This last year has seen the maturation of many great independent game developers who, through services like Steam or Xbox Live, have been able to more widely release their content. Recent years have brought us some great indie hits like Limbo, Super Meat Boy, and Castle Crashers. Indie games are not just for hipsters, anymore!
These games may not have the same resources as your Battlefields or Uncharteds but what they lack in budget size, they make up for in creative game mechanics, beautiful art design, and/or stories that transcend the gaming norms. DO NOT FRET! It is not too late to play these indie gems and you can get them all at a low price; these are the Top 5 Indie Games of 2011.
(Mode 7 Games)
Utilizing turn-based combat, Frozen Synapse has the player controlling a team of armed soldiers, neutralizing enemies and completing objectives. What separate Frozen Synapse from other games in this genre is the level of detail of which players can dictate their soldiers’ movements and actions; this includes condition-based orders such as taking cover after returning fire or ignoring enemies in favor of higher-priority objectives. It is surprising how well Mode 7 was able to implement such an imaginative concept. We hope to see them expound upon these mechanics on a larger scale in a sequel.
Dungeon exploring can get lonely, so why not bring a friend or three along? Dungeon Defenders takes a new spin on the over-crowded dungeon-crawler genre, downplaying many of the regular rpg elements in favor of making it a fun, four-player arcade experience. The player chooses from the monk, squire, wizard, or huntress. Players protect “cores” from oncoming enemies to collect loot and continue to new levels. The star of the show, here, is the level of character customization; players can loot any buy tons of different armors, weapons, and items. Dungeon Defenders continues the theme of accessibility with a cartoonish art style that can appeal to both kids and adults, similar to Torchlight. This game is all about fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
(Mommy’s Best Games)
Serious Same Double D is one-third of a trio of Serious Sam indie games released in the weeks leading up to the release of Serious Sam 3: BFE. Double D is the most outstanding entry, a side-scrolling shooter, developed by Mommy’s Best Games, developers of Weapon of Choice from Xbox Live’s indie section. SSDD features many of the staples of the Serious Sam series; bug guns, over-the-top enemies, and an off-kilter sense of humor. The game’s bright palette of colors and constant kinetic motion give it a visual flare. The most interesting feature lies in the ability to stack weapons on each other to create a weapons one might see in their nightmares. Double D could possibly contend with Serious Sam 3, itself, as this game will give you hours of ridiculous entertainment for a fraction of the price of a full game. If the following video is up your alley, chances are, so will this game. (NSFW)
Though it has been in beta since 2010, the brainchild of Swedish mastermind, Markus “Notch” Persson, released in full retail version just this November. For the two of you who aren’t yet familiar with Minecraft yet, it features a large landscape in which the player can explore, gather resources, defend themselves from hostiles, and craft anything from weapons to full buildings. The new, retail version features added items, an experience system, new areas, and lots of tweaks to the already winning formula. Strongly community-supported, Minecraft has risen to immense fame overnight, and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for a game you can visit for 30 minutes at a time or to play all night, you must absolutely give Minecraft a play. For those on the fence, Mojang still offers a basic, browser-based version of the game on their site.
Bastion is the epitome of what makes indie games so great. The developers, Supergiant Games, is a team of only 7 people that started in a basement in San Jose, CA. It is amazing that so few people could have created a game so jam-packed with excellent production values. From the raspy-voiced narrator of your every action, to the beautiful hand-drawn environments, to the fluid combat controls, Supergiant has shown that indie games can tell great stories while maintaining a high level of polish. You are cast into the shoes of “The Kid”, one of the few human survivors of an apocalypse-like catastrophy that leaves his world in fractured, floating pieces. As The Kid tries to solve the mystery of what has happened to his world, the player will explore varying environments that look like watercolor paintings while being treated to a soundtrack that ranges between bluegrass and industrial rock. It is difficult to give any more concrete details without spoiling the phenomenal story so I recommend that you go check out this terrific game on XBLA.