There’s no escaping the fact that 2017 has been a huge year for gaming and we’re not even half-way through the year yet. We’ve already had Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Resident Evil 7 and Mass Effect: Andromeda and Bungie has teased Destiny 2 as well. We’re a spoiled bunch of gamers.

However, in amongst the flurry of major AAA releases, there is a swathe of indie games that should also be vying for your time. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your Call of Duties and your Battlefields, but there’s just as much to be excited about on the indie scene – perhaps more so.

In fact, the gaming gang here at Fandom has been so captivated by the smaller games in development that we’ve rounded up our pick of the best indie games to look out for in 2017 and beyond.

Shakedown: Hawaii

Expected release: 2017 (First on Switch)

Platforms: PS4, Switch, PC, 3DS and Vita

Some of the coolest upcoming indie games are out to make you cry with their heartfelt stories. Then there are some that just want you to drive around a massive city, fire off explosives, and then steal recipes for the best seeds you can find in Hawaii. That’s the premise of Shakedown: Hawaii, a retro take on open-world destruction.

The sequel to underrated adventure Retro City Rampage, this indie is coming first to Switch and is a top-down action game full of mayhem. It’s like the original Grand Theft Auto games, but with Super Mario-style power-ups everywhere, alongside clever references to countless other classic games. Shakedown: Hawaii is a lovely slice of paradise with a bazooka added for extra flavour.

Serial Cleaner

Expected release: Early 2017 (currently in Steam Early Access)

Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One

It’s rare that a videogame starts after the crime has occurred. It’s usually you, armed to the teeth, heading off to rob a bank or clear an area of drug dealers. But in Serial Cleaner, you’re tasked with cleaning up the mess left behind after such a crime. This stealth/action game will see you trying to avoid the cops as you dispose of bodies, clean up blood stains, hide evidence and more.

Think Hotline Miami in terms of 1970s feel, but this is much more of a puzzle game. Sometimes you’ll need to dispose of items in a particular order or you’ll discover that moving a certain object might alert the cops to your location. In fact, there are certain elements of Mike Bithell’s Volume here, just with a much more deadly theme.

Cuphead

Expected release: 2017

Platforms: Xbox One and PC

We feel like we’ve been waiting for this game so long we’ve been stuck in the same hell as the protagonists. Cuphead is the cutest and most punishing platformer to come out in years. It’s like Contra meets classic Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons of the 1930s.

So many indies work as throwbacks to challenging 8-bit platformers, but Cuphead raises the bar with a supremely novel art style. Cuphead’s animation is a lovely throwback to classic American animation, with the bouncy limbs and friendly eyes of Disney characters attached to every enemy you’ll find, including some fairly complex bosses. After the many delays, cross your fingers that this cartoony hellscape is finally unleashed before the end of the year.

Figment

Expected release: Summer 2017

Platforms: PC, Mac and “major consoles”

Don’t be fooled by the fact Figment looks like a cutesy hand-painted thing that’s a cross between Monument Valley and Lumino City. The world you explore in this game is actually meant to represent the human mind and its associated psyche. You’re exploring the subconscious of someone who’s going through some trauma and the little character you control is actually a representation of their courage.

Story themes include death, disease and other trauma, with gameplay mixing puzzles with hack-and-slash combat. We particularly love the fact that fear and doubt manifest themselves as silly, singing creatures that you’ll need to take out. If only sorting our real world problems were as easy…

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Expected release: 2017 (currently in Steam Early Access)

Platforms: PC

Currently in Early Access on Steam, and with one million sales to its name, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is already a smash-hit success before its official release. And it’s definitely popular for a reason: Battlegrounds boils down the tense, survival-based gameplay of sandbox FPS titles like Arma and H1Z1 into a 20-minute experience. The result is a digestible experience that perfectly captures the spirit of its inspirations and one that allows players to experiment and test out many possible approaches thanks to the relatively short running time of every match.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds doesn’t succeed on borrowing alone, though. Its biggest innovation comes in how the map diameter perpetually shrinks over time, leaving players constantly scrambling for safe zones. And even though Battlegrounds isn’t technically finished, its currently available form has lit the PC gaming world on fire. You can always wait for the official release, but if you’re looking to get an edge on the competition, you might want to consider jumping into the Early Access version.

Tacoma

Expected release: 2017

Platforms: Xbox One and PC

Gone Home was one of the best surprises of 2013. The first-person adventure game told a beautiful story of self-discovery, and it was a fantastic debut for the developers at Fullbright. Now the team is ready to build on that success with its next tale, Tacoma, and the sci-fi adventure looks to be a sophomore success.

Set in the not-too-distant future, you play as a solo astronaut exploring an abandoned space station called Tacoma. To discover what happened to the crew, you search Tacoma for clues and video logs of the passengers to figure out what happened. From what we’ve played already, it looks to have the same heart and empathetic dialogue that defined Gone Home. Tacoma is an intriguing mystery you can’t wait to get to unlock when it arrives sometime this year.

Ooblets

Expected release: 2018

Platforms: Xbox One and PC

Okay, so we technically cheated with this one as the delightful Ooblets isn’t actually due out until 2018, but it’s just so wonderful we had to put it in. The best way of describing Ooblets is that it’s a cross between PokémonStardew Valley and Animal Crossing.

The whole idea is that you plant, water, grow and then harvest crops near your very little house, which you can also decorate. But it’s not just about growing stuff like in Stardew Valley, these crops help you grow and create your new friends, the Ooblets. These little guys can battle each other, like Pokémon, and will follow you around en masse.

There’s some story there too apparently, but with friends to make, creatures to gather and a little homestead to cultivate, this is ticking all our procrastination boxes. We just hope one day it’ll come to Nintendo Switch.

Samantha Loveridge
Sam is the UK Gaming Editor at Fandom. She's been addicted to games since she first got her paws on a GameBoy and hasn't looked back.