The best indie games for the ROG Ally (and its 120Hz screen)

Articles: Gaming
Jun 09, 2023 Written by:Whitson Gordon

I love a good cinematic AAA game as much as the next guy, but if you’re ignoring the indie scene, you’re missing out on some of the most innovative, addictive titles the gaming scene has to offer. Best of all, most indie games are easy to drive, often hitting 100 FPS and higher on high-refresh devices like the 120Hz ROG Ally. If you want to experience true graphical smoothness, here are a few games you have to try. 

This is part of our ultimate guide to the ROG Ally series of articles. For more great games, check out our best-of roundups

Dead Cells

A video game screenshot of a pixel art warrior in a dark, red dungeon.Image source: Gamesplanet 

I love fast, frenetic games, and few of them have made me feel like as much of a badass as Dead Cells — that is, until I beat the final boss for the first time, took on the post-game, and realized the past 12 hours were just a tutorial. And then I learned how to really play the game. Every run through this 2D castle gets you a bit farther, teaches you a bit more about the game, and most importantly, gives you new weapons and skills to try. Then you inevitably bite the dust, start back at the beginning and begin the journey again, with a few more tools at your disposal. But in typical roguelite fashion, it never gets old, since the procedurally-generated castle shifts every time you play — and there are plenty of different, terrifying paths through it. Dead Cells is one of those games you can play for a few days or a few months, but no matter which you choose, it’s well worth experiencing. You can pick up Dead Cells and its DLC on Gamesplanet or play it on Xbox Game Pass

Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps

A video game screenshot of a small white creator flinging a glowing ball at a spined enemy in a forest.Image source: Gamesplanet 

While published by Microsoft, Ori and the Blind Forest — and its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps — were developed independently, and have all the soul you’d expect from a smaller team creating a 2D sidescroller for the new millennium. Part Metroidvania and part Rayman, the Ori games present you with fun platforming, challenging puzzles, and lots of exploration teeming with atmosphere (play it with Dolby Atmos turned on, trust me). You’ll gain new abilities as you explore, allowing you to backtrack and find even more secrets and powerups as you progress further into the forest. The story will even tug at your heartstrings a little. You can grab Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition on Gamesplanet and Xbox, and both titles are available through Game Pass

Vampire Survivors

A video game screenshot of a pixelated warrior fighting off a horde of bats.Image source: Microsoft 

I’ve never experienced anything quite like Vampire Survivors. Your only control is movement — your character attacks automatically, using the weapons you choose as you gather experience. But it’s far from an “idle” game, requiring your hyper-focused attention at all times. The game starts slow and simple, but after a few runs, you’ll find yourself sweating furiously as you fell hordes of enemies faster and faster as they swarm from all directions. You'll die repeatedly, but carrying your gold from run to run allows you to rack up more persistent abilities that stick with you as you progress, making this a hard game to put down. If you’re the type of person who’ll say “just one more try” to yourself as the sun rises over the horizon, well...let’s just say don’t start playing this one after 10pm, or you might never get to sleep. Vampire Survivors is an absolute steal on the Xbox store, and is available on Game Pass as well. 

Stardew Valley

A video game screenshot of a farmer in a field.Image source: Microsoft 

Ever get tired of fighting mobs of monsters? Wish you could just settle down and start your own farm? Stardew Valley is the game you’ve been looking for. Farm crops, go fishing, craft recipes, meet the townsfolk, and...well, fight the occasional monster if you want to in this charming retro-inspired simulation. This game would be an incredible achievement if it were made by a team of 20, but for years, Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone developed this game all by himself, from the pixel art to the music, story, and dialogue. And it’s continually gotten free updates over time, including multiplayer, new naps, and a whole lot more. Grab Stardew Valley on the Xbox store or Game Pass and you’ll be coming back over, and over, and over again for years to come. 

Hades

A video game screenshot of an ancient Greek warrior shooting an arrow at a monster.Image source: Microsoft 

You knew this one was coming. If you haven’t played Hades yet, you really need to get on it. And if you haven’t heard of Hades yet, you need to come out from the rock you’ve been living under, because this isn’t just one of the best indie games — it’s one of the best games of all time, period. You play Zagreus, the immortal son of Hades, trying to escape the underworld one realm at a time. Every time you die, you return to your father’s chambers, disgraced but with the experience to boost your powers a bit more than last time — with a little help from the other gods on Mount Olympus. The gameplay is incredibly tight, the story is riveting, and the art is gorgeous in all its high framerate glory. Trust me: pick up Hades on the Xbox store right now, because you won’t regret it. If anything, you’ll regret waiting this long. 

