The Inverse Awards

The 10 Best Indie Games of 2023, Ranked

All the games that will confuse your friends when you say they are your games of the year.

Originally Published: 
The Inverse Awards 2023

Massive games like Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3 may have captured the most attention this year, but 2023 was just as full of hidden gems as AAA hits. The year’s best indie games told stories of family and fantastical adventure alike, with inventive twists to set them apart. Indies in 2023 explored language, broke conventions, and celebrated the history of gaming as an artform. The 10 indie games we chose for this year represent the extremes of what makes gaming great, from intimate stories to impossible journeys.

Here are our picks for the best indie games of 2023.

10. Chants of Sennaar

Focus Entertainment

In Chants of Sennaar, language is a puzzle. The game tasks you with translating a handful of languages to progress to the top of a massive tower. Each language is more complex than the last and represents the culture of its speakers. So much of Chants of Sennaar is spent laboring over translations, often having to make your best guess, but when a translation is correct and leads to a whole language unfolding before you, the feeling of success is unparalleled. I’ve never been more excited over punctuation and plural nouns than while playing Chants of Sennaar. — Willa Rowe

9. Goodbye Volcano High


When you’re a teenager, leaving high school, losing friends, and fighting with your parents can feel like the end of the world. Goodbye Volcano High makes the connection literal, putting you in the shoes of an anthropomorphic dinosaur facing down senior year and a looming asteroid. As if that weren’t enough, protagonist Fang is also facing down the most important show of their life for their band, leading to bravura musical sequences that blend the emotional story with tricky rhythm gameplay. Goodbye Volcano High captures the all-too-familiar feeling of living through the apocalypse better than any other game this year. — Robin Bea

8. Venba

Visai Games

A word of advice: Before you play Venba, you need to order a biryani and have tissues within arm’s reach. You’ll thank me later. Told over an hour through vignettes in the life of an immigrant mother, Venba digs into the inseparable relationship between food and culture. It’s a game about the power of a home-cooked meal and how food represents who we are, all of which is communicated through cooking minigames that will make your mouth water. — Willa Rowe

7. A Space for the Unbound

Toge Productions

A coming-of-age story with a supernatural twist, A Space for the Unbound was one of 2023’s first great games, and at year’s end, it still stands as a spectacle. Following the romance of Atma and Raya, two teens who gain superpowers in 1990s Indonesia, A Space for the Unbound unfolds into a spiraling and expansive story about living with trauma. The game’s classic adventure puzzles and gorgeous art are supported by writing that never crosses the line to feeling too cliche. This is a heartfelt and sad story worth experiencing. — Willa Rowe

6. Saltsea Chronicles

Die Gute Fabrik

In the nautical adventure Saltsea Chronicles, you play not as the captain of a ship, but the entire rest of the crew. As you sail your way across its post-post-apocalyptic world, exploring the diverse societies thriving in the wake of a catastrophic flood, you’ll choose which crew members to bring ashore for each encounter. By letting you play as every character — sometimes more than one in a single scene — Saltsea Chronicles trades the hero-focused structure of typical video games for one more concerned with community than conquest. — Robin Bea

5. Misericorde: Volume One


Misericorde: Volume One won’t be for everybody. It’s a visual novel in the truest sense of the genre, telling a story to the player without giving them any actual input to direct the narrative. If you aren’t up for sitting and reading a bunch of text for hours, then this isn’t for you. But Misericorde’s text is what makes it special. The nuns that reside in the game’s 15th-century convent all feel like living people thanks to Misericorde’s top-tier writing. — Willa Rowe

4. Jusant


Jusant is simultaneously one of the most thrilling and most meditative games I’ve played this year. Your only goal is to reach the top of a towering mountain, climbing its rocky face one handhold at a time. Jusant’s exacting control scheme forces you to grip each rock with a press of your controller’s trigger, keeping you in the flow of the climb the whole way. By the time you reach the summit, you’ll have explored the ruins of civilizations that lived and died within the mountain and discovered stories of the climbers that came before you. — Robin Bea

3. The Making of Karateka

Digital Eclipse

To say that The Making of Karateka was like no other game this year is a massive understatement. There’s simply never been another game to attempt what The Making of Karateka succeeds at so well. Charting the development of Jordan Mechner’s Karateka, this interactive documentary combines original videos with archival materials, along with playable versions of Karateka and Mechner’s unreleased Deathbounce. For turning a historical documentary about game development into a game itself, The Making of Karateka is nothing short of genius. — Robin Bea

2. Life After Magic

Chirashi Games

Magical girls and depression are a match made in heaven, and Life After Magic proves this. The visual novel asks the question “What would happen if the Sailor Scouts got gifted kid burnout?” The answer? They would all stop talking to each other. Life After Magic follows protagonist Akiko as she reunites with her former team of superheroes to save the world one more time and hopefully save their friendship in the process as well. It’s a melancholic look at life in your 20s highlighted by a lovable cast of characters rendered in gorgeous pixel art. — Willa Rowe

1. Slay the Princess

Black Tabby Games

In a year full of great visual novels, Slay the Princess stands out from the crowd by combining its incredible story and presentation with a mind-bending structure that subverts the very idea of player choice. Playing as a hero caught in a time loop, you’re told by the game’s narrator that a princess locked up nearby will end the world if you don’t stop her. From there, you’re free to argue or obey, even refuse to follow the narrator at all, but every path inevitably leads to either the princess’s death or yours. The joy of Slay the Princess comes from seeing both how the story unfolds and how far you can bend it before it breaks. Add to that stunning pencil-sketch art and voice performances that change with every loop, and Slay the Princess is a story that demands to be explored. — Robin Bea

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