When you look back about a year or two, you’ll find that indie game developers have been finding success in more ways than you think would have been possible in the Nintendo 64 era of gaming, or even prior. However, the fact of the matter is indie games and the developers alike have been finding success through the use of Valve and Steam, allowing their games to be provided to players whether the game is in early access form, or is on the verge of being green lit or approved through Kickstarter. A lot of the success of these games start off as a PC port of course, but some have even become full releases across different platforms like Xbox One, Playstation 4, and other gaming companies have prompted certain consoles to allow for cross platform play, so that these games can find even more success, if not already.
Of course, there are the select few that will look at indie developers and wonder why they waste their time on trying to sell a game that hasn’t been finished, and you have to take into consideration that these developers have huge aspirations in mind. And while some have been able to put that forward and bring in the big dollars, some have fallen short, but only to the point where their port of the game is only available through PC. In this article, I would like to focus on the more successful indie games and the developers alongside them that have been able to bring forth an idea and work on it to create a phenomenon in the title alone.
Broforce is a side-scrolling run-and-gun platform game developed by Free Lives and published by Devolver Digital. It involves the character spawning as several popular characters as they progress through each level wrecking the faces of enemies with heavy artillery and weaponry. They provide famous playable characters like Chuck Norris, Mr. T and Ellen Ripley. While the game has seen tremendous success throughout 2015 and 2016, the birth of Broforce was through means of game jam and was later picked up with popular support prompting it to become an early access game. Since then, the game has been successful through PC and Playstation 4 with very positive overall reviews on Steam with nearly 300 people reviewing it recently. Given its ridiculously over the top nature and throwbacks to popular culture, there’s no reason this game shouldn’t see more success, and as it stands now, it’s a damn good game to play if you’re looking for something that fills that void of pure ridiculousness.
14. Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy has become a cultural phenomenon prompting it to be known as one of the hardest platform games ever made. Along with the creative characters and level design, the overall game design follows a trend of not allowing the player to make any mistake, or be it a small one. Edmund McMillen,, who is also known for The Binding of Isaac and its sequels, and Tommy Refenes, also known for Owl Country and Hoopworld among other titles, designed Super Meat Boy. Since the initial release of Super Meat Boy in 2010, the game has not only spawned several releases throughout consoles and PC ports alike, but it has also become a phenomenon in the speed running genre as people attempt to become the fastest Super Meat Boy player. While this may not seem like such an enormous feat, you have to consider how difficult this game is to master. It allows close to no error and to master the game in its entirety and complete it in a short amount of time are both styles of accomplishment that is nearly insurmountable.
13. The Binding of Isaac
Back in 2011, the world was gifted for what has become a significant phenomenon in not only the gaming industry, but in the Youtube industry alike. Edmund McMillen, who was previously known for Super Meat Boy, went on to design and publish The Binding of Isaac that quickly became one of the finest examples of a rogue-like the world had ever seen. Throughout its stages of development, people latched onto the idea of being able to continuously play the game due to its nature of repetitive play dependent on unlocking items and floor-by-floor mechanics. Although the game was as popular as it was back in the day, it was made in Flash which quickly became an obsolete program as time went on, so the only true DLC this game ever saw was Wrath of the Lamb which still took the world by storm giving the game the amount of continuous success it has. Although Edmund McMillen was only expecting to sell a few hundred copies of the game, as of 2014, there have been over 3 million copies of both the original game and the Wrath of the Lamb add-on. It’s safe to say that this particular title is what prompted the continuous growth of rogue-like titles.
12. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Of course, with any form of success of a game, a sequel is to be expected and of course that is what we got in regards to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Although not so much of a sequel that it is a remake, it’s the second official game in the series prompting it to be considered a sequel. When the initial release date made itself known back in 2014, this game not only saw the same positive feedback that the original game saw, but it also continued on the legacy of being one of the best rogue-like games ever made, which prompted several different mods and an Afterbirth expansion which allowed even more items to unlock in an already jam packed game. The plot in this expansion is of course the same as its original predecessor, however it has an updated engine, graphics, and the game play feels so much more immersive. Since its release, the combined original titles and the remakes have seen over 5 million copies being sold as of 2015.
