The Best Indie Games in E3 2021
With an entire month devoted to brand new game announcements and a dazzling array of triple-A blockbuster games, let’s also not forget the little guys: the indie games that will most likely make a blazing mark in the upcoming months as some of the most exciting releases to grace our screens. After sifting through countless game trailers, I’ve picked out some of the best indie games in E3 2021 that you should not be missing out on:
No Longer Home
The rooms in No Longer Home are cosily cluttered, the various belongings of their owners strewn about these spaces in a familiar fashion that feels like home: a dying succulent, days-old laundry tossed carelessly at a corner, and papers accidentally brushed aside and scattered on the ground. You’ll get to wander through these places in the game as Bo and Ao, two roommates who are forced to bid farewell to each other, and for Ao, a home they temporarily shared while in university. Depicted through a series of enclosed dioramas, No Longer Home is about investigating these spaces and reliving the memories shared by the duo and their friends—an experience that’s sure to invoke some bittersweet emotions.
Twelve Minutes is experienced in a series of time loops: a tale about a man who can’t stop experiencing the same 12 minutes of his life over and over again. What started as a romantic evening for him and his wife eventually wound up in a detective breaking into your home, arresting your wife for the murder of her own dad, and you getting beaten up to death—only for you to quickly regain consciousness after these events. Featuring James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe, Twelve Minutes looks like an intense experience, forcing you to race against time while figuring out the truth behind this macabre mystery.
Sable is an exploration game about performing acrobatic stunts across desaturated alien environments, with hints of an older civilisation buried in its sands and mythical forces shaping its universe. But aside from these, it’s also a coming-of-age tale about the eponymous teenager embarking on her rite of passage as she transitions towards adulthood, embarking on a journey of self-discovery. With its shimmery soundtrack and gentle, eclectic surroundings, it feels like a meditative experience that will let you relive your own teenhood, too.
Despite its more sombre themes about being professional mob cleaners clearing up the bloodiest crime scenes and getting rid of evidence, Serial Cleaners (and its prequel, Serial Cleaner) understand that the true joys of the gig comes from polishing messy rooms till they are completely spick and span. Serial Cleaners build upon this winning formula with a crew of four mob cleaners—each with their own decluttering style so you can choose how you complete your jobs—as well as a non-linear tale with consequences. It doesn’t faze me, however; I just want to make these places cleaner than they were before.
Severed Steel looks like the sort of FPS that places greater emphasis on the fluidity of your movements, rather than the enormity of your firepower. As a one-armed sharpshooter with no means to reload your guns, you’ll need to chain together runs, dives, flips and slides to take down your foes, while prying away their guns from their cold hands. Rather than the cumbersome bombast of military shooters, Severed Steel seems like the slick, balletic alternative that’s much lighter on its feet.
Death Trash combines the best of gaming and pop culture—eldritch horrors, shotguns, machines and cyberpunk—to tell a grisly story about surviving in yet another post-apocalyptic world. As one of the many outcasts in this decaying universe, you now traverse the wasteland in an attempt to etch a living, crossing deserts, ruins and the underground to befriend or murder any sentient creatures you meet. What drew me in is the pixelated landscape in Death Trash, which looks simply wondrous despite its grotesque beauty, with lands filled with pools of blood and guts.
Despot’s Game is all about the glory and cacophony of waging intense battles. In this roguelike, you’ll be pitting your swarms of tiny, fleshy humans against hordes of monsters, machines, the undead and other supernatural beings until one side defeats the other in a full-blown combat to the death. You can also customise your little army too by outfitting them with the garments of heroes and classes, such as ninjas, wizards and even cultists. But there are few more satisfying sights than the ignition of gunfire and explosions in the midst of all these pixelated chaos, as you watch from a distance like an omnipotent god-like figure.
Happy’s Humble Burger Farm
Don’t feel like playing Five Nights at Freddy after discovering its creator’s abhorrent political affiliations? Happy’s Humble Burger Farm may just be up your alley. After landing your dream job to flip and serve greasy burgers at a fast food chain, you’re simply here to serve and keep as many customers happy as possible. Don’t mess up, however, for any infractions will be taken from your daily pay, and Happy, the big guy managing the fast food chain you’re in, will probably get mad.
Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is also presented under the veneer of a degrading VHS tape—and along with its low lighting and the occasional scanlines, makes your new job in this less-than-pleasant place looks like part of a snuff film you don’t want to be in.
Created by Chet Faliszek, the lead writer of Left 4 Dead who left Valve to set up his own studio later, The Anacrusis sounds a lot like the premise of the Valve game: it’s a co-op shooter set in space, where you’ll have to team up with three other survivors to blast space monsters to smithereens. That said, navigating the vast expanse of space with your space buddies, coupled with the game’s retro-futuristic aesthetics, is an inviting thought, with Faliszek promising a more thorough story that will gradually unfold the more you shoot. The game will also be released in several episodes, with the first set to be released in fall this year.
There’s no need to wonder if you’re a human or robot in cyberpunk action platformer REPLACED; in the game, you already know that you’re an artificial intelligence trapped in a human body, housed in this fleshy prison against your own will. Along with the dynamic pulses of the game’s synthwave soundtrack, you’ll be traversing this high-tech, dystopian city while taking down enemies with a combination of brutal fisticuffs and dazzling gunfire. While it doesn’t detract much from the typical cyberpunk aesthetic, REPLACED at least paints a flashy, ravishing picture with its intricate, mesmerising pixel art.
If you can’t get enough for these games, here are more notable indie games you can read about at E3: