The Most Anticipated Indie Games on Xbox in 2018

By Mark Delaney,
Last weekend we peeked ahead to the slew of AAA titles coming to Xbox One in 2018. For some, it doesn't get more exciting than that. For others, the lesser heralded gems of the indie and ID@Xbox scene are more captivating. If you find yourself in that crowd, we have you covered too. This week we're looking at the most anticipated indies of the year. As independent gaming means some soon to be awesome games haven't even been revealed yet and won't be treated with a massive marketing push, it's likely this list will look non-exhaustive by the end of the year. For now, though, we think these are some of the biggest and best games to get excited about.

Below

Below Screens 01This must be the year, right?

Below is a game that's been in limbo for a while. Seen at E3 and previewed here and there over the years, it's last delay pushed it out of the summer 2016 window and since then we've heard little about it, other than it'll be among the growing list of Xbox One enhanced games when it finally does release. The quiet surrounding the game is surely nerve-racking for everyone involved in the game's process, including eager gamers but this really feels like the year it arrives. Do you feel the same? Expect another (and final) showing at E3 — unless it arrives even sooner.

Ashen

1What lies ahead?

Like Below, Aurora44's Ashen is a small game given the big game treatment of the E3 showcase. It seems Microsoft adores the title, and though it's never formally been delayed, one might've reasonably expected it to arrive by now. It was first revealed at E3 in 2015, so by the time it arrives, presumably this year, it'll be about three years from announcement to our hard drives, but given the woodsy art, enormous monsters, and apparent Souls influences, we're happy to give it time to become what it's meant to be and nothing less. The ID@Xbox platform looks to be massive this year.

The Church in the Darkness

Screenshot Saturday 6/5/17Stay home on Sundays.

Paranoid Productions' Church bills itself a stealth-infiltration game and in our time with it last summer, it was as tense as that genre implies. For reasons we'll explore in a future op-ed, cults are really in right now with video games. Church may be the only one as of late that allows for its cult to come out as the good guys. Across multiple playthroughs the people of Freedom Town's disposition can change and you'll need to search for context clues to determine just how violent (or not) they may be as you sneak around their group trying to extract your nephew. It's also a game that leans heavily on its mechanics, so it seems to have something for everyone, gameplay and story.

System Shock Redux

System ShockPlay the game that inspired that game you love.

It seems a prerequisite to enjoying video games is to enjoy BioShock. For many, it represents one of the industry's best ever settings and stories. What some may not know is that it's heavily inspired by System Shock, a PC-only title. Its remastering was successfully kickstarted and is now on the way seemingly sometime in 2018, after missing what appeared to be a 2017 window at one point. We should really stress it again: if you like BioShock but haven't played System Shock, you should maybe go track it down on Steam. If you're not one to play retro games the remastering is coming soon and should be considered a must-play when it does arrive.

Ooblets


If you're excited for Ooblets, it's probably because of the comparisons it so often garners. The likes of Pokemon, Animal Crossing, and Harvest Moon are among them, so it sounds like it could be a type of game Xbox players don't often have access to. It lets players live out their days in a pastel paradise while collecting the titular creatures as companions and even send them into battle. Is it Pokemon? No, certainly not. But is it the closest thing to Pokemon we'll ever see on Xbox? Almost definitely. Gotta oob them all?

A Way Out

a way outTwo fugitives are better than one.

This one feels like cheating a bit because it's backed by EA's Originals branding, which means they help market it on behalf of the indie studio, in this case Hazelight, so A Way Out's path to release is likely more comfortable than many indie devs clawing for exposure. To their credit, EA takes no cut from the sales of their Originals branded games and have quietly built up an exciting roster of early games in the program. A Way Out, to most people is known as either "that game that requires splitscreen" or "that game being made by that rabid man." Josef Fares' public displays of affection for his game have been memorable, but the game looks to be more memorable than his wacky outbursts. Somehow the over-the-top developer did give us Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons as well, a somber and human story of family. A Way Out feels like a natural evolution of that game and it's one we're really excited to see more of when it launches in February.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

screensStunning, as one could expect.

Here's another small studio with a big backer. Microsoft and Moon Studios collaborated on the first Ori a few years ago and the result was a game that was instantly beloved by fans of metroidvania games. It charmed with its awesome visuals, touching music, and unique world all wrapped up in the makings of a genre hit. We don't know much about The Will of the Wisps other than that it exists, but it's enough to make fans very happy. We've seen the comments around TA and it's clear a great number of people in our community are among the most passionate for the game anywhere. This sequel feels like a victory for fans of small games with big dreams.

The Last Night

screensThe dawn of a new day.

Fans of cinematic platformers have a potentially major hit coming their way with The Last Night. First seen on the E3 stage for Xbox last year, the game depicts a near-future world where automation has replaced all menial work and people are now free to do what they want with their time. Topics like the realities of universal basic income and robot-human relations seem to sit front and center in the game, which really couldn't be more timely. What the title offers in the way of gameplay isn't totally clear yet, though puzzles and atmosphere seem to be staples of the cinematic platformer subgenre so we could reasonably expect those elements front and center here too.

Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition

KR0The magic is real.

Describing Kentucky Route Zero is a bit difficult. It's certainly story-driven, and it probably best fits the adventure game genre, but after that it gets weird. Exploring differently magically real locations and communicating with a number of strange characters, the game feels more like a fever dream that requires a controller. It's the posterboy for games that wouldn't exist without the thriving indie market with which we currently and thankfully live. KRZ was a critical hit on PC last year, and after a brief Nintendo Switch exclusivity window in 2018, it'll come to other consoles, including Xbox.

Lifeless Moon

CarouselTwilight Zone fans, take note.

Another game we saw at PAX last summer, Lifeless Moon is the kickstarted spiritual successor to Lifeless Planet. It exists in the same universe as its predecessor, we're told, but is neither a true sequel nor a prequel. Instead it tells a whole new story — or at least that's what we're led to believe for now. The game's director was teasingly vague about the story, and we didn't mind. It left us with some serious Twilight Zone comparisons which is a great starting point for an indie space adventure with sizable spaceboots to fill.

Did we miss your most exciting indie games? Let us know in the comments!
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.