Developed and published by Mossmouth, Spelunky follows the rogue-like formula by allowing the players to traverse through procedurally generated caves while fighting enemies and collecting treasure. The game was originally only made for Windows in 2008 but as successful games go, it was later ported to Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Playstation 4. Throughout the years, the game kept a consistently high rating across all platforms with different websites keeping the game at a 9/10 rating and Steam giving it a very positive overall rating based on over 6,000 reviews. Much like The Binding of Isaac that came later, Spelunky is one of the first examples of a rogue-like video game that prompted the genre to expand throughout the years, only until The Binding of Isaac pushed that even further. People still play Spelunky to this day and enjoy it just as much as they did upon its original release.
Although the original alpha version of Rimworld was released back in 2013, the game gained prominent success recently as it was released on Steam as an early access game in July of 2016. The game follows the genre of construction and management simulation much like a real time strategy game and the like. It involves ensuring your colony stays alive as long as possible and doing whatever you can to help them survive and gain comfort in the area of the players choosing. Although the game is still in its early access stage, the Steam copy has kept an overwhelmingly positive overall review of the game based on over 4,000 reviews. People often praise the game for its overwhelming amount of content mixed with its super immersive game play and straight forward game mechanics that follows a sort of “easy to learn, but tough to master” concept. Currently, the game is set at a $30 price tag, and for some an early access game should be cheaper, but I imagine this could be the exception as people have already been calling this game a Game of the Year potential for 2016 for its AAA title quality.
9. Darkest Dungeon
Darkest Dungeon has been known to many as being one of the most difficult independent games made to date, while still allowing it to be accessible for new players. The game was developed and published by an indie game company known as Red Hook Studios. Darkest Dungeon not only takes the concept of dungeon crawling and rogue-like elements much like The Binding of Isaac and others, but it also takes the difficulty of Dark Souls and mixes it with a goth theme and side scrolling mechanic allowing the game to feel so immersive and dark for all the right reasons. Since its release, the game has seen overwhelmingly positive reviews prompting it to be ported across multiple platforms like Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. The game has also gained several video game award nominations and has sold nearly 700,000 copies. If you’re looking to sink yourself into a difficult indie game and aren’t willing to shell out the cash for Dark Souls, Darkest Dungeon is your next best bet.
Undertale has got to be one of the most successful, if not the most successful, indie game we’ve seen in recent years. The game was created by Toby Fox, and since its release in 2015, there has been an overwhelmingly amount of content through YouTube, and other forms of media praising this game for its mechanics, story driven aspects, and cute characters throughout. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of what the graphics looked like, apparently it was made with the notion in mind that people will be far more attached to the story and characters to care about the graphics. It’s received several perfect ratings across multiple rating systems like IGN, Destructoid, and USgamer prompting the game to become a cult phenomenon. It has been awarded several Game of the Year / Game of the Month awards among all else, and has become not only one of the most sought after indie games in recent years, but easily one of the biggest if not the biggest phenomenon to happen in recent years of gaming. I’ve not played the game myself, but I can certainly praise the game for allowing such a success to happen, and congratulations to the developer for creating such a game to allow for such a thing to occur.
7. Crypt of The Necrodancer
Much like a lot of the successful independent games, Crypt of the Necrodancer follows some of the same formula in the sense that it is a top down 2D dungeon crawler, however it comes with a twist. The game follows a character as you explore procedurally generated dungeons as is standard in rogue-like games, however Crypt of the Necrodancer adds an extra mechanic in the form of beat matching where you move based on the beat of the music playing throughout the game. Given the nature of this game, you’d expect the soundtrack to be amazing, and it delivers in such a fashion that it works as a video game soundtrack and as a stand-alone soundtrack. Danny Baranowsky is the man behind the music who became famously known for his work in the original Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy soundtracks. I imagine a lot of the success this game has brought in is not only due to the amazing mechanics brought into the rogue-like genre, but the music is super catchy that it allows players to enjoy each playthrough. I’ve also heard the game is rather difficult, so prepare yourselves if you’re about to get into it.
6. Game Dev Tycoon
Have you ever wondered what it must be like for upcoming video game developers attempting to make their name known in the industry, well with Game Dev Tycoon, you can do just that. Game Dev Tycoon follows the character as you start out as an independent game developer in your mom’s basement and you attempt to expand your brand by many means like catering to the masses and evolving your company to fit the needs of current technological advances. Greenheart Games created the game and although it has received some varying reviews, overall the game has been seen as a tremendous success in the business simulation genre, especially with Steam users giving the game a consistent 10/10 rating. Many YouTubers have done series’ on this game and constantly praising its use of simple game mechanics and added stress of managing a company the further along you go.
