The Xbox Indie Showcase was absolutely packed with new games to look forward to in 2021 and beyond. Here's a breakdown of everything we saw during the Twitch event...
You can watch the whole event here but if you'd rather save three hours and see all the games right now, scroll on down and just keep scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling. There are a lot. We've included links to all of the trailers (embedding them all would have slowed this page to a crawl), as well as to the official websites for the games or developers — indie games like these need all the support they can get, whether that be through preorders/wishlisting, community ambassadors, social sharing, or even direct donations via things like Patreon, so we figured we'd share the love. With that all out of the way, let's go!
Fittingly, it almost feels like we've been stuck in a time loop waiting for 12 Minutes to finally arrive on Xbox, with the game appearing at every industry event yet seemingly never any closer to release. Hollywood voice talent stands in for visual complexity in this ingenious mystery game, where you constantly relive a murder scene until you eventually crack the case.
A curious game about a guy who disposes of bodies for the mafia by feeding them to pigs, but decides he wants go straight. Adios is actually already available, and the handful of TA players who have already jumped in have offered it a user rating of 4.1/5 that it can't refuse, so it seems like a hit.
Aerial_Knight's Never Yield
A stylish auto-runner akin to games like Vector and Bit.Trip Runner, Aerial Knight's Never Yield is all about quick reactions and slick animations. We're promised a "dope-tastic" soundtrack (don't shoot the messenger) to complement the action-packed gameplay, and it should be superhero landing on Xbox soon.
An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs
We've seen some odd games in our time, but this open world puzzle adventure starring a bunch of clip art dogs is right up there. It's coming to Xbox on May 25th, so get ready for a very particular brand of nonsense. Dog Airport Game (as even the devs suggest calling it, if the actual title proves too long) is going to be quite the trip...
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
"Even the smallest person can make a big difference," reads the Steam description of this wholesome conservation game that launched late last year on PC. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is all about reconnecting with nature, to the degree that the devs have even been planting a tree for every copy downloaded. Splendid stuff.
Part Stardew Valley, part Slime Rancher, part Pokémon, and all adorable, Alchemic Cutie sees you settling down on Wimba Island in "a relaxing adventure RPG" where you tame and raise Jellies to enter into contests against a backdrop of chilled island life. Sounds like a lovely time to us.
Multiplayer betray-'em-up sensation Among Us is coming to Xbox later this year, and launching straight into Xbox Game Pass when it does. For anyone already playing, the new Airship map — the game's largest yet — drops next week as a free update, and will also be included in the Xbox release.
Art of Rally
Art of Rally is a stylised racer designed so that beginners and experts alike can bask in the glory of classic rally racing. Coming from the creator of Absolute Drift and with glowing reviews on Steam following its release last year, this will be one to keep an eye on when it speeds onto Xbox (and Game Pass) this summer.
Falling somewhere between Syndicate and Cloudpunk, The Ascent is a cyberpunk action-RPG that was among the first titles to be announced for Xbox Series X|S, so you shouldn't have to wait too much longer to give it a go. Again, it'll be launching straight into Game Pass, making it even easier to find buddies for some cooperative corporation crushing.
Astria Ascending looks like Indivisible by way of Vanillaware, and the turn-based RPG has some impressive titles on the dev team's resumes, including Final Fantasy, Nier Automata and Bravely Default. Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, this one too is headed to Xbox and Game Pass later this year.
Atrio: The Dark Wild
Imagine Don't Starve with a ton more conveyor belts and you're getting somewhere close to the craziness that is Atrio: The Dark Wild. This odd hybrid of survival and automation will see you "capturing and enslaving the creatures and environment to help you survive at all costs." No date yet, but it's due some time this year.
Backbone is just your run-of-the-mill noir detective game... oh, except you play as an anthropomorphic raccoon. Featuring beautifully detailed pixel art, complex branching dialogue options, and a suitably jazzy soundtrack, this stunning oddity is yet another one that will be slinking straight into Game Pass at launch some time this year.
