Isometric Indie Games

Isometric indie games aren’t representors of the passing gaming genre. In return, they allow players to see multiple sides of the game’s environment simultaneously, giving a sense of depth without needing full 3D rendering. So, the gaming community often needs to pay more attention to indie games, especially isometric indie games.

The most popular isometric indie games, what is an isometric game

This mesmerizing result is possible due to one interesting method: creating a three-dimensional visual effect on a two-dimensional plane by using a fixed angle, typically around 30 degrees, for the game’s viewpoint. Actually, this method defines what is an isometric game. It is an independent video game that utilizes an isometric perspective in its design. Sounds simple, right? However, everything isn’t so easy. We’ll tell you more about indie isometric games and their hidden rocks, and finally explain, why everyone should play this kind of game at least once.

History and Evolution

You may think that the isometric video games genre is kinda new to the gaming community. However, it’s not like that at all. The use of the isometric perspective in video games dates back to the early 1980s. This period saw the advent of the isometric view as a way to provide a pseudo-3D experience on the limited hardware of the time. Early notable examples include Zaxxon (1982), an arcade shooter by Sega, and Knight Lore (1984), an isometric adventure game.

During the late 80s and 90s, isometric games gained significant popularity, particularly in the strategy and role-playing game genres. From this period, isometric titles became a very important part of the gaming world, so there are too many details to talk about. Long story short, check our table of isometric indie games’ significance and evolution. You’ll find a lot of interesting details there ;)

History of Isometric indie games, isometric indie video games evolution
Title
Era/Year
Developer
Significance
Zaxxon
Early Beginnings - 1982
Sega
One of the first games to use an isometric perspective in an arcade shoote
Knight Lore
Early Beginnings - 1984
Ultimate Play the Game
Introduced isometric view to adventure games
SimCity
Rise in popularity - 1989
Maxis
Popularized isometric view in city-building games
Syndicate
Rise in popularity - 1993
Bullfrog Productions
Tactical game utilizing isometric view for strategic gameplay
Baldur's Gate
Rise in popularity - 1998
BioWare
Iconic RPG using isometric perspective for rich narrative and gameplay
Braid
Transition to indie development - 2008
Jonathan Blow
Sparked indie game resurgence, inspiring innovation
Bastion
Transition to indie development - 2011
SuperGiant Games
Landmark indie game with an isometric perspective, strong narrative, and art
FTL: Faster Than Light
Transition to indie development - 2012
Subset Games
Blended perspectives, showing the flexibility of isometric elements
Transistor
Transition to indie development - 2014
SuperGiant Games
Continued exploration of isometric view with strategic gameplay
Hyper Light Drifter
Modern developments - 2016
Heart Machine
Pixel-art isometric game with stunning visuals and challenging gameplay
Hades
Modern developments - 2020
SuperGiant Games
Acclaimed indie game blending isometric roguelike elements and narrative
Isometric indie games popularity, isometric indie games rise

Characteristics of Isometric Indie Games

If you ask us about the best features to optimize your 2D and 3D isometric games, we will answer: “Visual style, gameplay mechanics, narrative and storytelling, unique technical and developmental aspects such as isometric assets, and of course nostalgic appeal’. Let's look at the main isometric games' characteristics step by step.

Let’s look at the main isometric games’ characteristics step by step.

Visual Style

Isometric games always employ an isometric viewpoint, which provides a pseudo-3D effect by displaying a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane at a fixed angle. This is the main isometric game feature. Of course, isometric game developers took a lot from RPG game design and art, so isometric indie games often feature unique and highly stylized artwork, including pixel art, hand-drawn visuals, and detailed environments.

Best looking isometric indie games, isometric indie games visual style

Gameplay Mechanics

If you’ve played at least three different isometric indie games, you would notice that these kinds of games often incorporate strategic gameplay, requiring players to think critically and plan their actions. So, there are many isometric indie games in the genres of tactics, puzzles, and resource management. We really like this kind of game ’cause it opens possibilities for exploration, uncovering new areas, solving puzzles, and discovering hidden secrets within the game world.

Іsometric indie games unqiue gameplay mechanics

Narrative and Storytelling

Isometric indie games often focus on deep storytelling, with complex characters and engaging narratives. This perspective enhances the storytelling by providing a broader view of the world and its context. Also, the detailed environments and unique art styles contribute to unforgettable and fascinating world-building, helping to draw players into the game’s narrative and setting. That explains why best-looking isometric games always have an amazing plot.

