Modern ‘AAA’ adventure games ask a lot of you. They often want 40+ hours of your time, investment in complex game systems, understanding of multi-game lore, or multiplayer capabilities. But sometimes, all you want from a video game is a short and sweet journey that’ll leave lasting memories. A game that wraps you up in a blissful, self-contained story that never outlasts its welcome. That’s where indie video games come in.
While the definition of ‘indie games’ has become less clear lately, these are titles developed by smaller teams. They aren’t typically as high budget or expectation-driven as AAA adventure games, and this means they can explore more niche ideas, and experiment with creativity. They can be weird and surreal, and dive deeper with more personal stories.
Xbox Game Pass has become an unlikely hub for these types of games, with plenty of strange, loveable and gorgeous indie adventure games available to everyone. If you’re an existing subscriber and you’re looking for your next heartfelt gaming journey, look no further than these excellent indie adventure games.
Tunic is a gorgeous indie adventure game that follows a cute fox on a journey through forests filled with intriguing puzzles and powerful enemies. You’ll unearth odd mysteries, fight towering beasts, and even stumble onto secret pathways in Tunic. The game is designed with The Legend of Zelda in mind, and its inspirations shine through in every facet of gameplay.
The game has a deep combat system and also encourages exploration, with players given only scant clues about where they should head, and what they need to do to solve every puzzle in the game. It’s led to Tunic having its very own puzzle-solving community – one that should prove very useful if you get stuck at any point along the way.
Garden Story is a wholesome action role-playing game where you embody a young grape attempting to keep their village safe from the evil Rot. Like Tunic, it also takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series – but it leans more heavily into a cartoonish, cutesy style that makes exploration an absolute joy at every turn.
As Concord (the grape hero), you’ll travel around a pastel-coloured map, collect various weapons and tools, and take down enemies like the spooky Octopihi, using rolling and dodging to pull off the most effective attacks. When you’re not fighting enemies, you can also spend your time in Garden Story completing daily quests and upgrading the local town. If you’re looking for an adorable, all-ages-friendly adventure on Xbox Game Pass, Garden Story is a real gem.
NORCO is a phenomenal point-and-click adventure that examines the prevalent scars on American society – issues like slavery, murder, economic collapse, and inequality. It’s quite a heavy game in that regard, but with an extremely engaging, confident narrative and a tendency towards magical realism, it’s an eye-opening adventure game that’s certainly worth your time.
Here’s what GamesHub reviewer Nicholas Kennedy had to say about the experience:
‘NORCO is a confronting video game; a confident, biographical and bewildering point-and-click narrative experience that feels more like something you inhale rather than play, with an effective cocktail of magical realism, societal heartbreak, and bummer coolness.’
Even if this title wasn’t on Xbox Game Pass, we’d recommend it wholeheartedly.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a colourful adventure that takes much inspiration from the Paper Mario series. You embody three insect warriors in this journey: Vi, Kabbu and Leif, all of whom have special combat and puzzle-solving abilities. Use their skills in tandem, and you’ll be able to conquer the region of Bugaria and its many deadly warriors.
The Paper Mario comparison is the most apt for this game, not just because of the game’s cel-shaded art style, but also because it uses a similar hybrid combat system. It’s not just turn-based, you can also maximise the damage of your attacks by timing your button presses correctly, and pulling off frantic moves. Even if you’ve never played a classic Paper Mario, you’ll certainly enjoy this dense and delightful adventure game.
Hollow Knight, from Australian studio Team Cherry, is one of the most critically-acclaimed indie adventure games on Xbox Game Pass – and for good reason. With snappy combat, incredible locales, and extremely satisfying storytelling, Hollow Knight is a complete triumph. You owe it to yourself to try this game, whether you think side-scrolling adventures are up your alley or not.
You may reach a point in Hollow Knight where the action gets a bit too tough, and everything seems hopeless – but the joy of finally beating that one boss makes the entire experience worthwhile. Plus, you get to enjoy brilliant visuals and a gorgeous score along the way. Australia makes great games, and Hollow Knight is a fantastic example of that.
The Artful Escape
Speaking of great Australian games on Xbox Game Pass, The Artful Escape is another that should be noted. In this romping, musical-inspired adventure, you play as a young man named Francis Vendetti, a musician struggling to escape the shadow of his famous uncle – all while travelling a path filled with cool, neon-infused visuals, and plenty of pizzazz.
Here’s what GamesHub reviewer David Wildgoose had to say of the tale:
‘A triumphant journey of transformation, The Artful Escape is a joyous musical odyssey of self-discovery that sweeps you along with a breathless enthusiasm and leaves you wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear. It’s the story of someone coming to terms with who they are and realising it’s okay to dream about being someone else. Mostly, though, it’s about how folk music is trash.’
Paradise Killer is the kind of game we wish we could forget, and play all over again. In this vaporwave-inspired story, you play as a detective working to solve a futuristic murder on an island deemed to be a paradise. But while the facade of this city is perfect, its cracks soon begin to show – and they deepen with every step you take.
While Paradise Killer has a linear finale, it is not a linear game. In its opening moments, you’re thrown into a wide open world, and it’s genuinely up to you to use your detective skills and discover every secret lurking in the game. There’s no hand-holding, and no real clues to start with – but the further you travel into this world, the more its threads begin to unravel. Paradise Killer is a fantastic experience, and having it on Xbox Game Pass is a real boon.
If you enjoy the other games on this list – particularly Tunic and Garden Story – there’s a high chance you’ll also enjoy Forager, a pixel-perfect adventure game that combines exploration with town management. Unlike other sandbox games, Forager does actually have a story-based end state, with players required to journey far and wide to defeat major bosses, collect certain artefacts, and complete a variety of unique quests.
The game is best described as a combination of The Legend of Zelda and Stardew Valley, with a bit of room for its own sense of personality between. It’s a cute experience no matter which aspect of the game you choose to focus on, and having an end goal helps to tie the whole adventure together.
Xbox Game Pass is an AU $10.95 per month subscription service that gives you access to a range of the best games for Xbox consoles and PC at no additional cost. You can browse the service’s full games library here.