Independent games have really come into their own over the past couple years, with several indies appearing alongside their AAA contemporaries on various "best of" lists. Many indie games have proven that a smaller budget doesn’t have to mean lower quality.  The indie games listed below are some of the best, must-play indie games of 2018, games that we feel every gamer should have under their belt. 

Ashen

Ashen came out on December 7th, 2018, just in time to be included on this list. And it definitely deserves to be on this list. Taking place in a huge open world, Ashen has Souls-like combat which you will need to master while exploring the mysterious landscape. The game is challenging; however, due to its multiplayer, the game can become much easier for those struggling to push forward in the unforgiving world. You play as a faceless character whose stats remain the same throughout your travels. Instead of your character leveling up, you gain more and more powerful weaponry and skills. The game manages to find the perfect balance of exploration and combat, keeping you always on your toes and never becoming monotonous like other games of this nature. Though Ashen came out late in the year, it acts as a wonderful final gift to gamers from 2018. Ashen is available on PC and Xbox One.

Celeste

One of the best Indie games of the year is Celeste, a 2D platformer where you play as Madeline, a girl who attempts to reach the top of a mountain, avoiding traps, overcoming obstacles, and performing air-defying feats. The game unfolds quickly. You must master the many mechanics necessary to finish through these challenging levels. And boy oh boy is this game challenging. However, Celeste is not all about difficulty. There is a deep, rich story about self-discovery, depression, and anger hidden beneath the challenges. It’s not something you see every day, especially when it comes to platformers. If you haven’t played this game yet, don’t miss out. For those interested, come January, Xbox One will have Celeste as one of their free games with Gold.

Dead Cells

Imagine you’re a body of cells, and you take control of a corpse just to fight your way through a perilous dungeon. Nightmare fueled imaginings like this are the lifeblood of Dead Cells. With a roguelike metroidvania structure, the world of Dead Cells is procedurally generated. In this world you fight all sorts of creatures, gaining power ups, weapons, and armor in the process. But don’t let all these upgrades get to your head. Dead Cells is, like Celeste, a challenge not for the faint of heart. If you want a Souls-like experience in a metroidvania world, then look no further than Dead Cells, available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Moonlighter

Do you like the management/shopkeeping elements of Stardew Valley but want more classic adventuring? Well, Moonlighter may be just for you. In Moonlighter, you play as a shopkeeper who, in order to resupply his shop, most go dungeon crawling to acquire new and unique items to sell. Talk about an intense restocking process! As the shopkeeper, you can wander around the village, upgrade you gear, buy necessary items, and talk with the local folks. With a beautiful cartoon art style, Moonlighter will capture your attention late into the night, coaxing you to just go dungeon crawling one more time. Moonlighter is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Return of the Obra Dinn

Ever wanted to be Sherlock Holmes on a ship? Yeah, we haven’t either. But Lucas Pope’s new game of artistic brilliance seems to scratch an itch we never knew we had. By the man who gave us 2013’s gem, Papers Please, Return of the Obra Dinn takes place on a mysterious ship on which your crew mates are being murdered. Blessed with the capacities of deductive reasoning, it is your job to solve the murders using a magic stopwatch to return to the moment of the murder. With a unique art style, Return of the Obra Dinn is surely one of the most visually striking indie games of 2018. Return of the Obra Dinn is available for Mac and PC.

For more awesome indie games from the past year, check out our list of some of the best indie games you may have missed in 2018.