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Home / Features / Indie greats: the best indie games of January 2024

Indie greats: the best indie games of January 2024

Shining a light on the indie scene, including mods, ports, and Pals…


With so many game releases, it’s hard to keep track of what’s out there apart from the big hitters. But we want to change that, and take a look at some of the best indie games released this month.

Indie is a pretty nebulous word these days. Much like in film and music, it’s become less to describe the production and conditions of making a game and almost more a genre or aesthetic in its own right. But indie games can vary widely. They’re certainly not all just pixel-art or 2D games, nor are they necessarily smaller experiences or even that low profile. After all, the biggest most talked about game of 2024 so far is an indie game.

And so it’s only right to show indie in its full breadth, from the surprise viral hits to the small-scale experiences, while also including games that are in early access or even just mods, which is how some of the most successful games in the past decade started out.

Palworld (PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One)

With more than 5 million sales racked up within days of release, and for a game that’s only in early access, Palworld is impossible to ignore right now, even as its popularity is also generating a lot of controversy.

But the ‘Pokémon with guns’ label doesn’t quite do it justice, although the brazen rip-off/winking parody of Game Freak’s beloved creatures given a darker edgy twist is what immediately sticks out. In truth, Japanese studio Pocket Pair have liberally magpied from just about every other trendy game in recent years, from Fortnite to Breath of the Wild to Genshin Impact. Fundamentally, it plays most like the sandbox survival games of ARK and Valheim crossed with automated factory sims.

Within that are the very Pokémon-like mechanics where you fight creatures in the wild called Pals then capture them with Pal Spheres who you can then have fight alongside you against other Pals or human enemies. Different from Pokémon is that you can also put them to work at your base, using their skills for farming resources, building new facilities, and of course, eventually make guns. If that doesn’t already put a dystopian spin on creature collecting, it turns out you can also capture and enslave humans the same way.

Portal: Revolution (PC)

While Valve sadly seems to have no plans to make another sequel to its excellent first-person puzzler series Portal, this community-made mod is the next best thing.

It’s a prequel set between the first two games as you play another unnamed test subject trying to make their way through the now decaying Aperture facility. There’s 40 new test chambers to put your portal gun skills to the test, which also introduces mechanics conceptualised but never fully implemented in the official games.

But Portal is also known for its brilliant storytelling and so what raises the bar in Revolution, especially as a community-made mod, is that it also features some stellar voice acting and dialogue as you’re guided by a new AI sphere called Stirling, while you’ll bump into other characters too. Sure, there might not be GLaDOS this time around, but it’s definitely worth checking out for fans, especially as it’s a free mod (though you’ll need to have Portal 2 installed on your Steam library to run it).

Immortality (PS5, also out on PC, Mac, Xbox Series X/S, iOS, Android)

An unfinished trilogy of movies in an interactive game, Immortality tasks you with discovering the mystery of what happened to these films’ lead actress Marissa Marcel by exploring her three unreleased films, spanning different time periods, styles and genres, consisting of raw single takes, rehearsals and behind-the-scenes footage.

The latest PS5 port is even more of a treat thanks to the DualSense difference, using both the haptics and speakers to give the feeling that you really are using an old moviola editor to explore all of these fragmented pieces of lost film. The real magic is of course on the screen where you essentially play the role of film editor, selecting on any person or object that catches your attention to move you into another piece of footage – the cinematic match cut as a sublime teleport trick.

All the while there’s something else strange and perhaps otherworldly that ties these films together just hiding under the surface. If you haven’t been exposed to Immortality since it first released in 2022 on Game Pass and then Netflix last year, it feels vital not to have anything spoiled. For those already familiar with it, you just wish you could do a memory wipe and experience it all again.

Room of Depression (Switch, also out on PC)

A decade ago saw the release of Depression Quest, an interaction fiction game that explored what it was like living with depression, drawing controversy from certain quarters of what constitutes a game at the time. Fortunately, the medium has evolved in the past decade where even mainstream games feel comfortable exploring serious themes like mental health.

Room of Depression certainly shares some similarities with Depression Quest in trying to help players better understand the condition, though it tries to focus on the atmosphere and experience of depression rather than its symptoms. Visualised in an episodic comic book panel format, you follow Moon, a seemingly normal young woman working an office job in the city, but gradually delve into how depression makes her daily life more difficult, whether it’s trying to talk to a colleague or focusing on work without thoughts and baggage getting in the way.

Turnip Boy Robs a Bank (PC, Switch, Xbox One)

Having made his debut back in 2021 with the very silly Zelda-lite, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, this cheeky criminal root vegetable returns in a sequel that while keeping the original pixel art aesthetic and top-down perspective switches up genres.

This time, Turnip Boy teams up with the Pickled Gang to plan the weirdest heist of all time as you explore the dark depths of the Botanical Bank. As a roguelite however, it’s a heist you’ll be trying to pull off multiple times, with procedurally generated rooms changing layouts, enemies and traps for each run. With tons of weapons to unlocks and all manner of weird and dodgy secrets to discover through the dark web, it’s fast and frantic fun while also somewhat breezier than the top-down roguelikes, such as The Binding of Isaac, that it takes inspiration from.

Momodora: Moonlight Farewell (PC)

The Momodora series started out as a couple of short side-scrolling pixel-art action platformers that were free to download before the third entry was the first to be released and sold on Steam, before its 2016 follow-up Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight changed things up and became a Metroidvania.

Eight years later, its long-awaited sequel Momodora: Moonlit Farewell is a bittersweet swangsong to the series. You play as a high priestess on a quest to save her village from a demon invasion being summoned by a mysterious bellringer. Prior knowledge isn’t required as it’s more concerned with action than story but if this is the last in the series, it certainly goes out on a high with beautiful pixel art animation, challenging but fair combat, and a sigil system that lets you customise your play style. One to tide folks over while waiting for Hollow Knight: Silksong.

Reigns: Three Kingdoms (iOS, PC, Switch)

Making decisions on how to rule over your subjects like you do with swiping left or right on Tinder is what made Reigns so intriguing when it first released in 2016, with follow-ups including one based on Game of Thrones.

This latest iteration takes the same gameplay over to the historical warring Three Kingdoms era of China as you once again swipe your way through many high-stake decisions, as you encounter factions and famous heroes from that saga. It does however complicate the simple swipe mechanics as the heroes you recruit can also be deployed in new turn-based card battles, and you can even play online against other players.

Another Code: Recollection (Switch)

Sure, a full-priced game published by Nintendo might not seem like it belongs in an indie round-up, but it does technically count as Another Code was originally a point-and-click adventure on the DS made by now-defunct independent developer Cing. This collection remakes both the original game and its Wii follow-up, putting you in the shoes of teenager Ashley Mizuki Robins, first searching for her father in a mysterious mansion while the second has her learning about her deceased mother.

It’s quite the glow-up as you can now freely move in 3D environments and characters are voiced too, giving story scenes more of a comic book presentation instead of a visual novel. However, some puzzle elements don’t transition quite as well from the DS to the Switch, including some requiring awkward motion controls while a couple of puzzles are cut entirely.

Nonetheless, this duology was somewhat ahead of its time in having a female teen protagonist exploring themes of trauma and grief, mixed with a bit of the supernatural. In this new form it feels even more a predecessor to indie developer Don’t Nod’s Life is Strange series.

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