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10 Great Art Styles Indie Turn-Based Games You Must Try

Written by Harry Ted Sprinks

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By their nature, indie games often operate on small budgets within small teams. Because of this, many indie games often only have one or two artists, and realism of any kind is almost always out of the question. Since indie games can’t compete with the graphical fidelity of AAA studios, visual style is all the more important in having a strong and cohesive look.

Although there are plenty of indie games on the market with striking, impressive visual styles, such as Kentucky Route Zero, or A Short Hike, to name some examples, there are fewer that feature turn-based gameplay. These are just a few examples of turn-based games with unique and/or visually striking art-styles, many of which make the most of their minimal resources.

Fights In Tight Spaces

This turn-based rogue-lite features combat based on the playing of cards. However, its nuanced design allows it to be a fast-paced action game reminiscent of action flicks like John Wick. Throughout the game, players take on confined combat encounters inappropriately tight spaces, pulling off stylish fighting moves to dispatch a variety of enemies.

Fights In Tight Spaces features a stark, minimal art style that’s reminiscent of Casino Royale’s iconic title sequence, with every character in the game being represented as a silhouette with a little added detail. The environments are entirely white and grey, and the player’s slick-black suit makes them easy to spot among a crowd of enemies. This minimal art style is not only stylish but extremely readable, which makes engaging in the game’s tactical combat an effortless experience.

Wargroove

This homage to the Game Boy Advance game Advance Wars emulates the gameplay and instantly recognizable visual style of its inspiration. However, Wargroove ups the ante with its bright and colorful pixel-art aesthetic, blending old-school and modern pixel-art to create a unique look.

Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game with plenty of replay value, featuring a versus mode, a full campaign, and an extensive level editor. For fans of Advance Wars looking for a nostalgic experience or those looking for an easy-to-learn strategy game, Wargroove is worth a look.

Overland

This underrated indie gem is a little rough around the edges, but its low-poly, 3D art-style and tangible post-apocalyptic atmosphere make it a worthy experience. Overland sees players managing a small group of survivors on a post-apocalyptic road trip in the vein of games such as The Oregon Trail or the more recent Death Road To Canada.

Players pick nodes on a map and explore each location in small bite-sized chunks. Upon arrival, players scavenge the surrounding area for loot while trying to stay quiet. Fuel is the number one priority in Overland, and although there are a variety of weapons that allow players to fight off the cast of hostile monsters, combat is not encouraged.

Overland’s turn-based combat can be deadly, and players don’t have much health to work with, so looting efficiently and getting out before things get too dangerous is always the best course of action.

For The King

This combination of rogue-lite and turn-based RPG features single-player and online co-op with turn-based combat, quests to complete, and dungeons to explore. Although the game can be played in single-player, it’s arguably best when played with a couple of friends.

For The King features a low-poly, 3D aesthetic that won’t be for everyone. However, its characters are easily recognizable, and its environments are well-lit. The over-world map that players explore the world on is also a pleasant sight, with its low-poly forests and glinting polygonal waters.

Inscryption

Created by Daniel Mullins and published by Devolver Digital, Inscryption is a weird and wonderful game that combines rogue-like deck-builder gameplay with escape-room puzzles and a tense, unsettling horror atmosphere. The game sees players taking part in a twisted turn-based card game in which players play and sacrifice a variety of creatures sketched on scratchy cards. These creatures even talk occasionally.

The dark and creepy atmosphere of the 3D-realised cabin and the jarring animations of the player’s creepy 3D opponent on the other side of the table make Inscryption a constantly immersive and intense experience. The lighting, card art, and well-crafted 3D elements all add up to create a truly one-of-a-kind style.

Quasimorph

This brutal combination of extraction shooter and traditional turn-based rogue-like features a grim-dark atmosphere and tone that’s furthered by its combination of gritty pixel-art and 3D visuals. The game’s messy, dark, and dingy environments are palpable, and the rough-edged pixel-art characters add to this even further.

Quasimorph is a ridiculously harsh and unforgiving game, with a detailed wound system and brutal turn-based combat that encourages players to make the most out of their turns. Players will have to be scrappy, efficient, and unrelenting to succeed in Quasimorph, and even then, they will likely die dozens of times.

Dicey Dungeons

This game from Terry Cavanagh (developer of Super Hexagon and VVVVVV) sees players battling through dungeons in turn-based combat as an anthropomorphic six-sided die. Players roll (and reroll) various dice, allocating them to their equipment and abilities to maximize their damage output.

Dicey Dungeons features a delightful, cute and colourful art-style from Marlowe Dobbe. While the environment artwork is fairly minimalistic, each location feels distinct from the last, and the character artwork is particularly wonderful, featuring an ensemble cast of memorable character designs.

The Banner Saga

Despite being released in 2014, The Banner Saga is still a visually striking, memorable turn-based RPG. Its Norse inspirations, hand-drawn art style, and animations do an amazing job of bringing its characters and world to life.

Each of the characters and locations in The Banner Saga is detailed, clearly crafted with love and passion, and almost immediately recognizable. Thanks to the love and care put into their designs, many of these characters and locations are made all the more memorable.

Darkest Dungeon

This popular turn-based strategy RPG tasks players with crawling through dark, dingy dungeons and fighting an ensemble cast of Lovecraftian horrors. Along the way, the player’s party members will rack up a variety of quirks and a heap of stress that must be dealt with appropriately. The consistently dark themes and brutal gameplay of Darkest Dungeon are perfectly complemented by its stark, hand-drawn art style.

Although Darkest Dungeon is bereft of any animation but the most basic, it still manages to evoke a sense of action and atmosphere. Furthermore, the stark, limited colours, and sketchy hand-drawn style help to dramatically boost the game’s Gothic tone.

Sea Of Stars

Taking clear inspiration from games such as Chrono Trigger, Sea Of Stars is a wonderfully detailed JRPG with a well-crafted, nostalgic pixel-art aesthetic. Sea Of Stars is a classical turn-based RPG with a heartfelt narrative and innovative gameplay for those who feel nostalgia for old-school RPGs or can appreciate old-school pixel art.

Sea Of Stars also pushes its visuals further with a dynamic lighting system that helps to elevate the otherwise old-school visual style. However, it never loses its classic look and feel, perfectly capturing the magic of its old-school inspirations and offering a nostalgic adventure from beginning to end.

So many indie games are being released every year on Steam, so it’s impossible to keep track of them all. Many indie developers are doing wonderful things with artwork of all shapes and sizes, from low-poly 3D visuals and experimental styles all the way to old-school pixel art looks. As we all know, art is subjective; what might look good for one might look awful to another, but these examples hopefully offer something for everyone.

If a turn-based indie game with a brilliant visual style didn’t make it to this list, be sure to let us know on Discord, Twitter, and our YouTube channel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Harry Ted Sprinks

With a deep love for strategy games that began when he first played Stronghold as a kid on his parents’ home computer and a passion for linear narrative games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and old-school shooters like Blood and DOOM, Harry loves video games of all shapes and sizes. His knowledge of games new and old is broad, but Harry’s biggest passion is indie games, which he loves to champion in his writing. Harry’s favorite games include old-school rogue-likes like Caves Of Qud, older RTS titles such as Red Alert 3, modern classics like Halo 3, and survival-horror games like Resident Evil. When he isn’t writing or playing games, Harry can likely be found developing small games of his own or making music. Although Harry enjoys the occasional AAA game, his attention is primarily focused on representing indie games.