Summer Games Fest 2023 had a lot of big reveals, fun moments, and a few classic trip ups already. It was great to see a live audience show and real enthusiasm surrounding some of the announcements that have happened, and there’s still more shows to go! There is already tons of coverage and break down of the new Final Fantasy trailer, people picking apart the gory animations in Mortal Kombat One, and more.
With that in mind, we wanted to do what we love to do here on this website: focus on the smaller announcements and find some gems. Last year, I fell in love with the Guerilla Collective Showcase, a presentation that just laid out dozens and dozens of indie games that ranged from cozy farming to unhinged gorefests. When I saw that GC was on the schedule for June 7th, I was hyped. Unfortunately, due to toddler, a full time job, and the fact that the show is nearly a whopping two hour event without including the publisher showcase, I only got to really start digging through the event later.
It was well worth the wait. Again, without counting the extra hour of material from the publisher showcase, there were over sixty games shown off or revealed, with most planned for releasing this fall or winter. Every time I was nearly done jotting down my initial reactions, there was another game was already queued up to cover.
With that in mind, I have collected ten games that made a really good first impression on me during the show. They range from zany loot fests to educational tools, but that’s really what I love about indie showcases: the variety that is available is amazing.
Abyssus - Dungeon Crawling with Eldritch Guns And Angler Fish
I have come to realize that for a game to grab my attention, especially a first person shooter, it needs to have mood more than anything else. Good visuals or gameplay is always great, but if the sum of your parts doesn’t add up to something that has some stylized flair or soul, it’s hard for me to get excited.
At about the fifty second mark in the trailer, I was hooked. Sure, you can throw around buzzwords like ‘brinepunk’ all day, but once I saw the angular magitech rifles being fired and wonderfully themed dungeons as background to all the shooting, you know the art direction is backing up their claims. When the trailer showed you could play co-op with three friends and pulled off the angler fish gag? I’m following this one, as I see a lot of fun and frenetic FPS adventuring to be had with friends.
Leximan - Fun With Words And Failure
This is one of those lovely games you find in indie showcases that manages to make its premise so strange its hard not to be curious. Leximan is a game where you start as a lowly basement-wizard but are called to try and save the day with your magic. Magic you can only cast by combining parts of words together that float around the screen.
The possibility of hijinks is immense here, and seems to be one of the main draws. Accidentally use the wrong word, and the world can change colors, or you attack when you should be talking. This is a game which encourages messing around with what you can do and finding out the results for good or ill. It reminds me a bit of Magicka, where you played a wizard who combined elements to make spells, but on a whole new level, eschewing standard gameplay entirely to create something very different indeed.
This is a game that people are going to either love or bounce off of, so check it out for yourself to see if the humor and style might be your speed when it releases next year.
Serum - Racing For Resources And Time
When I finally played Subnautica, it instantly became one of my favorite games of all time. That mix of exploration, story, and survival was a heady mix that brought me back, fully engaged and ready to adventure. Based on the two minutes of gameplay we got to see, Serum looks like it is attempting to recapture some of that magic, albeit with a bit more combat.
Now, I know there are a lot of games that fit this mold, so maybe my excitement is misplaced. I am relatively new to the genre and so am not quite as jaded on such things. Two things stand out as exciting to me: the chance to play co-op, and the ability to use the titular ‘serum’ as a resource. Yes, you have to keep using it to keep yourself alive, but you can also play alchemist with it, changing the formulae and crafting new options for yourself to keep exploring.
I love these sort of risk/reward set ups, and using the very resource you need to stay alive for other things is a fun premise. We’ll see if it pays off when it releases early next year.
World of Horror - A Project Of Both Genius And Madness
Who makes a game entirely in MS Paint? Who does that?!
We’ve already covered this game back in 2020 and decided that it’s very strange and very good. Most everything on this list is brand new, but I made an exception for this game in particular just because the concept of managing to create a cosmic horror game using MS Paint blows my mind. Inspired from the works of writers such as Junji Ito, it is an old fashioned visual novel/rpg that will mess with your head.
World of Horror is finally leaving early access this summer and it’s only $15 dollars. If you like spooky games or designers trying something new with the gaming medium, you have to at least see what this game is all about.
BattleShapers - A Megaman For A New Generation?
So claiming this might stand up to an old classic franchise is a bit much, but it’s all I could think of after seeing the trailer. You play as an augmented robot/cyborg who unlocks new suits and powers from killing bosses. What else do you call that?
This game will be make or break for me as to how good the boss fights are, as it seems there will be lots of them.
There are a few changes of course: this isn’t a side scroller, but a FPS roguelike. It looks to be like Abyssus, but is reveling in bright neon colors and a futuristic cheerful vibe, leading to a very different experience. I’ll be curious to see a demo when it becomes available, because there’s a lot of promise here if the gunplay is smooth. It is set to release into early access in Fall 2023, so we don't have to wait long for this one.
