Despite Playstation being favourites in this generation, Microsoft has somewhat kept their heads down and provided exceptional customer care and one hell of a subscription service. Ever since its introduction, Xbox Game Pass has gone from strength to strength, allowing subscribers to play quality titles such as The Witcher 3, Yakuza 0, and Red Dead Redemption 2 all for a modest subscription fee. However, there’s more to the service than just blockbuster titles such as these. Microsoft have also packed out its Game Pass lineup with several high quality indie games. It can be a little overwhelming to see so many games to choose from, so here’s a Top 10 list of the best of indie games that you can download and play right now on Xbox Game Pass.
10. Dead Cells (2018)
Most people remember Dead Cells because of the plagiarism controversy surrounding Filip Mucin and IGN. It’s a shame too, because Dead Cells is a staggeringly good Metroidvania rogue-lite that garnered a lot of attention from media outlets, but never really caught the public eye. Motion Twin have done an incredible job of creating a rich and interesting world with nothing but environmental storytelling and NPC’s. Dead Cells is even compared to Dark Souls because of this.
One of the most impressive elements of Dead Cells is the combat. With a mixture of melee and ranged weaponry, slicing through opponents is effortless, creating an immense feeling of satisfaction. The short cool down times for your abilities means you can sustain an aggressive flow of combat. The weapon variety means that every run feels and plays differently than the last. Every aspect of the combat is sensational, brilliantly designed, and you’ll struggle to find a better rogue-lite in this generation.
9. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one of the most important video games ever made. Not only is it proof that an independent studio can make a stunning, successful, AAA style game, but its depiction of serious mental health issues is one of the best in the medium. Ninja Theory’s depiction of psychosis, in the form of Senua, is realistic, yet carefully touched upon throughout the game. They do an amazing job of putting the player in the shoes of someone suffering from psychosis and with that, opened a door for more discussions about mental health and their depiction in video games.
Apart from that, Hellblade also delivers in the gameplay department, coupling the story with some thrilling combat sections and brain-teasing puzzles. It may be a little short, but if you’re playing it on Xbox Game Pass, then it’s a must-play. Hellblade is the full package, a brilliant experience from beginning to end. With the recent announcement of a second game coming in 2020, there’s isn’t a much better time to play the first game and see what all the hype is about.
8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps (2020)
Xbox haven’t had the best run with exclusives, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps bucks the trend. As far as Xbox exclusives go, it’s the best one by a landslide. Moon Studios deliver a heart-wrenching yet inspiring narrative without any of the principle characters ever speaking a word. It’s a game that’s reduced me to a sobbing wreck on multiple occasions, and the bond between Ori and Ku is the fundamental reason behind that.
The most impressive aspect of Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the speed and fluidity of traversal. In true Metroidvania fashion, there are specific items to collect that will unblock inaccessible areas. Gaining these items gives you increasing amounts of power until you’re flinging yourself around with barely a thought. Combat is fast-paced and you can even incorporate it into the platforming, helping you speed across the landscape even quicker. It’s a gorgeous game with incredible chase sequences and an absolute tearjerker of a story tying it all together.
7. Untitled Goose Game (2019)
Untitled Goose Game took social media by storm last year, making it one of the most popular indie games ever. It’s not very difficult to see why. Most games have you playing as the hero, so it’s refreshing to play a game where your sole aim is to create mayhem. You steal people’s belongings, trap people in garages, and make yourself as much of a nuisance as possible.
But it’s the game’s simplicity which is genius. Having a simple control scheme and premise attracted so many non-gamers that its popularity was inevitable. Anyone can pick it up and play it whether you’re eight or eighty. Its short runtime means that the game never really gets repetitive and the bonus objectives allow players who want more to keep playing. Untitled Goose Game might not be the most exciting or technically impressive game out there, but the way it captured the hearts of the public is legendary.
6. Moving Out (2020)
Whenever I think about local co-op, it brings back memories of my childhood. With only one console between me and my brother, we were always looking for quality game to play together whether they be indie or AAA. Whilst there has been a decline in the genre recently, there’s still a few developers out there committed to providing fun multiplayer games for all the family to play. Moving Out by DevM Games is yet another example.
