There is a long-held belief that good video games need to be made with the funding and support of major video game companies. Due to a large amount of money required to develop a game, many designers find their games remaining in the idea phase, with no funding to help bring it to light. Thanks to crowdfunding, a money-raising campaign that sees potential customers help fund projects in exchange for exclusive rewards, many game designers have been able to bring their ideas to life.
Kickstarter, since its 2009 release, has seen itself become one of the biggest crowdfunding platforms, with creators using crowdfunding to create a variety of projects ranging from art, music, and fashion to crafts and even video game projects. Some projects created through Kickstarter have been huge failures; Some have been extremely successful and well received. Many game designers, big and small, have also turned to Kickstarter in hopes of making it big.
Through the years, Kickstarter has produced its fair share of misses and hits. Many of these hits have gone on to be some of the most successful games released. These games and announcements have been met with great reception by both gamers and critics alike, and have been praised for their originality and enjoyability. Here are the Top 10 Best Kickstarter Games!
10. Praey for the Gods
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: No Matter Studios
- Developer: No Matter Studios
- Release Date: Dec 2017 (Tentative)
Praey for the Gods is an upcoming action survival game, combining elements of the recently popular survival games and the iconic Shadow of the Colossus. Praey for the Gods sees the player controlling a character on a frozen island as she tracks giants in order to defeat them. In order to do so, the player must find items necessary to need to craft weapons and survive the game's dynamic weather.
Praey for the Gods looks to make good on its goal of combining a massively popular and successful genre with one of the greatest video games of all time. Both parts of Praey for the Gods will play off of each other to hopefully help this find success.
9. Shenmue III
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Neilo, Ys Net
- Release Date: 2018 (Tentative)
The Shenmue series follows the story of a martial artist, Ryo Hazuki as he travels across Japan and China in search of his father's killer. An open-world, action-adventure series, Shenmue combines many different gameplay elements to create a unique gaming experience. Shenmue did a great job of simulating 1980's Japan, especially with the use of a day-night system, which shops, transportation options, and even characters adhered to. Despite the open world series having a fighting system on par with fighting games to round out its assortment of gameplay elements, the first two games were considered commercial failures.
Due to this commercial failure, Shenmue III was shelved, despite the series initial plan to be a saga told across multiple games. Several failed Shenmue projects almost sealed Shenmue 3's fate, as in addition the original games, Sega was never able to make back the development costs. In 2015, Sega's Ys Net announced a Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue 3. In less than 8 hours, the game made its initial $2 million goal, and made $6 million by the end of its campaign, making it the highest funded video game in Kickstarter history.
The response to the first trailer wasn't stellar, as the graphics seem to have curbed some people's enthusiasm for the game. Thanks to the series' cult following and despite being slated for a late 2018 release, many are still excited about Shenmue III. If it is anything like the previous Shenmue games, it's sure to deliver and will almost definitely prove to be one of the greatest games to be developed thanks to crowdfunding.
- System/Platform: Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Publisher: Team17
- Developer: Playtonic Games
- Release Date: April 11, 2017
Yooka-Laylee is a third-person platformer, created to be a spiritual successor to Rare's Banjo Kazooie. In Yooka-Laylee, just like its predecessor, the player controls two characters with different abilities and must have them work together in order to solve puzzles, defeat enemies and explore.
Yooka-Laylee succeeded in creating a game that brought back the nostalgic feelings of 90's and N64 era platformers. With an N64 shader, which imitated the look of N64 graphics, Yooka-Laylee truly made it feel as if you were playing a game of that time. However, the release was cursed by some delays and controversy.
Despite this, overall Yooka-Laylee was received to high praise and considered a success by many, especially the more than two million backers who helped it to achieve all of its stretch goals.
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Superhot Team, IMGN:PRO
- Developer: Superhot Team
- Release Date: February 25, 2016
The market is so flooded with first-person shooters to that even the once unique and original games are finding themselves. So, it takes a truly original game to stand out from the crowd and make a name for itself; Superhot is just that game.
