2022 was one ridiculous good year for games. Perhaps not so much in terms of AAA blockbusters, but every month of the year, smaller studios brought out a swarm of fascinating new things to play, only to be driven from our minds by the next wave again and again.
With the Winter Steam sale in its final days, here’s a grab bag of discounted indie gems that have almost certainly flown under your radar. All of them were released in 2022 and have accumulated far fewer user reviews than I think they deserve. Do you think you’ve seen it all this year, or do you want to surprise someone with something completely out of left field? Check this one out.
Price: $20.39 / £18.82 (32% off) | Developer: 株式会社デスクワークス
I can hardly believe it launched without fanfare. A childhood pencil sketch and papercraft JRPG adventure with constantly changing gameplay mechanics, genres and art styles without ever leaving your school desk. Beautiful to look at and endlessly creative. I challenge you not to smile all the time. The only thing I can complain about is that it’s relatively short, only 6-7 hours, but every second of that is packed with fun and childish imagination, as Kerry wrote on PC Gamer (opens in new tab).
Price: $7.99 / £6.19 (40% off) | Developer: Foolish mortals games
A brilliantly clever asymmetrical turn-based tactics puzzle game. Part Into The Breach, part board game, giant monsters stomp across the map, systematically crushing the nearest buildings. With their movements (mostly) predictable, slow them down with tanks, planes and mechs as you research scientific solutions, or go for a quick military victory. Features a lengthy campaign, some really funny writing, and both comic books and FMV silliness that books up the action.
Price: $4.99 / £3.59 (50% off)| Developer: Ithiro Sumi
Before Elden Ring and Dark Souls, there was King’s Field, FromSoftware’s influential first-person dungeon crawler series. Devil Spire tries to recapture the feel of those classic games, but restructured as a highly replayable roguelike. With multiple unlockable modes, plenty of secrets, and a complex crafting system, this slightly immersive sim spirit lurks beneath its crusty PSX-adjacent aesthetic. One of those games that improves as you get the hang of it.
Price: $14.99 / £11.99 (25% off) |Developer: MindThunk
One of the most interesting immersive sims I’ve played, kind of like Prey (2017) combined with 80’s puzzle game Paradroid. Playing as a disembodied and immortal ghost in a very British retro future, you can jump freely between robot bodies and everything else mechanical in the area, giving you some mind-blowing creative solutions to problems and giving it massive replay value. Some achievements (such as completing the game without unlocking the jump/climb button) sound impossible, indicating immense depth.
Price: $15.92, £12.39 (20% off) | Developer: Sakuba Metal Works
A quietly nightmarish point-and-click adventure with some light survival elements, full of awkward imagery and ideas. A strange biomechanical creature explores a world on literal rails, struggling to lose consciousness and understand its own nature. Originally launched in 1999 exclusively in Japan, this translated remake cleans up the disturbing art, adds some quality-of-life features, and restores some clipped content, but the core remains deeply retro.
FixFox (opens in new tab)
Price: $7.49 / £5.69 (50% off) | Developer: Rendy
A relaxing, non-violent open-world adventure about a wandering aerospace engineer. More story driven than I expected and lighter in the puzzles than I would have liked, but very charming and often funny. Explore strange new places, use a delightful physical interface to repair gadgets with your backpack of random junk, and befriend lots of weird robots. It’s not a short game either. Expect it to eat up a solid twelve hours of your life once hooked on you.
Price: $5.39 / £3.71 (40% off) | Developer: HON team
It wouldn’t be a recommendation list of mine if I didn’t include at least one GZdoom powered FPS. Hands Of Necromancy is instant nostalgic fun for fans of Heretic and Hexen as you explore non-linear labyrinths and blast wizards and monsters with an assortment of magic. By separating it from its inspirations, you gradually unlock Metroid-esque transformation spells that open up new paths and levels, as well as give you some fun new attack options.