The premise of the game is simple. With up to three other players, or by yourself, you have to move items out of a house and into a moving truck as quickly as possible. It may sound simple, but large or fragile items make things tricky, as does the silliness of certain situations. It’s a simply wonderful game that aims to be fun for all the family and succeeds in doing so. If you need a game during lockdown to play with your kids or family, then give Moving Out a go.
5. What Remains of Edith Finch (2017)
People often pan walking simulators, with many not even considering them as video games. Obviously I object massively, with games like Firewatch and Gone Home providing us with well-told, interesting stories. However, few others in the genre stack up to the quality of What Remains of Edith Finch, a game that I think beats all the rest. Just because of its storytelling and sheer creativity, it’s a joy to play and experience.
Playing as the titular Edith, the only survivor of the cursed Finch family, you explore the Finch household to uncover the secrets of each family member and their tragic demise. The creativity of the developers is on full display. They transport you into different scenarios, with different mechanics and story-telling methods in each of them. It’s intense, depressing, and tragic, but it’s brilliant.
4. Indivisible (2019)
Indivisible is not a game I went into expecting to like. The developers, Lab Zero Games, were responsible for Skull Girls, a very polished fighting game that garnered a lot of success. It’s not a genre I’m familiar with, yet implementing fighting game mechanics into a turn-based combat system was a stroke of genius. Indivisible quickly became one of my favourite indie games of 2019, possibly of all time.
It’s colourful, has a cast of quirky characters, and a wonderful platforming system. With over twenty characters to choose from, including a pirate and a living Batman spoof, you can shape the combat to your specific liking. Indivisible never really received much attention during awards season, but it’s an RPG that I would highly recommend it. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of turn-based combat, still give it a go.
3. RiME (2017)
Tequila Works were on fire in 2017, releasing two brilliant indie games back to back. RiME is the one that currently lives on Xbox Game Pass, an adventure puzzle game with a heart-wrenching story. Waking up on the shores of a mysterious island, you must explore the lone tower in the middle of the island with a fox as a spirit guide. I won’t go into the story too much as it’s difficult to describe without spoiling, but rest assured, you will shed a tear.
Whilst the puzzles can be easy, it’s the experience in which RiME’s strengths lie. It’s a beautiful game, with cell shaded graphics found in games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The story takes you to different environments, each more splendidly represented than the last. These environments all have symbolic meanings and tie into the story incredibly well, and when you finally unlock the level select screen, you’ll realise how. RiME is a gorgeous game that anyone can play, and you definitely should.
2. The Outer Worlds (2019)
We’re pushing the boundaries of what an indie game can be here. Despite Bethesda’s best efforts to repair the PR disaster that was Fallout 76, Obsidian came along with The Outer Worlds and blew them out of the water. With an incredible story, top-quality writing and a buddy combat system similar to the Mass Effect games, they made the best Fallout experience in almost a decade. Bethesda couldn’t compete.
With multiple branching side quests and meaningful choices, Obsidian gave Fallout fans everything they could ever want. Whilst I think it didn’t live up to expectations, there’s no denying it’s a brilliant RPG. There are loads of different planets to explore and people to meet. The Outer Worlds is a testament to what indie developers can do with no creative leashes and that they know what the public wants.
1. SUPERHOT (2016)
The last game on this list just happens to be the oldest, but there are very little shooters as interesting and unique as SUPERHOT. Billed as a first-person shooter, I think describing it as a puzzle game is more fitting. With enemies only moving at the same time you do and bullets flying at you from every direction, it can be extremely gratifying to grab someone’s Katana out of mid-air and slice an approaching bullet in half.
After every completed level, you’re treated to a sped up version of what you just did. Whilst it can be a tough game in places, the game rewards you so much when you’re successful. SUPERHOT even goes one step further and gives the player a mind-bending story that frequently breaks the fourth wall. It’s an almost flawless shooter than you can have an infinite amount of fun with.
Xbox Game Pass is a constantly changing subscription service, but at the time of writing these indie games are currently available on the service, but that could change. There are so many brilliant indie games on there that narrowing it down to just 10 was difficult. Xbox Game Pass continues to be the best subscription out there at the minute and if Microsoft keep adding games of this quality to the service, then I predict wonderful things for the Xbox Series X.