The Top-Ranked Crowdfunded Video Games

by Ryan Morris
Rankings, Video Games - 4 years ago

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Are you a video gamer? Have you ever thought about what your “dream game” would be?

Video games take an obscene amount of time and money to make, and with the way the gaming industry works, the few weeks after a game is released is the only time most publishers have to make any money off of their investments.

As a result, publishers often have a tough time taking a risk on more creative ideas, forcing them to stick with more tried-and-true ideas, funding sequel after Call of Duty sequel. The most creative and interesting concepts tend to only get attention from smaller indie studios, who typically lack the funds to make the kind of large-scale, high quality game with the kind of polish that bigger publishers like EA regularly churn out.

But thanks to website like Kickstarter and stuff like Steam’s Greenlight program, over the last few years more and more indie developers have been able to make their dream projects come to life. Not only did they get these games built, but many of these studios regularly enjoy more critical success than most Triple-A studios could hope for.

To showcase some of these great games, we at Zippia put together a list of some of the highest rated crowdfunded indie games of the last few years. This list is by no means exhaustive, and simply ranks 18 of the most successful crowdfunded games based on their Metacritic scores.

The full list is below, but first here’s a quick Top Ten:

  1. Kentucky Route Zero: Act III
  2. Pillars of Eternity
  3. Owlboy
  4. Divinity: Original Sin
  5. Shovel Knight
  6. Darkest Dungeon
  7. Hyper Light Drifter
  8. FTL: Faster Than Light
  9. Project CARS
  10. Prison Architect

How We Did It

The games in this list are by no means a complete list, and were found through a variety of sources. It’s important to note that this isn’t meant to be a “best of the best” necessarily, but more of a survey of some of the top crowdfunded games that are out at the moment.

We left out any games that are still technically unreleased, like the Yooka-Laylee or the Long Dark, although even in its unreleased sandbox state the Long Dark has gotten a lot of positive reviews. And for games like the Kentucky: Route Zero, where multiple episodes are released and reviewed, only the highest-rated episode was included in the list.

Once the games were selected, we sorted them in order by their Metacritic scores. Any games that had the same score were further sorted by how many reviews Metacritic was pulling from — the higher the number of reviews, the higher the rating.

That’s it! Make sure to check out [other pages here]. Now onto the list.

1. Kentucky Route Zero: Act III


Description: An atmospheric point-and-click adventure game set in a magic-realist version of rural Kentucky. Very dark, very weird, and very influenced by the works of magic-realist writers like Gabriel García Márquez. This game has everything, from a government bureau working in reclaimed spaces to a bourbon distillery run by technicolor skeletons, all connected by a magical underground highway called the Zero. Still slightly in development, as the final episode has been cooking for at least a year at this point, but the existing episodes are too good to keep KRZ off the list entirely.
Developer: Cardboard Computer
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 7
Metacritic Rating: 91

2. Pillars of Eternity


Description: As close as you can get to playing Dungeons and Dragons without having to interact with real human beings. PoE is an isometric party-based tactical RPG heavily inspired by early Bioware games like Baldur’s Gate or Knights of the Old Republic. Like Baldur’s Gate, it uses the d20 skill system pioneered by Dungeons and Dragons as a base for the rest of its gameplay, and you’re often given story and conversation options that are available to you only if you leveled up certain skills. Basically, it’s a niche game for the nerdiest of nerds, who (like me) absolutely ate it up.
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: Mar 26, 2015
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 71
Metacritic Rating: 89

3. Owlboy


Description: Owlboy is a 2-dimensional platforming RPG with a pixelated, 16-bit aesthetic. It was heavily inspired by games like Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Contra, and has received significant praise for both its art style, gameplay, and story. Set in a world populated primarily by sentient owl-human hybrids, your mission as the Owlboy is to murder the hell out of all the other owls. I’ve only just gotten out of the tutorial section of this one, but I can only assume that’s where the story’s taking me.
Developer: D-Pad Studio
Release Date: Nov 1, 2016
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 47
Metacritic Rating: 88

4. Divinity: Original Sin


Description: D:OS is an action RPG in a very similar vein as Diablo or Pillars of Eternity. Divinity has two customizable main characters who are both controllable, either as a party in single player or — if you have a good friendship you’d like to irreparably damage –individually in two-player co-op.
Developer: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Oct 27, 2015
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 5
Metacritic Rating: 87

5. Shovel Knight


Description: Similar to Owlboy, Shovel Knight is an action RPG platformer with a retro aesthetic, but whereas Owlboy looked like a modern take on old classics, Shovel Knight looks like it came out of a time capsule from 1991. You play as a shovel-wielding knight on a quest to rid the land of evil, which mostly takes the form of you smacking dragons on the head with a shovel and stealing all of their jewels.
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Release Date: Jun 26, 2014
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 46
Metacritic Rating: 85

