It’s fair to say that there are more than enough sky-high budget, made-by-committee blockbusters on PS4 to either sink a battleship or pay for a hundred new ones to be built. So in the spirit of discovery, and wanting to bring something a little different to your attention, we’ve compiled an ongoing feature which will be updated every week that chronicles the very best independently developed games on PS4. So without further ado, here is our list of the best PS4 indie games money can buy!
UPDATED 14/04/2018 – Added Owlboy
Best PS4 Indie Games: A Hat in Time
A Hat in Time is the sort of game you just don’t see a lot of on PS4. A cutesy 3D platforming adventure that evokes the likes of Banjo Kazooie (or really, Yooka-Laylee) from times past, A Hat in Time’s whimsical premise has players collecting the mysterious Time Pieces so that she can fuel her spaceship and make the journey home.
Really though, what A Hat in Time’s narrative setup is an excuse for however, is some absolutely banging 3D platforming beats that fondly conjure memories of the genre’s heyday. Whether you’re scooping up coins, knocking out cartoon-style foes or collecting tickets to open goody-stuffed safes dotted throughout every level, A Hat in Time is a thoroughly charming and entertaining platforming adventure that easily earns its place as one of the best PS4 indie games you can buy right now.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Cat Quest
Cat Quest is quite the anomaly. Push aside for a moment the fact that it is a fantasy adventure about a cat trying to save a cat kingdom which is cram-filled with cat puns, Cat Quest’s biggest boon is that it is the only action RPG I can really think of that you can pick up and play for five minutes and still manage to get a lot done.
With quests that can be conquered in between 90 seconds and two minutes, bucketloads of humor and a beautifully streamlined inventory and combat system that make it a perfect prospect for wannabe adventurers of all ages, Cat Quest is a fantastic little effort that shouldn’t just appeal to kids but also to grown-ups who don’t necessarily have the time investment needed for more sprawling and bloated affairs, too.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Downwell
Brought to life by one man development team Ojiro “Moppin” Fumoto, on the face of it, Downwell’s visually arresting monochromatic veneer makes it look like a ZX Spectrum title that fell into a wormhole some 30 years ago, only to reappear today on contemporary systems unmarked by the passage of time. An extremely inventive take on the tried and tested vertical shooter that turns the concept (almost literally) on its head, Downwell has you tumbling down a well in pursuit of treasure and, naturally, the destruction of various horrible beasties along the way.
Equipped with a pair of rocket boots that also happen shoot various projectiles from their soles, Downwell’s core mechanic is that every time you shoot or rocket propel yourself over a crevice you expend one charge and when all shots have been used, like a regular firearm, the boots must then be reloaded. Even today, it’s a wonderfully innovative mechanic that combines the best sensibilities of platforming and vertical shooting genres. Beyond that irresistible hook, the great level design and roguelike elements of earning new power-ups also help to secure Downwell as one of the PS4’s most enjoyable platforming blasters.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Emerging from the extremely talented domain of Enslaved and DmC: Devil May Cry developer Ninja Theory, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice transplants the studio’s penchant for sublime visual presentation into a setting inspired by Norse mythology and Celtic culture. A third-person action adventure that casts players as the titular Senua, a Pict tribal warrior who must confront a variety of supernatural creatures in order to rescue the soul of her lover, Hellblade combines hack and slash, puzzle solving and horror elements to create a wholly unique experience.
Beyond its deft marriage of genres, Hellblade’s most significant aspect comes from how it deals with the theme of mental illness which is generously interwoven throughout its narrative. As a Pict warrior who has suffered extreme mental trauma as the result of a Viking invasion, Senua struggles with psychosis throughout the game and believing it to be a curse, finds herself harassed by voices, memories of the past and a malevolent presence known as the “Darkness”.
