Here’s a recap of the TOP 20 indie turn-based RPGs & Strategy games released during 2021, which we’ve reviewed in the past. Some developers were lucky enough to find publishers at some point during the development. Still, they remain indie studios, so they are also on this list.
The indie world is fantastic. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the turn-based style has entered a new golden age. All thanks to independent developers and their amazing projects. In recent years, there’s been an impressive amount of RPGs, Strategies, Roguelites and Deck-builders, all employing the much loved turn-based mechanic. The genre has more than recovered from its slow decline after the 90s.
Today, there are many indie games using the turn-based approach. Yet, they are also able to introduce new and unique features, as well as mixing elements of different genres. Some of these stand on the border between being turn-based and real-time. Some introduce their own, distinctive mechanics, never before seen in the world of video games.
We are now at the end of 2021. But before we move forward towards whatever awaits us in 2022, we want to look back at a whole year of our reviews, of some of the best indie turn-based RPGs and Strategy Games. You may notice that some games are not represented here, and you may also disagree with some of our ratings. However, keep in mind that, although we always try to be as objective as possible, our authors often have different tastes and preferences in genres and gameplay. Their opinion, as such, may be different from yours, but it’s still just an opinion, not the ultimate truth. While there are also some games that are absent only because we haven’t had time to review them yet.
I’m sure, however, that you should be able to find something that works just right for you in this list. These are some of the best indie games which offer hundreds of hours of entertainment, whether on PC, Switch, PS4/5, or Xbox. Games are sorted from the lowest score to the highest and by the way, the article contains affiliate links. These allow us to earn a bit of money, used to support the website and provide free content for our readers. If you buy something through one of these, you’ll really help us!
The Best 20 Indie RPGs & Strategy Games of 2021
Platforms: PC – Switch – Ps4 – Xbox One
Let’s start our list of the Best Indie Games of 2021 with OverPowered Team’s grid-based tactical game Ruin Raider which feels like a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t try to imitate Final Fantasy Tactics or XCOM, being instead a thing on its own. That thing, of course, is a slick-looking adventure with cyborg furries battling robots among the ruins of an ancient civilization! The main draw of Ruin Raiders is its sheer originality. Yet it has plenty more to offer. It has delightful visuals in addition to many quality-of-life UI improvements that many games could learn from. It also offers an extensive arsenal of weaponry, giving you a great degree of freedom in customizing your multispecies squad.
Progression in Ruin Raiders is a real treat. Not only do you get to unlock new gear but also new animal species for your anthropomorphic army. Each offers unique battlefield advantages in a fun twist on traditional class systems. The only real drawback to Ruin Raiders is an absence of any storyline and underwhelming AI. Still, if you grew up with Star Fox or Bucky O’Hare you’re sure to have fun with this game. Check out our review to learn more!
Dust To The End
A well-constructed caravan sim from Zjoy, Dust To The End lets the player conquer a nuclear wasteland with economic power rather than force of arms. While firefights are sure to erupt as you trek your goods through the sands, they’re just speed-bumps on the road to profit. Not only is it intensely satisfying to flip your wares for unconscionable prices based on supply and demand, but there are also several minigames that can help you build your mercantile empire.
There are endless decision points, resulting from a combination of a robust party system and a multitude of factors to consider in your business choices. The biggest flaw in this otherwise great game is that it requires the player to employ slave labor in running their operations. If you’re curious to know what else Dust To The End has to offer, our full review is right here!
The developers at Sword and Axe LLC made no bones about their inspiration behind Dark Deity. The game is a loving tribute to classic Fire Emblem. Don’t be fooled, though – to call Dark Deity a Fire Emblem clone would be doing it a massive disservice. It’s got its own world, well-developed characters, and, more importantly, no permadeath. Hardcore players might scoff, but sometimes people just want to swing swords and smite evil without having to worry about their favorite hero buying the farm after an unlucky crit.
Dark Deity also boasts a weapon system very distinct from that of Fire Emblem. You won’t have to deal with your weapons’ durability here. Instead, you’ll have to decide how to upgrade them. Combined with multiple class change paths, this allows for plenty of customization. You will, however, have to turn to fan fiction to ship your favorite characters – Dark Deity does not currently have a romance system. See our full review to find out why SRPG fans should give Dark Deity a try!
