Note: This list was originally published in December. We've updated it to take into consideration changes in release dates (like the delay of Psychonauts 2), as well as to sneak in a few more games. They've been added to the top of the list for your convenience.
If you thought 2017 was a good year for indie games (we certainly did, our overall GOTY was one) just wait till you see what 2018 has in store. This is a list of some of the highlights of next year's crop of games, currently being watered by a complicated system of automated sprinklers evenly spaced between the scarecrows. For another list of even more things to look forward to, here's our overall list including the big-budget games.
The indie games of 2018 we're most looking forward to
January 16 | PolyKnight
InnerSpace (no relation to the 1987 Martin Short movie) is an exploration game about flying through "the Inverse", a collection of worlds with their own ideas about gravity. You'll be through its skies and oceans in a transforming craft, collecting the memories of this ancient place in the final days before it dies.
February 23 (currently in Early Access) | Shiro
"Age of Empires but with Norse mythology" is an easy sell. In this real-time strategy game you choose from several Viking clans then set about making your mark on the land of Northgard, scouting and trading and building. Though there are rivals to pillage it's also possible to play peacefully, and to win by achieving one of several non-violent victory conditions.
2018 | Glumberland
A farm life sim where the crops you grow include adorable monsters (pocket-sized ones even) that follow you around in a cranky little pack and then do battle on your behalf. Ooblets is the mash-up of Stardew Valley, Pokemon, and The Sims you didn't know you wanted until you saw the trailer.
2018 (currently in Early Access) | Numantian
From the makers of Lords of Xulima comes a classic-style RTS about a steampunk settlement holding out against waves of zombies. With potentially thousands of undead on screen at a time (including Left 4 Dead-style special infected) this is the kind of player-versus-AI strategy game we've been missing.
April | Terrifying Jellyfish
There are plenty of games about cooking. There's even a game about competitively cooking monsters after slaying them. Nour is not a game about cooking, or even eating—it's about playing with your food, flinging toast, bouncing ramen, popping popcorn. Every animation looks like a tiny meditation, a Little Book of Calm for your tastebuds. Delicious.
January 23 (Early Access launch) | Pathea
Everybody's inheriting the family farm and moving to the countryside these days, but in My Time at Portia things are different. You inherit your father's workshop in an RPG village instead, and set about becoming the local master of crafting and a successful small business owner—as well as finding romance and going fishing, as is traditional.
February 13 | Warhorse
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG set in 15th century Europe with no fantastical elements in which you play an ordinary blacksmith's son. Although you are on a quest for revenge you're no chosen one, and Warhorse are working on creating a realistic world of grit and peril. Also, to save your game you have a swig of brandy so if you save too often you get drunk.
Early 2018 (currently in Early Access) | Team Fugl
Games about flying and games of soothing escapism have been a real trend this last year. Fugl is both, a voxel-based flying simulator in which you transform to resemble the creatures around you as you flap over its lakes and picturesque, blocky trees.
January 17 | Zarfhome
A boy finds three mad science devices: a mind-reading helmet, a time machine, and a doomsday device. Which does he experiment with first? Originally a choose-your-own-adventure story told in comic book form, Meanwhile is now reappearing in videogame form. Each choice leads you down a different string of panels, which makes for a striking visualization of a branching plot.
Early 2018 | Toxic Games
The original was a first-person puzzler in which you manipulated cube platforms that behaved differently depending what color they were, some of them elongating or extruding or bouncing you into the air. With its Directors Cut release Q.U.B.E. had a plot bolted on to its pure puzzling and the sequel seems to be building on that, casting you as an archaeologist trapped in an alien land.
2018 (Currently in Early Access) | Interdimensional
Consortium was an indie immersive sim set on a single aircraft. Its sequel will expand the scope to a high-rise building, which you'll be able to infiltrate from above by a variety of means including stealth, diplomacy, and a bit of the old ultraviolence.
2018 | EightyEight Games
Photographs is five puzzle games set in five different times and locations. Each one is a pixel-art tragedy, a diorama to unravel. The story's mysterious, and apparently will change depending on how you approach each of its five pieces.
2018 | Ice-Pick Lodge
A remake rather than a sequel to the cult classic Russian game about trying to cure a plague in a mysterious town. Pathologic 2 will improve not only graphics and AI but make both autopsies and the plague's behavior more realistic and give the town a more robust economy you'll need to interact with to survive. In the original that meant trading water with the local drunks for bandages. It's grim.