To do proper justice to a mental condition that has claimed sufferers the world over, Team Ninja collaborated with numerous mental health experts, neuroscientists and most crucially, individuals who actually suffer from the condition themselves. An eye-opening audiovisual experience (a decent pair of headphones are a must), Hellblade’s unexpectedly thoughtful meditation on mental illness, combined with its action adventure elements all help to underscore Team Ninja’s inaugural ‘AA’ game experiment as a successful one that acts as a beacon for other developers to follow in its ambitious footsteps.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Helldivers
A top down procedurally generated blaster, Helldivers has one to four players travelling across the galaxy to rid the universe of three different races of bugs, machines and, well, something else. Much more than a straightforward shooter, Helldivers has a real tactical component to it whereupon players can call down automated turrets, supplies, mech suits and more to aid in their struggle against the alien menace.
Where Helldivers really succeeds however, is in how it leverages its co-operative multiplayer beats. Quite simply, with additional players Helldivers becomes an absolute riot as you and your friends cover each others backs, take down bosses together, rush toward extraction points and *accidentally* teamkill one another. Chuck in oodles of Starship Troopers style humor, upgrade trees for days and some of the most responsive and satisfying twin-stick shooter action this side of Nex Machina, and it’s clear that Helldivers is one blaster you can’t afford to pass up.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Nex Machina
It seemed a little doubtful, even outright unlikely, that Finnish indie powerhouse studio Housemarque could outdo Resogun, arguably one its greatest works on PS4. Yet, that’s exactly what they’ve done with Nex Machina; the fruits of labour from an especially well considered collaboration with Eugene Jarvis, the father of the arcade shooter and creator of Resogun’s spiritual ancestor, Defender.
An eye-searingly furious top-down, twin-stick shooter, Nex Machina stands in a class all its own as players must blast through waves of neon-tinged enemies on hundreds of different levels, all the while attempting to save as many humans as possible and collecting a variety of different weapons along the way en route to the highest score they can possibly achieve. Achingly beautiful, wonderfully responsive and maddeningly compelling, Nex Machina stakes a resoundingly confident claim as PS4’s premiere top down purist arcade shooter.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Overcooked
It’s fair to say that Overcooked brings out a certain… side in people that you might not usually see. Indeed, extended Overcooked sessions tend to turn Mild-mannered friends into whip-cracking kitchen dictators while meek acquaintances undergo an horrific transformation into a Gordon Ramsey style creature right before your very eyes. The reason for this lay in Overcooked’s insanely tuned structure that is built around a simple concept; you (and your fellow chefs) are given a dish to create and you must co-ordinate everything from the ingredients, to the cooking of those ingredients and then finally the serving of the complete dish to proceed onto the next stage.
Crucially, one of the things that Overcooked gets so perfectly right is how, in co-op, it gives everyone a role and makes them feel important. Whether you’re in charge of chopping up the vegetables, cooking the meat or even cleaning the dishes, everything you can do in Overcooked feels properly rewarding and part of a much larger plan. Where the madness comes in is how you must not only do all of this against an ever ticking timer, but also against the environment itself as you and your team of chefs furiously aim to serve up a range of dishes in kitchens separated by two moving vehicles, earthquakes, on slippery glaciers and many more perilous locations besides. Tense, fun and rewarding, Overcooked is one of the best local co-op games money can buy; just make sure everyone has a nice chilled out beer (or ten) afterward.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Owlboy
In development for over ten years, Owlboy finally arrived on PS4 in April 2018 and it clearly demonstrated where all that considerable time and resource had gone. A 2D platformer steeped in gloriously detailed pixel art and blended with some absolutely brilliant puzzle solving and shooting elements, Owlboy tells the underdog tale of Otus, the titular Owlboy who must rally himself and his socially-awkward friends against the forces of darkness that threaten to destroy the world.
