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Indie video games have become a staple of modern gaming since the mid-2000s. The success of games including Minecraft, World of Goo, and Terraria show that gaming has changed in big ways. Online methods of distributing games, paired with development tools that can be found the same way, leads to a situation where a publisher isn’t needed to put out an excellent game. Those who are passionate about making games can do so themselves without worrying about getting a financial backer to allow the game to see light. As such, the indie game industry has exploded and it can be hard to sift through and decide what games are bad, good, great, or outstanding. We present here a list of ten games that should be on any indie lover’s computer or console.
The Witness by Thekla, Inc.
The Witness is a 3D puzzle game that was published and made by Thekla, Inc. It was released for Windows and PlayStation 4 in January of 2016. This game features Jonathan Blow as lead director and creator. He wanted to design a game that revolved around non-verbal communication. This is done via over 600 puzzles, giving everyone a chance to find some in their wheelhouse. You are playing in first-person and you are tasked with exploring an island. You have to beat various sections in order to activate gold boxes and receive a shiny light that shows you have completed the section. There are additional puzzles scattered around as well. All puzzles are based on drawing a path through a maze but this is easier said than done. Definitely a must-play for those who love brain teasers and puzzle mechanics.
Don't Starve by Klei Entertainment
Don’t Starve takes you into the world of a scientist named Wilson who finds himself in a dark and sad world. As the player, you are tasked with keeping him mentally stable, healthy, and fed while also dealing with a plethora of supernatural and strange enemies. Don’t Starve is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux for the PC. It also is available for the PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One, Wii U, Vita, and iOS. This title was developed and published by Klei Entertainment and is an action-adventure survival game. It features a multiplayer mode, as well as an adventure mode. You can see the inspiration in the game from Minecraft, as well as Tim Burton which really makes it fun to look at. It has received great ratings for its art, music, and the sheer amount of ways Wilson can die. However, the high difficulty and permanent death features aren’t everyone’s favorites. That said, it’s a really fun and engrossing game that I would suggest to most anyone.
Broforce by Devolver Digital
Broforce is out on Windows, Mac, and Linux as well as PlayStation 4. It was developed by Free Lives and published by Devolver Digital. This game is an old-school looking side-scroller shooting game that brings back thoughts of games long gone. As expected by the name, you play a “bro” who is depicted as an action-hero type of guy. He is in the process of rescuing his teammates and fighting off terrorists. There are tons of fun parodies throughout the game with character names referencing Rambo, Chuck Norris, and the Terminator. Broforce has pretty consistently good ratings, with GameRankings scoring it a 79 percent. It’s the type of game for those who miss the old arcades and the feeling of run-and-gun favorites such as Contra and Metal Slug. It’s fun and never takes itself seriously, which is refreshing.
Towerfall by Matt Thorson
Developed by Matt Thorson, Towerfall is available for Mac, Linux, Windows, Vita, PlayStation 4, and Ouya. This game is an archery arena video game where players fight in a battle royale. Players kill each other with head-stomps and arrows until only one is remaining. There are various game modes to choose from including single-player, trials, quest, and multiplayer. Single player focuses on hitting targets, trials gives players power-ups they must use to break targets, quest mode gives enemy waves that come one after another, and multiplayer allows people to fight their friends. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is only available for offline play. This game has great reviews and has been called the Ouya’s killer App.
Gone Home by The Fullbright Company
Gone Home is a first-person adventure and exploration game published and developed by The Fullbright Company. It has won numerous awards including the coveted VGX Award for Best Independent Game. It is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac as well as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, making it accessible to nearly everyone. This game puts you in the position of playing a girl named Kaitlin as you explore the house and look for messages. She’s come back to her family home to find it deserted with a note on the door from her sister asking her not to investigate what happened. Of course, she does so anyway and the adventure begins there. While this sound similar to other first-person adventure puzzles, it goes above and beyond. The story is told in a really fluid way and the art is really engrossing. As far as ratings go, they’ve generally been rather good with Metacritic giving it an 86 out of 100.
Undertale by Toby Fox
The next game on the list is exclusive to PCs but does cater to both the Windows and Mac crowd. Undertale is a role-playing game that was developed and published by Toby Fox. Undertale was immediately praised for its brilliant characters and writing. It also gained fans of the combat system that is intuitive and easy to use. It has been nominated for various awards, including Game of the Year from various publications. Undertale is a top-down game where you control a child and complete objectives as they come up. You are in a fictional underground which is under the surface of Earth. People dubbed monsters live there, although they are really a smart and diverse group who have been banished after a war on humanity. The game puts you in interactions with monsters who you may decide to make friends with or kill. The game takes these things into account and uses them to affect the outcome of the game.