Early 2018 (currently in Early Access) | inbetweengames
In an alternate future where the Cold War never ended, Berlin is still a divided city and the world is on the brink of nuclear war. You're a time traveler sent back to a German nightclub in the year 2089, the precise time and place a rogue nuclear strike can be averted, which you set out to achieve by engaging in isometric combat, rewinding time when things go wrong, and dancing.
Early 2018 | Klei
A turn-based RPG with battles that look a bit Final Fantasy, from the people behind Invisible Inc. and Don't Starve. The setting's sci-fi, the protagonists are pirates and mercenaries, and one of them's a neat-looking slug dude. Negotiation will apparently be as important as combat, and you'll be adventuring in a sandbox with its own simulated economy.
2018 | ZA/UM
Urban fantasy settings and police procedural RPGs are both the kind of game we'd like more of, so getting the two combined in one is a dream come true. No Truce With the Furies also features an inventory for your thoughts, skills you can have conversations with, and a soundtrack by British Sea Power.
January | Deconstructeam
From the makers of Gods Will Be Watching and published by Devolver Digital, here's another entry in the recent wave of cyberpunk games. This one's an adventure game where a hacker and a bartender team up to prevent a megacorp from brainwashing society. Contains interrogative cocktail-mixing, phone-phreaking, and cybernetic pottery. This might actually be the cyberpunk game about philosophical outsiders grappling with the genre's themes we've been waiting for.
2018 | Subset
The new game from FTL's developers. Into the Breach is a turn-based game of giant robots fighting giant kaiju on a surprisingly small scale. The city maps are all eight-by-eight grids like chessboards and you have a set number of turns to minimize damage before the monsters leave. It's a bitey little tactics game that's getting rave reviews from early testers in the IGF. And like FTL, the music's by Ben Prunty.
May | Failbetter
The sequel to Sunless Sea leaves underground oceans behind and sets off into space. Set 10 years later in the year 1905, its steam-powered ships are now capable of interplanetary travel. As the captain of one you'll be experiencing familiar activities from Sunless Sea—like going mad, running out of food, and eating all your crew.
TBA | Mossmouth
We don't know much more about Spelunky 2 than that it's a sequel to Spelunky, but that's really all we need to know to get excited. The trailer suggests that it will follow the adventures of the child of the original spelunker, and it's likely that it will be another 2D platformer with permadeath and a heck of a learning curve. It might involve the moon?
2018 | House House
A stealth game where you're a goose, and not just any goose but a real asshole of a goose. You torment a farmer by stealing his radio, disrupting his lunch, and generally being an impediment. For a daft concept it looks great, and that waddling animation has a cheeky insouciance that elevates it to art.
Spring | Dontnod
It would be hard enough dealing with the 1918 flu epidemic as an ordinary doctor, but the Life is Strange developers are asking players to cope with that and being an undead beast with a thirst for blood. Vampyr is an action RPG where it matters who you choose to feed on, and apparently every single NPC in it will be, um, fang-able.
2018 | Team Meat
The long-awaited sequel to Super Meat Boy sees the family Meat setting out to save their baby (named Nugget) from returning villain Dr. Festus. This one's apparently going to involve some random elements in its level design and two-button controls. It will also be the same flavor of bastard hard die-repeat-die as the original for sure.
Late 2018 | Snapshot
Julian Gollop's return to turn-based strategy of the explicitly X-COM style, Phoenix Point has squads of sci-fi soldiers saving the world from mutants and an alien virus unleashed when the polar icecaps melted. You'll send your team out from the only Project Phoenix base left to take back a world that's already been conquered. Some of those soldiers are going to die so you better not name them after anyone you care about, goodness me, no.
2018 | Mode 7
The simultaneous turn-based tactics of Frozen Synapse are being scaled up for its sequel. Instead of rooms full of color-coded clones blasting away at each other there's going to be an entire city of them, a procedurally generated one full of factions to vie against.
TBA | 11 Bit Studios
The creators of This War of Mine return with a game that looks just as morally bleak. This one's set in a frozen future, and instead of a household you've got an entire city to look after, with large-scale decisions like whether to ban or encourage child labor to make and an entire population relying on you to see they don't freeze or starve.
Early 2018 | Fatshark
Vermintide is one of the better games to come out of the Warhammer licence, and Fatshark have kept it going with DLC like Castle Drachenfels and most recently Death on the Reik. But the sequel's going to do more than just add new maps and new ways to kill skaven, adding an entirely new faction of enemies in the armored shape of Chaos warriors.
2018 | OtherSide
Picking up where the Ultima Underworld games left off, Underworld Ascendant is a first-person dungeon crawler and an immersive sim with a highly reactive environment. It's being designed to encourage improvisation and reward experimenting with its systems.
