3 Top Games made by a Solo-Dev
Making games is hard work
Making games isn’t easy if it was then everyone would do it. Huge leaps forward have been made in both technology and accessibility especially with engines like Unity and Unreal Engine 4. But even with all the programs, game engines and guides you can find online. Game development is still something that requires a lot of focus, effort, ingenuity and even some luck to get right. However, even with that being said there are still tons of people out there creating amazing games all by themselves. Sometimes they don’t get the recognition they deserve though so here is a list of some of the top games made by a solo-dev.
What constitutes a solo-dev?
Before we start the list I just want to clarify something about solo-devs. Much like in the music industry where there are bands and solo artists, the gaming industry has development teams and solo developers. Keeping this analogy some solo-artists will use a backing band of session musicians, or maybe just a session drummer, or assistance with mixing and mastering. But we still consider them a solo artist because they are the identifiable mind behind it, they provide the bulk of the work and it’s their vision. Now what this means for gaming is that a game like Killer Gin would be considered a solo-dev because Frederick Miranda is the sole developer. However, the project has some commissioned artwork, a cast of voice actors and a sound engineer that cleans up the voice files for the game.
Essentially a solo-dev does not have to mean that 100% of the game is solely created by one person. The use of existing game-engines and the like are still permissible for this list. But a development team like Oneshark (the guys behind Great Hero’s Beard, XP Girls, Doors of Insanity etc.) would not be included as they are a partnership of three individual developers.
Upcoming Solo-Dev Games
To start off the list, here are some upcoming games made by solo devs. Most of these have been covered on our site elsewhere so I won’t go too in-depth with them.
A spooky 3D platformer being developed by Nicolas Meyssonnier. Pumpkin Jack is a fantastic mix of classic 3D platforming/hack and slash and a fun spooky setting. I played the demo of this game and it’s highly impressive. The controls are responsive, the visuals are fairly stunning. And the story is quite fun. Honestly, I would be impressed if the game was a team effort, so finding out one man is behind it was shocking. The developer is hard at work making his dream a reality for Q4 this year.
Riposte! is an upcoming party-fighting game. A fairly simple concept, the main mode is two knights fighting. Where things get a little weird is that the fights are 2v2. But there are a number of 2v2 fighting games such as Vanguard Princess (also a Solo-Dev game). Things get a little weirder though because while the game is 2v2 there are still only 2 knights. How does that work? Well because you control a hand and a weapon rather than the person. It’s a fun idea and it makes this list because Misdirection Games is another solo-dev.
Clive ‘N’ Wrench
This one I’m not 100% sure is a solo-dev anymore. Especially looking at the quality of the game so far. Clive ‘N’ Wrench certainly started as a solo-project from creator Rob Wass. And as far as I can tell development studio Dinosaur Bytes is still just him, maybe with some freelance work like Killer Gin. The game itself though is another wonderful 3D platformer. But it follows more of a dynamic duo style than Pumpkin Jack does. This is another game that just shocked me at the imagination and scope of the project for a team let alone a solo-dev. Ambition can be a good thing when it pays off this well.
TUNIC is an upcoming isometric action roguelike game. Created as a passion project by Andrew Shouldice. The game takes a lot of inspiration from the original Zelda titles, even incorporating the Z-Targetting system from Ocarina of Time. The game follows the adventures of the cute titular fox Tunic. This is another title that has a playable form, however, it was made playable at certain gaming conventions so we haven’t been able to take a look at it yet. But from what we’ve seen so far TUNIC is looking to be worthy of inclusion on the list of best solo-dev games.
Games Made By One Person!
Now it’s time to talk about the real focus of this list. Games on this list were developed by a single identifiable person and have also been released.
Undertale – Toby Fox
Starting off our list with one of the most well-known solo-dev games out there. We have Undertale which you may recall from our recommendation article and San’s inclusion in our Indie Mascot list. What is there to be said about this game that hasn’t been said already? Toby Fox’s unique, quirky RPG is full of memorable characters, intense bullet-hell styled battles and puzzles. As bizarre as some of the characters are, and how silly the dialogue can get. The game also has a lot of heart and a really strong emotional core.
And what’s more, Toby Fox has also worked on Deltarune, an anagram of Undertale that acts as a companion piece. Chapter 1 is even available for free. But it is warned that the game is for people who have completed Undertale first.
Braid – Jonathan Blow
Another title with a character who made the list for potential Indie Mascot. Braid is a mixture of 2D platformer and puzzle game. You control Tim and go on a quest to save a Princess captures by a monster by jumping on bad guys’ heads. Sounds very Mario at this stage. But there are twists. For instance, each level has a new mechanic to learn to solve the puzzles. They mostly revolve around time, such as time only moving when you do (kind of like SUPERHOT) or time reversing. But overall, what really set the game apart was the narrative that slowly is revealed as you play. The meaning of the ending is still debated. And Jonathan Blow likes it that way.
Just a quick note that the art in the game was redone by webcomic artist David Hellman who was commissioned by Jonathan Blow. However, there was an original version of the game before the art was redone which proves that the game was really Jonathan’s vision the whole time.
Axiom Verge – Thomas Happ
Axiom Verge is a Metroidvania made by Thomas Happ, originally as a small side project. But when the development started to garner interest he realized the market for his game was larger than he first anticipated. So he dedicated more time and effort to the game stretching the development window from one year to five. But it was all worth it for the game that we eventually got. Thomas Happ’s reimagining of the classic Metroid games launched to near-universal acclaim. The game received a number of accolades including being voted the second best Metroidvania of the decade in our top 10 list.
Also notable is the fact that Thomas Happ contributed not only concept and design. But programming, art and even music to the game. Truly the epitome of the solo-dev.
More to Come
This list is becoming a little unwieldy and there are still plenty of games to talk about. So check back in with us soon for the second part featuring more amazing games by amazing solo-devs.
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.