different shades of green. The screenshot is set in a room resembling a laboratory. A black text box is on the bottom of the image with green pixelated text that is written in a way that resembles a wave, and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. The text box reads "Every day we wake, are born, live, slumber, and die." The room has three plots for greenery on the right side of the screen, with three plants being highlighted by being light green. A humanoid figure is standing next to one of these plants, the same shade of green as the plants and other interactable objects in the room. To the left of the room are tables and various pieces of biological research equipment such as a display and glass containment units. The number six is written on the wall on the left side of the screen, indicating the room number.

A screenshot of the video game “Grow Light” by Danielle Taphanel. The art style is 8-bit pixels, with the only colours being used are three different shades of green. The screenshot is set in a room resembling a laboratory. A black text box is on the bottom of the image with green pixelated text that is written in a way that resembles a wave, and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. The text box reads “Every day we wake, are born, live, slumber, and die.” The room has three plots for greenery on the right side of the screen, with three plants being highlighted by being light green. A humanoid figure is standing next to one of these plants, the same shade of green as the plants and other interactable objects in the room. To the left of the room are tables and various pieces of biological research equipment such as a display and glass containment units. The number six is written on the wall on the left side of the screen, indicating the room number.

Danielle Taphanel’s Bitsy Games

Danielle Taphanel’s three Bitsy games (Grow Light, Well Tended, and >DELIVERY) showcase the game engine’s ability to distill a specific mood and convey it in a short, yet impactful, narrative experience.  Through various shades of green, Taphanel creates evocative locations, from decaying cityscapes to Death’s garden.  Their games offer a melancholic examination of life, loneliness, and plants that leave a lasting impact.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) via itch.io.


Screenshot of the video game "Neko Can Dream" by Amaitorte (Nekobungi Sumire). The unnamed protagonist approaches a light in an underwater area, with a submerged cityscape behind them. The graphics are pixels reminiscent of games developed for the Nintendo Game Boy, and the colours present are pink, grey, and purple.

Screenshot of the video game “Neko Can Dream” by Amaitorte (Nekobungi Sumire). The unnamed protagonist approaches a light in an underwater area, with a submerged cityscape behind them. The graphics are pixels reminiscent of games developed for the Nintendo Game Boy, and the colours present are pink, grey, and purple.

Neko Can Dream

Developer & Publisher: Amaitorte (Nekobungi Sumire)

Neko Can Dream is an atmospheric queer-friendly adventure game about a non-binary cat-eared person who dives into people’s dreams.  With a quirky cast of characters and fantastical settings, this is a perfect game for those who are looking for an imaginative and heartfelt narrative with smart puzzles.  The game does touch upon heavy topics related to queerphobia, specifically cissexism, that are un-mentioned in its content warnings, so please be aware of this before playing.  Digitally available on the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.  Physical Game Boy-compatible ROM Cartridges are available via AliceBooks and Pico-Tsuhan.


A screenshot of the video game "Stillwater" by Studio Clump. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the center of the screen in the foreground and a detailed piece of scenery in the background. There is text on the bottom of the screen that reads "Noah: "Ah, I'm sorry big guy."" with the name Noah being written in periwinkle blue text and the dialogue written in white text. The scene is set in the brown interior of a car, driving towards in the early morning fog. A brown bloodhound is in the foreground of the scene, wearing a blue collar with a golden identification tag, his skin folds covering his eyes. Two grey character portraits are present in the upper-left center and upper-right center of the screen showing two different characters. The man on the left has messy short brown hair, a disgruntled expression on his face and is wearing a grey overcoat. The man on the right has flowy navy-black hair that goes down to his chin, a charming smile on his face and is wearing a light blue jean jacket.

A screenshot of the video game “Stillwater” by Studio Clump. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the center of the screen in the foreground and a detailed piece of scenery in the background. There is text on the bottom of the screen that reads “Noah: “Ah, I’m sorry big guy.”” with the name Noah being written in periwinkle blue text and the dialogue written in white text. The scene is set in the brown interior of a car, driving towards in the early morning fog. A brown bloodhound is in the foreground of the scene, wearing a blue collar with a golden identification tag, his skin folds covering his eyes. Two grey character portraits are present in the upper-left center and upper-right center of the screen showing two different characters. The man on the left has messy short brown hair, a disgruntled expression on his face and is wearing a grey overcoat. The man on the right has flowy navy-black hair that goes down to his chin, a charming smile on his face and is wearing a light blue jean jacket. 

