10. Slay The Spire
Coming out of left-field, Slay the Spire became an indie hit overnight. Mixing a Pokémon-style battle system with the strategy of Hearthstone, this hybrid roguelike deck builder took everyone by surprise. It might not seem like much at first, but it doesn’t take long for its addictive nature to set in as one more run leaves you with 2 hours sleep.
Where Slay the Spire really shines is its unique blend of great features plucked from a variety of genres, bolting them together to create new designs. Its fast-paced gameplay also avoids the 20-hour learning curve of many CCGs and replaces it with a pick-up-and-play mentality. It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s smart and strategic when it needs to be. What more could you ask for? Oh, yeah, replayability – it also has that.
9. AMID EVIL
Not enough players know about the awesome retro FPS, AMID EVIL. From the same publisher that brought you DUSK, this fast-paced homage ramps up the action in a way only the old games could. Once branded as a heretic but now chosen as the champion you’ll have to reclaim your sacred weapons to tear your way through the horrors that stand before you with might and magic.
It’s brutal fun and simple in its delivery. Challenging games like Doom and Quake, this distinctly styled experienced ticks all the boxes desired by fans of the classics and newcomers to the genre alike. It’s ludicrous and we love it.
Red Candle Games’ Devotion didn’t see a review score below 8 from the industry’s top reviewers (including, of course, us). It was praised universally for its atmosphere and attention to detail, the first person horror experience taking its narrative and gameplay beyond the confines of genre definition through a succinct design of terror and morbid curiosity. Then it was removed from Steam.
There’s been plenty of controversy surrounding the February release after an offensive piece of art was found in-game. A reference to a well known Chinese meme that criticised the Chinese leader and general secretary was found adorning the walls of a location, and the game was quickly tanked by its Chinese community. In response, developers took Devotion down with the intention of removing any similar messages that had found their way into the release build. Unfortunately, that’s the last we’ve heard of the fate of Devotion. What was once an extraordinary feat of environmental storytelling is, for the moment, resigned to infamy. Still, it’s one of the best horror games that 2019 has provided so far, so its spot here is reserved.
Games like Eastshade make it hard to argue that video games aren’t art, or at least a form of artistic expression. In the case of the latter, Eastshade is art in a literal sense; the game is centred around creating it. Playing as a travelling painter, you explore the island of Eastshade and paint magnificent vistas on canvases for the unusual locals.
There are beautiful games and then there’s Eastshade; it looks amazing, with rich textures and colours lighting up the screen. With your easel in hand, you walk around the peaceful island getting to know its inhabitants as you capture its stunning landscape.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being an artist but can’t find the time then this is the game for you.
6. Void Bastards
Void Bastards is every bit as cool as the name suggests. It’s bright, cell-shaded graphics pop with a funky comic book style littered with instances of onomatopoeia. Inspired by the likes of BioShock and System Shock 2 this strategy shooter mixes fast-paced action with FTL style strategy.
Leading a group of convict misfits through space, you’ll have to scavenge and scurry through an abandoned graveyard of vessels to survive. If you want to make it in this dead void of space, you’ll have to be prepared to do battle. You know what they say, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.
5. Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda
Just how an indie darling managed to scoop up one of Nintendo’s most renowned IPs still remains a mystery, but what’s clear to see is just how successful the Crypt of the Necromancer / Legend of Zelda collaboration was. Cadence of Hyrule remains as a stellar game in its own right, building on the hard as nails frantic rhythm foundations of Necrodancer and bringing the adventure and exploration that completed The Legend of Zelda.
The result is a hypnotic celebration of both worlds together, playing almost like a Legend of Zelda music video with a challenge level perfectly balanced to compensate for the more relaxed nature of Link’s previous escapades. The classic gameplay of Crypt of the Necrodancer remains as you bob from square to square in time with the gorgeous Zelda tunes we all know and love.
