From Undertale to Re:Call, Gaming’s Biggest Successes are Solo Devs

Solo-developed games have always shaken up the indie market, whether it’s Stardew Valley, Undertale, or the new indie puzzle game Re:Call.

The indie gaming market is punctuated with titles like Undertale, Stardew Valley, and Return of the Obra Dinn — small, unique games from a single developer that end up being massively celebrated hits. Puzzle-adventure game Re:Call from the mind of maitan69 (whose real name is Matias Schmied) is another one of these games. The game launched earlier this month, and critics and audiences are already impressed with its one-of-a-kind gameplay and fun art style.

Re:Call is an exciting new entry in this library of solo-developed games. It’s quaint, charming, and polished, delivering a brand-new style of puzzle gameplay that indie gamers are sure to enjoy. It also serves as evidence that, despite the giant leaps forward in graphics, physics engines, and AAA development tools, there’s still room for smaller gaming experiences that deliver unique ideas.

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Re:Call Learns From Other Solo-Developed Games Like Undertale & Stardrew Valley

A room in Re:Call

The most compelling aspect of these solo-developed indie games is that they tend to feature unique mechanics and gameplay elements that players have never seen before. Games like Undertale and The Beginner’s Guide are celebrated for their strange and surprising meta-gameplay mechanics, while other games like Return of the Obra Dinn and Baba Is You offer perfectly executed twists on classic puzzle mechanics.

Re:Call clearly learns a lot from these titles. The game is a series of mind-bending puzzles that take place inside a character’s memories, which the player solves by taking advantage of the unreliability of memory and changing the details of what people remember. Just like Undertale and Obra Dinn, puzzles are integrated directly into the narrative, giving the player agency in piecing the story together. This type of gameplay is much more interactive than cinematic cutscenes, keeping players engaged. This constant player agency in games like Undertale, Return of the Obra Dinn, and now Re:Call is what makes solo-developed titles stand out against even the largest of AAA experiences.

Re:Call‘s graphics also take lessons from games like Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley excited players with its simple pixel art by carefully creating an array of stylish furniture items and expressive characters out of its limited resolution. Re:Call continues these recognizable elements in its pixilated RPG Maker style, packing the small environments with hand-crafted details all the way down to the wrinkles in a bedspread. Like Stardew Valley before it, Re:Call chose a timeless and simple art style rather than trying to compete with realistic or highly-detailed graphics, resulting in a charming, well-made world packed with quirky characters.

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The Exciting Future of Solo Dev Projects

A character in Re:Call

Along with indie darlings like Undertale and Papers Please, Re:Call is an inspiring example of how one hardworking developer can take a unique idea and fully realize it into a game. Part of this is because of the tools available to aspiring developers. Engines like GameMaker Studio and Unity are easy to access and highly versatile, allowing aspiring developers to turn their visions into something playable.

There are also more ways for an indie game to get attention these days. For example, uploading a game or demo to (just as maitan69 did in 2021 with an early version of Re:Call) allows developers to find an audience. The platform works well for creators and players, offering plenty of free or pay-what-you-want games and letting developers set a minimum price if they choose. From there, a high-quality game can get the attention it deserves, potentially securing financial backing or even a publisher’s support.

It’s also becoming increasingly common for large publishers to showcase and support indie games, including solo projects. Nintendo has held indie showcases for years, and Microsoft’s [email protected] offers playable demos to a wide audience. Re:Call was featured here last year, allowing the game to reach a massive platform.

The prospect of working on a game alone, especially without prior experience and connections, is certainly a daunting one. However, it also affords a level of freedom to innovate that’s not always available when working as part of a larger team, possibly resulting in fresh mechanics and gameplay ideas that major studios wouldn’t take a risk on. Success stories like Undertale, Stardew Valley, and Re:Call prove it’s possible for a single developer working on their own to create gripping gameplay experiences, and it’s important that their hard work and dedication be acknowledged.

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