5 Must-Watch Indies From PlayStation Showcase 2023

Whatever your feelings on its AAA offerings, this year’s PlayStation Showcase was a killer event for indies. To give myself a challenge — and spare anyone reading from have to hear me gush about literally every indie shown — I’m zeroing in on the five most unexpected, joy-inspiring, and attention-demanding upcoming titles from the big show. I know this means leaving off some fans’ favorites of the show and I hope anyone brimming over with enthusiasm will share it in the comments.

That said, here are the quintet of games to put on your radar:

Sword of the Sea

This announcement was a lose-your-mind moment for me. The familiar glint of the desert, the sword-surfing action. I didn’t trust what my eyes were seeing as the footage rolled. The undeniable truth didn’t take too long to hit me in the face: Giant Squid is aiming to make a game combining the energy of The Pathless and the soul of Journey. Sparkling dunes roll like waves as our hero shreds across the sand.

In a breathtaking temple, the arid landscape seems to transform into a glittering sea — giving hint of the gameplay. The studio’s founder, Matt Nava, quickly revealed a few more details on this aspect saying, “You are the Wraith – resurrected in a desolate world and tasked with restoring life to it as you explore submerged ruins and the vibrant, varied cultures within. Surf through sinking tombs, mysterious shipwrecks, and petrified battlefields – and bring giant shoals of fish and creatures back in the process. But beware- this land is also home to massive leviathans that will stand in your way.”

The last shot in the trailer gives us a glimpse of one of these mighty foes as its enormous bulk slithers over the sky above the Wraith. Taking one on should be wild. We didn’t even get a release year for this one, so I suspect it won’t be coming anytime soon. But when it does drop, it looks like Sword of the Sea is coming to PS5 (interesting lack of PS4 mention) and PC.

Ultros

I have no notes. Ultros’ reveal trailer is a psychedelic fever dream I want to have over and over again. Looking close, the characters and environments almost seem to be drawn with a fine-pointed crayon, making its art style one I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before. But taking a moment to look past the description-defying foliage and mesmerizing vibrance, Ultros appears to be a 2D metroidvania set in a sci-fi world.

“The opening of the game exemplifies mystery,” explains game design director Mårten Brüggemann on the PlayStation Blog, “our protagonist, Ouji wakes up after seemingly crashing her ship on a giant cosmic sarcophagus, carrying an ancient evil entity known as Ultros (we’ve all been there, right?). Caught in the eternal loop of a black hole, anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in the sarcophagus will have their psyche undergo scrutinizing attacks. Ouji feels the need to venture across the time-loops and break this eternal cycle.”

This title is hitting on both PlayStation platforms as a console exclusive, as well as PC when it hits next year. So, put Ultros on your list of games to watch in 2024!

Revenant Hill

Revenant Hill’s reveal presented yet another moment in the showcase where I couldn’t believe my eyes. Because what my eyes were seeing was…. nightmare eyes, which I never expected to see again. But the beginning’s Finji and The Glory Society logos gave me at least some reassurance that the connection to indie gem Night in the Woods wasn’t just wishful thinking.

It bears mentioning before going any further my praise of the 2017 title isn’t meant to treat one of its developer’s history’s lightly. And The Glory Society — founded, in part, by former Night in the Woods creators Scott Benson and Bethany Hockenberry as a worker owned and operated cooperative — has been on my watch list since the promising studio announced a mysterious title nearly five years ago.

While the art style is similar, Revenant Hill is actually a brand-new IP. As the studio explains on its website, “It is 1919 in the Lower North. After the barn he was living in burns down, Twigs the cat takes up residence in a wet log near an abandoned graveyard. When the owl from the next hill over starts demanding rent, Twigs must find a way to make ends meet, and things just get more complicated from there.”

Neva

Nomada Studio, the team behind the glorious Gris, was not going to be outdone. Looking at the high bar set by its fellow indies, the creators prepared to make viewers cry. It goes without saying the developer’s presented a title of remarkable beauty and this alone took my breath away. However, they then hit me with an emotional punch to the gut as the loyal, antlered wolf companion lost its life fighting for its human ally. That moment with the antlered pup… why would they do that to me?

Coming to PS5, Xbox, Switch, and PC in 2024, there are a few more screenshots up on the PlayStation Blog. And, y’all, I can’t imagine how beautiful this game will be. Once I tore my eyes away from the enchanting visuals, I took in what Adrian Cuevas, Nomada co-founder, had to say about the new title.

Neva is our own newborn baby, a love song dedicated to our children, our parents, and our planet. It tells the moving tale of a young woman and her lifelong bond with a magnificent wolf as they embark on a thrilling adventure through a rapidly dying world…. Players will face platforming, puzzles and combat challenges while dealing with monstrous enemies. As ever, we also wanted to craft a polished experience with minimal UI, delicate art, high quality traditional animation and an elegant music score.

The Plucky Squire

Devolver Digital wiped away the tears from the previous game, which it is also publishing, to bring fans another look at the anticipated storybook title The Plucky Squire. This indie has been the favorite of a few showcases so far, so I was hoping to get more concrete release date. However, it is still nice to know the team expects the game to hit later this year on PS5, Xbox, and PC.

What I really love to see from many of these games is the subtle shift away from cross-gen platforms to current-gen only. The Plucky Squire joins Sword of the Sea and Neva from this list in only mentioning a PlayStation 5 release. And that’s not bad company to keep. I hope that means we can begin to look forward to games taking full advantage of the latest hardware but we will see.

The most recent look at this sometimes 2D, sometimes 3D, but always delightful game shows off the main villain (fittingly named Humgrump), the heroic crew, and a handful of new environments. Hopefully, we see this title again soon and get a date reveal — I’m counting on you, Summer Game Fest.

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