Stillwater

Developer & Publisher: Studio Clump

Originally developed and released for the Spooktober Visual Novel Jam in 2021, Stillwater has been remastered to expand and polish an already engaging detective narrative.  Studio Clump went above and beyond with their visual and audio design to create such a creepy, atmospheric experience.  Hugo and Noah are extremely engaging leads with their personal histories just begging to be further examined, which makes me hope we haven’t seen the last of them, and the delightful dog, Colby.  Available on Steam & itch.io for the three major PC operating systems and Android via itch.io.


A screenshot of the video game "The Moon Looks Beautiful Tonight" by Team Cetacity. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the center of the screen in the foreground, a detailed piece of scenery in the background, a rectangular textbox on the bottom of the screen to place character dialogue and narration. To the top-left corner of the screen has a character portrait detailing the player character, Rose. The textbox reads "Rose: Ah, hey, Vi..! You're up early!" with pixelated font, salmon text for Rose's name and white text for the dialogue. The character on the center of the screen, Violet, is wearing a futuristic blue outfit that resembles a pilot's jacket, an orange visor over her eyes and blue headphones over her ears. The background is set in a corridor of a space station, with the window to the left looking out on a moon with a large impact crater and debris. Rose's character portrait has her wearing red headphones, and a red top with spaghetti straps. Below Rose's portrait are two heart monitors reading 56 beats per minute. To the right of the interface are two thermometers, the one on the left showing degrees Fahrenheit and the one on the right showing degrees Celsius.

A screenshot of the video game “The Moon Looks Beautiful Tonight” by Team Cetacity. The screenshot uses the interface typically found in visual novels, with a non-player character sprite in the center of the screen in the foreground, a detailed piece of scenery in the background, a rectangular textbox on the bottom of the screen to place character dialogue and narration. To the top-left corner of the screen has a character portrait detailing the player character, Rose. The textbox reads “Rose: Ah, hey, Vi..! You’re up early!” with pixelated font, salmon text for Rose’s name and white text for the dialogue. The character on the center of the screen, Violet, is wearing a futuristic blue outfit that resembles a pilot’s jacket, an orange visor over her eyes and blue headphones over her ears. The background is set in a corridor of a space station, with the window to the left looking out on a moon with a large impact crater and debris. Rose’s character portrait has her wearing red headphones, and a red top with spaghetti straps. Below Rose’s portrait are two heart monitors reading 56 beats per minute. To the right of the interface are two thermometers, the one on the left showing degrees Fahrenheit and the one on the right showing degrees Celsius.

The Moon Looks Beautiful Tonight

Developer & Publisher: Team Cetacity

Evoking the style of PC-98 visual novels, The Moon Looks Beautiful Tonight is a delightful, if nerve-racking, story about two maintenance workers trapped, both literally and metaphorically, on a space station.  When the Heart powering the station suddenly stops, the pair will have to take a chance and step into the unknown, even if it terrifies them.  Excellently written in how the internal and external conflicts combine, alongside delightful visual and audio design, make this an excellent queer sci-fi story.  Available on itch.io for the three major PC operating systems.


A gif of the video game "homebody" by xexzee. The scene is a European town at night, stylized in 8-bit pixels. A waning crescent moon is on the upper-left side of the screen and several stars are present in the sky. The moon and stars twinkle as the gif progresses. The only colours present are yellow and two shades of navy blue. A black text box is on the bottom of the image with white pixelated text and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. The text box reads "i'm in my own head so much i've probably lost my mind."

A gif of the video game “homebody” by xexzee. The scene is a European town at night, stylized in 8-bit pixels. A waning crescent moon is on the upper-left side of the screen and several stars are present in the sky. The moon and stars twinkle as the gif progresses. The only colours present are yellow and two shades of navy blue. A black text box is on the bottom of the image with white pixelated text and a white pixelated arrow pointing downwards. The text box reads “i’m in my own head so much i’ve probably lost my mind.”

xexzee’s Bitsy Games

Among the selection of amazing Bitsy games released this year, the games xexzee created in the engine, where does art go when it dies? and homebody, are two of the most visually striking titles I have played to date. Their two games are distinct in terms of tone, but share a theme of how art can impact us and shape the way we view and appreciate the world.  That being said, there is a melancholy to the narratives that cannot be avoided, especially in homebody which touches upon some heavy subject matter that may prove distressing for some players.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) via itch.io.


Mature and Adult Audiences (Games that are intended to only be played by adults, as they tackle subject matter that is not intended for children and may feature intense/disturbing writing, visuals and/or audio.  Reading content and trigger warnings before playing these games is strongly advised)

A screenshot of the video game "59 FUCKS THE MACHINE" by gaybreast. The screenshot shows two rectangular panels, both showcasing a woman crawling through a metallic vent at different angles, the top panel being of her right side and the bottom panel showing her front. She is visibly exhausted, as evidenced by the sweat on her face, drooping eyes, and her mouth open to get more air. She is wearing a flashlight on her right shoulder. There are lines of text on the top of the image that read "It wasn't that she trusted her own intuition more than logic, exactly. But there was a certain tug in her stomach that she couldn't quite shake." On the left and right sides of the image are a variety of wires. The only colours present in the image are various shades of green, blue and brown.

