GameMaker, which used to be called GameMaker Studio before it was simplified in April 2022, has long been seen as a game engine for people who can’t handle a “real” engine like Unity or Unreal.
For many years, GameMaker was primarily used by hobbyists who just wanted to play around with game creation and had no intentions of making it big in the world of indie game development.
Spelunky came out in 2008 and was one of the first GameMaker games to achieve success, showing that GameMaker had potential to create more complex games with features like procedural level generation.
Since then, GameMaker has continued to improve and become a serious option for serious 2D game developers, particularly with its native ability to export to desktop, mobile, consoles, web, and more.
Here are our picks for the best indie games made with GameMaker that prove how good the engine can be in the right hands.
15. Crashlands (2016)
Genre: Action, Crafting, Survival
Crashlands is an action-adventure game that has you playing as a galactic truck driver who crash lands on a strange planet, where you’re forced to fight for survival and gather resources to craft items.
Often described as a story-driven crafting game, Crashlands is a solid experience that’s reminiscent of other indie survival games, like Don’t Starve. It plays best on mobile devices, but is also available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo Switch.
14. Forager (2019)
Genre: Crafting, Exploration
Forager is an adventure game that blends itself with elements from idle games. At first, you manually harvest resources for crafting as you explore the world, but later, you can create automated systems that handle the bulk of gathering and creation.
As you craft items and complete quests, you earn money that can be used to unlock more areas to explore and more content to conquer. Between activities like fishing, hunting, cooking, mining, manufacturing, and many more, Forager will keep you hooked for a long time.
Forager is available on Windows, Linux, Android, iPhone, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
13. Rivals of Aether (2017)
If you’ve wanted to play a fighting game like Super Smash Bros but don’t have a Nintendo console or couldn’t stomach the Nintendo price tag, Rivals of Aether is one of the better clones—with much more to it than simply being a clone of Super Smash Bros.
On top of trying to knock others off of the stage, Rivals of Aether incorporates abilities that allow you to alter the stage itself. There are also small differences in gameplay, like the lack of ledge-grabbing.
Rivals of Aether is available on Windows, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
12. Nuclear Throne (2015)
Genre: Bullet Hell, Roguelite, Shooter
Nuclear Throne was one of the first successful bullet hell roguelike-likes, involving self-contained attempts to reach the final boss and permadeath with zero carry-over between run attempts.
Every playthrough is made different via procedural level generation, randomized weapon drops, and randomized “mutations” that grant new abilities or affect your character in various ways. It’s tough but fair, and it’s no surprise that it was as popular as it was when it came out.
Nuclear Throne is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One.
11. Gunpoint (2013)
Genre: Platformer, Stealth
Gunpoint is a sidescrolling platformer where you play as a spy tasked with various missions that involve infiltration, hacking, stealing, etc. You can kill your way through if you want, but stealth is the name of the game.
While Gunpoint is far from perfect, it came out at a time when GameMaker was still looked down upon and proved to be another example—in a growing line of examples—of GameMaker’s capabilities. It might be a short game, but it’s fun for those few hours.
Gunpoint is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
10. Hotline Miami (2012)
Genre: Action, Shooter
For many years, Hotline Miami was the pinnacle of GameMaker. Spelunky might’ve put GameMaker on the map, but Hotline Miami was the game people always pointed to when GameMaker was snubbed.
Hotline Miami is a top-down shooter with discrete missions where you’re tasked with massacring Russian mafia members. You’ll need quick reflexes, clever foresight, and smart navigation to bust down doors and slay foes before they get a bullet in you.
Hotline Miami is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and even Google Stadia.
9. Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 (2017)
Genre: Cooking, Simulation
When it comes to cooking games, people tend to think of mini-game mechanics (Cooking Mama) or cooperative kitchen simulation (Overcooked). But then Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 came out in 2017 and broke the mold with its unique take on cooking madness.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 puts more emphasis on managing ingredients and combining them on a per-order basis. It’s all UI-based, so you aren’t running around a kitchen or chopping up vegetables—you’re just serving up orders as quickly as possible. It’s hectic but fun!