5. Golf With Your Friends
Golf With Your Friends is precisely what you think it is. It permits you and 11 different companions to get together through online access and play a round of scaled down golf together. However, this diversion accompanies the additional touch of giving the players the capacity to change the amusement by including certain ball mechanics and shapes to make it less demanding or harder for players to win against their companions. Golf With Your Friends found a great deal of its prosperity using the Steam Greenlight framework that allowed it to be purchased through Steam in early access. Much like numerous early access games, it is continuing to be worked on and substance is always getting tossed into it, and it has seen a considerable measure of success through YouTubers and players alike promoting its huge access to various mechanics for such a basic idea. It as of now holds an exceptionally positive appraisal in light of almost 4,300 surveys through Steam and keeps on discovering accomplishment to old and new players.
4. Rocket League
We talk about Rocket League a lot here, and there are several reasons for that, but one big one is due to its unbelievable success it has received ever since its debut back in 2015. Granted, the company that developed this game was known for other games like Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Rocket League has been seen as being one of the most, if not the most, successful indie sports game released in recent years, and has been nominated for and granted awards in the independent gaming industry.
Upon release, people were already all over the idea of being able to use rocket powered cars in a game of soccer, however in such a short span of time, the game was not only given a port the following year to other platforms, but has also become an official eSport along with being thrown into the category for sports championships, and Psyonix has held several different tournaments for fans and players alike. The game continues to receive a tremendous amount of success and Psyonix has given free content as well as cheap DLC’s to allow the players to continue to enjoy the game and not break the bank while doing so. It consistently gets praised for its addictive and competitive nature, which my nearly 200 hours of game play can show evidence of that.
3. Hotline Miami
Hotline Miami is a 2D top down action game developed by Swedish independent game developer Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital and follows the character as you go from chapter to chapter shooting the bad guys that take homage to certain buildings you walk into. The game has been consistently praised for its fast-paced action nature on top of its tremendous difficulty and art style mixed with a blood-boiling soundtrack. Along many gaming websites and platforms, Hotline Miami has become received tremendous success with ratings in the 85%’s and above. It’s also been nominated for several awards in the Best PC Game, Best PC Action Game and Best PC Story categories but only won the Best PC Sound award. Although Hotline Miami has and continues to receive generally positive reviews through several outlets, the sequel Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number received unfavorable reviews which prompts the idea that if you’ve got a good thing going, don’t ruin it. It is unfortunate for the developers to make a “trash tier” sequel, however let it be known that Hotline Miami is certainly deserving of its continued success and growth.
2. Don’t Starve
By now, everybody knows about Don’t Starve, and are probably well aware of its continued success and ability to bring new players into the realm of “the need to survive.” Don’t Starve was developed and published by a Canadian indie company named Klei Entertainment who is also known for Invisible Inc., and Mark of the Ninja. Since its debut in 2013, Don’t Starve has been ported over to Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and many other forms of technology allowing it to breath in the overwhelming success. The game ties together survival and rogue-like elements and prompts the player to survive by any means necessary be it building a base or fighting off monsters during the day and surviving through the night. It has received generally favorable reviews among multiple magazines and websites praising the visual, sounds, and game play aesthetic that allows the player to really feel the stresses of the need to survive. It has also seen several updates and DLC’s like Don’t Starve Together and Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants that allows the game to continuously grow its fan base and allows each player to have something they can enjoy.
1. Rogue Legacy
Developed by Cellar Door Games, Rogue Legacy is a side scrolling rogue-like platformer with action and adventure elements. While this game does follow the same concept as some other side scrolling games, this particular game adds a bit of a twist for when each time you die, you respawn as the heir of the previous player, which allows you to feel more connected to a certain line of characters. The other added quirk is each player will come with a specific set of disabilities and skills that you can use to your advantage or disadvantage throughout the game.
Since its debut in 2013, Rogue Legacy has become accessible through many consoles like Xbox and Playstation, making it seem possible for other indie games to make their way into the console world. It continues to receive generally positive reviews and has been praised for its unique take on the rogue-like genre while still holding its own charm and aesthetic for many players to enjoy and continue to enjoy. It’s also been praised for how hard the game is if you go in unprepared, but it becomes easier to handle if you’ve got the right setup and gear, which you receive the more you play, giving the player a sense of progression and success.