You should keep your eye on these promising Xbox indies

The ID@Xbox logo.
Microsoft

While indie video games from smaller developers tend to get more attention on platforms like Steam or Nintendo Switch, that isn’t for a lack of trying on Xbox’s part. Since 2013, it has run the ID@Xbox program to help fund and highlight games from independent developers all around the world. While some Xbox fans feel uncertain about the platform’s future because of Microsoft’s multiplatform push, Microsoft reaffirmed its efforts to uplift indie game developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference by highlighting some of its upcoming ID@Xbox titles.

At a hands-off presentation held just after GDC, I got a look at several ID@Xbox games coming soon. From more notable games like Still Wakes the Deep from British developer The Chinese Room to small, cozier titles like inKONBINI: One Store, Many Stories from Japanese developer Nagai Industries, these eight ID@Xbox titles are games to watch going forward.

Botany Manor (April 9)

The manor in Botany Manor.
Whitethorn Games

Botany Manor is a first-person puzzle adventure game centered around gardening and plants. In one puzzle I saw, the player had to grow pixie tears. To do this, they had to find clues through books and microscope slides. They’d have to place the plant in a pot, water it, and watch a seedling grow. It’s a relaxing deduction-based puzzle game that will also teach players a lot about botany and gardening as they grasp and internalize the game’s mechanics.

Although Ballon Studios Creative Director Laure De Mey tells Digital Trends she’s not much of a gardener, she appreciates the beauty of manors dotted throughout the U.K. and wanted to realize one as a setting for this game. Titles that gamify everyday activities are always pretty novel to play, and Botany Manor feels like it’ll be the next game to do that.

If the premise interests you, you don’t have to pay much to try it out. A free demo is available for Botany Manor on Steam right now, and it’ll be a day-one Xbox Game Pass release on April 9. It’ll also hit Nintendo Switch on that date.

Still Wakes the Deep (June 18)

A twisted oil rig in Still Wakes the Deep.
Secret Mode

The Chinese Room is known for its work on horror games like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and atmospheric first-person adventure games like Everybody’s Gone the Rapture. Still Wakes the Deep is the culmination of that as a first-person horror game set in the 1970s about a Scottish worker surviving supernatural horrors that have taken over an oil rig on the North Sea. Lead Designer Rob Mclachlan highlights how The Chinese Room researched what it looked and felt like to work on an oil rig in the 1970s by interviewing workers, looking at old photographs and footage, and going through the archives of oil companies active at that time.

He says the elevator pitch for Still Wakes the Deep is “The Thing on an oil rig.” That’s certainly an attention-grabbing premise for a new horror game. It seems like Still Wakes the Deep will be a must-play for Eldritch horror game fans. For those who get scared more easily, The Chinese Room has also confirmed Still Wakes the Deep will offer a Story Mode where players aren’t at risk of dying.

Still Wakes the Deep launches for PC and Xbox Series X/S on June 18 and will be on Xbox Game Pass day one.

Go Go Town (2024)

Co-op play in Go-Go Town.
Prideful Sloth

In Go-Go Town, players stumble into a rundown city and are named mayor of it. From there, they work to build the town back up to a hot tourist destination by building and customizing the look of the town, the shops, and the staff working within it. That may sound stressful, but Go-Go Town is a very welcoming game with a cute art style, an emphasis on customization, side activities like go-karting, and co-op support.

Go Go Town sports a pleasing aesthetic, and director Joel Styles credits toys like Duplo for informing the look, which he says has a “soft marshmallow feel.” I know I’d like to play it with others, but I’ll only be able to do that offline with up to four-player split-screen co-op initially. Online play is coming, though. “Online multiplayer is something that’s definitely on our roadmap, but that will be a feature we onboard after our first point of release,” Styles says.

That “first point of release” is expected sometime in 2024. This isn’t a game you’ll only be able to play on Xbox; Go-Go Town will also be released for PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation consoles. There is a free demo available on Steam right now.

inKONBINI: One Store, Many Stories (Q1 2025)

A girl picks up the phone in inKONBINI: One Store, Many Stories
Nagai Industries

Nagai Industries’ Dima Shen interviewed for a job at his local convenience store but wasn’t doing it to get a steady paycheck. Instead, he used it to take reference photos for inKONBINI, his game about managing a night shift at a convenience store. While he was asked to leave when he got caught, the passion he put into this game through doing things like that is definitely reflected in what Nagai Industries is now showing off.

inKONBINI is a narrative-driven game in which players work at a Konbini, which is a small Japanese convenience store, in the early 1990s. Each night, the player has to arrange the items in the store, making sure everything is well-stocked and facing the right direction. Then, as people come in, they’ll react to the player’s stocking choices and have choice-driven conversations that can influence the game’s narrative. It’s cozy in the way that working quietly and intensely can sometimes be, making inKONBINI the standout game of the presentation.

