Once upon a time videogames were about as far from the main stream as they could possibly be. There wasn’t a lot of money to be made making and designing videogames, and while the fan base for them was growing, it was certainly a slow process. It’s only been within the past few decades where companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have been able to release videogames popular enough to capture the attention of an entire generation as well as be knocking on the door of Hollywood. But now that there are well-established videogame corporations with the intent of making videogame solely for the masses, fans have looked for videogames that focus more on the videogame experiences, especially young adults that want to try and recapture the childlike wonder they experienced from the videogames they played growing up. This is where indie videogames come into play.
As it turns out, you don’t need hundreds of people to make a videogame: if you’re talented enough and have the resolve, you can make a videogame with just a small team of people or even by yourself. Indie games tend to have either 1 or 2 people or a small team working on a passion project of theirs that focus on a particular message, whether it be the story within the game or the environment that the game takes place in setting a certain tone. Whatever the message, some of the best indie videogames have been able to capture not only that childlike wonder but also unique experiences that very few other videogames have been able to offer. Keeping all of that in mind, here are the Top 10 Indie Videogames.
10. The Binding of Isaac
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux
- Publisher: Edmund McMillen
- Developer: Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl
- Release Date: September 28, 2011
The Binding of Isaac is a perfect example of a game made by only a couple of people that would reach millions. Roughly based off of the biblical story of the same name, the game focuses on a young boy named Isaac who takes refuge in his basement to escape from his deranged mother, only to come face to face with horrible monsters, each more terrifying than the last. Isaac must defeat these monsters while collecting items to get stronger until he reaches the final boss: his mother. The game received a lot of praise not only for its multiple playthroughs due to its basis in the roguelike genre, but also for its dungeon resembling those of the iconic Legend of Zelda series. It also served as a way for the main creator, Edmund McMillen, to address his feelings regarding both the best and worst aspects of what religion had to offer. All in all, for a game that McMillen didn’t feel would reach a wide audience, it ended up striking a chord. If you like both the Legend of Zelda series and are a fan of McMillen’s first big hit, Super Meat Boy, then this would be a game worth playing.
9. Ori and the Blind Forest
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows and Xbox One
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Developer: Moon Studios
- Release Date: March 11, 2015
A story inspired by both The Lion King and The Iron Giant with the gameplay a resemblance to the Rayman franchise, Ori and the Blind Forest is certainly a touching story that takes place in a fascinating world. The player plays as both Ori, a white spirit, and Sein, who is considered to be the “light and eyes” of the Forests’ Spirit Tree. The goal: to solve the puzzles that block their path as well as strengthen Ori’s skills to explore previous areas that were blocked in the beginning. In addition, the player can also create “soul links” in addition to the save-points placed throughout the game to save their progress at any time; however, players must be mindful as to when they choose to use them, as the energy the soul links are based on is limited. Definitely a game to play if you enjoyed the movies and videogames that inspired it.
8. To The Moon
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS
- Publisher: Freebird Games (PC, OS X, and Linux) and X.D. Network (mobile)
- Developer: Freebird Games
- Release Date: November 1, 2011 (Windows)
To The Moon is a story that is both happy and sad. The goal is to explore the memories of an old man named Johnny who dreamed of traveling to the moon. By finding certain objects, you can use their energy to strengthen his memory enough to connect to another one, all the way from Johnny’s more recent memories as an adult to his farthest ones as a child. Once all Johnny’s memories are unlocked, you can proceed to manipulate them to achieve your ultimate objective: to help Johnny reach the moon. Led by designer Kan Gao and his indie team of developers, this game solely relies on its story and its puzzles, yet those alone are able to achieve a meaningful experience. If story is meaningful to you in a video game and you are also a fan of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, then To The Moon is the perfect game for you to play.
7. Thomas Was Alone
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Linux, iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U
- Publisher: Mike Bithell (PC), Curve Digital (consoles and handheld), and Bossa Studios (mobile)
- Developer: Mike Bithell
- Release Date: 30 June 2012 (Microsoft Windows and OS X)
An indie puzzle platformer game, Thomas Was Alone is certainly a unique game at the very least in the sense of its characters: shapes. While the objective is simply focused on getting each of the unique shapes to specific points in the level, each shape has a name and a certain type of personality that makes the process interesting to say the least. Each new level introduces a new shape, all described by the narrator as the journey proceeds, and the overall meaning of friendship takes center stage through each puzzle. What started as the brainchild of Mike Bithell for a Flash-based game in 2010 as turned into a hit for multiple consoles. If you’re intrigued by unconventional games that still have a positive message, then Thomas Was Alone is a good starting point.
6. The Stanley Parable
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux
- Publisher: Galactic Cafe
- Developer: Galactic Cafe
- Release Date: October 17, 2013 (Microsoft Windows)
Another unconventional indie game, The Stanley Parable focuses only on the character performing certain actions while a narrator gives exposition and narrates what is going on. The catch is that sometimes the player is free to make different choices from what the narrator states is happening, resulting in numerous different endings that can be reached as well as the narrator commenting on the particular choice made by the player. Envisioned by Davey Wreden, who wishes to make a game that was different from the most popular titles that confined the player to their rules, The Stanley Parable has become a hit amongst people who appreciate the ironic commentary on those types of video games in addition to its unique sense of humor. If you yourself have always wondered what it would be like to simply deviate away from a game’s primary plot or question why you have to follow a certain path, this is the perfect game to address that.
