Key art for Another Crab's Treasure
(Aggro Crab)

The 10 Best Indie Games of 2024 (So Far)

Paying attention to the business side of the video game world in the last year has been bleak. Massive layoffs have become depressingly common. Large companies like Microsoft are axing entire studios, many of which were recently acquired and/or have recently made successful games, like Hi-Fi Rush‘s Tango Gameworks.

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As grim as the industry is, it’s important to shine a light on the biggest area of promise: the world of indies. And it just so happens that 2024 has seen a massive windfall in absolutely incredible indie games. This list doesn’t even include games that are currently in early access, which arguably include the three biggest indie titles of the year: Palworld, Manor Lords, and Hades 2.

Here are the ridiculously bright spots of 2024 indie gaming so far.

10. Duck Detective: The Secret Salami

Screenshot from Duck Detective: The Secret Salami
(Happy Broccoli Games)

The Case of the Golden Idol is arguably one of the best puzzle/mystery games ever made. If you liked that system of gathering clues and filling in the blanks, but want a game that’s breezier and cuter, welcome to Duck Detective: The Secret Salami.

Duck Detective is a quick play. The art style calls to mind Paper Mario. It’s not made for kids, per se, but it’s a good first puzzle game to place in front of anyone. In short, Duck Detective is a delight.

9. Crow Country

Screenshot from Crow Country
(SFB Games)

We’re in a golden age of a resurgence of Super Nintendo-inspired pixel graphics as a gorgeous, stunning artistic choice (see: Animal Well below). Crow Country takes that to the logical, and more difficult to pull off, next step—throwing us back to PlayStation 1/N64-era graphics. SFB Games brilliantly uses the effect to hence the spookiness (and the 1990s-ness) of this survival horror game. Early Resident Evil vibes abound.

8. Little Kitty, Big City

Poster of 'Little Kitty Big City'

Remember Stray and how crazy we all went for the sci-fi cat game? US-based Double Dagger Studio also intuited what everyone loved about that game: getting to play as an adorable little asshole.

Little Kitty, Big City takes place in a modern cityscape, and you can get up to all the classic antics, including laying down on someone’s laptop keyboard while they’re trying to type. In that way, it’s got a hefty dose of Untitled Goose Game DNA in it. In short, what’s not to love?

7. Botany Manor

Screenshot from Botany Manor
(Balloon Studios)

Botany Manor is a game for those of us who want to grow a garden but live in an apartment or some other situation where that’s not possible. As you might hope for a game about gardening, English developer Balloon Studios gives us the coziest of cozy vibes. But unlike a lot of cozy games, Botany Manor is surprisingly complex. As anyone who’s tried growing some plants could tell you, there are few easy answers in gardening.

6. Harold Halibut

Screenshot from Harold Halbut
(Slow Bros)

There’s no game that looks like Harold Halibut. You could say that what Cuphead does with hand-drawn animation, Harold Halibut does with stop-motion animation. Which means that German developer Slow Bros have delivered us with a gorgeous technical marvel. The game itself is very slow-paced, but if you ask me, that means all the more time to marvel at the game’s wonders.

5. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

Screenshot from Lorelei and the Laser Eyes

From here on out, every game on this list could be in the top spot if this was a normal year. They’re 8/1o or 9/10 fare.

Simogo, the studio behind the beloved Sayonara Wild Hearts, strikes again. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes has an early lead for puzzle game of the year. You explore a spooky, old mansion and the plot just sort of … unravels. Even the reason you’re here, or what the overall plot of the game is, remains a mystery to you from the get-go. The fact that Lorelei can initially withhold so much—even instructions!—and still regularly be called a “masterpiece” means it’s not to be missed.

4. Balatro

Screenshot from Balatro

I will be honest: I have not played Balatro, because I know if I did, I would lose my life to Balatro. I’ve already become a Queen’s Blood fiend over in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. I fully know the monster I could become.

By all accounts, Balatro is an incredibly addictive game. It’s a deck-building roguelike that creates a new version of poker which you are encouraged to break in devious, ridiculous ways. So you have the “just one more run!” mentality of Hades, with all the satisfaction that comes with constantly finding new loopholes, all over the base of gambling. Solo dev LocalThunk has created something incredible and potent.

3. Another Crab’s Treasure

Key art for Another Crab's Treasure
(Aggro Crab)

Of all the games on this list, I’ve spent the most time with Aggro Crab’s Another Crab’s Treasure. It feels like a game made for me, specifically. It’s a brilliantly designed soulslike, with all the challenge of a Dark Souls game, but with a bright, often humorous atmosphere that is bound to bring up SpongeBob SquarePants comparisons. (You can buy a “Mr. Kril” outfit.)

That being said, the game’s themes are quite dark and resonant. It grapples with how difficult it can be to simply live when the greed of capitalism and the (very related) deterioration of your environment make everything feel hopeless. One near-end-game boss is subtitled “Venture Capitalist.” Another Crab’s Treasure made me laugh and cry. And scream, “AGH, so close!!” many, many times.

2. Animal Well

Screenshot from Animal Well
(Billy Basso)

Animal Well is a metroidvania developed by Shared Memory, based in Chicago. But Shared Memory is just one man, and his name is Billy Basso. This is relevant because Animal Well is a work of genius.

There are three layers to the game, and a secret on every single one of its old-fashioned platformer-style screens. Basso has said there are secrets he expects to never be found. And all those secrets mean it’s not really a game you should talk much about before diving in, though many are trying their hardest to praise it while dancing around its mysteries. Animal Well fully engrosses its players. It’s the kind of game you can’t stop thinking about. Nor do you want to.

1. 1000xResist

Screenshot from 1000xResist
(sunset visitor 斜陽過客)

To say that Square Enix’s modern classic NieR:Automata is an influential game would be a massive understatement. It burst open new ideas for how games could tell stories. That’s the legacy that 1000xResist, created by Vancouver-based sunset visitor 斜陽過客, not only runs with, but expands upon. 1000xResist is heavily dialogue-driven, but not without giving players room to explore its sci-fi environs. Like Animal Well, it’s a game that will be talked about for years and years to come.

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Image of Kirsten Carey
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.