Let’s not beat about the bush here; Owlboy is utterly brilliant and completely essential. Though it encompasses a deft marriage of supremely well tuned platforming, shooting and puzzle solving elements, Owlboy also soars on account of its thoroughly well realised cast of characters who each play a part in an emotionally resonant, epic narrative that leaves an indelible imprint on your mind long after the credits have ceased their roll. Owlboy might be inspired by the 16-bit and 32-bit efforts of the past, but honestly, they were very rarely this good.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Oxenfree
A 2D narrative driven adventure with 3D characters, Oxenfree takes players on a teenage boat journey to a mysterious island where all is not as it seems, and where the histories, personalities and hidden motives of those involved clash with dire results. Embracing a non-linear narrative with multiple endings and more supernatural shenanigans than you can shake a hairy stick at, Oxenfree is an infectiously adventurous yarn that offers a great deal of replay value beyond its initial play through.
Without a doubt however, the best thing about Oxenfree is the dialogue which at once both seems believable and genuine. A thankfully far cry from the cliche’, teen dialogue that developers tend to lazily shoehorn into their games, the conversations and interactions in Oxenfree are a joy to behold and participate in with the extremely well-written scripts being bolstered by a uniformly talented and passionate voiceover cast. So if you want to immerse yourself in a wonderfully told, multi-layered story with a host of interesting characters and great writing, then Oxenfree is absolutely your huckleberry.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Rocket League
High-powered car racing and soccer; who would ever think of putting those two seemingly mutually exclusive things together? Florida based developer Psyonix, that’s who, and the end result is Rocket League – a game which has evolved into a global phenomenon and one which arguably transcends whatever chunk of hardware it happens to be running on. Largely built upon the foundations of its much less popular PS3 predecessor, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Rocket League splits players into teams of vehicles with the idea of using those vehicles to knock a massive floating ball into the goal of the opposing team.
So yeah, it’s Car Football, but what makes Rocket League become more than the seeming sum of its parts is just how well it all comes together. For a start the handling model for each of the vehicles (which should arguably make or break a game like this) is absolutely sublime being both hugely responsive and really satisfying to get to grips with. Rocket League has branched far out into the eSports sphere too, with tournaments and an influx of themed season challenges that help to keep the game feeling fresh and compelling. If you haven’t picked up Rocket League yet, do it, do it now. Oh, and speaking of seasons, you can keep up to date with all the Rocket League season changes and details here.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Rogue Legacy
Developed by Canadian code-house Cellar Door Games, Rogue Legacy takes the best of the Metroidvania template and mixes it with some deep and rewarding roguelike elements to create an absolutely stellar PS4 title, indie or not. As a knight who must raid a two-dimensional, randomly generated castle and lay waste to four different bosses across a quartet of different environments, you earn money which, when you die, can be put into upgrading your castle which in turn provides new abilities and skills to your brave knight the next time they venture out.
The biggest trick that Rogue Legacy has up its sleeve though (aside from absolutely sublime platforming hack ‘n’ slash mechanics and stellar audiovisual presentation), is that each time you start again, you play a new generation of the knight bloodline, and as such, you get to inherit a number of characteristics that have a huge impact on how the game plays. From ADHD which makes you move faster, to dwarfism which makes your character small and allows them to reach super secret areas, every play through in Rogue Legacy is markedly different from the last. Rogue Legacy then, could well be the best Metroidvania effort you can get on PS4 right now. In fact, scratch that; it is.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Stardew Valley
Swallowing up and destroying more social lives than perhaps any other game in this feature, the scope of Stardew Valley is such that if you were so inclined, you could just play Stardew Valley and nothing else and still find your days more than adequately filled. A beautifully realized take on the slice of life management simulation genre that was pioneered by the legendary Harvest Moon series of games, Stardew Valley has players managing a farm whereupon they are tasked with growing crops, selling those crops and then buying new bits and pieces for their estate.
Much more than just a seemingly trite and banal exercise in farm management however, Stardew Valley overwhelms the player with a barrage of charm, allowing them to strike up relationships, take part in seasonal festivals, delve into deep mines, own pets and much, much more besides. If you don’t have Stardew Valley, it’s time to rectify that.
