(Pocket-lint) - Independently-published games are, in many ways, the lifeblood of the gaming industry - for every huge AAA release that's published by a giant corporation, there are hundreds of smaller games made by tiny teams and released in a much more low-key way.
Some of these are absolutely hidden gems, too, and let you experiment with more esoteric and interesting gameplay and story choices, or experience an art style that's completely unique. We've brought together the very best options from the indie world that you can play on the Xbox Series X or Series S.
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What are the best indie games on Xbox Series X and S in 2022?
- Disco Elysium
- Hollow Knight
- Outer Wilds
- The Forgotten City
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Death's Door
- OlliOlli World
- DokiDoki Literature Club
A role-playing game that redefines what it means to deal with your character's internal monologuing, Disco Elysium is a beast totally unto itself, with some of the sharpest, most lacerating writing we've encountered in a very long time.
It's got a lovely, grim art style and puts you in the role of a failing cop trying to figure out a crime that might be much, much bigger than him, if he can only deal with his own crazy urges and foibles.
Hollow Knight makes no secret of its influences, in particular a blend of Castlevania-style exploration with Dark Souls-style risk and reward, and the blend it comes up with is pretty much a triumph. It's got a huge map to explore and you'll do so gingerly and carefully.
As you gain more power you'll meet a fun little cast of characters, all of them living in a subterranean world of bugs and animals, and you'll slowly uncover the cause behind a corruption stifling the land.
One of the most successful roguelikes ever made, Hades tasks you with escaping the titular underworld, no matter how many tries it takes you. Each time you die you'll begin again with new random powers to collect and a new set of random rooms to get through.
The alchemy of these potential combinations is just incredible, and by the time you learn the ropes you'll be blitzing through it repeatedly just to see what sort of build you manage to piece together next. It's a rare gem of a game.
If you like solving mysteries without having the solutions pointed to with a map marker, Outer Wilds poses a thrilling conundrum. It takes place in a small galaxy that's eternally fated to collapse in on itself, looping through the same final moments over and over.
You can navigate around it decoding lost messages and figuring out just what on earth is going on, to work out whether you have any hope of stopping things. It's a masterpiece that's best played with as little foreknowledge as possible.
Sable is a gentle, lovely coming of age story that's set on a desert world. You play as the title character, and venture out to discover what your life's calling might be, but the lessons it doles out are so touching that it hardly feels like there's any pressure.
It's got an art style that's just jaw-droppingly beautiful, with pencil-work and a hand-drawn look that make it sing whatever time of the day you visit each region in. It has to be seen in motion to be believed, frankly.
The Forgotten City
Another great mystery game, The Forgotten City is also another time-loop game, a sub-genre that's very hot right now. You're dropped into a Roman city that's under a seeming curse, and have to work out who's causing the whole thing to go sideways each day.
You'll meet devious and helpful characters alike as you figure out who's lying about what, and piecing together one of its multiple endings is as rewarding as you could like.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
A lovely sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps looks simply magical on the Series S or X thanks to detailed environments and superb HDR. It's a side-scrolling exploration game that has much tighter combat than its prequel.
You play as Ori, a delightful little creature whose movement is quick and smooth, even before you unlock a whole bunch of other ways to make things quicker and easier as the game goes on. It looks and sounds sumptuous.
This delightful little game is a clever reimagining of the template laid down by older Legend of Zelda titles, with a series of dungeons to navigate through, and simple but rewarding combat to master as you do so. There's also a wonderful art style to enjoy.
You play as a crow, tasked with ferrying dead souls to the afterlife, but when a soul refuses to be taken you're drawn into a huge contest between mysterious forces, none of which seem to have your interests at heart.
For something a little bit more relaxed, OlliOlli World is like playing a love letter to skateboarding, with all of the culture that it brings with it, from fashion to music and language. There are a wide range of levels to tackle and a deep set of skills to master over time.
The game looks amazing, with a new type of art for the series that really reinvents it and makes it easier to get into, and we love that amount of character customisation you can control. It's such a chill ride.
DokiDoki Literature Club Plus!
Our final pick is a truly horrendous experience, in a way that's completely intended and highly successful. This visual novel seems simple and wholesome, but you'll quickly start to notice some odd details. We won't say too much more, because the twists that DokiDoki Literature Club has to offer up are legendary.
It's a game that merits the content warnings that have been added to it, though, so only play it if you're okay with settling in for a fairly harrowing tale.
More about this story
Every game in this list has been tested and played through by our team to make sure that it merits inclusion.
We've played through their campaigns, sunk hours into their multiplayer offerings, and carefully compared them to direct competitors to make sure that they represent the most satisfying and rewarding options out there on their platform.
With any roundup, though, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user. That's why we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid with these guides are needless details - we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each game is like to play.
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