The end of 2020 is here and with it of course brings everyone’s top games of the year. Here at Indie-Gems, I have been working diligently to come up with my list for you all to pick apart and comment on as well. It wasn’t easy, 2020 has given us a plethora of great indie games to play this year, but I have managed to trim it down to a top 10 with a handful of honorable mentions.
Before kicking off the list let’s go into Indie-Gems criteria to get on this list.
- The game has to have had its full release in the calendar year of 2020.
- I need to have played the game after it has a full release.
- beating a game is preferable but not required; I should have played enough to get a general feeling about the game and story.
- Sticking with Indie-Gems mission, games on this list are on the smaller side of notoriety. (so no Spelunky 2 or Hades, but you should absolutely play those too!)
- Honorable mentions are games that were released this year but are in early access but are fully playable and worth checking out.
The last one might need a touch of explaining. I show off a lot of games on here and definitely on stream and YouTube. While I try my best to finish the games I start, sometimes it’s just not feasible. However most of these games I have completed or put more than enough hours to feel confident in my recommendation and placing them in this list.
With all that aside, let’s get to the List!
Indie-Gems Top 10 of 2020!
10. 9th Dawn III – Valorware
9th Dawn III is a 2D open-world ARPG creature capturing dungeon crawler. 9th Dawn has a classless system that allows for the ultimate customization of your character. Want to be a mace wielding magic-user? You can do that in this game if you spend your ability points appropriately. Skills in this game are based on usage, so as you utilize one skill over the other you will begin to get better and better in that area allowing for additional boosted stats. Like cooking increases to allow for more success when making food.
Your armor and weapons will change your character’s appearance which is always a huge boost to an ARPG in my opinion. 9th dawn has over 1400 uniquely drawn items including over 300 weapons and 550 pieces of armor and accessories. There is always a constant wave a loot to be going through and equipping. You’ll also be able to craft and upgrade weapons and armor allowing for more control over your items.
This game was a pleasant surprise and truly scratches the hack n slash itch while waiting for other bigger ARPGs. Though this one looked not like a big deal it was a ton of fun, had a wealth of depth to it, and has a HUGE map and underworld to explore and quest in. With updates coming consistently from this 1 man dev team, 9th Dawn III does a good job of adding great modes to this game. Hardcore mode, permadeath, and now a Roguelike mode. There’s something for everyone!
9. Evergate – Stone Lantern Games
Another surprising gem for me was this year was Evergate, a 2D puzzle-platformer all in a hand-drawn vision of the afterlife. You are tasked with navigating through 85 stages utilizing the extraordinary powers of the genre-defining “Soulflame” all to help a lost soul reincarnate on earth.
You play Ki, a soul who has lost its way back to earth. To get there you must navigate through memories of a time once past from a mysterious kindred spirit. In these memories, you will learn to harness the Soulflame which will aid you in unlocking the Evergate and returning to Earth.
Evergate is a beautiful game. The hand-drawn art style is a true beauty to look at. The game is also recorded by a live orchestra and truly serves to immerse yourself into the afterlife and brings the dreams, nightmares, and spirits to life in stunning detail.
8. Paradise Killer – Kaizen Game Works
Paradise Killer is a visual novel that meets an open-world crime scene investigator. Think a little more along the lines of Phoenix Wright if it was an open world. You play Lady Love Dies, The Investigation Freak as she’s dubbed. You’ve been banished from Paradise Island, an island outside of reality where it’s human inhabitants work hoping to resurrect dead alien gods. A murder has taken place and you have been invited back to help find the killer.
You must search for evidence throughout Paradise Island and interrogate everyone. Once you have come up with your suspect you must then head to court to prove your case.
The game art is beautiful and absurd. This island truly is a marvel itself but the characters are an absolute trip. They are all truly unique and crazy and really any one of them could be the killers and you’ll keep thinking that for hours as you collect more evidence.
The story is well written and it kept me coming back for more. The world is an interesting thing to look at and learning more about each character and how the world here works was all I needed to want to be immersed in this game longer with each play session. Not to mention the killer vaporwave/80’s soundtrack that will get stuck in your head and you’ll keep bumping to hours after you turned the game off.
Check out Paradise Killer on Twitter and grab the game here (affiliate link).
7. Fae Tactics – EndlessFluff Games
Fae Tactics was one of my most anticipated games of 2020. Having a huge love for tactics games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre to name a few, I was super excited from the moment I saw Fae Tactics.
You play Peony, a young magic-user on a journey across a world of beauty and danger. You can Summon allies, cast spells, and befriend characters as you progress through this world and its conflicts between man and magical beings known as Fae.
