Gaming has come a long way since its quarter-devouring arcade days and so has the software, but that doesn’t always mean great results. There are countless titles out there that blew people’s minds and will be cherished forever, but with such a quickly growing, highly competitive industry, this isn’t always the case. When demand overpowers quality many ideas are chopped up and scraped down to the bare minimum until all that’s left is a fraction of what could have been. It seems that the business end of things has gotten in the way of developing great games: money has once again become more important than the end product.
With the birth of AAA titles (games with a high budget and massive promotional campaigns), gamers were given a way to differentiate the good games from the bad ones and for the most part this was true. With games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the Grand Theft Auto and Elder Scrolls series as well as The Last of Us, gamers couldn’t be happier.
However, not all games coming out under the classification of AAA ended up being great games, as more often than not ideas are recycled and reused. The problem here is that the basic mechanics that made us all fall in love with video games were lacking. Graphics became more important than controls. Online mechanics shut out the story elements. The bottom line? Some games are just not what they used to be.
Luckily, this all changed in the later half of the 2000s with the birth of indie games. Indie game developers have brought back the feel of those old classics we all know and love. Most of these developers are die hard video game fans themselves, and even though they don’t have the budget or resources of a AAA studio title, they’ve still managed to come out with some of the best and most entertaining video games of the 21st century. Below is a list containing just a few of the great indie titles that have come out so far.
10. Don’t Starve
This game’s difficulty may make it a little hard to get into at first, but once you begin to understand the mechanics, you’ll be hooked. Don’t Starve is an action-adventure survival game that drops you in a randomly generated world with very minimal instructions. You will die many times, but with each death you’ll learn from your mistakes.
With its captivating, eerie art style and a soundtrack to match, you’ll feel like you’re in one of Tim Burton’s films. Crafting is a huge part of this game, so any Minecraft fans should find themselves right at home. The list of things that can kill you in this game is staggering; even venturing too far after dark will result in death, so most of your exploration should take place during the day.
9. Gone Home
If you want a captivating story that will move you and keep you at the edge of your seat the whole time, look no further. Gone Home tells a heart-pounding story that will leave its mark long after you’ve finished playing. This is much more than just another point and click mystery game. The writing feels real and relatable as it crafts a memorable experience that will have you lost in the story.
Players take control of Kaitlin Greenbriar, the eldest sister in the Greenbriar family. After returning home from a year-long trip to Europe, she finds her family is gone and their house empty. From here, players explore the spacious deserted house, unraveling the story behind her family’s whereabouts. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together has never felt so real.
From its clever puzzle-solving to its somber, ambient art style, Limbo’s genius lies in its simplicity. Indie studio Playdead managed to create one of the most unique 2D platformers that have come out for some time.
The game works off of a trial and death play-style, where the player must die multiple gruesome deaths before figuring out how to progress. You play as a young nameless boy in search for his sister, who ends up encountering an endless amount of obstacles in the process – including a giant spider that will relentlessly follow you. This dark, death-defying journey is a must-play for all video game fans.
Considering the amount of problems during the game’s development stages, it’s a miracle Fez even came out. Almost entirely programmed by Canadian developer Phil Fish, it was no small feat to tackle.
Fez is a 2D platformer set in a 3D world where you play as Gomez, a small sprite made of white pixels. After receiving a magical fez – a Turkish felt hat – at the beginning of the game, the player can rotate between four 2D versions of the map. Think of it as spinning a cube around, with each side being a fully playable 2D section of the map.
This game is huge and intricate, filled with plenty of mind-rattling puzzles. There’s even an entire language you must learn to progress in the story! The game’s filled with influences from old classics like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros, with a twist that incorporates glitches and secrets that you would only find in games from the ’80s.
This action RPG has amazing narration that guides you through each level, with a consistent variety of new and exciting upgrades and powers to unlock throughout its story.
Bastion‘s diverse levels and water color art design keeps things fresh and interesting during its single player campaign. You play as “The Kid”, welding two weapons of your choice which can be acquired at specific locations in the game.
This beautifully designed floating fantasy world developed by indie studio Supergiant Games builds itself as the player reaches the edges of the map. Selling over 3 million copies, this RPG adventure is not one to be missed.
5. Super Meat Boy
Who would have thought playing a game as a piece of raw meat would be so much fun? Designers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes showed us just how awesome it can be.
Inspired by classic games like Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Mega Man, Super Meat Boy was designed to bring back that feeling of playing an old-school Nintendo game. This frustrating, controller-smashing 2D platformer is quickly paced and unforgiving, but despite its detestably-hard features, gamers love it.
With awards for Best Downloadable Game from GameSpot and GameTrailers and over 300 levels filled with saw blades, crushing boulders and countless other obstacles, Super Meat Boy feels like a blast from the past.
Developers DrinkBox Studios really hit the nail on the head with this one. Guacamelee is an action platformer with stunningly colorful graphics, hilarious dialogue, a great story and amazing gameplay.
You play through the game as Juan, a humble farmer that is transformed into a powerful luchador upon his death. He must save El Presidente’s Daughter – Juan’s love interest and the game’s “Princess” figure – from the evil Carlos Calaca, an undead skeleton.
You will find yourself traversing multiple maps filled with secrets and countless enemies. One of this game’s strong suits is the combat: you will unlock many different attacks along the way, which can be executed through a well-designed combat system. The game’s humor is apparent, not just in the dialogue but in the gameplay as well, where you can find many references to classic video games.
A truly beautiful game with its hand-painted art style, Braid challenges the gamer with its time manipulation mechanics.
Braid is a platformer with inspiration coming from games like Prince of Persia. The story will either confuse you or pull you in (or both); it leaves you guessing until the very the end. You play as Tim in search for – you guessed it – a princess, but this game is much more than that. The story is broadened by finding hidden passages throughout the game which unravel the main characters’ motives and challenges.
Players must collect jigsaw puzzle pieces in order to progress. Most games that try to be deep often give off that sense of being pretentious. This one is different; its story elements actually add to the game and once you play around with the time-infused puzzles, you’ll be hooked.
2. Shovel Knight
If any game on this list reminds gamers of old-school classics, it would be Shovel Knight. It truly grasps the style and feel of a great Nintendo classic.
Wielding a shovel in one hand and courage in the other, you’ll venture across a beautifully designed web of levels that challenge you and your platforming skills in every way imaginable. You can upgrade your skills and find new items to assist you along the way.
Much like in Mega Man, you will find yourself choosing which level to play next based on the items you have at your disposal. Also of note is this game’s soundtrack: simply put, it’s incredible. Fans of that old school gaming sound will find themselves in 8 bit heaven. You can even find hidden songs in the levels which you can later trade-in to the town Bard.
Shovel Knight is truly a masterpiece and belongs in any gamer’s library.
With over 70 million in sales and the result of a 2.5 billion dollar buyout, it should come as no surprise that Minecraft made the number one spot on the list.
This gigantic, open-world sandbox blew up in 2011, releasing first on the PC and then later on the Xbox. For those few that don’t already know, Minecraft is all about building: you can literally build anything you want! Think of it as the virtual version of Lego.
The crafting system in Minecraft is its heart and soul. There are minor instructions on how to build things, but it’s all very logical… for the most part. If you need wood, cut down a tree; if you need a rock, dig a hole. Things like glass require a bit more effort, but a lot of the fun lies in figuring it out.
The idea of being able to build or just simply explore whatever you want is intriguing and this game lets you do just that. Minecraft is one of those games you can play for twenty minutes or ten hours: it caters to almost anyone.
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