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2 is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
8. Stoneshard (2020)
Genre: Adventure, RPG, Strategy
Stoneshard is one of the more ambitious games made with GameMaker, being a turn-based RPG that takes place in an open world full of opportunities. Click to move across grid-based maps painted in a dark aesthetic that’s reminiscent of both Diablo and Ultima.
The unique health system is more than just hit points and involves things like cauterizing wounds and managing pain. You also need to balance your psychological state, which could help with morale boosts or hinder with pessimism and paranoia.
Stoneshard is available on Windows via Steam Early Access as of this writing. In the future, it will be made available on other platforms.
7. Blazing Beaks (2019)
Genre: Action, Roguelite, Shooter
Blazing Beaks may appear like a Nuclear Throne rip-off at first glance, but it actually introduces a few twists that completely change the experience.
The main difference is how Blazing Beaks brings risk-versus-reward to the forefront with its Artifacts: prized items that have negative effects, but if you can survive with them until you reach a shop, you can trade them in for items that grant positive effects.
Blazing Beaks is also slower and less chaotic than Nuclear Throne, with smaller level designs that encourage more intentional play. It’s a great example of being inspired without outright cloning.
Blazing Beaks is available on Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
6. Hyper Light Drifter (2016)
Genre: Action, RPG
Hyper Light Drifter is an action-RPG in the style of The Legend of Zelda and Diablo but with modernized systems: faster combat, smarter enemies, and wilder color schemes that feel otherworldly.
The game was originally launched via Kickstarter with a goal just short of $30,000 to fund development—but crossed the $600,000 threshold. If that isn’t proof of how anticipated this game idea was, nothing is.
Hyper Light Drifter is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
5. VA-11 Hall-A (2016)
Genre: Simulation, Visual Novel
VA-11 Hall-A is an interactive narrative that’s drenched in cyberpunk aesthetics. It takes place in a post-dystopian future, and you play as a bartender who serves the numerous interesting characters who pass through your bar and listens to their stories.
But there are no dialogue options. Instead, your only way to interact with bar clients is by making them different drinks, and those drinks cause the story to bend in different ways. As you get to know the characters, you learn what kinds of drinks they like.
VA-11 Hall-A is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.
4. Katana Zero (2019)
Genre: Action, Platformer
Katana Zero is a style-heavy, action-oriented, hack-and-slash platformer in which you play as an assassin who can slow down time and predict the future. Use these abilities to kill everyone without getting hit once.
It certainly leans more toward the side of combat than narrative, but there’s a bit of story here to enjoy as well. Katana Zero isn’t just one of the best games made with GameMaker, but one of the best, period.
Katana Zero is available on Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and even Amazon Luna.
3. Undertale (2015)
Undertale is one of those indie games that’s so unique in its execution that it ends up inspiring a cult legion of die-hard fans. Between its EarthBound-like graphics, innovative combat system, and effective writing, Undertale is an experience worth having.
To this day, Undertale is a strong example of video games as art, and it’s even more impressive that it was made with GameMaker.
Undertale is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One.
2. Risk of Rain (2013)
Genre: Action, Platformer, Roguelite
Risk of Rain is one of the earlier GameMaker success stories, and yet still remains one of the best GameMaker games made to date.
In this sidescrolling roguelite platformer, you play as a survivor stranded on a strange planet who must kill monsters and collect items that help you live on. The longer you stick around, the harder the monsters become—it’s a balancing act that doesn’t always end in your favor.
Risk of Rain is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One.
1. Chicory: A Colorful Tale (2021)
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is an adventure game like no other. The world has been wiped of all color and it’s now up to you to figure out what happened—and, more importantly, recolor the world in your vision.
The paintbrush cursor is a core element of this Zelda-like game, allowing you to pick between colors and apply those colors to objects and environments. As you progress, your paintbrush upgrades with new abilities, and the world contains many puzzles only solvable via colors.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is available on Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.