Top 7 Indie Game Developers to Watch in 2023

edited August 2023 in Gaming

Picture this: the world of indie game developers. Here, tiny sparks of innovation can explode into a global phenomenon. It's where small-scale visionaries can rise to prominence, challenging the big leagues. Tetris and Minecraft—two legendary games—started as tiny blips on the indie game radar, ultimately becoming colossal in their reach. The indie game landscape now? It's unleashed creativity, bustling more than ever, even against the backdrop of big-budget AAA games.

A slew of indie game categories compete in:

  • Platformer 
  • Puzzle 
  • FPS 
  • RPG

Here gamers connect with developers and feel part of something big. Every game is an autobiography, a piece of the creator's soul coded into each line. It's a community, a culture, a revolution. Here are 7 indie game developers who have shaped the gaming universe. 

1) Supergiant Games 

Location: San Francisco, California, Founded: 2009 

You'll know Supergiant Games if you've played their smash hit Hades. This rogue-like dungeon crawler weaves Greek mythology with action as you fight out of the Underworld. They create fun and challenging isometric action games with beautiful visuals.

Founded by Amir Rao and Gavin Simon, both ex-EA employees, the company has since carved a significant niche in the gaming landscape. They first made waves with Bastion, an isometric action game.

The success continued with Transistor and Pyre, each offering a distinctive spin on the isometric action genre with innovative gameplay mechanics. Transistor stands out with its futuristic, cyberpunk world and unique combat where you freeze time and plan out your attack. Pyre woos with its epic story and tactical gameplay.

Their crowning achievement came when Hades stole the limelight at the 2020 Game Awards. Nominated in nine categories, it won the Best Indie and Best Action awards. Showing that Supergiant's magic isn't just potent—it's award-winning. As an indie developer, Supergiant Games proves creativity, determination, and excellence can win.

Notable Game Releases: 

2) ConcernedApe 

Location: Seattle, Washington, Founded: 2012

Eric Barone, or ConcernedApe, is a one-person powerhouse in the indie gaming world. As the creator of Stardew Valley, his Harvest Moon-inspired game was born from Barone's ambition to improve his C# programming skills. Little did he know his four years of solo work - 10 hours a day, 7 days a week - would become an indie sensation.

Stardew Valley immerses you in the quiet charm of country life, tasking you with reviving your grandfather's old farm through:

  • Farming 
  • Fishing 
  • Mining 
  • Crafting

Along the way, you develop friendships, fight monsters, and can even find love in this open farming adventure sim. It's not just about crops and cows—it's about community, discovery, and the joy of creating your own path.

But it's not just the gameplay that has players hooked. This simple, pixelated world hides an ocean of depth. Diverse characters and changing seasons keep players returning for more, even after clocking in hundreds of hours. 

The accolades were swift. Stardew Valley sold a million copies within two months and earned a nod for Best Independent Game at The Game Awards 2016. It's ranked 38 in USA Today's 100 best video games of all time.

Today, ConcernedApe is stirring excitement with his upcoming project, Haunted Chocolatier. The anticipation is palpable as fans wait to see if lightning strikes twice for this talented developer. 

Notable Game Releases: 

3) Team Cherry 

Location: Adelaide, South Australia, Founded: 2014

Despite its small team of three, Team Cherry has made a monumental impact with their Metroidvania marvel, Hollow Knight. You journey through the vast underground kingdom of Hallownest, battling creatures and discovering ancient secrets. 

Each aspect of the game, from its atmospheric, hand-drawn 2D art to the intricate combat mechanics, comes together to craft a narrative that is as immersive as it is visually stunning. Despite its challenging gameplay, the game has sold over 3 million copies by 2020, a remarkable feat for an indie developer.

Team Cherry's next launch is their highly anticipated sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong. It's set to continue the immersive storytelling from the fresh perspective of Hornet, a pivotal character in the first game.

Every detail is meticulously crafted to the individual pixel, brushstroke, and musical note. The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, stunning visuals, and intricate storyline blend seamlessly, creating an immersive gaming experience that resonates deeply with players.

Team Cherry is proving just how cool indie gaming can be. Their storytelling and gameplay keep players hooked, solidifying their position as industry game-changers.

Notable Game Releases: 

4) Toby Fox 

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire, Founded: 2012

Toby Fox is the mastermind behind Undertale, a quirky 2D RPG that breaks all the rules. You play as a child traversing a monster-infested underworld. You choose your path - either friendship or combat. Each decision shapes the story, pushing the boundaries of conventional gaming. You're in control.

More than just an RPG, Undertale is an exploration of morality. It scrutinizes the power of choice, the strength of bonds, and the blurred lines of right and wrong. This quirky, pixel-art game will leave you contemplating your beliefs.

