Over the course of the past generation of video game consoles (the one that included the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii,) indie games went from a rarity to one of the most popular trends in the industry. There are a lot of factors that contributed to the current state of affairs (such as indie-friendly digital distribution services like Steam, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade) and given their success and popularity, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that indies are here to stay. But what happens if you missed the indie train back in the day and you’re looking to catch up with some of the best games? That’s what the list below is here for.
The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is all about freedom. Like in most video games, you can take the linear path, finish the game, unlock a couple of achievements and move on to the next title in your collection. Alternatively, you can defy the witty narrator and do the opposite of what he instructs you to do and this will lead to some humorous and memorable moments. Also, you should totally hang out in the broom closet for a while and see what happens.
Are video games supposed to be fun? Not necessarily and that’s something that Papers, Please clearly demonstrates. In this puzzle game, you assume the role of an immigration inspector at a border checkpoint. Your job involves looking at documents, carefully inspecting them and look for inconsistencies. The gameplay is remarkably dull and repetitive, but it’s also one of the most rewarding games you’ll ever play.
Stringing attacks is something that fighting games and melee-based games have encouraged us to do for years and years. Guacamelee’s combat is eminently satisfying right from the get go, but the game has so much more to offer: the visuals look terrific, the Mexican-inspired setting is delightful and the story is filled with jokes and references to other games. If you like Metroidvania games, you owe it to yourself to play Guacamelee.
Super Meat Boy
There’s a sense of reciprocity with Super Meat Boy: I hate the game and the game hates me. But I also love it. I guess this love/hate relationship it’s hard to understand if you’ve never played Super Meat Boy, so let me explain. Super Meat Boy is a “tough as nails” platformer that gives you all the tools to succeed, but that translates into dying over and over and over. But you’ll love every minute of it. You’ll also hate it.
Braid seems like a traditional platformer, but the indie game also represents a thought-provoking experience unlike any other. On the surface, you control protagonist Tim, you move him around, make him jump platforms, defeat enemies and manipulate time to solve puzzles. But underneath the surface lies the story of a relationship gone sour and what the parties involved are doing to either restore it or move past it. Braid is an indie masterpiece that no fan of the genre should miss.
Jazzpunk is a game that makes no sense most of the time and that’s a significant part of its charm. One moment you’re hunting pigeons with a ray gun and then you’re cross-dressing so that you can steal a suitcase. But without a doubt, the best part about Jazzpunk is that the game features dozens upon dozens of random jokes and gags and finding all those gags is definitely part of the fun.
Exploration games have really matured over the past few years and Dear Esther is definitely one of the games that spearheaded the genre. Dear Esther is incomprehensible at first, but what I like best about the game is that different people will have different interpretations about its haunting narrative. Additionally, exploring the evocative and atmospheric environments makes the narrative more compelling and touching.
Antichamber wants you to forget everything you know about physics so that you can learn new rules. And once those rules start making sense in the context of the game, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction that not many games can provide. Although Antichamber and games like The Ball or Portal have some things in common, this single-player first-person platformer is unlike anything you’ve played before.
I can still hear Hotline Miami’s booming soundtrack in my head as I type these lines. 2D top-down action game combines elements from dissimilar genres (stealth, action and puzzle) and blends those in a unique and gratifying manner. Hotline Miami is a tense and violent experience unlike any other and I can’t wait to play the sequel.
Fez is one of the most unique titles ever made. Although the game adopts a 2D setting, its world is in 3D and protagonist Gomez can manipulate the world to access that hidden third dimension. I found some of the puzzles extremely challenging, but the unique gameplay, mysterious setting, beautifully constructed levels and amazing soundtrack kept me interested from beginning to end.