The Best Indie Games Of E3 2017

The independent game scene has exploded in recent years, with hundreds of amazing titles to discover and appreciate. Lots of prospective releases make their way to E3 to try and stand out in the crowd, and we’re keeping our eyes open throughout the show for our favorites. We’ll be updating this story with new entries as soon as we have a chance to jot down impressions, so check back daily for additional entries. 

Games are listed alphabetically. 

Aegis Defenders
Developer: Guts Department
Release: 2017
Platform: PS4, PC

Aegis Defenders melds several distinct genres together in one continuous experience – action, tower defense, and 16-bit RPGs – and makes it all cohesive through an ongoing narrative about two ruin hunters who uncover an ancient weapon called the Aegis, and their subsequent efforts to keep the artifact out of the hands of evil. In Metroid-esque exploration sequences, you control both characters, hot-swapping between them at will to solve progression puzzles. Alternately, you can play the experience cooperatively with a friend. Each character has distinct abilities, which come to the fore in regularly occurring defense sequences, in which you must set up turrets to keep hordes of enemies from overtaking your position. Eventually, you’ll unlock up to four playable characters in your ongoing quest through fantastical landscapes and gigantic creatures. -Matt Miller

The Artful Escape
Developer: Beethoven & Dinosaur
Release: TBA
Platform: Xbox One, PC

Being an artist is a creative journey, and The Artful Escape taps into that philosophy in an imaginative way. Playing as young musician Francis Vendetti, you help him discover his stage persona by traveling through the cosmos and multi dimensional worlds. With the power of his guitar, you conquer enemies in musical rhythmic battles and strum your instrument to fly across chasms in a beam of light. The Artful Escape is a soulful adventure with gorgeous artwork, and it's up to you to help Francis find himself. In the demo I played, I made my way through a glittering snowy world, with rock tunes blasting in the background. The Artful Escape excels at creating a psychedelic atmosphere, one that is both magical and compelling. I look forward to seeing more, though no release date has yet been announced, and the developer told me that its still far from release. – Elise Favis

Publisher: Microsoft,
Developer: Aurora44
Release: 2018
Platform: Xbox One, PC

In Ashen, players are dumped into a sprawling, open world that doesn't have a sun. The only light comes from illuminated ash that covers the dangerous world, which is inspired by The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You control a lonely traveler in this third-person action title, but the hook of Ashen is that your character probably isn't alone for long. Passive multiplayer permeates the experience as the team at Aurora44 wanted to design a game that simulates the experience of meeting a stranger and working together; much like the multiplayer in Journey, you don't know who you're playing with, and you only have small gestures to communicate with the other character. Together with this other player, you explore dark dungeons, solve puzzles, battle enemies, and explore a world full of hazards. Ashen features punishing combat, numerous secrets, and a ton of loot to find. Inventive, difficult boss battles, such as the Elder Dark boss battle I witnessed, caps off what appears to be a thoroughly promising experience that I'll be keeping my eye on leading up to its 2018 release. Brian Shea

Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Airship Syndicate
Release: October 3
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

We’ve been following Nightwar with great interest since its announcement, and every viewing it looks better. New characters like Knolan the old mage, a new mine-themed dungeon, and a ton of new enemies were all showcase elements of the game’s appearance at E3, but it’s the combination of classic D&D-inspired storytelling, isometric action exploration, and JRPG-inspired combat that has us very eager for the game’s October debut. The team is clearly in a phase of adding in bells and whistles; we witnessed a new fishing mini-game which looks like a great diversion. Joe Madureira’s signature visual style suffuses the game – just icing on the cake for an RPG we have very high hopes for as it rounds the corner into the final months of development. -Matt Miller 

A Case of Distrust 
Developer: The Wandering Ben
Release: 2017
Platform: PC/Mac

Inspired by Raymond Chandler stories and the artwork of Saul Bass, A Case of Distrust is a noir mystery based in 1924 San Francisco. You're private investigator Phyllis Malone, an outlier in the prohibition era, and the gameplay centers around making story-based conversation choices and point-and-click investigations. Trip up characters in interrogation contradictions, navigate a world of underground speakeasies, and run with the wrong crowd in this stylized take on a classic genre. Developer Ben Wander says the game's dialog will both fill in players about the characters and world as well as serving as decision points that determine where the story is heading. Written in the style of a classic first-person-narrated noir, we're intrigue to get to the bottom of A Case of Distrust's dark mystery. – Matthew Kato

