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The Best Indie Games of GDC 2019

Every year, many of the best and brightest minds in video games converge in San Francisco to attend the Game Developers Conference. Many of them bring along brand new games ready for their moment in the spotlight. From the large GDC Play area and the Indie Megabooth to specially curated showcases hosted by Nintendo and Microsoft, there is no shortage of exciting titles.

Here is an evolving list of the coolest and most interesting indie games the Game Informer crew saw at the conference. Come back each day, as we plan to continually update this list with more promising titles throughout the show.

Games are listed alphabetically.

Afterparty

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Night School Studio
Release: 2019

Night School Studio, the creators of Oxenfree, has a knack for creating unique premises and interesting dialogue. Afterparty is no exception, placing you right in hell. Your only way out? Outdrink satan himself. Apparently, hell is all about alcohol and what you drink impacts your personality, such as making you more aggressive or flirty. This gives you different dialogue options and opens up various paths to completing your objective. 

Our demo had us trying to get into a VIP room. While there are a few different ways to do this, we chose to impress our way in with our beer pong skills. The intense match had us taunting our opponent to get them to fumble and trying our best to aim the ball to reach the cup. All the bars you visit have their own theme, one plays off the bustling Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya, while another puts you in a Nebraska wasteland. The game obviously takes a more comical tone, but also explores the nature of friendship by having your swap between BFFs Milo and Lola, who just graduated from college and end up in hell due to an accident.  Thankfully, you’ll have your chance to drink with the devil and discover more soon enough as Afterparty launches later this year. –Kimberley Wallace

Barotrauma

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Developer: FakeFish, Undertow Games
Release: Spring

We’ve encountered hundreds of different types of games since Game Informer was formed in 1991, but we’ve never played a 2D cooperative online drowning simulator in space before. That’s the descriptor developers FakeFish and Undertow use to explain Barotrauma. In this game, a team of up to 16 players works together to navigate the treacherous waters under the frozen surface of Jupiter’s Europa moon. Each person takes assumes a particular role aboard the ship, from the captain and security officer to the electrical engineers and mechanics needed to keep the sub running. Along the journey, anything that can go wrong will. Monsters attack the ship, forcing players to man the turrets and repair hull breaches before the flooding disrupts vital operations. Crew members get sick, systems fail, fires break out, and when these hazards pop off simultaneously it makes for some frantic play sessions. –Matt Bertz 

Metamorphosis

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Ovid Works
Release: Fall 

Polish studio Ovid Works is using the absurdist classic Franz Kafka short story as inspiration for a brand new puzzle platformer. You take the role of salesman Gregor Samsa, who awakens surprised to find himself transformed into a bug. You must traverse through both mundane and fantastical settings while Samsa wrestles with his existential crisis. The game focuses deliberately on the humor and absurdity of the situation, and the gorgeous, hand-drawn textures make it a treat to explore this microcosmos. Should you get stuck, you can pull up a handy overview camera that changes your perspective and reveals new paths. This five-to-six hour experience drops later this year.  –Matt Bertz

Overland

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Finji
Release: 2019

From the creators of Canabalt comes this new squad-based strategy game that challenges players to survive a journey across a post-apocalyptic United States. Each level is procedurally generated, so every journey is completely new. Unlike a lot of turn-based strategy games, combat in Overland is generally the last resort. Instead, you try to avoid enemy movement as you scavenge for supplies. The early levels I played featured a big focus on syphoning gas out of cars so I could fuel my car and reach my next destination. Along the way, you meet other survivors who can join your party. At night, you use flares to light your way or power generators to light up larger areas. However, generators make a lot of noise and will attracted unwanted attention from flesh-hungry monsters. I was intrigued by my first hands-on with Overland and I’m eager to play more as we get closer to its launch later this year. –Ben Reeves

Sloppy Forgeries 

Platform: PC, Mac, iOS
Developer: Playful Systems
Release: Summer

Fans of Drawful and Draw Something have a new party game to look forward to in Sloppy Forgeries. This two-player competitive local multiplayer pits wannabe artists against one another to try and recreate famous paintings like the Mona Lisa, Starry Night, The Scream, La Danse, and The Whistler’s Mother using a mouse or touchpad. Their forgeries are made all the more hilarious considering they must work under the constraints of a timer to replicate the masterpieces. Watching players rush to mimic these works of art is hilarious, and the game uses a pixel comparison to see who gets closest.  –Matt Bertz

Star Renegades

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Massive Damage, Inc.
Release: 2020

Pixel games are almost ubiquitous with indie gaming, so it takes a lot for one 16-bit inspired game to stand out these days. Star Renegades is one of those gems. Not only does Massive Damage’s stunning pixel work stand out on a crowded floor, the tactical rogue-lite RPG looks to offer a rewarding challenge. You lead a ragtag squad of rebels on a quest to push back against an imperious empire. Combat plays out in a series of turn-based RPG battles. At the bottom of the screen, you always have a clear view of the enemy’s next attack and how much damage they will deliver, so you can better plan your teams counter attacks and combos and know when to defend yourself. Each run is procedurally generated, but players unlock dozens of new characters during their playthroughs, which will better augment your team’s survival strategy. The developer says that they were inspired by games like Dead Cells and Into The Breach, so we’ll see if Star Renegades lives up to that high quality bar when it releases early next year. –Ben Reeves

Supermarket Shriek

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Developer: Billy Goat Entertainment Ltd
Release: 2019

After a hapless shopper runs into a goat on a shopping cart, the odd duo is thrust into a series of oddball races and obstacle challenges. Navigating these challenges is easier said than done, however. If it wasn’t obvious, Supermarket Shriek is a goofy game; your shopping cart is actually propelled by the screams of the goat and the man inside it. This odd propulsion system is also a little unwieldy because Supermarket Shriek features traditional tank controls, so when players hold down the right bumper they will turn right and when they hold down the left bumper they turn left. Naturally, holding down both buttons pushes you forward. Billy Goat Entertainment intentionally designed Supermarket Shriek’s controls to be a little loose, which is where the game’s challenge comes from. Obstacles within each supermarket include fire pits, swinging axes, and giant towers of baked beans. Supermarket Shriek can be played single player, but it plays better as a party game where two players each control either the right or left side of the cart. An alternative mode allows players to scream into microphones in order to control the direction of the cart, but either way you play you’ll probably be screaming at your friends. –Ben Reeves

Wintermoor Tactics Club

Platform: PC
Developer: EVC
Release: 2019

Inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics and Steven Universe, Wintermoor Tactics Club is a lighthearted turn-based tactics game set in an elite boarding school during the 1980s. Players control a group of friends who form a tabletop gaming club at the Wintermoor Academy. However, the survival of their group is threatened when every association at the school is challenged to a giant snowball tournament. These nerdy nobodies are transformed into magical heroes in a series of grid-based snowball battles. EVC is looking to deliver an experience that is very approachable bit still offers some depth for strategy fans. Each hero has only two attacks, but many of their skills combo well with others, which encourages teamwork. For example, Alicia is a warrior mage who unleashes area attack spells and can set the ground on fire, and this works really well with her teammates who can push and pull enemies into the blaze. The snowball tournament kicks off later this year when Wintermoor Tactics Club releases on PC. –Ben Reeves

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