TBA | Mossmouth
A team of all-star indie developers including the creators of Spelunky and Downwell are collaborating on this collection of 50 small games. There's everything from 2D platformers, and side-scrolling beat-em-ups to golf and RPGs. Everything's 8-bit and shares a 32-color palette, and there's a fictional backstory suggesting all 50 games were made by the same forgotten company from the '80s.
Late 2018 | Route 59
A 3D visual novel where you can explore the setting between chapters of story, Necrobarista is set in a cafe based out of an abandoned tram terminal in Melbourne, Australia. It all happens over the course of one night, in which the cafe becomes home to ghosts as well as regular customers. Maybe they're just after one more latte?
Early 2018 | Zoë Quinn
Project Tingler is the codename for a game set in the Tingleverse, which is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe but with more butts. From the Kickstarter video: "Project Tingler is a new FMV (Full Motion Video) adventure game based on the works of Chuck Tingle, the beloved author behind such classics as 'Pounded In The Butt By My Own Butt'". It's being made by Zoë Quinn (Depression Quest), has a Vampire Night Bus in it, and will be available for free.
March 2018 | Obsidian
A direct sequel to Pillars of Eternity, Deadfire continues the story but shifts the location. Now we'll be exploring an archipelago from a mobile stronghold in the form of our own ship, alongside companions new and old (although party size will be dropped to five). Importing your save from the original means decisions you made then could have effects on the world now.
Early 2018 | Dumb and Fat
A game to convince those who hate bards of the error of their ways, Wandersong is a fantasy adventure about a hero who solves every problem with music. The overall aim is to collect the pieces of the mystical Earthsong, but it seems like every problem you meet will be a puzzle solvable by bashing out a tune.
TBA | Proxy Studios
The 40K universe gets a 4X game, this one set on a world called Gladius Prime. Ultramarines, Orks, Imperial Guard, and Necrons all compete for it and, yes, there are hexes. This one's being published by Slitherine, who also brought us turn-based 40K strategy games Sanctus Reach and Armageddon.
TBA | Alpixel
A Place for the Unwilling is an adventure game set in a Victorian-era city, covered in fog and mystery. You inherit your friend's business after they commit suicide and have to earn a living as a trader while also figuring out exactly why they took their life. Also it has time travel, and a supernatural side that draws from Robert W. Chambers' King in Yellow stories and H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos.
Early 2018 | Throughline Games
When you lose socks apparently they all go to live together in a world full of abandoned objects that looks like it was animated by Miyazaki. Forgotton Anne is one of the only humans in this world, an enforcer whose job is to prevent rebellion among the lost possessions in this adventure-platformer.
Summer 2018 (estimated) | Meowza
As Mineko you'll run a market stall and a farm and even go mining, which is all very farmlife-sim so far. But this happens on a Japanese island full of cats, and as you can see from the video those adorable cats play a big part in the game, and its appeal.
TBA | Tales of Game’s Studios
Its full title is The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7–Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie–Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa. We don't really know if it's going to come out at all, let alone in 2018, or whether it will live up to the expectations of fans of the first JRPG basketball parody, Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden.
2018 (Early Access) | Bulkhead Interactive
The idea of taking shooters back to WW2 is a timely one, and the Kickstarter for Battalion 1944 tapped into that sentiment enough that it hit its goal in three days. It's a multiplayer FPS with a focus on competitive play, with both a server browser and LAN support, harking back to classic WW2 shooters.
Early 2018 | Roll7
A violent neon futuresport of the Tron variety in which you capture nodes that transform into moving laser walls. Said laser walls will obliterate your opponents but not your own team, turning Laser League into a multiplayer game of territory control in Daft Punk helmets.
Early 2018 | Stegersaurus
Mount Your Friends was a physics-y game of competitive climbing, where buff gentlemen fell into heaps like a nipply Jenga. The physics also made their wangs swing around while they did it. In 2018 Mount Your Friends will be coming at you in 3D, with the subtitle "A Hard Man is Good to Climb".
Summer 2018 | Chevy Ray
Something's gone wrong at the school for witches and wizards. Your sister is missing and you have to explore the secrets of the school to find her, while also maybe learning some spells? Ikenfell has turn-based magical duels and a cute JRPG art style, though it also has a spooky side and something in the basement worth avoiding.
January | Demimonde Studios
Demimonde have found a way to breathe new life into the 2D indie platformer in Octahedron. There's the psychedelic neon look, the vertical design of levels, and finally the ability to make your own platforms—when you fall, it's entirely your own fault. Also some of the music's by Chipzel, who was responsible for Super Hexagon's excellent tunes.