AAA games are truly amazing, giving us hours of entertaining gameplay. However, the video game industry is not limited to large franchises and large companies; indie games have long been a part of our gaming lives, giving us fantastic gaming experiences on PC, home consoles, and even mobile devices, with both casual and deeper gameplay.
An indie game is the best-selling video game of all time. The second best-selling video game of all time may also be an indie title. That’s not to say that return equals value, but it highlights an irrefutable fact: even in this age of AAA studio dominance, a truly inspired indie vision has the ability to emerge, grow and even dominate the game scene.
Over the past decade, the popularity of indie games has exploded and indie creators have received more recognition. In recent years, games like Stardew Valley have become bestsellers, and developers like Subset Games and Night School Studios have shown the market what small, dedicated teams can do. Given the pace of growth and the massive amount of emerging talent online, there’s a plethora of games and developers to watch in 2022.
With AAA games catching attention on the internet, it’s easy to lose sight of the indie developers who create some of the most distinctive games on the market. However, some emerging studios have generated a lot of buzz in the video game industry.
One of the most acclaimed indie developers of recent years is Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone. The hype surrounding its indie hit, Stardew Valley, is almost as captivating as the game itself. Barone worked on the game, its first release, for four and a half years, doing everything himself – from programming to animation and soundtrack. The result was an unlikely blockbuster, becoming one of the most successful indie releases since Minecraft. According to his Twitter account, Barone is currently working on a new game called Haunted Chocolatier.
Himalaya Studios is an independent game developer founded in Arizona and currently operating out of Delaware. The studio focuses on making point-and-click adventure games based on classics from Sierra and LucasArts, such as Monkey Island and King’s Quest, as well as other popular P&C games like Myst and Grim Fandango. One of Himalaya Studios’ most successful games is Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements, released in 2019 to critical acclaim.
But not only big independent video game developers like Himalaya Studios and Luna Wolf Studios are present in Delaware. The state also has a booming iGaming market, since online gambling was legalized in the state, and some operators have started targeting casino games, which can be found through helpful tools like Time2Play, to Delawareans.
Even though independent studios are known for not being big players in the video game market, some developers have established themselves as top creators in this competitive industry.
Founded in Seattle by Matthew Davis and Justin Ma, two former 2K Games employees, Subset Games is an independent studio that has already made a name for itself. FTL: Faster Than Light, the modern two-man team-up classic breakthrough, was produced through a successful indie game Kickstarter campaign that raised $200,000 from 10,000 backers. FTL is considered one of the most successful video game Kickstarter campaigns, generally earning good reviews from critics. The game is considered one of the titles that contributed to the popularity of the “rogue-lite” genre.
Another two-man team, Night School Studio is a Glendale, Calif.-based developer specializing in dialogue-driven adventures. Oxenfree, his critically acclaimed debut album, fuses a graphic adventure mystery quest with visuals from teen movies about coming of age and features characters based on the characters from Freaks & Geeks. Night School Studio has tracked Afterparty, Next Stop Nowhere, Mr. Robot (in partnership with Telltale Games), and is set to release a sequel to Oxenfree later this year.
Few studios have contributed more to the advancement of independent developers and the establishment of video games as art than this game company. This was particularly evident in its 2012 milestone Journey, an engaging and graphically stunning game that encourages collaboration among anonymous players as they traverse a vast desert landscape. Their latest title, Sky: Children of the Light, was released in 2019, and even had an anime adaptation announced in March at AnimeJapan 2022.