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  • Writer's pictureJulie Cooper

Not-E3 2023 Day 3: Tribeca Games Spotlight brings 7 dazzling indies with narrative finesse

Day 3 of "Not-E3" 2023 was a needed change of pace, in more ways than one.

Between the Guerrilla Collective's 90+ games on Day 1 and another 70+ from Day 2's Summer Game Fest, Day of the Devs, and Devolver Direct, these summer showcases have been zipping through some incredibly exciting games at the speed of light. It's been a fun way to keep up the hype — but already just a few shows in, we sorely needed a moment to celebrate and take a deeper dive into some of the games on the horizon.

Today's showcases included the first-ever Access-Ability Summer Showcase and the tried and true Tribeca Game Spotlight, now in its third year. Both events kept up the excitement, but with infinitely more room to breathe, process, and get to know the developers' intentions and inspirations.

A collage of seven game stills from the indie games highlighted during the Tribeca showcase. In order: A girl running along an arch past a waterfall; several anthropomorphic dinosaurs standing around a beach bonfire; a hand running along an etched image of a temple and sun; a woman with a flowing white dress running during sunset; a woman with dark makeup in a comic book style looking bewildered; a woman in a gray space suit is floating near-upside down in front of a yellow planet; and two boys in a simple black and white hand-drawn style play soccer in a neighborhood drawn with a stylish stippled background.

Tribeca offered a deeper dive into the seven upcoming indie games that were selected as Tribeca Games Award nominees by a panel of judges, with new interviews and details for each of the games.

Among them were games from trailblazing teams with impressive past credits as well as new emerging voices. As in past years, innovating, smaller-budget indies reigned, and a few relatively new titles caught our eye for the first time on Tribeca's major stage.

The nominated games shown today included:

  • A Highland Song (Inkle)

  • Goodbye Volcano High (KO_OP)

  • Chants of Sennaar (Rundisc, Focus Entertainment)

  • Nightscape (Mezan Studios)

  • Stray Gods (Summerfall Studios, Humble Games)

  • The Expanse: A Telltale Series (Deck Nine, Telltale Games)

  • Despelote (Julián Cordero, Sebastian Valbuena, Panic)

What's so special about this event is that it celebrates a wide breadth of games and the people who make them. No matter the pedigree or budget, all kinds of games have the chance to shine here and show what makes them unique.

Tribeca's focus is on a "potential for excellence in art and storytelling through design, artistic mastery, and highly immersive worlds.” And while not just anyone can achieve that... anyone can achieve it.

Sharing the same bright spotlight, you have a game like Stray Gods, a roleplaying musical featuring a good chunk of the star-studded cast from The Last of Us. You have the Hollywood actress-headed The Expanse: A Telltale Series (with Cara Gee from the TV series reprising her role as Camina Drummer). And you have Despelote, a game focused on bringing a real, nostalgic, and natural feeling to players, where the lead developer's own parents lent their voices to characters in the game.

That's the power of gaming and the continuing strength of Tribeca's showcase, which regularly features some of the truest creatives out there.

We're incredibly envious of those attending the Tribeca Festival, who have playable demos for all seven games within reach to try out — and until we can get our hands on these dazzling indies, we'll be keeping them in sight.


Tribeca's seven spotlighted indies in 2023

A screenshot from the game A Highland Song. A young girl crouches and a man sits next to a warm fire in the woods. There are three dialogue options on screen as they talk.

A Highland Song is a sidescrolling adventure that takes you through the across the beauties, dangers, and history of the Scottish Highlands. As Moira McKinnon, who's running away to reach the sea for the first time in her life, you'll go platforming over peaks and caves, learning about the secrets and stories of the land while navigating real physical limitations and survival stakes, like fall damage, weather and cold, and hunger. It promises mini-games and rhythm challenges set to a stunning Scottish folk soundtrack as you strive to reach your uncle Hamish's lighthouse. It looks like an impressionist painting and sounds like a dream, and I, for one, am ready to run for the craggy coasts as far as my legs'll take me.

A screenshot from the game Goodbye Volcano High, with three anthropomorphic dinosaur teenagers playing together in a band.

Being an existential queer teen? Been there. Feeling like the world is ending? Done that. But Goodbye Volcano High is providing an especially haunting take with its anime-style high school melodrama. It focuses on a handful of dinosaur teens with record-label dreams preparing for their futures after high school... but learning that the future might never come. With a cinematic and no doubt tear-inducing story, and rhythm game mechanics as you play shows with your band, it's a game about deciding what choices you would make about how to spend your life if you knew your time was limited.

