The Unity game engine has long established itself as the best friend of indie developers. Here are the best titles made by small teams with it.
Since its launch in 2006, the Unity engine has taken a special place in the world of game development. It’s hard to believe now that for a long time it was only known as a mobile game engine. However, the multi-platform capabilities have made Unity the best friend of indie developers. Thanks to the free data plan, any enthusiast can create the game of their dreams with advanced graphics and physics.
It’s always great to know that a game is made with Unity, available to everyone, and to appreciate the success of independent studios and even individuals. Here are some of the chic indie titles this engine has brought to life.
Ghost of a Tale
Who would have thought that dark medieval fantasy goes well with anthropomorphic animals? Lionel Galla knew this for sure. Prior to moving into game development, the animator worked on several projects for Dreamworks and Universal Pictures. Inspired by films such as “The Dark Crystal” and “The Secret of N.I.M.H.” despite practically solitary labor.
The result is Ghost of a Tale – a story about a minstrel mouse named Tilo, who embarks on a journey across a vast world full of various dangers. Development of the game on CryEngine began, but the engine seemed too complicated for Lionel, so he decided to switch to Unity. So he was able to create a game with a small team, while being responsible for 90% of the design, graphics and programming. The title is currently rated 9/10 on Steam and is available on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Moon Studios had big plans for their debut indie project. The studio started out as a “virtual enterprise” that brought together members from all over the world working with each other over a network. Back then, the team was working on two projects that might interest publishers. One of them was a first-person shooter with elements of real-time strategy, and the other was a metroidvania platformer. The latter took a fancy to Microsoft and is now known as Ori and the Blind Forest.
After four years of development, Ori and the Blind Forest gained widespread acclaim and earned Moon Studios the Best Debut award at the 2016 Game Developers Choice Awards. A touching storyline and stunning design defined the sequel in 2020. In addition, the title was the first Xbox game to be ported to Nintendo, with Microsoft characters appearing in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Who knows where this business collaboration will lead in the future.
TABS, or Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, is a ragdoll physics game with funny dummies that parodies the exaggeratedly serious combat simulation genre. An indie project created by the Stockholm-based company Landfall Games gained popularity after the studio decided to participate in the Swedish gamejam. The event participants liked the idea so much that it ended up on YouTube and quickly gained a mountain of views.
Then Landfall decided to make a full-fledged game, which was released in April 2021. The choice is given to fourteen factions, created in the image and likeness of different historical civilizations, twenty maps and two modes – a sandbox and a campaign. Additional spin-offs Zombielator and Battlegrounds also parody survival horror and battle royale, respectively.
The Alto Collection
Although at first glance, the games in the Alto series seem to be purely mobile, they clearly surpass the typical products from the AppStore, therefore, to the delight of many, they were ported to consoles and PCs. The development team of just three wanted to combine Journey’s minimalist visual style with a warm nostalgia for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, and they ended up with epic procedural snowboarding.
As in the case of Monument Valley, Team Alto managed to make a game in which you can forget about everything: it feels like you are really flying through the mountains on a snowboard, away from the hustle and bustle of the world. Since then, Team Alto has been conquering new horizons: the team is developing the next game under the name Land & Sea – a studio based on the wave of success of previous titles.
This gorgeous indie title has captured the hearts of many gamers with its classic cartoon style that takes players back to the golden age of American animation. However, the creation of Cuphead, despite the creative fervor of the Moldenhauer brothers, was not without difficulties. The founders of StudioMDHR were inspired by the early work of Walt Disney and Max Fleischer. They tried to make their game back in 2000, but due to a lack of resources, the idea did not work out.
A decade later, the brothers decided to return to their idea after the success of Super Meat Boy, and it turned out that Unity fully meets their needs. Since then, Cuphead has consistently topped the charts for the best indie games, thanks in part to unique graphics that challenge the perfectionism of modern pixel art. The new DLC is promised to be released at the end of 2021 due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Praey for the Gods
Praey for the Gods is an epic action-adventure game that’s been in Steam Early Access since 2019. The title was inspired by the thrilling battles against giants in Shadow of the Colossus. The developers at No Matter Studios launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, and since then, fans of the cult classic have been eagerly awaiting the full release of the promising game.
At first glance, Praey for the Gods may seem too similar to its source of inspiration, but it is not: the game is distinguished by elements of survival. Your character will have to craft, seek shelter and resources to fight for his life on the harsh cold island. The release was planned for 2021, but with the delays that have arisen, you will have to wait longer.
Night in the Woods
Another game that appeared thanks to Kickstarter is the exciting quest Night in the Woods, which raised the required amount in just 26 hours, and in a fourfold amount. According to the plot, the main character May returns to her native Possum Springs, inhabited by bright zoomorphic characters. She discovers that the city has changed a lot since the local mines closed, and soon reveals a dark secret that has been going on for many years.
After its release in February 2017, the game was released on all platforms and received the Weird Autumn update. Unfortunately, the tragic death of designer Alec Holovka and other unfortunate circumstances led to the title being the only release from Infinite Fall. However, part of the Night in the Woods team has founded The Glory Society and plans to work on new projects.
Return of the Obra Dinn
After the solo development of Papers Please, released in 2013, it was clear that Lucas Pope had an interesting career in the gaming industry. While his colleagues were striving for photorealism, Pope preferred one-bit monochrome graphics, which was reflected in his next game – Return of the Obra Dinn. The action unfolds around the mysterious disappearance of the crew of the ship “Obra Dinn”, which returns to English waters five years after the disappearance.
Essentially, the local graphics mimic games on early Macintosh systems, allowing the player to navigate in three dimensions. This unusual creative solution sets the game apart from most other titles created with Unity. Pope was not afraid to lose on his project, having in stock the income from Papers Please. He plans to make his next game smaller after Return of the Obra Dinn has grown much larger than originally intended.
Hollow Knight is one of the most successful indie titles of the 2010s, widely recognized for breathing new life into the metroidvania genre. The developers from the Team Cherry studio had a unique vision, but at the same time they did not know much about programming. Instead of traditional C # scripting, the team used Playmaker, a visual scripting tool for Unity. In addition, to simplify the development process, they used scanned sketches.
A fundraising campaign for a second playable character eventually led to the announcement of a sequel, Silksong, with a release date to be announced at a later date. Given the amount of content and the effort that Team Cherry has put into the Hollow Knight DLC, there’s no doubt that the long wait is more than justified.
A Short Hike
This little game is perfect for lazy Sundays when you just want to relax and disconnect from the outside world. A Short Hike does not chase you on numerous missions, but simply takes you to a peaceful island and invites you to climb to the top of the mountain at your own pace. This means that you can explore the surroundings as much as you like and calmly be distracted by side quests: participate in races, fish and help the locals.
A Short Hike was created for about a year by Canadian designer Adam Robinson. Despite the lack of professional artistic skills, the developer was able to breathe life into the world of the game with the help of pleasant pixelation, which evokes nostalgia and corresponds to the main task of the title – to take the player away from modern requirements and stress.