At its core, Superhot is a first-person shooter, but it is the way it deals with time that makes Superhot special. The game's tagline is 'Time Moves Only When You Move,' and this is exactly how the game plays out. Time in the game only moves forward when the player moves or fires their gun. This allows the player to respond to the enemy much better than in typical shooters; however, one hit and it is game over.
Superhot features a minimalistic art style and palette to help the player find a point of focus in the crazy, action-packed strategy-esque shooter. The Kickstarter campaign more than doubled its goal, and even acquired enough money to develop a VR version, letting players enjoy the time-bending experience more intimately.
6. The Banner Saga
- System/Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Versus Evil
- Developer: Stoic
- Release Date: January 14, 2014
Banner Saga is a tactical RPG set in a world inspired by Norse Mythology. The game follows two separate characters and storylines that converge as it tells the story of humans' fight against an enemy race called the Dredge. The developers of The Banner Saga created the game and its story hoping to create a dark fantasy that avoided the tropes of the genre.
In addition to presenting the story differently than normal, The Banner Saga also presented the gameplay without normal conventions of the genre, helping to create the game's unique experience. This lack of typical gameplay elements helped to create the challenging, yet rewarding combat system. The Banner Saga succeeded in creating a unique and beautiful tactical RPG with an engaging story.
With its striking art style, haunting soundtrack, gripping story and engaging gameplay, The Banner Saga was met with critical acclaim and managed to receive high ratings from gamers and critics alike. The first game in a trilogy, The Banner Saga was successful enough to receive a sequel and a successful crowdfunding campaign for the third part of the award-winning series.
5. Darkest Dungeon
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, iOS
- Publisher: Red Hook Studios
- Developer: Red Hook Studios
- Release Date: January 19, 2016
Most RPGs are fairly simple: level up your character enough and your victory is assured. Darkest Dungeon, a dungeon-crawling RPG, however, has the player forget almost everything they know about the genre and creates a new challenging experience. Taking place in the dungeons below an inherited gothic mansion, Darkest Dungeon's most deciding factor in battles is stress, which can break even the strongest of characters.
In Darkest Dungeon, the player must manage their roster of characters while outside of the dungeon: curing their illnesses, maintaining their sanity levels, or upgrade their skills. Inside the dungeon, the player must lead their party of four characters through the dungeon in order to complete quests, all the while dealing with the ways in which the dungeon takes its toll on the characters.
The Kickstarter campaign successfully reached its initial goal in 2 days and earned more than 4 times that across the campaign. It was released to critical acclaim, earned several awards nominations and has sold more than a million copies.
4. FTL: Faster Than Light
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, Linux, iOS, OS X
- Publisher: Subset Games
- Developer: Subset Games
- Release Date: September 14, 2012
FTL: Faster Than Light is a rogue-like spaceship simulator in which the player must deliver important information across 8 space sectors to the allied fleet, with the rebel fleet in hot pursuit. Each sector features several different waypoints whose use range from distress signals to combat. At each stop, the player has the chance to gain new crew members or scraps used to upgrade the ship.
The game's fast-paced action can be paused, allowing the player to assess the situation and issue commands to the crew, as well as the ship. Not only does the game see the player assigning commands to crew members in the heat of battle, but the player must also regulate the ship's resources, splitting energy between key systems like oxygen supply and weapons. Should the ship be destroyed sometime during combat, the player must start over back at the first sector with a new ship.
FTL succeeds in creating a challenging space simulation game with intense yet intuitive combat and crew management, although the high difficulty has earned it some criticism. FTL won several awards, including PC Gamer's "Short-form Game of the Year" award. In addition to its accolades, FTL has been credited with revitalizing the roguelike genre alongside other games like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac.
