Skip to content
GDC 2023: the best indie games

When thousands of developers descend on one place, you know there will be great games to check out. This was definitely the case last week. We attended the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and in addition to watching press conferences and attending discussions, we also had plenty of opportunities to learn about some intriguing indie games. And there’s plenty to be excited about – so we’ve rounded up our favorites (in no particular order) here. Most of them are due out later in 2023, so plan your free time accordingly.

fairy farm

Cozy games are all the rage right now, and fairy farm is looking to mix that space up a bit with some dungeon crawls. It’s a cute farm game – think Stardew Valley Or harvest moon – but with added magical elements. So, in addition to doing wholesome things like growing crops, catching fish, and going on dates, you’ll also get quests that involve going to dungeons in a fairy world where you jump in search of magic keys and fight enemies that include sentient violins.

It’s not a particularly original premise, but from the brief demo I played it looked adorable and felt full of things to do. Moreover, it has a very robust character creator and a comfort system that allows you to design the perfect hygge house. It launches later this year on Switch and includes co-op support for up to four players.—AW

Omega Forwards

I know, I know, another free competitive multiplayer game. We drown in them. But Omega Forwards looks like he might be able to carve out a place for himself in the crowded field. It’s a bit like a mixture of football and Surveillance, a 3v3 game where you play on a handful of futuristic maps, aiming to score on your opponent. Simple stuff. The twist is the hero characters you control, each with unique characteristics and a special move that can turn the tide of the game if used correctly. Team composition becomes a big part of the strategy.

I couldn’t immerse myself in it for the few games I played, and yet I still had a blast. The matches were quick and dramatic, and I even managed a few goals. There’s a lot to be done for this kind of game to be a long-term success, but Omega Forwards at least makes a good first impression. It will launch on Switch, PC, and mobile on April 27.—AW

Basket life

Ten years ago, a game called Basket life won the grand prize at the Indie Games Festival – then it quickly disappeared. Its developer, Richard Hofmeier, pulled the game from Steam and eventually left the gaming industry altogether. NOW Basket life gets a second chance, after Hofmeier partners with Adhoc Studio to finally finish and publish it. The game’s return story is fascinating – you can check out this excellent recap in Wired – but the game itself too.

Basket life has players living the lives of three different people struggling to succeed as street vendors. I played through a section as a Ukrainian immigrant who supports a newsstand, trying to earn just enough to stay in a run-down hotel with his cat. Kinda papers please Or What Remains of Edith Finch, Basket life uses its gameplay as a tool for empathy, and it’s remarkably effective. The drudgery of neatly folding and stacking newspapers, and the stress of watching the line get longer as you try to cash out customers as quickly as possible, took me back to old delivery jobs. newspapers and the operation of a cash register. I could feel my cheeks blush as I fumbled with coins, and within a short time with the game, I was able to connect with the character.

I missed Basket life the first time, but I’m glad to have another chance to experience it when it launches on PC later this year.—AW

A Highland Song

Inkle is best known for its narrative games, like Globetrotting 80 days or the adventure of archeology The skybut the studio’s next release goes in a different direction. A Highland Song is a side-scrolling game about a young girl exploring the Scottish Highlands. It still has the choice-driven gameplay the studio is known for, as you select different paths through the mountains. But it also has some surprising elements like a simple survival system, as you have to stay warm and dry and find shelter at night. At times, it’s even a rhythm game as you run through the landscape to the beat of the music.

From what I played, it was both thrilling and mysterious, with a dose of magical realism mixed in with Scottish mythology. It also looked amazing, like a Cartoon Saloon movie that you can explore. A Highland Song doesn’t have a release date, but it’s coming to both Steam and Switch.—AW


Naiad is a game you can really relax with. You play as a small water nymph swimming in a beautiful serene lake, completing small tasks along the way. The movement is fluid; it’s very satisfying to move around, even without a goal or destination in mind. And while there are small environmental puzzles to solve, the game isn’t pushy about it, letting you figure things out at your own pace.

There are no checklists to fill out or bright arrows pointing you in the right direction. You swim, find things to do, and then do them if you want. During my brief time with the game, I helped round up ducks and brought home a frog in its lily pad. It was so cool. Naiad is coming to PC and consoles later this year.—AW

The wandering village

In its most basic form, The wandering village – which is currently available as an early access title on Steam – is a fairly standard city builder. You harvest resources, use them to build and upgrade your city, and do your best to balance the needs of your growing population. The twist is that you’re building this city on the back of a giant, wandering creature.

It’s not just an aesthetic choice (even if it seems very cool), but it also has an impact on the game itself. The beast will roam different environments, so things like the weather are constantly changing, forcing you to adapt. At one point in my demo of the Xbox version, which comes out this year, the creature ventured into a poisonous forest, forcing me to race to keep the spores from infecting my crops and other plants. It’s a fun spin on an age-old genre, and it’s also surprisingly well suited to an Xbox gamepad.—AW


Venba is more than a cooking game. In this one, you must use your intuition and cooking skills to help fix a damaged family cookbook. Through trial and error, you try to recreate the comfort food that will help Venba and his family maintain their connection to their culture and their old country as they adjust to a new life in Canada. Venba has rich art and an intuitive yet still thought-provoking design. I failed several times to do idli in the game demo. Through my failures I was able to figure out that even though idil is a relatively simple steamed dumpling, the way Venba does is unique to her and her family and that’s what makes food special. It’s coming to Steam and Switch later this year.—AP

5 Force fighters

black people love Dragon Ball Z— it is a (quasi) scientific fact. And one of the ways love shows up is through the video games that black people make. 5 Force fighters is a fighting game inspired by Budokai Tenkaichis and the dragonball World MUGEN fan games.

Made by a pair of first time game developer brothers, 5 Force fighters drops, both subtly and overtly, with black culture. The character design and animations remind me of Aaron McGruder’s Huey and Riley The Boondocks. I was thrilled by the text before a game that replaces the typical “FIGHT” message with “THROW HANDS”. The pre-fight match screen features train doors with graffiti in homage to the brothers moving through the Portland subway, and at the end of a match, instead of inviting a rematch, it asks “RUN IT BACK” – a neat little send-off to fighting game commentary.

It’s also a game that’s easy to pick up and play, but imbued with such technical depth that even the most particular toil will enjoy it. 5 Force fighters comes to Steam.—AP

El Paso Elsewhere

The latest game from Strange Scaffold, El Paso Elsewhere, is a vibrant tribute to Max Payne and his penchant for slow motion diving. It’s a dark third-person shooter where you have to fight your way through a run-down motel overrun by all kinds of supernatural beasts in order to stop your vampire ex-girlfriend from destroying the world. You can approach this as a simple run and gun or if you want to have some fun you can take advantage of the game’s slow down feature which will have you diving all over the place Neo style in The matrix.

If that’s all El Paso Elsewhere was, then this would be a pretty love letter to games like The black. But Somewhere else is also a beautifully haunting story of love, loss, and redemption with stunning cinematography and an impressive soundtrack featuring the musical styles of Strange Scaffold founder Xalavier Nelson Jr. It’s coming to PC later this year.—AP


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.