For some players, games with an Early Access label may understandably be acknowledged with some hesitance. Some will not even consider playing games until they reach their full 1.0 release. There are plenty of examples of seemingly promising Early Access games that never reach their full potential or were abandoned by the developers before reaching a full release, or ones that were straight-up scams that never had any intention of actually being finished. But for the ones backed by dedicated, competent, and honest developers, Early Access can be a great way to enjoy work-in-progress games and offer feedback to the developer that may end up making the final product better. Here are a few standout games that are fresh off of their official release, are fast approaching the finish line, or are already proving to be enjoyable experiences as is.
A 7-year passion project by a solo developer at Lychee Game Labs, Patch Quest is a self-described “monster-taming rogue-vania” that features a slew of creatively-designed creatures that players can fight, tame, and ride. Each one has a full set of unique abilities, all of which are available to players when used as a mount. In the form of a top-down shooter (using a variety of fruits as ammo to pacify monsters in a non-violent way), players explore the land of Patchlantis and navigate its many dangers to unlock new pathways and areas. Small bits of progress are retained after each defeat, such as new abilities or unlocked paths, but you are sent back to camp to try again as the world shifts into a different configuration, ensuring each expedition is different from the last. The game is moderately challenging but is much more laid back and forgiving than many games of its ilk, mainly due to the incremental progress you can make along the way. It tends to be more approachable and enjoyable for many who find games like Enter the Gungeon too punishing. Patch Quest officially releases on March 2, 2023. Patch Quest is currently available on Steam, with console versions planned for later in the year. The developer’s YouTube channel also chronicles much of the game’s journey to the finish line, with some great advice for aspiring developers on the pitfalls to look out for when undertaking your first big project.
The Wario Land series has held a special place in the hearts of many who grew up with a Game Boy and/or Game Boy Advance. The absurdist exploration platformers have filled a unique niche that other games tended not to trend towards. But Pizza Tower, released on Steam on Jan 26, 2023, takes some inspiration from the Wario Land formula, and builds it out into its own wholly unique beast. Players take advantage of the surprisingly deep and fluid moveset of Peppino Spaghetti, an Italian pizza chef who must ascend a malicious, sentient pizza’s tower to save his restaurant. Through an aesthetic that evokes both classic absurdist cartoons and early 90’s PC games, Peppino smashes, flops, and transforms through a variety of 2D platforming levels as he ascends the tower’s 5 floors. Pizza Tower was never technically in early access, but developer Tour De Pizza has provided demos for the game throughout development. An exceptionally polished and fluid movement system awaits those willing to master the game’s mechanics. Don’t miss out on this one. Seriously.
Dave the Diver
Like the ocean itself, the apparent emptiness and simplicity of Dave the Diver is only a passing first impression. This game that mixes spearfishing with restaurant management hides a surprising amount of depth beneath its surface. As the rotund titular diver, players explore the sea on a 2D plain, catching fish to prepare as sushi dishes during the restaurant management portions. The more money you make, the better equipment you can purchase, allowing you to dive deeper and catch more rare fish. The combination of these two different genres works extremely well, with all aspects of the game being fleshed out to a very satisfying degree. Dave the Diver, developed by MINTROCKET, has been in Steam Early Access since Oct 2022. The Devs update the game often, and it already has extremely positive feedback.