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I'm behind on my indie games. Like, way behind. Amidst the windstorm of new video game releases every year, I often feel obligated to hit the big names — the Zeldas, the Halos, the Grand Theft Autos. I enjoy committing my hours to AAA games, but it leaves me little time to play lesser-known, independently developed titles, a fact that I'm frankly not proud of. One of my goals of 2014 is to do better on that front.
The following list isn't an argument for "The Best Indie Games of All Time." It's simply a place for me to keep track of any indie games that leave me thinking, "Hey, I should really jot down something about this." One good thing about indie games is that they're generally less than 10 or even 5 hours long, which means that 1.) I can reasonably play them in one sitting, giving me a better sense of the game as a whole, and 2.) I can play more of them.
This list will ultimately serve as my personal indie game compendium, and I'll be updating and adding to it over time. I appreciate you stopping by, and I'd love to read your thoughts in the comment section below.
Fez As much as I hate to inflate Phil Fish's ego any more than it has been, I have to give credit where it's due; Fez is a work of pure craftsmanship, perhaps even genius. His level design is flawless. His puzzles are mind-bending. His satisfying use of sound and music is ripe with video game nostalgia. His overall aesthetic, painstakingly crafted down to the last detail, is what every indie developer dreams of (or what they should dream of, at least). I had a blast playing Fez, and I still haven't discovered all of its secrets. It's a brilliant game filled with challenge and wonder, and, as of now, it's probably the most well-designed indie game I've ever played.
Braid is a masterpiece. Not only is it visually gorgeous, it demands some seriously heavy thinking from players, both in its platforming gameplay and narrative philosophies. I fell in love with the game's time-manipulation mechanics, and I also appreciate the fact that Braid doesn't punish players for dying (I generally suck at platformers). Jonathan Blow, Braid's designer, is one of the featured developers in Indie Game: The Movie, and it's evident from watching him work that he's a calm, collected, and exceptionally smart human being. I'm very much looking forward to The Witness, his upcoming 3D puzzle game.
Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsIf you ever need to show someone that video games are a legitimate and unique form of storytelling, show them Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. This game doesn't merely rely on cinematic cutscenes to tell its story, it semlessly combines gameplay and narrative in a way that showcases the very power of the video game medium. Easily beatable in a single sitting, Brothers takes players on a journey full of joy, adversity, and the complexities of sorrow. I'm not ashamed to say that, in the game's climactic moments, my face was soaked with big, wet tears. I never did have a brother, but if I did, I certainly would have given him a hug after beating this game.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2Geometry Wars 2 may have come out in 2008, but it's still my go-to party game. As you can surmise from the screenshot above, this game is all about fast-paced, neon, twin-stick chaos. By supporting four total players, both competitively and cooperatively, it authentically recreates an arcade experience right in your living room. Warning: Not for the faint of heart (or those predisposed to seizures).
Monument Valley is short and sweet. It only lasts about 90 minutes from start to finish, but in those 90 minutes players encounter creative puzzles, perspective-altering stages, and a cryptic world that is both empty and beautiful. M.C. Escher would be proud of this game. One of my favorite aspects of Monument Valley, though, is that its touch-based controls feel right at home on the iPhone/iPad. I would definitely buy a sequel to this game.