Indie games of the year – Pocket Tactics Awards 2023

In a year filled with Zeldas, Mortal Kombats, and giant RPGs, there are some absolutely stellar indie games providing excellent experiences.

best indies of 2023 - A character in Paleo Pines riding a blue dinosaur

Forget about triple-A titles for a moment – it’s time to look at the best indie games of 2023. There have been some truly excellent releases this year from single developers to teams of a few, some working with only a tiny budget and a dream. Here are the titles that we think are the most fantastic and fun games by indie studios that came out on Switch through 2023.

As we say goodbye to this year, take a look at our best Switch games of 2023 picks and what we think are the best mobile games of 2023, too. Perhaps you’re looking for specific genres of games? In this case, here are our top picks for farm games, puzzle games, and JRPGs on Switch.

Here are our picks of the very best indie games of 2023:

best indies of 2023 - An angry vampire from Vampire Survivors wearing a red cape

Vampire Survivors

Gosh dang, what did Poncle put in this game? You might not think it by looking at it but this game is incredibly gripping. You won’t want to put it down once it’s got its teeth into you. Also, I know what you’re thinking – “but this came out in 2022!” Yes, on mobile. But it came to the Switch in August 2023 and is well worth writing about again.

Described in our mini-review as “a retro-style action-roguelike that feels like Castlevania on steroids”, Vampire Survivor’s addictive gameplay allows you to blast through wave after wave of evil creatures of the night as you try to survive until the dawn. It is excellent in its simplicity.

Vampire Survivors has quite rightly seen some excellent recognition with award wins across the board, and bringing in some top-tier expansions including an Among Us themed-DLC.

best indies of 2023 - The cleaner in PowerWash Simulator wearing a blue rubber suit

PowerWash Simulator

I first discovered PowerWash Simulator when Markiplier uploaded a video of him playing it, and it was so relaxing I fell asleep within ten minutes to the gentle sounds of water rushing over garden furniture, vehicles, and front porches. It’s legitimately one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with a video game.

You roll up to a property, whip out your pressure washer, and get to work blasting dirt off each surface you see. It’s just so relaxing and fulfilling, with enough of a challenge to keep you coming back and buying more soaps to assist in eliminating every speck of muck. Developer FuturLab really knows what their audience wants as there are consistent updates – free and paid – including a Spongebob Squarepants DLC? You’re speaking my language, FuturLab.

best indies of 2023 - The mayor featured in Dredge against artwork showing a lighthouse and stormy sky

Dredge

Have you ever thought about fishing on a rusty trawler in waters where monsters follow you and mysterious powers threaten your very sanity? No? Me neither, but Dredge shows you that life and it’s bloody great.

Start your days floating around the ocean and cast your rods to see what you find. Fish, strange forms of deep sea creatures, treasure, and wooden planks all await you beneath the waves. Just keep an eye on the time, as being out at night will, um, make you go loopy pretty quickly. Then, it’s back to port to sell your wares and safely sleep through ‘til the sun rises. Sail on over to our Dredge review to see what we rated it, and while we’re on the topic, check out our writer Connor’s piece on the beautiful terror of the deep blue.

best indies of 2023 - A big, blue dragon spirit from Spirttea against a background of a forest

Spirittea

Hailed as a combination of Spirited Away and Stardew Valley, Spirittea had some big boots to fill, and boy, did it fill them by perfectly blending life sim, management, and RPG elements.

Spirittea has a surprising amount of content, set in a rural but sizeable town that serves as your base of operations. It’s populated by a large cast of characters, with plenty to do as a bathhouse manager and out in the social scene. Oh by the way, there’s a ghostly cat that follows you around and tells you to get to the bathhouse and fix it up. What are you waiting for? There are spirits who need attention! There’s a demo available if you want to try it first, and our full, glowing Spirittea review here to give you a deeper look into this delightful title.

best indies of 2023 - A black and white character from In Stars And Time

In Stars and Time

“What would you do if you were forced to relive your failures over and over again?” It’s a daunting question, but you can find out in In Stars and Time. Creator insertdisc5’s monochromatic, pixel-art RPG focuses on time loops while introducing you to an immersive story and a wonderful cast of characters.