Hollow Knight

A video game screenshot of a small horned creature shooting a fireball.Image source: Microsoft 

Don’t let its cute main character and two-dimensional art fool you. If Ori is a smooth and relaxing Metroidvania for all types of gamers, Hollow Knight is its charming-but-brash cousin that appeals to more competitive tryhards. Similar to other Metroidvanias, Hollow Knight sees you exploring a large series of catacombs, gaining new powers and backtracking to find secrets and new bosses, only if you aren’t prepared, you’ll get your butt whooped hard. Hollow Knight’s world-building is also next level, keeping you hooked with its gameplay and lore alike, with a seemingly never-ending stream of quests to take on, especially in its content-packed Voidheart Edition. Buy Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition on the Xbox store or play it on Game Pass

Disco Elysium

If a deep, engaging story is what you’re after, look no further than Disco Elysium. Part RPG, part point-and-click adventure, Disco Elysium sees you as an amnesiac detective trying to solve a murder mystery with nothing but your wits and the myriad of voices in your head. The game is mostly played through dialogue trees and small decisions that all have an impact on the trajectory of the narrative, with an oil painting style of art that’s both beautiful and easy to run on any hardware. It’s incredibly unique, and widely regarded as one of the best games to come out of the indie scene. An expanded version of the original game, known as Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, is available now.

Slay the Spire

slaythespireImage source: Microsoft 

Don’t be fooled by the card mechanics in Slay the Spire — it’s not a full deck builder like Hearthstone; instead, it’s more of a deck-building, rogue-like-ish, dungeon-crawling adventure that’ll get you addicted fast. The sheer variety in the cards you’ll discover keep the game fresh from run to run, and while you don’t retain your gear every time you die, you’ll be a bit smarter and a bit more motivated to keep pressing forward. Create custom games with different modifiers or try to climb your way up the leaderboard, and you’ll find new ways to play over and over again. You can pick up Slay the Spire on the Xbox store or play it on Game Pass

Into the Breach

A 3D 8x8 grid populated by buildings, aliens, and armored mechs.Image source: Microsoft 

Into the Breach may look simple with its minimalistic 8x8 grid, but this turn-based strategy game is more than meets the eye. Not only can these small mech-vs-monster battles get shockingly intricate, as you aim to preserve civilian buildings while striking down the invaders, but the roguelike element of permanent death keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Every decision requires weighing complex consequences, and you'll curse yourself for making a wrong decision that destroyed everything you worked for. But when you fail — and you will — you can send one of your mech pilots back in time to start over again, branching off an alternate universe where you just might win. If you have the courage to handle it, you can snag Into the Breach on the Xbox store

Brotato

Some video games imitate the real world to draw you into grounded stories that feel truly human. Others transport you to fantasy realms for a bit of escapism. And some video games let you play as a potato with six weapons fending off hordes of aliens as the last survivor of your space-faring crew in a top-down bullet hell roguelite. You can probably guess which one of those Brotato is. If you aren’t already convinced to try out this early access title on the Ally, I don’t know how you expect us to be friends. 

There are more excellent indie games than we could possibly list here — from the roguelike dungeon crawling of The Binding of Isaac to the incredibly charming Cult of the Lamb, there’s something for everyone on the ROG Ally. Check out more of our favorite games here, and share your favorites with us over on our Discord.

Model Type Where to Buy (US) Where to Buy (CA)
ROG Ally (Ryzen Z1 Extreme) Handheld Best Buy ASUS
Best Buy
ROG Ally (Ryzen Z1) Handheld Best Buy  
XG Mobile (Radeon RX 6850M XT) eGPU ASUS
Best Buy
 
XG Mobile (GeForce RTX 4090) eGPU ASUS
EXcaliberPC
ASUS
Memory Express
ROG 65W Gaming Charger Dock USB Hub Best Buy ASUS
Official ROG Ally Travel Case Case Best Buy ASUS
Best Buy