Guild of Ascension
Guild of Ascension is one of the best Indie Games of 2021 with a visual feast of a roguelite, courtesy of Montreal developer WhileOne Productions. Players guide their team of two heroes (chosen from three class options) through floor after floor of procedurally generated dungeons. You’re required to spend any experience and gold you earn between floors, so you’ll need to take what you can afford at the time. This keeps the difficulty steady throughout, and the party never feels overpowered as a result.
What sets Guild of Ascension apart from other dungeon crawlers is its combat, which requires cooldown management for damage mitigation and uses time as a resource. It’s a bit more complicated than it sounds, but our reviewer Luis can give you the breakdown.
Gem Wizards Tactics
Platforms: PC – Android
There are few things more joyful than a game that the developers clearly had fun making. It’s obvious even from screenshots that Keith Burgun had a blast making Gem Wizards Tactics. This is a hex-based tactical game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, you can play your traditional fantasy army with the Azure Order, but be honest – you’re much more interested in the evil Business Demons or the weather-controlling Potatoes. Yes, they’re called the Potatoes.
Gem Wizards Tactics encourages the player to manipulate the battlefield, freezing rivers and such, to change the terrain. Another interesting mechanic is that you can only recruit units by finding them on the map and convincing them to join you. Though, the sheer uniqueness of each type means you’ll want to bring in every one of them. Visit our review of Gem Wizards Tactics here.
Field of Glory II: Medieval
The Field of Glory series has been very successful in its transition from the tabletop to the digital space. This year, we were treated to a standalone DLC for Field of Glory II, adding the medieval period to the game’s already-robust roster of ancient and classical times. There are now several campaigns sure to entice any medieval history buff, including the greatest hits like the Norman Conquest. As well as events that don’t get as much screen time in games, such as the Northern Crusade.
If you’re looking for a turn-based alternative to Age of Empires IV, Field of Glory II: Medieval is a great choice. This goes double for fans of tabletop wargaming who haven’t been able to indulge due to the pandemic. See our review to learn more!
Platforms: PC – Switch – Stadia – Ps4 – Ps5 – Xbox One – Xbox Series x-s
Cris Tales is a stylized RPG with a focus on time manipulation. Much of the narrative relies on using the protagonist’s time magic to look back or forward in time. Knowing how actions will play out differently based on your choices hearkens back to Chrono Trigger, where opening a chest in the past would empty it in the future. Of course, two decades of advances make the time systems in Cris Tales more robust than those of its venerated ancestor.
Each of the game’s six playable heroes has a unique playstyle that goes far beyond what skills they can deploy in battle. This makes changing your party composition a game of its own since each character plays so differently in combat. Look into the past yourself and find our review to discover more about this excellent RPG.
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story
Platforms: PC – Switch – Stadia – Ps4 – Ps5 – Xbox One – Xbox Series x-s
Say what you will about League of Legends, but it can’t be denied that the world created by Riot is pushing further and further into the cultural zeitgeist. This is especially true now with the Netflix show Arcane, based on its setting, becoming well-known in the mainstream. Ruined King, the new game from Airship Syndicate, is also set in the same universe. However, the developers target a different audience here. We’re likely to see much more of Jinx, Miss Fortune, and the others in years to come. Given the quality of the aforementioned spinoffs, that’s probably a good thing.
Of course, there is plenty in Ruined King for existing League of Legends players as well. Not only will they already be familiar with the characters, but there are nods to the esports giant built right into Ruined King‘s systems. The most notable of these is the combat mechanic, which has heroes change their position – or lane – for different benefits. If you’re intrigued, check out Michael’s review for a full breakdown.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister
Fans of Baldur’s Gate rejoice! Tactical Adventures has created a CRPG using the ruleset from D&D 5th Edition. Solasta inhabits a fantasy world all its own, giving players plenty of ruins to explore, NPCs to meet, and lore to learn. Although the story drops off a bit towards the end, this game really feels like playing D&D with a masterful DM.
Of course, Solasta is a digital game, so there is plenty of fun to be had that isn’t easily done around the gaming table. The environments are highly dynamic and prominently feature different elevation levels. This allows for fresh tactical decision-making beyond positioning for a flank or staying out of AoE range. Our reviewer, doubt, breaks the whole thing down right here.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
Platforms: PC – PS4
Though the Edition Wars are largely over (for now), it still seems fitting that a D&D-inspired game would be right next to a Pathfinder title on our list. Wrath of the Righteous is a complete digital translation of the Adventure Path of the same name, just like Kingmaker was. One of the many improvements in Wrath is its exhaustive list of available classes; why choose between tired old jobs like fighter and rogue when you could be a slayer or a warpriest?
