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)

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.

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What You May Have Missed: Indie Game Recommendations

To say that the 2020s have been an extremely exhausting decade thus far would be a huge understatement.  For people working in various creative fields, this exhaustion has come with many additional hurdles as traditional, in-person, means of advertising their art were not available, particularly during the early years of the pandemic.  Thankfully, various different forms of community awareness have made it possible for various video games and comics to reach a wider audience, be it through “Nintendo Direct” inspired showcases for indie games, digital comic festivals, or positive word of mouth on social media.  That being said, it is difficult for every single title released to get the spotlight, as so many wonderful video games and comics have been released this decade, both independent and mainstream, and many more are planned for release in the near future.  That is why I have decided to do my part in signal-boosting a variety of titles that I personally loved and enjoyed these past few years so that more people are able to discover and enjoy them for themselves.  

This post will focus on fourteen independent video games that were released during the three-year time period of 2020 to 2022, as well as one developer who has released several titles throughout this time period.  The titles all vary in terms of art style and gameplay, but many common themes within them are queer positivity, creative game design, and a strong narrative focus.  I have also chosen to list these titles in terms of both age appropriateness and inclusion of potentially triggering content.  This means that titles that can be enjoyed at any age and have next to no triggering content are at the top of the list, while games that are only intended for adults and have severely triggering content are at the very bottom of this list.  This is based partially on my subjective experience of playing said games, the developers’ own descriptions and discussions of the games in their own words, and any age ratings available in digital stores.

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