With so many independent studios working diligently to produce some of the most inventive and thought-provoking video games nowadays, you’re pretty much guaranteed that there’s a collection of exceptional indie titles just around the corner. Whether it’s revisiting an beloved franchise with a fresh twist or solving a riveting mystery while engaged in a harrowing time loop, there’s so many diverse experiences to be had this year that there’s bound to be something here that you’ll be delighted to dive into eventually.
Regardless of which games tickle your fancy, though, remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg for 2021’s video game lineup. There are dozens upon dozens of exciting titles on the horizon, so be warned that your wallet may not approve quite as much as you do.
Little Nightmares II
If you missed out on Tarsier Studios’ horror-based puzzle-platformer Little Nightmares, now’s a good time to remedy that. The eerie adventure saw a young girl named Six exploring the The Maw – a creepy underwater vessel of some sort – while attempting to escape the clutches of its variety of horrendously disgusting denizens. Equal parts disturbing and charming, it was a truly intense experience unlike anything else available, and now that its sequel is rapidly approaching, you’re running out of time to catch up.
Little Nightmares II is set some point after the original game and will cast players as a new protagonist named Mono, who must explore the dilapidated Pale City. As Mono traverses the collapsing metropolis, he’ll be tasked with finding the Signal Tower, which has been commandeered by an evil entity in order to control the city’s many twisted citizens. The adventure is shaping up to be every bit as ghastly as that of its predecessor, if not more so, and seeing as it builds upon the original’s story in some form or fashion, we can hope to get some lingering questions answered along the way.
Little Nightmares II launches February 11, 2021 on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. If you’re planning on picking it up, check out our pre-order guide.
If you’re a fan of the famous BioShock franchise, you’re not going to want to overlook Atomic Heart. Following its enthralling announcement trailer in 2018, the world has waited with bated breath for more information on this utterly captivating new game from developer Mundfish, and new updates have tended to flow in sporadically and help give us an idea of what we can expect when it finally releases.
Atomic Heart, much like the aforementioned BioShock, is an atmospheric FPS with some RPG elements complimented by a striking art style and riveting narrative backbone. Players will be tasked with uncovering a mystery in 1955 in an alternate reality Soviet Russia, where they’ll explore a mysterious manufacturing facility while fending off a unusual creatures and aggressive robots using an assortment of firearms and unconventional melee weapons. Judging by what’s been shown so far, this one is destined to be an interesting journey.
Though Atomic Heart hasn’t received a confirmed launch date, Mundfish has slated it for release in 2021 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.
Sometimes you just need a feel-good game that allows you to sit back and take in something magical, and that’s exactly why you should keep your eyes on Season from Scavengers Studio, the team behind the relatively unknown battle-royale title The Darwin Project. Originally announced at the 2020 Game Awards via a brief but astounding trailer, this utterly gorgeous game has already captured the attention of gamers all across the world, though not a lot is known about it beyond its striking visual style and fundamental gameplay and story concepts.
Season appears to be a pensive and introspective experience that its creators have labeled an “atmospheric adventure bicycle road trip game.” Meanwhile, The Game Awards host, Geoff Keighley, described the gameplay as “exploring and recording disappearing cultures.” Hopefully, Scavengers Studios will share more about this aesthetically beautiful game in the near future. In the meantime, we can all just rewatch that stunning trailer over and over again.
As of right now, Scavengers Studio has not confirmed a release date for Season, but it’s at least fairly likely to launch on PS5 and PC at some point later this year.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
Team Cherry’s 2018 title Hollow Knight was a challenging and cryptic 2D Metroidvania that captured the hearts of gamers worldwide with its unique art style and intriguing setting of Hallownest – a vast bug kingdom that has fallen to an all-encompassing infection. And with such a hit on their hands, they know they’ve got to make sure their follow-up is both expansive and familiar. Thus far, their sequel Hollow Knight: Silksong seems to be nailing that balance perfectly.
Originally intended as a DLC, Team Cherry’s ambitions ultimately exceeded such a limited scope, and now Hollow Knight: Silksong will be a standalone title. The game will maintain the same general gameplay elements as the original, including free exploration and plenty of strange creatures to fell, but players will now take on the role of Hornet, an ambiguous insectoid who wields a pretty cool needle sword. However, the main character is not all that’s changing, as Hornet will be exploring a new kingdom known as Pharloom, which is aesthetically similar to Hallownest but is certain to hold many secrets of its own.
Hollow Knight: Silksong is coming to PC and Switch, and although it doesn’t have a release window yet, it seems increasingly likely to come out in 2021.
Developed solely by Luis Antonio and to be published by Annapurna, 12 Minutes is shaping up to be quite a narrative-driven mystery experience. The game casts players as a husband in a story that takes place in a single apartment and nearby locales over the course of – you guessed it – twelve minutes. They’ll be tasked with repeating those twelve minutes over and over as they attempt to uncover why a police officer suddenly shows up, accuses the husband’s newly pregnant wife of killing his father years ago, and then murders her and her unborn child.
If it sounds harrowing, you can expect that it will be, as Antonio clearly hasn’t shied away from dealing with some tough subject matter. But as players slowly peel back the various layers of the story and find new methods to approach the scenario, they’re likely to find the questions they’re seeking and, at least hopefully, put an end to the wife’s murder. If you need any more convincing, this horrifying tale will be brought to life with voice actors like Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, and James McAvoy.
12 Minutes doesn’t currently have a confirmed release date, but it’s slated to come out for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC at some point this year.
This is just a selection of what’s sure to be a year filled to bursting with great titles. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for coverage on these and other upcoming games, and check out our reviews section to stay up-to-date on the latest indie releases!