8 inspiring indie game developer success stories

By Alex Morris, Dec 08, 2021

Image: indivisiblegame.com

Whether you’re a small indie studio somewhere around the world or a one-person team hoping on a long-term development haul, success stories are always welcome.

We can help you out right away with our game monetization guide. But for some other stories, read on for tips on the big hitting success stories.

Some of the most successful indie games… ever!

Looking at the titles we’ve picked out below, you may notice a bit of a pattern.

There’s no real determination of what game will lead to hit status. Although there are a couple of indicators to consider:

  • Choosing a unique concept that captures the attention.
  • Creating a really fantastic video game (as easy as it is!).
  • Tackling new and thought provoking concepts.

So, the more inspired, unusual, and fantastic your game is… the better chance you have of landing a behemoth hit. Here are a few examples.


Alexey Pajitnov’s legendary puzzle game is an early example of independent game design success. Created in 1984 by the young computer engineer.

At first, Tetris wasn’t intended for widespread release. Living in the Soviet Union, Pajitnov circulated the game among friends.

But its addictiveness soon led to its spread across Russia, before the capitalist world heard about it and attempted to turn the game into a money making machine.

The situation was badly handled in the USSR, with many businesses battling for the game’s rights. Eventually, Henk Rogers with Nintendo won out and Tetris paired with the Game Boy for a formidable late ‘80s hit.

Pajitnov eventually got control of his creation in 1996 with Rogers and, to this day, he heads The Tetris Company and the game’s relentless popularity.


Created by Markus “Notch” Persson, Minecraft has become much more than a popular video game. It’s a cultural phenomenon—one of these games even non-gamers know about.

Microsoft bought the rights in 2014 for $2.5 billion and there have been over 238 million copies sold as of 2021.

The sandbox survival game sees players in a vast world where they can mine resources and create enormous structures.

Despite its basic visual appearance, it’s appealed to gamers of all ages and has made appearances on South Park and The Simpsons, as well as intertextuality referenced in many other video games.

Untitled Goose Game

Small Australian indie team House House came up with the idea for Untitled Goose Game as a joke. When previews were revealed, it caused a sensation.

It’s sold well over a million copies and has inspired a new genre of indie games, where players go around behaving in a dodgy way.


Released in November 2021, Unpacking was an immediate hit thanks to its unusual premise.

Seemingly inspired by Marie Kondo, in Witch Beam’s game you have to unpack rooms in a neat and orderly fashion. Much more fun than you’d ever think!

Unpacking is another example of an indie game using a unique premise to capture the attention of the gaming world.

The result? Widespread critical acclaim and lots of attention from gamers! Plus, an excellent title.

Shovel Knight

Yacht Club Games’ award-winning series hit the big time in 2014. And it did this by playing on NES era gaming and its heyday, riffing on a modern take on Mega Man II.

The silly concept was backed by an excellent platforming title, which with all the critical acclaim it met with ensured Shovel Knight endures as a modern classic.

It’s been a mammoth hit, spawning many DLC packs, spin-off games, one-off appearances, and the like.

Shovel Knight shows that by tapping into retro gaming appeal and adding in modern gameplay sensibilities, you can deliver a smash hit.

Stardew Valley

From one-man development team Concerned Ape, Stardew Valley is a triumph of modern indie gaming.

It’s a modern take on farming sims like Harvest Moon on the SNES. And it wowed modern gamers with its relaxing and slow-paced gameplay.

Its addictiveness is what caught it much attention, along with great reviews, as players became hooked on thumping in 100+ hours to develop their digital farms.

The game has also sold over 15 million copies as of 2021.


From game designer Maddy Thorson, Celeste became a hit thanks to two reasons:

  1. It’s an extremely good video game.
  2. It dealt with important topics.

So, yes, it did what many more indie games have done since 2018. It tackles mental health issues, including social anxiety and depression.

To make these topics an open talking point in the games industry was an important step and won Celeste (and Thorson) many fans.

Helped along by Thorson’s exceptional game design skills. As Celeste is a genuinely fantastic title.


Playdead’s INSIDE was a critical smash hit in 2016, winning many Game of the Year awards.

The Copenhagen based studio achieved its success by being outstandingly good. INSIDE’s mix of puzzle-platforming offers a minimalistic gameplay experience, putting players through a borderline tortuous psychological experience.

That created amazing word of mouth that forced many to go out of their way to play it.

Terminal3 can give your game a head start

Want to sell your game and make it a big hit? We’ll help monetize your game worldwide!

With our in-built features you can sell your game, in-game items, virtual currency, and expansions packs (DLC). And we can do this with Terminal3 Payments, a shop builder, and global marketplaces.

Plus, we’ll be your merchant of record to keep you compliant with global tax regulations. We also handle risk, fraud, disputes, and chargebacks—we win 80% of our cases.


Ready to take the next step up for your business? Reach out to our experts and discover how you can start earning more and spending less.