The Big Con
The Big Con is an adventure game which takes you back to the 90s, as a teen con artist on a mission to save your family's video store. You’re Ali, who’s ditching band camp in favour of getting revenge on the loan sharks in “classic 90s con movie style.” And yes, we did lift that wholesale from our Xbox exclusives round-up feature from last month — one good con deserves another, or something like that.
Blaster Master Zero 3
Another slice of 90s-style fun, Blaster Master Zero 3 channels those late 8-bit/early 16-bit games of yesteryear, albeit with some modern twists. Featuring both on-foot and vehicular gameplay, this retro-flavoured Metroidvania adventure will now release on Xbox as well as the previously announced platforms on July 29th.
Chances are you've fallen in love with a weapon in a game before, but have you ever fallen in love with one? Now's your chance. Boyfriend Dungeon lets you wield seven different weapons in dungeon-crawling action gameplay, then date them during the downtime. It's on its way to Xbox and Game Pass, but when? "When weapons are beautiful enough." Fair enough.
It's been out for a while now, sure, but Celeste still had a moment in the spotlight during the event, so it gets a spot here, too. Hey, we'll take any opportunity we can get to sing the praises of this sublime platformer, and any Game Pass subscribers who haven't should definitely make a point of giving it a go.
The brutal first-person medieval multiplayer mayhem of Chivalry was originally supposed to return last year, but that pesky pandemic put paid to that plan. It's now down for a June release, so there's not long to wait until you can hack other players to bits in large-scale melee combat. You absolute monsters.
Cloud Gardens is currently in Early Access on Steam, where the creators describe it as "somewhere on the line between a game and an interactive toy." Take run-down old structures and scenes, then plant seeds and invite nature back to reclaim them and create beautiful dioramas in the process. Artistic, intriguing, and genuinely unique.
Make friends with clouds and go on adventures with them in this relaxing pastel adventure. Clouzy! is headed for Xbox in May and while some might find it a little too sickly sweet, it's still really impressive considering that the game is actually the final year university project for the small Spanish team.
Craftopia is a Japanese twist on sandbox gaming, and it really does look like every other game happening at once. The trailer moves a mile a minute, bouncing from Pokémon-style creature catching to Souls-ish combat to driving to gliding to exploration to farming to a huge production line dumping hundreds of cows into a giant cookpot... it's safe to say that anything goes here, and you'll be able to try it for yourself on Game Pass later this year.
Dead Static Drive
What do you get when you combine the early GTA games with a Lovecraftian nightmare world? The answer — aside from 'a really bad time' — is Dead Static Drive, which is literally described as 'Grand Theft Cthulhu' on the game's Steam page. It's a horror survival road trip on Route 666 and looks wonderfully bleak. No release date yet, but it's another one that will be launching straight into Game Pass when it does manage to break free of those tentacles and pull up on Xbox.
The Titan Souls team is back with another fast-paced action game, with Death's Door giving you the rare opportunity to play as a reaper crow sent to a world where things don't die in order to restore a little balance. The art style is superb, the action quick and reactionary, and the gigantic bosses look incredible — that hulking castle monster in the image above is apparently just a mini-boss, to give you some idea of what you'll be up against here when it launches this summer.
A low-fi self-proclaimed "3D platformer with attitude," Demon Turf looks a little rough around the edges, but the fact that Yooka-Laylee creators have stepped in to publish means there's probably more to this than meets the eye. It's due this summer but if you've got a PC and fancy giving it a go before then, there's a free demo (Demon Turf: Trials) available now.
This minimalist, hand-drawn curio certainly stood out in the show reel, and its creators call it "a first-person exploration game about the universal language of soccer and the ways it can bring people together, or push them apart." It's set across three distinct time periods, so you'll see the people around you (as well as their love, or lack thereof, for the beautiful game) change with age. 'Coming soon' is all we've got for this one at the moment.