Not only are there plenty of exciting, unique classes to choose from, but Wrath of the Righteous also has roughly a kazillion equipment and spell options. This means there’s plenty of reason to come back and try a new campaign, banishing demons in completely different ways. For some examples, see what aurumlamina has to say in our review!
The Amazing American Circus
Platforms: PC – PS4 – Switch – Xbox Series X-S
Klabater’s The Amazing American Circus is an unexpected treat. Combining deck-building RPG battles with business management, it has you touring across turn-of-the-twentieth-century America with no less a goal than outshining P.T. Barnum himself. It even has a decent story centered around family, legacy, and a reluctant protagonist.
Each performance is a “battle” against the audience where you’ll play cards to astound and amaze them. Different acts and performers will add different cards to your deck, and you can customize your circus to your heart’s content. Our full review can be found right here.
Curious Expedition 2
Platforms: Pc – Switch – PS4 – Xbox One
Another romanticized vision of yesteryear, Curious Expedition 2 allows players to explore and plunder newly-discovered islands to display their treasures at the salons of Paris. All the hallmarks of pulpy adventure stories are here, and the game’s roguelite nature gives you plenty of content to explore on each playthrough. You can even choose between two starting explorers; an anthropologist seeking to secure cultural relics in a museum, or a big game hunter focused on bagging big beasts.
Curious Expedition 2‘s combat is largely dice-based which sets it apart from games that use strict RNG. Each character has one combat die inherently, with a second available through gear. This gives the game’s battles a lovely board game feel. If this seems right up your alley, see our review to learn more about one of the best Indie Games of 2021.
Platforms: PC – Xbox One
2021 really has been a great year for digital games that hearken – directly or indirectly – to tabletop RPGs. Gamedec is an isometric cyberpunk adventure that Shadowrun fans are sure to love. The game’s setting is all its own, though. In a future where virtual reality has advanced to allow people to live in whatever world they choose, the player is tasked with solving crimes across dozens of simulated universes.
It should be noted that Gamedec isn’t a CRPG. It’s much more about following clues and solving mysteries than it is about combat or stat building. That said, it does have a sort of leveling system whereby the protagonist can gain different Occupations. These allow different options during the investigation. Check out our full review here!
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager
Platforms: PC – Switch – Stadia
Goblinz Studios reminds us that it’s good to be bad with Legend of Keepers. Players build a fantasy dungeon week-by-week, hoping to entice heroes with the lure of treasure and consign them to an ignoble death. It builds on plenty of classic games in the genre but manages to be a force unto itself.
Assuming your diabolical traps don’t kill the heroes, you can send your minions to engage them in turn-based battles. The single-file look evokes Darkest Dungeon, and it’s definitely nice to be on the monsters’ side of that equation for once. Aiori has TBL’s full review right here.
Dead Age 2: The Zombie Survival RPG
There are so many zombie games out there that they’ve become easy to overlook. Don’t give Dead Age 2 a pass, though – it’s the shining diamond in a badly-overcrowded genre. It’s not that it does anything especially different, since all the hallmarks of zombie games are there. Players build bases, recruit survivors, and of course fight off hordes of the undead. Rather, the game shines because it does all of those things extremely well.
It’s obvious from the very beginning that developer Silent Dreams didn’t cut any corners. They made sure to do everything right, and it shows. Our full review is right here if you need any more convincing.
Geneforge 1 Mutagen
Geneforge 1 – Mutagen is a remaster of the classic Mac game Geneforge (yes, there are such things as classic Mac games). While the gameplay has been updated to be more in line with modern expectations, Mutagen is still full of retro charm. Real-time exploration stops when battle is joined, bringing the player into turn-based combat. The nature of the protagonist’s spells make positioning and setup on the game’s tactical grid incredibly important, ensuring that tactics junkies will get their fix here.
Best of all, Mutagen isn’t some ham-fisted remake by a studio that picked up a defunct IP for cheap. The game was built by none other than Jeff Vogel himself, the creator of the original Geneforge. If you missed out on the original series, now is a great time to discover its world for yourself. Read our review to see what you’re in for!
