The lack of major releases this year means I'm stoked for a hot indie summer in 2024

Crow Country
(Image credit: SFB Games)

The sun is shining high in the sky, and the summer of gaming events has begun. Yet, with Geoff Keighley setting expectations for the type of announcements gamers can expect from the Summer Game Fest showcase, a different sort of vibe has begun enveloping the season. 

The time for indie games is upon us, spurred on by an onslaught of creative and well-received indie game releases and bolstered by a number of events specifically meant to highlight them. While games like Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, Final Fantasy XIV: Dawntrail and Destiny 2: The Final Shape might be keeping players occupied over the summer months, it feels like the real stars of the season are the independent developers paving the way forward with fresh experiences – and Summer Game Fest seems to be proof of that.

Indie-pendence days

Hades 2 announcement trailer

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)
Summer Preview

Elden Ring DLC Shadow of the Erdtree

(Image credit: FromSoftware / Bandai Namco)

Check out what's hot this summer with our GamesRadar+ Summer Games Preview coverage.

Even if you missed any one specific game from last month, it was nearly impossible to gloss over the sheer variety of impressive indie or independent games that were released in May. 

Hades 2 launched into Early Access on Steam, of course, but games like Crow Country, Animal Well, and many others shared the limelight – with genres on offer being just as varied. FPS fans will relish the procedurally generated, speedrunning-focused likes of Mullet Madjack, the experimental physics-based puzzler in Arctic Eggs will keep your brain thoroughly teased, and don't get me started on Nine Sols, a story-heavy Metroidvania that coined the term "Taopunk".

Honestly, it can't be stressed enough just how many excellent indie games released last month in such a short period of time. Personally I'm still desperately trying to clear my plate before even more releases come in the weeks and months ahead. Games like 1000xRESIST, Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, and Devil Blade Reboot remain in my backlog for now, even with all the games I've already made time to play – and that’s considering I'd originally expected May to be a backlog month.

The elephant in the room is, of course, that blockbuster releases appear to be sparse heading into the summer months. While Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is an incredible visual showcase for the Xbox Series X, there simply aren't many big-budget releases waiting for players in the latter half of 2024. While I mentioned a few earlier, the eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the few that are poised for release are updates to existing games, each with existing player communities and set expectations. 

As for whether players can expect that to change with upcoming summer announcements, Geoff has made it clear that you shouldn’t expect many new surprises, but rather updates to previously announced games. The silver lining? More opportunities for indies to get a taste of the limelight.

A real scorcher

Hollow Knight: Silksong

(Image credit: Team Cherry)

Now is the time for indie developers to shine, and for players that perhaps haven't paid attention to the scene to expand their horizons.

While major AAA releases have been sparse this year, indie developers have quickly come to fill in the gaps – and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. Alongside whatever games end up at the proper Summer Game Fest showing later this week, indie-focused showcases like Day of the Devs, Indie3, and the Guerrilla Collective are primed to give smaller developers a chance to show off what they've been working on. While these events happen every year, the context for this year's showing feels different coming off of the excellent run of releases we've been treated to as of late, and that makes the stakes feel higher than ever.

Sure, Hollow Knight: Silksong will inevitably dominate the conversation if and when it releases. But now more than ever, the time seems ripe for games like Dungeons of Hinterberg, Schim, and other upcoming indie games to break through the noise and make meaningful impressions. Now is the time for indie developers to shine, and for players that perhaps haven't paid attention to the scene to expand their horizons.

As someone who has always been a proponent of giving smaller, niche releases a shot, 2024 has had me eating well despite the dearth of titles from industry titans. So, go on – take a peek at the Summer Game Fest schedule for the indie showcases later this week, maybe try a few demos during the latest Steam Next Fest, or pick up one of the incredible releases that passed you by last month. 2024 is Hot Indie Game Summer, and it’s never been a better time to give some independent games a try. Chances are you'll find a game that may just end up on your list of favorites.

Here are some Summer Game Fest Metroidvania predictions that aren't just Hollow Knight: Silksong.

James Galizio

James Galizio has been writing about gaming and technology from LA since 2014, and has contributed to outlets such as RPG Site, Nintendo Insider and more with a special focus on PC gaming and Japanese RPGs. Graduating from the University of California, Irvine in 2021 with Bachelors in English he has covered events such as E3, Tokyo Game Show and more as he hopes to help shine a light on games both big and small. If he’s not writing about an upcoming or recently released RPG, you can probably find him playing Monster Hunter or some random game that might have recently been released in Japan.