During the past generation of consoles, independent games became extremely popular on most digital distribution platforms. But the best part about this isn’t that those games sold well and that millions of players were exposed to them. The most surprising thing is that, little by little, the difference between AAA and indie titles is blurring, so a clear distinction between both types of games won’t be possible in the near future. While that happens, I took the liberty to work on a list with ten of my favorite independent games of the generation and while I still need to catch up on a lot of indie games from that era, I can assure you that the games on this list are terrific.
Super Meat Boy looks and feels like a game from another era and while that’s an achievement in and of itself, look a little deeper and you’ll find more than that. The precise controls, terrific visual aspect, silly premise, hundreds of levels and reference to classic games, make Super Meat Boy a brutal game that’s impossible not to love.
At first sight, Fez seems like another cutesy platformer inspired by classic games. But despite what that first impression, Fez is one of the deepest and most cerebral platformers you’ll ever play. Fez is riddles with clues, puzzles, cryptic messages carved in stones, QR codes and the game even has a language of its own. The universe of Fez is well crafted, even if you don’t understand anything at first.
Braid is another platformer that emulates Super Mario Bros. right? After all, you assume the role of a man who looks like Mario, jumps over platforms, steps on enemies and at the end of the level is greeted by the message “Sorry but the princess is in another castle.” Despite what its initial moments suggest, Braid isn’t a traditional platformer, a game were you use a time-manipulation mechanic or a game about an abducted princess. So what is Braid? Everybody has a different answer to that question and that’s what makes Braid such a captivating game.
Despite its short length and minimalistic design, Limbo is a memorable, indelible and haunting experience that will remain in your memory for years to come. But why? The pace is fantastic, since you solve challenging puzzles and then face some terrifying enemies and then you’ll wonder around until you figure out what to do next. Also, everything in Limbo wants you dead and you’re not supposed to be there, but even if there are some heart-wrenching moments, Limbo is an experience worth having.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead combines lifelike characters, a convincing narrative, powerful moments and simplistic mechanics and the result of such a unique concoction is one of the best point-and-click adventures ever made. With The Walking Dead, Telltale crafted one of the best stories ever written in games and that’s an incredible achievement. If you haven’t played it yet, stop reading this article and start playing the game. It’s worth it.
The thunderous soundtrack, ultraviolent subject matter, references to Drive and pastel-colored environments are carved in my mind. Hotline Miami is unlike anything you’ve played before and that will immediately catch your attention. The gameplay, for instance, is easy to get into, but hard to get away from.
The most memorable aspects about Bastion are probably the raspy-voiced narrator and the unique world that surrounds you. But Bastion is a game that works when all the different elements that compose it blend together in a way that’s so inexplicably elegant, that’s difficult to resist. Also, the storyline is memorable and the gameplay entertaining. Whenever there’s a list about best games of the generation, Bastion comes up and with good reason.
In Joe Danger you hop on a motorcycle to perform stunts. Featuring cartoonish visuals, satisfying gameplay, great sense of humor and elements from classic platformers, Joe Danger is the fantastic arcade game you won’t be able to stop playing.
To the Moon is an adventure game where the main draw is experiencing a story and that story is remarkably well crafted. Its visual aspect suggests that this is another 16-bit role-playing game, but when you realize that the narrative is the main draw, you won’t be able to stop playing until you see the heart-wrenching conclusion.
FTL is the game that made me see the value in permanent death. Prior to the release of Faster than Light, I thought the mechanic was just a way of making you suffer and force you to play for hours and hours. But FTL manages to use the mechanic in compelling new ways, which means that you’ll play this roguelike for hours and hours.
Here are some of the games that either didn’t make the cut or games I need to catch up on: Tokyo Jungle, Papo & Yo, Flower, Machinarium, Shank, DeathSpank, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Journey, Castle Crashers, Rogue Legacy, Mark of the Ninja, Antichamber, Gone Home, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Spelunky, Torchlight, Minecraft, Papers, Please, Proteus and Guacamelee.