January 21, 2023What are Indie Games?

A few years ago, indie games weren’t as popular and impressive as triple-A games were. However, indie games gradually rose through the ranks and became well-known in the gaming world. As years went by, indie games became almost as popular, or even much more popular, than AAA games.

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Photo Credits to xboxplay.games

One of the reasons indie game titles rose through the ranks was the rising popularity of Steam during the early 2000s. Steam is a digital game distribution and shopping platform by Valve. At first, it was launched as a software client in 2003 as a way for Valve to automatically provide updates for their games. However, the software began to grow in late 2005 when it began to offer and distribute games from third-party publishers, which sparked the emergence of indie gaming as we know it today. Additionally, Valve declared in February 2014 that the software would now allow game developers to set their own sales for their game titles, irrespective of whatever prices Valve may have established.

That being said, what are indie games and how can we classify if a game is a triple-A game or an indie game? Let’s talk about it!

What are Indie Games?

In simple terms, indie games are games that were developed by either an independent game developer or a small gaming development team/company rather than a large gaming company like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Sega, and a lot more.

In addition, you can also classify a game as an indie game if the developers did not have a large budget when developing the game, nor did they have any support from any large gaming companies.

The term “indie” means that a game is not supported or affiliated with any major game company. However, you might ask, “What if the game was published by a major gaming company? Would it make any difference?” As long as it was developed by an independent or small team of developers, you can still consider it an indie game. As long as the large gaming company had nothing to do with the development of the game.

But there’s still a lot more to an indie game, so let’s get into deeper detail.

How Can You Classify a Game as an Indie Game?

Independent Developer or Small Team of Developers

The very first way you can classify a game as an indie game is if it was developed by an independent developer or a small team consisting of more or less 15-20 people.

The term “indie” originally comes from a developer/s independence when developing their game. By being independent, they’re able to keep the copyrights to their game and have total creative freedom when developing.

However, as an independent developer/s, wouldn’t it be hard to develop a game without proper funding or help from publishers? Well, that is true, but indie games have quite a broad classification, which makes classifying a game to be indie a bit challenging. That’s why we’re discussing some of the classifications in deeper detail to give you a bit of background about indie games.


As we’ve mentioned above, you can classify a game as indie if it was developed by an independent developer or a small team of developers. But how will they publish their game? Well, that’s where publishers come in.

In some cases, you might be asking, “If a publisher was involved, it wouldn’t be an indie game anymore, right?” Well, in some cases, you’re right. However, if the publisher’s task was to only publish, market, and distribute the game, then the game still qualifies as an indie game since it did not have anything to do with the development of the game.

But what if the publisher funds the development and interferes with how the game is developed? We’ll talk about that more down below.

No Support Money from Major Gaming Companies

Indie developers do not receive any funding for the development of their games.

Take a look at Supergiant GamesBastion. Bastion was praised and was considered one of the games that pushed indie game development. This is because, although the game was published by Warner Bros. Games, a large American video game publishing company, Supergiant refused any kind of financial support when developing Bastion.

Supergiant self-funded the game in order to retain the copyright to their game, Bastion. However, Warner did take care of marketing, distributing, and publishing the game for a portion of Bastions’ profits.

The presence of a publishing company might spark discussion or dispute among the general public since some argue that working with a publisher should remove a game’s “indie” reputation. But that shouldn’t be the case. Even if a large gaming company published the game, it could still be categorized as an indie game if it did not receive any funding from them, nor did the publishing company interfere with the game’s development.

No Interference and Full Creative Control

In line with what we’ve mentioned above, you can also classify a game as indie if the game’s development was purely done by an independent developer or a small team. Indie games are bursting with originality because no outside party attempted to interfere with their development.

Indie game developers often have full creative control over the games they develop. But developing a game with a small company or just by yourself will need time, dedication, and money, so how will you be able to get by without the funding of publishers? Well, getting money from external sources, whether that may be from a loan from the bank or a relative, does not take away the fact that you made the game with full control, nor were the copyrights to your game taken from you.

Overall, an indie game is one that was developed by a group (or independent developer) that retained their creative control and copyrights. It’s a broad term, yes, but one that helps identify the key features of what an indie game is.

Top Indie Games You Should Try Out

If you want to try out some indie games, you should definitely try out:

  • Stardew Valley
  • Hollow Knight
  • Night in the Woods
  • Don’t Starve
  • Among Us
  • Rise & Shine
  • Hades
  • The Stanley Parable
  • Subnautica

Check out our article, “13 Best Indie Games of All Time” for more great indie games!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Indie Games Popular?

Before, indie games weren’t really all that popular. But now, indie games are one of the most popular games in the gaming industry. They started to become a lot more popular in late 2005 when Steam allowed third-party developers to publish and distribute their games on the platform. In addition, indie game developers are really stepping up their game (no pun intended) and are creating some of the most amazingly interesting games we’ve ever seen.

These indie games are really becoming quite popular and a lot of them are receiving Game of the Year awards (these indie games are really getting that bag), one of which is Celeste, who won the GOTY in 2018, Hades in 2020, Inside in 2016, and so much more.

Are Indie Games More Popular than AAA Games?

I can’t really say that indie games are more popular than AAA games or vice versa, but I can say that indie games are definitely stepping up their gameplay development.

Indie games may not have the same capabilities as triple-A games due to small team sizes and funding constraints, but they compensate with their unique ability to create their own games, making their games much more fun in my opinion.

Which are Better: Indie Games or AAA Games?

Determining which of the two is better is quite hard because this question heavily relies on personal preferences. It’s entirely subjective to what you may consider good, so I can’t really answer this. But I can offer you my opinion.

I think that indie games are much more interesting as they have this unique feel to them that I rarely experience with AAA games, making indie games preferable. But I do admit that I am more fond of AAA games’ graphics since I prefer the more realistic graphics of AAA games like The Last of Us.

So, it’s really up to you whether you like indie games or AAA games better than the other. You can also like both! There’s really no need to choose.

Final Thoughts

Due to its many gaps and circumstances, the discussion about what defines an indie game has been a hot topic for debate for quite a long time. But we have to be aware that certain terms can have multiple meanings and shouldn’t be tied to just one. Nonetheless, we hope that this article has provided you with some background information on indie games.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article! Happy gaming!