What Are Indie Games?

a fantasy indie game

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Video games are one of the most popular forms of entertainment at home. The average person’s favorite titles are probably Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Halo — but those are the mainstream games. Do you own any indie games? What are indie games? These games may be lesser known, but they’re just as good.

What Are Indie Games?

Indie games are video games made by individuals or small, independent development teams. These titles are different from most AAA games you see at Gamestop. Indie games don’t come from Activision, Rockstar, Nintendo or Electronic Arts (EA).

Instead, developers of indie games are what you would expect — companies with not as much name recognition. These businesses include Askiisoft, Extremely OK Games, Innersloth and more. 

How Are Indie Games Different?

Producing an indie game looks much different than the prominent titles on the shelves. Here are five distinctions with indie games you need to know.

Tight Budgets

The first reason may be the most obvious. Indie games don’t have the same budgets as the best-sellers. A marquee AAA title can easily eclipse $100 million in production costs. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 cost over $300 million for CD Projekt Red to develop. 

Star Citizen has been in the works for a decade and has reportedly crossed the half-billion mark before the game has even finished. That’s more money than we know what to do with. 

Small Teams

Tight budgets mean you can only have so much staff. Your team members will likely take on multiple roles to fill the gaps. You need programmers, graphic designers, story writers and marketing teams to produce the game and get people to buy it. If your budget is small, get ready to brush off that marketing textbook from college to advertise your game.

Risk Taking

Indie game developers go by the beat of their own drum. They’re not beholden to investors or corporate heads watching every move of their production. Therefore, they’re more likely to take risks in game development. They may bring a new take on first-person shooters or other role-playing games (RPGs) you’ve never seen before. 

Digital Downloads

Indie games are unique because you typically only see them in digital formats. These developers don’t have the resources to create physical copies, so letting gamers find them on Steam, Epic Games or the PlayStation Store makes more financial sense. More AAA games are doing digital downloads, but indie games have been following this strategy for a long time.


Digital distribution and other cost-saving tactics are why indie games are more affordable. Overhead costs lead to $60 or $70 titles, forcing many gamers to wait for a sale or overspend on the release date. However, most indie games are what frugal people dream of because they cost $20 or less. That’s a great deal for a game!

What Are the Most Popular Indie Games?

Tell a guy at the bar your favorite indie game and buy him a beer if he’s played it before. Most indie games are lowkey, but there have been some smash hits over the years. These four titles are the most popular indie games on the market. 


Minecraft is not just the most popular indie game of all time — it’s the most popular video game ever. In April 2021, Microsoft said Minecraft had surpassed 238 million copies sold, far surpassing its competition. The game has only been out since 2011 but has been a staple for video game lovers who mindlessly play the game for hours. 

Markus Persson, a Swedish game developer, created Minecraft in 2009 by himself. The game quickly rose in the indie game ranks, prompting him to sell the game in 2011. Minecraft might not be an indie game by 2023’s standards, but Persson made it himself and sold it without a large distributor. 

Stardew Valley

For an indie game, Stardew Valley has quite a large following. As of 2022, the game has sold over 20 million copies accounting for all platforms. How has this game become so successful? It follows the model that makes indie games popular when they hit the right notes.

Eric Barone, whom you may know as ConcernedApe, created the game in 2016. You start on a farm in Stardew Valley, and you get to build your community by fishing, raising livestock and growing crops. The game takes inspiration from Harvest Moon, one of the most popular games ever. The game was recently released on the Nintendo Switch, so pick up a copy if you want the indie game feel on a new device. 

Stardew Valley may be an outlier, but this example shows what indie games can do with enough creativity and devotion to the title. If not for Minecraft, Stardew Valley would be the best indie game ever. 

Rocket League

You may raise your eyebrows at the thought of Rocket League being an indie game. Rocket League might not be an indie game by today’s standards, but take a second to consider the game. 

Rocket League came onto the scene in 2015 after Psyonix created the game. Psyonix was an independent game studio that made Rocket League with the indie game touch we know and love. For the time, it was creative and innovative and stole the hearts of many gamers. Epic Games acquired Psyonix later in 2015, so it no longer counts as an indie game. However, it started out as an indie game, so it makes the list. 

Among Us

Remember the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic? We couldn’t safely go out to the bars or beaches without worrying about the virus, so we had to entertain ourselves with virtual fun. Online co-op games took off in 2020, and of them was Among Us. 

Among Us comes from Innersloth, an independent game developer. Only three people made the game on a small budget, and the developer published it themselves. 

Since 2020, Among Us has become a gigantic success. Millions of people play the game, peaking at 500 million active users in November 2020. You can still find a very active community in 2023, and the indie game will likely remain popular for years. 

What Are Indie Games? The Most Fun You’ll Have

Video games are about immersive experiences in fantasy lands. You control the protagonist as they defeat evil, explore mysterious lands and become legends in their own right. Who says these games have to come from the major companies? You can find terrific titles within the indie game community. 

Indie games are what you value in a title — just like what you love in indie films. We’re not saying Minecraft and “The Blair Witch Project” are the same. Still, they’re examples of what happens when independent developers can do with limited resources.

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