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Videoverse screenshot showing a fictional video game console that looks like a bulky Nintendo 3DS, as well as some magazines, soda, and a calendar on a desk. Image: Kinmoku

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10 great indie games you might have missed in 2023

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It’s been one of those strange, busy years where any of Polygon’s top 10 games of the year could have made the No. 1 slot. Heck, you could expand that outward to include the top 20. There was a wealth of great games throughout the year, making it impossible to keep up with everything — even here at Polygon, where many of our jobs are to keep up with video games. That’s why we’ve created this list of 10 games you might have missed, all from indie studios. They cover a bunch of different genres, from a goofy multiplayer game to an inventory management roguelike.

Like with Polygon’s list of the top 50 games of the year, there are plenty of fantastic games that slipped through the cracks. Think we’ve missed any extra-special indies from the past year? Drop your favorites in the comments.

Bread & Fred

Art for the co-op platformer Bread and Fred. The illustration shows two penguins. There is a rope attaching the two to each other. One is standing on a rocky ledge and is letting the other jump off the ledge. Image: SandCastles Studio/Apogee Entertainment

Developer: SandCastles Studio
Where to play: Windows PC

Bread & Fred is a game you’re going to want to play with a friend. (Only one of you needs a copy of the game, thanks to Steam’s Remote Play Together.) You’ll play as two penguins tied together on a short rope, tasked with climbing a snowy mountain. It’s hard! The rope is very short, meaning there’s little wiggle room. Communication is key to timing each jump precisely — or you might fall down the mountain once again with a splat. So yes, Bread & Fred is hard, but it’s not impossible. Better yet, its challenge is pretty hilarious when playing with a friend you’re comfortable shouting at — or with. The animations have a slapstick element, making the already silly premise even funnier. —Nicole Carpenter

American Arcadia

Inside an office, there are several computer screens lit up. In the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, there’s a hand holding a cellphone. Image: Out of the Blue Games/Raw Fury

Developer: Out of the Blue Games
Where to play: Windows PC

Trevor, an office drone, wakes up one morning and learns his bosses are conspiring to kill him — and also that his entire life is built on a lie. American Arcadia is set in a ’70s-inspired metropolis called Arcadia, but something’s up with Arcadia: It’s a Truman Show-type widespread deception designed to trick thousands of people into living guilelessly for the entertainment of others. But that’s not American Arcadia’s only trick. One minute you’re bouncing across platforms like any other side-scrolling platformer. The next, you’re solving puzzles from a first-person perspective. Video games don’t often deploy multiple perspectives. Here, the shift is jarring but effective; it puts you on edge — kind of, one imagines, like learning the truth about Arcadia. —Ari Notis

El Paso, Elsewhere

El Paso, Elsewhere - A protagonist shoots his way through a brightly lit hotel room Image: Strange Scaffold

Developer: Strange Scaffold
Where to play: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

If you can’t get enough of Max Payne, you won’t want to miss El Paso, Elsewhere. When vampires and werewolves arrive in a mysterious, supernatural motel, vampire hunter James Savage takes them head-on. What you get is a third-person shooter that revels in PlayStation-era graphics and explosive gameplay, with a narrative that sets the stakes especially high. You see, Savage’s ex is a vampire that’s about to perform a ritual — in that El Paso motel — to end the world. Within the mayhem of El Paso, Elsewhere, there’s a beautiful story about addiction and heartbreak that grounds the game’s physical demons within its metaphorical ones.

Yes, I made a Max Payne comparison — and you’ll see that a lot when reading about El Paso, Elsewhere — but the game is something wholly itself. It’s not to be missed. —NC

A Highland Song

A girl runs up a mountain in the Scottish Highlands in A Highland Song. A deer rushes up in front of her. Image: inkle

Developer: inkle
Where to play: Nintendo Switch, Windows PC

A Highland Song is one of those 2023 latecomers, sneaking into this year’s release calendar on Dec. 5. From the creators of 80 Days and Heaven’s Vault, it’s not a game to be missed. The stylized art style perfectly renders the Scottish Highlands, where Moira is exploring in order to get to the sea. It’s one of those games, like A Short Hike, where the journey is much more important than the destination. Set to music from Scottish folk artists TALISK and Fourth Moon, A Highland Song has so many lovely, warming moments, even when you’re sheltered up in a cave to escape the cold. —NC


A game made on top of Doom, called MyHouse. A person points a gun at a house. Image: Veddge

Developer: Veddge
Where to play: Windows PC

MyHouse.wad is a pretty boring Doom mod. I’m no game designer, and I’m hesitant to repeat a tired line about modern art, but come on: I could have made this! The map is just a typical suburban split-level home. There’s nothing to do but scurry around polygonal furniture, look at tacky domestic art, and shoot some generic Doom enemies. I suspect — if I’m being honest — its elevated reputation stems from its tragic backstory.