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance
The fact that Wizards of the Coast now has its own development studio in the form of Tuque Games (Livelock) is pretty telling about how the House of D&D has its eye on the video games market, and Dark Alliance will be the first step on that adventure. You'll be able to get stuck into the action-heavy gameplay as famous D&D heroes either solo or with allies when it rolls initiative in June.
Fans of Stranger Things will want to keep an eye out for Echo Generation, because its setup is very much along the same lines. But with visuals that remind of The Touryst and turn-based gameplay that looks a little like Costume Quest, it pulls from enough different sources of inspiration to end up feeling very much like its own unique experience. An Xbox release is planned for this year.
Edge of Eternity
Hope you're not bored of hearing the words 'Game Pass,' because old-school RPG Edge of Eternity will be joining the service in the next few months. It's a bit of a misnomer to call it a JRPG considering the dev team is French, but it certainly channels that same kind of energy, with turn-based combat and a world that feels like Star Ocean. It's been in Early Access on PC for a while now and has gone down well there, so this will be a neat addition to Game Pass for sure.
Speaking of Early Access, Enlisted is already available on Xbox as a Game Preview release, so if you want to get involved with its large-scale realistic WWII battles (sans achievements at the moment), you can do exactly that. To make battles even more hectic, every player has several AI squad-mates under their command, and the sheer volume of bodies on the battlefield as a result is really quite impressive.
We're getting strong Rez vibes from Exo One, and that's high praise indeed. This looks a lot less intense than the synaesthesia-fuelled classic, it must be said, but being able to take our time and drink in the high-concept sci-fi worlds in an exploration-led title like Exo One sounds like a good time. No news on exactly when it'll be arriving on Planet Xbox, but we're reliably informed that it's "coming soon."
Exomecha has been shown off a few times now, but its chrome-finished take on Titanfall, Halo, Crysis, and Zoids always looks cool. This time, we got an added bonus in the form of an August release date, plus a look at some of the most polite stealth kills of all time, so that was fun. It's not coming to Game Pass, but don't worry — Exomecha will be free-to-play from launch.
The Forest Cathedral
Take Jonathan Blow's wonderful puzzler The Witness then dial the crazy up to 11 and you get a rough idea of what to expect from The Forest Cathedral. This one's less puzzle game and more thriller, based on "the real-life story of the attempted silence of Rachel Carson and her discoveries on the harmful pesticide known as DDT." It looks gorgeous and really quite clever, but it's still a good way off, so won't be arriving on Xbox until next year.
Klei Entertainment (Shank, Mark of the Ninja) is a proven force on the indie scene, and Griftlands is already doing the business on Steam, where it's been in Early Access since last year. It's a deck-building roguelite — think Slay the Spire or Monster Train — but with the ingenious twist that you run two decks in tandem and use one for combat and one for negotiation. Oh, and it's got the team's oh-so-awesome art style going for it too, which is just another reason to check it out on Xbox later in the year.
Hello Neighbor 2
The breaking-and-entering simulator for children and streamers alike is back, and Hello Neighbor 2 has some pretty impressive tricks up its sleeve. The titular neighbour is now powered by AI that learns from not just how you play, but how the entire community plays, which should make for some surprising behaviour. The game is in Alpha right now on Xbox, so you can start teaching that creepy dude how to scare the crap out of other players ahead of it joining Game Pass at release.
Iron Corbo: Kung Fu Janitor
There's cleaning house and then there's cleaning house, and Iron Corbo does both. "Our hero, Corbo, is a bit past his prime and in dire straits. Will players be able to help mend strained ties while earning the trust back from his masters?" reads the official description, and we look forward to taking out the trash — literally and metaphorically — when the game sweeps onto Xbox soon.
Knight Squad 2
Eight-player arcade dungeon brawler Knight Squad 2 is set to arrive on Xbox in just a few weeks on April 14th, bringing with it "a ridiculous amount of game modes." Older readers will know what we mean when we say it feels like an evolution of Atari 2600 classic Combat, but the likes of IDARB and Brawlhalla might be better touchstones for the rest of you.
