What is an Indie Game? (3 Elements of an Indie Game)

We all love indie games don’t we? They offer a unique and engaging experience that AAA titles just can’t replicate.

Well in this guide, we’ll be discussing all about indie games, including what they are, what makes them indie games, examples, and more.

Let’s dive in!

What is an Indie Game?

Indie games are, quite simply, independently-developed video games. However, the term “indie game” can also be used to refer to a particular type of game with an independent spirit.

Indie games are often created by small teams or even a single person, and they often have experimental gameplay or storytelling.

Many indie games are released for free, or for a very low price. This is because indie developers typically don’t have the same kind of resources as major studio developers.

However, this doesn’t mean that indie games are inferior – in fact, many of the most acclaimed video games in recent years have been indie titles such as Undertale, Stardew Valley, and Cuphead.


What Does “Indie” Stand For in Indie Games?

The word “indie” is short for independent. So, an indie game is simply a game that has been independently developed – that is, not by a major video game publisher or developer.

Many people mistakenly believe that the term “indie game” only refers to games made by small teams or individual developers. However, this isn’t the case. A game can be independently developed without being an indie game. For example, a AAA game that is self-published would technically be an indie game, but it wouldn’t typically be considered as such.

What Makes an Indie Game Indie?

Now that we know what indie games are, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics that make them unique.

Indie games often have:

1. A Unique Aesthetic

Indie games often have a very distinctive visual style. This is because indie developers often don’t have the budget to create realistic graphics, so they instead focus on creating a unique and visually-striking art style.

For example, the indie game Celeste has a pixelated art style:

The popular indie game Stardew Valley also has a retro pixelated art style:

Both of these games have very different aesthetics, but they are both instantly recognizable as indie games.

Stardew Valley

2. Experimental Gameplay

Indie games are often known for their innovative gameplay. This is because indie developers are free to experiment with new ideas and mechanics, without having to worry about whether or not they will appeal to a mass audience.

Examples of experimental gameplay include :

The Binding of Isaac – a “roguelike” game with randomly-generated levels and items

Undertale – a game where you can choose to kill or spare your enemies

Superhot – a first-person shooter where time only moves when you do

Don’t Starve – a survival game with an emphasis on crafting and building

These are just a few examples of the many innovative gameplay mechanics that have been pioneered by indie games.

3. A Focus on Storytelling

Many indie games are story-driven and often have deeply personal narratives.

This is because indie developers often pour their heart and soul into their games, and use them as a way to tell a very personal story.

Examples of Indie Games

Now that we know what makes an indie game, let’s take a look at some of the most popular examples.


Undertale is a critically-acclaimed RPG created by Toby Fox, an American indie developer, with a unique spin on the genre. The game has a very distinctive visual style, and features innovative gameplay mechanics such as the ability to “spare” enemies instead of killing them. Undertale also has a very touching and personal story, which has resonated with many players.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley was developed by Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone and is a farming simulator with RPG elements. The game was developed by just one person, Eric Barone, over the course of four years. Stardew Valley was praised for its relaxing gameplay, charming aesthetic, and engaging story.


Cuphead is a 2D platformer with a unique visual style inspired by 1930s cartoons. It was made by Studio MDHR which is a Canadian indie game development studio founded by Chad and Jarden Moldenhauer. The game is notorious for its difficulty but was praised for its tight controls and beautifully-animated graphics.

These are just a few examples of popular indie games – there are many, many more out there waiting to be discovered!

Why Play Indie Games?

Indie games offer a unique and engaging experience that you can’t find in AAA titles. They often have experimental gameplay, charming visuals, and personal stories.

I believe they are a nice change up from the constant action or online multiplayer focus of many games on the market, and I think it’s definitely worth giving them a try!

Some games I recommend trying out include :

  • Undertale
  • Stardew Valley
  • Celeste
  • Don’t Starve
  • Superhot
  • The Binding of Isaac

These are just a few of the thousands of amazing indie games out there.

Difference Between Indie Games and Normal Games

What differentiates an indie game from a “normal” game? There are a few key factors that I’ve already mentioned:

  • Indie games are usually created by smaller development teams, or even just one person.
  • They often have a very distinctive visual style.
  • Indie games tend to be more experimental in terms of gameplay, and often pioneer new mechanics and ideas.
  • Many indie games are story-driven, with personal narratives that resonate with players.

How Do I Know if a Game is Indie?

Now that you know what makes an indie game, you might be wondering how to tell if a game is indie or not. Here are a few tips:

  • Check the credits – if the game was made by a small team, or even just one person, then it’s likely to be an indie game.
  • Look at the game’s art style – if it’s very distinctive and different from other games on the market, then it might be an indie game.
  • Check out the gameplay mechanics – if they are experimental or unique, then it’s likely that the game is indie.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule – but these are some general guidelines that will help you to spot an indie game.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you to understand what makes an indie game, and why they are so special. Indie games offer a unique and engaging experience that you can’t find in AAA titles. They often have experimental gameplay, charming visuals, and personal stories.

So go out and explore the wide world of indie games – you might just find your new favorite!


Is Minecraft an Indie Game?

You might be wondering if Minecraft is an indie game. The answer is yes – even though it is now owned by Microsoft, Minecraft was originally created by just one person, Markus Persson. Therefore, it meets the criteria of being created by a small team or even just one person.

Is Roblox an Indie Game?

Roblox is not an indie game, as it is owned by a large corporation. However, many of the games on Roblox are created by small teams or even just one person – so they would be considered indie games.