Іsometric indie games plot, storytelling, and narratives

Technical and Developmental Aspects

The isometric perspective allows game developers to create stunning games without the extensive resources required for full 3D development. As this is an attractive option for indie developers, indie game budget breakdown becomes more rational and expedient. Also, indie developers often use isometric games as a platform for innovation, experimenting with new gameplay mechanics and artistic styles that would be impossible while working with larger, more commercially driven projects.

Іsometric indie games development process, isometric indie games technical aspects

Nostalgic Appeal

As a retro games-inspired company, we can’t miss the fact that many isometric indie games draw inspiration from classic games of the 80s and 90s, boosting players’ nostalgia while blending old-school charm with modern design sensibilities. The strategic nature of isometric games provides a timeless appeal that resonates with players across different generations, and we definitely like this.

Іsometric indie games nostalgic feeling, the best retro isometric indie games

The Best Isometric Indie Games

Isometric indie games have carved out a significant niche in the gaming industry, offering unique perspectives, innovative gameplay, and unforgettable game design and art styles. So, we want to share with you a list of iconic titles and hidden gems, including recent entries that have made a mark in the genre. Hope you’re ready to dive into this small unique adventure of the best isometric indie games. 

  • 1

    Ocean Keeper

    The isometric indie game Ocean Keeper is a perfect title for those who are seeking amazing underwater adventures. In this action-packed isometric game, developed by our studio, you will have a chance to find a mysterious artifact and enjoy an unforgettable gaming experience in a marine ocean world. Find our new game on Steam

  • 2

    Hades

    A roguelike dungeon crawler that combines fast-paced combat with an interesting unique story rooted in Greek mythology. It features deep character development, dynamic combat, rich storytelling, and replayability.

  • 3

    Disco Elysium

    A groundbreaking role-playing game that focuses on storytelling depth and character development. Players take on the role of a detective with a unique skill system to solve a murder mystery. While playing this game, you’ll enjoy complex dialogues, unique art style, and surprising plot twists.

  • 4

    Transistor

    A sci-fi action RPG with a beautiful isometric view, combining strategic planning with real-time combat. You’ll definitely like the rich narrative, stunning visuals, strategic combat, and engaging story with the unforgettable beautiful art of this video game.

  • 5

    Compass of Destiny: Istanbul

    One of the hidden gems of isometric video games, Compass of Destiny: Istanbul is an isometric action-adventure game set in a richly detailed version of historical Istanbul. It combines exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving with a unique cultural backdrop.

  • 6

    Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

    Maybe you know this game due to its predecessor, the highly acclaimed RPG, and Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is its sequel. This game expands on the original with a rich, complex story, and deep RPG mechanics. With a combination of detailed world and deep character customization, this game is definitely one of the best among isometric indie video games.

  • 7

    Death's Door

    An action-adventure game where players control a crow reaping souls in a beautifully crafted isometric world. It combines exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving with Engaging combat, a unique art style, and an intriguing world.

  • 8

    Tunic

    One more action-adventure game, Tunic is a story about a small fox in a big world. The game is known for its beautiful isometric visuals and challenging gameplay reminiscent of classic Zelda titles. We like this game a lot for its charming art, challenging puzzles, and exploration.

  • 9

    The Ascent

    A cyberpunk-themed action RPG set in a dystopian future where players explore a detailed isometric world filled with action and RPG elements. You can find there an amazing cyberpunk setting, cooperative gameplay, and detailed environments you’ll never forget.

  • 10

    Hyper Light Drifter

    One more hidden gem, Hyper Light Drifter is a critically acclaimed action-adventure game with vibrant pixel art and challenging gameplay, drawing inspiration from 8-bit and 16-bit classics. Inspired by a retro aesthetic, this game surprises us with stunning pixel art, an atmospheric world, and challenging gameplay.

Development and Design

As you may already understand, the development and design of isometric indie games are quite different from other video games. For example, it involves a unique set of isometric sprite sheets, unique principles and techniques, and efficient use of resources. However, let’s talk in detail about the development and design characteristics of isometric indie games.

Indie developers almost always prioritize creativity and innovation over commercial constraints, resulting in unique and original gameplay experiences. It’s because indie studios have the freedom to experiment with unconventional game mechanics, plots, and visual styles, often leading to groundbreaking designs.

