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!
UPDATED 22/02/2018 – Added Overcooked
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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
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