Fae Tactics aimed to streamline the tactics genre by introducing menuless turn-based gameplay. What at first had me questioning if the game would have enough depth without this, later grew to be one of my favorite aspects of this game. The fights are far more action-oriented since you aren’t bogged down by looking through menus. Your magic users just always use magic and your melee use their melee. Where the depth comes is in combo attacks, summons, and the elemental system at play.
The game has a beauty to it in its art. It hearkens back to the days of 16-bit games but looks modern and fresh. The character profile pictures that show up during chat scenes are also a pleasure to look at. Colorful and detailed, something I love. The soundtrack for it is great as well and a joy to listen to.
6. In Other Waters – Jump Over The Age
In Other Waters is a mysterious game with an even more mysterious UI. You are the Artificial Intelligence of a divers suit, helping the main character on her search for her sister who gave a distressing message before her disappearance. You explore this water world with her, piecing together clues and learning more about this strange planet, and finding upgrades for the suit’s capabilities along the way.
At first glance, In Other Waters just doesn’t seem like much. I was hesitant to play it at first but boy am I glad I did. Despite having such a minimal interface, I found myself intrigued and my imagination running wild. With every creature. I would come up with what I thought it looked like and the surrounding region it was found in too. The game does give sketches of the flora and fauna but honestly, I found I preferred my images more.
The game has an amazing and mysterious story that will keep you coming back for more. You uncover not only what happened to your sister but the mysteries she was uncovering about this planet’s past.
If you liked Subnautica and its story, this is one game you do not want to miss out on experiencing.
5. art of rally – Funselektor
art of rally (yes that is spelled right with no uppercase) is the second game from the one-man dev team, Funselektor. The game is not only amazing and well-made but it is a homage to the beginning of the sport. The career mode takes you through the birth of Rally racing. Telling you about the classes that got created and the vehicles in those classes. The amount of love that went into this game is evident in the information given and the way it plays. Dune, the creator, even took rally racing classes to get a better idea of how this game should feel!
The Career will go through the early years of the sport and unlock new locations and cars as you progress. You can also drop into these locations in a sandbox mode and drive around and get to know the areas. There are also scenic locations and other collectibles to find in the sandbox mode. These will unlock special vehicles and color patterns too.
Two of the best parts of this game that aren’t even “part of the game” is the soundtrack and the photo mode. Specially made synth-wave for this game will have you tapping your foot all while drifting around some hairpin turns. Seriously this soundtrack is phenomenal. The photo mode is such a blast to use too. You can create some amazing videos and pictures of your cars jumping, drifting, or crashing. It’s such a great added bonus to an already great experience.
You don’t need to be a huge racing fan (I’m not but always loved the idea of rally racing) to get into this game and it’s definitely a must-buy in my opinion.
4. Chicken Police – The Wild Gentlemen
Chicken Police was one of the best story’s I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this year. You play Sonny Featherland, a suspended alcoholic cop ready to retire. you’re running a private eye gig while on your leave. Approached to take on a case about threats to a high profile target, things quickly spiral out of control and get weirder and weirder.
The game is fully and superbly voiced and pulls you in as you speak to over 30 characters to talk with. Some will require some advanced police interrogation to get the information you need. You’ll also be visiting various locations to collect evidence to help build your case. There are even side quests that help the main story but aren’t required.
The story is dark, funny, and has some great unexpected twists, and had me for the long haul. If you like point and click games with a deep almost visual novel story, check this game out!
You can also see the game on my YouTube channel.
3. Tenderfoot Tactics – Badru
What a year 2020 has been for the Tactics genre. Quite a few Tactics games were released this year and now we have a second on this list alone. Tenderfoot Tactics puts you and a couple of Goblins to go off to save Goblinkind from a powerful and mysterious Fog that is eating the land. You have a huge open archipelago to explore by land, sea, and air. You can find towns to trade, get quests, or gather new people for your party. You’ll find Castles, ruins, artifacts, and treasures throughout the archipelago.
Enemies are visible on the overworld and as you attack them you will zoom into the battlefield. A small grid, in various sizes but always on the smaller side. This causes you to be very deliberate on how you utilize your party and it also keeps fights to a respectable time frame. it also means a greater chance that one mistake can lead to failure, but thankfully the game allows you to jump back into the fight quickly. But if you think for one minute you can die, attack again and not make the same mistake twice, think again. The battlefield for each encounter is randomly generated. Even for “rematches.”
Your Goblins all level up and as you do so new classes become available to them. You can change these classes in the overworld at will, as long as you meet the requirements for the class. This allows for you to really consider how your party is built and where their strength should be. With it being so open and flexible if something doesn’t work in one fight and you lose, change some classes and try again.
If you like tactics games then Tenderfoot Tactics is a must buy. Plus how often can you play as a Goblin and not actually be the bad guy?!