A screenshot of the video game “59 FUCKS THE MACHINE” by gaybreast. The screenshot shows two rectangular panels, both showcasing a woman crawling through a metallic vent at different angles, the top panel being of her right side and the bottom panel showing her front. She is visibly exhausted, as evidenced by the sweat on her face, drooping eyes, and her mouth open to get more air. She is wearing a flashlight on her right shoulder. There are lines of text on the top of the image that read “It wasn’t that she trusted her own intuition more than logic, exactly. But there was a certain tug in her stomach that she couldn’t quite shake.” On the left and right sides of the image are a variety of wires. The only colours present in the image are various shades of green, blue and brown.

59 FUCKS THE MACHINE

Developer & Publisher: gaybreast

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good erotic game but personally, the best kind is those that have a wonderful story that is interwoven with, and integral to, the sex scenes.  With one of the best-executed bookends in a visual novel I’ve seen, exceptional character writing and world-building, and fantastic visual and audio design, 59 FUCKS THE MACHINE  is a game you don’t want to miss.  The fact that it has some of the hottest, and strangest, sex scenes in a video game I’ve played is frankly just the cherry on top.  Available on itch.io for the three major PC operating systems.


A gif image of the video game "A Circle of Charity" by Bagenzo. The game's title is present in a green computer window in the upper right corner of the image in pixelated font. The words "A Visual Novel" are written in white pixelated text on the bottom left corner of the screen. A desk featuring a classic gif of a desktop computer, keyboard and mouse is present in the center of the image and a classic gif of a steaming tea cup is next to the computer. Two classic gifs of angels are on the left side of the image, the top one is in an anime-inspired art style and the bottom one resembles the "Precious Moments" figurines.

A gif image of the video game “A Circle of Charity” by Bagenzo. The game’s title is present in a green computer window in the upper right corner of the image in pixelated font. The words “A Visual Novel” are written in white pixelated text on the bottom left corner of the screen. A desk featuring a classic gif of a desktop computer, keyboard and mouse is present in the center of the image and a classic gif of a steaming tea cup is next to the computer. Two classic gifs of angels are on the left side of the image, the top one is in an anime-inspired art style and the bottom one resembles the “Precious Moments” figurines.

A Circle of Charity

Developer & Publisher: Bagenzo

Music: Bagenzo & fotocopiadora

A Circle of Charity made my jaw drop with its visual design.  Taking cues from Internet browsers, iconography, and gifs from the Internet of the ’90s and early ’00s, right down to the “broken image” icons, the aesthetics of this game are among some of the best I’ve ever seen in any game, visual novel or otherwise.  That being said, this is hands down one of the most heartbreaking narratives I’ve played in 2023, so reading the content warnings is strongly advised before diving in.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) via itch.io.


A screenshot of the video game "BOSSGAME: The Final Boss is My Heart" by Lilycore Games. The screenshot is of a boss battle with the character "Sam Captain", as evidenced by the orange half-full health bar in the upper right corner of the screen. The two player characters are shown on the bottom of the screen, with their black and white character portraits, full yellow health bars next to them and a blue "Grand Finale" bar which is over half full placed between both characters. Sam Captain is wearing a jester's cap, a poncho, and a tie, their face in tears. In front of Sam Captain are two smaller figures wearing propeller caps, the one on the left is holding a blue waning crescent moon shield and the one on the right is holding an orange sun shield. The player character on the left has a moon symbol and a sword symbol to the left of her portrait, and the character on the right has a sun symbol and a flame symbol to the right of her portrait. The scene is set inside a mansion, with a red carpet, two curved grand staircases, and a set of red double doors in the background. A cartoon-y pixel art style is used for the characters.

A screenshot of the video game “BOSSGAME: The Final Boss is My Heart” by Lilycore Games. The screenshot is of a boss battle with the character “Sam Captain”, as evidenced by the orange half-full health bar in the upper right corner of the screen. The two player characters are shown on the bottom of the screen, with their black and white character portraits, full yellow health bars next to them and a blue “Grand Finale” bar which is over half full placed between both characters. Sam Captain is wearing a jester’s cap, a poncho, and a tie, their face in tears. In front of Sam Captain are two smaller figures wearing propeller caps, the one on the left is holding a blue waning crescent moon shield and the one on the right is holding an orange sun shield. The player character on the left has a moon symbol and a sword symbol to the left of her portrait, and the character on the right has a sun symbol and a flame symbol to the right of her portrait. The scene is set inside a mansion, with a red carpet, two curved grand staircases, and a set of red double doors in the background.  A cartoon-y pixel art style is used for the characters.

