It’s my worst kept secret that I’m a sucker for a sports anime. I read a few chapters of Prince of Tennis, which was fun, but my whole-hearted love for a slice-of-life, high-school-tournament arc began with Haikyu!! I went absolutely feral for these dumb high school boys who only had volleyball feelings and could not even comprehend why anyone wouldn’t care about volleyball.
And then I watched a season of Free, a friend introduced me to Yuri on Ice, and I lost more than a few hours to Kuroko No Basket.
I won’t wax poetic about why I love a sports anime, but I hope this list of indie tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) will demonstrate some of those reasons. Each of these games places earnestness, hopefulness, and high emotional stakes at the core of their designs, emphasizing reflective and sentimental gameplay while still holding characters accountable for failures.