Lake is easily one of the most chilled games on this list, taking you back to the 80s as a 40-something woman returning to her sleepy hometown to deliver mail for a few weeks. The gentle pace won't be for everyone, but the beautiful scenery and open-ended narrative make it something captivating and original. It's down for a spring launch, so it should be coming to Xbox pretty soon.
There's at least one shadow drop at every event like the Xbox Indie Showcase, and Last Oasis was it this time. The survival game launched straight into Game Preview and is available now (with achievements as well, surprisingly), and its weird and wonderful mechanical contraptions certainly give it a USP in what is a pretty crowded market.
Last Stop is a third-person narrative adventure along the same lines as Life is Strange and Telltale's more grounded games, telling three interconnected stories about strangers in present-day London. The gameplay demo made it clear that the game isn't afraid to go to the same kind of 'cringe comedy' places as things like The Office and Peep Show, so expect a lighthearted tale with some strange twists later in the year.
Lawn Mowing Simulator
Whenever discussion turns to indie games, there's always that one person who butts in to stress that indie games in general are just awful. Unfortunately, after years of rebuttal, Lawn Mowing Simulator is conclusive proof that that guy was right all along. Promising 12 authentic mowers in the base game — imagine buying DLC for this — you know exactly what you're letting yourself in for if you pick this one up this summer.
Library of Ruina
"Combat between the guests and the librarians breaks out as if it were on a stage. Defeated guests turn into books, and the Library grows onward." Uh... sure, Library of Ruina. You do you. Beneath its quirky concept, tactical battles based on cards and dice make this feel more like a tabletop game than a video game (in no way a bad thing), and Steam Early Access reviews suggest it's damn good at what it does. Find out for yourself when it hits Game Pass sometime this year.
Little Witch in the Woods
If you're looking for a life sim with a little more magic on its side than usual, Little Witch in the Woods should very much be on your radar. With an adorable art style and open-ended gameplay that lets you explore and brew potions to solve whatever problems you might encounter, this looks utterly wonderful, and it's yet another indie oddity is getting the Game Pass treatment on day one.
Loot River is the fusion of sliding block puzzles and action-RPG combat that we never knew we needed. Manipulate the myriad platforms that make up the procedurally generated dungeons to create new paths or ambush enemies as you see fit, taking out opponents using either quick reactions or quick wits. Loot River has been picked up by Superhot's publishing team, and we can absolutely see why — while nothing like Superhot on paper, there's certainly some shared chemistry, and this was one of the highlights of the show for us.
Considering it's Korean studio Ocean Drive's first project, Lost Eidolons is looking remarkably solid. It's a strategy-RPG affair set against a medieval fantasy backdrop — think Fire Emblem gameplay with Black Desert visuals — and the team says it will be "providing frequent updates on the status of the game’s development," which is just as well, as Lost Eidolons isn't due until 2022, and we already want to see more.
Mad Streets is the kind of game that would ask you to hold its beer just to free up another hand with which to punch you. It's a physics-based brawler that feels like an evolution of the rough-and-tumble nonsense of Gang Beasts, but with a deeper system that allows skilled players to direct their blows for face-crunching KO animations that wouldn't look out of place in UFC highlights. It slipped from its planned 2020 release window, so we're expecting it to sucker-punch us with a release date relatively soon.
Slice-of-life "fishing RPG" Moonglow Bay has whiffs of The Touryst about it, and sees you picking up the family fishing business only to find that strange things are going on with the creatures that live under the sea. Calming and charming despite its slightly darker undercurrents in much the same way as something like Spiritfarer, this will definitely be one to try for yourself when it washes up on Game Pass this year.
