2013 has been an amazing year for the indie games industry. With bigger and better games coming out every month and increased attention from the media, it seems that for the first time, indie titles are being treated with the same amount of attention and respect as their major studio counterparts. Now that the next generation of console systems, specifically Sony’s PlayStation 4, have pledge their allegiance to the indie world, it is safe to say that these underdog developers aren’t going anywhere. Take a look at five of the best indie titles to drop in the last nine months.
5) Rogue Legacy:
Rogue Legacy hit right at home with the generation of gamers who grew up on the golden era of ‘metroidvania’ titles. Combining face-melting difficulty, satirical wit, and hilariously imperfect characters – all wrapped up in a retro-inspired graphical package – Rogue Legacy was the perfect blend of humor and challenge. Thanks largely in part to its randomly generated castle and a huge variety of unlockable upgrades and classes, Rogue Legacy has everything that players want in a title. Rogue Legacy has familiar mechanics, but is nearly impossible to master quickly, providing for a game that you simply want to keep playing, if only to further your progress.
Perhaps the greatest quality of the game, however, is the ‘legacy’ aspect. In Rogue Legacy, you will die – and frequently at that. Upon each death, you character’s heir becomes playable. Players may choose from a few different randomly generated heirs, each with their own little defects. Tourrettes, dwarfism, and almost any personality quirk you can think of are all represented in Rogue Legacy, making finding the perfect character a series of hilarious trials and errors. (review)
4) Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine:
Monaco takes the best of the heist genre, drawing inspiration from film and games alike, and puts its own unique indie spin on it. The game’s stylish, top-down view allows for multiple routes, various strategies, and a whole lot of intense moments as players attempt to pull off the perfect heist. Monaco features a bevy of different characters each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The Cleaner, for example, sports a pink hairdo and can knock out unsuspecting enemies with relative ease, paving the way for other players to move forward with their plans.
As enthralling as Monaco can be playing alone, the experience is made even better when playing cooperatively. Teaming up with other players allows for a level of heist-management that would make even the most seasoned bank robbers blush. Playing cooperatively is also one of the best ways to finish the game’s later stages that offer a blisteringly difficult, albeit welcome, difficulty spike. (review)
3) Dust: An Elysian Tail:
Dust’s PC release in May of this year, brought attention to the game like never before. A 2D action-RPG at its core, Dust features anthropomorphic animals, sentinent swords, and some of the best visuals seen in an indie title to date. Dust has players in the role of the titular character as he attempts to recall his memories, and while it may sound hackneyed at first, the plot picks up and heads into unfamiliar territory.
Combat in Dust is entertaining and handles well. Players earn experience through combating enemies which allow for various upgrades and unlocks. While the RPG elements of Dust aren’t fully fleshed out, they work perfectly in the context of the game. Dust’s blend of great visuals, and enjoyably familiar gameplay earned it a place in heart of many indie fans this year.
One of the first indie titles released in 2013, Antichamber brought first-person puzzle-based gameplay back into the foray, challenging gamers to solve their way through various non-euclidean spaces. At first glance, Antichamber may draw comparison to the Portal franchise, but making this claim is simply underselling an amazing video game experience. In a way similar to the aforementioned Portal titles, Antichamber asks gamers to step outside of their normal puzzle-solving comfort zone. Tasked with manipulating a series of non-euclidean rooms, each with various mechanics and methods of solving, are rewarded for their critical thinking.
Antichamber, despite its seemingly complex structure, never crosses into the indecipherable. Each puzzle is manageable with thought and practice, allowing for a gaming experience that is both enriching and challenging, without ever becoming completely frustrating.
Spelunky is a game, simply put, about a spelunker. Spelunking, for those unfamiliar with the terminology, is the action of exploring cave systems, and in Spelunky, that is exactly what players do. The addicting and entertaining action platformer saw its major release in August, where it was met with series praise both critically and from the masses. In Spelunky, characters control their miner as he explores various caves and gathers as much treasure as his little hands can hold, all while attempting to avoid numerous traps and enemies. Combat within the game is fairly simple. The spelunker can whip enemies from a distance or jump on top of them a la Mario, adding a familiar – yet always entertaining – sense of combat to Spelunky.
Similarly to Mario, the spelunker may also encounter the all too familiar damsel in distress, who can be rescued for health bonuses. The sense of discovery and exploration in Spelunky is on par with the biggest and best of virtually any major studio release, all while managing to stay grounded in its roots. Spelunky’s randomly generated levels add variety that simply keeps gamers wanting to come back for more. Aided by it’s great artwork and pick-up-and-play formula, Spelunky has earned its rightful spot as 2013’s best indie game (so far).
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