- System/Platform: Xbox 360, Windows, Linux, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and iOS
- Publisher: Trapdoor
- Developer: Polytron Corporation
- Release Date: April 13, 2012
Fez is well-known in the indie videogame scene not only due to its gameplay but also due to the outspoken persona of its developer, Phi Fish. Nevertheless, Fez is a great game, focusing on solving puzzles while at the same time being a 2D puzzle game set in a 3D world. With 4 2D worlds alongside a 3D cube, there are numerous puzzles to solve as well as plenty of false leads and hints that almost force the player to take their time and appreciate the different worlds they are in as they attempt to solve all the different puzzles and obtain cube fragments to restore order back to the world. The chances are pretty high of you hearing about this game if you’ve heard about indie games, as it was one of the first to help establish the genre. If you enjoy puzzles and want a different take on solving them, then playing Fez will fulfill that and more.
- System/Platform: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and PlayStation 3
- Publisher: Number None and Microsoft Game Studios (Xbox 360)
- Developer: Number None
- Release Date: January 10, 2005 (Game Boy Advance, U.S.A.)
Another unique take on the puzzle platform genre, Braid tells the story of Tim, a man who strives to rescue a princess from a monster. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that the story is not as straightforward as one might think from the outset, with the ending revealing a surprise twist as well as multiple interpretations. Braid is seen as one of the founding games that helped establish the indie videogame scene, and one of the main reasons is the unique use of time manipulation to help solve the puzzles, resulting in some complex puzzles near the end of the game. In addition to solving each puzzle, the time mechanic itself is fun to employ to see the effects it has on both Tim as well as the world around him. If you’re interested in playing the indie games that helped inspire other indie games to be made, then Braid will be well worth your time.
3. Super Meat Boy
- System/Platform: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, and Android
- Publisher: Team Meat
- Developer: Team Meat
- Release Date: October 20, 2010 (Xbox 360)
The successor to 2008’s Flash game Meat Boy, Super Meat Boy is very similar to Super Mario Bros. in terms of gameplay and objective. The objective of the game is for the player to help Meat Boy rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the antagonist, Dr. Fetus, by running and jumping over various dangerous obstacles. As there are over 300 levels, the difficulty increases more and more as the player is forced to time the jumps with impeccable timing. The development of the game and the difficulties Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes had developing the game are well-documented in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, but their hard work paid off, as their initial launch for the Xbox 360 in the Xbox Live Arcade was so successful that it led to the game being released for other consoles as well as receiving awards such as Most Challenging Game form IGN. As a result, Super Meat Boy serves as a great example of the success an indie game can have if done correctly. If you enjoyed the classic Super Mario Bros. gameplay, then there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy Super Meat Boy.
- System/Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, iOS, and Android
- Publisher: Playdead and Microsoft Game Studios (X360)
- Developer: Playdead
- Release Date: 21 July 2010 (Xbox 360)
One of the best examples of a video game telling a story with no words, Limbo focuses on a young nameless boy who journeys to try and find his missing sister, encountering many different threats along the way. However, a big thing that separates this puzzle platformer from other video games apart from its silent storytelling is its use of black, white, and grey as the only colors, resulting in a very unique tone that is both eerie yet visually stunning. In addition, the development team behind the game fought hard to stay true to the original vision of the game and refused to compromise their creative control despite the length of time it took to fund and develop the game. Their efforts paid off in the end, however, as the game was critically acclaimed and earned more than enough money for the developers to work on a follow-up, Inside. If you enjoy games where you have to figure out how to play it for yourself as well as unique graphics and minimal in nature, Limbo is the #1 option.
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: thatgamecompany
- Release Date: March 13, 2012 (PS3, U.S.A.)
An indie videogame with such a unique method of playing, Journey is about exactly that: a journey. The game focuses on you playing as a robed figure located in the desert with your objective being to reach a mountain far in the distance. As you travel towards this mountain, you can work with another player with the same goal, but you cannot communicate with them in any way apart from a special musical “chime”. As a result, despite this limited form of communication, the message of completing the journey is still made clear no matter who it is that might be playing. It is also all the more meaningful when both players complete the journey, as it is only after completing the journey and the credits roll that you get to see your partner’s name. Such a powerful game that is achieved with no words, yet in the end the emotions one feels when completing the game with their partner can be amongst the most powerful emotions people feel when playing videogames. This is also the type of game that’s perfect for the indie scene but not for the massive videogame companies, as such a game would most likely never come to fruition in that type of environment. If you’re looking to play a videogame that will take you on a journey, then look no further than Joruney.
At the end of the day, videogames are meant to be fun for whoever is playing them. Whether it’s a puzzle game, an action game, or a simple story with a quirky sense of humor, the idea of providing the player both a challenge as well as a memorable experience is reflected in the videogames people talk about, even ones that were made decades ago. This list is comprised of those types of games, but what do you guys think? Is there an obvious indie game that should have been listed? Or is one of these games overrated and should not have been listed at all? Let us know in the comments!