Team17's Narita Boy goes all-in on its 80s aesthetic, from the killer synth soundtrack to its Tron-inspired artwork to its CRT filter. We're getting slight Furi vibes from the neon-soaked arcade action, so we're looking forward to seeing how it stacks up to that absolute masterpiece when Narita Boy launches straight into Game Pass next week.
Nobody Saves the World
This cartoon action-RPG from the team behind Guacamelee! allows titular hero Nobody to assume myriad crazy forms to make use of their unique abilities and blast through fast-paced combat and procedurally generated dungeons. Despite how it might look, the devs assure us Nobody Saves the World isn't a roguelike, and it's coming to Xbox and Game Pass soon. Well, "soon-ish."
The gorgeous Omno was one of the standout trailers of the show for us, showing a strange onion-headed hero exploring a mysterious fantasy landscape through beautifully fluid movement. The dev (there's only one) promises "a vibrant world full of strange and wonderful lifeforms, from cute little critters to enigmatic giants, and everything in between." We can't wait to meet all of them this summer. Also, Game Pass.
Onsen Master is a frantic action game that tasks you with running a hot spring, looking after customers with the right concoctions to cure their various ails while dealing with unruly clients and even strange creatures. The chaotic customer management feels a bit like Overcooked and sure enough, there's multiplayer madness to be had here as well as a story mode. Onsen Master is down for 'Early 2021,' so it should be with us shortly.
"Innovative Match-3 gameplay" sounds like quite the oxymoron, but delve a little deeper into the colourful puzzle action of Princess Farmer and you'll start to see a bit of the reasoning behind that description. Character movement and stack management are as important as just pulling up a bunch of veggies, and we'd wager that the team would say the story that ties it all together is equally as important. It's due later this year.
Let's play the Rez card again, because Recompile is a super-stylish game about hacking that shares a lot of style and themes with Sega's on-rails classic, even if the gameplay is totally different. Recompile is a "Metroidvania-inspired" (whatever that means) 3D hacking adventure, and its fascinating, blazing visuals are going to pop like crazy on a decent HDR display. If you're not sold just yet, maybe this being yet another win for Game Pass will be the nudge you need to give it a go.
It's clear just from a few minutes of gameplay that The Riftbreaker has a bit of everything going on. Action-RPG combat, tactical base building, crafting, RTS-lite mechanics, tower defence, survival... it all feels chaotic enough before you see the insane hordes of aliens that you're up against. We've only got a rough 2021 window so far, but we'll be on the lookout for more, as The Riftbreaker looks exactly the right kind of crazy.
Rust first launched into Early Access on PC over seven years ago, and it's finally nearly time for a console release. Well, we say that — preorders just went live, but we still don't have an actual release date. The popular survival game is sure to do well on Xbox, where similar games like Ark thrive, so it's just a bit surprising that this one as been such a long time coming.
It's Journey meets Star Wars now with the beautiful Sable, a coming-of-age adventure where we'll be guiding the titular Sable across vast wildernesses as part of her rite of passage, The Gliding. And glide you will, whether it be sliding down sand dunes or racing around on your own custom speeder bike, doing... well, basically whatever you like, by the sounds of it. Sable looks awesome, even more so for Game Pass subscribers — yep, it'll be another day one arrival when it launches sometime this year.
Buddy up to take down legions of mutated dinosaurs in Second Extinction, which feels a little like Left 4 Dead if you sacked one of the players and replaced the zombies with giant lizards. This is another one that has been in Early Access on Steam for a little while, where the main complaint seems to be a lack of content. If the devs can sort that out in time for the full release later this year, this should have all the ingredients to be a fantastic co-op shooter.
She Dreams Elsewhere
An 8-bit fever dream of a game, She Dreams Elsewhere is like Undertale viewed through a kaleidoscope. A haunted kaleidoscope. Made out of hallucinogenics. It has that simple retro art style that some are way too keen to dunk on, but beneath the pixels lies a heartfelt and personal experience that deals with real issues in its own leftfield way. Oh, and somebody ring the Game Pass bell again — we've got ourselves another member of the family right here.