Broken Age by Double Fine Productions
We come back to the adventure genre with Tim Schafer’s point and click game called Broken Age. This game was developed and published by Double Fine Productions and is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Ouya, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, and Vita. At the time of inception, this game was crowdfunded on Kickstarter and was the largest crowdfunded game project at the time. It raised over $3.4 million in less than a month. This game brings you into a story of two teenagers, who seem completely different other than wanting to change their lives. The girl is living in a land ravaged by giant monsters and has been selected to be sacrificed to them. Meanwhile, the male, voiced by Elijah Wood, is a passenger on a spaceship. He is alone except for an AI who acts as a parental figure to the young man. The two are brought together later when storylines collide.
Firewatch by Panic
Popping back to the adventure genre, Firewatch is a first person game made for Windows, Mac, Linux, and PlayStation. It was developed by Campo Santo and published by Panic. Firewatch takes place in Wyoming in the late 90s. You are playing a fire lookout named Henry who is assigned to a specific tower in a national forest. By exploring the area, you uncover clues about strange happenings in the area that are related to his tower being ransacked on a patrol. There is a shadowy figure who pops up to watch him on occasion as well. You do have communications with a supervisor, Delilah. There are various dialogue options when finding objects or new places, or you can choose not to respond at all. Your choices will color the relationship with Delilah and how you get along. This game has received lots of credit for its story, dialogue, and exploratory gameplay and sold over 500,000 copies in the first month of release.
Hyper Light Drifter by Disasterpeace
Hyper Light Drifter is another roleplaying-game and is a clear homage to 8 and 16-bit games from the past. It was developed by Heart Machine and composed by Disasterpeace. You can play it on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is going to be ported to additional consoles listed as PlayStation 4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, and Ouya. This game pulls a lot from old action role-playing games like The Legend of Zelda early games. It also really feels a lot like the old Diablo game. You control someone named Drifter who is required to search the ruins of civilization across the world to find a cure for a disease that plagues him. The story was developed based on lead developer Alex Preston’s own health troubles. In the game, you start with a sword but can gain other items and end up fighting progressively harder and more interesting creatures. One little quirk is the lack of spoken dialogue in favor of telling a story through visuals and music.
Banner Saga by Versus Evil
Finally, we have a Vikings themed game developed by Stoic and published by Versus Evil. This is a tactical roleplaying game and was released as a single-play adventure. The turn-based combat is reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, with the player able to build a party of characters with different abilities. The game focuses on the return of the Dredge, who are a race that dislikes humans. The player’s job is to fight the Dredge and find a weakness for the leader. There are many decisions and obstacles on the way to this ending, however. This game is available on Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, Mac, PlayStation 4, Vita, and Xbox One. It has a beautiful orchestra score and has been praised for the story, art, and combat system.
Inside by Playdead
Inside is the follow up of acclaimed developer Playdead and famous game designer Arnt Jensen to the smash hit 2D indie platformer Limbo. The game features many gameplay similarities to Limbo due to it's extremely simple controls and puzzle/platform gameplay focuses on a cruel series of trial and error. But Inside takes things to a whole new level. You play as a small boy trying to make his way towards the center of massive industrial complex straight out of the worst dystopia you could imagine. Every puzzle is immaculately constructed and every frame is like a carefully crafted painting. The entire experience pushes you forward until you make it to the game's climax which is easily one of the horrifying and satisfying endings ever put in a game with David Cronenberg-esque twist. No gamer should miss out on finding out what's inside of Inside.
Five Night's at Freddy's by Scott Cawthon
This indie juggernaut has managed to take over an entire generation of children. Thanks to the proliferation of Let's Play YouYubers, Five Night's at Freddy's has become an indie game sensation big enough to rival even mega hits like Minecraft. The game follows a security guard as he tries to prevent animatronic animals from murdering him as he watch's over a Chuck E. Cheese's styled family restaurant. This game has had numerous sequels and has become a veritable media conglomerate. With toys, shirts, and figurines littering malls across America Five Night's as Freddy's has managed worm it's way into the nightmares of a collective generation.