It’s that time of year where every website, YouTuber, and person on the face of the planet with Internet access is compiling their best of 2016 lists, and CGM is no different.We’ve already done our looking back, so now we’ll take a look ahead to some of the biggest releases of the next year, including new additions to massive franchises and lavish AAA experiences. However, it’s also important to look outside the big blockbuster gaming sphere at what’s going on in the independent gaming scene in 2017. Indie games are as exciting as they’ve ever been, and although a large number of indie successes over the past few years have been complete surprises, there are a few slated for next year that are pretty safe bets. Here are CGM’s 10 most anticipated indie games of 2017 in no particular order.
The horror indie game market is plagued with low quality asset flips and Five Nights at Freddy’s rip-offs, so it takes something truly special to stand out above the crowd of Let’s Play-bait. In 2013, Red Barrels’ Outlast did just that. A combination of haunting environments, threatening enemies and constant tension made for one of the most intense gaming experiences in recent memory, and it looks like it’s happening again. Taking a page from American Horror Story, Outlast II is set in the same universe as the first game but with a completely different setting and cast. The story follows Blake Langermann, a journalist who gets stranded in the Arizona desert and must make his way through a village inhabited by a murderous cult to find his wife. Demos so far have been promising, showing tense chases through wooden shacks and cornfields, and a more open environment—in contrast to Outlast’s claustrophobic insane asylum—is an intriguing change of pace. The game was initially slated for release in Fall 2016 but has been subsequently delayed to early 2017, so the Red Barrels team have had enough time to give us even more nightmares than the previous entry.
Developer: Playtonic Games
Release Date: April 11
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Although they’ve since gotten back on the game developer saddle with the upcoming Sea of Thieves, Rare has been in a sorry state for the past several years. Talent has come and gone, leaving Microsoft completely clueless about what to do with the studio’s classic franchises. In response, that talent came together in 2015 to launch a Kickstarter for the spiritual sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, perhaps Rare’s most beloved franchise, which aims to give the fans what they have been sorely missing for a very long time. The Kickstarter was a resounding success, and subsequent looks at the adventures of the adorable chameleon Yooka and his bat friend Laylee have promised a return to the 3D platforming adventures of the Nintendo 64 era updated for the modern age. While the bitter disappointment of Mighty No. 9 has left a sour taste for nostalgic Kickstarter indie game projects in the mouths of many gamers, Yooka-Laylee has a very good chance of restoring the faith.
Release Date: Q1/Q2 2017
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One
Is Gone Home a game or is it a walking simulator? More importantly: who cares? The narrative-focused adventure made a huge splash back in 2013 for its unique approach to environmental storytelling, leaving many anxious to see what developer Fullbright would be doing next. Their questions were answered at the 2014 Game Awards, where Tacoma was shown off for the first time. Since then, the indie game has gone through overhauls in response to playtester feedback and seems ready to go in the first half of 2017. Details of the story have been kept under wrap, with the setting of a space station 200,000 miles from Earth being the only confirmed fact, but if it’s anything like Gone Home, the less we know going in, the better.
Developer: Studio MDHR
Release Date: Mid-2017
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
From the second Cuphead was shown during Microsoft’s E3 2014 press conference, the gaming community took notice. The indie game has an eye-popping artstyle that perfectly replicates 1930’s cartoons in the format of a Contra-style run-and-gun, creating a huge amount of buzz for a new studio’s first game. As a result of the newfound hype, the Studio MDHR team has been working meticulously to expand the game, leading to numerous delays. The latest one, which bumped the release from sometime in 2016 to the middle of 2017, should hopefully be the last, and the work the developers put in has shown with added platforming in recent demos. Although it feels like we’ve been waiting since the cartoons Cuphead takes inspiration from first aired for the game to come out, it’ll most likely be worth the wait.
Divinity: Original Sin II
Developer: Larian Studios
Release Date: 2017
Released during a slow period in the saddest gaming year in recent memory, Divinity: Original Sin was a surprise hit for many. The modernized approach to classic RPG gameplay was a breath of fresh air to both old-school players and newcomers alike, leading to developer Larian Studios becoming another prominent figure in the resurrection of top-down RPGs alongside Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity. A sequel came to Kickstarter in mid-2015 and smashed its goal in less than 12 hours, and although it has been delayed from December 2016 to sometime next year, Divinity: Original Sin II has been in early access since September to overwhelmingly positive feedback, and the full game has promised exciting new additions to the original formula. With the Kickstarter funds combined with the first game’s success, Divinity: Original Sin II looks to be everything a sequel should be: adding to the original while keeping what made it great.
