While the video game industry has a long history in Asian countries like China, Japan, and Korea, it’s important to note that Asian Americans have also played a major role in the development community since the industry’s conception. Asian American creators have helped craft some of the most unique, innovative, and influential games of the past decade, especially when it comes to groundbreaking indies.
In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, we wanted to highlight some of the best indie games from Asian American creators. Seeing as we’re going through a relatively quiet season for AAA games right now, consider this a great time to check these titles out this May.
If you’ve yet to play them, Derek Yu’s masterpiece roguelikes are both must-play titles. This platformer is deceptively simple, as players make their way further and further down deadly caves on the moon with a limited toolset. The game is challenging and rewards thoughtful planning and fast reaction times to various traps and obstacles. Spelunky 2’s roguelike setup also makes it an excellent pick-up-and-play game that constantly makes you want to make just one more run.
Spelunky 2 is available for PC, PS4, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. It’s even part of Xbox Game Pass, so you have no excuse not to check out one of the best roguelikes ever made. Once you complete that game, we also recommend checking out the original Spelunky, as it still holds up to this day.
Hacking minigames are very common in video games, but few actually make the activity engaging. Quadrilateral Cowboy, from Blendo Games’ Brandon Chung, defies that notion with an excellent game almost entirely about hacking. In Quadrilateral Cowboy, you control a hacker assisting secret agents with pulling off a heist. You type code and create programs to progress, truly making you feel like an expert hacker.
Its unique approach to gameplay will make the game and its puzzles stick in your mind long after the game is finished. Quadrilateral Cowboy is only available for PC, Mac, and Linux. If you like Blendo Games’ work here, consider checking out Chung’s other games like Gravity Bone, Thirty Flights of Loving, and the upcoming Skin Deep.
Outer Wilds is an ambitious adventure game where players explore a vast solar system that resets every 22 minutes. Thanks to an intriguing time loop story about a lost civilization, clever puzzles, and the amount of player agency it allows, Outer Wilds is one of the most clever sci-fi games out there. Outer Wilds‘ developer, Mobius Digital, was founded by former Heroes and Hawaii 5-0 star Masi Oka, who served as executive producer on the title.
Outer Wilds is currently available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It’s even on Game Pass for those who want to try it out before buying. You should also check out the game’s fantastic Echoes of the Eye DLC once you finish the main adventure.
Rakuen was created by Laura Shigihara, a musician best known for her work on the Plants vs. Zombies score. In 2017, she released a simple but heartfelt adventure game of her own. Of course, this game has a fantastic soundtrack, but it also is a poignant adventure game about a boy exploring both a hospital and a fantasy world with his mother.
Retro game fans will enjoy the 16-bit aesthetic of Rakuen, but the engaging and emotional narrative and incredible soundtrack are what will ensure you stick around. Rakuen is currently only available on PC, Mac, and Linux, and it’s only $3 until May 12 on Steam as part of its five-year anniversary celebration.
Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is a unique 3D platformer and 2D adventure game mash-up where you control a character named Nova who is trying to help free people whose minds are taken over by Nano Dust. While the adventure starts as a 3D platformer styled after games from the early 2000s, delving into a character’s mindscape switches the experience to a 2D style reminiscent of classic Zelda games. It’s an ambitious blend of styles that gets more grand and meta than you’d expect.
Sean Han Tani and Marina Kittaka of Analgesic Productions created the game, and they’ve proven themselves to be among the most clever indie developers working today. Anodyne 2: Return to Dust is available across PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. And if you like Anodyne 2, then you might want to check out the original Anodyne, which is available on all of the same platforms.
A cute genre mash-up from Trinket Studios’ Eric Huang, Battle Chef Brigade is part side-scrolling brawler and part matching puzzle game. Players fight monsters to get certain elemental ingredients and then must cook dishes via a match-3 puzzle minigame reminiscent of Puyo Puyo. Perform well, and your dish will be rated highly by judges.
Battle Chef Brigade is such a wildly unique merging of genres and ideas that it isn’t an experience you can get anywhere else. Fans of food, puzzles, and side-scrolling action should check this game out. Battle Chef Brigade is available for PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.