Grifford Academy - Classic RPG with Modern Sensibilities
I’m a sucker for the classics. A good RPG dungeon crawler can just hit the right notes, even if most are tied to a bog-standard medieval fantasy setting. This is where Grifford Academy jumps in: while it is very much an RPG like Might and Magic, its sensibilities are very different. Playing as modern high school kids trapped in another world, this is a coming of age story while also fighting for your life.
With a modern music soundtrack and filled with choices meant to determine your character’s personality by the end of the game, it seems like a promising blend of classical gameplay with new ideas surrounding the core combat. I’ll be looking forward to it later this year.
Toads of the Bayou - Through the Breach With Amphibians
Here is a game that looks amazing simply because of its theming. Toads of the Bayou wears its influences on its sleeve even in this trailer, looking a bit like Through the Breach meets Slay The Spire, but it's the setting that grabs your attention. Playing as toads with a turn-of-the-20th-century flare, you are attempting to build up and protect a settlement from the forces of infamous Baron Samedi.
Coming out 2024, it is a roguelike with a lot of potential thanks to its charm. It could be an addictive success as people play for 'just one more run'... as long as it ships with enough variety. Check out the demo for yourself!
Jumplight Odyssey - A Space Faring City Builder
Switching styles entirely, Jumplight Odyssey grabbed my attention simply because of the name attached to it, the developers League of Geeks. We absolutely loved their board game/video game hybrid Armello years ago, and to see them working on another project was exciting, especially one this ambitious.
Jumplight Odyssey has charming Star Trek like visuals as you work to bring part of humanity to a promised land of safety, The Forever Star. You might want to compare this to FTL, but there is a lot more going on than just having a small crew survive a gauntlet. Even in the trailer, you can see how the developers have given your starship multiple floors for different purposes, from building up better housing for your crew to installing better engines and research.
It's trying to balance a Saturday-Morning-Cartoon vibe with some real "tough choices must be made" gameplay... I have to know if it'll work.
I’m really excited to see where this game ends up, as more of a roguelike experience or more a citybuilder like Frostpunk. Either way, the game comes out into early access on August 21st, so we won’t have to wait for long.
CorpoNation - Papers, Please but For Late Stage Capitalism
A game mired in dystopia, Corporation has you stuck as an office worker forced to sort other workers into a corporate system of jobs, all while buying corporate goods to try and bring some joy to your corporate life. Yes, the theme is a smidge heavy handed, but let’s be honest, its sort of nice to see late stage capitalism called out.
I’m not sure how much agency you’ll be given in trying to upset the system or keep it afloat, but the trailer did mention there is a group of rebels who will try to recruit you into learning more about how your corporate masters aren’t telling you the whole story. It seems like a fun indie game that has a lot on its mind, and there is already a prologue demo available if you want to see if this story might be right for you when it releases later this year.
Noun Town - A Game World Of Learning
Years ago, the company Rosetta Stone promised the chance to learn a language using interactive games that were more natural than learning in a classroom… for several hundred dollars per box. In comparison, this game Noun Town is actually an interactive world that’s been built to try and help you learn the basics of not just one language, but Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, and Italian, and doing it for only about twenty dollars.
For some people, this title might not qualify as a game , but I can’t help to be excited for this one because of the possibilities. Its filled with mini games meant to challenge you to learn the different words for different objects, and even has speech recognition to help you with pronunciation. It would be a great way to try and brush up on a second language or help someone taking classes practice in a more engaging way. Regardless, there is a VR version already out for just $19.99, and the full game is releasing on August 31st of this year. Try out the demo to see if its attempts at teaching feel forced or something truly helpful.
Lil’ Guardsman - But What If Papers, Please Wasn’t Depressing?
When a game makes a surprise splash in the scene, it's only a matter of time until you can see the ripples. Papers, Please was released all the way back in 2013 and became a minor obsession for many. It’s why this showcase felt very peculiar, having two obvious descendants from that depressing title appear. We already talked about CorpoNation, which very much follows the depressing, dystopian themes of the original… but what if someone tried to make the concept funny?
Lil’ Guardsmen doesn’t feel exactly like a parody, but it gets close. As a 12 year old who suddenly has to guard the gates to a fantasy kingdom, you are suddenly in charge of one of the entries into that kingdom. The art is cute and over the top, it’s obviously very tongue in cheek… but what astounds me is how big the scale is. According to the developer, there are over 100 different characters you might have to question during your time as a guard.
It's a fun looking title for those who wanted to have a ‘make choices, see consequences’ game, but without the morose nature of its predecessor. It comes out later this year.
Something For Everyone At Prices That Make Sense
I hope you find something in my personal picks that you enjoy, but I highly encourage you to watch the show for yourself to see what you can find. One of the best things about such a massive showcase is how it manages to cover all the bases, from visual novels to horror gore fests.
One last thought before I wrap up: I really do think the Guerilla Collective is doing something important here. In a world where AAA games are just getting more expensive and are often asking for more micro-transactions, seeing so many games that are very obviously labors of love by smaller teams can be heartwarming. As gamers, if we give projects like this a little more attention and time, it could help the medium as a whole move forward. Until next year!