Developer: 11 bit studios
Release Date: 2017
Indie gaming is built on pleasant surprises, and few games took the world by storm with as little pre-release hype as 2014’s This War of Mine. The 2D survival game had immersive management systems and tense stealth gameplay, but what really impressed critics was its approach towards the subject of war. In a gaming landscape where the most tragic thing to happen in wartime is the bro of your beefy hero heroically sacrificing himself to defeat approaching evil, This War of Mine put the player in the shoes of those truly affected by armed conflict and forced them to scavenge for food, shelter and basic supplies, striking a chord with gamers that had not been touched since Spec Ops: The Line. Their next game, Frostpunk, is not too big of a stretch on the surface level—an emotion-driving game with tough moral choices and strategic, management-focused gameplay. However, there’s one big difference: instead of taking place in a modern-day war-torn nation, Frostpunk is set in a dangerous frozen world where steam-powered technology has been developed to fend off the inescapable cold. Details so far are scarce, but going by 11 bit’s track record, expect to feel absolutely horrible while playing it.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Release Date: 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4
Few indie developers have the clout that Supergiant has, but it’s definitely well-deserved. The team burst onto the indie gaming scene with 2011’s Bastion, considered by many to be one of the best games of the decade thus far, and their 2014 follow-up Transistor only boosted their reputation. For their third game, Supergiant will enter the world of high fantasy RPGs with a unique gameplay twist. Combat in Pyre has been described as a mix of DOTA, Rocket League and Transistor, and focuses on two teams of three launching a glowing orb into their opponent’s pyre to cause damage. Progression seems to be taking its cues from The Banner Saga, focusing on a day-night cycle and managing your party. As is to be expected from Supergiant at this point, the art style is gorgeous with a heavy focus on 2D animation, and what has been released from the soundtrack composed by the man behind Supergiant’s previous two all-time-best soundtracks has been more than up to par. Add in multiplayer, a first for the company, and you have the recipe for an engrossing single player experience as well as a potential big eSports contender.
Friday the 13th: The Game
Developers: Illfonic, Gun Media
Release Date: Early 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
When the words, “Friday the 13th video game” are mentioned, gamers either draw a blank slate or shiver at remembering the bizarre NES game. However, the developers of Friday the 13th: The Game are looking to change that. The creation of theindie game is an interesting story, one that involves a title known as Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp and the original director and creator of the Friday the 13th franchise, Sean Cunningham, reaching out to the team behind it and offering to give them the license to make an official Friday the 13th game. However, even disregarding how it came to be, the gameplay looks to be doing its horror roots proud. An asymmetrical 1v7 multiplayer experience, Friday the 13th: The Game follows several camp counselors attempting to either evade Jason Voorhees until the sun rises or defeat him using teamwork and strategy, while the player in Jason’s shoes must kill all the counselors before time runs out. It’s a unique approach to multiplayer horror that would be more than enough as a selling point on its own, but add in a recently announced single player campaign and you have a bloody, disfigured gem on your hands.
Developer: Pixel Titans
Release Date: Q1 2017
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS4
“The best shooter of 1996” is a title that would be impressive for a game released in 1996, but to apply it to a game releasing in 2017 is novel, to say the least. Yet, when looking at the graphics, gameplay and brilliant marketing of Strafe, it’s a title that definitely fits. Strafe is a first person shooter heavily inspired by the 90’s heyday of id Software, with an aesthetic that prominently features blocky graphics and gratuitous amounts of viscera. The resemblance isn’t just skin-deep either: the game promises fast-paced FPS action with procedurally-generated levels and a huge variety of weapons to choose from. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Strafe was picked up by indie weirdness connoisseurs Devolver Digital, who clearly see promise in the project. Let’s hope that promise gets fulfilled in the form of a point-blank shotgun blast to the face of everyone who plays it.
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
French developers DONTNOD didn’t make the grandest of entrances back in 2013, with their first game Remember Me receiving a mediocre response critically and commercially. However, that changed in 2015 with the episodic smash hit Life is Strange, a unique adventure about a teenage girl suddenly getting the power to rewind time and using it to solve the mysteries surrounding the quiet town she grew up in. The series’ success prompted a change in how Dontnod was viewed, with publishers now soliciting them for games instead of the other way around, but for their next game the team has instead partnered with indie publisher Focus Home for a third-person action RPG set in early 20th century London. Vampyr follows vampire doctor Jonathan Reid as he hunts for blood, but in a unique twist for the action genre it is apparently possible to finish the game without killing a single person. While the shadow of Remember Me may hang heavier over this project than Life is Strange, Dontnod’s talent for storytelling is already established, and their now refined skills should be put to a new test.