Song of Iron
This was a bit of a slow burn of a trailer because at first glance, Song of Iron's side-scrolling action looked kinda basic. But as the reveal goes on and we see more creative use of cinematography (panoramic shots, silhouette work, depth of field, and more), it starts to seem way more interesting. Animations, environments, and combat all look fantastic, so we're keen to give this a go, although we only have a loose 'Mid 2021' date to go on right now.
A lighthearted cooking game where you whip up with delicious dishes from scratch, all while 'streaming' your kitchen experience to in-game social network, Cookbook. Soup Pot looks like chilled fun and there's apparently no fail state, but on the downside, just looking at it makes us hungry. It's planned to arrive on Xbox in August.
Spacelines From the Far Out
So here's another game that gives us serious Overcooked vibes, both in the way the space crew and aliens clumsily bumble around and in the chaos that ensues when you're trying to look after a flight full of passengers while surviving the perils of outer space. Spacelines From the Far Out, due to dock sometime this year, offers a "crazy, ever-changing co-op adventure" and from customising your crew to dealing with whatever the cosmos throw at you, this looks like a good laugh.
It's a little strange to see a game as high-profile as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 at an event like the Xbox Indie Showcase, but with developer GSC Game World now self-publishing, it certainly fits the brief. It still looks to be a way off, but the visual fidelity in everything the team is showing so far is absolutely jaw-dropping. Promising the series' largest post-nuclear open world to explore, this will be a massive day-one get for Xbox Game Pass one day. Because of course that's happening. Game Pass is wild.
Super Space Club
Unlike S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 there, Super Space Club isn't going to be picking up any awards for its fancy graphics any time soon. That said, the super-crisp style and chilled retro vibe (not to mention those tasty low-fi jams) make this something worth keeping an eye on, especially for those who like their games clean.
If you're bored of reading the word 'roguelike,' you might want to skip over UnDungeon. Action combat looks a little similar to the likes of UnderMine, Curse of the Dead Gods, or even Hades, but there's more to UnDungeon than that. Expect random encounters between locations (like in the early Fallout games), multiple customisable characters, and in-depth NPC interactions. UnDungeon is due for release in Q2 2021 (also coming to Game Pass), but there's a demo on Steam right now if you want to try it out early.
Okay, this one is neat. Voidtrain isn't due until 2022, but its unique blend of interdimensional railroading and survival gameplay make it worth waiting for. Start with a small trolley and upgrade your train as you see fit while you choo-choo your way through an alien world "where gravity sometimes does not apply." Where will your space train take you? Why, that's entirely up to you...
Way to the Woods
Explore a post-human world as a deer and fawn in Way to the Woods, a beautiful adventure that feels like a spiritual successor to Tokyo Jungle. With a gorgeous art style, interesting premise, and wonderful music from the Steven Universe composers, this is shaping up to be really special, and it should be strutting onto Xbox and Game Pass relatively soon.
We Are the Caretakers
"An afrofuturist sci-fi squad management RPG" is one of the most badass descriptions we've ever heard of anything, and even though the actual gameplay footage of We Are the Caretakers didn't particularly wow us, there's no denying that the game's heart is in the right place. The tactical RPG tackles themes of nature and conservation and launches on Earth Day (April 22nd), with rhino protection charities getting a cut of the profits. However the game turns out, those are some causes worth supporting.
The Wild at Heart
Looking like a cross between Knights & Bikes and Pikmin, The Wild at Heart instantly won us over with its art style but then got us even more invested with gameplay that looks like great fun. It definitely has nothing to do with our power fantasy of having a small army of adorable creatures to do our bidding. Oh no. The Wild at Heart is coming May 20th, and — one more time with feeling — will be coming to Xbox Game Pass at launch.
And... breathe. That a lot of indie love right there. Any in particular you're looking forward to trying out? Let us know below, and/or by voting in this week's poll!