Price: $16.99 / £13.16 (15% off) | Developer: Neotro Inc
An unusual and beautiful twin-stick shmup set in a child’s nightmares, so you’ll be battling obnoxious veggies, yapping dogs and mean schoolmates. Getting through the looping, short stages is easy; just collect enough radiant soul fragments. Mastery comes from deliberately dragging things out as the difficulty increases, chasing score and survival times. Long for a shmup, with plenty of equipment options, branching routes and, of course, beautiful art.
Cosmo OS 9 (opens in new tab)
Price: $12.00 / £8.53 (61% off) | Developer: Multiple
A bundle of nine bite-sized sci-fi puzzles from nine different developers. Sold separately, but much cheaper if you buy the complete set. All games are single-sitting snacks, lasting from about 30 minutes to a few hours, and vary in complexity and depth. From short narrative experiment Frequency Dissonance to personal favorites Triga (a triangular block puzzle with hidden goals) and Linelith (a bit like The Witness, but you’re also one of the puzzle pieces). I admit to being a fan of this thematic anthology style for smaller games. Also see: the Dread X collections.
Price: $12.49 / £11.24 (50% off) | Developer: Bitmap Desk
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge may have been the most nostalgic brawler of 2022, but Final Vendetta is the most authentic arcade. A single playthrough will take you a snappy half hour, though it will take you much longer to get through the higher difficulties without continuing. Featuring chunky and smoothly animated SNK-esque sprites, a retro UK techno soundtrack (to match the run-down London setting), and battles that are 80% Final Fight, 20% Streets Of Rage.
Price: $7.49 / £5.69 (50% off)| Developer: Yokaicade
A lightweight and fun mech turn-based tactics roguelike. A bit looser and more throbbing than Into The Breach, but more forgiving of imperfection. The fun tactical twist here is overheating, which can be equal parts blessing and curse. High heat means more damage but more vulnerability, and maximizing a mech’s heat draws all enemies to that single target. Explore an FTL-style map between battles and unlock more pilots and gear between runs.
Atama (opens in new tab)
Price: $11.99 / £9.29 (40% off) | Developer: Team Zutsuu
This year has been great for horror games of all kinds, but Atama is a particularly deep cut, eschewing the largely forgotten Siren series. Stealth-focused horror in which you can “hack” the monsters’ vision and get to know their patrol routes with their own eyes. Atama puts a surreal Junji Ito-esque twist on that by letting you dodge bizarrely expressive huge floating heads as they patrol a strange dreamy abandoned village. I don’t want to spoil any further.
Price: $9.74 / £7.71 (25% off)| Developer: no day will help you
Deadeye Deepfake Simulacrum, recently released for early access, is another immersive simulation with a hacking focus, but with a roguelike structure (including procedurally generated weapons with funky names), an abstract 2D aesthetic, network infiltration via the command line, and a cheerfully grim feel for humour. Once you get some cyber powers, missions can get weird and fast.
Sephonie (opens in new tab)
Price: $17.99 / £14.99 (40% off) | Developer: Analgesic productions
Analgesic Productions is a deliberately low-key indie studio that creates gentle and strange games Anodyne 2, but it still hurts to see Sephonie lose in the hustle and bustle of 2022. A contemplative and non-violent yet challenging parkour platformer about a trio of investigators exploring a living psychic island. Introspective prose is intertwined between complex navigation problems and a surprising number of block-placement puzzle mini-games.
Price: $14.99 / £12.59 (40% off) | Developer: Firepunchd Games UG
This has been a weird year for VR games. Lots of smaller indie releases, some great VR mods and even a new headset (the Pico 4) but little support from major publishers. Glasses owners could be forgiven for missing out on Tentacular, a construction-focused comedy puzzler about a bumbling, hulking yet friendly kraken trying to help the relatively diminutive human inhabitants of a sunny chain of islands. Often laugh-out-loud fun, and good for VR newcomers.