Swinging your nostalgic blue sword at enemies and grabbing hearts whenever they crop up make this an unmistakable Zelda game, so the frenetic action and dreamlike fluency of Necrodancer’s rhythm mechanics in no way impinge on the beloved franchise’s vibe. All in all, Cadence of Hyrule is a collision of two worlds seemingly made for each other, a rarity in the Zelda spinoff scene.
4. Katana Zero
There seems to have been an increase in 80’s-inspired games lately and Katana Zero is a particularly strong example, riffing on 80’s B-movies with style.
You play as an ex-soldier with extreme martial arts training. If that wasn’t enough, you have the cognitive ability to slow your perception of time and rewind on death. Needless to say, these talents come in very handy against the countless armed goons you face as you carry out missions for a shady benefactor. Trigger slow-mo during battles and you’ll see bullets streaking towards you, even blocking them with your blade.
Much of Katana Zero’s story is enigmatic, you never know if you can trust any of the characters you come across, yourself, or even the reality of what you’re seeing. One thing’s for sure though: it’s slick as hell. Beautiful pixel art combines with 80’s sci-fi neon and synth music to deliver a stunning tribute to its classic action forebears.
3. Yuppie Psycho
Everyone’s first day on the job is pretty stressful, but for Brian Pasternack it’s life threatening. Tasked with killing a witch that’s tormenting the employees of Sintracorp, Brian’s starting day is about to go from bad to worse.
Navigating a dystopian future where huge corporations dabble in the occult, Yuppie Psycho gives us a glimpse into the dangers that out of control mega corps present. Through the eyes of a low class citizen, we see how the average worker is used and abused to serve the corporations ends.
Battle the strange monsters that haunt the halls of Sintracorp and save the enslaved employees from a fate worse than death – blind servitude.
2. A Plague Tale: Innocence
Even the children of nobles aren’t immune to the horrors of war and disease. In the Hundred Years’ War, Amicia and Hugo are thrust into a world of desperation and pestilence brought upon by the invasion of The Black Death. As their guiding force, it’s your job to keep them safe from the scavenging rodents as well as the Knights stalking around every corner with murderous intent.
As teenage Amicia, you’ll be fending off the plethora of dangers that befall you while keeping your kid brother safe in the madness. Your only goal is to survive, and A Plague Tale: Innocence seems to throw anything that could threaten that survival straight at you. As a pair of defenceless baby nobles, stealth is often your only weapon, and creeping around grimy streets or the rat infested underworld is an intensely eerie experience. As the scrabbling of the rats starts to bring on a cold sweat, and the clanking of the Knights stops you dead in your careful tracks you’ll soon realise why A Plague Tale: Innocence has been so celebrated this year.
1. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was an unsurprising success when it debuted on Kickstarter back in 2015. Led by long-time Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi and hailed as a spiritual successor of sorts to the likes of Symphony of the Night, the odds were stacked in its favour. It’s been a long time coming, but now Bloodstained has released we’re pleased to say it pretty much meets the lofty expectations that preceded it.
The game is set in a parallel universe version of the Industrial Revolution, the main distinction being that alchemists and magic exist. In a misguided sort of protest against society’s focus on technology, the alchemists summon demons through the sacrifice of Shardbinders, people they’ve experimented on with demonic crystals. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well. You play as Miriam, a surviving Shardbinder dealing with the aftermath 10 years later, in which another survivor is enacting their revenge.
Bloodstained really does feel like a trip back in time to the glory days of Castlevania games, with great platforming levels full of secrets and areas that are inaccessible until you obtain certain powers or items. Killing some enemies grant shards that bestow you with new abilities, and there’s a variety of different ranged and melee weapons to collect. All of this benefits from a modern sheen, with its attractive presentation bringing the classic gameplay into the present day.
While you might have come to the end of this list, the good news is that the year isn’t over yet! We’ll keep updating this list with our top picks for the best games of 2019 so that you’re never out the loop. If you’re looking for something with a few more years under its belt, check out our Top 100 Indie Games Of All Time article, or our Top 100 Free Indie Games collection for something to suit a tighter purse string.