I’ve played quite a few indie games this year, although not nearly as many as I’d have liked to! This post is about my favourite ones that I’d like to recommend to you.
Not all of them were released in 2011, but I’ve included them because they were new to me. Also there may be some obvious “big name” indie games missing from this list, and that’s either because I didn’t get round to playing them yet, or I didn’t like them as much as these games.
So on with the list. I’ve split it into platforms (note that I didn’t play any Facebook games or Handheld (DS, PSP etc) games this year).
*** PC ***
To the Moon
Wow, what a game! This adventure game is more about the story than the basic game mechanics. The great pixel art and atmospheric music just add to the whole experience. This game made me cry more than once and that’s pretty impressive in my book.
This game is basically a giant montage of atmospheric photos that you navigate around to piece together the story of a women in coma. Sounds weird, and it is, but I liked it a lot.
Serious Sam: The Random Encounter
Made by well-known devs, Vlambeer, this game has some great Serious Sam humour in it, all the familiar monsters rendered in fantastic pixel art, and an interesting JRPG type of fighting mechanic crossed with an arcade shooter. Wasn’t very long but I loved every minute.
This game is made by a friend of mine, but I’m not adding it to my list because I know him – I’m adding it because it’s really good! This fast-paced strategy game about destroying hordes of aliens is only out as a beta right now. I recently playtested it and really enjoyed it. The best thing is, it’s going to get even better based on the plans I’ve heard from the developer!
Yes I know this isn’t new but I only just got round to playing it. I loved the aesthetics and the old-skool gameplay and kept coming back to it despite the rock-hard difficulty.
Machinarium is an adventure game with a unique art style and is the latest game by the developer who made the Samorost Flash games (also excellent). I played it through to the end with my boys and we loved it! Some tricky puzzles but there’s a built-in hint system to help you out.
Magicka has a unique mechanic that lets you combine different elements to come up with awesome spells to defeat your enemies. But it’s not a turn-based game, it’s an arcade game set in great-looking environments, so you’ve got to think quickly to survive!
I’m a fan of twin-stick shooter games and this one by Charlie’s Games didn’t disappoint. Jam-packed with special effects, frantic gameplay and extremely varied levels, this game should not be missed if you are a fan of the genre.
I saw a video of this vertical shmup with lush pixel graphics and knew instantly that it was my type of game. I bought it and love it. Great old-skool shoot ‘em up, very well made. Don’t miss it if you like this sort of game.
I love the look and feel of this game. It’s like a classic Commodore 64 game that never existed! VVVVVV is a futuristic platform game with an unusual jumping mechanic that leads to fiendish puzzles. Probably you’ve all heard of it already, but if you haven’t played it yet, do yourself a favour and download it now (or play it on Nintendo 3DS).
Yes I know we’ve all played it, and most of us really started playing it last year, and it’s already on every other top indie game list, but it’s that good that I had to mention it. I own three licenses so that I can play it multiplayer with my boys and they spend hours on it each week installing mods etc. Amazing game – a phenomenon in fact.
*** iPad ***
Think I heard about this game via Twitter. Anyway, I downloaded it one morning in bed and then just stayed there for several hours until I beat it. A really great old-skool shoot ‘em up with a Space Invaders type feel (except more fun) and great pixel art. Highly recommended.
Sword and Sworcery
Kept hearing about this game and wasn’t disappointed when I bought it. Lovely graphics and interesting story – it’s a very enjoyable game. Only bummer was my son erased my game halfway through so he could play it! grr…
Perfectly suited to iPad, this puzzle game where you have to basically shine a light to kill as many monsters as possible is better than it sounds. Try it out.
This is a physics-based game where you set up elaborate, uh, contraptions to collect various stars dotted around the level, often with a ball. Great fun and well-suited to iPad, plus has a cool level editor.
*** XBLA ***
Pretty much everyone has played this on one platform or another. I played it on XBLA which is the platform it feels like the game was designed for. Lovely graphics, really cool voiceover and fun game mechanics. I enjoyed trying to beat all the weapon challenges although some of them drove me nuts.
*** XBLIG ***
Aban Hawkins & the 1000 spikes
This game is FLIPPING HARD! You start with 1000 lives and have to beat really hard old-skool pixel art levels. It’s like Rick Dangerous (from the Amiga) with the difficulty dial turned up to 11, but is super-satisfying when you beat a level after losing about 100 lives.
Kung Fu Fight
This little gem could have easily been missed. Only later on did I realise it’s basically Bit.Trip.Runner with a Kung Fu scenario. Anyway it was challenging, but not too challenging, and had a great retro feel. I loved it and played it in one sitting until I beat it.
A unique platform puzzle game with an unusual protagonist (a goat). Made by the same dev who made Soulcaster I and II, I highly recommend you check this game out.
This actually came out in December 2010 I think but I had to mention it because it’s such a great game. It’s like a tower defense and Gauntlet mashup. Really great idea and well made.
This expertly crafted 8-bit style roguelike actually came out in 2010 and was called Epic Dungeon. For some reason the developer, Eyehook Games had to rebrand it, but they also upgraded it at the same time. My boys and I all spent many hours on this.
*** PSN ***
I just bought a PS3 and have been checking out the PSN games. There are some great ones on there but I haven’t played many yet. The following games aren’t new but as I said at the beginning they are new to me, and also epic, so check ‘em out.
I keep tying to type “Shatner”. Oh well. Anyway, this breakout clone has fantastic “glowing line” type graphics and loads of new cool game mechanics. My wife wanted to watch Boston Legal and I delayed her by playing this for ages.
Super Stardust HD
I had the original game for my Amiga 1200 and it was epic. This one involves blowing up asteroids and aliens as you fly in 3D around a planet. Not sure if it’s indie; hope so though because it’s amazing!
Wow, what a fantastic year for indie games! We’ve all been spoiled and I’m looking forward to seeing some more awesome indie games in 2012.
Sorry to all the indies whose games I’ve missed out, hopefully I’ll get to some of them next year!
What games have I missed out that you’d like to recommend? Thanks.