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I have to preface this list with the caveat that my definition of the term "indie game" is different than the true definition of that term. A true indie game would be one made and released without the support of a major publisher. Something like Amnesia or Minecraft. For me though, I didn't have access to a gaming capable PC so I missed most of the big indie games on Steam. So I'm including games that were published by Sony, Microsoft and some of the other big publishers because for me, the games still represent what makes for a truly great independent product. Also keep in mind that while I try to play as many downloadable games as I can, I still miss some. For instance, even though I've heard great things about Spelunky, I just haven't had a chance to play it yet.
So without further ado, here is my list of the best indie games that I've had the pleasure to play so far in 2012...
Fez Polytron (XBLA)
This game has been a long time coming. Digging into the expansive, 3-D in a 2-D world of Fez makes it clear why that is. Fez may look simple on the surface, but as players explore the world looking for golden cubes by rotating each area a million times over and exploring every nook and cranny, the depth of the experience presents itself. This is one game that doesn't hold player's hands at all. It's challenging, it will hurt your head and it may just keep you up at night, but that's the beauty of Fez's unassuming brutality.
Kingdom Rush Ironhide Games (iOS, PC)
I have a confession. I didn't play this game very much at all. But I spent countless hours watching Taryn play it on her iPad and was mesmerized by how simple and addictive its tower defense gameplay is. Kingdom Rush tasks players with utilizing several er... um... towers to fend off waves of fantasy themed baddies. The balancing and progression is pitch perfect and will have you constantly coming back for more and tapping away at your iPad furiously for months. This is one of the best tower defense games on iOS (which is saying a lot since the genre is way oversaturated).
Journey thatgamecompany (PSN)
Thatgamecompany has created not only one of my favorite indie games of this year, but quite possibly my favorite game of the year. Period. The beautiful adventure tasks you with reaching the top of a mountain by hiking and floating through caves, deserts, underground temples and blizzards to reach that fateful summit. It's a profound statement on life, death religion and love that is best shared with a partner over Playstation Network. Even though you won't be able to talk and you won't even know their name, by the end of the game you will have built a powerful emotional connection to your anonymous partner.
The Walking Dead Telltale Games (XBLA, PSN, PC, iOS)
Telltale's episodic zombie series seems to have everyone on my Twitter feed completely enthralled. This is one video game adaptation that balances the line between reverence for its source material and a unique vision that stands tall on its own merits. This series has proven that episodic gaming is not only financially viable, but is a great way to tell a story in the video game medium. Each episode has become an event as players wait with bated breath to see what awaits these characters that Telltale's writing staff so perfectly defined. Clementine and Lee are believable and relatable. You will care about them no matter how hard you try not to.
Sound Shapes Queasy Games (PSVita, PS3)
This game blends music with platforming gameplay to make players feel like they had a hand in creating a piece of music. The musical notes interact with the obstacles and enemies to make players focus on the sound as well as the visuals. The real lasting appeal in Sound Shapes comes from its simple but deep level creator. Unlike other titles like LBP, this game's level creator program is accessible even to amateurs like myself. It has created a still thriving community that has in-turn created thousands of excellent levels, giving Sound Shapes a lasting appeal that few indie games can claim.
Mark of the Ninja Klei Entertainment (XBLA)
I wasn't really a fan of stealth games when I played Mark of the Ninja. But by cutting all the extraneous of the genre and focusing solely on pure stealth, Klei has created one of the best entries in the genre to date. I compare it to a puzzle game. The game gives players all the tools and communicates all of their options to them so that when presented with a challenge, they always feel like a badass.
The Unfinished Swan Giant Sparrow (PSN)
The Unfinished Swan could have been written and created as a children's novel, but it was instead brought to life through the world of video games. And as such, it plays like a storybook come to life. I derived a childlike sense of wonder discovering the different areas of the game and using paint in new and fascinating ways. The story in the game is simple but poignant, touching on love, creativity, discovery and family. It's new, but I've played it twice already and can't wait to jump back into it's wonderful world.
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack (PSVita)
Black Mesa East (PC)
Papo & Yo (PSN)
That's my list. Thanks for reading and...
Stay classy Game Informer!