Video game conventions like E3, PAX, and Gamescom dominate headlines, but these are not the only events that let people enjoy video games. In fact, Brazil wrapped up its sixth BIG Game Festival this past weekend. The event, which takes place in both and Rio di Janeiro simultaneously (beat that, E3) celebrates indie games from all over the globe, complete with an award show where 18 trophies found their way into the hands of talented developers such as 11 Bit Studios, Mad Mimic Interactive, and Ironhide Game Studio; we have the complete list of BIG Festival 2018 award winners.

We had the privilege of attending BIG Festival 2018 in São Paulo, where we met friendly people, took in some sights, and of course, played lots of cool games. With that in mind, these indie games left a lasting impression (there were many more), and they are either coming soon or available now for your PC, smartphone, or console. 

Semblance (by Nyamakop)

The coolest thing about Semblance is the fact that its key mechanic (the ability to deform the terrain to solve puzzles) was initially a glitch pointed out by interested players. This turned out to be the “lightbulb moment” for the developers at Nyamakop, who transformed the bug into the foundation for the video game. 

OK, so what’s it all about? Semblance is a 2D platformer where you manipulate the squishy terrain to reach collectibles and hit switches. It’s fun to play, looks pretty, and has a foot-tapping soundtrack inspired by African beats. Oh, and when Semblance debuts this year for the Switch (it’s also coming to PC and Mac), it will be the first video game developed in South Africa to appear on a Nintendo system… ever!

No Heroes Here (by Mad Mimic Interactive)

No Heroes Here won Best Brazilian Game at the BIG Festival, and after playing this frantic tower defense title, it’s easy to see why. Available in both local and online modes for one to four people, gamers team up to protect their castle from a variety of different enemies in order to save the kingdom of Noobland.  The fun comes from coordinating strategy with your friends to defeat the oncoming hordes; couch co-op, which seems to be rare these days, is a treat. But don’t let the lighthearted vibe and pixel art fool you. The later levels present a challenge, so you’ll need to maximize teamworking skills to emerge victorious. Download No Heroes Here today on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4.

Until Dead: Think to Survive (by Monomyto Game Studio)

Until Dead from Monomyto is a turn-based strategy game where you play as detective John Mur as he gathers clues while avoiding zombies. Using a smartphone, you press a finger onto the screen and drag to make him move, but each time you do this, the zombies also change positions. The challenge comes from avoiding their clutches while gathering items, taking down these flesh eaters from behind, and safely making it to the end of levels. Considering most zombie games let you mindlessly gun down monsters, having a thinking person’s game (complete with a black and white noir design) is a welcome change; side note, it won the Indie Prize award for best mobile game in 2017, a first for a game developed in Brazil. Thankfully, you can download Until Dead for Apple and Android devices right now.

Lenin The Lion (by Lornyon)

Most video games provide a means of escape from reality and the difficult issues that people face, be it physical or emotional. The developer at Lornyon, however, chose to tackle depression head on in Lenin The Lion, which should be available on Steam later this year or early 2019. The top-down story driven experience lets you control Lenin, the only albino lion in his village. His mother does not understand him, and other non-player characters take pleasure in bullying him. Insecure and sad, Lenin sets off to confront his fears. 

There’s no combat to speak of. Instead, you make choices that shape the story and Lenin’s destiny. This game won the BIG Festival award for Social Matters, and we look forward to experiencing Lenin’s unique journey this holiday season. Check out the Lenin The Lion demo today.

Dead Cells (by Motion Twin)

Every time we looked at the Dead Cells kiosk at BIG Festival, someone was on it, so we made sure to get in line for a chance to play what is described as a Metroidvania meets Roguelite (complete with permadeath).  Thankfully, Dead Cells did not disappoint. The 2D artwork gave us that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night vibe, while the combat felt punchy and satisfying. There were some issues dropping to lower platforms, but aside from this concern, we think Dead Cells does a fine job paying homage to Super Metroid and Castlevania. Play the Dead Cells early access version on Steam.

Iron Marines (by Ironhide Game Studio)

If you’re a fan of playing games on your smartphone or tablet, there’s a great chance that you are familiar with at least one of Ironhide Game Studio’s titles, Kingdom Rush, the insanely popular tower defense game that has been played around the world over 300 million times; of course, if you haven’t played Kingdom Rush, you need to do so right now.  That game was not at BIG Festival, but we did check out Iron Marines, a fun real-time strategy game where you control squads of heavily armed soldiers, with orders to defend bases, kill swarms of aliens, and conquer the galaxy. The visually appealing cartoon graphics look great on an iPhone, and the point and drag controls make it easy to control marines. On that note, Iron Marines won for Best Latin American game at BIG Festival, and you can play it today on iOS and Android devices.

Dolmen (by Massive Work Studio)

Dark Souls in space was the first thing that came to mind when seeing Dolmen. It’s a third person hack-and-slash/shooter where you chop monsters with a melee weapon and then blast them to slimy bits with a pistol. There’s little plot to speak of at the beginning, but you’re able to unravel pieces to the story as you progress through the adventure, which reminds us of how Visceral Games chose to unravel the plot to Dead Space. Bottom line, it’s a visually appealing action game that, despite being a ways off from release, is already receiving lots of praise from the media.

The Last Friend (by Stonebot Studio)

Think Plants vs. Zombies meets Streets of Rage. The Last Friend is a cool mashup where you pummel a variety of enemies in order to protect your mobile dog shelter (yes, seriously) from being destroyed. What separates this 2D game from the competition is the ability to build and then place different items on the board to give you an advantage, be it gun turrets so that you can kill mutants, or walls to slow them down. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play for long, so we were unable to check out the hero’s expanded moves, which apparently include special attacks and combos. Look for The Last Friend on PC, Mac, Steam, and Linux, hopefully later this year.