E3 2018 is finally here and developers from all around the globe have converged on Los Angeles to show off what they’ve been working on. From massive triple-A publishers to the smallest of development teams, games of all shapes and sizes are at the show. While those big-name games may garner the most excitement on press conference stages and the showfloor, it’s unwise to overlook the perpetually strong stable of independent games on show at E3.

Here are the best and most promising independent games the Game Informer staff saw at E3 2018.

Platform: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Aurora44
Release: 2018

Ashen is a stamina-driven action-RPG that borrows liberally from Dark Souls but does so with flourish. The unique, painted aesthetic also makes this game, where you must build relationships with other players or NPCs to survive as you navigate a mysterious world, stand apart. Though the combat didn’t set our hearts on fire, the idea of forging relationships with other individuals stranded in this desolate (but beautiful) setting is intriguing enough to  make Ashen one to watch in the months to come. – Javy Gwaltney

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, PC
Developer: ArtPlay Inc., DICO
Release: 2018

Former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi’s team has been plugging away at this Symphony of the Night-style action game for years, and playing it at E3 showed that it may be worth the wait. A curse may be turning protagonist Miriam’s body into a stained-glass-like crystal, but her movement remains fluid and responsive. During the demo, I was able to meet several residents from the hub town of Arvantville and get a quick look at the game’s alchemy-based crafting system. The base combat and exploration feels familiar, right down to being able to destroy light sources for coins and items, and there were plenty of weapons and pieces of armor to track down and equip. It may not completely reimagine the genre, but players who want to experience Metroidvania-style gameplay from one of its originators should keep an eye out for it. – Jeff Cork 

Children of Morta
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Dead Mage Inc
Release: 2018

Children of Morta takes a solid roguelite foundation and layers on just enough cool features to separate it from the increasingly crowded pack. As you traverse one of three procedurally generated dungeons (or one of a handful of “mini-dungeons”), you receive souls you can use to open chests, which drop healing items, gold you can spend on upgrades, and more. Combat relies on deftly managing a stamina gauge, and each character class has a number of abilities and permanent upgrade trees at their disposal to make combat more interesting. Between runs, you manage of your family’s side hustles, granting you access to better potions, permanently strengthening each class, and more. Add co-op on top and you have the makings of a great dungeon-crawling time. – Suriel Vazquez

Platform: Switch, iOS, Android
Developer: Muse Games
Release: Q4 2018

Hamsterdam is a rhythmic tap beat-em-up because sure, why not. The interface on this touchscreen game couldn’t be simpler: Tap to hit enemies, and swipe to counter their attacks. Even though it’s simple, Muse Game wrings a surprising amount from the inputs, as the young hamster Pimm beats up a variety of rats, weasels, and other vermin. Players can mindlessly attack, but the game rewards observant players with opportunities to deal additional damage by waiting until Pimm glows. After beatup up a few random pests, I took on a boss, who attacked by throwing bombs and punches. Once I learned his tells, I was able to return the favor, launching my friends onto his back to help out along the way. Hamsterdam is a charming game that feels like a perfect option for pass-the-screen sessions between parents and kids. Well, that’s assuming that the kids are pretty good at games. – Jeff Cork

Platforms: PC, iOS
Developer: Playables
Release: 2018

Kids is a strange little thing. It’s less a game and more a series of interactive vignettes, all of which have you manipulating simple white characters on a screen. Crowd dynamics and a follow-the-leader mentality are in full force, as many of your interactions involve getting people to form a line and follow someone, making sure everyone agrees on which way to go by forcing them to point in the same direction, and letting someone pass through an enormous crowd by moving them out of the way.

It’s definitely an art piece, as the narrative depends entirely on your interactions and interpretations; dialogue, menus, and puzzles are minimal. The demo we played has definitely piqued our interest, however, and we’ll be keeping an eye on this one when it comes out later this year. – Suriel Vazquez

The King’s Bird
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Developer: Serenity Forge
Release: Summer (PC), Q1 2019 (Consoles)

Platforming and speedrunning have gone hand-in-hand for decades, and The King’s Bird looks to take advantage of that long-standing relationship. A speed-focused platformer, The King’s Bird relies heavily on momentum as you race through the stages. You have a sprint button, but it’s only effective when you first hit the surface, making timing crucial. You can also glide after a jump, but your power gives out after a couple of short seconds without touching a surface. Sliding down a hill, off a ramp, and into a perfectly executed glide is satisfying, and with the developer promising boss battles within this structure, I’m intrigued to see how the formula expands. – Brian Shea

My Memory Of Us

My Memory of Us
Platform: PC
Developer: Juggler Games
Release: Q3 2018

My Memory of Us is a story about two young children caught in a war, struggling to maintain their friendship amidst the circumstances. The strikingly beautiful art style and sweet story of the two children almost makes you forget about you’re playing an interpretation of the occupation of Poland in the second World War. As you play as the two children, you swap back and forth to use their different abilities; the boy can sneak while the girl can sprint. Using them in tandem, I stealthily infiltrated a soldiers’ camp to steal a cake and solved puzzles to retrieve items within the environments. Despite the tragic setting, My Memory of Us promises a beautiful tale of friendship and a positive affirmation about its power. – Brian Shea


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