10 student video games that beat the pros!

Game News 10 student video games that beat the pros!

Tomorrow’s developers are talented. You don’t have to be a graduate to make great games. Between the prototypes that spawned acclaimed games and those that have the potential for true indie nuggets, here are 10 impressive student projects.


If you want to know the projects of tomorrow’s developers, do not hesitate to look at itch.io. You can find many student games out there for free (including some of the ones below) or discover prototypes made during many student game jams.


This is a very dark and quite special platformer that DigiPen students offered us in 2014. While platform games used to offer us lots of free moves, this is not the case. chained. As its name suggests, the title offers you to contain a character chained to a ball, which therefore hinders his progress and his movements. Another approach to the platformer combined with a serious topic that deals with addiction. A story line that is abstract and powerful, which won him a prize at the International Serious Play Awards. look it up HERE.

Don’t Search

France is unbeatable when it comes to the student game. To salute the future generation of French developers, the Pegasus ceremony has also chosen, from its first edition, to reward the best student game of the year. And the very first title recipient of this title is none other than don’t look, created by CNAM Enjmin students. This is a horror game using a particular technology: eye tracking. It is impossible to look away to avoid fears because he is the one who allows you to control your flashlight and therefore continue in the dark. A creative and original principle that is well suited to the horror genre. look it up HERE.


We stayed in France but this time on the side of the school in Valenciennes, Rubika. Taught by the last Pegasi, Jivana takes us to a strange world where a terrible disaster has occurred. A disaster actually forces an entire civilization to flee its homeland. Aélis, a brave youth of the clan who can manipulate water, then decides to find a legendary cathedral that can save them all. Between the atmosphere and the controlled lighting effects, the rendering has something impressive, especially for a student project made by a dozen developers in the production.

Level Squared

Only in 2017, three years after the first edition, that the Game Awards decided to honor the most successful student projects through a new category of awards (since abandoned). That year Level Squared honored, a true gem of wisdom. If at first glance, the principle of the game and the artistic direction are quite elementary (just move a square in the levels), the projection system and the level design are devilishly thought out and effective. And that’s what happened even before the game was over. In fact, the Game Awards only reward a game demo that you can also find HERE.


During the last edition of Pégases, there was a student game that set the bar very high: Lysfangha. This hack ‘n’ slash presents us with a unique universe that mixes temporal powers and monsters to kill. If we manage to overcome the slowdowns and technical flaws of Lysfangha, the title will no longer be a simple student project. Ambitious, rich and detailed, it has a certain potential to be an excellent independent game. At least that’s what SFL Interactive thinks, a French publisher of independent video games founded by Michael Sportoch (formerly Activision-Blizzard). So Lysfangha is the first ISART Digital project to benefit from this new partnership and offer a commercial release. Meanwhile, you can find the title HERE.

Narbacular Drop

Narbacular Drop is a real textbook case. Because if you don’t know this student project that was released in 2005, you should know the game that made it later: Portal. It was actually students who developed the portal mechanism that made Valve’s franchise an endless success. At that time, there were no robots or cake on the horizon, but a princess by the name of No-Knees. The latter can set up portals if he wants to attack the enemy dungeon Wally. Visiting the DigiPen school, Valve representatives will then see the project. Impressed, they offered students to join the box to develop their game under a new machine and sell it. Thus was born one of the most iconic games of 2000. Find the Narbacular Drop HERE.

Risk of Rain

We continue with another game, which is less known, but also made the first steps as a student project: Risk of Rain. It all started at the University of Washington where two young students, Duncan Drummond and Paul Morse, to create a game inspired by their favorite titles. Thus, Risk of Rain will be a hybrid title, mixing action, roguelike and platformer, all sprinkled with a little permanent death mechanic. The project started to interest people and the students decided to create a studio to house it. In 2013, the game was released. In 2014, it won the award for best student game at the Independent Games Festival. And in 2019, it will experience a highly acclaimed sequel. A great story for this student project.


Video games as student projects are nothing new. Furthermore, what some consider to be the first ever video game was a student project. Of course, this project is not the result of development studies, but of science. It’s the early 1960s. A new computer has just debuted in MIT’s electrical engineering department, the DEC PDP-1 minicomputer. So the students and employees of the American university came together to find a project to promote the capabilities of this PDP-1. The three of them then proposed Spacewar!, a 2D multidirectional shoot’em up. Note that Tic-Tac-Toe and Mouse Maze are also created under these conditions.

Beyond space

We go back to our time with a student project that may not mean anything to you like that, but nevertheless led to the development of one of the biggest independent nuggets in recent years : Beyond space. The year is 2012. Alex Beachum, a student at the University of Southern California, needs to create a game prototype as part of his master’s thesis. He then chose “a first-person space exploration game designed to create the feeling of walking in space. If Spaceworthy doesn’t look like much, Alex has an atypical concept that he will delve into to reach in a popular independent game: Out in the Wilds.


Finally, there is another French project. Direction of ISART Digital, especially fertile ground for future developers. In 2020, a small group of students from there opened a graduation project as poetically pleasing to look at: Symphony. In the shoes of a violinist, you are invited to walk in the footsteps of ancient musicians and awaken an ancient city. Everything takes place in a platformer that of course puts the music in the spotlight, either in terms of the soundtrack or the gameplay. Between its masterful artistic direction, its magical atmosphere and its beautiful gameplay, it fully deserves its title of Best student game 2020. Search for Symphonia HERE.

But also

  • For his artistic direction: the game of contrasts Symmetrain
  • For its concept: Perspective’s trompe l’oeil
  • For exhilarating gaming sensations: the racing game Nitronic Rush
  • For its enchanted atmosphere: the nature of Douse

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