Top 10 Indie Games You Should Have Played by Now
The Indie game market has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade or two. Bedroom developers have the ability and resources to compete on the open market if they have the imagination and commitment. With so much to chose from it may have been easy to miss some. So make sure you’ve played…
Most people may have picked Limbo for this list, as it was more successful and had less competition at the time…plus Inside wasn’t a massive departure from Playdead’s first outing. Limbo is fantastic, but I found Inside more layered and thought provoking. It’s a bleak looking world, and you play as a young boy being chased by people. It’s incredibly atmospheric and there’s a real sense of desperation in spite of it being unclear about what’s happening. Over time you pick up on details of the world. There’s some weird people moving with mechanical actions and some strange mind control mechanic that you explore over the course of the game. It’s constantly shifting and challenging and ends with a satisfyingly creepy climax. Whilst Limbo is very much left open to personal interpretation, Inside does have a story for you to muddle out that can be discussed and unpacked further.
See Also: Limbo, of course, is worth the time. Also jockeying for this spot is Braid, a beautiful looking water-coloured platformer with an interesting time manipulation mechanic and one hell of an ending.
Hey, this has a crafting system! This and everything else these days. What this early example in the survival/crafting genre apart is the unique presentation and set up. It looks like a pop-up book adaptation of a German Expressionist horror movie. That in itself helps it stand out in the market – simple but detailed. Then there’s your simple goal: ‘don’t starve’. You have to dedicate your time to finding food. Foraging works for a while, but you’re going to have to keep developing your technology to keep providing, growing and storing food because the game cycles through seasons and winter is coming. Plus when the sun goes down there are unseen monsters in the dark who will murder you if you can’t keep a light source going. Good luck.
See Also: We also quite like Terraria, a 2D third person Minecraft style of game with boss battles and a big, varied world.
This is the game on the list that I’ve sunk the most hours into so far, getting onto it very early into development. So early they hadn’t added in a system where prisoners leave the prison and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger until riots. Back in the earlier days of gaming we got all these great sim games like Sim Ant, Theme Park and Theme Hospital that were quirky and odd but with brilliant design and detailed AI. Prison Architect feels like a successor to those classics with it’s cartoony visuals but deeply layered system of design and management. And while writing this I got an email to say it was out on tablets!
THE BINDING OF ISAAC
From the duo that brought us Super Meat Boy comes this twisted little dungeon crawler. You play as Isaac, a boy who flees into the basement to escape his maniacal mother, a demented evangelist who is convinced she must sacrifice her son. In the basement Isaac encounters endless horrors, with only his tears to fend them off. There are hundreds upon hundreds of power-ups, collectables and abilities to find and unlock, each having a physical impact on Isaac, meaning every play through will see him twisted and warped in different ways. This is for those who likes something a bit disturbed.
THE STANLEY PARABLE
The Indie market gives us the best field for experimenting with gameplay narratives, specifically the relationship between the story and the player. The Stanley Parable is one of the most interesting and entertaining. You play as Stanley, an office drone who is sitting at his computer when the voice over narrator states that Stanley is going to explore the office. Now you have the choice to do what the narrator says is happening or go against it. The disembodied voice will provide a running commentary on events and a discussion with you, the player. It’s unique and enthralling and it’s best to jump in without knowing any more of what unfolds.
See Also: Thomas Was Alone is a simple puzzle platformer featuring a group of differently shaped blocks. Author Danny Wallace provides a voice over that gives each of these blocks a personality and explores their complex relationships.
If you woke up one morning and wanted to enjoy a mind-bending and deeply disturbed acid trip involving grotesque amounts of violence with an ’80s flavour then you should play Hotline Miami. You play as a young man who receives missions on his answering machine, then dons a rubber animal mask to rampage through buildings containing Russian gangsters. The violence is quick and extreme as you perfectly time your movements and attacks involving electric drills, firearms and anything sharp you get your hands on. It fast paced, incredibly dark and surprisingly deep. Play at your own risk.
See Also: Super Meat Boy, from the Binding of Isaac team, is another fast-paced platformer with a charmingly freaky design. Broforce delivers the same mad pace and love of the 1980s without the psychosis.
But if you want a more relaxing experience you can’t go past Journey. You play as a mysterious robed figure in the desert and must travel to the peak of a distant mountain. On the way you will develop the ability to float gracefully, solve puzzles and enjoy a story told through hieroglyphics. The cherry on the top is the multiplayer component, wherein you may run into another player. You won’t be able to communicate with each other beyond whistling for attention but you’d be amazed at how much you can bond with a total stranger while sharing this experience. First time I played I encountered another player and we solved some puzzles together and got a good rhythm going. We played through the whole game together and took the time to wait for each other when needed. During the final stretch, when struggling through a blizzard up a mountain my character slipped down a gap without my partner noticing. By the time I’d climbed back up they were long gone. I was left to make the final leg of the journey alone. After a solid fifteen minutes I reached the end and was pleased to find them waiting for me before crossing the line. It was one of the peak moments in a lifetime of gaming. Simple but affecting.
Need a gift to buy for the obsessive compulsive in your life? Try Factorio, a crafting game with one goal that will take an exceptional amount of planning and practise to achieve. You’ve crashed on an alien planet and must build a spaceship to leave. Armed with a pickaxe you can start with breaking up rocks and chopping down trees, then you can build a smelting forge for your dug up coal and iron ore. From there you’ve got a long path through advancing sciences and increasing levels of automation until you have a sprawling factory turning out thousands of components needed to develop your one man space program. It’s…addicting.
We’ll keep this brief because it’s one you should experience with as few expectations as possible. On the surface it’s a pretty original, low key RPG game using a bullet-hell system for combat. But don’t ever think you’ve got a handle on what’s happening with this game because it is purpose built to subvert the very notion of video games as we know them.
What could be more fun than checking passports?! If this game is anything to go by, not much. You man the border of Arstotzka, a closed bordered Eastern-Bloc country that is letting in visitors for the first time in years. You must examine the documents of all those entering and determine whether or not they are given access. With every in game day that passes the requirements for entry grow more complex, with heavy penalties in place for errors made. You will be faced with moral decisions regarding everything from divided families wanting to be reunited up to terrorist groups looking to destabilise the corrupt rulers. The choices may appear easy on the surface but every person you let through may have an impact on your own family, or you may get taken in by the secret service yourself.
Got anything I should be playing? Let me know in the comments!