Have you ever found yourself imagining your own music video for a song you’re listening too? Often caught gazing longingly out the window and sighing dramatically? Looking for a video game that somehow artistically expresses all your emotions at once? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this list is for you! Here are three musically rich indie games to play if you’re looking for a killer soundtrack you’ll have on repeat for days while getting deep in your feelings.
We Are OFK
Starting off our list is the recently released We Are OFK, an episodic, interactive narrative series following four friends as they get together, break up, make up, and make their debut as indie pop sensations in a dreamy, pastelified Los Angeles. Pastels don’t mean everything is rainbows and sunshine, though. There’s plenty of moods and drama to dive into as the story unfolds.
What struck me instantly about this game aside from its very charming visual style was how genuine the characters felt. From cute texts and emoji exchanges to off-the-cuff inside jokes and nicknames, the OFK squad felt like home. As I played I felt like I was watching a little documentary about my own friends. I’ll admit when my friends and I were in high school, we had this band AU for ourselves where we all had imaginary roles and stage personas. We wanted it to be a manga, I think? But our band was much more influenced by the emo stylings of My Chemical Romance than Luca La Fae’s ethereal pop vibes. Anyway, I was instantly invested in everything going on in the lives of Itsumi, Luca, Jey, and Carter. The voice cast does an excellent job of bringing these characters to life in a believable and authentic way. Also everyone is super queer and hot so like, bonus points!
We Are OFK transcends the traditional visual novel structure by adding a delightful level of interactivity with playable music videos tucked into each episode. When the first music video segment came up for me I was grinning ear-to-ear! And I don’t feel it’s a gimmick that wears thin by the final episode. Each segment is just as powerful every time the music comes in and speaks to the different emotions at play in the story. I played through on the Steam Deck and it felt to me like the handheld gaming experience just made everything that much more intimate and impactful.
I could continue gushing about this gorgeous game forever, but I think I’ll just get back to playing the EP on repeat. You should check out the band’s website to learn more. Experience the making of the band on Steam, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles.
The Artful Escape
If you’d like your video game escapism to transport you to another world entirely then look no further than The Artful Escape, a rock and roll platforming adventure. You play as teen musician and guitar prodigy Francis Vendetti, whose head is way above the clouds as he copes with living up to his uncle’s folk music legacy. You soon ditch your little town blues for a journey across a cosmic landscape to discover who you are, and who you aren’t.
When I first played The Artful Escape I felt completely enveloped by its magnificence, so much so that walking into the office for work the next day actually made me feel like I was in the wrong body. I was meant to be traversing the Cosmic Extraordinary in a sick jumpsuit and shredding on an electric guitar. Needless to say, I played the soundtrack while I worked to give my brain some sort of relief from my mundane existence. To this day I still play The Darkest Hour Theme when I need a little boost to my energy (don’t listen to it before you play the game though, it’s so powerful in the moment, trust me on this one).
The Artful Escape’s visuals are undoubtedly vibrant and psychedelic, but what impressed me off the bat, and continued to impress me through the game’s finale, was a sense of scale and depth like I had never felt in a “2D” platformer. The mountain trails surrounding Francis’ sleepy hometown of Calypso were confined to my screen but also felt incredibly vast, as though the landscape stretched out for miles before me— and that’s before you even get into space. There’s an entire cosmos of delightful critters to meet and unimaginable landscapes to traverse while crafting your ultimate stage persona.
Writing about this game is making me want to play it again so I can fall deep into the rabbit hole of wailing guitar riffs echoing in a chamber of cosmic wonder. The Artful Escape is available on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
For a fast paced and heart pumping experience, check out music-based action arcade hit Sayonara Wild Hearts. Mend your broken heart and restore balance to the universe as you skateboard, dance battle, and sword fight your way through surreal and vibrant levels with a custom-written pop soundtrack. You can play one level at a time for a quick gaming break or binge the entire album in one go. Plus there’s lots of replayability for the high score chasers and challenge runners out there.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is such a lovingly crafted experience and has secured a place in my heart as a comfort game. The visuals are vibrant, the soundtrack slaps, the levels are unique and challenging, and layered throughout is a story about heartbreak, the stages of grief, and self-acceptance. Tarot cards play a huge part of the symbolism in the game, representing characters, weapons, vehicles and more. The references to tarot are more than just a visual motif but also echo the themes of each level with their traditional interpretations of disruption, change, introspection, intuition, and more. For the collectors and/or tarot enthusiasts, there’s even a physical major arcana tarot deck available in the Annapurna Interactive merch store.
Although at its core Sayonara Wild Hearts isn’t a particularly long experience from start to finish, it is one that has stuck with me for several years and lives on repeat in my mind. Some gamers will talk about the envy they feel of others playing a game for the first time. I definitely feel that way about this game. Your experience awaits on Steam, Apple Arcade, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles.
All of these games are close to my heart because of the emotions I felt while playing (and replaying) them. And yeah, I’m a Cancer Sun so I’m an emotional person regardless. But I think video games are at their best when they make you feel something. Wonder and delight in an unexpected gameplay mechanic. Sorrow and sadness over the heartache of others. Joy and fulfillment in the triumphs experienced along the way. Music has the unique ability to conjure up and heighten all of these emotions and more when you reflect on your experiences in and out of game. Listening to the songs alone can become a powerful way to relive the game in your mind. It helps when they’re bangers too.
Skittzi is a variety streamer, cosplayer, and video game enthusiast. She loves indie games, RPGs, and many things in between. You can catch her live streaming more games like the ones featured on this list on Twitch at twitch.tv/skittzipoo.
Review code provided for We Are OFK by Popagenda.