Best PS4 Indie Games: SUPERHOT
Time moves when you do – that’s the central premise behind SUPERHOT, a game which blends FPS and puzzle solving sensibilities in a way that no other game has managed to pull off either before or since its release. As an unsuspecting user who finds themselves locked within a game where they must kill all the ‘Reds’ to survive, SUPERHOT’s myriad of encounters might appear as if they place a premium on fast-paced combat at first, but soon it becomes clear that every encounter is really a brain-ticking conundrum that must be solved by violent means in order for you to proceed onto the next.
You see because time only moves when you do, you are granted with an otherworldly level of dexterity that allows you dodge bullets, evade attacks from multiple angles and return attacks with whatever weapons come to hand. In one fight for example, three guards might be rushing you, and in this instance, you might decide to throw a right hook at the first, smash an ashtray into the face of the second, causing his gun to fly up into the air before catching said firearm and using it to shoot the third. SUPERHOT is absolutely crammed with battles like this; conflicts which are fought as much with your mind as they are your reflexes, and as such, there is truly nothing like SUPERHOT on PS4. Oh and if you’re lucky enough to own a PSVR, get SUPERHOT VR, too, as it is a built-from-the-ground-up effort for PSVR that stands as one of the every best games you can get for the device.
Best PS4 Indie Games: The Banner Saga
The Banner Saga is a wondrous curio. An epic story that spans three games (the third of which is due out this summer), The Banner Saga liberally cribs from Nordic tales and parables to fashion a breathtaking tale of warrior clans, giants, magic and demonic creatures. Cementing this sweeping tale of battling clans and furious demons is the jaw-dropping, hand-drawn art style that right away recalls the works of famous 80s animators and artists such as the incomparable Don Bluth and Ralph Bakshi.
Peer beyond the extremely attractive audiovisual presentation that these games boast however, and a fiendishly clever and satisfying RPG/strategy hybrid that resembles the excellent XCOM games soon reveals itself. In every battle, the characters that you take with you can be killed and lost, and likewise, each encounter demands a level of aggressive strategy that fans of Firaxis Games will be familiar with. Add in a branching dialogue system and a multi choice, decision-based structure from which the consequences are felt across all three games, it’s clear that The Banner Saga effortlessly presents itself as an easy recommendation for fans of deep, well-written stories and in-depth tactical combat.
Best PS4 Indie Games: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
A screen by screen top-down dungeon crawler with rogue-like elements, the events chronicled in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth take inspiration from the biblical tale that carries the same name whereupon Isaac, a lonely child, flees into the basement of his house to escape his mother’s murderous, religion-fueled psychosis. Once there, Isaac (or any other the 10 playable characters that you can unlock later on) find themselves surrounded by all manner of foul creatures which must be dispatched, along with the power-ups to make said dispatching that much easier.
The outrage over The Binding of Isaac’s subject matter though shouldn’t overshadow what is otherwise a ridiculously entertaining and extremely well crafted top down rogue-like shooter, as the game boasts range of different endings, a staunch (though not unfair) level of challenge and a neat power-up stacking system that makes The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth a must-have for top down shooter and rogue-like fans everywhere.
Best PS4 Indie Games: The Sexy Brutale
Imagine, if you will, that somebody decided to stick The Secret of Monkey Island, Cluedo and Groundhog Day in a blender to see what would come out the other side. Well, The Sexy Brutale came out the other side and as it turns out it’s darned good puzzler with wit and charm to spare. Controlling a mysterious clergyman, players must prevent the murders of numerous well-to-do folk who have decided to attend a masquerade party at a mysterious aristocrat’s mansion. Unable to prevent the first murder by gunshot, you soon realize that you can rewind time and stop the would-be assailant by removing the bullet and thus prevent the dastardly act from even occurring.
