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Niche Gamer’s Favorite Indie Games of 2019

As we enter 2020, it is time once again to reminisce about some of our favorite games from the previous year.

We covered a ton of awesome new games throughout 2019, and just like last year, we want to take a moment to highlight some of our favorite indie and middleware games of the year. While there are some pretty high profile games on this list, we still wanted to focus a bit more on the smaller games that may have been lost in the shuffle.

Since this list is limited to games that we personally reviewed here at Niche Gamer, that means that there will be plenty of games missing. We could not even fit all the great games we actually did review on this list! Be sure to tell us about your favorite games that did not make the list in the comments below.

Here are 14 of Niche Gamer’s favorite indie and AA games from 2019:


Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Frozenbyte
Platforms: Windows P
C, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Our Score: 8.5

Frozenbyte had a lot of goodwill to win back with Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince. The previous game (Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power) was plagued with issues related to the game’s 3D segments. Luckily, Trine 4 is everything fans could ask for from a new installment in the franchise.

Trine 4 definitely plays it safe this time around, and doesn’t deviate too far from the formula that made the first two games so successful. Instead of trying to innovate too much like in Trine 3, this latest game in the series just focuses on offering around 15 hours of fun, solid puzzles across a range of absolutely gorgeous environments.

It’s a fantastic return to form for the series, and well worth adding to your collection.

 

Mordhau
Developer: Triternion
Platform: Windows PC
Our Score: 9

Mordhau is an absolutely brutal first-person multiplayer medieval slasher. This brutality isn’t limited to all the flying limbs and visceral sprays of gore, but also manifests in the game’s extreme learning curve. The free-form combat takes a lot of getting used to, so expect to be slaughtered by people far more skilled than you for dozens of hours before things finally click.

However, if you are prepared to stick with the game and learn from your mistakes, you’ll discover one of the most rewarding competitive multiplayer experiences of 2019.

 

Slay the Spire
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Developer: Mega Crit Games
Platforms: Windows PC, Linux, Mac 
Our Score: 8.5

Speaking of games with brutal learning curves, Slay the Spire released from Early Access at the beginning of 2019. Slay the Spire is a shining example of Early Access done right, and its success has already spawned quite a few imitators offering their own take on the deckbuilding roguelite formula.

The game’s RNG can often be infuriating, and I still die way more often than I complete a run, but its just so addictive and well-polished that I can’t help but love it. The regular updates and loads of mods also ensures that there’s plenty of reasons to keep braving the Spire’s many dangers.

 

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: ArtPlay
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Our Score: 9

Cody Long:

“Masterfully capturing the feel of Igavania games of old, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an absolute treat to play, even if you’re not familiar with the classic games it draws inspiration from. With great monster and level designs, a huge map, tons of enemies, a wealth of different weapons and abilities to use, and a hot protagonist, I have precious little to complain about with this one. You can also give Miriam elf ears, which appeals to me on a spiritual level.”

 

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
Developer: Piranha Games
Platform: Windows PC
Our Score: 8.5

Maybe its just because I was desperate for a new mech game, but I enjoyed MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries a lot more than I thought I would. In many ways, its a step down from the MechWarrior games of old. The story is almost nonexistent, there could be more variety in the game’s mission objectives, and the AI is questionable at best.

Even with all these faults, there’s still something so engrossing about traveling around the Inner Sphere fighting other people’s battles so you can get paid and expand your mercenary outfit. Sadly, the fact that its an Epic Store exclusive means that a lot of gamers will be missing out on the game for at least a year.

 

Valfaris
Publisher: Big Sugar
Developer: Steel Mantis
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One  
Our Score: 8.5

Valfaris is the second game from the developers behind Slain!, and it’s a massive step up from their previous work. It perfectly captures the look and feel of a classic side-scrolling shooter, and can even be played with a retro controller. The pixel art looks fantastic in motion, and the game’s devastating arsenal of weapons tend to make enemies explode into satisfying meat showers.

Its completely over-the-top, Metal-inspired retro action from start to finish, and aside from some questionable design decisions, the game’s biggest flaw is that it ends too soon. Luckily, Steel Mantis recently added a New Game+ mode to give gamers a reason to revisit it.

