Most Heartwrenching Indie Games

Sometimes, you just wanna feel. And if there’s one thing indie games do best, it’s creating emotionally provocative titles that tug at the heartstrings and have you grabbing the tissues for a sneaky dab at the eyes when you think no one’s watching.

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From moving narratives to complicated choices with real consequences and characters you just can’t get enough of, emotional games provide a cathartic release perfect for unwinding from a long and stressful week. But which ones take the top spot? We’ve compiled the best of the best indie titles guaranteed to have you shedding a tear – or three.

8 Endling: Extinction is Forever

Endling fox and cubs on log in the winter time

Released in 2022 by Herobeat Studios and published by HandyGames, Endling is a third-person survival game in a 3D side-scrolling world. You play as a determined mother fox, the last of her kind, navigating a post-apocalyptic planet ravaged by man. Your mission? To protect your cubs at all costs, feeding, caring, and ferrying them under cover of darkness in the hope of reaching somewhere beyond the grasp of humans.

Endling is a moving indie game with an eco-conscious message guaranteed to have you frantically recycling and leaving your car in the driveway by the end of its four to six-hour playthrough. With gorgeous environments, tension-building sound design, and three *adorable* cubs to care for, this is one tear-jerking title for the wishlist.

7 Inmost

Protagonist sitting on a bench and a monster in background in Inmost

Inmost is a cinematic puzzle platformer with a dark edge developed by the Lithuanian duo behind Hidden Layer Games, Alexey Testov and Andriy Vinchkovskiy, and published by Chucklefish. The game follows three playable characters: a sad young girl, a determined knight, and a man in search of answers through a hauntingly beautiful pixelated landscape where dangers lurk at every corner.

Perfect for fans of indie horror with an emotional twist, Inmost is light on jumpscares and big on tension-building, giving each character in this inter-connected narrative their own unique abilities with which to fend off the threats of its sinister world. With stunning visual details, an ethereal soundtrack, and a story guaranteed to tug at the ol’ heartstrings (and even provide a scare or two), INMOST is a must-play indie game for anyone looking for frights *and* feelings.

6 Night In The Woods

Screenshot from Night In The Woods depicting protagonist Mae talking to her friends

Young adult angst? Check. Small-town cosiness? Check. Murder mystery? Check. The chance to live out your unfulfilled dreams of being a musician with guitar-playing mini-games where all your bandmates cringe if you miss the cords? Check, check, and check. This cute coming-of-age indie has it all.

Night In The Woods is a first-person adventure game developed by Infinite Fall and published by Finj. You play as Mae, a complicated, smart-talking cat in her early twenties who, after a brief and unsuccessful stint at college, is forced to move back to her small-town home – but all is not as it seems. Combining an intriguing mystery with complex relationships and a subtle commentary on the growing pains of, well, growing up, Night In The Woods is a moving indie that’ll stay with you long after the credits roll.

5 Spiritfarer

Promotional art for the game Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer is an award-winning cosy management sim about dying. Centred around Stella, ferry master to the recently deceased (and customer service extraordinaire), you’ll be tasked with building your ship, sailing the seas, and carrying out the last requests of your temporary passengers – all with the goal of successfully easing their passage into the afterlife, once and for all.

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Developed and published by Canadian studio Thunder Lotus Games, Spiritfarer is a game about grief, regrets, acceptance and learning to say goodbye. The perfect indie to unwind with, it’s full of tender moments and touching conversations with rich and varied characters. At the same time, the serene music, satisfying farming mechanics, and gorgeous visuals make for a relaxing form of escapism. Summed up in a word? Melancholic.

4 Gibbon

The opening scene of Gibbon: Beyond The Trees with two adult gibbon, a pink and yellow one, interacting with a baby purple gibbon while sitting on a tree branch.

Developed and published by Broken Rules, Gibbon is a game about finding hope in a world ruined by man’s destruction. Set in a breathtakingly beautiful hand-painted forest, you’ll play as the titular animal, mastering dynamic movement to swing, jump, and backflip through stunning canopies, lively human settlements, and barren landscapes wrecked by deforestation.

Naturally, Gibbon is at times devastating and hopeful, short on hyperbole and rich in detail – the devs having collaborated with Southeast Asian natives and experts to accurately capture everything from the gibbons’ habitat to their distinctive song. Full of moments that leave your heart aching, combined with snippets of unadulterated joy, Gibbon is a must-play for anyone interested in preserving the beauty of our natural world (or those simply looking to experience the catharsis of a good sob).

3 Oxenfree

oxenfree art showing two characters and a supernatural event

With a supernatural thriller centred around a group of teens, an overnight party on an abandoned military island, a unique radio-based mechanic, and some lesser-known events from WWII – Oxenfree isn’t the type of indie you’d necessarily gravitate towards if you’re in the market for a heartstring-tugging gaming experience. But scratch the surface of Night School Studio’s 2017 title, and you’ll see there’s emotional gold to be mined.

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You play as headstrong Alex, who, as well as being at the crossroads of deciding what to do with her life, is simultaneously reeling from the recent death of her older brother – all the while trying to navigate a rocky relationship with her new stepbrother. It’s a lot, right? Touching on grief, guilt, frenemies, acceptance, and learning to move on, Oxenfree is a spooky indie title with complicated layers that’s guaranteed to make you feel something.

2 Firewatch

Firewatch official art of a tower with red lighting

Firewatch is a first-person adventure game developed and published by Campo Santo in partnership with Panic. You play as Henry, who takes up the post of a fire lookout in Wyoming’s isolated Shoshone National Park after his wife’s early onset dementia forces him to say goodbye to the life he once knew. Your only link to the outside world? A two-way radio connecting you to your boss, Delilah.

The story slowly unravels through these conversations as you wander the sometimes lonely, always beautiful forest you now call home, with players choosing their dialogue options (or opting to stay silent) to shape the narrative in a way that suits them. Combining a touching and sombre story with the desolate beauty of America’s western wilderness, this is one indie title that’s guaranteed to hit you right in your feelings.

1 Neo Cab

A promotional image for Neo Cab.

Neo Cab is a visual novel about what it means to be human in an increasingly automated world. Developed by Chance Agency and published by Fellow Traveller, you play as Lina, the last human taxi driver in the San Francisco-inspired Los Ojos. Having clocked hundreds of miles to move in with your once-estranged best friend, Savy, you’ll suddenly find yourself forced to make ends meet in this lonely, neon labyrinth of a city – juggling the demands of an increasingly isolated job, financial insecurity, and the mystery of your best friend’s disappearance.

Fans of mystery, multi-faceted protagonists, and commentary on the rapid advancement of technology will appreciate the poignant storylines, excellent writing, comic-book-style visuals, and choice-based narratives that make each playthrough a unique experience. The perfect little emotional indie game to live out your Uber-driving fantasy (we know who’s getting that five-star review!).

Next: Video Games That Will Make You Cry

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