22 Indie Game Developers to Know

Bigger isn’t always better in gaming, as these breakout indie game developers can attest.

Written by Stephen Gossett
22 Indie Game Developers to Know
Image: Unsplash
UPDATED BY
Brennan Whitfield | Apr 19, 2024

The best-selling video games of all time, Tetris and Minecraft, both happen to be indie hits. That’s not to conflate return with value, but it illustrates an undeniable fact: even in this era of AAA-studio supremacy, a truly inspired independent vision always has the potential to emerge, thrive and — in exceptional cases — even dominate the gaming landscape.

That potential has never been stronger than it is right now, as we’re in the midst of an indie-gaming boom.

The indie gaming sector has blossomed with everything from platformers and multiplayer puzzlers to run-and-gun’s and role-playing games (RPGs). The effect of these works is often a deep sense of community among players and, for game inventors, an ever greater sense of personal identification. As Fez designer Phil Fish said in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, “It’s not just a game. I’m so closely attached to it that this is my identity.”

Check out these indie game developers who’ve made a name for themselves in the gaming world.

 

22 Indie Game Developers to Know

Best Indie Game Developers to Know

  • Askiisoft
  • Edmund McMillen
  • Eric Barone
  • Extremely OK Games
  • Heart Machine
  • InnerSloth
  • Mobius Digital
  • Studio MDHR
  • Supergiant Games
  • Thatgamecompany

 

MobilityWare

Location: Irvine, California

Founded: 1990

MobilityWare is a mobile gaming company focused on producing card and puzzle games for players across mobile platforms. Its offerings include Solitaire, Candy Harvest Blast and Bubble Shooter Pop! The company told Built In that its portfolio of products has accounted for over 600 million downloads around the world. MobilityWare’s efforts to cultivate a healthy, supportive work culture have led to its recognition as a top Orange County employer.

 

Intercept Games

Location: Seattle, Washington

Founded: 2019

Intercept Games is a team of developers with “a deep passion for space, simulation, strategy, and of course all things video games.” Its primary project is Kerbal Space Program 2, a sequel to a popular space flight simulation game that allows players to build space crafts, explore planets and handle other aspects of managing a space program on behalf of an alien race.

 

Askiisoft

Location: Delmar, New York 

Founded: 2008

Indie game company Askiisoft’s breakthrough title, Katana Zero, bears some familiar indiesphere tics, including 80s inspiration, stylized violence aplenty and heavy work ethic by designer and programmer Justin Stander. Published by Devolver Digital in 2019, the game has received a mass of positive feedback and has future downloadable content currently in development. Askiisoft has also released the games OverPowered and Tower of Heaven, plus is currently developing mobile game Pocket Squirrel.

 

BLENDO Games

Location: Culver City, California 

Founded: 2009 

Indie game developer Brendon Chung launched BLENDO Games shortly after his previous employer, Pandemic Studios, was acquired by Electronic Arts. Since then, it has launched notable indie titles such as Flotilla, Atom Zombie Smasher and notably Quadrilateral Cowboy, a charmingly analog-styled hacker simulation that won the Seumas McNally grand prize at the 2017 Independent Games Festival. Blendo Games’ latest release, Skin Deep, is currently in development.

 

DECK NINE GAMES

Location: Bloomfield, Colorado 

Founded: 1997

Deck Nine Games, originally named Idol Minds, is known for co-developing three titles under the Life Is Strange series alongside Don’t Nod Entertainment. A narrative adventure series, the Life Is Strange franchise comprises five episodic choice-based games, each following different stories of characters with supernatural powers. The first title, Life Is Strange, received over 75 Game of the Year awards and listings, and was remastered as part of the Life Is Strange Remastered Collection in 2022. In collaboration with Telltale Games, Deck Nine’s The Expanse: A Telltale Series is currently in development.