6. Darkest Dungeon


Description: A roguelike, turn-based dungeon crawler where, due to the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired world, even your characters’ sanity becomes a resource that must be carefully watched. Every time you venture into a new dungeon and confront new horrors, party members become more-and-more stressed out — while this stress can be relieved in town, this process puts the chosen party members out of commission for a period of time. However, failure to do this may result in your character developing negative traits (like stealing treasure for themselves, or refusing to use certain skills), and may eventually cause them to go insane.
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Release Date: Jan 19, 2016
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 55
Metacritic Rating: 84

7. Hyper Light Drifter


Description: Another action-adventure game with a 16-bit aesthetic, but unlike the others on this list, Hyper Light Drifter doesn’t look to the past for inspiration as much as it looks to the present generation of games. Atmospheric storytelling like the kind used in From Software games (Dark Souls, Bloodborne) is used to convey HLD’s dark, confusing story, and the sheer amount of danger on screen that the player has to quickly navigate is reminiscent of bullet hell/shoot-em-up games like Orcs Must Die!
Developer: Heart Machine
Release Date: Mar 31, 2016
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 46
Metacritic Rating: 84

8. FTL: Faster Than Light


Description: A tactical roguelike game based around Star Trek or Firefly-esque ship-to-ship space combat. You can divert power from various systems in order to power others, including engines, shields, weapons, med bays, and more. The whole game can be completed in a couple of hours, but the odds of you finishing it on your first try are very low (at least if you’re terrible at games, like I am), and the sheer number of ships available and different tactics to master makes FTL endlessly replayable.
Developer: Subset Games
Release Date: Sep 14, 2012
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 42
Metacritic Rating: 84

9. Project CARS


Description: A hyper-realistic racing simulator, what most sets Project CARS out from the huge pack of Forza and Need for Speed clones is the sheer number of settings that you can mess with, as well as the amount of time that’s been taken to make sure that each car looks and feels as realistic as virtually possible. As Luke Reilly writes in his IGN review of the game, the game’s “not for everyone,” but it is “for anyone.” While not everyone will appreciate the game itself, anyone who does will find it easy to adjust the game’s systems to something that’s absolutely perfect for them.
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Release Date: May 6, 2015
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 48
Metacritic Rating: 83

10. Prison Architect



Description: A darker take on the city-building game genre pioneered by games like Cities: Skylines or Rollercoaster Tycoon, Prison Architect has you turning your attention to building penitentiaries. The aesthetic and resource management systems appear to have some FTL influences, but the sheer possibilities of the building system allow for some truly bizarre prison designs.
Developer: Introversion Software
Release Date: March 2013
Total Reviews on Metacritic: 36
Metacritic Rating: 83

Wrapping Up

That’s it! You can find the full list of crowdfunded games below. For any questions about jobs in game development or computer animation, be sure to check out our career pages on the main Zippia website.

Detailed List Of The Top Crowdfunded Video Games

Rank Release Date Developer Game Title Metacritic Ranking (For Pc) # Metacritic Review Count
1 6-May-14 Cardboard Computer Kentucky Route Zero: Act Iii 91 7
2 26-Mar-15 Obsidian Entertainment Pillars Of Eternity 89 71
3 1-Nov-16 D-Pad Studio Owlboy 88 47
4 27-Oct-15 Focus Home Interactive Divinity: Original Sin 87 5
5 26-Jun-14 Yacht Club Games Shovel Knight 85 46
6 19-Jan-16 Red Hook Studios Darkest Dungeon 84 55
7 31-Mar-16 Heart Machine Hyper Light Drifter 84 46
8 14-Sep-12 Subset Games Ftl: Faster Than Light 84 42
9 6-May-15 Slightly Mad Studios Project Cars 83 48
10 6-Oct-15 Introversion Software Prison Architect 83 36
11 25-Feb-16 Superhot Team Superhot 82 93
12 19-Apr-16 Stoic The Banner Saga 82 60
13 28-Feb-17 Inxile Entertainment Torment: Tides Of Numenera 82 17
14 10-Nov-16 Paradox Interactive Tyranny 81 66
15 19-Sep-14 Inxile Entertainment Wasteland 2 81 65
16 1-Jul-14 Failbetter Games Sunless Sea 81 38
17 25-Jul-13 Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun Returns 76 54
18 28-Jan-14 Double Fine Productions Broken Age 76 19
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