BOSSGAME: The Final Boss is My Heart

Developer & Publisher: Lilycore Games

With a myriad of unique boss battles, both in terms of visual style and gameplay, BOSSGAME was one of the most creative and challenging games I played in 2023.  That being said, this is also one of the most impressive games I’ve played in terms of accessibility settings, with an assortment of options that assist the player in going through the title at their own pace without frustrating them.  Add a delightfully charming cast of queer characters and the catharsis of taking down shitty authority figures, and BOSSGAME is a unique game for those looking for an extra challenge.  Available on Steam and itch.io for Windows & macOS, the App Store for iOS, and itch.io & Google Play for Android.


A screenshot of the video game "It gets so lonely here" by ebi-hime.  Two rectangles are present, the one on top features an illustration of the characters, and the bottom rectangle, which is red and surrounded by roses and vines, is a textbox to place character dialogue and narration.  The textbox reads "Though your body is aching, the princess's touch is gentle, and you find yourself leaning into it subconsciously."   The illustration depicts two girls, inside a dungeon surrounded by four long-decayed skeletons, one wearing a cook’s apron and another a maid’s dress.  The one on the left has long blonde hair, wearing a crown and a black and red regal dress, smiling fondly as she cups the other girl's face with her right hand. The girl on the right has pink hair, a plain white shirt, her hand bound above her head in rusty shackles, her easy watery with unshed tears, and a terrified expression.

A screenshot of the video game “It gets so lonely here” by ebi-hime.  Two rectangles are present, the one on top features an illustration of the characters, and the bottom rectangle, which is red and surrounded by roses and vines, is a textbox to place character dialogue and narration.  The textbox reads “Though your body is aching, the princess’s touch is gentle, and you find yourself leaning into it subconsciously.”   The illustration depicts two girls, inside a dungeon surrounded by four long-decayed skeletons, one wearing a cook’s apron and another a maid’s dress.  The one on the left has long blonde hair, wearing a crown and a black and red regal dress, smiling fondly as she cups the other girl’s face with her right hand. The girl on the right has pink hair, a plain white shirt, her hand bound above her head in rusty shackles, her easy watery with unshed tears, and a terrified expression.

It gets so lonely here

Developer & Publisher: ebi-hime

Illustrations: mossinasi

GUI: Elduator

Music: yuzuki

It gets so lonely here was a pleasant surprise to me, by being one of the most tightly written visual novels I have experienced, with one of the best video game narrators at that.  A chilling game about being locked in a seemingly endless cycle of suffering, this is a game for those who enjoy grim, sapphic fairy tales.  Available on Steam & itch.io for the three major PC operating systems and Android via itch.io.


A gif of the interactive fiction narrative "MY BROTHER; THE PARASITE" by qrowscant.  The words "I Would Go..." are written in yellow text on the top of the screen, which are then clicked on by the mouse to reveal the image of various blank Polaroid photographs, and two links the one on the left reading "Somewhere Safe" and the one on the right reading "Somewhere Familiar".  The mouse hovers over the left option, turning the photographs into leafless branches of trees, and then the over right option which reveals the obscured faces of various people.  The photographs are only in black and white.  The mouse then hovers back to the left option and then to the right option again, changing the images accordingly

A gif of the interactive fiction narrative “MY BROTHER; THE PARASITE” by qrowscant.  The words “I Would Go…” are written in yellow text on the top of the screen, which are then clicked on by the mouse to reveal the image of various blank Polaroid photographs, and two links the one on the left reading “Somewhere Safe” and the one on the right reading “Somewhere Familiar”.  The mouse hovers over the left option, turning the photographs into leafless branches of trees, and then the over right option which reveals the obscured faces of various people.  The photographs are only in black and white.  The mouse then hovers back to the left option and then to the right option again, changing the images accordingly

qrowscant’s Twine Games

Interactive fiction is a medium that can blur the line between video games and prose in a way I find utterly remarkable.  qrowscant’s debut titles made in Twine, Childhood Homes (and why we hate them) and MY BROTHER; THE PARASITE are both among the very best.  These are two awe-inspiring tales in terms of their ability to craft effective horror stories and contain some of the most creative visual presentations of text and imagery in any medium I have encountered.  Available to play on a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.) through itch.io.


Image Sources: All images of these video games belong to their respective developers.  Creators are free to contact me if they wish to have an entry discussing their work edited, or removed, or to have any image descriptions edited or changed for clarity.

Patricia Baxter's Autistic Observations