A screenshot from the game Chants of Sennaar. It's vibrant in pink, gold, and seafoam green colors, painting a picture of a desert and sky and a person standing on a large balcony of a palace or temple with angular cliffs behind.

Language-learning games are everywhere these days... but none quite like Chants of Sennaar, which looks to be a fascinating narrative with overcoming language barriers at the forefront. This vibrant puzzle-platforming adventure based on the myth of Babel boasts that "Languages are both the obstacle and the solution." You're a traveler striving to reunite the Peoples of the Tower who have been long divided, and it's up to you to unveil mysteries about the past and break down walls of division. You'll use action and stealth to outwit Guardians trying to keep you from crossing into the lands and try to decipher ancient languages in the unique regions to restore harmony.

A screenshot from the game Nightscape. A woman holds one hand in the air with a glowing blue sphere above it. She wears a flowing white dress and cape, and it's dark out with a constellation visible in the sky.

For eons, humans around the world have been looking for meaning in the stars, connecting the dots by forming constellations and passing down stories about their meaning. And Nightscape, a 2.5D atmospheric adventure game, is looking to expand the world's understanding about those tales. "Rooted in ancient Arabian astronomy," this new game out of Qatar has us starry-eyed. When the sun mysteriously dislodges the very stars from the sky, darkening the world, protagonist Layla steps up to restore the stars to their rightful place with her father's magical astrolabe. It has a reluctant hero. A magical, celestial setting. An expansive view on the skies and the stories and histories they hold. There's a lot to love.

A screenshot from the game Stray Gods, which has a comic book-like art style. The main character, Grace, has jet black hair and wears black lipstick and heavy eyeliner. She looks bewildered as she looks at a glowing yellow orb hovering above her outstretched hand.

You all know that our crew is excited about Stray Gods. After showcasing it in our spotlight video in March, we had a chance to play the demo and came away incredibly impressed. This musical RPG places its main character, Grace, at the center of a murder mystery where she'll have three days to prove she played no part in the death of the last muse, Calliope. You'll have direct control over each song, able to pick each new line to sing and even more nuanced choices like who to harmonize with and when to break out into a solo. Musical theatre nerds, rise up! What we loved most from their spotlight during the show was the emphasis on how much every single person working on the game loved the world they've created. It's a passion project and it shows.

A screenshot from The Expanse: A Telltale Series. Two women are on screen in a space ship with some complex looking tech in the background. One smiles at the other and there are two dialogue choices on screen.

BELTALOWDA, LISTEN UP. The Expanse is far from over. While its run on TV may have ended, the grounded sci-fi universe built around diversity and actual science lives on in the gaming sphere. The Expanse: A Telltale Series is new life in multiple ways — both for the beloved sci-fi series and for the choice-driven legends at Telltale Games. Centered around the tough Belter security officer Drummer (portrayed by the same actress as the show, Cara Gee), Telltale rewinds the story back to a few years before the start of the show and, in doing so, shows a more vulnerable version of Drummer. Through painstaking choices, you'll see how and why she hardens to the world. We love Telltale, and if you choose to not give this game a look... well. VGG will remember that.

A screenshot from Despelote. Three kids are drawn in a simple black outline and white fill. The simple sketchy style of characters is contrasted with a more photorealistic, yet grainy art style, of a neighborhood street in sepia and magenta hues.

If there's something we at VGG love seeing across all media, it's the surge of stories that emphasize the power of community through sports. Ted Lasso, Welcome to Wrexham, and now... Despelote. All of these stories are more about the people than the sport itself, the camaraderie felt between folks from all walks of life. As a young kid growing up in Quito, Ecuador, in 2001 — when the national team found themselves thrust onto the national stage for the first time — you'll dribble your ball around the streets of the town and consume the world around you through the all-too-relatable relationship of boy and ball. With entirely improvised dialogue and a stunning hand-drawn style from artist Sebastian Valbuena, you'll come to understand the power of sports and embark on a nostalgic adventure unlike any we've seen.


If you liked anything you saw here from the Tribeca Games Spotlight, be sure to wishlist the game and follow the developers online for updates! And check out the full show for more information on these seven upcoming games.

Want more gaming updates like this? If you're reading this during the month of June, stop by our Twitch and we're probably streaming some of this month's incredible showcases. We're live co-streaming these fantastic Not-E3 events daily through Monday, June 12! We love this week and the chance to share it with y'all. Thank you for being along for the ride with VGG for this busy, hectic, and always memorable summer gaming experience.


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