A Scientific Guide to Predicting the Next Great Indie Game Animal Protagonist

Question: If an independent game studio releases a game that features a forest or woodland creature, is it really an independent game? Obviously not, but if you’re a cynic like me with anything resembling an online footprint, then you know what I mean.

Take a look at the current landscape of indie games and you’ll find plenty of animal protagonists these days. Case in point: here is a list of 111 games on Steam where you can play as a fox. And for those of you who watched the Wholesome Direct this summer, you may have noticed a large number (at least 13) of frog based games.

So foxes and frogs are popular. Sure, anyone could have told you that. But how do we get here? And where do we go from there? After spending more time than I’d like to admit consciously thinking about the future of animals in video games, I’ve come up with a scientific metric to help figure it out. I’m definitely going to tell you what the next big animal is going to be taking the indie world by storm.

Before delving into my criteria, it is important to study what is working in the current independent animal landscape. Let’s start with the fox. Since 2017, it seems there has been no shortage of video games determined to capture the call of the wild. Picture this: you, the player, wake up to find yourself in a strange and mystical land (probably the forest or the mountains). If nothing more than the vague concept of an adventure is meant to appeal to you, the atmosphere should reflect that. Wild winds and rippling rivers populate the environment, and there are also always ruins and treasure chests. The world is mysterious but exciting and attractive.

Do you know what kind of animal thrives in this kingdom? The Fox. Naturally curious yet cunning, foxes often symbolize survival and outwitting the environment or opponent, making them the perfect playable character for puzzle and exploration games. Sayo, seasons after autumn Y Endling: extinction is forever are perfect examples of this. Equally noteworthy is that literary history tells us that foxes are often used as a stand-in for exploring human emotion, behavior, and morality lessons. This makes them a great companion for human-based protagonists for games like Frost Y Never alone.

“What is NOT to love about frogs? They are so small. And cute. And useful. And they just hang out and vibe.”

this quote by Jenny Windom, organizer and host of Wholesome Games, perfectly sums up why those little greens are everywhere these days. Take a game genre or mechanic and put a frog on it, and chances are you’re going to slap. Monster hunting? Verify Paradise Swamp. Skateboards? Keep your eyes open for OllieFrog Skating Toad. Hell, even the next shoulder of giantsfeaturing a frog mounted on a robot, is being developed by a HDD writer.

Whether you like it or not, and you most likely love it, frogs are in our games and they’re here to stay. Frogs are both comical and calming in nature, which is why they seem to make sense in the Year of Our Lord 2022. In a geopolitical, socioeconomic, and cultural worldscape where everything is constantly on fire, playing a video game. introducing some kind of frog or toad seems to be just what the doctor (or vet) ordered.

Taking the learnings from those two case studies, I began to develop a small set of criteria that our next great animal would have to meet. After a lot of tinkering in the lab, I narrowed it down to three thin rulers.

1. The animal must be friendly but willing to act

ok let’s talk about Lost. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding BlueTwelve Studio’s critically-loved game about a stray cat finding his way back home. And for good reason! The movements of the feline and the world populated by robots look attractive and charming as hell. So how could the simple house cat check the box above?

Let’s look at our last two pets. The fox was otherworldly but human. The frog was simple but versatile. Both capture the attitudes of the online landscape over the last decade (uncertainty and escapism respectively). With that established, it is evident that the next creature should employ a dichotomy that is prevalent in today’s culture.

Chaotic energy may be a term you’ve heard more than once these days. The new face of indie games will be just that: an asshole. And to be fair, cats are total jerks, but we love them. They are domesticated, destined to survive by their proximity to humans who provide them with food and shelter. But they keep acting like they don’t need us. Some of them even walk it alone, and that’s what Stray seems to capture perfectly: the journey of a social creature surviving the world we’ve created for them on their own.

So if you’re an animal looking to headline the next big indie game, take note. You must be comfortable with people, but single chaotic enough to throw them for a loop.

2. It has to be a forest bug

this is where Lost lose your case. Sure cats are a lot of fun to play, and I have no doubt that people are interested in seeing more games like the latest Annapurna adventure release, but cats are No the future of indie games.

Sorry, felines, but if you want to be the cool kid in town, you have to come from the woods. Foxes and frogs? Both can be found in forest ecosystems. And surprise, surprise, so are other animals headlining the latest indie games. Take the bear, for example, which is scheduled to appear in the next bear and breakfast Y Woodcutter. Two juicy roles as hotel manager and eco-terrorist? Things are looking pretty good if you’re a bear right now.

Remember Untitled Goose Game? That fool was huge. And it had it all: a fun premise, great reception (and better sales), and charming wazoo. Do you know what else he had? An animal commonly found in freshwater areas. Do you know what type of biome features rivers, lakes, and ponds? That’s right, the damn forest.

If I were a forest creature, I’d be calling my agent immediately.

3. The creature starts with an F

foxes frogs

foxes frogs


Are you noticing a pattern? Surely yes, and it is that these two animals begin with the same letter of the English-speaking Latin alphabet.

I know what you’re thinking. This guy is crazy. Fuck it Guess what, I’m not though. Trends can be difficult to explain, but most of the time the simplest explanation is the best. Make no mistake, between 2023-2027, you Will see a rise of indie video games heavily featuring animal characters beginning with the letter F.

And given our previously established criteria, this bodes well for Falcon, Finch, and Flying Squirrel. But ultimately, it’s the most promising for a particular guy…

Funny, furry and furious, the ferret is an absolute hit for the next face of indie games to come.

Have you ever met a ferret or seen a video compilation of one online? They’re adorable as pets, but they’re also huge jerks. Constantly hiding and weaving when they please, ferrets roll the dice, and it’s their owners’ job to agree. And while ferrets primarily live in captivity, their close cousins, known to us as the weasel, stoat, and badger, live in forested areas. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, ferrets start with the letter F.

Can you imagine a forest-inspired RPG with a determined but easily spooked ferret as the main character? Or a cooking simulator where you play as a grumpy old ferret teaching his grandson how to run his beloved family restaurant? I can, and if you’re a game developer or publisher reading this, I hope you can too.

Indeed, the world of ferret-based indie games is endless, but more importantly, it also makes sense. So the next time you see a cute little title featuring a black-footed ferret while perusing Steam, you’ll remember where you saw it before.