So far in our Indie Week coverage, we’ve discussed the music of Braid, talked about the defining characteristics of great indie games, and even interviewed Bastion creators Supergiant Games. But you may be asking yourself, what are OUR favorite indie games? Well wonder no longer as we talked to several employees of Aspyr Media, asking them to pick 7 of their favorite indie games and what makes them so great. Read on to find which games they think are a cut above the rest.
This action RPG game started its life as an XBOX Live Arcade exclusive, but it got such overwhelmingly positive press and sales that the company ported it to many systems, including the iPad and Mac. You play as “The Kid,” traversing a gorgeous hand-painted, floating world of peril as you search for shards of a rock to power a structure called the Bastion. The Kid travels through each level battling enemies with two different weapons that can be used strategically as a combo for explosive results. With an intriguing and unique narration mechanic and spell-binding music, this game is like playing a beautiful painting. A painting that you have to fight against in order to survive.
“More than just a beautiful explosion of watercolors, Bastion features very satisfying gameplay with tight controls. Plus, the ability to customize the combat abilities of the Kid adds a ton of unique ways to progress though the game while offering great replayability.” – Russ Looney
Traverse the dark and eerie world of Limbo as a small boy, silent but full of purpose. Solve physics puzzels and avoid horrifying enemies in order to continue through the dreary nightmare world to find your lost sister. This game is like a German Expressionist film in the form of a game with its hard shadows foreboding menace in every level. The unique art style and use of the platforming genre as a way to think through your actions instead of madly jumping around is refreshing. Just think twice about playing it alone with the lights out.
“It has incredible artwork that is truly unique. Also, I still vividly remember the first time I encountered a spider in that game. It was terrifying.” – Kellen Kincaid
What a long and strange history this game has had. From the mind of gaming legend Tim Schafer and created by Double Fine, this game appeared on the PS2 and no one noticed. Yet when Double Fine put it out independently years later on PC and Mac, it became an underground hit. You play the game as Raz, short for a Razputin, a child who has psychic abilities and runs away from the circus to go to psychic summer camp to train to become a Psychonaut. Once he gets to the summer camp of his dreams, not all is as it seems, as he must travel through (and under) the camp to discover sinister dealings. He must save the camp and world one mind at a time by stopping a nefarious plot! With humor, action and unforgettable character interactions, this game is in a class all of its own.
“It’s like Scanners meets a typical summer camp meets Invader Zim! Okay, that’s a weird comparison but that’s because it’s hard to pin this game down. Hilarious, action-packed and stuffed with more weird humor than you can shake a psychic bear at, this game should be mandatory for anyone who thinks there aren’t any games doing comedy well…and for every other gamer too.” – Jarad Matula
This game is so unique, it’s hard to describe it without going to great lengths. You play as a woman known as The Scythian, traveling through a surreal world of peril that exists both in reality and dream, frequently switching between the two. Using retro graphics with beautiful modern effects and a stellar soundtrack, this game’s point-and-click adventure meets sword-fighting action has to be played to be believed.
“Like a lot of our indie picks, this one features a unique look and a killer soundtrack (seriously–you’ll be humming the Lone Star track for the next week). However, it’s one of the few games I’ve actually set aside time to play on iOS. Now that it’s available on Mac, there’s absolutely no excuse to miss out on this indie gem.” – Russ Looney
Get ready to turn the platforming genre on its head with this game. Using gorgeous visuals that look like a pastels painting, you travel through level after level solving puzzles using the unique ability to rewind time, which not only helps you when you mess up, but is sometimes the key to unlocking the secrets to progress. This plays with the idea of a gaming hero and has a plot and ending that can’t be explained or spoiled, they just have to be played. As you’ve already read on this blog, it has beautiful music too.
“This is the game that introduced me to the indie scene, so it seemed like a must have in our top indie list (for me at least). My favorite part of Braid is the gameplay. The ability to rewind time made for a puzzle game unlike anything I had played previously.” – Kellen Kincaid
At first glance it seems like a cutesy retro-throwback, but don’t let it’s nostalgia-inducing graphics fool you–underneath is a witty and acerbic game taking a huge swing at the gaming industry, challenging the business practices of big companies wanting to charge for DLC and micro-transactions. You have to “buy” everything in the game, including basic movement! If you want a fun platformer with biting commentary through in-game jokes and actions, look no further.
“DLC Quest – I love satire, and even more so when it is aimed at the industry I work for. DLC Quest is far more than comedy however. It controls well, stays imaginative throughout, and does a great job of actually feeling like a retro game of old.” – Michael Blair
From the mind of Maniac Mansion creator Ron Gilbert and created by the outstanding people at Double Fine, you control a party of three characters from a stable of seven to choose, all of which come from diverse moments in time and space. Each has their own backstory and secrets that manifest in the unique manifestations that appear once they enter the cave. With levels unique to each of these characters and endings for all seven, it’s a game that begs to be replayed many times to fully appreciate the great graphics, clever level design and revelation that happens to each of these characters. This action/puzzle game’s graphics are just the right mix of cartoon and realism, with music complimentary of each character’s personality.
“It’s like Maniac Mansion for the modern era. If you know what that means, great, if not, check out that game too. Great level designs, unforgettable characters and the signature style of weird humor that made Ron Gilbert and LucasArts famous back in the day lives on in the spirit of The Cave. With so much reply value, this game is well worth your time and money.” – Jarad Matula
For an easily digestible list of the games discussed here today, check out our Indie Collection on GameAgent. Was your favorite indie game featured here? Did we break your heart by not picking a certain game? Make sure we know in the comments!