While Dima Shen probably won’t be able to get a job in a convenience store anytime soon, that effort seems like it was well worth it as it seems like inKONBINI will be an indie darling when it launches in early 2025 for PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

Fallen Tear: The Ascension (2025)

Gameplay from Fallen Tear.
Winter Crew

Fans of Metroidvanias like Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and the upcoming Tales of Kenzera: ZAU need to keep an eye on Fallen Tear: The Ascension from Philippines developer Winter Crew. It blends RPG and Metroidvania elements to create an intense action platformer in which players hunt monsters with the help of Fated Bonds, who are party members recruited throughout their adventure.

One Fated Bond I saw during the demo was Bjorn the Chef, who threw hot pans at enemies to burn them and passively increased the player’s max HP. The beautiful art — which Winter Crew founder Stephen Manalastas says was inspired by Ori and the Blind Forest — really stands out. Considering that Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is still one of my favorites of the year, I’ll be keeping tabs on upcoming Metroidvanias like Fallen Tear: The Ascension.

Fallen Tear: The Ascension is slated for release on all major platforms sometime before the end of 2025.

Brocula (TBA)

Gameplay from Brocula.
Destroyer Doggo

Farming and life sim games have become a breakout genre because of the success of games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. To stand out, new games in this genre need some interesting premise or hook to generate interest, and Brocula has that. This is a game about the titular vampire, who wakes up after centuries of slumber only to find that he needs to earn money to survive in the real world. Players do this by completing various part-time jobs and doing some light farming.

During the presentation, solo developer Prateek Jadhwani walked the press through the game’s early moments as Brocula was introduced to the modern world, took on jobs like working at the town’s garage, and cut down some of the overgrowth around his castle. During that demo, the ASMR-like sound design stood out, which Jadhwani credits to a sound designer helping him out with the project. He teases that Brocula’s vampiric nature will eventually come into play in a part-time priest job where players can ask for blood or money from the church’s patrons.

Brocula is in active development for PC and Xbox.

Nightscape (TBA)

A puzzle in Nightscape.
Mezan Studios

Another one of my favorite games shown during this ID@Xbox presentation is Nightscape from Mezan Studios, a developer based in Qatar. It’s a 2.5D adventure game with light platforming, puzzle-solving, and combat elements where players go on an adventure to restore the stars and constellations in the night sky with the help of a magical astrolabe. For each constellation that’s restored, the Astrolabe will gain new abilities, like being able to change the direction of the wind.

Although it isn’t as head-scratching of a puzzle game as Botony Manor nor as intense of an action game or platformer as Fallen Tear, Nightscape looks like a beautiful game exploring a part of Middle Eastern culture we don’t see often. “For the astronomical lore, we looked at ancient Arabian astronomy exclusively, which is astronomy that was known to indigenous Araban tribes before the advent of astronomy as we know it today,” Creative Director Hamad K explained. “We looked at the great Middle East for inspiration for environments, developing the story, and character designs.”

Nightscape does not yet have a release window, and Mezan Studios is just saying that it is currently in development for PC and consoles.

Jump Ship (TBA)

Combat in Jump Ship from Keepsake Games.
Keepsake Games

Jump Ship could be Xbox’s answer to Helldivers 2. For a game just made by 12 developers working out of a basement, it’s an incredibly ambitious title. It’s a four-player PvE shooter where teams work together to maintain a ship, fight other spaceships, and partake in intense firefights on the surface of planets. It’s finding the middle ground between Starfield and Left 4 Dead, and that’s an incredibly enticing idea for a co-op shooter.

If Swedish game developer Keepsake Games can pull this off, Jump Ship has the potential to be a breakout success. We’ll see if the indie studio can pull it off, and just how much more support Microsoft plans to give them in the future. Jump Ship does not yet have a release window, but when it does come out, it will be through early access on Steam and Xbox Game Preview on Xbox Series X/S.

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