3. Hyper Light Drifter
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Ouya
- Publisher: Heart Machine
- Developer: Heart Machine
- Release Date: March 31, 2016
Hyper Light Drifter's key developer Alex Preston dreamt up the idea of the game as a way to "tell a story [he] can identify with, expressing something personal" as "an outlet for the many emotions that crop up around life-altering issues." The main character, the Drifter, travels through the world with an unspecified disease, which mirrors Preston's own battle with congenital heart disease. Preston's own direct connection has created a story that has garnered comparisons to the works of Studio Ghibli.
The game features no vocals, allowing the story to be told through its music and visuals, much like games from the Super Nintendo era, from which Preston drew his inspirations. As the player progresses through the game, ammunition for the Drifter's arsenal is restored through the use of the Drifter's energy sword. Each level of the game continues to provide more challenging enemies, to create an action-packed action RPG that sought to combine elements of Diablo and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The game was praised for its visuals, sound, and combat. Most of the criticism was directed to the minimalist storytelling, and yet, it was still nominated for numerous awards, winning the Independent Games Festival's "Excellence in Visual Art" and "Audience Award" accolades.
2. Shovel Knight
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One
- Publisher: Yacht Club Games
- Developer: Yacht Club Games
- Release Date: June 26, 2014
Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scroller that was made to capture the gameplay and graphics of Nintendo Entertainment System games. As a result, the 8-bit game features beautiful graphics, challenging –yet simple– gameplay mechanics, and that classic chiptune soundtrack. Shovel Knight does more than just emulate NES games with its graphics and music, also borrowing elements from modern games like Dark Souls.
Shovel Knight was initially released on Steam, Nintendo WiiU, and 3DS, with other console releases steadily coming in the following years. There were several console exclusive gameplay features, which meant that each version of the game was more than a simple port. This has helped with the game's positive reception.
Shovel Knight was nominated for an extensive list of awards, winning many of them including being named the "Best Independent Game" at 2014's The Game Awards and "Best Platformer" on IGN's Best of 2014 list. Several years after release, Shovel Knight's legacy continues to live on as it receives new ports, story campaigns, and the eponymous character makes several cameos in many upcoming games.
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 PlayStation Vita
- Publisher: Toby Fox
- Developer: Toby Fox
- Release Date: September 15, 2015
An independently developed RPG, Undertale was released to critical reception, due to its innovative gameplay that combines RPGs, puzzles, and bullet hells. A major part of Undertale's innovative charm is the idea that the game can be completed without killing any enemies. Much like your standard RPG, Undertale features enemy encounters, but in addition to fighting, the player has the option to perform actions that can defeat the enemy nonviolently.
Each choice that the player makes affects the game's characters, dialogue, and story. Toby Fox was inspired by internet meme culture and Mr. Bean, which helped to create the game's humor. This humor is also found in each character and monster's unique design. Part of Undertale's success and popularity comes from its success in creating characters and enemies that each have their own individual feel.
Undertale has won several awards since its release, including such impressive awards as "Best Game Ever" and "Game of the Year." Undertale was a critical success in all aspects of its gameplay, praised for its writing, combat system –which found a way to make each encounter unique–, and music, as well as the story and characters. A game inspired by the pros and cons of several different games, Undertale managed to combine and improve upon all of these things to create a great game, made even more impressive by its independent, crowdfunded nature. With awards and nearly perfect ratings from gamers and critics alike, it's easy to see why Undertale finds itself at the top of the list.
Whether they played to many gamers' sense of nostalgia or created a brand-new gaming experience, these Kickstarter games helped to prove that games don't need the financial support to be successful. Varying in art, genre, and overall appeal, these games are similar in that they are all enjoyable to play and bring that sense of enjoyment and challenge that gamers seek. The success of these games and many others have helped to usher in a new era in game development, where once abandoned ideas and new innovative ones can be made thanks to the support of fans.
Let us know what Kickstart games you've back and enjoy the most in the comments below!