The best thing about indie games development – and what separates it from AAA development – is that you’re considerably more likely to come across unique, unusual, and interesting ideas. It’s tough to say why that is. Maybe it’s because smaller developers need to try harder to be noticed. Failure is definitely a distinct possibility, so they need to try much, much harder than they would otherwise. Maybe it’s also the fact that originality isn’t always a rewarding pursuit – a lot of larger developers are accountable to either shareholders or publishers (who are usually accountable to shareholders) – nowhere is this more evident than EA.
Whatever the reason, there are some amazing independent titles out there. Today, I’m going to share just a few with you. And hey, those of you who haven’t already should check out the Humble Indie Bundle website. Watch that page – there are some amazing games available to those who donate. Yes, I’m aware you can download them without donating…but I maintain that you’re a terrible person if you do.
Anyway, to the list…
Although this game is fairly small (and quite simple), it makes the list based on creativity alone. It’s a top-down action/adventure game, which very obviously takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda. The whole premise of the game is that you’ve got to wander around collecting chests, which ‘unlock’ new features in the game meant to represent the evolution of the games industry (and consequently, the increasing complexity of video games). It’s a fun idea, and even though it’s not going to keep you occupied for hours, it’s worth a look based on artistic merit alone.
Amazing music? Check. Intriguing story? It’s got that. Refreshing and unique platforming elements? Definitely. Aquaria is an underwater platformer in which you play Naija, a mermaid-type character who appears to be the last of her people, and has access to a mysterious form of magic which involves music. That music can be used to manipulate the environment, change shape, and fight against Naija’s various enemies. There’s also a crafting system, and it’s more or less free-roaming (think Metroid). I could keep gushing, but I don’t think I’m doing it justice. Just play it, and see for yourself.
You can’t really be surprised to see this game on the list. After all, it’s one of the most legendary indie games in the world. The brainchild of an eccentric, quiet Chinese man known only as “Pixel,” Cave Story is entertaining, polished, and well-designed. It takes the player back to a simpler time in gaming, and places an emphasis on exploration, with a number of areas to explore and a number of weapons (and upgrades) available to Quote, the main character (he’s a robot). The story’s not half-bad, either. Give it a look, it’s free (though you can purchase the enhanced edition on Steam, if you’d like).
I’ve wasted many, many hours with this one. For those who don’t know about it, Dungeons of Dredmor is a Roguelike. It’s a roleplaying game where maps and enemies are randomized to an extent, death is permanent (if your character bites the dust, your save file is deleted – though you can disable this, if you like), and the whole point of the game is to gain better equipment and level up, then hunt down Lord Dredmor and smash his face in.
It’s good fun. The game has a light-hearted bent to it, with an oft-twisted sense of humor, chock full of references to gaming culture(you could probably write a book chronicling all of them). It’s a lot of fun, even if there is the occasional game breaking bug.
I never thought a sixteen-bit survival horror game would actually give me the creeps…then I played Lone Survivor. The enemies you face are disturbing, to say the least (Silent Hill comes to mind…), but where the game really shines is where it starts messing with the player. It’s called a “psychological” survival game for a reason, folks. Play it- it’s worth a look.