Publisher: Raw Fury
Developer: Long Hat House
Release: 2017
Platform: Switch, PC, unannounced consoles, unannounced mobile

Imagine the cross-breed between Metroid and VVVVVV, and you have a pretty clear starting point for understanding Dandara, a brilliant new action/platformer from Long Hat House. You control Dandara, a hero unbound by gravity who is out to save his world from destruction. Movement is handled by targeting a nearby wall, floor, or ceiling, and zipping up to that area in a sudden burst of speed. From there, you can blast enemies, or continue careening to your next destination. The sense of speed and precision is spot-on, lending a sense of directionless gravity; sometimes the entire level itself rotates to reorient your perception of it, so there’s really no up or down. I played on a controller, but the developer is aiming to make the game equally viable on both controller and touch screen. Add in a world of strange characters and dialogue, and Metroid-style gear-gated advancement, and Dandara emerges as one of the most intriguing new indie projects in a long while. -Matt Miller

Publisher: Phoenix Labs
Developer: Phoenix Labs
Release: Late 2017
Platform: PC

While we wait for Monster Hunter: World, Dauntless should be up to the task of offering elaborate hunts of imposing beasts. Though it looks brighter and more cheerful than its competition, it looks to have most of the depth: Each of the many weapon types has its own move set, with light, heavy, and special attacks: A set of chained sickles can fire off attacks quickly up close, or pick away at enemies from afar more slowly. A giant hammer, meanwhile, may double as a shotgun. The mission design is more focused, though there are resources to gather and other critters to hunt down while you chase giant lizards, owls, and more to cut off their tails. Between missions, you can equip various sets of weapons and armor you get from hunts, with a few having elemental resistances. The game will soon be going into an open beta, which should act as a great appetizer before the real hunt begins. – Suriel Vazquez

Developer: Snowman
Release: TBA
Platform: tvOS, PC, Mac, unannounced consoles

The makers of the excellent Alto’s Adventure are creating this new platformer, which sports stylish but spare visuals that express a sense of vast space and loneliness. You control a god-like orb that is ushering its human creation through the world, slingshotting him from one distant platform to the next. Developer Snowman is focusing on smooth movement and navigation. Wall-jumps, long jumps, and sudden bursts of acceleration unfold in elegant curves. The feeling of freedom of movement is intense, but the controls are intuitive, lending an effortless flow to the experience. Distant is still very early in development, but I was immediately enthralled by the short demo I played. -Matt Miller

Donut County
Developer: Ben Esposito
Release: TBA
Platform: PC, iOS

Donut County is a physics-based adventure game where you control a hole in the ground. Through a sequence of levels, you move around this hole in different environments as it progressively gets larger, and you attempt to swallow up every object (and animal) in sight. Donut County is a fictional town heavily based off of Los Angeles, where anthropomorphic animals live. However, all its inhabitants now live underground following an apocalypse, where a giant hole swallowed up their homes and everything they knew. You unravel what happened by switching between present day and flashbacks. In the flashbacks, you control the hole and solve puzzles, and in present day you listen to the characters share conspiracy theories about what caused the hole as they murmur around a campfire. It's a strange but charming premise, and although most physics puzzles I played through were simplistic, I was told the difficult amps up as you progress and gain new powers for the hole. – Elise Favis

Developer: 11 bit Studios
Release: 2017
Platform: PC

Frostpunk brings the oppressive tone and desperate decision-making of developer 11-bit’s previous game, This War of Mine, to the city-building sim. Rather than figure out where you want to build municipal pipelines, you manage the harsh push-and-pull of finding the most efficient way to have your survivors huddled around heat in a frozen wasteland, and making sure you have enough people working at a given time to sustain the entire populace. To build up your ramshackle settlement quickly enough to survive, you may have to force workers to work debilitating 24-hour shifts, or let children risk their lives working for you. These decisions push your morality to its limits for the sake of productivity, which could make for an captivating, draining adventure when the game releases later this year. – Suriel Vazquez

For more of our favorite indie games from E3 2017, head to page two.


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