Five Indie Games With Great Soundtracks
While AAA games might have the budget to blow gamers away with massive set pieces and stunning visuals, indie developers have their own way of capturing players’ attention. With a strong art style, unique gameplay mechanics, and compelling story, they can leave a lasting impression.
The best indie games offer high levels of quality and polish while offering a creative space for developers to express themselves. The soundtracks for these games are no exception.
Stardew Valley racked up a massive following as an indie reincarnation of Harvest Moon, and players love it for its polish and that nostalgic feel. However, it’s also an extremely relaxing and imaginative game with a charming cast of characters to get to know.
It’s the sort of game that makes you want to plant a garden, raise some livestock, learn how to cook and bake, fish, explore, socialize and more. Eric Barone (known as ConcernedApe) created the game, which follows a character who inherits their grandfather’s dilapidated farm plot and attempts to turn it around.
He wanted the game to feel like an escape from the pixelated, primary-colored real world into this quaint, serene space. And the music is a reflection of that.
Into the Breach
Into the Breach is one of the more difficult indie games to play well, but the reward for getting it right is immense. It is a turn-based strategy game that puts you in control of exactly three mechs fighting hordes of giant insects over an eight by eight grid. It sounds repetitive but the game is so well tuned that every encounter is unique.
This includes enemy spawning algorithms that took years to perfect. This means that once you get the difficulty down to a satisfying level, it is easy to add new missions or levels without adding too much extra challenge.
The game also treats narration in a similar straight-to-the-point manner with no lore dumps or long dialogues at any point during a mission or campaign. Instead, it drips hints of its deep fiction through the voices of your units, civilian buildings and mission briefings.
Developed by Supergiant Games, Bastion has received some of the most critical acclaim in recent memory for its gameplay and narrative. But it’s also known for its amazing soundtrack, courtesy of composer Darren Korb.
Korb defines his style as acoustic frontier trip-hop, and it’s easy to hear in this track from the game. The song is sung by two incredible artists, and it’s full of emotion that perfectly captures the feeling of the game.
Originally created for peacekeeping purposes, Bastion-E54 robot units were turned against their human makers during the Omnic Crisis. But this one has lost its combat programming, and now it’s curious about the world around it, guided by a narrator voiced by actor Logan Cunningham. Its curiosity has led it to Stuttgart, and its destination is pre-programmed.
As a side-scrolling metroidvania, Hollow Knight has players delve through the ruins of Hallownest and explore dungeons that unlock new abilities, battle tainted creatures and uncover lore. Its beautiful art style, intricate traps and a captivating score are the hallmarks of a game that was designed with so much care by its small team of developers.
A similarly acclaimed indie title, Salt and Sanctuary, is an action-adventure inspired by Dark Souls. If dodge-and-swipe combat is your thing then you’ll love this punishing 2D melee, which also allows for plenty of backtracking and exploration. Its music is a mixture of slow and melodic, with a leitmotif of stringed instruments. It’s composed by the world-renowned Christopher Larkin, who also worked on the Hollow Knight soundtrack. You’ll hear his work every time you play a new area of the game.
In a world where monsters are real and human children are hunted and slaughtered, the player has the option to save or kill everyone they encounter. This game of light piercing through darkness can be played in many different ways, giving the player a unique experience that’s often funny and sometimes touching.
From a gameplay perspective, Undertale borrows heavily from traditional RPGs, down to the stats, equipment, grid-based environment, and random encounters, but also features a dynamic combat system that constantly subverts expectations. Even the puzzles are often not a challenge for the player’s brain but a way to learn something about the characters or the world.
Created by a single person (Toby Fox, who’d previously worked on MS Paint Adventure’s Homestuck webcomic), Undertale has received critical acclaim from gaming publications and conventions for its writing, thematic material, intuitive combat system, musical score, and originality. A sequel, Deltarune, was released in 2018 and 2021.