Dungeon-crawling board game Gloomhaven has been sitting at the top of Board Game Geek’s chart for several years now, putting it in some pretty exalted company. It’s a legacy game where every decision permanently changes subsequent playthroughs – locking and unlocking certain quests, granting new character options, and even tearing up cards to permanently remove them from the game. Its component-heavy nature and scarcity at launch made it a very expensive investment for board gamers, so the digital version is extremely welcome.
All the elements of the tabletop game are there, albeit without the tile-hunting setup and the need to remember rules. It might feel heretical to say, but maybe Gloomhaven wanted to be a digital board game all along. Check it out, and while you’re at it, check out our review courtesy of Two Clicks.
We may have witnessed the birth of a classic in 2021. Wildermyth is a triumph in emergent narrative, and it’s a darn good game to boot. Every player who tries this game will build a legend all their own – romances, triumphs and loss will work together to create something truly special.
From its stylized aesthetic to its decision system to its combat, Wildermyth is the genuine article when it comes to world-saving fantasy RPGs. We predict this game will be talked about for years to come, not unlike its humble heroes in their own world. Before you create your own legend, you can see what our bards have sung about Wildermyth in our review and learn why is considered one of the best Indie Games of 2021.
Edge of Eternity
Edge of Eternity is an indie JRPG with the look and feel of a triple-A title. If you’re looking for an anime-fantasy open world to explore, look no further than this brilliant game by Midgar Studio. The story is one of the best in recent memory too, another major point in its favor.
Hex-based combat is rare in JRPGs, and it works brilliantly in Edge of Eternity. Specific goals on the combat map give battles a puzzle-game feel, and the game is perfectly content to let you come back and try again later if you’re stuck on a particular fight. Upgradeable equipment and a progression system reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII‘s Crystarium round out this homerun of a JRPG. Our review has all the details, right here.
THE LIFE AND SUFFERING OF SIR BRANTE
The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante might just have been the biggest surprise of the year regarding Indie Games. Who would have thought that a text-heavy adventure would be one of the best games in recent memory? In this masterpiece from Sever, players guide the titular Sir Brante from the moment of his birth until he shuffles off this mortal coil. Every decision matters, and the game’s twists and turns will keep you guessing even after multiple playthroughs.
As the title suggests, Sir Brante’s life is never easy – you can expect hard times to fall on him regardless of what choices he makes on a given run. That’s all part of the drama though, and no matter what path Sir Brante’s life takes it will be sure to make an impression once all is said and done. Visit our review to learn more, if you’re intrigued – you won’t regret it!
Let me know what you think about our Top 20 Best Indie Games of 2021 in the comments below and don’t miss the video version of this article on our Youtube Channel.
You linked to ruin king instead of solasta review
Thank you Nick. Fixed 🙂
Does a studio count as Indie when it can afford the D&D or Pathfinder licenses?
I guess it depends on how you choose to look at it. In the case of Tactical Adventures it’s owned by one of the originators behind Amplitude Studios. And as we all know SEGA bought Amplitude Studio which ended in a big enough paycheck to finance D&D licenses amongst other things. But even so. According to Tactical Adventures website they have between 15-20 team members. If that number is correct they’re what’s considered a small studio no matter how big their bank account is.
Literally how is a League of Legends spinoff indie though
In the case of Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, I agree. I wouldn’t call that an indie title as that game is financed and published by Riot. That said. Some would argue that Riot Forge, the publisher of aforementioned game, is a separate entity with it’s own employees. And depending on Riot Forge’s size it may or may not fall under the indie banner. But if you ask me it’s still Riot.
Where’s Library of Ruina?
A few I got hooked on within 2021:
Ring of Pain (It did get repetitive in the long run and I believe there’s multiple endings but I’ve only come close to one of them once)
Dicey Dungeons (I look forward to putting more time into this one, it’s got a great feel and I like the progression system of not only unlocking skills but additional characters with a variety of play styles)
Nowhere Prophet (It’s probably been around longer than 2021, but it was fun dumping hours into this game, though I feel progress was a bit slow for the time i’ve put in)
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector (Completely caught me off guard, but it has a lot of things I love in turned based strategy, reminiscent of Battle Brothers in how battleground interactions work out while providing a great depth of characters and classes, if a bit “on the rails” story wise)
Iratus has been a blast, playing similar to the inverse to Darkest Dungeon!
A few I’m still playing, but don’t feel as enthusiastic about are Othercide and Deep Sky Derelicts.
Thanks for the article!
Ciao, thank you so much for your support 🙂