Best indie games 2021

Artful Escape Environment
Artful Escape Environment (Image credit: Windows Central)

Indie games have thrived this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has seen many AAA studios falter during development of their big budget releases. Delays have been common, with indie games filling the void as the less demanding and more adaptive development process of a smaller title is far better suited for these uncertain times. As a result, many excellent titles were released this year, full of innovation and creativity. The games on this list represent the greatest indies of the many we've seen this year, each experience offering something engaging and original. Here are the best indie games of 2021.

Innovation and imagination

Why you can trust Windows Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Outside of the AAA space, these are by far the best games released this year on Xbox and PC. Many of these indie gems broke boundaries for their innovation and uniqueness, and the games featured here prove what a strong year 2021 was for the indie title. One of the outright best games on this list is undoubtedly Kena: Bridge of Spirits, a fantastic debut game for studio Ember Lab, which provided a beautiful world to explore and interesting stories to uncover through progression of its compelling story.

If you're looking for pure innovation with some strong and unexpected twists, Inscryption is for you. Blending deck building with an atmospheric setting complete with escape room-style puzzles, the game delights with its gradual introduction of varied types of gameplay, and is one of the year's more surprising releases.

If the goal in playing an indie is to relax with something simple, short, and sweet, Unpacking is one to consider. Delving into a person's life by sifting through their belongings is extremely satisfying and often nostalgic, while the need to correctly place items presents a surprisingly fun and chilled puzzle experience. Plus, it's fun to see how the game disagrees with you about where household objects should go!

Matt Shore