By 2016, Undertale's innovative approach had won over a million sales and four significant gaming awards, cementing Fox's place in indie game history. However, Fox's creative streak didn't stop there. 

Deltarune, Undertale's anagrammatic sequel, continues Fox's tradition of subverting RPG norms. Two of its seven chapters are available, casting players as Kris, a teenager leading an unlikely group to stave off world-ending prophecies. Like Undertale, Deltarune allows players to choose between pacifism and violence, with a bullet-hell combat system that adds to the challenge. Deltarune comes in chapters, with 1 and 2 available now to play for free.

Through his groundbreaking narratives and engaging compositions, Toby Fox exemplifies the endless potential of indie game development.

Notable Game Releases: 

5) Mojang Studios 

Location: Stockholm, Sweden, Founded: 2009

Led by Markus "Notch" Persson, Mojang Studios emerged as a game industry titan with the release of Minecraft. It's the best-selling game ever, with a stunning 200 million copies sold. They set a new benchmark for indie game development.

This open-world sandbox is simple yet powerful. Players venture into a block-based universe, mining resources, constructing buildings, and battling foes. This simplicity masks a canvas of infinite creativity. From crafting dream homes to replicating architectural wonders, Minecraft sparks the imagination like no other.

In 2014, Microsoft recognized Mojang's brilliance and acquired the studio for 2.5 billion USD, giving this indie gem the resources to scale new heights. Regular updates and a thriving modding community continually enhance Minecraft's universe. It's also a launchpad for YouTube content creators.

Mojang diversified its portfolio with Minecraft Dungeons in 2020. This fresh take on the beloved universe introduces a fun RPG adventure for up to four players.

Mojang's imprint on the industry is profound, from igniting a gaming revolution to driving content creators' careers. Its indie success story serves as a shining example to game developers everywhere.

Notable Game Releases: 

6) Coffee Stain Studios 

Location: Skövde, Sweden, Founded: 2010

Coffee Stain Studios blasted onto the gaming scene with its offbeat hit, Goat Simulator. This unexpected hit allowed the studio to expand its horizons and reach.  

Deep Rock Galactic is a co-op FPS where you control space dwarves who fight aliens in 100% destructible environments. With procedurally-generated caves, every mission brings fresh adventures. The thrilling co-op action and limitless replayability earned it a devoted player base.

Building on this success, they released Valheim in 2021 - a Viking-themed co-op survival game. You begin as a slain Viking in purgatory, tasked with proving your mettle for a place in Valhalla. Starting with nothing, you craft, build, and battle through this harsh but mesmerizing world.

Selling six million copies within the first six weeks, Valheim is a testament to their knack for immersive games. Coffee Stain Studios' journey from quirky simulation games to epic storylines exemplifies indie developers' dynamic nature. With each release, they continue to push the boundaries, earning them a respected place in the gaming industry.

Notable Game Releases: 

7) Studio MDHR 

Location: Ontario & Saskatchewan, Canada, Founded: 2010

Studio MDHR, led by brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhaur, shot to fame with their 2017 debut hit Cuphead. A run-and-gun action game drew inspiration from 1930s cartoons. Every game element is crafted in meticulous detail to evoke the era's aesthetics with:

  • Hand-drawn animation 
  • Watercolor backgrounds 
  • Jazz recordings

In Cuphead, you play as Cuphead or Mugman. Navigating through whimsical worlds, acquiring weapons, mastering powerful moves, and unveiling secrets, all to settle a debt with the devil. The intense boss battles and immersive gameplay struck a chord with players globally, propelling Cuphead to widespread acclaim.

By 2018, Cuphead had gone triple platinum with over 3 million copies sold. Studio MDHR continued to ride the wave of success, releasing The Delicious Last Course, a downloadable content expansion in 2022. It sold a million units across all platforms in less than two weeks since its launch.

But Studio MDHR's story goes beyond gaming. In 2022, they collaborated with Netflix to bring The Cuphead Show!, extending their unique characters and storytelling to animated TV.

The journey of Studio MDHR illustrates their unwavering commitment to honoring the past while crafting engaging experiences for the present. Their passion for excellence and craftsmanship has made a distinct and lasting impact on the gaming industry.

Notable Game Releases: 

From gritty survival to whimsical adventures, indie developers have proven their ability to produce immersive, innovative games that mesmerize millions worldwide. Whether it's Mojang Studios' expansive Minecraft or Studio MDHR's artful homage to a bygone era, these studios showcase indie games' dynamic, creative spirit. Their stories inspire others and help to make the future of gaming exciting, one groundbreaking title at a time. 

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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