You play as Siffrin and friends as they set on a quest to end the evil rule of a no-good king, except you die immediately. You find yourself in a time loop and must repeat your actions. New paths and solutions open up each time, though, leading you to make better choices, even during the rock-paper-scissors combat. Our In Stars and Time review goes into all the finer details, but there’s absolutely nothing to fault here – the character and enemy designs, art style, music, and story are all fantastic.

best indies of 2023 - A person in Chants of Sennaar against a picture of the world it takes place in

Chants of Sennaar

You know what, Chants of Sennaar is a one-of-a-kind game, that offers a truly unique and fascinating experience. It takes inspiration from the bible story of Babel and takes you on a journey to decipher five languages inside a tower.

Finding the meaning behind different glyphs and piecing together new languages may seem a little daunting, but the game is so enjoyable that it isn’t a stressful experience. It’s clearly made by people with a background in linguistics, too, so it all makes sense.

You uncover the connection between the tower you find yourself in and the world around you in a point-and-click adventure, with some stealth sections to keep you on your toes. All of this comes packaged in a lovely art style with vibrant colors, and an enveloping soundtrack to delight your ears.

best indies of 2023 - The family in Venba surrounded by food and ingredients

Venba

Venba marks the debut game from studio Visai Games and introduces us to a food-focused family. Throughout, you follow recipes from their mother’s homeland and use them to tell stories and show feelings between generations born apart in time and cultural backgrounds.

It’s a couple of hours long – a delightful little serving of tasty and wholesome goodness filled with South Indian cuisine, and a soundtrack inspired by Tamil music. As you create delicious dishes, you restore lost recipes and learn the family history. The art style is really nice, too, with the fuzzy edges reminding me of cutout paper pieces. This homely game will make you hungry and pique your interest in new dishes.

best indies of 2023 - Mineko's Night Market - art of Mineko holding a small, grey cat and wearing red

Mineko’s Night Market

We waited years for Mineko’s Night Market to open up, and thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. If you like cats, this is the game for you. If you enjoy Japanese culture, this is the game for you. Heck, if you enjoy gameplay loops that keep you coming back for more, Mineko is the game for you.

Head down to the night market and soak up cozy vibes that feel like a cross between Animal Crossing and Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous films. You control Mineko, a young girl who moves to a new island with her family. There are strange things going on here, that she discovers while meeting Nikko the Sun Cat and restoring the island how it used to be. Each week you have tasks to complete in time for the night market at the weekend. Check out our Mineko’s Night Market review to get a longer look at why we like it so much.

best indies of 2023 - A character from Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood looking at levitating cards

Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood

Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a very refreshing and inventive idea, bringing tarot into the spotlight. You are Fortuna. You’re a witch that’s exiled on an asteroid. You meet a forbidden creature and strike a deal to get back to your life and return to those you had to leave behind.

You get to make plenty of new cards that you must interpret and help divine the fate of the Cosmic Witch Society. There are different endings to find and paths to take, so you can safely replay the game and discover new secrets as you go. If you enjoy deities, witchcraft, and card games with a clairvoyant twist, then this game is for you.

best indies of 2023 - A character in Paleo Pines riding a blue dinosaur

Paleo Pines

Last but absolutely not least, we have Paleo Pines. How could anyone look at this and feel anything other than warm and squishy? I just love dinosaurs. Bravo to Italic Pig for this title, and also thank you to the team member who gave me a pin of Lucky at WASD this year, kicking off my love for Paleo Pines.

Atop your mighty steed, Lucky the Parasaurolophus, you can restore your own ranch and get it blooming with crops in no time – and to help you out, you get plenty of adorable dinos that work alongside you including Gallimimus and Compsognathus. Basically, you live your days collecting dinos and offering them a sanctuary to live in, while working to help the townsfolk and reinvigorate the economy and world around you. It’s just a very wholesome, fulfilling, and easy time.

If you fancy some more of our opinions, we’ve got some features for you to peruse. Here’s why we think Disney Dreamlight Valley should be free-to-play, how Animal Crossing brings us Christmas joy, and a look at Song of Nunu opening our eyes to wholesome gaming.