Over the last three years indie games have made a surprising impact upon the ravaging gaming world. Back in 2008 when Braid came out, the word “indie game” popped up to my screen. I was unfamiliar with such games before and was interested. Looking at the screens, I was skeptical. A platformer with flashy colors presenting nothing more than a novel-esque story (which was clearly not the case). But reading all the critical success it gained, I thought why not give it a shot. And ever since that experience, I’ve changed my views on gaming as a whole. Call it a small enlightenment in simple terms.
In the year 2011, Indie Games have distinguished themselves in full-form. With titles such as Braid, Minecraft, Amnesia: the Dark Descent, Machinarium, Limbo, Super Meat Boy and many more, the platform has uplifted the means of corporate-free production and development. It is also worth mentioning that the overwhelming support for these indie developers has been increasing each year. Digital Distribution proving to be a catalyst in their cause, the industry is certainly heading towards success and popularity. Now keeping all that in mind, it’s pretty much obvious what this article is about. I might be quite late at this but in no particular order; here are some of the best indie games of 2011:
To The Moon
Official Website: Freebird Games
I wanna start off with this precious gem. Ever since the competitive frenzy of online multiplayer has been taking over the world, storytelling has taken a backseat. Yes the story is there, characters are there and everything is perfectly detailed. But few games focus on the storytelling part. Whether you take it into account or not but open-minded storytelling is what drives the player into the game. And To The Moon achieves that gloriously; something that the mainstream developers should learn from.
Without going too much into the details, the game opens up a genuinely moving story. There are parts of the game where the story sets up an amazing level of emotions. And it’s not only the story that fits so well with the development. The characters have spectacular appeal. Also the OST, especially near the end, hits you to the very core. To The Moon also brings up mature themes (not the ones you see today) extremely delicately. So in short, the experience you get out of this game is wonderfully refreshing.
Official Website: Wadjet Eye Games
Gold – pure gold for fans of neo-noir adventures. Created by UCLA undergraduate Josh Nuernberger and produced by the ever brave Wadjet Eye Games, Gemini Rue is an indie adventure that delivers quality fiction with intriguing character development. The game is covered with first-class writing. Not only is there depth into the story, but the characters paint extraordinary color to the game. As well as that, the atmosphere surrounding to it is vividly authentic. From the menu to the ending credits, you’ll be occupied with the game’s storyline. It’s a caring treat for fans of the genre and perhaps is the Point N’ Click of the year.
Official Website: Wadjet Eye Games
The not-so-famous paranormal series of Rosa and Joey continue with their latest release, entitled as Blackwell Deception. Compared to previous parts this is a very polished Point N Click adventure. We got more Jazz music in background this time. But seriously, character-driven dramedy, exemplary voice acting and admirable puzzles are the significant pros to highlight. The cases in the game always bring up amusing stories. Ghostbusters fans should definitely check this out. The length is fairly alright but paranormal adventures can’t get better than this.
Official Website: Terraria
Troubled with boredom and in the mood to pass some gaming time? Look no further Terraria is here to save your day. We all know about this. A 2D styled Minecraft-Metroid RPG indie adventure. Explore, dig, craft, customize, fight and build with 16-bit sprites. As simple as that. May seem pointless at first but in no time you’ll be putting up hours and hours into the game. Trust me on that.
Atom Zombie Smasher
Official Website: Blendo Games
Blendo Games’ Atom Zombie Smasher is a casual savior for Zombie Games. At least for me the popular genre was heading towards a stale direction and then came this motivating indie title. This was like going back to the days of Plants VS Zombies. On the outside, it seems obvious what it is. Save civilians, execute zombies and restore humanity. But the twist happens to be the RTS design. Gameplay is very thoughtfully laid out. It’s an outright strategy battle with a side of zombies. You win or lose, results are gonna make you come back to play on and on. Definitely one clever piece of indie-RTS design.
Official Website: Hide – Download / Details
Now here’s a surprising horror gem. Free-to-play and requires a few minutes of your time. Nothing too fancy about the visuals and the concept is simple; work out a way to escape. But don’t let these details pass on you. There’s a hell lot more to it. What so many modern generic horror titles have forgotten over the years can be seen here as the basic fundamental principle of perfect horror. Total immersion – that is what this game accomplishes. Dark atmosphere and the chilling soundscapes do the wonders here. It may not have the horror-esque appeal but the setting is amazing. Make sure you don’t miss this out. Recommended to play with headphones and no lights!
The Cat and the Coup
Official Website: the cat and the coup
Not much of a game but more of an authentic documentary. World History fans should love this. Think of it as a fascinating storybook with magnificent artwork. The details are quite interesting actually. To move forward you work through physics-based puzzles, as simple as that. It takes about 15 mins to finish and is very much worth trying if you’re looking for an infamous coup d’etat. Oh and it’s free.
Official Website: DigiPen Games
Without a doubt, this is the best freeware indie of the year. A terrific take on identity crisis. It’s an actual game that claims to be a program to discover your real identity. Interesting, ain’t it? Without over-detailing it, lemme just say that the gameplay offers top-down shoot’em up elements, like of flOw. But the catch here is the weird guide or the program so to speak. And the game sucks you into its own world. Like you really shift your thinking as you progress through the stages. With that narrative, you’ll be hooked till the end (I certainly was). It stirs up quite a fascinating experiment.
Official Website: frozensynapse.com
Frozen Synapse is a game that has a splendid mix of turn-based and real-time strategy. It may not seem all that appealing but it is an anticipating title that offers marvelous value. Obviously this is for the gamers who are obsessed over planning tactics. Featuring a contrasting single-campaign with a formidable A.I, the gameplay is impressively intense. But the real fun begins when you start taking on your friends. Match-making is super-efficient when it comes to online multiplayer. Additionally the electronica OST also blends very nicely into the game. It’s not a simple game and it does demand your prompt sharpness. Deem it as a warning or a challenge, in the end you can expect an engaging-tactical strategy shooter.
Official Website: Supergiant Games
Platforms: PC, X360, Google Chrome
My personal indie pick of the year. Aside from being one of the most underplayed games of 2011, the game presents the perfect use of narration. A talented voice-cast, the narrative in Bastion steals the show. The story is somehow crafted to charm through it. With all its visual art glory, presentation is done superbly. It’s an ample effort really. Along with that, the gameplay mixes so well with the role-playing features. The control is totally swell and is free of complex learning curves. Unlockables offer a variety of weapons and items that also allow you to be more versatile. The new game+ mode delightfully opens up a different experience for you. But personally, the best bit of the game is the multiple award-winning OST. Phenomenal arrange of original music by Darren Korb. Don’t wanna spoil it out but there’s a track here that stands out tremendously. It really gave the game a unique edge. So with all that, I’d crown Bastion as the indie game of the year.
But hey that’s my opinion … what are your favorite indie releases of 2011? Make sure to comment below!