And it’s here, when you foil that very first murder, that The Sexy Brutale truly opens itself up as with each solved murder your character gains extra abilities which in turn can be used to not only solve other foul crimes, but also delve a little deeper into the darkness that lay behind mansion in the first place, too. Hilariously offbeat and brilliantly well written, The Sexy Brutale is a scandalously good little game that stands as an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get their teeth into something a little different.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Thimbleweed Park
It’s certainly not unreasonable to say that in the 25 or more years since Lucasarts redefined the point and click adventure genre with such classics as Day of the Tentacle and The Secret of Monkey Island, that no other developer has really been able mimic that now-defunct studio’s sense of style and uniquely sardonic brand of wit. Enter then Thimbleweed Park. Developed by Terrible Toybox, a team staffed full of veterans from the Lucasarts golden era, Thimbleweed Park does a stunning job of bringing those point and click games that we enjoyed kicking and screaming onto contemporary console hardware.
After a dead body has been discovered in the titular Thimbleweed Park, players must control and switch between five different characters in order to discover the truth as your conversation and puzzle solving skills are pushed to the absolute limit. Charmingly stylised, beautifully odd and boasting some of the funniest writing seen in the last ten years, Thimbleweed Park not only provides a highly effectively blueprint for reinvigorating the classics of old, but it also makes a convincing case for being one of the very best adventure games you can get on PS4, too.
Best PS4 Indie Games: This War of Mine – The Little Ones
Shining a spotlight on the civilians caught in the crossfire of war (rather than focusing solely on the soldiers as is typically the case), 11-Bit Studios made something truly special with This War of Mine – The Little Ones. Beginning in the confines of a shelled out multi-story house, each game in This War of Mine begins differently. As a small clutch of three random civilians, you must scavenge around the house collecting whatever food you can as well as building materials to not only make the premises more secure, but to construct crucial equipment such as beds, cooking stoves and workbenches to name just a few of the important things you need to survive.
Once the sun goes down on any given day, you are then given the opportunity to go out to other buildings and dwellings to hunt for supplies and its here that This War of Mine reveals its grim underbelly; if one of your group is in dire need of medicine, do you steal it from an elderly man living by himself (resulting in his slow death), or, do you let that member of your group suffer? Likewise, when you’re out on the hunt, who do you have defending your home and are they capable of fending off any robbers or similarly unsavory types? With the addition of children to care for (hence The Little Ones subtitle) and the constant push and pull of morality versus survival, rarely have the stakes ever felt higher or more emotionally resonant in a videogame.
Best PS4 Indie Games: Virginia
The first game from British developer Variable State, Virginia plonks players in the finely shined first-person shoes of rookie FBI agent Anne Tarver who, during the summer of 1992 in the fictional town of Kingdom Virginia, must investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young boy in addition to managing the tense working relationship with her veteran partner, Special Agent Maria Halperin.
Completely and refreshingly dialogue-free with some eye-popping flat shaded visuals, Virginia puts an onus on physical performances that many other first-person ‘walking simulators’ simply do not share. In taking liberal inspiration from the likes of Twin Peaks and The X Files, Virginia weaves an attention-ripping tale that cements its place as a haunting, eminently atmospheric odyssey that lingers in memory long after the controller has been put down. It also doesn’t hurt that Virginia boasts one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, too.
Best PS4 Indie Games: What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is simply a revelation. As the titular Edith Finch who is visiting her family home, players uncover the memories and shared experiences of other members within the Finch family in a first-person narrative adventure that balances the juxtaposition of life and death with delicate maturity and resonating verve.
A touching, sad and emotional journey, What Remains of Edith Finch tugs on the heartstrings with all the skill of a practiced auteur; its beautiful story underpinned by a delicious audiovisual veneer that makes it as much a treat for the eyes and ears as it is a balm for the heart. There’s no getting around it; What Remains of Edith Finch is nothing less than completely and utterly essential.
If you liked this feature about the best PS4 indie games, why not check out our feature which covers the best PS4 exclusives that you can buy right now.
Got a PSVR? Why not check out our feature outlining the best PSVR games!