2. Airborne Kingdom – The Wandering Band
Airborne Kingdom is a big reason this list is so late. It was released on the 17th of December and with it being a colony sim, I knew I had to wait on this list until I could get my hands on this game. I am so happy I did too.
On the surface, Airborne Kingdom looks like any other colony sim out there. You build specific houses to provide certain needs to your people. Housing, work, resource collecting. What Airborne Kingdom does differently is it puts your colony not only in the air but makes it mobile. You collect resources from the ground below to help sustain the people in the air.
You’re tasked with joining the kingdoms of the land all under the Airborne Kingdom. This means finding the Kingdom on the massive map and then proving to them that you are worth being in charge of them all. These quests often involve tasks like building special buildings for them, finding missing people, or turning on water pumps for example. While doing this you will gather people that want to join your cause which increases the number of workers but also with that comes more housing, food, work, and water accommodations.
The twists keep coming
Airborne Kingdom adds another twist to the airborne aspect too. You are in constant need of a certain level of lift. If you cannot maintain lift your kingdom will come crashing to the ground, literally. What makes this tough is each building that provides lift needs workers to operate these. You’re constantly trying to find a balance between operating your various buildings and also having the available people to fulfill kingdom quests, research, and resource gathering.
Not only is lift an issue but so is the tilt of your kingdom. If your kingdom becomes too tilted your inhabitants will become unhappy. Left unchecked for too long and you will see people parachuting off your kingdom, done with helping you and your cause.
There are no enemies you encounter throughout your journey. This game is purely base management and it’s quite relaxing. You have a plethora of research to be done for every aspect of your kingdom. Things like having more planes to collect resources below or certain fans will be able to have even more lift than base level gives you. These things all take resources, time, and people to research.
If you’re looking for a colony sim that doesn’t have you dealing with enemies and adds quite the twist on traditional colony sims, then check out Airborne Kingdoms, you won’t regret it.
You can check out my first look at the game over on my YouTube channel.
1. Amazing Cultivation Simulator – GSQ Games
I stumbled upon Amazing Cultivation Simulator (ACS) by accident just before Thanksgiving this year. It hadn’t fully released but was a week away and the English patch was available to test out. Seeing the first reviews talk about how it was like Dwarf Fortress meets ancient Chinese Mythology I just had to give it a try. This gem ended up proving to be more than I could have imagined.
To compare this game to Dwarf Fortress or Rimworld really does a disservice to what is at work here. Yes, this game has some very similar aspects with regards to base building and colonist management, but that’s where the lines of the similarity end. In ACS you are a bunch of mortals rebuilding a destroyed sect of cultivators with the desire to become immortal and guard the balance between good and evil. It takes inspiration from xianxia, a Chinese literary genre deeply influenced by Taoist and Buddhist concepts, as well as folklore and traditional knowledge of medicine and martial arts.
You must rebuild the Taiyi Sect through training, gathering knowledge, and expanding influence through commerce and political alliances. You must also protect your people from supernatural dangers like dragons or cursed artifacts.
Feng Shui is introduced into the game making your base building such a larger and complex aspect of the game than in other games in the genre. You must take into account some of the basic rules of Feng Shui when building your base. Rules like bedroom doors must face south and not having more than one door to the outside in a room. You must also take into account the elements for the things you are building. Want to make the room warmer? You can make displays with Igneocopper (fire element) to warm the room. Feng Shui plays an important role in efficient cultivation and in keeping moods lifted.
As your sect grows you will gather more people that believe in your cause and want to join. You will also work with other sects either earning their favor or angering them and creating enemies. You have overworld quests that your cultivators can go on. Searching for secrets and artifacts or exploring neighboring villages or mountains. The exploration side has a very RTS feel to it and is such a fun way to truly feel the power of your cultivators and their spells.
There are so many things going on in this game in addition to an awesome base building mechanic and with having 20 hours so far, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this amazing game. This game not only offered a huge twist on the colony sim but it also introduced mechanics that I haven’t seen in any game and they did it well. This is truly a gem and I am happy to see it at the top spot of my list for 2020
You can check out my play through of Amazing Cultivation Simulator on my YouTube Channel.
- Endzone- A World Apart (affiliate link)
- Hardspace: Shipbreaker (affiliate link)
- Roboquest (affiliate link)
- Gunfire Reborn (affiliate link)
Well, there we have it. The Indie-Gems Top 10 of 2020. This was not an easy list to come up with. I had about 30 games lined up and had to find a way to whittle it down to 10. As I said I tried to keep it to the more overlooked games and this is why you don’t see larger known indies like Spelunky 2 or Hades (however both are amazing and worth grabbing). I hope you found some cool games out of this list and I hope you all enjoy reading it. It was a lot of fun to put together and these games were a lot of fun to play! Let me know what your games of the year were down in the comments below!