Many isometric indie games are developed by small teams or even solo developers, which requires efficient project management and resource allocation. However, developers can use cost-effective methods such as pixel art, hand-drawn graphics, and modular assets to create visually stunning games without the need for large budgets.

Isometric indie game development processes, isometric indie game design

Indie developers often engage with the gaming community during development, using platforms like Kickstarter, Early Access, and social media to gather feedback and improve the game. Direct communication with players helps indie developers create isometric games that resonate with their audience and address their preferences and concerns.

Talking about isometric game design, many isometric games incorporate strategy, requiring players to think critically and plan their actions, whether in combat, puzzle-solving, or resource management. So, the design encourages exploration, with hidden areas, secrets, and interactive elements that reward curiosity and thorough investigation.

And of course, isometric indie games have distinctive UI/UX design! The user interface is designed to be intuitive and unobtrusive, ensuring players can easily navigate and interact with the game world. Also, controls are optimized for responsiveness and precision, which is very important for both exploration and combat in isometric indie games.

Indie developers always come up with something new and innovative while working on their isometric games, so the development process is unique and interesting for every new game.

If you want to make sure about this fact, check the news about Ocean Keeper, our new isometric game. You’ll probably be surprised a little bit ;)

Art and Animation of isometric indie games

Art and animation are very important elements that define the unique charm of isometric indie games. As we’ve already mentioned in this article, isometric games almost always have visually unique styles, made possible through collaborations with specialized studios. A 3D animation studio can create detailed models and animations, adding astonishing realism to the game world.

VFX animation outsourcing plays a significant role in adding dynamic special effects, such as explosions, magic spells, and weather changes, and making an isometric indie game look much better. By outsourcing VFX animation, indie developers can incorporate high-quality special effects without straining their limited resources and change to better the visual impact and engagement level of the game. 

On the other hand, a 2D animation company is professional in creating hand-drawn animations and illustrations, creating a unique visual style for the isometric indie game. Indie developers often use 2D animation outsourcing services for character movements, environmental details, and atmospheric cutscenes, that will definitely resonate with players.

Art and animation in isometric indie game development workflow

Tools and Technologies

If you’re working on or thinking about isometric indie game creation but don’t know what tools to use, don’t worry! Now we want to share with you a table with user-friendly game engines, the most useful tools, and of course innovative technologies!

Tool/Engine
Description
Key Features
How to Use
Unity
A game engine popular among indie developers
- Extensive asset store
- Strong community support
- Cross-platform support
Perfect for creating 2D and 3D isometric games with rich graphics and complex mechanics
Unreal Engine
A powerful game engine known for high-fidelity graphic
- Photorealistic rendering
- Blueprint visual scripting
- Advanced VFX tools
Suitable for visually stunning and detailed isometric games
Godot
An open-source game engine with a flexible architecture
- Lightweight
- Node-based design
- GDScript for easy programming
Great for indie developers looking for a free, open-source solutio
Aseprite
A pixel art tool for creating 2D sprites and animations
- Frame-by-frame animation
- Onion skinning
- Export to various formats
Perfect for designing pixel art characters and assets
Blender
An open-source 3D modeling and animation software
- Comprehensive modeling tools
- Rigging and animation
- VFX and simulation
Excellent for creating 3D models and animations for isometric games
Spine
A 2D skeletal animation tool designed for game development
- Bone-based animation
- Mesh deformation
- Integrates with multiple engines
Perfect for creating smooth and complex character animations
What tools to choose for workin with indie game development, the best tools for indie game development

If you want to know what engine will perfectly match your isometric game project, we’re ready to give you more information. Check our article about the best game engine for isometric games and discover what tool is the most convenient for you.

Conclusion

Isometric indie games are a very important part of the gaming community cause it’s a timeless and innovative genre. Isometric indie games offer players a unique perspective that blends the simplicity of 2D with the depth of 3D environments. This technique has a rich history, dating back to the early 1980s, and has evolved significantly to include modern classics such as Hades and Disco Elysium.

Your project can also be so innovative and interesting, and we're ready to help you with that due to our professionalism and expertise, and of course a range of specialized tools and technologies!

We’re sure that you will create an amazing indie game with outstanding visual style, unforgettable strategic gameplay mechanics, and deep story, which will make your game a compelling choice for gamers seeking innovative and nostalgic experiences. And remember: we’re always ready to help you.