 

Ion Fury
Publisher: 3D Realms
Developer: Voidpoint
Platforms: Windows PC, Linux
Our Score: 9

Retro-inspired shooters have made a big comeback over the past year or two, and despite the controversies surrounding it, Ion Fury is one of the best in the genre. By using a modified version of the Build Engine, Voidpoint has ensured that the game looks and plays exactly like something that was created in the ’90s.

They proved that you can still make really awesome games in this style, and that modern shooters could learn a lot from the tropes and concepts of the past.

 

Shakedown: Hawaii
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Our Score: 8.5

Cody Long:

“With solid GTA-style action, a hilarious and irreverent storyline, a great art style with appealing retro-esque graphics, and some seriously kickin’ tunes, Shakedown: Hawaii is an enjoyable romp throughout. Even if managing your business can get a bit tedious, and the in-game map could be a bit clearer for efficient navigation, this game is still definitely worth picking up.”

 

Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest
Developer: Ctrl Alt Ninja
Platform: Windows PC
Our Score: 8.5

Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest markets itself as a classic CRPG, which is probably why I saw quite a few people express disappointment with the game. There’s no sprawling story with branching paths, or deep stat tweaking and min-maxing in the game’s character creation screen.

What the game does have, however, is an interesting card-based take on character progression and some really fun tactical battles. If you go in expecting something that’s more akin to a dungeon crawling board game than a full CRPG, then you’ll probably find a lot to like in Druidstone.

 

Katana Zero
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Askiisoft
Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch
Our Score: 9.5

Ryan Pearson:

“A game that came out of nowhere much like its protagonist, Katana Zero mixed solid gameplay with an excellent story. The “one-hit one-kill” system for both you and your foes kept things tense, and lightning fast reflexes are just as important as planning ahead.

Whether it be stealth, furious combat, or even talking to other NPCs- you cannot turn your eyes away. With a few secrets on top of that, you end up wanting to know what happens next- just as much as improving how well your next run goes.” 

 

Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Developer: 6 Eyes Studio
Platforms: Windows PC, Linux, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Our Score: 9.5

Ryan Pearson:

“I have been heavily considering making Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark my Game of the Year. 6 Eyes Studio took Final Fantasy Tactics’ ball and ran with it. Gaining class points even when benched opens up more builds, there are plenty of viable builds that are varied, the more difficult builds need more investment, and the difficulty can be modified in nigh-unprecedented ways.

Combine that with a solid story and great strategy, and this is certainly my RPG of the Year. I am not just excited for its upcoming DLC. I am excited to see this become a series, and whatever 6 Eyes Studios does next.”

 

GreedFall
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Spiders
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Our Score: 7.5

The more I think about GreedFall, the more I think I was a bit too harsh in my review. The game definitely has its fair share of issues, but it has grown on me to the point that its actually one of my favorite games of 2019.

I’ve always felt that Spiders has the potential to be the next big RPG developer, and with GreedFall I think they’ve finally got their formula right. The game has an interesting world to explore, some pretty meaningful choices that can alter the game’s outcome, an enjoyable cast of characters, and some fairly good combat and character progression.

GreedFall makes me excited to see what Spiders will do in the future, and hopefully we’ll get to revisit Teer Fardee in a few more years.

 

Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Triumph Studios  
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Our Score: 8

Age of Wonders 3 devoured many hours of my life, and Age of Wonders: Planetfall was no different. The game does an excellent job translating the franchise’s mechanics to a sci-fi setting, and feels immediately familiar to anyone who played the previous game.

While the empire management aspects still aren’t exactly the best the 4X genre can offer, the game’s turn-based tactical combat is engaging and there’s tons of cool races and unit designs to discover. As someone who probably played a few hundred hours of Age of Wonders 3, Planetfall was everything I wanted from a new game in the series.

 

Wargroove
Developer: Chucklefish
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Our Score: 8.5

Cody Long:

“Do you like Advance Wars? Then you’ll like Wargroove. It plays almost identically, while also adding some new mechanics to liven things up. The map editor is also pretty choice, with shareable custom maps and campaigns for added replayability. The sheer amount of dogs in this game also gives it some brownie points, and they don’t die when defeated in combat. This is good!

The character designs unfortunately reek of Tumblr, there is no co-op against bots, and you have to completely finish the campaign to unlock additional game modes. These are all somewhat minor foibles, though, and I’m still quite happy to recommend this to fans of Advance Wars.”


What about all of you? What were some of your favorite games from 2019? What indie and middleware games did we miss? Sound off in the comments below!

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Niche Gamer Staff

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