 

DOINKSOFT

Location: Oregon

Doinksoft’s pixelated shooter titles like Demon Throttle and Gato Robato have piqued retro gamers’ attention since 2019. With publishing by Devolver Digital, Doinksoft has brought its most popular works to enterprise platforms like Xbox One and Nintendo Switch (with Demon Throttle even being a physical Switch exclusive). The indie game developer’s latest project, Gunbrella, is set to release in 2023.

 

EXTREMELY OK GAMES

Location: Fully Remote

Founded: 2019

Indie game company Extremely OK Games, originally founded as Matt Makes Games, is responsible for old-school platformer indie titles TowerFall and Celeste. TowerFall and the extended TowerFall: Ascension was founder Maddy Thorson’s first major commercial game, which saw success after its 2013 release. Celeste, released in 2018, saw a larger response with over one million copies sold as of 2020. Extremely OK Games’ next release, Earthblade, is currently under development.

 

HEART MACHINE

Location: Los Angeles, California 

Founded: 2013

Heart Machine is known for creating games Hyper Light Drifter and Solar Ash — stylistic action and adventure narratives inspired by The Legend of Zelda series. Named after founder Alx Preston’s personal struggles with heart disease, Heart Machine was originally founded to support the development of Hyper Light Drifter, its very first game and a project able to lift off from crowdfunding efforts. A secondary game in the Hyper Light universe, Hyper Light Breaker, is set to release in 2023.

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INNERSLOTH

Location: Redmond, Washington 

Founded: 2015

Indie game developer Innersloth entered the spotlight in the 2020s with its popular Among Us title and The Henry Stickman Collection. Though released in 2018, the multiplayer deduction game Among Us didn’t garner widespread attention until 2020, where its use highly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among Us made its way into the top 10 most watched games on Twitch for 2020, and has since continued expanding its content with new maps, costumes and game modes. Among Us VR, a version of the game for virtual reality headsets, released in 2022.

 

MEGA CRIT

Location: Seattle, Washington 

Founded: 2017 

Indie game company Mega Crit Games’ debut — and only project — Slay the Spire, emerged from the coincidental boom of indie game design and digital collectible card games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering Online. Slay the Spire is a deck-building RPG that has been nominated for numerous awards and landed a spot on IGN’s “The Best Roguelike Games” list. Mega Crit Games’ next unnamed release is currently in development.

 

MOBIUS DIGITAL

Location: Los Angeles, California

Founded: 2013

Mobius Digital, founded by Heroes actor Masi Oka, broke through the indie sphere in 2019 after the release of sci-fi RPG Outer Wilds. Starting as a graduate thesis project by USC alumnus Alex Beachum, Outer Wilds was taken on by Mobius Digital and published by Annapurna Interactive. The game has since received a handful of awards and is what drove the indie game company to create a 2021 sequel, Outer Wilds - Echoes of the Eye.

 

MOSSMOUTH

Location: Los Angeles, California 

Founded: 2009

Mossmouth serves as a homebase studio for Derek Yu, who helped develop indie games Aquaria, Eternal Daughter and the Spelunky series — considered one of the most notable indie titles of the 2010s. On the Mossmouth website, Yu even offers resources and references for game designers to consult, like pixel art tutorials and indie game developer process guides. Mossmouth’s next release, UFO 50, is currently in development.

 

NIGHT SCHOOL STUDIO

Location: Glendale, California

Founded: 2014 

Founded by two cousins, Night School Studio specializes in highly dialogue-driven and colorful narrative games. Its debut, the critical hit Oxenfree, combines a graphic-adventure mystery hunt with coming-of-age teen-movie aesthetics. The indie game company has since released Afterparty and Next Stop Nowhere, and is releasing an Oxenfree sequel, OXENFREE II: Lost Signals, in 2023.

 

STUDIO MDHR

Location: Fully Remote

Founded: 2013

Founded by Chad and Jared Moldenhaur on the “love of retro arcade action,” Studio MDHR’s debut game Cuphead raised the indie developer to the spotlight in 2017. A run-and-gun game with an art style from 1930s cartoons, Cuphead has quickly gained widespread popularity since its release. In 2022, the Moldenhaur brothers premiered The Cuphead Show! on Netflix, as well as released a downloadable content expansion for Cuphead known as Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course.