A Doomworld user named Veddge released MyHouse.wad on the site’s forum back in March. Veddge was clear from the beginning that MyHouse wasn’t his mod; he’d just polished it up. The original version belonged to Veddge’s childhood friend Tom, who had recently passed away. To honor his pal, he decided to touch up the map into operable shape and share the file with some hardcore Doom nerds — the sort of folks who might appreciate this amateur but lovingly made map.

I appreciate the good intentions. I just can’t understand why anybody would find this normal house all that interesting. I mean sure, the rooms keep moving. And sometimes there’s no way out. And other times I wake up in an empty hospital. But this is just a normal, boring Doom mod. There’s nothing to see here.

Unless none of this is true. —Chris Plante


Videoverse screenshot showing a fictional video game console that looks like a bulky Nintendo 3DS, as well as some magazines, soda, and a calendar on a desk. Image: Kinmoku

Developer: Kinmoku
Where to play: Mac, Linux, Windows PC

Videoverse is a game for those of us nostalgic for the early internet and its intimate communities. When I was a kid, I spent my free time digging into niches on Neopets and talking to strangers about shared interests in AOL chat rooms. I made friends in forums, creating an online world sometimes more enticing than my own real life. Videoverse is all of those things on a fictional forum dedicated to a dying MMO, and it perfectly captures the drama and sadness of letting go. All at once, Videoverse has recreated the frivolous, beautiful, dramatic, and profound ways technology has influenced my life, and maybe yours, too. —NC

A Space for the Unbound

A row of houses in which the centered one is yellow, rendered in pixel art. Several people stand in front of the homes. (Screenshot from A Space for the Unbound) Image: Mojiken/Toge Productions

Developer: Mojiken
Where to play: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

Set in rural Indonesia, A Space for the Unbound is a slice-of-life story of high school sweethearts Atma and Raya, who have a bucket list to fulfill. While A Space for the Unbound is an intimate look into a teenage relationship in ’90s Indonesia, it’s also the backdrop for a larger supernatural power that’s threatening reality — the end of the world. That framing makes for an interesting dichotomy between the scope of the stories: everyday moments paired with otherworldly drama. It’s one of those games that’s so earnest that’s it’s easy to overlook any flaws or bugs while captured by the stakes of the world and its characters. A bonus for pixel art fans: The game is gorgeous! —NC

Tape to Tape

Screenshot from Tape to Tape showing a bunch of hockey players on the ice. One team is wearing orange, the other black. Image: Excellent Rectangle/Null Games

Developer: Excellent Rectangle
Where to play: Windows PC

A hockey game, but make it roguelite! Tape to Tape is in early access, so it hasn’t had its full release just yet. But what it is now is very fun: a game about building a hockey team by hiring players and managing the team. Play in games, of course, with different — not actual hockey-legal — abilities, upgrades, and bribes. Tape to Tape screams ’90s Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, but a lot more wacky. As in other roguelites, losing is fine: It’s an opportunity to upgrade your tools of the trade and get further next time.

Grab some hockey fans in your life for online multiplayer (with Remote Play Together) or on split screen. —NC


Screenshot from Moonring, showing retro pixel boat. On the side, there’s a text input screen. Image: Fluttermind

Developer: Fluttermind
Where to play: Windows PC

Don’t let the old-school visuals fool you: Moonring is one of 2023’s richest video game experiences. Created by Dene Carter, a co-creator of the iconic RPG Fable, the colorful adventure gives players the expansive freedom popularized by games of the 1980s — when graphics played second fiddle to creativity and scope. Trade with unsavory types. Partner with questionable cults. Converse with practically everyone.

Perhaps most importantly for our readers, this Ultima-inspired roguelike is free. Like, free free. At that price, Carter may get his wish of introducing the old ways of game design to new audiences. “I hope Moonring recaptures some of the spirit of those days for you,” Carter writes on the Moonring Steam page. “For those who did not, I hope that the more modern conveniences you find in this game allow you to catch a glimpse of what we did 40 years ago.” —CP

Backpack Hero

A screenshot from Backpack Hero, with a mouse on the bottom of the screen. The backpack is open up top, showing three items, including a sword. Image: Jaspel/Different Tales, IndieArk

Developer: Jaspel
Where to play: Nintendo Switch, Mac, Windows PC

When I can’t sleep, I consider the mysteries of the universe. Like, who came up with the whiskey sour? “Whiskey is amazing, but what if we added raw egg whites?” Backpack Hero’s creators took a similarly audacious approach with the classic dungeon crawler, splicing the genre with the Tetris-like inventory management popularized by Resident Evil 4. Much like the foamy cocktail, the results are delicious.

Generally, I’m hesitant to list back-of-the-box bullet points, but I’m tickled by how big the creators have made a game about backpack organization: There are over 800 items and 100 enemies, you can play as five different heroes, and the dungeons are procedurally generated within a overworld map the player constructs. Like its hero mouse, Backpack Hero punches way above its weight class. And it will keep you up at night, because there’s always time for one more run. —CP