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SUBSET GAMES

Location: Seattle, Washington 

Founded: 2012

Subset Games, comprised of former AAA game developers Matthew Davis and Justin Ma, has earned ample recognition in the indie world for games FTL: Faster Than Light and Into the Breach. Its latest turn-based strategy title, Into the Breach, has amassed various awards since its 2018 release, and is available to play on Netflix Games and as a physical release on Nintendo Switch as of 2022.

 

SUPERGIANT GAMES

Location: San Francisco, California  

Founded: 2009

Created by former EA employees Amir Rao and Gavin Simon, indie game company Supergiant Games has developed critically acclaimed titles Bastion, Transistor, Pyre and Hades. Its 2018 game, Hades, a roguelike dungeon crawler set in the Greek mythological Underworld, sold over one million copies by 2020. Since its release, Hades has earned 19 gaming awards and became the highest-rated game of all time on the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X in 2021.

 

THATGAMECOMPANY

Location: Santa Monica, California 

Founded: 2006

With its work, Thatgamecompany has truly shown video games as an artform to be admired. This was the case for many with its 2012 release Journey, a visually immersive co-op game between anonymous players as they traverse a sweeping desert. Journey was produced by game designer Robin Hunicke, a professor of game design at UC Santa Cruz and co-founder of Funomena studio. Thatgamecompany has also developed the games Flow, Flower and Sky: Children of the Light.

 

YOUNG HORSES GAMES

Location: Chicago, Illinois   

Founded: 2011

Indie game developer Young Horses Games aims to create charming titles “for kids and adults,” breaking into the indie scene with colorful 3D titles Bugsnax and Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Its 2020 game, Bugsnax, follows a first-person mystery adventure where players capture creatures known as Bugsnax throughout the story. Bugsnax outsold Octodad’s total sales within two months of release, and was nominated for the 2021 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Video Game. The Isle of Bugsnax, a downloadable expansion for Bugsnax, was released in 2022.

 

BEN ESPOSITO

Location: Los Angeles, California

Developer Ben Esposito’s resume includes level design and prototyping for various titles, including Giant Sparrow’s The Unfinished Swan and What Remains of Edith Finch. His most celebrated works are his most recent, Neon White and Donut County showcase colorful characters and quick game mechanics, one as a first-person shooter and the other as a playful puzzler. Esposito also co-founded indie-developer collective Glitch City, where members can collaborate and host events.

 

EDMUND MCMILLEN

Location: Santa Cruz, California  

Known for developing Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac series, Edmund McMillen is an indie game designer whose development was even chronicled in Indie Game: The Movie. After co-founding developer Team Meat, McMillen released his first console game, Super Meat Boy, in 2010. In collaboration with developer Nicalis, McMillen also published games The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, The End is Nigh and The Legend of Bum-bo. McMillen is currently developing Mewgenics, set to release in 2024.

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Eric Barone

Location: Seattle, Washington 

The lore of Stardew Valley by indie developer Eric Barone, or ConcernedApe, is nearly as compelling as the game itself. Barone, who labored completely alone for four years on the game, originally began the project to only practice C# and be able to add it to his resume. The result was the Stardew Valley title, a Harvest Moon-inspired farming and dating simulator. The game is ranked under USA Today’s 100 best video games of all time, and is noted by GQ as “the unlikeliest independent-video-game triumph since Minecraft.” Barone’s next release, Haunted Chocolatier, is currently in development.

 

Toby Fox

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire 

Toby Fox is a game developer and music composer known for creating 2D RPGs Undertale and Deltarune. Fox released Undertale in 2015, a choice-based game heavily inspired by the Mother series. By 2016, the title sold over one million copies and won four gaming awards. Fox also released the first two chapters of the successor game Deltarune starting in 2018, as well as composed music for various titles like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

Rose Velazquez contributed reporting to this story.

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